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Time Management – Tips and Tools

Posted Jun 30th, 2013 in Business Management, Sales

Time Management Tips ToolsBetter organization means better use of time. Here are some strategies, tips and tools that I have adopted to make my life easier and more productive. 


The quest for the elusive Golden Challis of reaching organization utopia has kept me searching for the best online (and offline) strategies and tools to help me reach my goal. Better organization means better use of time. Here are some strategies, tips and tools that I have adopted to make my life easier and more productive.

Basic principles and best practices of time management 

David Allen is a guru on time management.  A couple of months ago, I had a long business drive ahead of me so I downloaded one of David's audio-books [1].  We Canadians spend a lot of time driving (yes a large country comes with some drawbacks), so planning my audio books for long trips has been one of my strategies to make this time more productive.  Unfortunately, without the ability to use a hand-held device while driving, I haven’t figured out how to make notes which are a drawback for me.

  • Everything needs a home.  When something comes in, file it immediately. 
  • Keep your desk clean
  • Have a “Today, Next & Someday” file
There are so many good points in this book, that you will want to keep this book as a reference.  Read/listen to it every 6 months just to see how many best practices you've been able to adopt.  I did find that some of David's suggestions still point to a paper organized system; however, the basic principles are there.  There were other books I started to read on the topic of organization and time management, but they all seem to follow the same formula.

Listen, Learn, Adapt.

What best practices are achievable for me right now? What can I aim for in the future?  Can I customize this to work for me? This is what I took into consideration when evaluating my goals.
  • my current situation
  • my goals
  • what my idea of success is
  • my preferences
  • my strengths
  • my weaknesses

For example, I don't have a problem working in my home office and getting work done in that type of atmosphere. I actually prefer the 24 hour access to be able to work. It takes away the stress of getting something done in a time dictated by someone else. This gives me the opportunity to work around family member schedules and optimize my 'creative' moments. Having flexibility in my work schedule is very important to my mental, physical and emotional well-being.

I also have a passion for sustainability and work towards lowering my carbon footprint as much as possible. This is one of the bonuses of a home office. If i set up an off-site office at some point, I will plan to have it within walking or cycling distance. I also want to work towards having a

I also want to work towards having a paperless office. If Jamie Garratt, who started Idea Rebel [3] can do it, so can I. This is still a challenge but it is possible and for some industries/professions easier than others. Just Google ‘Paperless office’ and you will find a plethora of sites directing you to tips and success stories. Don’t get me wrong… I still love paper...I love the feel of a pen in my hand when writing a ‘To-Do’ list and then physically checking it off. However, I am finding the ‘natural tendency’ to pick up pen and paper first is starting to change. My  iPad has become more of my 'go-to' device.  The convenience of having everything online and accessible has become one of the driving forces in working towards this paperless end. Environmental concerns is definitely a driver, but there are other factors just as strong:  convenience ,

My  iPad has become more of my 'go-to' device.  The convenience of having everything online and accessible has become one of the driving forces in working towards this paperless end. Environmental concerns is definitely a driver, but there are other factors just as strong:  convenience , high cost of ink, and a better way to communicate (email, cloud file sharing, social media, ).  They have all made this transition towards a paperless office much easier than I originally thought. I am about half-way to reaching my goal, but am encouraged with the progress.

Recommended Software and Online Tools

My life has become easier and more productive since I started using these software tools and online applications.

Criteria when reviewing software and online tools

  • Intuitive
  • Affordable (value)
  • Collaboration capabilities - team work
  • Integration with other programs/solutions
  • Visually appealing
  • Feature rich list

