Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: productivity

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian IT Contractors relating to productivity.

Be an Office Hero with These Time Management Tips

Every memorable Thanksgiving dinner has at least one hero. The person who managed to lead the way in bringing everyone together, whipping up a delicious feast, cleaning the house, and sending everyone home with full bellies and a smile. It may seem like some sort of magic is required to pull all of that off, but reality is, among other skills, time management is probably one of your Thanksgiving Hero’s biggest strengths.

You may never be your family’s Thanksgiving Hero, but the right time management skills can help you become the project hero for your client. People will think you used witchcraft to get the entire team to deliver their work on time, all while going above and beyond to ensure no detail is spared. To get started, have a look at this infographic from Everwise.

Infographic: 8 Secrets for Mastering Time Management

4 Better Ways to Use Your Spare Time

Are you lounging around with nothing to do? Are you looking for some fun and entertaining things to do? Practical Psychology wants you to turn away from spending numerous hours in front of the TV or gaming with your free time, and instead, look into adding some net worth to your name!

This video tells us about the 4 best things we can do with our free time to start constantly improving our lifestyle. It can be as simple as exercising regularly, or meditating for 10 minutes a day. These 4 interesting habits and activities will be sure to keep you busy. Take action now, and cure your boredom!

15 Amazing Collaboration Tools for Remotely Managing Teams

This post by Nick Darlington was originally featured on the Freshbooks Blog on May 30, 2017.

The remote working trend shows no signs of slowing.

15 Amazing Collaboration Tools for Remotely Managing TeamsGallup’s Work and Education Poll in 2015 highlighted that 37% of U.S. workers say they have telecommuted to work, which is four times more than 9% in 1995. And a survey of business owners by Virgin Media Business predicted that 60% of office-based employees will be working from home by 2022.

You only have to Google “remote working statistics” and you’re bombarded with statistics highlighting this trend. You’re also presented with statistics on the many benefits of remote working like improved productivity, happier employees and better customer retention.

While the distributed working trend continues with clear benefits, management faces a new problem: How to remotely manage these teams.

It shouldn’t surprise you that many companies now embrace remote working. In fact, some companies – like Buffer – already have fully distributed teams.

But, while the trend continues with clear benefits, management faces a new problem: How to remotely manage these teams. While there are guides and case studies online-Zapier‘s account of remotely managing teams stands out- it’ll take time for companies to acclimatize. After all, change doesn’t happen overnight.

Luckily, with the growing trend, there’s also a proliferation of online collaboration tools. These tools are helping companies with the shift. Here are 15 of the best—across categories like communication, brainstorming, project and time management.

Online Collaboration Tools for Communication

Chances are, you know Google Hangouts and Skype. There’s no question these are powerful platforms for remote communication. But, there are other remote working tools to consider.

#1 SLACK

As a business owner, I use Slack to communicate with my team daily. Typing this, I see the Slack desktop app out the corner of my eye. When I receive a message from my team, I’m instantly notified.

Slack provides a simple chat interface, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. You communicate in channels organized with hashtags. Create any hashtag you like from SEO, website design, incoming leads, proposals, contracts and more.

Channels ensure all conversations, files and documents are where they should be. You don’t spend time searching for specifics relating to a project. If information gets lost, search for it with the handy search function.

Alternatively, share confidential information in private chats.

Integration with other apps is also possible. For instance, MailClark lets you send emails and Facebook messages in Slack.

There are powerful features in the Free Forever Plan but upgrade anytime for advanced features. Slack pricing starts at $6.67.

#2 YAMMER

Yammer is a social media network for business. Communicate privately with colleagues, share documents, files, like someone else’s status and collaborate effortlessly.

Access the platform with a simple sign-up using your company email address. Because it’s owned by Microsoft, integration with SharePoint is possible. What’s more, this online tool is entirely free.

#3 APPEAR.IN

Appear.in is a video conversation app offering split-screen sharing.

Create a chat room with no sign-up, registration, or downloads. Visit their site, create a room link, and share with up to eight people, for free.

