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10 Productive Tools I Wish I’d Known About Before

10 Productive Tools I Wish I’d Known About Before

It’s amazing what a huge effect a few apps can have on your productivity. Since I started testing out software like mad two years ago, I’ve discovered more and more ways to get things done more efficiently and more effectively. With the help of just these ten productive tools I have dramatically increased the quantity and quality of my output. Read about each of them below.

1. 2Do ($9.99)

There are a lot of free to-do list applications out there, and some of them are pretty great. Wunderlist is one that immediately springs to mind. Why, then, did I choose a $10 app? Because 2Do has every feature you could ever think of while still offering a very streamlined experience. For people with even the most hectic and complicated schedules, 2Do will fulfill all your needs. For those with less to organize, it’s an easy-to-use application that has everything you might ever want. It’s available for iOS and Android at the price listed above.

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2. Mint (Free)

Money plays a big role in all our lives, so it makes sense that you would have productive tools that help you manage it. Mint is among the best ways to manage your money from multiple sources, organizing your various accounts in one place. For everything from your bank accounts to your credit cards to loans to even your PayPal account, Mint has you covered.c

3. Scrivener ($45)

I’ll come out and say it: Microsoft Word sucks. It’s cluttered, it’s clunky and it’s nowhere near intuitive. Word is one of those productive tools that we’ve been forced to use for years due to its dominance in the marketplace, but Scrivener is becoming a more and more viable contender for your word processor. Scrivener treats every page of your document as a separate file, which sounds like a small feature but will revolutionize how you work on long projects. Between that and its intuitive design, Scrivener (available for Windows and Mac) is highly recommended.

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4. Google Drive (Free)

A cloud storage service is an absolute must on a list of productive tools. There are a number to choose from. While Dropbox was a major contender for this spot, Google Drive wins out for more people’s needs. Whereas you have to go through extra steps to add storage to your Dropbox account, Google Drive automatically comes with a respectable 15 GB to store emails, photos and other data. If you want more space, Google has it for the very affordable prices of just $2/month for 100 GB or $10/month for 1TB. This is in addition to Google’s brilliantly simple apps connected to Google Drive, productive tools that are great for collaboration and serve as great free alternatives for Microsoft Office software. Google Drive is available on any platform.

5. Mailbox (Free)

A lot of us use our email inboxes as de facto to-do lists, even if we already have an app like 2Do or Wunderlist for that purpose. That was a bad idea until productive tools like Mailbox arrived on the scene. Mailbox, available for iOS, Android and Mac, allows you to store emails for later viewing without having to archive them. It also has the innovative ability to “snooze” emails until the date and time of your choice, so that they’ll pop back up in your inbox right when you need them. This is especially great if you have to follow up with people who don’t always reply to the first email you send.

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6. GoodReader ($4.99)

iBooks and other default applications are completely satisfactory ways to read PDFs, but who wants to settle for satisfactory? Productive tools like GoodReader make reading on a tablet or a phone the best experience out there and also give you the power to edit documents. GoodReader itself is only available for iOS but you can find some alternatives for Android here.

7. Feedly (Free)

Even most internet users are getting their news in an antiquated way. Instead of browsing dozens of sites to get updates from all your favorite sources, you can use a service like Feedly to compile articles and blog posts in one place where you get to read them ad-free. The experience becomes even better when you get a third-party app like Reeder to read the content you’ve compiled on your computer, tablet, or phone.

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8. Pocket (Free)

An app that goes hand-in-hand with Feedly, Pocket lets you save things you find on the internet for later reading. For example, if you come across an awesome article that you don’t have time to read right away, save it to Pocket with either the browser extension on a PC or a share function on a mobile device so that you can enjoy it at a time of your convenience.

9. Skitch (Free)

There are some really fancy options for annotating images and documents, but those options are rarely necessary. Most of the time when you’re marking something you’re doing it in a hurry. Skitch is an expert at the rush job, making it painless to annotate and mark up images and documents sent to you to review.

10. Evernote (Free)

Evernote is one of the most beloved and powerful tools for productivity out there. The developers describe it as your external brain, and the description is accurate. Your account is made up of notes you write, notebooks to contain your notes, and stacks to organize your notebooks. Almost any kind of information, whether it be reminders, facts or ideas, can be stored in Evernote in the form of either text, pictures or audio. Its uses are almost infinite, and everyone can take advantage of it in a different way. For some, it’s a simple note-taking app in which they can jot down to-dos, musings and reminders. Others store pretty much their entire lives in their Evernote account. The magic of that is that the more you put into Evernote, the more you get out of it. The browser extension that allows you to “clip” articles from the web directly into your notebooks and Evernote’s wide-ranging syncing abilities with all kinds of digital services only make it stronger. Evernote has a $5/month premium service, but all its key features are absolutely free of price.

Featured photo credit: Evernote Trunk Conference Entrance/Brooks Duncan via flickr.com

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Matt OKeefe

Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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