Rindle can help teams and individuals create super-streamlined workflows. Here’s how.
We’re always looking to see what we can do to make improvements here at Rindle and lately, we’ve been quite busy!
We thought it was about time that we update everyone on some of the features, both recent and from a while back that can really help you to make the most of Rindle for streamlining and organizing your workflow.
We get a lot of questions from interested people, so, besides a recent update to the card interface, let’s look at some of the recent features that you can use to maximize your experience with Rindle:
Let’s start out with a feature that we know is unique among kanban-style apps. Subcards have been a popular request for most, so it’s something we created, which is thus far, unique to Rindle.
What’s the point? Sometimes you need a bit more than a checklist item on a card. You don’t want to create an extra stand-alone card because you don’t want your list to get unwieldy with too many cards.
You can create subcards in couple of different ways. Firstly, on the main card, you can click “Add sub card” on the back of the card and it will create a card that operates exactly like any other card, except is embedded into that main card as a checklist item.
Secondly, you can create a subcard by holding down the shift key, then dragging and dropping a card onto another card. This automatically makes it a checklist item on that card.
At this stage, if you want to detach a subcard and have it as its own stand-alone card, you need to click on the menu icon (the three dots) to the right of the card and select “detach.” It will then ask you to select a board and list to send it to, the options you have if you were to select “move” from the menu of a main card.
Tagging and Filtering
Tagging is something you’ve probably seen in productivity apps before and we’ve brought it in for the cards on your Rindle board. You can use color coding, color with text or just text by itself to tag your cards. This was a “by popular demand” feature we added.
Our filtering is something that is unique in that it offers more than what other apps have done. When you select filters on your Rindle board, you will still be able to see the entire view, you’ll even still be able to drag and drop within that view, but cards that are not relevant to the filter will be greyed so you can easily pick out the filtered cards.
This means you can still keep working on things from a filter view because you’re still able to make updates. The filtering itself is also handy because we offer a number of different options. You could choose to filter by:
- Due date
- Is overdue
- Other time periods related to due date
Check it out on the top right-hand side of your board, as shown in the screenshot below.
Collapse and Expand
This is another feature that our users requested. If you go to the icon of the 4 arrows, to the right of “Active Cards” at the top of your board, you can click on it to expand or collapse your cards. This is awesome if you’ve got long lists of cards on your board, so you can get a better overview without scrolling around.
Save yourself the clicks and scrolls with our keyboard shortcuts. To see a list of all that are available, just click the “?” key.
Our favorites include using numbers to jump between boards (supports up to 9 boards), and hitting “e” while hovering over a card to quickly edit it.
If you’ve set up “Drops” where cards are automatically created when a trigger happens in a connected account, you might have noticed an improvement in how those cards appear. You will see the icon of the connected tool (for example, Gmail), at the top left on the back of the card with an arrow next to it.
When you click on that arrow, you can “slide out” the information directly from the source. In the case of Gmail, you’ll be able to see entire threads of conversation. This, along with other connected “drops” will update automatically, so if there are further activities from within the connected app, it will show on your Rindle card.
The syncing works for all sorts of Drops, for example, if you have Basecamp hooked up and you change the due date in Basecamp, that will carry through to your Rindle card.
Another cool thing to note is what we call “linked fields.” What this means is that any field on the back of your card that you want to keep in-sync will show a link symbol and update automatically. An example is shown below with a GitHub card, where the ticket state and title are shown as linked fields. If either of those things are changed in GitHub, it will update on the card.
You can read more about linked fields for Drops here, but you should also know that this information is set up automatically when you create the Drop. If there is anything that is created as a linked field but you don’t want to stay that way, you just need to click the “plug” icon next to it and you can disconnect it. If you edit a linked field in Rindle, it will also automatically disconnect.
Want to know what’s also cool about this? If you’ve set up rules and workflow automations, this automated syncing of data will help you with that too. For example, you might want tasks that are marked as complete in Basecamp to trigger the corresponding card in Rindle to move to the “done” list. You might also have rules that tag cards that become overdue in a linked tool, as another example. There is a lot you can do with automations, so we’ll be bringing you a separate article on that later.
We’ve been working hard on automations, integrations and other features that will help Rindle users to have a productive day using the app. We’re always interested in feedback, so hit us up with your thoughts!
