17 Ways to Be More Productive This Fall

Okay, it’s time for reality to set in: You’ve got less than four months to accomplish everything you set out to do this year. (Less than four because September doesn’t really start until the 4th, and I know you’ve scheduled a few days off to see the leaves turn, then there’s Thanksgiving and, of course, almost nobody works the whole month of December.)

So . . . it’s a key time to revisit those New Year’s Resolutions. And pull out your performance management goals. And think about what’s really important (and necessary) for you to achieve before the ball drops on December 31st.

Now that you’ve got your list, one thing is clear: You’re going to have to be a whole lot more productive to get it all done. No more early departure Fridays for you. Long lunches? In the rearview mirror. Social media? De-friend everybody. 

Instead, use these 17 ways to be as productive as possible:

  1. Figure out when you’re most productive and block time to tackle difficult problems.For me, that’s early morning. So I allocate time–avoiding meetings before 10 a.m.–and get to work during those periods. (But if you’re a night person, adjust your schedule to channel your inner owl.)
  2. Speaking of meetings, set an objective to decline at least 10 percent of the meetings you’re invited to. Ask yourself: “Is this meeting really necessary? And if it is, do the people running it really need me?”
  3. And if you’re organizing a meeting, resolve to make it worth everyone’s time. Start by setting clear objectives for what the meeting will accomplish. 
  4. Never leave any meeting without agreeing on next steps and roles.
  5. Every evening, create an old-fashioned list on paper of the things you need to do the next day. This not only creates focus, it also helps you sleep more soundly (since you’re not obsessing over what you need to do tomorrow).
  6. Stop procrastinating. I used to be one of the 25 percent of people who are chronic procrastinators. But I finally discovered that putting things off not only affected my productivity–it made my team suffer. September is a great month to go cold turkey. 
  7. Lay out your clothes for the next day. This is such an old-fashioned practice, but it really works–because rather than racing around madly trying on clothing, you’re all set.
  8. Make a good night’s rest a priority–more important than cyber-stalking your old flames on social media or binge-watching old episodes of Homeland. After all, you can’t be your best if you’re dragging-down tired.
  9. Get up 15 minutes earlier. It’s doable and that 15 minutes just creates enough time for you to manage your morning tasks less frenetically.
  10. Make the most of your commute. If you take the bus or train, read a book or professional journal. If you drive, try podcasts or audiobooks.
  11. Shut down email when you’re doing work that requires concentration. Choose your most productive period at work–say, 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.–and actually close your email during that time.
  12. Make a “Do Not Disturb” sign and post it at your workspace when you need to get something done. One of my colleagues has a photo of a closed door that she sticks on her cubicle to signal that she really, really doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now.
  13. When you’re really under pressure, get lost. Book a conference room somewhere far away from your workspace where no one will find you for an hour or two. Or borrow an empty office. (You might want to ask first.)
  14. Decide on how to manage sudden ideas. Although ideas are wonderful, they can get you off track. So record ideas in a notebook and review the list every week or so. I write ideas on Post-It Notes, then stick them in a folder for future reference.
  15. Give yourself a proper lunch break. Several of my colleagues always leave the office for at least 20 minutes–they say that fresh air and change of scenery really refreshes the brain. I like to read useless stuff like Us Weekly because there’s nothing more energizing than seeing how celebrities are just like us.
  16. Delegate more. Even if you’re a secret micromanager, there are things other people can actually do (maybe even better than you do them).
  17. Once you make a decision, stick to it. Don’t spin or revisit action steps. 

Finally, remember the words of wisdom from Yoda, the productivity guru (Star Wars, of course): “There is no try, there is only do or do not.” 

Published on: Aug 29, 2018

6 Tools Your Business Should Try This Fall

It’s time to go back to school, and that means back-to-school shopping–not just for clothes and running shoes, but for the tools to succeed. In the case of today’s students, that includes a laptop and smartphone. But the fall is also a great time to shop for tools that can propel your business forward. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of resources that’ll be helpful for any entrepreneur throughout the rest of the year.

I chose these tools subjectively based on two informal selection criteria:

  1. ROI–comparing effort to use against potential impact on a daily basis.
  2. Focusing only on tools that can be used by most, if not all, of us.

With that said, here are the top tools entrepreneurs should consider in 2018:

Join.me

More and more, remote workers have become the norm. Long gone are the days where all your best minds work under one roof. With this comes new challenges, including maintaining strong communication channels. That’s where Join.me comes in.

It is like Skype for Business, but easier to use. It offers an ideal presentation for both team meetings and remote sales calls. I love the intuitive interface and the ability to set up personalized URLs. Prices start at $13 a month.

Alternatives: Zoom, Skype for Business, WebEx

Trello

Trello is the online project management corkboard for the 21st century. It follows the “keep it simple” principle with drag and drop functionality, making team task management easy and project coordination seamless.

I recently used Trello for a 36-month project multimedia project involving dozens of writers, animators, and developers in three countries and three time zones. The tool was a godsend, keeping everyone literally on the same page (albeit that page was online). It has some freemium options, so you can try before you buy.

Alternatives: Asana, Wrike, Glip

Foundersuite

Managing investors, especially with the growth of ICOs and crowdsourcing, can be a huge distraction. Some of the founders I have invested in report spending upwards of a third of their time raising money, managing investments, and communicating with investors.

Foundersuite helps with all of these tasks, leveraging a customized search tool to find your next great investors. The site also gives users 80 templates for pitch decks, financial models, term sheets, and much more. It is free for ventures with fewer than 25 active investors.

Alternatives: Gust, PitchXO, Dealroom

Clarity.fm

We now have on-demand drivers (Uber), on-demand vacation properties (Airbnb), and even on-demand handymen (Jiffy), so why not on-demand mentoring? That’s the value proposition behind Clarity.fm, whose tagline is “Startup advice from world class experts.”

This online community with more than 5,000 experts and mentors allows entrepreneurs to search for and connect with expertise from around the globe. Use it not just for advice, but to explore potential customer and strategic relationships with executives all over the world.

Pricing is based on a per-minute fee set up by the expert, and some experts (like me) donate all their fees to charity.

Alternatives: Ibbü, Passle, OnFrontiers

Front

I have written lots about the fact that businesses would be smarter to focus on retention and churn than on the new client sales funnel. To do that, you need really good customer service.

That is where Front comes in. As its website claims, it is a shared inbox for customer service teams. Pricing starts at $15 a month and there is a free 14-day trial.

Front takes the complicated process of user support and simplifies it down to the inbox. If Gmail is already your most-used app, then Front is a natural tool for you.

Alternatives: Missive, HappyFox, Freshdesk

Gatsby.ai 

Leveraging social influencers (individuals with a strong following online) is a fast-growing customer acquisition channel. Managing messaging, however, can continue to be a challenge. This is where Gatsby can help.

Gatsby’s raison d’être is to help business owners identify and engage customers over social media. The software, which resides on your website, helps you learn who your social customers are and then helps turn them into authentic advocates of your firm.

While it is relatively pricey compared to other tools in this list–$300 a month–Gatsby claims in can increase conversion to 34 percent of site visitors. If that is true, can you afford not to use this?

Alternatives: Socialbakers, #Paid, Meltwater