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Tag Archives: time management

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to time management.

Work Smart, Not (too) Hard in your Job Search

Work Smart, Not (too) Hard in your Job SearchContract or permanent positions — job searching is not easy. You must work hard if you want any chance of getting that phone call for an interview and, depending on your skill, job market and industry, it’s going to take time. But that doesn’t mean you should give into long hours and no social life just because you need to find your next gig.

Working hard is great if you’re doing the right things. Otherwise, 90% of that “hard work” will be wasted time, while only 10% of those hours are what get you a phone call from a recruiter. Create a successful, smart job search by bringing that percentage of quality time as close to 100% as possible. Here are four ways you can work smarter, and not harder, next time you’re looking for an IT job.

1. Manage Your Time

There’s a common illusion that putting in more time automatically means you will get more results. That is false. Whether you put in 5 minutes of 5 hours, time is irrelevant if you achieve the desired outcome. To best manage your time, embrace common time management practices and batch common tasks together. Check email during scheduled time blocks, answer the phone during certain periods and schedule specific time for breaks (yes, breaks are important!)

Avoid getting caught in common time-sucks due to misconceptions. Recruiters stress that a quality resume will set you apart from the competition, but, just like many software projects, searching for “perfection” is not always beneficial. Know when it is “good enough” to submit and move onto the next job application. Another misconception is that multi-tasking will save you time. Studies prove time and again that multi-tasking lowers productivity and leads to shabby work all-around. Still, so many of us fall into the trap, thinking we’re being more productive because we feel busy juggling multiple projects at the same time.

2. Take Advantage of Technology and Tools

There are so many technologies, tools and apps available (often at no charge) that will help you save time, maximize productivity, and work through the job search process. Start with your existing ones and learn how to maximize their shortcuts and settings. Templates, styles and macros throughout Microsoft Office can make resume-writing a breeze. The settings, automations and filters in Gmail (or any email client) will help you manage applications and recruiter responses as though you have a personal assistant.

After you’ve exhausted those options, evaluate other productivity tools. (Be careful, because here’s where you can fall down a rabbit hole.) Most major job boards allow you to set-up job alerts and some have apps that will send you push notifications. Make sure you review the leading tools to manage your calendars and reminders, store your resumes, keep your notes, and secure your passwords.

The more you can automate your life, the better – most of the time. Over-relying on technology, however, can also have disastrous effects. Working smarter can mean knowing when to eliminate the fancy stuff and sticking with tried, tested and true techniques, like picking up the phone and calling somebody.

3. Set Goals and Measure Results

The easiest way to let your job search (or any project) go off-track and waste your time is to have no defined direction. Ensure you know exactly what you want to accomplish — What kind of job do you want? Where and in what kind of industry? Which staffing agencies do you want to work with most? Then start each day by setting SMART goals. Review x jobs descriptions and apply to y of the postings. Call these recruiters, reach out those past colleagues on LinkedIn and follow-up on last week’s applications.

With proper goals and objectives, it’s easier to measure your success and track how you’re doing. Keep statistics and track data points to know what’s working and what’s not. Do certain job boards and staffing agencies bring better opportunities or rates? Is there a resume or email format that performs better than others? In the end, you’ll know where to focus your time and where time is being wasted.

4. Embrace Change (and know when not to change)

Change is inevitable and companies around the world are embracing it. If you want to succeed at your job search, you need to embrace change as well. A classic example of job seekers falling behind due to resistance to change is when the internet took recruiting by storm. Companies and recruitment agencies wanted to move to electronic formats, yet some job seekers were determined that the paper resume were still the way to go. The result? Recruiters ignored paper resumes because they were not in their electronic database and not searchable.

It’s smart to always adapt to changing environments and look for better ways to do those tasks you currently run through on autopilot. But, don’t change just for the sake of changing and never unnecessarily reinvent the wheel. Create templates of resumes, emails and interview questions that worked, or revisit and tweak those that did not. Trying a brand-new approach, simply for the sake of being different, is going to waste your time and is not smart.

Working smart is a must for anybody looking to get ahead in today’s busy world where time is a hot commodity. If you don’t believe us, then take it from Scrooge McDuck, the world’s richest duck. He relayed the message to his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie in his famous quote “I made [my fortune] by being smarter than the smarties and tougher than the toughies.