Meanwhile, check out what you can get done with the features we’ve outlined here. We hope you’re able to create an efficient workflow that helps you to manage your work day well.
You want to be more productive, but you’re not sure where to start. Start with this list.
Below, we’ll discuss the top seven productivity methods. Any one of these methods can motivate you, improve your effectiveness, and turn your efforts into success.
But keep in mind that not all methods will work with your personality type. While most are motivational, some methods may actually increase anxiety and uncertainty. So, it’s suggested that you try out all of these methods, giving yourself at least a week with each, to see which one(s) resonate.
1. The Anti-ToDo List
Many of us spend our lives on a never-ending hamster wheel. We’re constantly going from one task to the next, never stopping to acknowledge what we’ve already accomplished.
But your own accomplishments can actually inspire you to be even more productive.
That’s the thought behind the Anti-ToDo List.
Created by Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, the Anti-ToDo List is a summary of your daily accomplishments. It’s a way to motivate yourself by looking at what you’ve already completed. you need that extra boost of encouragement.
How Does It Work?
Whenever you accomplish something notable during your day, make a written note of it.
It doesn’t need to be a grandiose, bucket list-type of accomplishment, either. Your accomplishment can even be reaching a milestone in an extended task.
When you make it a habit, you’ll quickly be able to answer that nagging question, “What did I do today?”
2. Biological Prime Time
At what time in any given day are you the most productive?
Are you a morning lark? Are you a night owl?
Some of us embrace the mornings, and some of us require coffee on an IV drip.
Some of us come alive in the evenings, and some of us can’t keep our eyes open past 10pm.
The time when you’re most productive and filled with energy— that’s considered your biological prime time.
This term was created by Sam Carpenter in his book, Work the System.
How Does It Work?
The idea is simple. By figuring out your most productive times during the day, you can rearrange your schedule (ideally) to match when you’re most focused and motivated.
The easiest way to do this is to simply observe yourself over the course of a week. Check for three things: energy levels, motivation, and the ability to focus on the task at hand (without getting distracted).
Every hour, you’ll make a note of your energy, motivation, and focus. Some people find it easier to measure on a scale from 1 to 10.
After the week is over, you’ll notice trends in your levels. When all three levels are at their highest, this is your biological prime time. You may find that you have more than one prime time during the day.
3. The Checklist Manifesto
Based on the book of the same title by Atul Gawande, the Checklist Manifesto relies on a series of checklists to boost productivity levels.
If you prefer to take life as it comes, it may be difficult to adjust to the somewhat rigid nature of checklists. And you may feel unnerved by an unchecked box that carries over into tomorrow’s checklist.
But others will embrace the structure and security of knowing that everything you need to accomplish for the day is on a list.
How Does It Work?
It’s as simple as creating checklists for your day.
But your checklists can get as detailed as you need. You can opt for a broad overview of your day, or you can go through a detailed step-by-step of each task you need to accomplish.
4. Don’t Break the Chain
Don’t Break the Chain is comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s method for productivity.
This method is not as detailed as some on this list, but it is very effective at what it does.
The basic idea is to pinpoint something you need to get done everyday. Let’s say you’re a writer, and you know that the best way to improve your writing is to write everyday. You’ll motivate yourself to write by looking at that calendar and repeating to yourself, “Don’t break the chain.”
The goal can be anything, of course, from exercise to practicing a new language.
You won’t be able to lay out your entire day with this method, however “Don’t Break the Chain” can help you reach a goal just by sheer consistency.
How Does It Work?
You’ll need a calendar, a red marker (or pen), and a goal to accomplish for each day.
Then, draw a big, red X on the calendar whenever you’ve accomplished your goal for the day.
If all goes well, at the end of the year, you’ll have 365 days of unbroken red Xs.
5. Eat the Frog
Developed by Brian Tracy, Eat the Frog suggests that you focus on the most difficult and daunting tasks of your day first.
The most important tasks are the frogs that you must eat.
The method is rooted in optimism. The idea is that if you can make it through the most difficult task of the day (eating a frog), everything else will be so much easier.
How Does It Work?
In this method, you’ll prioritize your to dos in descending order of importance, starting with the greatest one first and working your way down the list to the least important.