Access is available via any device although you need the app when signing up on iOS.

premium version is available for $12/month.

#4 QUIP

Quip is your central hub for online communication. Create, share and discuss documents centrally—in real-time.

With Quip, you don’t spend time searching for information as there’s one version of your work. No more long email chains and multiple versions of your work. Also, use their mobile app to communicate on-the-go.

Quip offers a unique free trial. It’s based on activity, not length of time. Thereafter, pricing is $30 for a team of five and $10 per extra person.

Online Collaboration Tools for Brainstorming

Ideas are the lifeblood of any organization. Far too often people think up an idea but don’t act. These three online tools will help move an idea from conception to execution.

#5 IDEAFLIP

Ideaflip is a space for your ideas. It’s a simple, yet powerful web app that:

Converts your thoughts into ideas.

Lets you share those ideas.

Helps you refine those ideas with real-time collaboration.

Group brainstorming sessions are possible with a desktop and mobile version.

Join for free as an editor, contributor or viewer and access a limited amount of idea boards. The basic subscription starts at $9/month for access to unlimited idea boards.

#6 MINDMEISTER

This collaborative mind mapping tool allows you to capture, refine and share ideas with colleagues and collaborate.

Currently, over 7 million people use it to brainstorm, take notes, plan projects, and work on other creative tasks.

MindMeister is web-based, meaning no downloads or updating, and it works with your preferred operating system—Windows, Mac, or Linux.

If you want to take things further, why not integrate MindMeister with MeisterTask, the online task and project management app for teams.

Sign up for free and access three mind maps or upgrade to a personal, pro, or business plan. Pricing is $4.99, $8.99 and $12.49, per month, respectively.

#7 CONCEPTBOARD

Conceptboard is another visual online collaboration tool optimized for creatives and remote teams. It’s a one-stop solution for crafting and managing projects and feedback.

The online tool provides a flexible canvas that expands as you add content. Create mood boards, map out strategies and brainstorm live.

Sign-up for a free trial for 30 days. Pricing starts at $28.50 for three users and $9.50 for each extra user.

Online Collaboration Tools for Managing Projects

Project management is difficult at the best of times, but managing a remote team can be even more difficult. These five collaboration apps will help.

#8 TRELLO

Trello is a collaboration tool that makes organizing projects fun by combining lists, cards and boards.

Your board is your project that consists of cards on lists. Sound complicated? It’s actually quite simple. For example, you may create a “blog board”. On the blog board, you’ll have different lists like, “incoming brief”, “freelance writer busy writing”, “internal review” and “with client”. With this workflow, you can move the individual cards on each list from start to finish.

With Trello, see what projects are on-the-go, who’s working on it, and where something is in the process. Move content through your editorial calendar, products through the development, phases and leads through the sales process… the possibilities are endless.

The Forever Free Plan gives you access to unlimited boards, lists and cards. But there are limitations like the size of files you can upload. For premium features like integrations with Google and Salesforce, upgrade to a business plan for $9.99/month.

#9 CANVA FOR WORK

Don’t have the money to pay an expensive designer? Have a little DIY design streak in you? Canva is the easy-to-use design software that lets you create your own designs without spending a fortune. Admittedly, many designers also use the platform.

While the free version packs a punch, for more features upgrade to Canva for Work. Use the intuitive drag and drop editor to create stunning graphics and designs. Access more designs, templates, logos, fonts, custom brand colors and collaborate on designs in the “team stream”. Pricing starts at $12.95/month.

#10 EVERNOTE

At its core, Evernote is a note-taking tool. But, it can double as a powerful collaboration tool for managing projects.

Adding notes is easy, and as you add more notes, the more useful it becomes. This article on Lifehacker highlights the many uses of Evernote. From using the Web Clipper to creating project notebooks to sifting through notes with saved searches and using notes to move between related information—it’s clear Evernote is a powerful tool. Here are some other features:

  • Create project to-do lists to organize projects.
  • Collaborate remotely on a group notebook with easy notebook sharing.
  • Create as many notebooks as you want. While creating many notebooks seems counterintuitive, Evernote curates important content for you.
  • Transform your written notes into a digital format and store in the relevant project notebook.

