Cloud-Based Tools That Boost Productivity
Cloud-based document-sharing, financials, and work-networking software is becoming ubiquitous, so the learning curve for adopting much of the software is likely not as steep as you may have believed. For example, there are a number of tutorials out there to help you learn how to use these programs, so if your company decides to implement a platform, you’ll be up to speed in no time.
A few examples of cloud-based SaaS services include Dropbox, Intuit QuickBooks, and Google Docs. Basically, SaaS refers to software services that are accessible via your web browser, so it’s simply a matter of having a reliable Internet connection in order to connect to your company’s information, rather than needing to download a software program directly to your computer. The absence of massive program files to download and install prevents unnecessary headaches from system overload and downloading errors. Moreover, this absence of technical roadblocks allows for greater overall productivity.
In order to boost productivity, utilize programs like MailChimp to not only email your customers or potential clients, but also keep track of where they are located, who is engaging with content on your site, and which pages or links are most popular. Your company can also utilize programs like Zoom or Skype for business to hold remote video conferences, as well as collaborate, chat, and share screens remotely. You can also manage financials remotely with user-friendly online accounting tools like QuickBooks Online or Xero, which allow users to monitor cash flow and implement file-sharing and collaboration tools with your company’s accountant or department managers.
Cloud-based content sharing platforms allow users to upload documents and catalog articles for later use with programs such as Evernote and Google Drive. The ability to automatically sync your content between devices is a major selling point. There are also cloud-based e-commerce applications like Shopify, Squarespace, and BigCartel that can integrate themselves seamlessly with your website while also providing tools and templates to assist with the online sales process. PC Nation lists a few products that they recommend here, along with links to their websites.
How to Be Productive, Tools Notwithstanding
There are a number of productivity guides and tips to be found out in Internet-land, but some of the best advice is that which has been proven reliable over and over again. I recently came across an excellent article by James Clear articulating an approach to work that I’ve ascribed to for a long while: basically, that it’s better to tackle the most painful, challenging, or difficult tasks first, so as to avoid procrastination and to make the rest of the process less painful and more enjoyable.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham echoes this sentiment by stressing the importance of checking off the hardest tasks early in the day, as well as the need for priorities, systems for common tasks, breaks, and focusing on one thing at a time. In terms of tracking priority tasks, I’ve personally found calendars and schedules to be more effective than lists—and I’m not alone. Whereas lists can make the day ahead feel overwhelming and never-ending, calendars and schedules with finite blocks of time allow the user room to focus on one thing at a time and excel at each thing, while also granting the freedom to move on from the task at hand, in the event that it isn’t fully accomplished by the end of the hour, say.
Moreover, Programs like Asana help schedule your time into manageable chunks that break up the monotony of an afternoon, say, and afford the user time to use for the remainder of whatever tasks happen to be looming, at the moment. Therefore, in addition to prioritizing tasks, it also helps to create systems for common tasks—for example, email templates for commonly written inquiries and replies. If you happen to be someone who tends toward multitasking, it’s best practice to avoid that tendency. It may help to set alarms to remind you that you have exactly one hour to complete a given task, for example; meanwhile, make it a point to shut off all email and text notifications on your phone and shut your office door, if applicable, until you’re done.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, don’t fall into the trap of skipping your breaks. You may erroneously believe that working through your lunch hour is an efficient use of your time, but your body will inevitably think otherwise. Entrepreneur recently published a great article on the subject, in which Joe Robinson argues that the cliché of entrepreneur as a superhero with no mortal needs like sleep or relaxation is counterproductive, leading to any number of unhealthy side effects, including exhaustion, poor health, and diminished profitability. Rather, Robinson points out, “Performance increases after breaks of all durations: from extended vacations down to microbreaks of 30 seconds.”
One last productivity ‘hack’ involves your time and energy outside of work. That is, according to Jeff Haden, planning a fun activity for right after work can be highly motivating way to get your work done on time, as opposed to allowing yourself to remain chained to your desk till after dark. If there isn’t something you want to go do after work, consider finding something? Your extracurricular activities will probably be more motivating and beneficial than you realize, at first. Heck, you may even end up starting an entirely new enterprise, as a result.
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The cloud can provide a way into efficient project management. However, the mind is also an incredibly useful tool for getting things done, once we become more conscious of our patterns and tendencies, throughout the day. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others, delegate, and take a few moments to breathe. More often than not, you may find what you’re looking for during an in-between moment when you’re not even looking.