In a previous post I talked about the value of index cards as a productivity tool. I also use digital tools in order to become more productive; after all I am a computer user! I am a geek!
Todoist software (todoist.com) is one of the digital tools I use to be more productive. It has both free and a couple of paid versions. At the time of this article the free version allows up to 80 projects and five people per project.
There is a premium version for $3 per month (billed annually) that allows up to 300 projects, up to 25 people per project as well as other features. The business version is $5 per month, billed annually or $6 per month if billed monthly.
This version allows up to 500 projects with up to 50 people per project. It has a team inbox and enables you to assign Admin and Member roles. I use the business version which allows for teams. It’s very inexpensive only $60 annually.
What does Todoist do? Very simply, it enables me to utilize lists in a lot of different ways. It has tasks, subtasks, allows you to share dates and notifications and is available on MAC, PC, iPhone and Android…in other words, you can pretty much use it on any platform.
I know you’re probably asking yourself, “is this digital program better than index cards?” I don’t think one method is better than the other; they are just different ways to do the same thing, keep you on track and help you become more productive. If it’s a team project, Todoist makes more sense.
But if it’s just you, the method I previously talked about, with index cards, may be the perfect method to use.
In fact, I sometimes combine both methods. For example, let’s say the first three tasks in a project are all mine:
- Register a domain name
- Set up hosting
- Install WordPress
Using index cards, I would take three cards and put one task name on the top of each card. I would then list any steps needed for that task. In this example, I might just list all three tasks on one card. Either way, the card(s) are now right in my face (my own personal nag system).
It doesn’t matter what the screen is that my computer is displaying, the cards are always right in front of me. And, once the task is completed, I can toss the card which gives me a sense of completion.
Now, if I want, I could also have the task on my Todoist program. Let’s assume I got the domain name. That task is completed, and the card is tossed; the next time I log into Todoist, I remove it from the list.
The same thing when I set up hosting, etc.. The task is crossed off or the card is tossed, and I remove it from the computer list which now displays only the remaining tasks for the project…that list is now shorter which gives me an extra feeling of accomplishment.
The software is very easy to work with. It’s probably the easiest thing to work with; it’s simplistic and inexpensive and works hand in hand with my index card system. That’s why I like it so much.
It’s one of the most popular programs on the iTunes Store for apps and for good reason because it actually does what it’s intended for, to make your life easier. I 100% recommend that you get it whether you’re working with teams or whether you’re working by yourself.
By logging into the Members Area, www.marketinguniversity.com members can watch me set up a project in Todoist step-by-step. Once logged in they can go to the Marketing Library and watch session two of “Productivity Secrets”.
Let’s look at another simple productivity tool I use…Post-it notes. If you’ve ever visited my office, you know there is always a yellow stack of post-it notes on the right-hand side of my desk. Like index cards, these are very basic, simple and old school. They are perfect for hundreds of different uses.
I mainly use them as reminders to get things done. Maybe I’m talking to someone on the phone or in person and taking notes as I talk. I can then jot a reminder on the post-it note and stick it to the piece of paper…it’s very visible and is an instant reminder of what needs to be done.
You’ll see these notes pasted everywhere in my office. They are on my computer, they are pasted onto the edges of my monitor, many times in the order they need to be addressed. Maybe I have to do something at a certain time…the post-it note is in front of me to serve as a reminder.
Sure, I could set an alarm or reminder in my phone but the post-it note is always in front of me. They are instantly visible and obvious; they can’t be missed. They enable me to adjust my day in order to be ready for that task. The phone only notifies me at the preset times I have programmed in.
Don’t get me wrong. I think a smart phone is a valuable productivity asset but “old school” simply says, use whatever you have around you and Post-it notes are probably one of the easiest things that you can use. You stick it down where it’s most needed and rip it off and throw it away when no longer needed.
Similar to index cards, another advantage to post-it notes is that you hand write it. The fact that you hand write it helps entrench it in your brain.
No matter which tools you use there is a process, a method you must use to become more productive. For every project you need to…
Make a list, put it in chronological order and add a completion date to each task. Next look at the tasks you are required to do. Start by looking at what task is best for you to do and which task someone else is better off doing.
You need to understand and accept that you are not the best person for all the tasks. As hard as it is to believe, others may be better at certain tasks. Be aware, there may be tasks you are good at, but your time would be better spent on other tasks so you should delegate those tasks to others.
The bottom line is, you need to look at all the tasks and see which you are the best person in the world to complete the task. Also, there may be tasks that, for whatever reason, you just want to do.
And, on the other hand there may be tasks that, even though you’re good at it, you just don’t want to do it. That’s just fine. After all, you are the final judge as to who does what. If you assign tasks to yourself that you really hate, even though you’re good at them, you won’t be productive.
