Power up your productivity with technology
Every aspect of our productivity has been impacted by technology. Yet, productivity in the business sector has been dropping since 2007, according to U.S. Bureau of Labour statistics – right around the time that smartphones became ubiquitous in our society. Some experts are asking whether technology is actually responsible for our productivity decline.
While it’s tempting to think that banning technology is the answer, the reality is it’s here to stay. Although compulsively checking email or social media is an example of technology’s negative influence, if used thoughtfully and with discipline, it can improve performance and productivity at work and life. It’s all about analyzing where there is a productivity gap and researching what tool might be most useful in making those tasks simpler and faster.
Many companies are automating internal functions, from updating lists to scheduling and paying bills. Automating processes and workflow yields clear returns on organizational efficiency but it also optimizes individual efficiency. Here are a few examples of technologies that can streamline your day and help you to get more done. The companies mentioned are simply examples; be sure to research which technology will work best for you.
Task Management Systems and Collaboration Tools
Staying on track with multiple simultaneous projects can be challenging, whether for personal workflow or team projects. Examples include Evernote, designed for note taking, organizing, and archiving and Todoist, a to-do list platform where you can establish tasks, subtasks and priorities. For group task management, Asana is one basic team tracking app, while Trello has additional features.
Of all the apps that allow you to communicate and collaborate with others, Slack has emerged as the tool of choice for many, allowing employees to share and integrate files as well allowing for instant messaging and voice and video calls.
Sometimes being more efficient is as easy as using an add-on or plug-in to optimize existing programs such as e-mail. Apps such as Boomerang act like filing/reminder systems for your Outlook. They are useful for when you want to look at an e-mail later or schedule an outgoing message for a particular time. Gmail’s Inbox also allows you to create timed reminders and automatically archive emails that have been viewed, all of which helps you to stay on top of one of the most significant time-management concerns in the corporate world.
Mind mapping tools
Sometimes you need a visual representation of an idea or concept. Mind mapping tools provide the visuals that can make explaining concepts to customers or colleagues more concrete.
Staying on Task
Distraction is perhaps the greatest thief of productivity – the lure of the web and e-mail compete with our work. Apps such as StayFocused allow you to set time restrictions of certain websites so you won’t be tempted to check that social media feed. Websites such as Brain.fm and [email protected] are music services based on neuro-science that help you stay focused. When it comes to planning your day, app FocusList helps by dividing it into a series of timed tasks. If you want to know exactly where your time is being wasted, the free app RescueTime will run in the background, tracking the applications and websites you use and generating a report for you.
Calendars, AI virtual assistants and meeting schedulers
A simple calendar app used properly can be a powerful tool for monitoring your activity and productivity. However, meeting planning can eat up precious time. If you need to schedule a lot of meetings but don’t have a personal assistant, an AI tool called Amy will do it for you. If a robot assistant doesn’t appeal, the Doodle app takes the pain out of scheduling meetings and events by showing your recipients the times that are available.
With cybercrime an ever-present threat, passwords are critical, but resetting passwords is a timely and ultimately costly exercise. In addition to tools that will manage credentials and passwords across your company’s network, applications like LastPass save and remember all your passwords to every website you log into.
As we noted above, people are already utilizing digital assistants and bots to enhance their personal productivity. But, according to research fellow Michael Schrage at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, the future of productivity technology is “selvesware.” Selvesware is composed of digital tools and techniques that allow us to become “better versions of ourselves.” For example, a Type A executive whose brusque communication style works against him is mitigated by an AI “tone analyzer,” which suggests tonal and textual revisions to his communications, making the manager appear more empathetic.
Will AI actually help us to become “better” people? Only time will tell, but for now, using technology wisely can at least help us all to be more personally productive.
Finally, an interview question around the productivity technologies a job candidate leverages (if any) could be an insight into their work habits, which could better determine if they are a fit for your organization.