Microsoft Office

  • MS Outlook - I love the ease of use (so intuitive), the integration with multiple supporting 3rd party apps, and it looks great! The calendar, the file tree, the display of emails with optional views.. and the list goes on. So I was overjoyed when I learned to imap ALL my emails to MS Outlook! Managing multiple emails, this was a bonus for time management. Challenge - I want to use MS Outlook calendar, but because I have this as a client software (loaded on my computer), I don't have real-time access to this information on my other devices. And yes, they have a cloud version of Outlook, but it is NOT as nice. So, I use Google calendar instead. sigh.
  • MS Word - After years of using MS Word regularly, I am now quite proficient at using it. So saying that, I am glad it is still one of most ubiquitous programs used. This makes it easy to collaborate with my peers on projects and share documents with clients (i.e. blogging draft & revisions) I'm glad the software engineers at Microsoft believe in leaving things well enough alone when they work!
  • MS Publisher - Not wanting to always revert to my Mac for quick flyers, I still love MS Publisher for some of my desktop graphic needs. I definitely don't use this often, but there have been times that organizations I've work with only have their desktop in Publisher...and it has come in handy.
  • MS Powerpoint - I still use this for presentations, even there seems to be a lot of buzz about 'PowerPoint presentations are dead'. Don't blame the car because the man/woman behind the wheel doesn't know how to drive. MS PowerPoint has given us all the tools to produce a slide deck that could be "the icing on your cake" for your next presentation. Here is a link to some articles "Presenting like a Pro" .
  • MS Excel - Almost forgot this one...but easy to do since I don't use it as much. Almost every program/SAAS solution exports data to a .csv / .xls format so excel works well. The fact that is so widely used and has the intuitive toolbar that I've become accustomed to with other Office product, it makes it the obvious choice when I need it. For budget creation and visualizing data through a pie/bar chart, excel is my go to program for sure.
  • ASIDE... this was not meant to be a promotion for Microsoft. They just make a good product and it has helped me stay organized. A little pricey, but worth it in my mind. I am still disappointed that they don't have an online 'cloud' version that is as nice. If there is, and I don't know about it? Would love to hear from you.

Evernote

This is a program everyone should have - entrepreneur, student, writer, etc. I use the bundle feature to keep notebooks organized (Work, Personal). In each bundle I have my notebooks on various clients (work), prospects (work), Family (personal), Blogging (Personal), etc. The fact that it integrates with  Get it Done and MS Outlook was a check mark for my decision. It works. Have a look at it and then read "Work Smarter with Evernote" – by Alexandra Samuel It will be the best $3.53 you will ever spend on an e-book. www.evernote.com - The software is free unless you want the PRO version. Available to load on your computer or in the cloud. Synchronization feature is great.

Google

Of course I use Google, but it has been a fight to adapt and accept this as the only/best option. I have not found anything quite as comprehensive (to have multiple tools integrated) and widely used ( for collaboration, social sharing) as Google, and I use them all: Gmail, calendar, google maps, search and google+ . It is also free, but not the most important on the criteria list. Challenge - Gmail dashboard is not intuitive and it is very hard to read (i.e. very busy, limited views, etc). Calendar is just as difficult to read. Limited colour options for text as well. Still... I persist on because everyone else is using it and haven't found another option that meets my criteria.

Get it Done App

I started using this but haven't been able to take my tasks totally off paper and online. This is an app I will work towards using more. It is intuitive, follows the same principles of organization that David Allen teaches, integrates with Evernote and can share across multiple devices. For under $40 a year, this is well worth the money. GetitDoneApp.com

DropBox

Can't live without this application for file sharing. It is free up to a certain storage amount, widely used, accessibility for my clients and my personal files across multiple devices, many 3rd party apps integrate with drop box. A no brainer. Everyone needs to use this for basic document sharing.  www.dropbox.com

ASIDE... Remember to always ask the organization you are working with about their information sharing policies before putting anything 'up in the cloud'.

ZOHO

It was a challenge to find a simple CRM (Customer resource management system) that made sense for my communication based consulting business. I also needed a basic accounting system. I've used Simply Accounting and Quickbooks in the past, but I don't need (or want to pay for) all the features right now. I wanted to something that I would be able to access on multiple devices, offer the ability to pay as I needed features, and have the ability to grow with my business. It takes a while to get used to using a program. I didn't want to have to switch to another program in 5 years and then have to worry about migrating all my data. ZOHO offers everything I need for now, with options to add more if I need it in the future.   www.zoho.com (CRM, Invoicing, Social Campaigns, Project Management, etc.)

There are other time-saving programs that I use for my communication work, to help me be more efficient in my use of time, but these are the ones that generally keep me organized and can be used across various professions.  

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