Then you need to assign the task to others, look for any tasks that are unassigned and assign someone to them and finally ensure that every task is assigned to someone. This is a process that you will do over and over throughout your project.
- Make a list.
- Put your list in chronological order.
- Add a completion date to each item on the list.
- What is it you will do:
a. Which jobs are you the BEST choice to complete?
b. Which can you do the fastest?
c. Which do you want to do?
d.Which do you NOT want to do?
- Assign tasks to people who will do them.
- Check to see if any tasks are not assigned.
- Ensure that every task is assigned.
Todoist really shines when it comes to lists like these.
Let me ask you a question, have you ever started a project and just don’t get it completed on time? I’m sure you have. Why didn’t you complete it on time or not at all?
There are a lot of reasons for this. You have to account for emergencies when planning. They might be called acts of nature… one of the kids fell and broke an arm, you got the flu, someone died, a tornado or hurricane hit your area, you lost power to your home, a plane crashed into your house etc..
These and more happen all the time. If you have a project that covers a number of days, weeks or months I can pretty much guarantee you that some emergency will come up that throws a wrench into your well laid plans.
What should you do when an emergency comes up? You have to stop and think it through. You may have to adjust your entire time table, but don’t let it stop you from proceeding forward.
Let me give you an example. A while back I was working on a project to redesign Marketing University. As I got part way through the project, I discovered that what I was trying to use to migrate things over was not going to work. I had to come up with an alternative plan quickly. What should have been done in a couple of hours was now going to take two or three days.
You only have minimal control of the circumstances of your life. You just need to be aware that something will likely come up to throw you off schedule. When an emergency does come up, proceed with an alternative plan adjusting your time table to account for it. Remember, it’s not the end of the world.
Keep in mind—you have some tasks assigned to others and they too will have emergencies come up that won’t allow them to complete the task on schedule. Always give yourself and your team ample time to complete a project.
If you have a hard date, for example a wedding, that your preparing for, make sure you add in buffer time to cover the emergencies that will come up.
Know yourself. Are you the kind of person that works well under pressure? If you are, you will have less problems working through these emergencies. If you don’t work well under pressure, that’s perfectly fine…just make sure you start planning earlier and have more buffer time worked into your plan.
You may even need to have some alternatives planned just in case you need them. Things happen! Take that into account and don’t wait until the last minute to get things done.
Let’s look at another, often overlooked productivity issue. For lack of a better word we’ll call it communication.
As we go throughout our day and actually throughout life, it’s important that we have effective communication. In today’s age, the most ineffective form of communication is email. If you depend on email as your sole means of communication, you are setting yourself up for a big problem.
There are to many instances of people not receiving your email and not reading them if they do receive them. Even if they read the email, it seems like they do not retain information contained in it. This is especially true if you’re working in a team environment like I do.
We utilize a tool called Slack, www.slack.com. It’s an instant, private messaging platform for teams and groups. Slack allows our team to communicate in real time via text and audio/video chat and audio and video conferencing.
We have Slack on our computers, phones and tablets. No matter where we are or what we’re doing we can communicate with each other. We use Slack all day long. It’s almost as if we are sitting next to each other even though we are scattered throughout the world.
In addition to private and group text and video chat, I can also share my screen so other members can see what I’m doing on my computer. We use this feature during our daily staff calls. We have separate rooms set up each of our companies, and in some cases for individual projects.
When I do my monthly, two-day streaming training, I don’t want to be bothered by the chat going on by my team, yet they need to communicate in real time as they ensure the streaming is going fine. So, we have a room set up called “MU-Streaming.”
All of our team, except me, are in that room and they are chatting throughout the entire streaming. Let’s be honest, I’m sure their chat is not all work related and some of it just idle chit chat… especially when I mispronounce a word!
With email you have to wait for it to be delivered, then wait for someone to see it and read and then wait for their email to be delivered to me. I can’t just sit and wait for them to respond so I may walk away or start other task, and then I don’t see their response.
With platforms like Slack you can even see if the other person is online. If I want to message Frank or George, I can see if they are on. If they’re not and it’s an emergency I can call them or come up with another plan.
To stay productive, I need answers as soon as possible. That’s easy when everyone has a desk in an office but when each person works from home, it’s a lot harder.
Slack make it almost like we’re in the same room. I highly recommend you implement Slack or some similar program. We couldn’t operate our business without it. I’m not sure how many messages we have sent between ourselves but it’s in the hundreds of thousands.
The ability to get more stuff done is important – you want to accomplish more in less time, and these productivity resources can help make that happen!