Finally, we have waved farewell to 2020. The year that will certainly go down in history books for that catastrophe of epic proportions. And we understand, this new year may not see us waving farewell to the virus, yet at the very least we are all a little more used to this new way of living. So, with the relief of this new year, there additionally comes the yearly kickstart. An increase in motivation when it pertains to our health, our routines, as well as our work of course.
As a company owner or manager, it is most likely you will certainly be setting yourself up with much more objectives than the standard Joe. The growth as well as success of your company rests on your shoulders. And that is before we begin discussing the growth and advancement of your team.
How are you going to make sure a new level of productivity is achieved across your business this year?
If this is not something you have already considered, do not panic. As always, we are here to help you out. If you have considered it, we can help you too, by making each step that bit simpler. You are about to feast your eyes on our ultimate guide to business productivity in 2021.
Goals and Planning
As with most things, we will begin with goals and preparation. Besides, if you do not recognise where you are going or have a plan, you will not obtain much.
Your goal needs to be as specific as possible. In fact, we like the acronym SMART, which claims objectives need to be:
- Specific: Very clear on what you want to achieve
- Measurable: You know when you have got there
- Achievable: Can be completed
- Relevant: Helps your business with its long-term aims
- Timebound: Has a deadline
So where do you start when it concerns planning? Well, it is probably choosing what your strategy is, right? And, for that, we need to produce a mind-map or brainstorm some concepts.
Microsoft Planner is a great tool to help you do this. You can create a plan, along with your team, assign and discuss tasks, and even track your progress with charts.
We also love Microsoft Whiteboard for the starting stages of planning. The clue is in the name; it is an online whiteboard, empty to allow your imagination flow. It has numerous other usages, however developing a plan with a mind map is one exceptional method to utilise it. It enables you to jot down your very own concepts, invite others to work together and add their own input, and contribute to it as and when you need to.
Next, we need to break that plan down into actions. You know what can help? Your to do list. Who does not love a to do list, right? You can create them for any period you like; daily, weekly, monthly etc. And just tick off each task as it is completed. When you see actions being marked as done it is a really satisfying feeling (this is your brain being flooded with the reward chemical dopamine).
Make it a habit to look at your to do list every morning (or create a new daily to do list each day) so you know what your most pressing tasks are for the day ahead. As an aside, occasionally you will have something on your to do checklist that keeps being changed to the following day and the next, as well as the next … being regularly postponed. All of us have those jobs we just intend to prevent. Do the hardest tasks first and afterwards you make the remainder of your day simpler!
We recommend Microsoft To Do. It is a great tool for keeping your to do lists all in one place, giving you access whenever and wherever you need it. You can:
- Add tasks day by day
- Break them down into manageable actions
- Share lists and assign tasks to members of your team
- Set reminders
- And even attach files
As a bonus, you can also make your lists look more exciting with coloured backgrounds.
The next thing that any good plan needs is some expense management. We all must work within a budget, whether it is big or small. Keeping track of what you are spending and the costs you have coming up makes it easier to see exactly where you are with your business finances.
There are tons of various software offered to help you maintain a track of your costs. You probably currently make use of one that also aids with your invoicing and tax obligation calculations. Considering that we are beginning a brand-new year, it could be time to evaluate whether the software you use is working for you.
Does it make life easier or are you finding yourself more stressed out with it than you should be? Does it talk to other software that you use within your business? Does everyone who needs access to it, have access to it?
It is said that if you do something enough times it at some point becomes a routine. What better new habits to adopt than ones that make you more productive? We cannot think of many. If we all had more hours in the week, we would all be more productive, wouldn’t we? So, you simply need to find more hours in the week to get more things done.
Easy. You do not think so?
Well, we wish to prove you wrong on this one. You see, if you manage your time better, you can see specifically where you are losing time. For example, you could determine jobs you are doing every day that another person could be doing instead. You might find that something you thought was taking you minutes a day is taking a lot longer.
Or you could spot things you are doing that are simply wasting time. That sounds great, right? So how do you do it?
Say hello to time management. Get used to using these every day, and you will make yourself more productive quickly. Because not only will you want to make the most of your time when you are keeping track of each minute, but you will also see where the big chunks of your time are being wasted. We really like OneNote as a time management app. It integrates with both Outlook and Teams, so that you can save and share your notes, documents, and other content at the click of a button. It means you can access everything easily without having to repeat it or have it saved in loads of different places.
As for time monitoring, consider Timeclock 365. It allows you (and your group, if you like), to track how much time you are spending on tasks. Along with letting you manually time each thing you do, you can save yourself much more time and allow it to automatically track how much time you spend using each application, on discussions and chat, as well as also on real-life tasks like meetings and lunch (by syncing with your calendar). If you could do with spotting where you are wasting time, then this is the tool for you. There is a trial available so give it a go if you think it could be helpful.
While we are talking about productivity, what is one of the biggest distractions to anyone working in an office? Nope, not the constant reminders to wash your mug… it is the internet.
You are working away when suddenly you have an urge to quickly check your favourite news site. Or you remember that big event that is coming up that you need an outfit for (or is that just a 2019 problem these days?!). Or you think you will give yourself a 5-minute break to scroll through Facebook.
Before you know it, you have lost half an hour on something that will get you no closer to your goal. You need a distraction killer. An app that literally blocks you from your distractions when you need it the most. There are a few great apps that do this for you, but one we really like is Freedom. Unlike some of its peers, it can block distracting sites and apps across all your devices, so you are not tempted to pick up your smart phone when ‘computer says no’.
You can select what you would love to block, a period for blocking, and select the devices to include. The developers state that people report conserving an average of 2.5 hours PER DAY when using the app. What could you get done given an extra 12.5 hours a week?
