Remember when offices had paper trays on desks and filing cabinets, and admin people spent hour after hour taking trolleys of paperwork from department to department? If this is still happening where you work, pinch yourself – we’re in the 21st century, the land of the paperless office. (I have restrained my urge to talk about photocopiers and fax machines as this will reflect on my old age.)
Internal phone call? What’s that?
Yes, things have changed quite dramatically in recent years, haven’t they? Who makes internal telephone calls these days when they can use instant messaging like Slack or Hipchat? And let’s face it, there’s little need for a printer these days when most documents are stored electronically on laptops and desktops or in the cloud.
But these changes are not enough. Today’s businesses are under pressure to maximize collaboration, encourage creativity, improve productivity, and become more efficient at all three. While office tools have shifted from the desk to our keyboards, there are now stacks of apps out there that are revolutionizing how we deal with creating and sharing documents, communication, and collaboration.
These are getting better all the time. Businesses that are most savvy about what’s out there will find it easier to keep a competitive edge, at least where productivity and efficiency are concerned.
I’ve been on the hunt for the latest productivity apps, and I’m proud to present my favorite four.
What’s out there?
Whether you’re launching a fantastic email marketing campaign or have put together the most remarkable content marketing strategy, there’s going to be rich content, and it’s going to have to be right. There may be multiple stakeholders involved in the process; somebody needs to ensure the material covered is correct, somebody else needs to look at the layout, while a wordsmith puts together the text.
If you’re looking for an app that makes document collaboration easier, this first one is for you:
1. Dropbox Paper
Dropbox is already a well-established platform for storing and sharing documents. It’s clean, simple, and easy to use. Acknowledging the hunger for apps that can make collaboration more efficient, Dropbox created Dropbox Paper.
Create, review, and organize
Dropbox Paper offers support across all aspects of the creative process – from creating a document, sharing perspectives with comments and discussion, and organizing documentation.
Share a link
Dropbox Paper shares many of the features that people have come to expect from collaborative software, along with all the great benefits of Dropbox. Once a member of the team has created a document, they can send a link to other members of the team. They click on the link and begin editing.
Chat with specific team members
When team members highlight a word in the document, they can ask a question or comment on it. They can also grab the attention of other team members by using the @ sign, and aim comments at specific people.
If your team has to share notes and opinions on documents, they’ll love this app.
Trello offers some great features that make it easy to share documents and other assets, collaborate with team members, and get the attention of specific users in a shared space. It also comes with a Kanban board format so you can manage processes and see progress.
Collaboration meets Kanban boards
Imagine you have put together a fantastic blogging strategy as part of your overall content marketing efforts. The work still needs to be done. The Kanban board allows users to see what’s in backlog, what they need to do today, what’s in progress, what they’ve completed, and so on. You can create any fields to suit your requirements.
Blogs or other tasks take the form of cards that move through the process from left to right, from column to column. Team members can be added or taken away from the board. They can also be specifically assigned to tasks and chat to each other within cards using @name.
Different boards for different clients
Trello is really easy to use, allowing you to organize your work and see how your projects are doing. If you are working with multiple clients, or you’re running different projects such as staff reviews or staff recruitment, you can create a separate board for each project or client.
For example, you may have a recruitment board that has columns for Applicant’s CVs, First Interview, Second Interview, Job Offer. Using a separate card for each applicant, you can attach all documentation for the applicant to their card. The information on the card would become richer as it progresses through the columns.
Track project time, task time, and team member hours
Toggl lets you record the time it takes to carry out tasks so that you can keep control of your own or your team members’ productivity hours. By grouping work into projects, you can see how much time is being spent overall on one project compared to another, by specific team members and per task.
Timing to the second
The stopwatch mechanism of Toggl means you can time tasks to the second by pausing when you need to. This is particularly useful if team members are likely to be distracted from the task from time to time, or if you want to measure how much you really get done when you’re not making cups of coffee or taking a phone call.
Integrate Toggl with other productivity apps
When you enable Toggl as an add-on in your browser, you’ll have a “Toggl button” you can use while operating within Trello, Asana, or a bunch of other productivity apps. That way you can use the apps you like while enjoying the benefits of timed work that Toggl offers. Toggl will even prompt you when it thinks you’re about to start a task.
KanbanFlow does all of the above in a really attractive way. There are loads of parameters that you can set to improve your productivity. For example, you decide how long a session will be before the app suggests a break.
Completion of these sessions generates “pomodoro” points. You can measure how productive you’ve been by viewing how many points you’ve chalked up in your reports. If you have to stop because of an interruption, you can customize the app to report specifically what the interruption was – whether it was a phone call, a call of nature, or somebody knocking on the door. This allows you to get a pretty good picture of where your time is going and who your biggest time robbers are.
See where your time has gone
Reporting is displayed graphically in intuitive and transparent ways to make it easy for users to see how they spend their time. The image below shows the time spent by a particular team member.
What’s your favorite productivity app?
Those are four great productivity apps, but have I missed your favorite off the list? Tell me about the technology you use to keep your team productive in the comments below.