It's wonderful being busy but sometimes a few life hacks or 'systems' that are needed to reduce stress, support deep work and enable more focus on the things that count. If you are over 30 then you will be lucky to have another 50 summers! How to make the most of our time? Here are some gems that I have found really help bosses and leaders improve productivity and effectiveness, plus make the most of each day, do good client work, and invest more time with loved ones, family and friends.
When you are out and about or sit bolt upright at 4am with an idea, Things allows you to jot down lists - either today, anytime or someday lists. It integrates with your calendar and you can have personal or business little project items. It means you don't miss those aha moments and also that shopping list of stuff to do. What is quite special is that you can add things to do hands free via voice (Siri) while driving if you have a long commute.
So simple in its design, I am trialling jotting down / adding a few journal notes a couple of times a day. I use it to track my everyday activities and how they link to my overall life goals. If you are thinking of writing a book or trying to add value to customers in a new way, or are simply searching for the 'big idea', this journal app is beautifully designed and simple but also sophisticated with its GPS and smart features. You can add photo, video, audio and text from your smartwatch. I added some thoughts the other day via audio while 2km out on the ocean on my kayak. Day One is worth a try.
Our business has used Xero for over four years and we could not do without it. Ten years ago you had to wait nearly 60 days to hear from the accountant how the business was doing. Now we know daily. There are neat features such as directly uploading invoices and receipts, and the P&L graphs and reports are excellent. The only thing missing is a cash flow forecast feature, but I am sure this will come through at some stage. The app on your phone is not as rich, but its great to be able to see progress while on the run or anywhere in the world. Xero is excellent for medium-sized businesses.
We have tried a few different systems but recently came across ROLL which not only integrates with Xero but also helps us manage team and individual projects, timesheets, track your pipeline and understand time trends in the business. Time is a precious commodity. We are still on-boarding this but we have been impressed with the ROLLhq team's approach, customer service ethic (answering dumb questions on a Sunday afternoon!) and team product walk-throughs etc. So far it seems like it will save a lot of time and be another useful at-a-glance dashboard to see where everything is, minus the double handling paperwork. More time to spend on quality customer work and personal time too.
We have used Dropbox for about six years. We have an unlimited storage! Its invaluable as we work with a lot of data and music, video, podcast files. You can upload from your phone or anywhere - collaborate with teams and customers. And... touch wood, so far its been hyper-secure. We have not really tried the showcase pages yet - maybe one day. We automatically sync important documents on a daily basis.
This has genuinely changed how I listen in meetings. In my quest to go paperless (I am not there yet) I reviewed Goodnotes, Notability, Noteshelf2, Noted and aNote. I spent a bit of time looking at reviews on YouTube, too. In my view, Notes Plus is superior. OK, you need a smart pad and a stylus / pencil and yes, it would be better if you had great handwriting, but I love this app for so many reasons. You can set up notebooks and folders. You can do it all as if you are writing on a blank piece of paper, plus you are able to record the audio in the meetings. The audio is tagged to your notes, backs up automatically into Dropbox and you can transcribe notes through YouTube by uploading there too. It's mind-blowing, if you are a notepad nerd like me. You can also draw pictures.
Another life-changing app. I was reading a Dean Koontz paperback called The Whispering Room each night but realised it was straining my eyes at the end of a long day, so halfway through the book I downloaded the audiobook version and was instantly hooked. I could listen to the book each night before falling asleep. I have since started listening to books to and from work, on the kayak, on walks and even while making a meal. I have enjoyed Stephen King's On Writing, Deep Work by Cal Newport, Fail Until You Don't by Boob Bones, Creativity by Ed Catmul (ex-Pixar), Disrupted by Dan Lyons and many more. You won't regret it. You basically get a book a month to choose from a huge selection.
If you like to create a good podcast series - this app is a great start. It has enterprise solutions that help you syndicate your podcast series across the world on Spotify and iTunes etc. Here are a couple that we have created with clients: High Altitude Conversations and Stirring The Pot.
OK - I just don't use this correctly. It's for creating challenges and joining run clubs. You might benefit. I only use it to track my walks on GPS and my kayaking trips. It makes me feel like I have achieved something to see the route I have taken and the screen shot looks better in Day One. It makes a boring walk more fun and proves that I did it (to myself and others).
Or insert any smart watch here... apart from the health metrics (daily steps, weight, energy etc) it enables me to tap into most of the above apps through the watch. It reminds me to stand and to breathe, which most people will find annoying, but I don't mind it as I often need the reminder.
We do quite a bit of international business and you can't always schedule a flight, right? Zoom is easy enough for us to connect face-to-face with people across the country and the world - less travelling time and more regular get-togethers - seem like better time management. It seems more stable than Skype mostly.
After 10 years or so - zero downtime, syncs on all devices and with Outlook. It's been a dream / Google APPS for Business helped us get rid the need for a server and everything is backed up daily. And if Outlook is having an issue (as it sometimes does) we can all use the "thin client" on Google.
Many years ago I started using Viber as an intercom at home. Kids, its dinner time! or "Where are you? I am here to fetch you at school!" .... as I knew they would get the message and wouldn't hear me shout across the house or yard. The number of texts I send has reduced by 99 percent over the years. It's also good for sharing images. Our team at work created a group on Facebook Messenger which is great for informal collaboration and a little bit of nonsense and team bonding. It's also a great way to connect with overseas family and business people on an informal basis.
On the occasions when there is a call with 40 markets across the world to collaborate on a project, Microsoft teams is flexible and has a mute and recording function. It is simple to use. Wherever you are in the world, you are never far away from the action.
I first used Google Photos when I had to transfer all my photos from an old phone that was obsolete. I have since discovered its smart assistant which creates some lovely enhanced versions of my photos and lets me create collages, animations, albums (like the old-fashioned way) and movies, and share with different people and groups.
Sometimes she is annoying, asking me stuff when I have not tried to give a command. But there are times when I just need to write a note and send a hands-free message to someone. It's still novel and works a treat. Mostly. Thanks Siri.
Because I need to know the sea conditions on my kayak. You may need to plan a trip on the boat. It's great.
For the ultimate collaboration in your boardroom with a team of people. We use our smart TV for media training (connected to our 4K camera) and whiteboard brainstorms with clients as well as to go onto any of the team apps and dashboards that we need to create value for our customers. Its a powerful way to share ideas and create builds on them. It was not cheap but it's more than paid its way in the client facilitation we have done with it.
Don't need to say much here but I find it similar to the old fashioned Rolodex helping you keep in touch with my network. Their trials and tribulations and successes and these days ... their failures. Its good to understand whats happening in our clients' lives outside of our collaboration with them. I treat it like a meeting with network daily, scheduling 10 minutes per day. I have also conducted tens of thousands in value of work through LinkedIn through my trusted network.
For those little design jobs that you don't want or need to outsource including basic Infographics, images and creative work. It can add a little spark :-)
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Dwayne has nearly three decades’ experience in media and marketing. He holds a postgraduate honours degree in marketing (cum laude) and has international multimarket experience. After travelling to Australia, the Middle East, China and Africa, he developed a special interest in globally relevant content and effective communication. Dwayne enjoys sharing inspiring CEO and founder stories through interesting, rich and deep content shared across platforms – from opinion to podcast and video series, Wikipedia, TED Talks and international mainstream media.
You can read this article, and more of Dwayne’s work, on LinkedIn here.