6. Eisenhower Matrix
Named after the 34th US President, Dwight Eisenhower, the Eisenhower Matrix is all about prioritizing tasks in matters of urgency.
It’s useful for time management.
How Does It Work?
Each day, you’ll create a simple quadrant matrix, labeled as followed:
Important + Urgent
You’ll do these tasks now.
Important + Not Urgent
You’ll spend the majority of your day in these tasks. Schedule time to do it during your day.
Not Important but Urgent
You can outsource or delegate these tasks. Who can you do these tasks for you?
Not Important + Not Urgent
You don’t need to do these tasks at all. Get rid of these tasks.
To quote President Eisenhower, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
When you first start with the Eisenhower Matrix, it may be difficult to determine which tasks go where. Start by deciding what tasks you absolutely cannot delegate, and then determine which of those tasks must be done right away and which can wait.
7. Pomodoro Timer
Developed by productivity expert Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is a popular time management tool.
If you employ this technique, you’ll break up your day into short spurts of focused energy.
How Does It Work?
The Pomodoro technique is simple and straightforward. You’ll work for 25 minutes and then take a five minute break. Repeat.
After four intervals (or pomodori), you’ll take a longer break (between 15 to 30 minutes). And then the cycle starts again.
The idea is that you can work on anything— even the most boring and tedious task— for 25 minutes. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a five minute break. At which time, you can either return to the previous task or do something totally new.
The Pomodoro Technique is effective because it cuts down on boredom and mental fatigue. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment when you hear that timer go off.
Speaking of which, there are several Pomodoro timer apps available.
Increasing your productivity requires commitment, tenacity, and embracing the right system. Hopefully, you’ve found a winner in one of these above-mentioned systems, but remember that you can also customize these productivity methods to meet your unique needs.
Which one of these productivity methods is your favorite?
If you’re a “continuous improvement” type, then you’re probably always looking at ways you can improve productivity, whether that’s within your own work or that of a business you run.
You might have tried Pomodero, Getting Things Done, incentives or other productivity methods, but one that has been emerging in the last few years is gamification.
Gamification is really about motivational techniques to help people engage better with their work. It in some way provides reward or incentive for progress, mimicking how you might interact with a computer game.
Gamification certainly is becoming hot among productivity apps too, but is it really effective for productivity? Let’s take a look:
How does Gamification Work?
Gamification in the context of work provides a “gaming” element to tools or tasks that you ordinarily need to complete during your work day. This might involve reaching levels, recognition or reward, competition, goal-setting and success metrics.
The idea is to promote the behaviors that you want to see more of by taking advantage of the human predisposition to engage in gaming.
If you think about the 2016 “Pokemon Go” phenomenon as an example, it was noted that there was an uptick in fitness tracker step counts, which directly correlated with game-playing. If improving fitness and activity time were a goal of those people, then you could say that gamification played a significant role in getting them off the couch (although it was an actual game, as opposed to a “gamified” app). To further use fitness as an example though, you have apps, such as Map My Run, which regularly offer challenges and badges for meeting activity goals. Users can even be rewarded where a sponsor has provided prizes.
Gamification has been shown to work well for things such as fitness, as you would intuitively expect. But does it work well for productivity at work and in other areas of your life? Well, it turns out that it will and won’t work, with some conditions applied, which are also applicable across fitness or any other target you might gamify…
What the Studies Say
First of all, the studies on gamification are relatively young so it is acknowledged that the field is still developing and there is room for gathering plenty more data. Wharton cautions with the following information:
“It’s tempting to assume that gamification works, given the enormous long-running popularity of video games and gaming systems ever since Atari’s Pong was released in 1972. Who doesn’t love games? But the world’s experts on gamification will tell you that everything about this fledgling field — even the very definition (loosely, the application of game elements to non-game situations) — is still up for grabs. And what succeeds at one company won’t necessarily succeed at another.”
So, while gamification might work for productivity in your business, you should be prepared to test it out in case you don’t get the results you anticipated. After all of that though, are there any conditions under which researchers believe gamification works best?
Yes, as it turns out, though again, this is a field in which more research is being conducted. Empirical research (as noted by the Gamification Research Network) suggests that caveats exist for when gamification is effective including the qualities of the users, the context of the gamification and the possible novelty effects (that is, perhaps it works while it’s a novelty, but soon wears off, much like Pokemon Go or any other gaming fad).
