Monday, December 08, 2014

How to Help Your Team Use Social Media Productively

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Social media is all about connection and networking, but it's also distraction and procrastination in their finest, pixelated forms.

Help your team use social media productively with these tips.


Define the End Goals for Social Media Use

Who's doing what, and why?

Social media professionals know that without clear goals, social media use becomes a chaotic mess of button-clicking and key-tapping. You have to know what you're attempting in order to know if you're getting close.

What are the end goals for social media in your business and for your team?

Define these and you are giving your team members a way to quickly determine if their use of social media is helping to reach those goals.

Discuss Limits for Social Media Use

Defining goals and assigning roles will help your team members know how to use social media in a productive way... that is, in a way that is helping them to reach those goals.

For some, social media use is great for a few minutes in the morning and in the afternoon, for a couple of status updates a day, for a distraction on break time or for those five-minute intervals in between meetings.

For others, social media may require more intensive time and input: a few hours crafting updates, researching analytics, finding or creating great content to share.

Discuss how the over-arching goals - and each person's role in helping reach those goals - necessitate different limits on social media for each person. Then ask your team members to set their own limits, as appropriate.

Encourage Real Breaks

Taking regular breaks is actually great for productivity. But a ten-minute break of browsing Facebook doesn't come with the same mental and physical payback of a ten-minute brisk walk outside, or chat and cup of tea with a coworker.

However, our social norms and work environments often surreptitiously encourage the wrong kind of break: the social media, mind-numbing kind. It's easy to pull up a new tab and idle away five minutes, and no one looks unproductive because they're still staring at their computers.

But leaving the office to go for a ten-minute walk?
Asking a coworker to step down to the lobby for a cuppa and quick chat?

That's not easy to "get away with." You can't disguise that sort of behavior as real work, the way you can with social media binging.

The answer is to encourage real breaks instead of making your people feel like they need to pull them off on the sly.

Education over Enforcement

You can make all sorts of rules about social media, and some of them might be really great rules. Really effective.

Knowledge is the real power, though, and educating people works a lot better than enforcing rules.

You don't want to waste time having endless round-table discussions about social media and its effect on our productivity. You do want to help your team understand how social media can be either a powerful tool or a deadly distraction, based on their use.

To help educate your team, you can

share articles, studies, and data
ask for their own insight and experience
talk about apps and extensions that streamline social media
set up reminders of social media goals
continue to encourage real breaks
call in a professional to teach techniques for social media use
find the expert on your team and ask for help.

The Habit of Asking

One small but powerful habit can help your team more than anything else. It's a simple question that each person asks and then answers:

"What am I doing right now?"

It's the question to ask anytime someone wakes up mindlessly surfing the Internet, scrolling through Facebook, lost in Reddit or Twitter. It's the question to ask when one project or task is over and people are hanging out in that dangerous dead space before the next project begins.

"What am I doing right now?" is a simple but powerful question when asked and then answered, immediately and honestly.


"I'm looking at pictures of other people's lives."
"I'm reading stupid articles about celebrities."
"I'm searching for a good joke to share."
"I'm trying out photo filters."
"I'm trying to think of a clever status update."

When your people learn to ask and answer that question, they can't ignore what they're doing. Or not doing.

In some cases, what they are doing is perfectly legitimate, and they can feel good about that:

"I'm posting my daily update to our company Facebook page."
"I'm sharing news from the conference I attended."
"I'm live-tweeting this event."
"I'm editing product photos."
"I'm finding great content to share with our followers."

When you and your whole team know what the social media goals are and get in the habit of thinking about how to use social media well, you get productive social media use.

That's an update worth sharing.

Bitrix24 is a free total team management platform . Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB
See also:

Free collaboration software
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Free online collaboration
Team collaboration software and tools
Social collaboration platform

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Save Your People from Drowning in Email

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Email has become one of the biggest detriments to productivity.

Your team members are spending 28% of their workweek dealing with email: reading it, responding to it, processing it. In other words, an entire day of a five-day workweek is spent on email.

Is email really that important?

Of course, email provides convenience. We can communicate across the globe instantly. When email becomes an overload of unnecessary communication, however, the burden outweighs the benefit.

 
 
Check Yourself First

Start by making sure you're part of the solution, not the problem.


