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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 21 Systems to Boost Business Productivity for Good

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 21 Systems to Boost Business Productivity for Good


    Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of those involved in the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

    Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

    What productivity system can you not live without as an entrepreneur?

    1. Manage Projects With Asana

      Although Asana is a project management tool it doubles as a productivity system by making our team and clients more efficient every day. By tracking, assigning and follow up on individual tasks, Asana allows us to eliminate the noise and focus on what action has to be taken today.

      Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

      2. Share Files Through Dropbox

      Annie Wang

        This must-have app is installed on all our laptops, tablets, and phones. Since we’re often traveling or working remotely, Dropbox is absolutely essential in helping the whole team stay literally in sync. In addition, it makes updating and distributing decks that need to stay extremely up-to-date, like our Media Kit, very simple and efficient.

        Annie Wang, Her Campus Media

        3. Check It Off on Ta-da List

          Ta-da List is the simplest way that I’ve found to create and share a checklist of action items for our team. Team members claim the items that they are working on by checking them off. We have staff ranging from Palo Alto to Senegal (an eight-hour time difference), and Ta-da List keeps us on the same page.

          Allie Siarto, Loudpixel

          4. Producteev Keeps Up Productivity

            Producteev is a cross-platform productivity application. It works online, on Desktop and across mobile applications to help streamline your personal or corporate activities. Producteev is ideal for small teams and we use it extensively in my businesses.

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            Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

            5. Keep Track of Tasks on Any.DO

              I organize my life around “to-dos” and without a doubt the best app to organize these tasks is Any.DO. It’s simple and beautiful, which makes it a pleasure to use on a daily basis.

              Ben Lang, EpicLaunch

              6. Track the Noteworthy on Evernote

                Without a doubt, Evernote. I keep all meeting notes, client info and personal ideas in one place, and am able to access anything and everything from any of my devices on the go. I’ve used it religiously for the past couple years, and can’t help but wonder, “What the heck did I do before Evernote?”

                Matt Cheuvront, Proof Branding

                7. Get It Back With RescueTime

                Jennifer Vargas

                  RescueTime is a great app that runs in the background on your computer. It graphs your activity and breaks it down onto a scale from “very distracting” to “very productive.” It helps me to find the leaks in my productivity so that I can address them and get the most out of my time.

                  Jennifer Vargas, Accompl.sh

                  8. Stop Guessing With Wunderlist

                    Wunderlist has become a wonder for me. Not only is it very easy to input all of your projects, your clients and their associated priorities, but the accessibility of it constantly syncing to all of your portable devices, such as your smartphone, tablet and computer. It is unrivaled and has made my life that much easier, whether in the office or on-the-go.

                    Steven Le Vine, grapevine pr

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                    9. Root Back to BasecampHQ

                    Roger Bryan

                      I’ve used a ton of others and even tried to have my own built, but I always come back to BasecampHQ for project management.

                      Roger Bryan, RCBryan & Associates

                      10. Keep an Eye Out With Trello

                      Patrick Curtis

                        Trello allows me to easily keep track of our major tasks and the stage of development on each. It’s a simple and intuitive interface is perfect for web development teams. Best of all, it’s free.

                        Patrick Curtis, WallStreetOasis.com

                        11. Money Matters on Freshbooks

                        Susan Strayer

                          Client perception is important when you’re small. They need to see you have your act together, especially on the basics. If you can’t get that right, how can you handle their business? Invoicing and expensing with Freshbooks makes it easy for me to look good and work efficiently.

                          Susan Strayer, Exaqueo

                          12. Day-to-Day on Google Calendar

                          Bhavin Parikh

                            Without Google Calendar I’d never get anything done. Since the calendar is web-based, I always have access to it whether it’s on my laptop, iPad, or smartphone. I also use the calendar to block off times when I want to focus on a task for several hours straight.

                            Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh, Inc.

                            13. Capture Leads on Instant Customer

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                            Michael Margolis

                              This CRM system allows me to capture leads when public speaking or networking. From the audience, people can SMS to opt-in to my email list and special offer. Or they can give me a business card, and minutes after I scan it in, it sends them a series of pre-programmed emails with follow-up resources, and a promo offer.

                              Michael Margolis, Get Storied

                              14. Top the To-Do on Google Tasks

                              Eric Bahn

                                I’m a very process-oriented person and I need to have a list of things to accomplish every day. Google Tasks, which is part of your Gmail, is a free task-list service. I update my tasks constantly and it keeps me focused each day.

                                Eric Bahn, Beat The GMAT

                                15. Mix Business With Pleasure on Yammer

                                Natalie MacNeil

                                  Yammer keeps my whole team organized, on track, and in-the-know on all important communication for a particular project. It’s where we share files, discuss goals, and most importantly, where my virtual team has an opportunity to build real relationships with their peers.

                                  Natalie MacNeilShe Takes on the World

                                  16. Stay Up-to-Date Through Glasscubes

                                  Heather Huhman

                                    My team and I use Glasscubes on a daily basis for managing documents, keeping track of tasks and organizing information. It’s great because it’s really cut down on the amount of emails we were sending back and forth — and helps keep track of content and its status.

                                    Heather Huhman, Come Recommended

                                    17. Keep It Clear

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                                    Derek Shanahan

                                      I’m finding a nice balance with Clear, a new iPhone app that’s gotten tons of attention because of the way the designers rethought the touch screen user interface. Underneath, it’s a very basic to-do system, but I’ve never been big on bells and whistles when it comes to productivity. The truly incredible UI is the kicker, and seems to fit well with how I prioritize in my head, so it’s stuck!

                                      Derek Shanahan, Foodtree

                                      18. Just Do It With Do.com

                                      Lucas Sommer

                                        I use Do.com to manage all of my various business projects. It helps me track who is doing what and what is left to be done on any given project. Track time, billable hours, share files, etc. — This site can do it all for free. When I discovered it, I knew I would never go back to emails or Excel for managing projects.

                                        Lucas Sommer, Audimated

                                        19. Hire a Remote Assistant

                                        Garrett Neiman

                                          As a startup social entrepreneur, there is absolutely no way that I could afford a traditional executive assistant. Through YourRemoteAssistant.com, I have a full-time assistant for just $1,099 per month. This serve has enabled me to delegate in an entirely different way at a cost that my organization can afford.

                                          Garrett Neiman, CollegeSpring

                                          20. Pomodoro Technique for Top Productivity

                                          Brenton Gieser

                                            Apps and project management tools can help you manage and prioritize tasks effectively, but when it comes to getting stuff done, use the Pomodoro Technique. Dedicate laser focus to one and only one task for 25 minutes — make sure to use a timer! Once the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break. I find that when I use this technique, I tend to not get distracted by small urgent things.

                                            Brenton Gieser, JoynIn

                                            21. Teux Deux

                                              Teux Deux is perfect for simple to-do lists and I love the accompanying iPhone app!

                                              Erin Blaskie, BSETC

                                              (Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr – CC BY 2.0)

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                                              Last Updated on August 6, 2020

                                              Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

                                              Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

                                              Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

                                              Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

                                              It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

                                              • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

                                              • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

                                              • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

                                              In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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                                              Different Folks, Different Strokes

                                              Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

                                              Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

                                              People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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                                              Productivity and Trust Killer

                                              Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

                                              That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

                                              Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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                                              A Flexible Remote Working Policy

                                              Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

                                              There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

                                              Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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                                              It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

                                              What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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