In a study from Wharton professors Ethan Mollick and Nancy Rothbard, they tested out the efficacy of using a gamified approach to sales within a team in a company. One of the major takeaways was that consent plays a huge role in how effective gamification is for users. Those who willingly participate are much more likely to have positive feelings towards the game and the company, while those who didn’t consent were more likely to have a decrease in performance and negative feelings. Therefore, having “motivated users” is key.
Another aspect to note from this study is that it is unclear whether gamification plays a true role in any productivity increase seen in the types of teams that were working with sales. It may just be that those types of people are highly motivated anyway. This is where that earlier point about “qualities of the users” comes in. Perhaps gamification is more effective if they’re already inclined to high performance.
In other research, use of leaderboards as a gamification method has shown some positive results. It was noted that, if leaderboards are designed appropriately, employees will tend to put the time and effort into the activity that helps them to climb the board. Leaderboards can also help with goal-setting – while many don’t respond well to being told by a manager what their goals should be, those same people will often respond to a leaderboard by striving to reach the top.
What about Design?
Another vital aspect to any kind of game is its design. There is currently little research on this point for gamification, but intuitively, you’d expect that effective design would involve good game mechanics (badges, points, levels etc.) that users strive for and a design that is user-friendly.
Kissmetrics outlined a few gamification principles that can be useful to have built into any app, website or other mechanism for encouraging productivity. These include rewards (levels, badges etc.), loss aversion (perhaps going back a level), status, competition and reputation (e.g. leaderboards) and feedback (e.g. seeing points accumulate).
Combine any of these things with the “motivated user” as outlined earlier and you have a recipe for using gamification to effectively boost productivity.
Applying Gamification at Work
With a rise in companies adopting gamification methods in the last few years, there are a number of ways in which it is being used to boost performance. Here are a few quick examples of how gamification is being applied at work:
Gamification provides a way for performance measures to be transparent and for workers to understand how they are performing in certain areas compared to their colleagues. This allows individualized goals to be set and clarity over what is expected of employees.
There are many firms now who track objectives of employees quite openly anyway, so gamification can provide an extra impetus for focused behaviors.
The dynamics at every workplace are different. While some thrive on competition, such as leaderboards, others will not find this motivating at all.
If your workplace is in the latter group, then gamifying the behaviors that lead to good results may be a better option. For example, if you want more sales, your outbound sales team might gamify behaviors such as the number of calls made or efforts to qualify customers first.
Allow Objective Reviews
Many workplaces still review employees based on subjective criteria. Often, there might be some objective data thrown in, but an overall assessment is subjective and could be influenced by non-work factors.
Gamification provides the opportunity for true, objective data to be used for performance reviews. It can be transparent and seen as a much fairer measure, especially in the eyes of the employee. Another advantage is that it provides real-time data. The employee can see how they’re doing and be proactive about taking steps to improve. Likewise, their manager can be proactive about helping them.
Gamification can be an effective booster for productivity, both in teams and for individuals. It’s about harnessing the natural human drive to participate in gaming activities and directing it toward encouraging the right behaviors.
While gamification is still a relatively young area of study, there are some indicators for when it might be applied more effectively:
- In motivated users.
- Where users have given consent.
- Where good game mechanics are applied.
Will gamification work for productivity in your workplace? The dynamics of the individual company will also factor strongly.
If you manage or work in a remote team, you’ve probably come to appreciate the advantages remote work can offer. You have flexibility over your location and in most cases, you have flexibility over when the best time is for you to work.
You don’t have the overhead that companies who co-locate employees have, but you do have one particularly distinct disadvantage:
The logistics of getting a team working well on projects together remotely.
You rely on good teamwork in order for projects to be completed at a high standard, but the relationship-building that naturally happens in an office environment doesn’t come so easily on a remote team. In fact, when you look at any successful project, the common thread tends to be how well team members operated together.
Your business might use the best of the tools that are available to manage your projects, you might have the clearest procedures written down for team members to follow, but those tools and procedures can’t replace people and they can’t replicate the camaraderie that is naturally developed in successful co-located project teams.
What remote teams need, if they are to be successful, is to have in place some strategies for creating a strong team environment and encouraging collaboration, even when they can’t hit the pub together or socialize during work hours.
