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Tech Tools and Software: What Motivates Change

Tech Tools and Software: What Motivates Change

    Technology has clearly changed how we work. Mobile devices, for example, have allowed for a more flexible work environment, making it easier to work from anywhere on almost any device.

    Whatever changes we adopt, the bottom line remains the same; we want to get our jobs done and done well. And when the technology we’re accustomed to using works, we don’t want to take the time to learn something new. Email is the perfect example. The tech community continues to argue whether email is a dying form of online communication. While tools such as IM have helped us communicate faster, we still use email as our core content management system because we have not yet found another platform that’s better.

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    My previous post asked whether our digital work habits were helping or hindering productivity. Today, the question is what if something could make doing our jobs significantly better than the status quo? Would we change?

    What merits technological change?

    I may be going out on a limb, but I think a new solution needs to be at least 10 times better than the current solution if a company or individual is going to make the switch. But what makes something at least 10 times better? Think of it this way. How much time have I spent on learning? How much does it change my work habits? Are there are tangible benefits? Going back to the email example and how IM has replaced email in places; IM is simple to use, easy to understand, and it provides an immediate response where email could take days for a reply. This is what makes IM at least 10 times better than email in certain instances.

    The experience vs. features phenomenon

    One of the best examples of this phenomenon I’ve seen is one software company’s testing of the next version of its flagship software. The company invested heavily in a simplified user experience, designed to enable users to more easily discover the features they needed as well as expose them to other tools that might be helpful. The company’s development teams took the existing features from the previous product and put them into this new user interface. They then got a wide variety of users – from new to very experienced – to use the new product. The most remarkable comments came from experienced users, who could not believe how much had been added to the new version, even though the only difference was a new user experience.

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    Tipping point?

    Every company or individual can tell you exactly when they decided to switch their processes to something better. For an individual, it might be the realization of how much time is being wasted in a particular effort. For companies, it tends to be something that impacts the bottom line. These decisions often have additional, unforeseen benefits as well.

    One of my favorite examples comes from a major accounting firm. Their “tipping point” was in their financials. They realized they were spending 25 percent more in software costs than needed. A change was in order, and for them it was standardizing their tools.

    The results? They not only were able to reduce costs, but they also reduced software management time by 98 percent, improved productivity and collaboration among their employees, and kept ahead of the competition.

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    Today’s expectations

    With new tools and software, it used to be that “powerful” meant complicated. If you were prepared to take a class, read a book and invest significant time in learning, then that software or tool was more credible and capable of getting the job done. However, in the past few years, the web, mobile apps and the consumerization of software have all contributed to creating a new paradigm; the easier and more intuitive the tool, the better and more likely it is adopted.

    Yet we all suffer from some level of risk aversion and fall to “the old way of working.” I am guilty of this sometimes, and I suspect most people are as well. We know what it takes to get things done today, however old-fashioned. If we sit back and critically evaluate from a technological perspective how we work as individuals, teams and as a company, the red flags will emerge and change will follow.

    Conclusion

    Has your company experienced a technological “tipping point” recently? Or have you personally switched to something you consider at least 10 times better? Please share in the comments.

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    (Photo credit: hand holding the world and email via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on February 15, 2019

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

    Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

    Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

    So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

    Joe’s Goals

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      Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

      Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

      Daytum

        Daytum

        is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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        Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

        Excel or Numbers

          If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

          What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

          Evernote

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            I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

            Evernote is free with a premium version available.

            Access or Bento

              If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

              Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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              You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

              Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

              All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

              Conclusion

              I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

              What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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