 

Fighting the Ongoing Battle Between Instant Gratification and Productivity

Every day we’re faced with a regular battle inside our head, as our primal urges for instant gratification compete for a spot against the drill sergeant that only wants us to focus on our goals and move forward on productivity. Both should have a spot, but the challenge is finding the balance and ensuring the proper one wins the battle each time. Sure, you could spend every waking hour working on client projects, updating resumes, completing grids, exercising and working around the house, but why bother if you’re not having fun? Vice-versa, constantly hitting the snooze button, binge watching Netflix and eating bad food isn’t going to get you to where you want to be too quickly.

So how can you come to a truce in this ongoing battle and get a high return on investment of your time, all while getting the joy you want out of life? This video by The Art of Improvement just might have your answer.

Strategies to Start Having More Productive Meetings Today

It’s time to take unproductive meetings where your team is constantly wishing for it to end and leave them in the dust! As a leader, ensuring meetings end with specific action items will keep your team members productive and create collaborations that result in beneficial new ideas.

And while you may be thinking that it is easier said than done, Wrike has it all laid out for you with 9 proven strategies to make your meetings highly actionable.

9 Proven Strategies to Make Your Meetings Highly Actionable (Infographic)

Get into the “Zone”

Picture this: You’re at work and all of a sudden a wave of motivation hits you and it feels like within the span of a couple of hours, you’ve completed a number of tasks off your to-do list. This is what it means to “get in the zone.”

Getting in the zone can be challenging. But according to NetCredit, with the right environment and attitude you can begin to maximize your productivity on a regular basis and complete what before seemed like an impossible task!

Google Calendar Tricks You May Not Know About

Stop using Google Calendar just to keep track of appointments or meetings and take advantage of some great features that can make your life easier and more productive.

Sharing or publishing a calendar can make planning a meeting around another team member’s schedule easier or simply lets your client’s employees know what you’ll be completing for the day. As an independent contractor searching for IT jobs, you can keep track of what staffing agencies you’re in contact with and for what position by scheduling reminders with the email included in the description.

Steve Dotto further explains the five “hidden gems” of Google Calendar in this video from Dottotech.

How IT Contractors Can Take Better Breaks

All IT contractors can relate to how easy it is to get caught up in a project and let time fly by. You pour back coffee and energy drinks to keep moving towards your end goal and eventually hours have flown by and you haven’t left your computer. You may end those days thinking you maximized your productivity, but did you really? Even if you did, was it enough to justify the negative consequences of skipping a break? According to a ton of recent research, you’re not doing yourself any favours.

Taking a Break is a Good Thing

Study after study has proven that taking a break throughout your day is indeed a good thing. On top of simply being refreshed physically, when you step away from a task that requires a lot of thinking power, it gives your analytical processing skills a break. When you return, your renewed energy — both mentally and physically — allows you to solve problems faster, which in return, boosts your productivity.

But delivering a better solution to your client shouldn’t be your only motivation to take a break. A pause from work is important to your own well being. Accepting that you should have time away from your desk means you’ll open up more time to exercise and eat properly through your day. You can also run some personal errands and tasks, which will free up your evening, ease a stressed out mind, and maximize work-life balance.

How to Take the Best Breaks

We understand. Taking a break is much easier said than done, especially in the IT industry when you have to deal with emergencies, outages and tight deadlines. IT contractors can’t just get up from your desk and leave… or can you? Keep in mind that you are a contractor, and not an employee — you are entitled to work any hours you please as long as you continue to honour the agreement between you and your client. Here are a few tips to take the most effective breaks:

  • Fully detach. When you take a break, turn your mind off completely from the task-at-hand and change your train-of-thought.
  • Move around. This will help with the previous point. Get away from your desk, go outside, and get some exercise.
  • Be social. Breaks are better with others and the social aspect will help you recharge. Just be careful not to distract your client’s employees.
  • Avoid all screens. When you go outside to recharge your batteries and get your mind off things, your phone is going to be a hinderance. If you must bring it with you, put it on silence and turn off email alerts.
  • Take a nap. Research has proven that a quick 20-30 minute nap can have significant health benefits for some people. Meditation is also an option that will clear your mind.
  • Do something else. Perhaps you don’t want to take a full break. Completing entirely separate, irrelevant tasks will let you stay productive AND temporarily break from your current project.
  • Take Microbreaks. Often when we think of a break it’s the traditional 1-hour lunch break, but productivity experts also encourage microbreaks throughout the day. For example, 90 minutes on/20 minutes off or 25 minutes on/5 minutes off.
  • Try any one of these 51 ideas to do when you need a break from The Muse.

Taking breaks isn’t just important at work but everywhere in life. Home DIY projects get done with more care when there are breaks, gamers see more success when they let their mind rest for a few minutes, and resumes are written much more clearly when you review them with a fresh set of eyes. How often do you take a break?

