What does it mean to be productive? The seemingly endless variety of tools and techniques available to help us work harder and smarter shows that productivity is a key focus in the world today. However, it also means that there are many different ways to go about streamlining workflows and optimising individual work capacity.
We are all driven to achieve, but with so many methodologies, approaches and systems to try, where do we begin? In this post, we’ll give an overview of some of these tools and techniques, why we need them, and a few of the most popular examples available today.
What are productivity tools and techniques?
Productivity is a broad term and can vary according to someone’s work ethic and personal capacity. In general, however, productiveness is the process of meeting objectives or reaching chosen goals. We explore this in another one of our blogs called “Tips on How to Be More Productive”.
As we experience more demands on our time, or as our work becomes more complex, productivity tools and techniques, including time and project management methods, can help you structure your day and manage tasks more effectively.
These can range from helping manage large-scale corporate projects to manual tips and tricks that help you optimise your day. A rise in automation means that software can also organise and facilitate the automatic completion of certain tasks. Thus giving you more time to focus on doing “deep work” not just “busy work”.
Why do we need productivity tools?
Work often moves at a very fast pace. As much as we might try to keep a handle on multiple projects, conversations and tasks, it just isn’t humanly possible to remember, and be able to do everything, without some kind of support.
If we take a look at the large-scale corporate projects example, these factor in many different stakeholders and multiple sub-tasks at the same time, which is difficult to do manually. When considering significant investments, a record of resources used is also very important. Additionally, where processes can be improved to allow for further optimisation in the future.
On the other end of the spectrum, implementing simple changes to the way you manage your day on an individual level can have a profound effect on what you can accomplish. This includes developing certain frameworks for tracking ongoing tasks, implementing more efficient ways of managing your time and prioritising tasks.
Of course, it’s one thing for you to be more efficient, but the key to increasing productivity, especially in a large organisation, is by using tools that allow for scalability.
The most popular productivity tools and techniques
Now that we have some idea of why we need to use them, we can discuss some of the different ways to approach improving productivity. There are probably hundreds of methods! Below we’ll cover some of the most common producitivity tools and techniques that people are using to manage their time and resources effectively:
Project or task management software
Depending on the industry, there is a variety of software available to help manage project timelines more effectively. Often, these tools allow for existing software integrations, which can make this process even more streamlined. Apart from custom-built software tools, some of the most popular task management tools include Asana, Teamwork, Wrike and Trello..
The core offering of these tools is being able to manage tasks and information from a central dashboard, while everyone can view their task lists separately. Only certain employees will have admin access to edit and change certain information, but everyone gets a bird’s eye view of what is in progress.
As we mentioned earlier, these programmes also offer built-in automation, which allows for easier management of routine tasks or actions. This involves setting up task dependencies and certain rules that reduces the manual admin involved in managing work schedules.
This is a simple framework for managing tasks, which can be done manually or through dedicated software programmes that follow the same principles. Kanban is Japanese for “sign board”. Essentially, it is a method that was designed for industrial manufacturing, to increase productivity by decreasing bottlenecks.
To give a simple idea of this framework, all you need to do is draw three columns on a board.
- In the first one you write what needs to be done.
- In the middle column, write what tasks are in progress.
- In the last column, list the completed tasks.
This format allows you to place multiple tasks in each of the columns and gauge progress. Thereby having a constant reminder of what still needs to be accomplished.
The Pomodoro technique is a simple way to manage your tasks through time blocking. The method was developed by an Italian named Francesco Cirillo. He used a small tomato kitchen timer to block off smaller chunks of time and help him focus on his studies. “Pomodoro” is Italian for tomato.
By dedicating a certain amount of time to completing tasks, with breaks in between, you can focus your time and energy more effectively. The basic idea is that you complete a certain number of “pomodoros” before taking a longer break, which helps you stay focused and minimise distractions.
Agile methodology is a broad project management framework that is used in software development. However, it can be applied as a way to manage resources and tasks more effectively in any business.
Like the Kanban method discussed above, this approach minimises bottlenecks and inefficiencies through regular check-ins. It can also help to identify obstacles before they become roadblocks. Overall, this methodology revolves around working in iterations so that improvements can consistently be made without having to wait until a whole project is completed to assess progress.
There are multiple variations of this method, including Scrum, which involves focusing on completing shorter tasks in a given period, known as “sprints”. The idea is that by focusing on smaller incremental tasks, you can identify more easily where things are going wrong, and can pivot or change course quickly without wasting time or resources.
Tips to increase your productivity
Many of the tools and methods we discussed above can be adapted to suit your needs or inspire you to come up with your own way(s) to manage your tasks and time more effectively. Thereby reducing the need to purchase software subscriptions.
Make time to build new habits and put more effective structures into place. This is especially relevant when working in a team. Depending no the task requirements, you might use a combination of productivity tools or techniques. However, if you manage to find one method that works for you and your team, that’s even better!
Boost your productivity with SACAP Global
To be truly productive, you need to upskill in other areas to ensure that you can put these into practice. Enhance upskilling in time management and improving your working capacity by learning complementary skills. Skills such as interpersonal communication, business management and conflict management.
At SACAP Global we offer a variety of online micro-credentials, short courses and workshops that can help to develop these competencies and build a more holistic skill set. Browse our course offerings or get in touch to find out more.