The world is awash with productivity apps, from well-known, multi-use tools like Evernote, Slack and Trello, to niche tools like the Hemingway App and RescueTime. Yet, we all still struggle with maximizing productivity, particularly in larger organizational teams.
With so many different apps functioning in unique ways, we actually end up spending more time operating our applications than getting work done.
Employee happiness plays a crucial role in terms of employee productivity, and of some suggest jokingly that sleeping with your boss is a way to increase productivity. While happiness is crucial, companies can do a lot to foster an atmosphere conducive to productivity.
Productivity is born through a combination of operational efficiency, employee morale, and shared goals and vision. When staff members have clear and concise direction of the forward-looking goal, the company pushes in the same direction, increasing productivity. – Joe Griffin, co-founder of ClearVoice
Indeed, for companies to maximize productivity – and navigate the murky waters all these apps have created – here are three bottom–line needs your productivity app must address:
In other words, you need tools that are (1) flexible enough to facilitate the different work styles of your team members; (2) equipped with integrated communication that’s not only easy, but eliminates the need for multiple email accounts and checkpoints; and (3) a design that is both aesthetic and functional.
Bringing your company’s‘ projects together in one app is challenging because, as Carson Tate pointed out, “One size does not fit all when it comes to productivity.”
In any organization with multiple teams or employees, you’re bound to find that each individual has their own productivity style and preferences. Forcing everyone to adapt to one method simply isn’t the best way to maximize work flow.
This means, whatever productivity program you choose, it must be flexible.
Understanding the varying strengths that different productivity styles bring to a team can go a long way in helping you identify kind of tool that works best.
Consider these four productivity styles outlined by Carson Tate in Work Simply, inspired by the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI):
Prioritizer – The analytical type who prefers to work based on facts, criteria, and logical reasoning. This person likes to achieve by establishing clear goals and objectives.
Planner – The planner likes problem solving and structure. They’re the ones who thrive when organizing complex projects, making schedules, and paying attention to the fine details.
Arranger – This is the perfect person to build interpersonal relationships. Arrangers love listening to and expressing ideas, so they can facilitate team interactions and guide or coach others easily.
Visualizer – For creative solutions and big-picture thinking, the visualizer is your go-to resource. They love taking initiative and developing innovative ideas, but they’re not wild about repetitive tasks or getting into the details.
The tools you use must accommodate these various styles or you risk losing productivity. Here’s another approach with six distinct ways to optimize your workflow.
WorkflowMax time tacking options
A countdown timer that records the actual hours worked.
A start and finish timer that allows you to enter the start & stop time manually..
A duration timer that allows you to enter the exact number of hours worked manually.
A mobile friendly timer lets you enter time on the go.
A desktop widget that works great a visual reminder of both current and upcoming tasks.
Each time tracking option caters to a different type of worker.
The Timer setting is great for those who establish “work hours” and want to see how much they get done in that time, whereas, those working towards a specific end goal, like the Prioritizer, will most likely prefer the Start & finish time or Duration option. Of course, the Visualizers on your team would most likely love the Adobe widget, since it tracks those long hours they tend to lose in Photoshop getting things just right.
Effective communication across teams is another productivity app must because traditional forms of accountability — like email — are becoming increasingly polluted and ineffective.
The reality is our inboxes are jam-packed. Steve Kovach recently shared a story that illustrates this point quite well.
Returning from vacation, Steve discovered 1,511 unread messages waiting for him. Of those 1,511 messages, “fewer than 3 percent were worth reading. Only 0.3 percent required a response.”
And Steve isn’t alone. Separating spam from action-oriented emails is a herculean task.
It no longer makes sense to slave through our inboxes just to find a few relevant messages. When you add the various social networks we’re on, it all just seems too much.
When it comes to managing your workflow, design matters.
We all know that something as simple as the color scheme can have a huge psychological impact on the user. This is why financial institutions tend to use blue – to convey security and trustworthiness – and green is ideal for outdoor and environmentally-friendly products.
In a recent review, Steven Tweedie called attention to the relationship between design and intuitive user experience. Apps that allow you to create custom buttons to execute a string of tasks across different iPhone applications — for example, make a GIF from your last three photos taken and uploading it to Twitter aren’t just about looking good. They improve functionality by making the app easy to understand and use.
That’s why great design isn’t just about aesthetics. Intuitive design requires a deep understanding of how your will use a product. Questions about time of use, setting, and purpose (user intent) all have to be answered and catered to.
All the tools mentioned above have taken these elements into consideration. They provide an easy-to-use interface which offers a seamless experience across devices (laptops, tablets, phones, etc.) while improving upon other tools to enhance productivity.
Here are some of the tools that are tackling this crippling inbox syndrome.
HipChat allows you to create chat rooms for your business. The application is fully customizable and works across devices so you never miss a beat, even while you’re away from your desk. Most importantly, individuals can be tagged in chats, so you’ll always know what’s urgent and needs your immediate attention versus what can wait and be reviewed when you have time.
Perhaps the greatest thing about HipChat is the ability to add third parties to individual rooms – this way, you can carry on conversations with clients, vendors, and partners without tracking down all those disjointed emails.
Whether you’re working in another building or in different parts of the world, lots of teams are working remotely these days. Instead of wasting time setting up official meetings and hangouts, consider Sqwiggle. With both instant one-on-one or group video calls as well as live chats with your team, there’s no need to send them an email.
Cloze doesn’t actually provide a new way of communicating.
Instead, it helps you to manage all the other methods you already use. Available through browser and on Android and Apple devices, Cloze pulls in information from your various email addresses, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles to present you a holistic view of each contact. It tracks details of your relationship with each of your contact and, as such, does an excellent job at being the individual’s relationship management software.
It’s not the productivity app, stupid
It’s how you use it.
When on the hunt for the right tools to maximize productivity for your team, ensure you take these factors into consideration.
It’s important to find a tool that is flexible enough to work according to the productivity style of each member of your team, allows for effective communication free of clutter and time-eaters and, of course, designed so well your team actually wants to use it.
Skip out on any of these three essential elements, and your company will most likely be losing valuable time you don’t have to spare.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.