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5 Ways to Use Technology to Be More Productive at Work or Home

How Productive Are You?

Are there times you wish you were more productive?  In the movie Office Space, Peter Gibbons tells the HR consultants “I’d say in a given week, I do about 15 minutes of real, actual work.”1

Now, that’s extreme.  But there are probably times you wish you could have done more.   And you’re not alone.  One study found that the average employee really works 3 hours in a 8 hour day.  He or she spends the rest of the time socializing, eating food and checking social media.2

Technology Trends

This article shows you how to use technology to get the most out of your day, while keeping in mind some major trends.  One trend is that people are using mobile devices more to do just about everything.  In 2017, Americans spent over four hours a day on their mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets. 3   85% of American adults use a mobile device to access news.4

Another major trend is more people are working remotely, including their home.  One study by Zug, Switzerland-based serviced office provider IWG, found that 70% of global professionals work remotely at least one day a week.5

Home Office

 

5 Ways Technology Can Make You More Productive

Remote Access and Cloud File Sharing Services

Through VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), you can connect securely to your work computers and networks.  This technology enables you to get work done from anywhere at any time.  While not typically as secure as VPNs, remote access software like Teamviewer or LogMeIn serve the same purpose.

Cloud file sharing services, like OneDrive, Google Drive and DropBox, let users share and edit docs across devices and locations.  Once a user edits a document, others in his or her group see the changes.  A work crew takes pics of their onsite progress and these become immediately accessible to an offsite builder.

Productive

Note Taking Applications

By using note taking apps, like Evernote, MS OneNote, Google Keep, Headspace and Zoho Notebook, you don’t have to constantly lug a notebook around.  Usually, these apps let you use text, drawings, voice recordings, pics and other media to record a meeting.  Imagine going to a consult at a prospect’s office and taking digital notes.  Because these are cloud-based apps, your co-workers and others see your work in real-time.  And you won’t have to waste time typing out written notes and emailing them to others.

Evernote

Communication Software

By using communication software, like Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Slack and Google Hangouts, people avoid the travel time and expenses of an onsite visit. Technological improvements in communication software make it easy to work in teams.  For instance, with Zoom and Skype people can share computer screens and look at documents together.

Slack lets team members organize communications in many flexible ways.  Groups work in channels, which can be based on teams, projects, clients or other categories.  For instance, one channel could include the sales team, while another channel could made of all employees from different departments working on a project.  Also, Slack allows channel members to do voice or video calls and share files.  Finally, they can get team members’ feedback and search conversation history.

Productive

Task and Project Applications

By using task applications, like Wunderlist, Microsoft To-Do, Google Tasks and Omnifocus, you can be more productive.  The Wunderlist app lets you create something as simple as a grocery list or as complex as a project plan.  Also, it helps team members work collaboratively on projects.  Because it is cloud based, users can share lists, make edits and provide feedback.  Finally, you can set notifications to remind the team about important deadlines.

 

productive

Digital Transactions

Many businesses and individuals are stuck in the past in this area.  If you still collect client payments by depositing checks at the bank or taking credit card info over the phone, there are quicker ways to do this.  For instance, field staff can use card scanners or mobile apps to collect credit card payments and client signatures.  Also, you could deposit checks remotely using mobile scanning apps.  Finally, many companies collect payments through a merchant account like PayPal.  For bookkeeping purposes, you could sync PayPal with Quickbooks.

Productivity

Additional Suggestions to Be More Productive

There are several other applications you may want to look into to increase your productivity.  Below, please find a brief summary of each.

ClickTime

ClickTime is an application which employees, managers and executives use to manage employees’ time, team projects and company budgets.  Traveling employees can use the mobile app or go online to report expenses to the central office.  They can enter each expense and take a picture of the receipt for quick reimbursement.  Also, ClickTime offers many reports which enable managers and businesses to see in real-time projects’ profitability.  Finally, this app integrates with CRM and financial products, like Salesforce and Quickbooks.

For more info on this app, check here:  ClickTime

RescueTime

RescueTime is a software application, which tracks your web browsing and offline habits.  It provides detailed reports about your activity.  This way, you see how you are spending your day and how you can be more productive.  In addition, you can set goals for the day or week and track your progress towards them.  Also, you can set up notifications for certain activity.  For instance, you can create an alarm which will notify you when you have spent one hour on Facebook in a day.

For more info on this app, check here:  RescueTime

Boomerang (for Gmail)

Have you ever wanted to schedule when email(s) are sent?  Boomerang is an add-on to your browser, which will allow you to do this and use Gmail more productively.  With this add-on, you can also schedule reminders.  If someone has not responded to your initial email, you can schedule a notification to follow up at a certain date.  Boomerang Respondable analyzes your email drafts and provides feedback on how to improve the content.

