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Four Types Of Business Tools You Haven’t Tried – But Should

Four Types Of Business Tools You Haven’t Tried – But Should

It’s a new year, which means it’s a new chance to take your business to the next level. Now that the initial resolution rush is over, you’re likely left staring at a long list of tasks and goals, without knowing where to start. Don’t worry–this list of business tools has you covered, even in areas you may not have thought about before.

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    Communication

    Communication can make or break your company. The way your business is perceived by customers or clients and potential customers or clients is one of the defining factors in whether you’ll fail or succeed in the long term, and how you and your employees interact with and are reached by people is a huge part of that. Most tips for this area focus on social media and email communications; phone tools often get left out. So with that in mind–

    Free: Google Voice is probably the most useful free solution out there–it will let you create a business number that will redirect to your phone(s) of choice, without you having to plaster your personal phone number all over the internet. It also transcribes your voicemails, which is very handy (when it works right–sometimes the effect is more comical than useful).

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    Paid: Grasshopper is something like a more full-featured version of Google Voice, with the added ability to make the default phone number that people call a toll-free number. If you’re looking to go 110% pro with your business communications, the Hastings Humans are a good place to start–you can have them handle receptionist duties, answer calls 24/7, and take orders from your customers, among other things.

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      Delegating

      Communication is all about how customers are perceiving you; delegation is all about making sure your business is running as efficiently as possible. If you’re trying to do everything, chances are that you’re not getting near as much done as you should be–and the work you’re doing that’s outside your zone of genius is definitely not going to be your best work.

      Free: Unfortunately, free delegation tools are pretty thin on the ground. Delegating is all about getting someone else to do the things that you’re not good at or don’t want to do, and that means you have to pay them.

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      Paid: Two great places to start are FancyHands and Zirtual, both of which come with multiple plans to fit different peoples’ needs. FancyHands is a little more focused on life-related outsourcing, Zirtual is a little more focused on business-related outsourcing. Both of them are geared towards general needs–if you need a specialized task done, check out the contractors at Upwork, oDesk, or the old standby: Craigslist.

      Not sure where to start? Check out these 9 tasks you should be outsourcing and the lazy geek’s guide to outsourcing everything.

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        Security

        Data breaches are big news when they happen to big companies (like the Target fiasco this last Black Friday), but small businesses aren’t exempt by any means. Cyber crime is on the rise and if your business gets attacked, it could be expensive.

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        Free: There are a lot of free ways to increase your security–here’s a list of ways to secure your online privacy. If you and your team members follow all of the steps, you’ll be at least a little bit ahead of the hackers. And if you use WordPress, the Better WP Security plugin is a great place to start.

        Paid: If you manage a team and work largely out of the cloud, CloudEntr can save you from the dreaded “login credentials” spreadsheet that’s rarely updated and is a huge security risk when a team member leaves. One click lets you remove their access, without you having to change every single team account password. Carbonite can help you securely back up your data, and Prey will let you find lost devices before someone uses them to access sensitive data.

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          Productivity

          You probably have tried productivity tools before, of course–what business owner doesn’t want to be more productive? But the usual productivity app lists focus on task management tools, which are great, but not the be-all end-all of productivity.

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          Free: SelfControl will let you block distracting sites (including the productivity black hole that is Facebook) and your email inbox for a predetermined amount of time. IFTTT‘s slogan is “put the internet to work for you,” and it can streamline and automate a lot of your processes using “if this, then that” rules (hence the name). For example, you can set it to email you every time there’s a new result for a search on Craigslist. FocusBooster is a free Pomodoro timer that works on both Mac and Windows, and makes it easy for you to utilize the Pomodoro method of productivity.

          Paid: Zapier is similar to IFTTT, but with more business-related apps available in the library. Concentrate is similar to SelfControl, but lets you set up different routines for different activities (for example, a “writing” routine vs. a “designing” routine). VitaminR is a full-featured tool intended to not only train you into better productivity habits (reducing task switching, for example), but also letting you see data about what conditions lead to peak productivity levels for you.

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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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