Here at Inflow, we use a variety of online tools to helps stay organized, estimate time for projects, meet goals and deadlines, and to at times, keep our sanity. Most importantly, we use a number of tools to increase our productivity. With a high volume of work for each person on the team, staying on top of our projects can make or break our day.
I surveyed the team to see what they were doing in their offices to keep things in order. I must say, even I learned a few great tips on how to stay better organized and increase my productivity.
Nearly every person on the Inflow team said that Liquid Planner (LP) was critical to their productivity.
Everyone on the team manages their hours, deadlines, time estimates, etc. on Liquid Planner. “I use Liquid Planner to get a big picture view of what I want to work on. Before the end of the day, I always try to think about the tasks that I want to work on tomorrow. I’ll then add those to the Tasks feature in Gmail so that I can open it up in the morning and jump right into a project,” Alex Juel, Senior Specialist said.
“I use Evernote to keep a list of all current client initiatives, Trello to manage the development of tests with our developer and Google Tasks and Events in Google Calendar to mark things that have to happen on certain days or times,” Cox said.
Everett Sizemore, our Director of R&D and Special Projects was the first on the team to speak up about Active Inbox when I surveyed them.
“Though I adhere to this with widely varying degrees of compliance, I use Active Inbox, which is a Gmail plugin based on the Getting Things Done (GTD) model featured in David Allen’s book of the same title. Allen’s GTD model involves daily, weekly and monthly check-ins of some sort, which is typically where I fall short (monthly’s) and also incorporates a Zero Inbox policy, which I find to be very helpful. It is a fluent framework that allows me to know what needs to be given priority at any given moment in order to meet deadlines and focus on important projects without pushing off quick email responses for so long that I become a roadblock to someone else’s project.
“I also keep meetings to a bare minimum, send meeting follow-up emails with action items, and make sure I get the time I need to keep myself mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally well. Again, with widely varying degrees of compliance,” Sizemore said.
“With 10 ‘projects that never end,’ and deadlines every two weeks, I block out the world till the day’s deliverables are done. I then check emails. Next, I start working on long-range deadlines (more than next day),” Hagen said.
“I find that Active Inbox really helps me manage my tasks and communications throughout the day and week. I also use Trello on certain projects, as well as Liquid Planner, which we use a team. I’ve tried many different practices over the years in terms of prioritizing and organizing tasks during the day. I really had hoped the manager vs maker philosophy would help, but with my family schedule I found it difficult at best. Tools can help with managing priorities, but it is really a framework and a way of working that you must stick to in order to achieve success,” Belasco said.
This is a common sentiment shared with the team, as I found with Strategist Mike Vallano. He stated:
“Working at an agency with multiple projects going on at any given time can be really hectic, and inefficiencies can kill productivity.
The three main things that help me are:
1) LiquidPlanner: Having everything scheduled in LiquidPlanner is a huge help because it tracks and monitors overall team capacity, which helps schedule things properly.
2) Google Docs: Keeping everything in a logical folder structure that everyone (including clients) can access makes things tremendously more efficient. You never have to ask someone where a file is, and nothing gets lost.
3) SOPs: Tools are great, but having the appropriate processes outlined in writing lets everyone know how things are handled and keeps everyone on the same page,” Vallano said.
And then we have Strategist Tim Hampton.
“In the morning I get in and spend the first half hour drinking coffee and reading the news/industry news. Get the brain flowing and the clicks rolling. After which, I check the calendar and plot the day. Then I review LP and address any emails that have come in,” said Hampton.
“The biggest tool I employ is Spaces on a Mac.
“I have partitioned all of the work I have into separate desktops to try and keep my focus. Beyond the spaces, I use profiles in Chrome, Active Inbox and text notes to keep organized. I also try to keep the same tabs open in the same Chrome profile for ease of use. I always have LP, Calendar and Gmail open.”
For me, my client is Inflow, so my tools are a bit different. I’ve found that one of the best tools I have for tracking industry trends and sourcing curated content comes from the Nuzzel app. I can track what Influencers are discussing on social media and it can also help me brainstorm content ideas.
My added bonus is that I can get notifications when something starts trending, so I can go in and encourage an Influencer with an RT or at the very least, find out why my network is talking about it. It saves me hours each week instead of combing through industry journals and news sites like I did before it came along.
How about you? What tools and strategies do you use to keep yourself organized, on track and productive? Got any great suggestions to add to this list?