For more info on this app, check here:   Boomerang

 

 

 

 

 

References:

1  Methodshop.com “Top 27 Quotes From Office Space.”  Link to Site

2  Businessinsider.com “8-hour Workday May be 5 Hours too Long Research suggests.”  Link to Site

3 Hackernoon.com “How Much Time do People Spend on Their Mobile Phones in 2017.”  Link to Site

4 Niemanlab.org “Percent of Americans use Mobile Devices to Access News and Seniors are Driving That Number up.”  Link to Site

5 Cnbc.com. “Percent of People Globally Work Remotely at Least Once a Week, Study Says.”  Link to Site

Should I Use Microsoft Office 365?

Microsoft Office 365: What Exactly Is It?

When some clients would ask us what is Office 365, we would watch as their eyes glazed over during our detailed description.  We learned quickly to keep our explanation as short and clear as possible.  We will do that here.

Office 365 is a bundle of software and cloud services, which typically include email and contact, calendar and document management.  The included services depend on the plan selected.

To see an introduction of Office 365 for Business, check out the following video:

 

The name Office 365 refers to you having the ability to access your office from anywhere at any time (365 days a year).  For instance, if you want to continue working at home on a Word document you started at your office, you can do this on by logging into your Office 365 account at home.  You can even edit this file on your smart phone or tablet.

 

Office 365 Anywhere Anytime

 

Office 365’s Popularity Has Grown

Microsoft Office 365 GrowthSince its introduction being over six years ago, Office 365 has become very popular.  According to one source, Office 365 had 120 million users as of September 2017.¹

Despite this popularity, many businesses and personal users have still not adopted it.  Why?  Often, we run into companies who purchase a website domain and email/website hosting as a package.   Email is thrown in as extra service.  When their sales reps complain about not being able to share a calendar, the businesses later find out their email services do not meet their needs.  Office 365 can solve these issues, plus it offers many other capabilities.

 

Office 365 Review:  Pros and Cons

In this post, we outline some of the benefits you could experience from moving to Office 365.  Also, we mention its drawbacks.  Whether or not it is an appropriate option for you or your business, it depends on your specific situation.

 

PROS

Increased Productivity

Believe it or not, we still run into businesses which post daily meetings and events on an office bulletin board.  What about their field employees who do not pass by the office?  How do employees find out about changes to the schedule?

Office 365 includes a whole host of tools, which make a business and personal user more productive.  Because it allows for shared calendars, contacts and files, which can be viewed and updated in real time on any device, no employee is left out in the cold about what is going on in his or her business.  Also, they don’t have to waste time trying to contact other employees to update them.

 

Increased Productivity

Increased Collaboration

Want to be able to work better as a team on a project?  Want to be able to edit a document at the same time from various locations and track the changes?

We run into some businesses where employees work on docs one at a time and then email the changes to others.  This method couldn’t be more time consuming and inefficient.

Through an application called OneDrive or logging into their Office 365 portal, employees can create, edit, share and collaborate on project documents.  Office 365 also comes with Skype and Lync, which allow employees to schedule and conduct online group meetings and chat sessions.  They can share screens with others to look at project documents or to present to one another.

Increased Flexibility and Scalability

In the past, for email many businesses have had to purchase and install an in-house server, along with Microsoft Exchange licenses.  This represents a huge upfront expense, not to mention the large ongoing cost of maintaining the server, software and licenses.  Before they knew it, their hardware was outdated and they had to buy a new server.  Or the company had doubled its employee count and its technology infrastructure could not keep up.

Office 365 allows for great flexibility with organizational changes. This point is crucial for small businesses.  If a business doubles (or halves its employee count), it can easily add (or remove) Office 365 user licenses in a matter of seconds.  Office 365 can scale up with a business’s growth.

Increased Flexibility

Because the monthly subscription cost of Office 365 is consistent, businesses can easily predict how much their monthly expense will be.  Unpredictable, expensive server repairs and upgrades are a thing of the past.

Improved Security and Disaster Recovery

Have you ever thought about how secure your or your company’s email service is?  Most businesses don’t think about this.

Microsoft uses the latest technological advancements to protect its Office 365 clients.  This is the same technology Microsoft uses to protect itself and its enterprise level clients.  Other smaller email providers simply do not have the resources to protect you and your information.

Office 365 protects you by scanning incoming emails for malware and virus threats, before anything loads onto your computer.  If anything is detected, the system will block it or send you a warning message.

God forbid a natural disaster were to happen somewhere in the US or abroad, Microsoft has data centers in many locations.  This redundancy protects your email and important documents from disastrous events, like last year’s Houston flooding.

 

Natural Disaster

Increased Reliability

Unlike other email and cloud services providers, Microsoft financially guarantees a 99.9% uptime.  If this service level is not meet, then they will reimburse clients.  Records show that Microsoft has always met this service level.  You can be sure that your Office 365 email, document and cloud services will always be working.  This reliability is vital to businesses at any time, but especially crucial when an important deadline needs to be met.  Imagine not being able to email an important contract to a client.  How would you feel?