You would not get half as much completed without the skills and expertise of your beloved team. So, it is vital that you have all the tools you need to collaborate and communicate effectively.
This has never been as important as it has become in recent months. With people functioning remotely and not seeing a few of their associates in the same space it is essential that communication does not break down.
If you have not yet tried Microsoft Teams for this purpose, do it now. It really does do it all when it comes to working as, well, a team.
You can use it to manage your projects, creating different teams for each project you are working on. It allows you to keep all your files and documents for each project all in one place (and accessible to those who need them, when they need them). It even allows for video meetings and instant messaging.
And because it is a Microsoft 365 app, it integrates with your calendar, your contacts, your files… everything you need can be found in one place, on whatever device you are using, whenever you need to access it.
What a world we live in.
Microsoft Projects is additionally a helpful application for getting down to the detail and planning of your jobs. You can create a visual roadmap for new tasks, plan as well as timetable, and sight understandings right into each task as well as its development. You may also think about a company intranet to always keep your people up to date. Here you can store company documents and policies, store knowledge and information relating to procedures or projects, and even news about the business and the people within it.
SharePoint can help you do this and go that step further in solidifying a great culture of teamwork within your business.
Engage and Communicate
This time around we are discussing your consumers, not your team. What are you presently doing to engage your customers with your business? Could you do more?
Think about things like customer contact. Just how often do you or your team talk to your customers (or prospective customers for that matter)? Do you send normal e-mail interactions or advertising? Do you make use of social networks systems to engage on a more personal level? Do you offer learning resources for customers and potential customers, as an added extra?
These are all things that could assist and create a far better consumer experience of your business. You wish to do this because we know that the more attached an individual feels to a company, the more likely they will be to make use of that company for longer. And to recommend it to others. So, look at how you can utilise different apps to help you connect with your customers.
Firstly, regular email communication is key. If you do not already send regular emails to your customers and to your prospects, start to do this now.
You do not need to be in touch with your database daily – that will certainly turn individuals off – yet anywhere from as soon as a week to as soon as a month is a great area to start. Discuss new products and services you have included, supplies or promotions you have on, or valuable info or pointers connecting to your field of expertise. MailChimp is a great way to start email marketing. You can create good looking emails, auto-fill personal details like someone’s name, and send it out to your contacts at the click of a button. Again, it is free to sign up and there is a free plan for sending to under 2,000 contacts.
Now, look at your social media. Have you updated it recently? Is it something that takes too long daily to trouble with? Or do you forget about it for a few weeks, then have a rise in posts, and after that fall off once more? Be more consistent. Yes, some businesses will find it easier to think of content, but you do not need to post every day if you do not want to. Just keep scheduling.
Utilise something like Hootsuite to set up blog posts ahead of time. You can set up a couple of posts to be published immediately every day or week. And then add various other web content when you have it. This permits your social networks platforms to be frequently updated with little dedication from you.
It also helps if you have a lot of content to post, but do not want to publish multiple posts each day. Schedule them when you remember and space them out over a few days.
Do you ever create any video content? Video is the way we are moving, with people wanting to watch a video instead of reading. Just look at the popularity of TikTok and the Instagram Stories and Reels.
Microsoft Stream is a fantastic means to utilise video to help you connect and engage with your target market. You can film tutorials, updates, as well as also host online events with this application to increase your customer engagement and provide your customers with the assistance they require.
We have saved this till last, to ensure that it sticks with you when you have completed your analysis.
Your number one objective for 2021 ought to be to raise as well as keep a high degree of cyber protection in your organization. Besides, you do not want your company to come to be a statistic this year.
First, check out using a great password manager. This ought to produce strong random passwords for all your software and applications, save them, and instantly log you (and only you) right into your accounts.
It really is as simple as that.
Say goodbye to changing passwords monthly – and getting your team to do the exact same. Say goodbye to writing unknown passwords in the back of your note pad. Say goodbye to stress at the ‘incorrect password’ notification. Just safe, secured logins each time.
There are loads of password managers out there. Some charge, some offer free plans. Some can be used across a business; some are for personal sign up. Speak to your IT service partner to find out which one could be the best fit for you.
Secondly, consider implementing multi-factor authentication for logging into applications and software. This adds another layer of defence to your data, by giving you a one-time-use password as the second action to your login. It is a bit like the way some banks get you to log in to your account online, using a code sent to or generated on your phone.
Again, there are lots of tools that will help you to implement this. But speak to your IT service partner to find the best one for your specific requirements.
Which brings us nicely to our final factor: your IT service partner
With the challenges that 2020 brought us, it should be clear that it makes good business sense to work with a reliable, reputable, and expert IT service provider. Having a partner that is available to you around the clock, exactly when you need them is important. It also makes better financial sense than using someone ad hoc.
Do you have an IT service partner?
Are you happy with them?
Do they work proactively for you?
If you answer no to one of those questions, it is time to look at an alternative partner (hello 😃).
Let’s max out 2021 with Business Productivity
2020 showed that things in businesses can alter in a split second. Whether you’re still functioning from the office, or working from home, your productivity is always something that can be enhanced.
If you do not have co-workers around you to help enhance your motivation, it could be time to change some of the ways you are functioning. Give a few of these applications a shot – maybe for 30 days – and see what a difference they can produce you. Make them part of your routine and give them a chance to come to be routines.
If just one of these suggestions helps you, you’ll hopefully discover an increase in your satisfaction, a growth in your business, and you’ll hit your brand-new goals quicker than you’d hoped. Please do let us know if you want to try any of them, and how you get on.
If you are looking for a new IT service partner, we would love to work with your business in 2021. Contact us today to find out what we can do to help you.