Ironically, technology enables us to get our work done anywhere and become more productive but also takes us down many time-wasting activities and paths. When we are on our devices, it is easy to get sidetracked and be unproductive.
However, the good news is that most of our devices —tablets, smartphones, and computers also give us the tools to stay on track and reclaim our productivity, as long as we use the tools that work for us.
With a plethora of productivity apps available, it can be overwhelming to find the right one. We asked three TAB members to take the guesswork out for you, and they came up with the simplest of tools to improve productivity. Read their stories and how they discovered tools that are readily available as they share three tech productivity hacks that will work for most business situations.
#1 Keep Meeting and Call Notes On One Digital Calendar
If you maintain two or more calendars, you need to stop doing that —even if you have an admin/Secretary managing it for you. All management and organizational experts agree that consolidating to a single calendar will save you countless hours per week, not to mention, it will help you avoid double-bookings and simple errors.
That is not a "hack." However, one of my favorite approaches to boosting productivity involves my Outlook Calendar. Of course, you can use any digital calendar of your liking.
For years I struggled with how and where to keep my digital call notes and meeting notes. I tried Word docs, scanning paper notes, high-res photos, emailing myself, speech converters, and every note-taking app out there. All these methods had pros and cons, but most had at least one disadvantage that prevented them from working for me. It wasn't easy to quickly retrieve the notes when I needed them. For example, M.S. OneNote did not integrate well with my smartphone and added extra steps to copy/paste links to the notes where I needed them.
Then, one day I had to jump from one Zoom immediately into another and did not have anything ready for note-taking. So, I opened an Outlook "Appointment" (not a meeting) on my calendar during the Zoom call as a place to capture some notes via keyboard. I figured I would copy/paste them after the meeting to a better place. However, I quickly discovered that I could easily search for the notes in Outlook based on the name of the meeting, the person's name, the date of the meeting, or even a keyword. After trying this for several more days, I realized that Outlook Appointment allows me to underline, bold, bullet, number, highlight, and format my notes much like a Word Doc. You can copy/paste these to an email or Word Doc. I had stumbled upon a better system for my call and meeting notes and was happy I came upon what has worked incredibly well for me.
Having now done this for years, I encourage you to try it if you are a "note-taker" like me and still searching for a system that works for you.
A word of caution: Be sure to check your calendar settings to ensure they are not set to automatically delete your old appointments before you may need your notes!
Joe Palmer, Owner The Alternative Board North Texas
#2 Utilize Messaging Platforms
Many companies have been forced to adopt a messaging platform since their staff has gone remote. After years of resistance and sometimes even fear, these leaders now realize the benefits of messaging. Using a tool like Skype, Slack, or Teams —or even just smartphone instant messaging groups —can significantly enhance productivity whether employees are in the office, working at home, or are hybrid.
Messaging platforms allow both point-to-point and group chatting. Messages allow real-time, short, efficient communication between employees. For companies that have not adopted instant messaging, the benefits are speed and efficiency.
Messaging is short and fast. No one wastes time or words on niceties or formalities. Instead, someone sends a short message, and others quickly respond. It's a great way to remove obstacles, foster collaboration, and provide a sense of community. People want to help each other, and messaging is an excellent part of the productivity mix.
#3. Use Collaborative Documents
Before the advent of collaborative technology tools, you had to create a document in Microsoft Word. You received five copies of your document, one from each team member. You then distributed the document to your team to review and provide comments. You then sorted through their edits and comments and manually folded them back into the source document. Sometimes the comments conflicted with each other, and you needed to sort them out. It was cumbersome and time-consuming.
If this is how you still operate, keep reading.
Collaborative documents, using platforms such as Google Docs, enhances productivity massively. You post your document to an online, secure location that only you and anyone you permit can access. You decide whether you give read access, write access, or comment-only access.
Team members, you want to collaborate with provide their comments and edits directly to the document. You can see who made what edit. You can decide whether to keep their edits or not. You can review their comments and determine what changes to make to the document in response.
There are no emailing documents. No working off of different versions. No tedium in trying to track down who made what edit or which ones conflict with each other. Shared online documents that all team members can access help improve productivity at a level that you control.