Here are some of our tips for building a better remote team project environment;
#1. Get to know people as individuals
If you’ve spent some time in remote work, you’ve probably experienced how easily team members can begin to feel like another cog in the machine rather than a team member who is individually valued. It’s not that people deliberately want to be precious little snowflakes, but we do know from research that individual recognition helps people to feel appreciated, which in turn can increase their commitment to the business.
Team members who feel appreciated as an individual will also tend to “go the extra mile” and be more open to constructive feedback, if needed.
Another reason you should prioritize getting to know team members as individuals is that to manage effectively, you should have a good grasp over what their relative strengths and weaknesses are. For example, if you were to assign a task to a remote team member and the task is outside of their expertise, it’s possible that they might not feel entirely comfortable explaining that to you if you haven’t made the effort to get to know them. They don’t know you well and they don’t know how you’ll react. Many will just keep quiet and struggle on.
Ideally, you want to put yourself in a position where you understand exactly what a team members weaknesses may be and can leverage their relative strengths. If you know that a task will be a stretch for a team member, then you should be prepared to offer extra support.
Action: For each team member you bring on, spend some time getting to know them. Find out their goals, personalities, beliefs, work habits and even their work preferences. If someone has already told you “I prefer not to do X, as I don’t have the skills”, then don’t be surprised if, when you go ahead and assign that to them anyway, they struggle!
#2. Find ways to encourage team morale
You bring together a group of people who are often in different locations, time zones or countries and expect them to work well together to reach project goals. While it’s fair to assume that you’ve probably looked for people who are an ideal fit for a remote environment, don’t neglect the fact that it’s up to management to create the right kind of atmosphere for them to thrive.
Reward and recognition is one thing – when someone does something well, celebrate it! Make it part of your team culture to celebrate successes often, even if that’s just via a shout-out on the team Slack channel.
The other thing you can be doing is encouraging team members to get to know each other. This could be through learning trivia about each other, encouraging team members to seek regular feedback or arranging for them to have one-on-one calls.
Zapier introduced “pair buddies” to help team member get to know each other better;
“As we’ve grown, it can be harder to know all your teammates. One easy way to mitigate that is to have folks on the team get paired up with one other teammate at random each week for a short 10-15 minute pair call. We use this to chat about life, work or whatever random thing seems interesting. Sometimes cool new product features come out of these, other times it’s just good fun. Regardless it helps everyone better know their teammates.”
Action: Make rewards, recognition and team get-to-know-yous part of your team culture.
#3. Be completely in (or out)
One of the common traits of remote business owners or managers is that they often have a lot on their plates. They’re developing this service over here as an add-on, tweaking that software over there and trying to stay on top of team issues at the same time.
Of course, this is doable if you’re able to work your schedule sufficiently, but many find that “getting things done” gets in the way and the item that gets neglected is often team issues.
Here’s the thing, if you’re skimming over team issues and firing out “quick and dirty” answers, they know. It’s obvious when you’re not committing as much time to understanding their issues. The end result of that can be unhappy team members who don’t feel listened to, which is hardly conducive with effective project management!
This is why we say be all in or all out. If you’re going to deal with team issues, be fully present in doing so. Talk to team members directly and hear the issues in their own words. Take the time to formulate a response that acknowledges the team member and where they’re coming from.
If you can’t commit to that, seriously, delegate a manager who can and give them the authority to make the calls. Either way, you need an option where team members’ concerns are dealt with effectively.
Action: Make an honest commitment – can you be fully present for team members? If not, delegate someone who is and who has decision-making authority.
#4. Be open to feedback
This really piggybacks on directly from that last point. Sometimes team managers have difficulty “seeing the woods for the trees” as it were. Being open to honest feedback can help promote a healthy team environment that strives to improve continuously.
A key is to practice what you preach. There are plenty of examples of workplaces that, on the surface say they’re open to feedback, but the reality is quite different. If you react defensively, ignore some parts of the feedback for others or ignore the feedback altogether, then you’ll probably find team members stop giving you any.
Do you want a team who blows smoke and sticks to what they think you want to hear? Or, do you want genuine feedback that helps your business to grow? Part of nailing this is acknowledging where you could improve too. Being the manager who is “always right” won’t lead to top project results!