It’s available on iOS and Android. While free to use, you can upgrade to the Plus Plan for $3.99/month or $34.99/year. A premium version is also available.

#11 FRESHBOOKS

As you may already know since you’ve found your way to our blog, FreshBooks is cloud accounting software designed for small service-based businesses. But our platform also offers an online collaboration feature to help you manage projects.

Collaborate with team members, invite employees, contractors or clients and communicate about existing projects.

You also don’t have to spend time searching for files with centralized file storage. And if you’re on-the-go and want a quick project update, access the current project overview straight from your smartphone using the iPhone or Android app. Manage your work or an entire remote team—the choice is yours.

A free trial 30-day trial is available, no credit card required, with plans starting at $15/month.

Online Collaboration Tools for Managing Time

Time is a finite resource. And if time’s so important, then managing it is too, right? Here are five online collaboration tools that will help you better manage your time.

#12 TEAMBOOK

Struggling to plan your team’s schedule? Use Teambook to see who’s working on what, and when, in real time.

Make smarter decisions by tracking current staff availability, budgets and time spent on projects. For example, If someone is spending more time than they should on a project you’ll know, and can get to the root of it.

Sign-up for a 15-day free trial. Thereafter, pay $39 for the Pro Plan, giving you access to 40 projects and unlimited users.

#13 DOODLE

Meetings, whether you love or hate them, are essential for checking in with employees, getting status updates and reviewing progress. But managing meetings are time-consuming without the right tools.

Enter Doodle.

It’s a simple scheduling tool that integrates with your existing calendar—from Outlook to Google Calendar. Add as many calendars as you want.

Also, you don’t need to switch between applications and appointments sync automatically. Neat, right?

A free version is available with paid plans starting with the Private Plan for $39/year.

#14 ACUITY SCHEDULING

Acuity is another online appointment scheduling tool. It lets your clients view your availability, in real-time. They can self-book appointments, cancel or even reschedule. Here are some benefits:

  • Zero confusion about appointment times with auto-adjusting time zones.
  • Only let clients see what you want them to see with “privacy” features.
  • Prepare for meetings with intake forms that capture pertinent information.
  • Accept payments with Stripe, Square, Braintree and Authorize.net.
  • Integrate with your favorite existing platforms (like FreshBooks!
  • A 14-day free trial is available. Upgrade to one of three plans, starting at $10/month.

#15 CALENDLY

I used Calendly for the first time when a client shared a link via email. I copied and pasted that link into my browser before hitting enter. The client’s calendar appeared and I selected a suitable appointment time. The app then added that time to the client’s calendar. Using Calendly is *that* easy.

To get started, just sign up and inform Calendly on your availability. Calendly does the rest. When you’re ready, schedule an appointment by doing what my client did.

Notable features include:

  • Auto-adjusting time zones.
  • Integrations with Google, Outlook, Office 365 and iCloud to prevent double bookings.
  • Automation of tasks through integration with apps like Salesforce and Zapier.
  • Works well for individuals and growing teams.

Try for free or upgrade to their Premium Plan for $8 per user, per month.

Remote working is here to stay. As a result, more and more companies are embracing it and experiencing both the benefits and challenges that come with it. Luckily, with the trend proliferating so too are online collaboration tools that can help.

One More Thing to Consider…

FreshBooks also offers a time tracking feature that lets you track time spent on projects for clients.

Log into FreshBooks to access the time-tracking features. Click the “Time-Tracking” tab. Start the time or log hours you’ve already worked. Based on the accurate time data you can:

  • Focus on important work without worrying about tracking time
  • Capture all billable hours meaning there’s no lost revenue
  • Automatically bill clients for work
  • Keep track of your team: know what’s working and what isn’t and better allocate resources
  • Pull tracked time directly onto an invoice for quick and easy billing

Try FreshBooks free for 30 days.