If you like to communicate by email about everything...
If you like to use group emails to discuss projects, tasks, clients, and the company holiday party...
If you keep multiple email threads going with multiple employees every day...
If you expect immediate replies to your emails...



...then you might be part of the problem.

If you have trained your employees that they must be immediately responsive to every email you send, guess what? You've trained them that they have to be immediately responsive to every email that everyone sends.

That sort of email obsessiveness will keep your people fr om doing the real work.

Start by changing your own email usage. Lim it the emails you send. Do email in batches instead of in a continual stream all day long. And include a timeline for responses: "Please respond by end of day," or "Please let me know by next week," or "Please respond within the hour."

Your attitude toward email will help your people to feel free to use their own time wisely as well, instead of hopping and twitching every time their email notification dings.

Try Email-Free Times

Let your team members know that they are free to ignore email most of the time.

Our digital inboxes reduce productivity by dinging us with distractions. We get focused, head-down, on a project, and the beep or buzz or ding rips us away from it.

No matter how unimportant the email itself is, the energy and focus lost to dealing with that incoming buzz can totally derail productivity.

Encourage your employees to have email-free times to work: they can turn off notifications, shut down the email tab, and focus without any worries about what is appearing in their inboxes.

Instead of responding to email whenever that ding happens, they can focus fully on the task at hand, knowing that they are free to respond to email in their own time.

Batch Process for Email

Batch processing is the simple practice of doing a batch of similar tasks together, and it allows us to do those tasks in a more streamlined method and with more efficient results.

Email works really well in a batch processing method. Encourage everyone to choose a couple of times each day - perhaps once in the morning and once later in the afternoon - to read, answer, and otherwise process emails. This practice enables them to tackle an inbox with a batch processing approach, and work through a stack of emails in an efficient way.

Back Your Team Up

Let your team know that you will back them up with demanding clients.

If your team is working with clients who expect instant responses to email, let your people know that you stand with them in a saner approach to the inbox.

Remind them that they can stick to their productive email practices, such as email-free times and batch processing. Take a proactive approach: many times demanding clients will be much more understanding if they know what to expect and why.

Email Effectively

Use targeted subject lines, especially for in-house communication, so that no one has to dig through a paragraph of email body to figure out what's going on.

Encourage the people on your team to be brief and clear in their emails. They should ask for specific responses and name timelines when appropriate (*Please respond by tomorrow, I need this information by next Monday)*.

Using email productively is a matter of establishing good team habits. The more you educate and encourage productive email use, the better you and your team will be at it.

Bitrix24 is a world's most popular email free collaboration platform . Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

See also:
Free CRM tools
Best CRM for small business
Free web based CRM software
Free sales management software
Free Real Estate CRM software
Ideal CRM for small companies

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Top Calendar Management Tips

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Tired of your calendar causing more confusion than clarity?

Use these pro tips to handle your crowded calendar and get back in charge of your time.

Build Trust with Your Calendar

If you don't use your calendar well, and check it regularly, you can't trust it.

And if you don't trust your calendar - and really, yourself to use it well - then you won't be helped by having a calendar.

Mentally you won't be able to get the relief you should from dumping all time-bound information into your calendar. You will suspect your calendar, and depend on your brain to remember and remind you. The problem is that your brain isn't very reliable.

A calendar, used well and regularly, is reliable. But you have to use it well in order to trust it, and you have to trust it in order to benefit from it.

Check Your Calendar Often

At a minimum, you should check your calendar every morning to see what's on the schedule for the day. What events await you? What does your timeline for the day look like?

You should also check your calendar every night. What's ahead on the next day? Go ahead and prepare, get out clothes, and otherwise make the next day easier on yourself.

Enter All Recurring Events

A digital calendar will give you the ability to add events at designated recurring times. Anything that happens on a recurring basis - such as meetings, a class, or a time-bound task (weekly grocery shopping, for instance) should go on your calendar. You shouldn't have to remember to keep putting it back on there.

If you use a paper calendar, work ahead and enter recurring events into the future.

Schedule in Prep Time

A mistake many people make is to pop any and all deadlines onto the calendar. That's great, but it's only the first step.

You have work to do before the deadline. When should that work be done?

There's a meeting on Tuesday; but you need to prepare for it before Tuesday, right? Block out time on your Monday afternoon: "Meeting prep, 2pm to 3pm."

