When I refer to the resources or tools for your greater success, I never limit that discussion to technology. As you are filling your productivity toolbox, consider streamlining your workflow processes, creating an organized workspace in which you know where things are stored, hire consultants whose expertise enhances what you already know or do, outsource what needs to be done but not necessarily by you to employees or service professionals (including house cleaners and personal chefs), implement boundaries appropriate for your circumstances and
Still, in today's world, technology often plays a big role in how we get things done. Take time to evaluate whether paper or electronic tools might better meet your specific needs, taking into consideration your personality, your existing workflows, where you feel like you are losing time and the expectations of those with whom you work (your supervisor, your team members, your clients, your vendors, etc). Writing out meeting notes, tasks and time commitments on paper can aid in remembering those details; however, electronic alternatives have the benefit of automatic carryover, adding reminders and scheduling recurrences as needed, which can be beneficial for certain individuals. I also find the Time and Space Style Inventory enlightening when determining what sort of resources would be the best fit for any particular individual.
Although Three Dog Night claims "One is the loneliest number", I contend that one is the most powerful number for being productive. As you outline resources to implement, whether paper or electronic, keep in mind the power of one: one calendar for personal and professional commitments, one running data dump of all tasks that funnels into one daily to-do list, one address book for all contacts' information, one set of naming conventions for all files (paper, electronic, email), one place for all the information you must remember as well as reference and one strategy session to plan your week that is maintained with one daily wrap-up at the end of each day. Having one of each better ensures your content is kept up-to-date, you know what needs to be done when, nothing falls through the cracks and you don't get double-booked.
Consider what tools you are using to meet each of these needs and fill in what holes exist as you're working to get things done:
- How do you block out web and app distractions? When hopping online for research, writing or social media, it's easy to get distracted and lose time. Limit your access for greater focus and more efficient results by using tools like Flipd, GrooveOtter, KeepMeOut, RescueTime, SelfControl and StayFocused.
- How do you know what to do when? Use the Eisenhower Matrix to narrow down the endless list of tasks being thrown your direction. With this tool, determine if the task really needs to be done; if it must be done, by whom and how quickly. Then, organize tasks that must be done by you with reminders in a task or project manager like Any.Do, Asana, Azendoo, Carrot To-Do, iMeet Central, Convo, Due, Google Tasks, Mavenlink, Nozbe, OmniFocus, Pocket Informant, Producteev, Remember The Milk, Reminders, Teamwork, TeuxDeux, Todoist, Trello, Wunderlist, Wrike and Zoho.
- How do you simplify setting 1-on-1 appointments? When you are trying to reserve time with another individual and you send over a list of available dates, you either have to hold those slots until you hear back from that person or risk that individual picking one that you've since filled with another commitment. Eliminate emailing back and forth while ensuring better accuracy with a tool that provides real-time appointment-setting capabilities. Email a link to your schedule for folks to reserve a slot of your time with tools like Acuity Scheduling, BookedIN, Booking Bug, Calendly, Doodle's MeetMe, Meetin.gs, Pick-a-Time, SchedFast, ScheduleOnce, Schedulicity, Setster, Timebridge, TimeTrade, vCita, Vyte.in and YouCanBook.me.
- How do you make it easier to set meetings? If you are trying to pull together a group of people, every individual will have different requests for when and where to meet. Instead of opening dialogue with everyone to schedule a meeting, enter options that work for you and let those you want to attend vote on which option works for the majority. Choose from tools like Doodle or Vyte for what best meets your meeting setting needs.
- Are you able to seamlessly update contacts? People change jobs, email providers, mailing addresses and more; as we're inundated with information, make keeping up more feasible by automating updating your records via an assistant like EasilyDo, EverContact, FullContact or Sync.ME.
- How do you wrangle all your documents? As it is easier to find what you need when it is in a digital format, convert paper to electronic with mobile scanners like Doxie Go, Epson WorkForce DS-30, Fujitsu ScanSnap and NeatReceipts. Alternatively, the Scannable app provides an excellent alternative that can be accessible right in your smartphone or you can automate pulling monthly statements from your selected providers via the FileThis service. Then, keep those electronic files easily accessible via an online file repository like Box, Dropbox, eFileCabinet, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, OneDrive, SpiderOak and SugarSync.
- What do you use for cloud-based back-ups? Computers crash. Fires can destroy all your devices. Emergencies happen. It's not a matter of "if" but "when" your technology will die, but you can be prepared with automated remote storage. Simply "set it and forget it" with a tool like Backblaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan, IDrive or Mozy.
- How do you control an overflowing inbox? Email can be less time-consuming when you send fewer messages out, unsubscribe from those you are no longer reading and choose to process (rather than check) newly received emails; however, don't stop there. Implement tools to take better control of your email like Airmail, Boomerang, Contactually, Mailstrom, SaneBox, Sortd, Spark and Unroll.me.
- What do you use to store your passwords? As our list of passwords grows, it can become increasingly difficult to remember them all, particularly as components to include vary and with how often they must be updated. Auto-select, retain and autofill logins with a password manager like Dashlane, LastPass, RoboForm, SplashID and 1Password.
- How can you automate more functionality? Automation is a form of delegation where you delegate to technology and can massively expand how much you can get done concurrently. No one can do everything alone, especially all at once; however, automation tools let things get done while you put your efforts into other, hands-on tasks. Set what rules apply to your needs in automation tools like IFTTT, Podbox, Zapier and social media managers such as Buffer, Edgar, Falcon, Hootsuite, SocialOomph and Sprout Social.
- What can you use to delegate more? Even if you don't have employees on your team to whom you can delegate tasks, people want to help you do more. Consider finding support via Fancy Hands, Fiverr, GigSalad, Guru, Moonlighting, Task Rabbit, Thumbtack, Upwork, 99Designs or local concierge services, like Errand Girl, Metro's Other Woman, The Other Woman and Sweeps. Further, keep in mind options for delivery, like grocery options Amazon Prime Now, Instacart and Shipt.