These 15 highlighted tools are among the best. Have any to add? Please let us know in the comments below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Darlington is a feature writer, B2B Blogger, copywriter, and co-founder of WriteWorldwide. If you’re a business looking to create a stronger brand, gain industry authority, capture more leads and get more clients, visit nickdarlington.com.

Add More Productivity to Your Second Half of Summer

Now that we’re more than half way through the summer, we have a tendency to slow down and it might be time to think about some ways to improve your productivity. Making some small simple changes to your everyday tasks can make a big difference in your efficiency. It can be as easy as getting some extra hours of sleep, or even having a change in attitude.

This infographic from Social Caffeine, gives us some tips and tricks to keep us productive in both the office, as well as, our personal lives. Keep up with your daily tasks by keeping your days organized and productive!


Courtesy of: Social Caffeine

If You Can’t Sleep Enough, At Least Sleep Better

Sleep is a crucial component of our everyday lives as it has an impact on our health, cognitive, and physical functions. Not getting enough sleep can affect these functions leaving us much more prone to illness with slower cognitive processing and poor physical performance.

Now, do we all get enough sleep every night? Probably not, however, there are things we can do to increase the quality our sleep. This video from Med School Insiders gets into the science of sleep, and gives us some tips to get the most of our sleep to wake up feeling more energetic. Start feeling refreshed instead of drained after sleeping, and learn some interesting new ways to get energy boosts during your day.

Tips on Achieving Inbox Zero

This post by Karin Eldor was originally published on the Monster Career Advice Blog.

Tips on Achieving Inbox ZeroWhen was the last time you reached the elusive “0” in your inbox? No emails left to read or reply to. A fully clean slate. Or wait a minute: have you ever reached that goal? And should you even care? Besides, once you clear your inbox, it can take a few minutes for it to fill up again!

One thing we can all agree upon: our perception of productivity has become defined by how many emails we have replied to vs. how many are left in our inbox. But if the reason you have a lot of emails left is because you were busy actively creating strategies and having a thoughtful workday, then does the size of your inbox even matter?

Truth be told, there’s a feeling of accomplishment tied to clearing your inbox at the end of the day. And of course, there are tools to help achieve that.

Enter the “Inbox Zero” phenomenon.

The Buzz Behind Inbox Zero

The term and philosophy of Inbox Zero was originally coined by Merlin Mann, the founder and writer of 43 Folders, a blog about “finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.” Contrary to popular belief, the “Zero” doesn’t refer to obsessively keeping your inbox empty at all times. Instead, it refers to “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox.”

Email is harming our ability to do smart work — although it keeps us very busy. It’s hindering our productivity and it places the control of how you spend your workday in someone else’s hands as you’re in a constant reactive state. Some people even get anxious while opening their email, anticipating the unread messages lying there.

Psychologist and author of The Best Place To Work, Ron Friedman says: “The reason it can feel overwhelming to find lots of emails in your work inbox is that each message represents another demand on your time and another decision you have to make. Even deciphering a generic announcement about the office coffee maker requires effort, which leaves less energy for work that matters.”

True that.

How to Achieve Inbox Zero

Schedule email times & be militant about it

Keep your email program closed for most of the day, except during the designated times you set aside for it. A popular system applied by businesspeople is checking and responding three times per day. And if it helps, tell people so in your signature or in a scheduled auto-response, if you can (this is a famous tip from productivity guru Tim Ferriss, author of: The 4-Hour Workweek). This is a great way to manage others’ expectations and an efficient way to ensure you are giving your current tasks or meetings your full attention.

Touch It Once!

Don’t get into the habit of opening your email between meetings, reading some messages and then letting them sit idle in your inbox. Read and reply if you can, or if an email does require more thought or strategic action, file it away in a properly labeled folder.

This can be better explained in the following system:

Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer, or Do

According to Merlin Mann, follow the principle of Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer, or Do, when processing mail.