Boost Performance by Starting and Ending Every Day with This

Summer has unofficially started and for many of us, that means our lives are going to start to get busy as we plan family vacations and attend more social gatherings. As we enjoy the warmer weather, it’s important to continue putting focus on work. In fact, if you want more time to enjoy the Summer you should strive to be even more productive.

This infographic from Fundera has some helpful tips that IT contractors can use all year-long. It provides 5 simple tasks to do at the start of your day and 5 more to do in the last 15 minutes that will skyrocket your productivity, improve client satisfaction, and let you enjoy your non-working hours.

Infographic - First and Last Minutes at Work

Best Productivity Tools to Save Time

Guest Post by Chanell Alexander

Describing the life of an independent contractor as busy is an understatement. Managing deadlines, producing quality work, distributing invoices, scheduling appointments, collaborating with clients, and everything else in between can be more than overwhelming. An independent contractor in IT is a one-person band, and while technology is not necessarily a cure-all, it can help to accomplish daily tasks more efficiently. Here are five productivity tools to save time.

Best Productivity Tools to Save Time

1. Flipboard – Stay current on industry trends

 

If an independent contractor specializing in IT knows one thing, it is that staying up-to-date on technology industry trends and emerging developments is essential. Flipboard is an app that individuals can use to receive curated news by selecting topics they want to see. This app collects news from various news outlets so that users do not have to take the time to comb the web for issues relevant to them.

2. JibberJobber – Keep track of the job search

Looking for new clients and ongoing assignments are a regular part of the life of an independent contractor. After multiple emails and job submissions, it can be challenging to keep track of the job application process. JibberJobber is a platform that enables the user to keep track of jobs applied for, track relationships and follow-up opportunities, and relevant company news. Contractors will never have to worry about whether they already applied for a position, or when they should reach back out to check a job status as JibberJobber takes care of this guesswork.

3. Harvest – Time management and invoicing

Keeping track of hours worked, projects started, and deadline can be a day’s worth of work in itself for an Independent Contractor in IT. Harvest allows users to track the amount of time they have worked on a project, ensure they are staying in budget, track expenses, and turn billable time into invoices that can be emailed directly from the application in PDF form. Users can also do a bit of forecasting to ensure projects meet budgetary and time requirements.

4. Hubspot – Customer Relationship Management

An independent contractor makes an excellent contact at a networking event. Great! Now, how can they continue to stay on top of nurturing this person from contact to customer without the hassle of an Excel spreadsheet? Hubspot is a free customer relationship management system (CRM). Contractors can keep track of appointments scheduled, conversions, and sales activity. All information and every interaction with a potential (or actual) client can be recorded in Hubspot. Many Hubspot users mention how easy to use the platform is and how simple it is to set up email campaigns.

5. Asana – Project and Workflow Management Tool

Asana is an all-in-one project management program. If contractors are collaborating with multiple staff members in one company, or are working side-by-side with clients to develop a deliverable, Asana is a great place to begin the journey. Contractors can track progress, assign tasks, set deadlines, and report on work progress. Users mention that Asana can even integrate with Harvest to turn tasks into billable hours for invoicing. This program also has a mobile application so contractors can manage tasks and productivity on-the-go.

The Wrap Up

The life of an independent contractor is anything but easy, but having an arsenal of tools to stay on top of the workday can go a long way to make life a little bit easier. As long as contractors intelligently map out how these applications and those like them can increase their productivity, then the day can unfold a bit more smoothly.

Chanell Alexander currently resides in Atlanta, GA. When she’s not traveling and trying new restaurants in the Metro Atlanta area, she writes about the latest technology and tools for TrustRadius.

How to Manage Your Time More Effectively (according to machines)

We can all get better at managing time in one way or another. The more efficient we are, the more we’re able to get done, including projects for clients, job searching, invoicing and, or course spending personal time with friends and family.

As an IT professional, you’re well aware of the efficiencies of computers and likely already have some knowledge in how they’re programmed to behave so efficiently. Have you ever taken a step back to see if you can apply a machine’s prioritization and time management strategies to your own personal life? That’s exactly what this video from TED-Ed covers and the concepts that result are very interesting.

2017 in Review: Being Awesome at Work

2017 in Review: Being Awesome at WorkWe frequently provide advice and tips for performing better at work. These softer skills may not be what brings your rate up, but they will be the differentiators that get you positive references and more likely to get you your next gig.

These posts are fantastic for time management…

And these will help you work better with and manage others…

Are there any other topics you’d like to see more of to help you improve soft skills and perform better on the job?