Action: Practice active listening and encourage honest feedback.
#5. Monitor communication effectiveness
There are many possible communication pitfalls that can befall remote teams. Perhaps the message didn’t come across as intended, the message was lost or communication becomes a convoluted mess.
This sometimes happens when you’re using more than one communication method, or you’re using one that is ineffective. When it comes to remote projects, email is seriously one of the most ineffective forms of communication. Things go missing in crowded inboxes and may even be missed completely.
Teams who use an app, such as Slack, for communication often find this more effective, particularly if channels are divided up logically (such as by project). Communicating within your project management app may also be an option.
The key is to keep monitoring. If you experience communication issues, is there a better way to handle them? For example, in Slack you can create conversation threads so that people aren’t searching through comments on different topics to get what they need.
Action: Monitor communication effectiveness and be prepared to make changes in order to improve.
#6. Make objectives clear
This is one of the struggles of communication in remote projects. Do all team members and stakeholders have the same thoughts as to objectives of the project?
Depending on your project type, you might have objectives set out on a weekly basis (such as for an agile sprint), but the important part is having everyone on the same page as to what those objectives are.
Action: A strong and open collaboration method tends to be the answer. Get team members and stakeholders to clarify and to confirm they understand and agree with objectives.
As a remote team, you don’t have the advantage that being co-located brings when it comes to developing interpersonal relationships. Team members can’t chat over the water cooler and you miss important communication methods, such as body language.
The “human element” is the key ingredient of successful projects, so you need to do your best to foster those human relationships in the remote environment.
Make it a habit to know your team members well individually, be open to feedback and use effective communication methods. You’ll find that improvements in these areas not only boost team morale, but overall performance too.
There are a number of theories for improving your productivity and getting through the many things you need to check off your to-do list.
“Getting things done” (GTD) is a theory that many swear by. It is a system created by David Allen and discussed in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (well worth a read if you’re looking for a good productivity book).
David Allen himself has famously said things like people need to “stop focusing on their goals and actually get shit done.” He doesn’t muck around. He’s even described GTD as like learning a martial art:
“If you ever learn the martial arts, you’ll find that the basic moves feel very unnatural and very awkward. Once you do them 1,000 times, you’ll see that’s the best way to manifest the highest amount of power with the least amount of effort.” (CMC Forum).
So, what is this GTD and how does it work?
What is GTD?
GTD (Getting Things Done) is a productivity method that provides a way for the manageable organization of all of your to-dos, priorities and scheduling. While many people view it as overly complicated (it has its detractors), an advantage of GTD is that, once you have it in place, it makes it easier for you to see exactly what you have on and what you should choose to work on next.
A criticism of GTD is that some people find it too much work to put in place. It requires a fair bit of initial organization and some people balk over the complexity. It can be argued though, that GTD is only as complex as you allow it to be. There aren’t any very rigid rules, just guidelines to stay within.
So, how does it work?
First, write everything down
As David Allen states on his website, “you mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” You can adapt GTD however you like, but the first step is always to write everything down. Allen reminds us that we should never rely on our own heads for storing all information on the tasks that take up our time. Sometimes people are tempted to do this out of a false sense of control – writing everything down exposes how out of control things may really be.
Capture everything. Tasks, to-dos, commitments, ideas – anything that will take up your time and energy. There are no rules about how to do so. You might have a preferred to-do app, a plain text note app, a journal or a large piece of paper. The idea is that however you choose to capture everything, it should work for you so that you’re always easily able to add something in the moment.
Clarify your items
Clarifying requires you to really look at those things that you are giving focus to and decide how much they meant to you. Some things you might find you shouldn’t be paying attention to at all. For those things that do matter, you need to delve into them further.
This means getting specific. If one of your to-do items is to “publish a book”, then you can break that down into actionable steps so that you have a clear path and a defined starting point.
GTD methodology requires breaking things down into even the smallest steps. For example, perhaps “publish a book” begins with researching options for how to publish a book (assuming you’ve already written it!).
This step is largely about bringing forward the things which you really need to be focusing on. As Allen says:
“You can’t manage time. Time just is. That’s not the big issue. The big issue is really space. When people say they need time management, it’s usually because something is feeling out of control or inappropriately focused.”