Here’s how it goes:

  • If it isn’t important, delete it right away;
  • If it isn’t an item you need to handle yourself, delegate it.
  • If it’s a task you can complete in two minutes or less, do it (send a reply, file the message, make a phone call, etc.).
  • If you need to handle it, but reading the message and completing the task will take you longer than two minutes, defer it.

Create Clearly Labeled Subfolders

Use folders and labels to stay organized and help you prioritize when deferring. Here’s an easy system to use:

  • Needs action or reply
  • Awaiting reply
  • To read
  • Important info (includes all those emails that have important info to reference but don’t require a follow-up task from you)

Get unlisted

Unsubscribe from marketing emails that don’t bring you joy or add value.

Use plugins

If you’re using Gmail, then plug-ins like Streak or Boomerang can help you manage your inbox and schedule emails (they have free versions for basic needs!). Streak helps you set up templated replies that you can use for contacts in specific groups and sets certain emails to resurface at a later date as reminders, so you don’t need to worry about them. Boomerang helps you schedule emails, so if you’re replying to a batch of emails, you can schedule certain replies to go at different times (i.e. in the morning of the next day vs. at 5pm that same day, when you’re actually writing the reply).

Don’t answer every email

This can be hugely liberating. If something is simply not a priority at the moment, archive it and move on. Don’t waste your brainpower. However, use your gut; you know who and what is priority, so assess accordingly!

Become An Email Master

In your quest to clean up your inbox and avoid the constant “Sorry for the delayed reply!” message, use the tips that make most sense to you. Hopefully they will help clear the clutter and help you take control of all incoming email, rather than letting those messages take control of you!

At Least 1 of These Websites Will Improve Your Life

Today, there are over a billion websites that exist on the Internet. With thousands of websites being launched every day, it can be hard to filter out poor websites to get the practical and handy ones.

In this video, TechGumbo shows us 10 useful websites that can be helpful in our everyday lives. Who knows? You might have wished you had known about these earlier! From quick and easy photo editing sites to free coding courses, one of these websites might just catch your interest. Tell us about your favourite websites in the comments below!

Make Every Weekend a 3-Day Weekend!

In our society, working overtime is not an uncommon practice. According to recent research, picking up all those extra hours might be negatively impacting our health and putting us at risk of various physical and mental health issues. InvestmentZen believes that instead of making employees work an entire 5-day week, we should be giving them an additional day off. Latest scientific studies support the idea that we can resolve this ever-growing problem with 3-day weekends which have proven to be beneficial to not only employees, but companies as well.

There is already a multitude of companies giving an extra day off to their employees in Japan, America, United Kingdom, and Sweden. If companies are doing it for their employees, why aren’t you doing it for yourself. As an independent contractor, you’re your own boss, so it’s just a matter of negotiating it into your next contract. In addition to increased productivity as these studies show, working different hours from your client’s employees will also help separate you as a contractor in the eyes of the CRA.

Why Every Weekend Should Be A 3 Day Weekend

Via: InvestmentZen.com

15 Time Wasters Successful People Avoid

Time management has a massive influence in an independent contractor’s success. You need to be able to juggle multiple projects, all while building your network, seeking new job opportunities, filling out grids, managing your business and balancing the rest of your life. It’s true that any contractor can lead a good career without this ability, but those who can master their organizational skills are those who are most successful.

It’s one thing to know what needs to be done to manage your time, but you also need to know what not to do. There are so many distractions throughout the day and it seems like there are an infinite number of ways to waste time and interrupt productivity. In this infographic, n2growth put together 15 of the most common time wasters that you need to avoid if you want a shot at being successful.

15 Time Wasters Successful People Avoid

10 Cool Command Prompt Tricks You Should Know

How much do you use Command Prompt in Windows 10? If you’re an in-depth Windows user, you’ve most likely used CMD many times throughout your career, but you may not using it as efficiently as you could be.

This video from Beebom provides ten cool command tips for topics such as shortcuts, encryption, customization, Wi-Fi hot spots, and even a way to watch Star Wars! At least something in here will be new for you. If not, and you have even more tips, please share them in the comments below.