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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 10 Best Tools for Documenting Systems Amongst Your Team

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 10 Best Tools for Documenting Systems Amongst Your Team

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of 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 is your favorite software or tool for documenting systems for your team and why?

1. Asana

Blake Miller

    Asana is great because it’s so versatile. Not only is it great for project management, but also you can use it to create checklist-oriented task lists. For instance, at Think Big Accelerator, we use an Asana organization with multiple projects that we share with new startups. It’s called the Playbook and meant to serve as a guide for entrepreneurs from idea to the first customer.
    Blake Miller, Think Big Partners

    2. Courseroute and Camtasia

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    allie siarto

      We’re a small team (five people), so we wanted to build out a really simple platform to record and share screencasts and documents around our company processes. We’ve recorded all of our major day-to-day processes using Camtasia screen recording, and we host the videos and documents on Courseroute, a simple training platform that we built. The beta version will be open to the public soon.
      Allie Siarto, Loudpixel

      3. Basecamp

      Fabian Kaempfer

        We like to keep everything in one place. We use Basecamp as our project management tool for almost everything we do. By using this, we are able to document systems in the appropriate project and refer to it by link if it’s associated with a certain task somewhere else. Having to switch and log into several platforms is a time-waster for us. We like to be efficient, and Basecamp is how we get it done.
        Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

        4. GitHub

        phil-chen

          Being a technology company with a small team, GitHub allows us both documentation of our systems as well as documentation of our code base in a way we are familiar with. The revision control aspect is very useful to see what has changed and when.
          Phil Chen, Givit

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          5. DocSTAR

          Andrew Schrage

            Use the software offered by DocSTAR. It offers cloud-based document management services and data capture, and it can improve overall business workflow.
            Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

             

            6. Evernote

            Thursday-Bram 2

              With the advent of Evernote for business, I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful tool for documenting systems and sharing the information with my team. Even better, I can clip an article and turn it into a process to follow very quickly if we want to try something new.
              Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

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              7. Streak

              doreen-bloch

                Streak has been a great tool for our team to document a variety of workflows. The tool lives right within our email accounts (where we spend a great amount of time), which is very useful. Streak has many pipelines that can be built and then shared with select team members. Whether it’s sales, bug tracking or customer service processes, Streak maintains the workflows and encourages collaboration.
                Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

                8. Flow

                Phil Dumontet

                  Flow is my favorite task management tool. It holds everyone on my team accountable to what they say they’re going to do and allows your task lists to be private or public. The private lists are key for information control; these let me collaborate on high-level, sensitive projects with the people I choose.
                  Phil Dumontet, DASHED

                  9. Lucidchart

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                  Robby Hill

                    Lucidchart is an HTML5 app accessible from all major platforms and has some team collaboration features as you’re documenting processes and building out very complex diagrams. We use it because some people are on Mac, iPad and Windows, and the service/app works across all of those devices, helping us convey a message with a nice looking graphical chart.
                    Robby Hill, HillSouth

                    10. Google Docs

                    Erin Blaskie

                      We use many project management tools including Basecamp, Evernote and Asana, but what we find works best for documenting systems is Google Docs. The reason? It’s simply the best at keeping one version of a document, and you can organize all the documents into helpful folders. Combine that with the commenting functionality, and you have a streamlined way to document processes and systems.
                      Erin Blaskie, Erin Blaskie Digital Strategist

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                      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

                      How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

                      How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

                      We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

                      So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

                      While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

                      Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

                      What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

                      How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

                      But what does being productive actually entail?

                      Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

                      Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

                      It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

                      Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

                      9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

                      1. Avoid Multitasking

                      Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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                      Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

                      If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

                      2. Turn off Notifications

                      According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

                      Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

                      The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

                      Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

                      3. Manage Interruptions

                      There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

                      Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

                      If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

                      By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

                      4. Eat the Frog

                      Mark Twain once famously said that:

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                      “if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

                      What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

                      We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

                      Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

                      5. Cut Down on Meetings

                      Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

                      You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

                      The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

                      But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

                      If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

                      6. Utilize Tools

                      Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

                      If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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                      And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

                      Some examples of tools that could be used:

                      Communication
                      • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
                      • Samepage for video conference software.
                      • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
                      Task Management
                      • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
                      • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
                      • Wekan for an open source option.
                      Database Management
                      Time Tracking
                      • Clockify for a free tracker.
                      • TMetric for workspace integrations.
                      • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

                      You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

                      7. Declutter and Organize

                      Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

                      Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

                      Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

                      Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

                      8. Take Breaks

                      Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

                      As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

                      Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

                      Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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                      9. Drink Water

                      Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

                      Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

                      Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

                      A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

                      If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

                      You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

                      The Bottom Line

                      The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

                      After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

                      In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

                      A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

                      Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

                      More About Boosting Productivity

                      Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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