Allen mentions recognizing “appropriate engagement” with those tasks. Sometimes it is the mundane things that are pulling our energy away from the things that really matter. As he says, deciding to make no decision on an item is still a valid decision!
Organizing is about prioritizing and deciding on the appropriate place to store each item, with reminders set to ensure you do them. This might involve adding due dates if appropriate. Items would usually go in one of three places; to-do list for one-offs (pick up milk), project action lists for anything that requires multiple actions to complete (publish book) and calendar items for any meetings or dates to remember (Mom’s birthday, meeting with Jane).
This isn’t the step to start doing things, but to ensure that you have everything organized in the right places with reminders set.
Analyze your to-dos and determine where you need to start. Allen recommends that if you have the time and there are certain items you can get done right away, then either do them or delegate them. If anything still appears a bit vague, look to clarify and break it down further.
The other part to “reflect” is that you should regularly review your to-do list to determine where you are making progress and where you might need to improve or adjust priorities.
This is the final step of GTD and, as it sounds, involves looking at your list and getting to work. Allen says that you should pick the action that makes sense according to your current energy level or priorities. Sometimes, that might mean taking a break!
It’s Not About Busy, Busy, Busy
Busyness is often worn as a badge of honor these days, but it’s important to recognize that busyness isn’t equal to productivity. Most of us have experienced that “I’ve been busy all day, but what have I achieved?” feeling. The idea of GTD is that you’re creating mental space, “seeing the woods for the trees.”
Allen says: “People assume that I am a hardworking, left-brained, results-oriented, OCD, anal-retentive kind of guy. In fact, the reason that I was attracted to this work was that it allowed me to be more creative, more spontaneous, freer. I’m a freedom guy.”
By laying out all of your to-dos visually like this, you’re freeing up mental labor and bringing structure to how you go about things. Your day doesn’t have to be about busyness, you can be quite proud of knowing you’ve achieved enough to take a break.
Notes from A GTD User
We talked to Raj, an editor and project manager about his experiences using GTD. He says;
“I think the best thing about it is it allows you to visually see everything that you have to do. I used to be the type of person who would just be like “oh I’ll just remember without writing it down,” but that didn’t work out when I started getting really busy, so being able to dump everything out onto the list really gives you a mental boost because you know what you need to get done instantly.”
Raj uses to-do app Wunderlist as his go-to for storing all to-dos. He finds it useful because he can categorize items and set dates; however, he does point out that apart from being able to put a star on a list, there isn’t an inbuilt way to prioritize. His method is simply to have the tasks ordered from most to least important.
Using GTD to stay organized though has improved his overall productivity and ability to step away and take a break.
Our heads are full of many to-do items, whether they are work, family or personal tasks. It’s easy for everyday flotsam to clog up our brains, deflect energy from important tasks and lead us into the “busyness” cycle, which doesn’t aid productivity.
GTD or “Getting Things Done” is a productivity method that can really help those who struggle to balance out their various priorities. At first glance, it might seem complicated, but realistically it’s designed as a system anyone can follow.
What are your preferred productivity methods? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
You’ve probably heard talk of workflow management. You’re possibly even using a tool (such as Rindle) to help you manage and automate workflow.
But, what exactly is workflow? Did you know there are different types?
Workflow often gets mixed up with related topics, such as project management or productivity. Managing workflow definitely is part of those things, but it’s also its own discipline. Sometimes there’s confusion around what exactly it means because it tends to get caught up in “management speak” and is the kind of word that might get trotted out because it sounds efficient.
So, what’s the deal with workflow? We took a look…
What is Workflow?
Workflow, according to the trusty Oxford dictionary can be defined as:
“The sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.”
We kind of like the Urban Dictionary definition too. It helps to explain why people get confused over the term:
“A bullshit management word for a process which they don’t understand.”
Manager – “This action feeds into the workflow process.”
Employees think; “What the **** is a workflow?”
So, simply put, it’s the steps a task or deliverable has to go through to become complete. A post for your blog might go through a workflow something like; idea > research > write > edit > publish > promote. There are probably steps within each, but these are the key points along the journey from which you can build a workflow.
Types of Workflow
The idea of any kind of workflow is that it gets you from zero to a finished state. You probably don’t have formal workflows for everything you do, although you will have instinctively figured out a process which works for you.
