The New Year may be receding and your resolutions with it. But if you still have plans to make 2016 your most productive year yet, we’ve compiled a list of ways in which you can make a head start.
From better communication and collaboration with your team, to looking after yourself and optimising your workflow, here are 10 tips to get it done in 2016.
1. Ditch email and embrace group messaging.
Email seems increasingly archaic, as chat platforms like Slack, Skype and HipChat become more sophisticated. Several companies have already started to ban email, moving their corporate communications to other channels.
There are several reasons for a move to group messaging — group chats are preferable to long and disjointed email chains, use far less resources, easily foster ongoing conversations and provide searchable chat histories. You will still need email for communicating with the outside world, but internal chat can be more efficiently handled in a group messaging program.
2. Use project management software.
In the past years, software to track projects has proliferated. Services like Trello, Omnifocus and Open Project allow you to easily create, track and collaborate on projects. More advanced services even allow for budgeting, news feeds and internal wikis.
With the right project management software, projects can be broken down into tasks and assigned to different people, deadlines be given and accountability made clear. You can watch as things get ticked off, or catch bottlenecks as they appear. The biggest benefits will come from transparency and having everyone on the same page, working off the same list.
3. Sort all your tasks with list apps.
Once you have your projects created and broken up into tasks, there are a myriad of apps and services to take it from there, helping you to prioritise your workflow.
Apps like Due, Swipe and Wunderlist let you sort your tasks into lists, with due dates and adjustable reminders. Alerts can show up days or minutes before something is due, depending on your workflow. These apps also keep track of what you have completed, giving you that sense of satisfaction as things get ticked off.
Dumping all your tasks into an app also serves to clear your mind. As espoused by productivity guru David Allen, a “brain dump” can help you gain control of your tasks.
4. Plan your schedule to include downtime and self improvement.
When most of us plan our days, we don’t factor in time for self improvement, networking or time to get our heads around it all. But according to time management expert Laura Vanderkam, you need to include these activities so you don’t burn out.
Vanderkam’s example schedule includes time for walks, networking, learning something new, and a period that is just open. The free time isn’t necessarily to relax, but to catch anything that crops up during the day — something that could be missed if you run a schedule like a train timetable.
5. Network while you eat.
Included in Vanderkam’s advice is to eat lunch with people who you want a relationship with, whether you already have one or not. The lunch period is a good hour every day that most of us have in common, and can be effectively used for networking.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is noted for eating lunch with random employees. Not only does this do a lot to bolster his image as an approachable CEO, it also offers him perspectives of the company he would not normally have access to.
6. Use music to get everyone into the zone.
The science is still out on whether playing music is a help or hindrance to productivity. Subjectively, however, many people feel they work better with music and can even feel uncomfortable with silence.
Choosing exactly what to play can be a minefield, especially with bigger teams. So our friends over at Lifehacker have produced a series of playlists to help you on your way.
7. Use cloud software to work collaboratively.
Beyond project management, there are plenty of different apps and services that allows your team to work on one project simultaneously. Whether text with Firepad, video with WeVideo, or presentations with Sway, there’s no need for a bunch of back and forth in a joint project.
Working in the cloud has gotten so easy, author F. Paul Wilson used it to write an entire novel with three other authors. The ability to see and react to each other’s work not only allowed for a different kind of collaboration, but it spurred competition ensuring they were done in record time.
8. Have better meetings.
If you start to use chat programs, hopefully you will require less meetings. But for those that still do, there are numerous ways to make meetings shorter and more productive, from having an agenda to writing briefing notes.
The idea with the lowest barrier to entry is to start holding your meetings standing up, as many tech companies already do. Studies have shown that having everyone stand rather than lounging around leads to shorter, sharper meetings. The more uncomfortable the meeting the quicker it will go.
9. Make more of your activities measurable.
Wearables like Fitbit have encouraged many to get fitter by providing concrete numbers – for the amount of steps you’ve taken, calories eaten and time slept etc., allowing you to set and track goals for yourself.
Similar tools exist for productivity, such as Rescue Time, which tracks how much time you spend on each activity such as answering mail. Getting an idea for how long you spend on certain activities could help you find lost moments, change your habits and spend more time on your priorities.
10. Work across platforms and devices.
Complementary to the ideas above is working across devices and platforms. Smartphones, tablets and laptops are starting to converge, the latest version of Windows, for example, is a cross-platform operating system. This means that many apps and services exist on multiple devices, with cloud platforms connecting it all. With many of these apps, you can start a draft on your phone, edit it on your tablet and hand it off to your laptop for publishing.
Working across devices, as many of us have been doing for years with email, is more than just filling your empty moments with work. It’s about having the right tool for the context. Sitting on the couch with a phone or tablet is far more comfortable than a laptop. A moment of inspiration on the train or while making coffee is exploited easier with a mobile device than a desk-bound one.