 

CONS

Poor Technical Support

While Office 365 has some great features, some of its aspects can be improved.  For instance, customer service has always been an issue with Microsoft and any large tech company.  When you have a problem with Office 365, don’t expect to contact Microsoft and resolve it right away.  You may have to go through a number of voice prompts and wait in the queue a half an hour until you finally speak with someone at Office 365 tech support.  In recent years, Microsoft has greatly improved their support by offering more options like chat and scheduled call backs.

 

Poor customer service

File Sharing Issues

Another aspect that could be improved about Office 365 is its file sharing applications and services.  Similar to Dropbox, Office 365 uses an application called OneDrive to sync documents on your computer or mobile device.  If you make changes to a file in a OneDrive folder on your office PC, then you should see those same changes in the same OneDrive file when you are at home.

Sometimes, we run into issues with files not syncing from from PC to another or one user to another and have to spend time trying to determine why.  If you don’t name a file properly or its name is too long, it may not sync.  Microsoft details specific file/folder naming conventions you need to follow (see invalid file names and types).  These limitations of the file sharing service can be annoying.

Also,  Microsoft offers several different file sharing applications with very similar names, which can be very confusing.  Both OneDrive and OneDrive for Business are both applications for file sharing and syncing.  OneDrive is supposed to hold your personal files, while OneDrive for Business holds your business information.  You can run both of these applications on your computer at the same time.  Because their names and icons are very similar, it can become difficult to sometimes know which one you are working in.

Disruptive Updates

Finally, Microsoft is notorious for introducing updates which throw off a perfectly working system.  We have seen some instances where updates to the Office software (from 2013 to 2016) or Operating system (Windows 7 to 10) have disrupted Office 365 file sharing or other services.

 

Conclusion

While it has some drawbacks, Office 365 can be a great tool for individuals and businesses.  It can increase their productivity and ability to collaborate with others.  In addition, Office 365 provides great administrative and financial flexibility to businesses by allowing them to scale up or down according to their organizational needs and changes.  Finally, Office 365 email, file sharing and cloud services come with greater security and reliability than many competitor products.

To get some additional information about Microsoft Office 365, please check out the references below.

 

References:

  1. Zdnet.com “Microsoft Office 365 now has 120 million business users.”                Link to Article
  2. Microsoft.com  Different O365 Plan Options
  3. Office.com O365 Support Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Can I Use Technology To Collaborate Better with Others?

Do you find it takes too long to get things done when multiple people are involved? Is there too much back and forth with emails? Do you email documents to co-workers for them to edit and then have difficulty managing file versions? Are you sometimes unable to access current files from wherever you are?

Collaboration 5 - poor communication

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you may not be maximizing technology to help you effectively collaborate. Did you know for example, there’s a much easier way to collaborate on file creation and management that includes being able to edit documents together with other people at the same time, from any of your devices, from anywhere? Storing files online (in the cloud) makes it easy to access, organize and share files from anywhere and files are always up to date, so everyone has access to the latest version.

Collaboration 4 - cloud connecting different types of devices

Online file storage/sharing solutions are subscription based, so there’s no upfront cost for software and you always know the software you are using is up to date.

There are a lot of potential ways to use the cloud for file sharing and collaboration and numerous products to choose from. We’ve identified Microsoft Office 365 as the most reliable, easy to use, cost effective and secure cloud solution for collaboration and file sharing for small business.

Office365-450x274

With Microsoft Office 365 and its OneDrive for Business, you can share files, or groups of files, within or outside your business and you can control who the file is shared with and whether or not they can edit it. You can simultaneously create, review and edit files with others, and respond to comments and track status updates. If you need to work offline, no problem – Office 365 synchronizes files to your devices and with many Office 365 plans, the latest Office applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook can be installed directly on your devices. And it doesn’t matter what type of device you like to use.

byod

Not only does Office 365 facilitate efficient file sharing, it allows you to collaborate in other ways with contact and calendar sharing, email, instant messaging, social networking and video conferencing.

Video Conferencing

Office 365 syncs emails, calendars, and contact information across your devices in real time, so that information is always up to date regardless of whether you’re using your desktop, tablet or phone. Avoid duplicate contact entry and maintenance by sharing a unified database of contacts with others. View others calendars to check availability and efficiently schedule meetings.

Calendar Sharing

Do all this with industry leading security, including anti-malware protection and anti-spam filtering to guard your email from the increasing number of mail threats.

So, if you want to efficiently collaborate with co-workers and others, consider Microsoft Office 365. Although Office 365 is intuitive and easy to use, implementation and email migration must be planned and well executed to minimize any downtime during the transition. As such, especially for businesses, it’s best to seek the guidance of a professional.