Productivity tools alone will never make you productive. This is a bitter lesson for quite a few entrepreneurs who have tried to solve their problems using project management and time tracking solutions but didn’t see any noticeable progress.
The reason why people keep falling into the same trap is simple: we like to hope for a miracle. Who wouldn’t want to rub an Aladdin’s lamp and — whoosh! — boost employee productivity and double the revenue. Well, productivity tools don’t work that way. They can only support your work process, and if properly organized will produce excellent results.
The Worst Way to Implement Productivity Software
A friend of mine recently asked me for advice on how to improve his company’s workflow. Brian’s story is very typical, so I thought it is worth sharing.
Brian is an owner of a fast-growing startup in advertising. To help his team stay organized and efficient, he picked a number of productivity tools and went on to implement them in his company.
He chose Asana to foster collaboration within his team, actiTIME to track working hours and bill customers, and on top of that, introduced the Pomodoro technique to ensure that employees stay focused and productive. Despite all the benefits provided by each solution, staff couldn’t make real use of them.
Some of them simply couldn’t figure out what to do, while the others mixed everything up or even refused to use the new software. None of them had a clear understanding of why they should work this way. Instead of being innovative, the experience turned out to be only disruptive. When Brian realized that his experiment failed, he came to me to discuss what he called “the inadequate productivity tools”.
Well, the truth is that the tools were okay, while the process wasn’t.
The new work management model was very different to what they had used before: a combination of Google collaboration tools and siloed apps. As I figured out from Brian’s story, he showed his team how the new tools worked, but didn’t take any steps to adapt the company’s workflow to the changes he made or explain his goals. So the real problem was far more fundamental.
Goals First, Tools Second
Before choosing the software that will take your team’s productivity to the next level, you have to understand what problems you are attempting to solve and what functionality you need.
Start by reviewing the following tips and see what can be incorporated into your workflow:
- Eliminate busywork and automate repetitive tasks: this will save you minutes or even hours every day.
- Plan your week ahead by setting priorities.
- Break large tasks into smaller subtasks to make them manageable.
- Make a habit of focusing on one single task instead of illusory “multitasking”, and learn to estimate time it will take. Stick to your deadlines religiously.
- To save time on researching information, ensure that everyone on the team shares essential knowledge and stays in the loop.
The next step would be to document your current process to see how it can be aligned with the existing tools. Determine how tasks are assigned to workers, and break your typical workflow into distinct steps.
As a result of this preparation work, you will get a set of detailed requirements. With that on hand, you can move on to researching suitable productivity tools. Don’t be afraid to discuss things with the vendor reps: they might give you valuable advice on how to adapt their software to your needs.
Allow Time for a ‘Break-In’ Period
Car owners know that a new car should be broken in before going at full throttle. The same is true for the new software. To polish the process, you can try out the new tools within one department before implementing them company-wide or you can start with one tool and see if you are ready to move forward. The best tool to start with is simple timesheet software that will help to organize ongoing tasks and projects and get a full insight into your team’s performance without the learning curve. However be realistic: don’t expect any miracles during the first month or two.
Fortunately, there are plenty of productivity tools on the market, so you can choose what fits your needs best. Just keep in mind that technology by itself is not enough. You will still need to improve things internally and develop personal efficiency and management skills