The same principle applies to any deadline you enter into your calendar. Putting a deadline does nothing unless you also schedule in time to do the prep work needed so that you can be ready for that deadline.

Build Buffer Time into Your Schedule

Transitions are inevitable. Even the most efficient systems require time for transitions.

Humans, capable as we might be, are not the most efficient systems, and when you have other humans around, transitions get even longer.

You need physical transition times, and you also need mental time to decompress and refocus. Requiring yourself to jump immediately from one task or area to another can leave you stressed and confused.

Building in buffer time relieves the feeling of urgency which can be debilitating. Knowing that you have a little wiggle room in your schedule can help you to relax and be more productive; the feeling that you're scheduled so tightly you can't waste even a minute will make you feel nervous and make more mistakes.

Use Your Schedule for Your Priorities

The most regular item on your calendar shouldn't be meetings, events, or appointments, but the time you choose to block out for your highest priorities.

What are your main focus areas, your highest priority tasks?

Block out a period of time to work on each focus area or priority task regularly.

Daily may be too often, but weekly may not be often enough. It depends on the nature of your work and life. Try out several intervals and see what works.

You must make the decision to use your time for what matters most to you. No one else will make or enforce that decision for you. And they shouldn't have to.

Treat your blocked-out time just as seriously as you would any important meeting or event. If someone wants to schedule something during that time, decline politely. You already have plans then.

Your time is your own. By using your calendar the way productive people do, you begin to actively own your time and manage your life according to your values and priorities.

Bitrix24 is a free TBM (total business management) and business automation platform. Use promocode TIP10 whenregistering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

See also:

- Want Innovation? Embrace Constructive Conflict, Says Innovation And Creativity Guru Jeff DeGraff
- What to Do When Your Team Isn't Working Together
- Gary Cokins - Automate everything, but not salary and incentives
- Bruce Tulgan - Employees Should Manage Their Bosses (And Here's How)
- Interview with practical futurist Michael Rogers
- Redbooth alternative

Sunday, September 07, 2014

How To Deal With Creativity Slump

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Your team works well together, solves problems, and comes up with innovative, unique ideas. Except when they don't. If your team is in a creative slump, here are five ways you can end it.

1. Identify the Blocks

Denial is your enemy. Awareness is your friend. If everybody is sitting around, pretending like everything is going just fine, you need to step in. Open the discussion so that they can be open about their difficulties. Ask questions and listen to their answers. Chances are, they already know a few issues - or, perhaps, many - that are causing blocks. Set up a team meeting and talk about what is blocking the normal creative flow you have come to expect from them. The goal of the meeting should not be to destroy all creative blocks, but to figure out what they are. Sometimes, talking through the issue will prove to the solution. If communication problems, personality conflicts, or internal stress is the source of reduced creativity, an open and supportive discussion can do a lot to resolve it. If, however, the issues are different, you will know how to start addressing them once you know what they are.

2. Take an Enforced Break

Walking stimulates creativity. Sleeping stimulates creativity.

Most likely, neither of those things is happening when your team is actively working on a creative project. If the pressure is on and the deadline is looming, your team members are focused and stressed. And that stance is kind of the opposite of what creativity needs. Enforce a break, of a few hours, a half day, or more if you can afford it. Require no work during the break: team members should take personal time, take a walk, take a nap. After the break, your team will be able to get back to work with refreshed minds and new creative energy.

3. Work on a Different Project

The magic of creativity is in the diverse connections made. Inventiveness doesn't usually happen from stumbling across brand-new knowledge, but in combining well-known facts in new ways. In order to do that, though, the brain needs input from a variety of sources. Stimulation is important. If your team has been hunkered down, working on a single task or on very similar projects, their brains are starved for new input, different input, a variety of sources. Move the team to something completely different for a while, then come back later with fodder for fresh connections.

4. Take the Pressure Off


There's another thing creativity doesn't like very much: pressure. People might feel like they are being creative when they come up with solutions under stress, but research shows that both the quality and creativity of work plummets when stress is high. Remove or extend deadlines. Give your team some breathing space. Bring in more team members so that tasks and responsibilities can be spread out. Add more resources. Creativity is a function of growth, not survival. If the brain interprets the environment as a threatening one, it will not be searching for new and novel ways to respond. It will be coming up with quick, defensive measure to end the threat (or stress) as quickly as possible.

