Thursday, May 26, 2016

Productivity Makeovers: Vera, Vicky and Brenda

I am the perfect storm of productivity:

  1. I'm a kudos junkie and love getting stuff done
  2. I'm essentially lazy - I don't like to work any harder on anything than absolutely necessary
  3. I'm also cheap, so I know lots and lots about affordable (and free) tools
The last few months I've been working with some people as a "Productivity Personal Trainer" to help them reduce their thrash and spend more time on the things that contribute to their bottom line.  Here are some of their stories.

Vera - Paper Scrap Hell

When I found Vera she was living in Paper Scrap Hell.  She had scraps of paper for everything, including her passwords.  Her password scrap system was so ineffective that she often completely lost passwords and, in frustration, ended up creating new accounts.  She had two Facebook accounts, two Twitter accounts, five YouTube accounts, and various services that linked to and posted to any combination of those multiple accounts.  

My first move was to get Vera off of the paper scrap password system.  I set her up with PassPack, one of several great online password databases.  Then I helped her clean up her extra accounts, making sure she only had one account per service, and that all of the related services pointed to the one correct account.  

Once her accounts and passwords were under control I set her up with a free Wiki from PBWorks for instructions and processes, and Wiggio for project management and collaboration.   

Vera says: "Rhonda has been my Productivity Personal Trainer since January 2016.  She's helped me enormously in getting organized, focused, and making the best use of my time.  I have a momentum now that I've been seeking for years and have gained confidence that I will be able to effectively move my projects forward.  If you get the opportunity to work with Rhonda you will be glad you did."

Vicky - Calendar Thrash

Vicky came to me with a simple problem: She was spending up to two hours a day managing multiple calendars, including:
1) Local Outlook calendar (this was her main calendar)
2) Google calendar 
3) Exchange calendar provided by a large client

She has lots of small clients and was having to take appointments from them manually, and then update all her calendars with the appointment.  If an appointment changed, she'd have to update all her calendars to keep everything accurate.  

Vicky had an idea that she wanted a self-serve tool that her clients could use to book appointments with her, but the tool could not add to her time spent managing calendars.  She wanted to link her multiple calendars together so that she didn't have to manually synchronize everything.  

First we eliminated her local Outlook calendar and made her Google calendar her main calendar.

Next we shared her Google calendar with her client's Exchange calendar.

Finally, we set her up with the Acuity Scheduling  tool on her web site and sync'ed it with her Google calendar so her clients can book their own appointments which go directly to her main (Google) calendar.

Vicky says: "I wanted to take my business to the next level but I was limited in how much I could develop my business because I was caught trying to keep track of information that was kept in different places and in different formats.  Rhonda researched the best options for me and my business, always mindful of budget and came back with best advice and recommendations for moving forward.  Within 2 weeks, my admin time was reduced by 60%... it's freed up an extra 6 hours a week for me to develop my business and increase my revenue.  The ROI was almost immediate."

Brenda - Inbox Zero (The Holy Grail)

Brenda considers herself a very productive person by nature, but she'd fallen behind on tools and options that were available to her to make things even better.

Over the years she'd developed her methodology of keeping track of things she had to do within her Google Calendar, which contained not only her daily appointments, but also reminders to herself.  The calendar would send e-mail reminders to Brenda each day and she would use those reminders to keep herself on track with everything she needed to do.

There were some problems with this system, though.  First of all, the calendar was very cluttered and difficult to understand with all the reminders in it.  Secondly, the e-mail reminders were good, but they cluttered her inbox, and she had no decent way to 'defer' anything so she found herself daily, or even multiple time daily, having to slog through her inbox for reminders of things she had to do.  Her daily goal was to keep her inbox to less than 50 emails to make this exercise as streamlined as possible.

I helped Brenda get set up with two new tools to help her better manage her "to do" list:
  1. Streak for GMail: Although Streak is primarily a CRM, it has a great productivity feature - the ability to "snooze" an e-mail in your GMail inbox, which causes the e-mail to temporarily disappear, and then re-appear at the time you've requested it to return.
  2. Todoist: A simple to-do list that also attaches to your GMail
Using these tools has helped Brenda dramatically increase her already good productivity.  

Inbox 50?  No way - each day Brenda is able to reach Inbox ZERO by "snoozing" incoming e-mails to a time that she can appropriately deal with them.  Now the only e-mails in the in-box are new messages (which promptly get dealt with or snoozed until a more appropriate time), and snoozed e-mails which have returned at the appropriate time.  

There are no more "to do reminders" in the Inbox.  They're all in the Todoist list which Brenda reviews first thing every morning, and then a couple times throughout the day to keep herself on track.  

Her calendar now contains only the things that a calendar should actually contain - appointments, anniversaries, birthdays.  Her "to do reminders" are cleaned off.  

By using these new tools and evolving her daily productivity methodology, Brenda has saved herself at least an hour a day, worries less about forgetting things, and is far less likely to be late on a task or forget it altogether.  

Brenda says: "OK, you caught me.  Brenda is actually me, Rhonda, the author of this article.  What kind of productivity personal trainer would I be if I couldn't apply my best practices to myself?  Through my research and learning about various available tools I've been able to help myself be considerably more productive, which of course makes me tremendously happy since... as you'll recall... I'm essentially lazy."