5. Impose Limits

Generality does not heighten creativity. There's a reason that Hallmark cards don't go down in the annals of great poetry: generalities do not make powerful images. Generalities do not produce powerful creativity, either. Creativity responds to challenges (not pressure) when there is a particular need to be met. If you've asked your team to "be creative" about a broad area or request, try tightening the scope. Define the lines. Set boundaries. Name the problem, as specifically as possible, and then work on a single, focused solution.

Bitrix24 is a free online team productivity and collaboration platform. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

See also:

- 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Workplace Productivity
- Intranet review checklist – seven must-have features for ANY intranet
- Social HR 101: What is social intranet?
- Mobile Productivity Dos and Don'ts
- Michael Leander - People still make the same email marketing mistakes they did ten years ago
- Free Asana alternative

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Effective Idea Management In Small Groups

Ideas are worthless unless implemented. To make the most of those creative brains on your small team, you can’t have a brainstorming session and leave it at that. You need to have a system in place to manage ideas fr om the initial burst of insight to complete execution. 

The Three Stages of Idea Management 
There are three essential stages in idea management: 
Stage 1: Capture/Input Stage 2: Feedback/Analysis Stage 3: Decision/Action 
All three stages are necessary. With a smaller team, you can move more quickly fr om one to another, but you still need to work in the right order to manage ideas effectively. 
Stage 1: Effective Collection 
The best ideas are often the ones that sound a little crazy. Sadly, those are the ideas we are most likely to reject because they sound, well, a little crazy. It’s important to create a truly open space where all of the ideas can come out and introduce themselves. Welcome all ideas equally in order to keep getting a lot of ideas. Quantity produces quality; let your team members know that all of their ideas are welcome. The more the better. It’s a lot like panning for gold: you have to sift through a good bit of silt to find that nugget. 

Takeaway: Make Stage 1 a friendly, open, any-idea-welcome environment. This shouldn’t be the place or time where you analyze weaknesses or discuss budgets. It should be a place where you capture all the ideas, sort them out according to the problem or project they address, and get them lined up for feedback in Stage 2. 

Stage 2: Effective Discussion 
It’s important to look at ideas with an eye for reality. An objective discussion, with insight from various team members, is how you determine if an idea goes forward or goes away. Most people will respond with initial negativity to ideas that are new or foreign to them. This is the curse of unfamiliarity, and every innovator has faced it. Establish a few rules for the feedback cycle to keep a balance. You don’t want unnecessary negativity, but you do want smart analysis and objective thinking. 
Rules might include 

Takeaway: Stage 2 is a forum which allows the necessary people to camp out around a few ideas and talk them over. Putting guidelines in place keeps it productive, rather than personal, and moves the ideas forward faster into the realm of action. 

Stage 3: Effective Execution 
For each idea, set a time lim it on discussion. While some ideas might require a little more research, do the minimum necessary to make an informed decision. Every moment spent in discussion is a moment taken away from the stage wh ere results happen: execution. Keep discussions from lingering on an idea that just isn’t ready for reality yet. Lower the hammer, quickly and finally. For the ideas that pass, remember these two truths: 
  • 1. Everybody likes getting credit.
  • 2. Execution matters more than ideation. 
A mediocre idea carried out excellently will accomplish more for your business than an excellent idea carried out halfway. Give credit for the idea by tagging the idea generator as the idea executor. 
Takeaway: Make a clear decision about each idea, designate an idea leader, give access to the resources, budget, time, and team members needed, and then get out of the way. 

The Final Stage: Assessment and Reward 
After a reasonable amount of time, bring the team together to analyze both successful and failed ideas. Was it completed? Executed well? Did it work? If so, give rewards and recognition and look into implementing the idea further, if appropriate. 
If not, figure out why. Was the idea flawed? Were there problems in leadership, execution, lack of resources? Was there some unknown circumstance that popped up and threw the whole thing off course? The more you understand your idea management system, the more efficient and effective you can be as you continue gathering, analyzing, and executing ideas. 

Bitrix24 is a free enterprise social network and idea management solution. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 

- Best free internal communication software and tools 
- How to build successful inside sales team - tips from inside sales guru Josiane Feigon 
- Keith Burton: Why email will never die 
- Plan your day BEFORE you check your email and other simple email lifehacks from Graham Allcott
 
- 5 Simple Online Calendar Management Tips 
- The biggest project management mistake that companies make