Documented workflows become extremely important for more complex tasks and for keeping a consistent handle over how a team is managed. In general, you want the cleanest route possible that leads to the thorough and proficient execution of the task or project.
Workflow automation is another important component that has seen development recently. The more you can streamline your process and have tasks or components from other apps or areas added automatically, the less likely things are to get lost in the mix through manual handling.
There are three main types of workflow in use, let’s take a look at them and determine what they are best suited to;
Sequential workflows operate as your standard step-by-step flowchart does. You always move forward from one step to the next, without going back at all. The next step is always dependent on the previous step having already been completed.
What are sequential workflows good for? Well, think of any kind of process where the steps always remain exactly the same, without having to go back and forth. An example might be a manufacturing or production line task. When making cookies, a factory would always follow the same sequence of steps – you wouldn’t go back to mixing dough once cookies came out of the oven.
State Machine Workflow
State machine workflow is less about following steps A through Z and more about the actual state of the product or service at each stage. The workflow progresses from state to state and it is possible to regress back to a previous state if necessary.
Here’s how Microsoft Developer Network explains it:
“State machine workflows provide a modeling style with which you can model your workflow in an event-driven manner. A StateMachine activity contains the states and transitions that make up the logic of the state machine, and can be used anywhere an activity can be used.”
The diagram below gives some explanation as to what a state machine workflow might look like in practice:
Where is a state machine workflow suitably used? A common area is software development, where the “state” may change according to new developments or feedback from stakeholders. This could also go for any other process with creative elements (the earlier example of “write an article” could fit in here if the article is being written for a client and has changes made based on feedback).
Rules-driven workflow is based on a sequential workflow. Progress through the workflow is dependent on any rules that are triggered. So, say for example at step A there were possible options of 1-4 that your customer can choose. Progress to step B would depend upon the option chosen and any rules that are attached to executing it.
Microsoft gives the example of a customer ordering a coffee at a cafe. If step A is to choose the beans, coffee size and whether or not the coffee is a decaf, the rules governing what happens at step B might look like this:
A rules-based workflow is particularly used in projects that have clear goals, but varying levels of specifications or “rules.” (“If customer picks option 3 at step A, then step B will look like this.”)
Better Workflow Management
You have the basic theory of workflow and the types that are commonly used, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t making a serious hash of things on a daily basis. Whichever type of workflow works best for your line of work, here are a few tips for better workflow management:
- Automate wherever you can. For example, Rindle allows you to pull in tasks from other apps and keep everything together in a kanban-style view.
- Document processes. This is especially important if you want to scale your operations. Who wants to explain the same thing repeatedly?
- Delegate responsibility. Ensure team members have enough autonomy to do their jobs without creating unnecessary bottlenecks.
- Always look to improve the process. Things change or technology updates – keep looking for ways to further streamline your processes.
- Ensure everyone understands their responsibilities. Workflows get held up or broken when deadlines are lacking or team members consistently hold up their part so that the next person is also put behind. Make sure your team members understand the process as a whole and their responsibilities to hand off to the next person.
- Measure productivity. How do you know your system is successful? Develop metrics to determine how efficient your system is and look for any areas to improve.
Better workflow means better productivity. It means that you take a process from stage zero to complete as efficiently as possible using the workflow type that best suits your work. These include:
- Sequential workflows.
- State machine workflows.
- Rules-driven workflows.
Develop a good system for review of your workflow processes and automate where you can. If you can show the way and demonstrate a good grasp of workflow management, it moves from the realms of “Urban Dictionary” definitions to something integral to the overall success of your business.
So you’ve read a few articles on productivity by now. You’ve purchased a few apps, automated your workflow and generally made strides into creating a good system for yourself.
But, something still isn’t right.
You’re still struggling to be as productive as you know you could be, despite the technology you’ve put in place. What happened? Are you using the wrong things?
The chances are, if you’ve done your research and chosen some quality, well-rated tools then no, it’s probably not the apps. Sometimes you can read articles and assemble an arsenal of tools, but they won’t help if there are other, underlying problems.
Here’s what else might be the problem with your productivity.
You don’t know where to begin
You know when you have so much you could be doing that you really have no idea where to start? The naturally organized types seem to be able to jump right in, but others flail and burn daylight trying to figure out a starting point.
This part of a speech by Microsoft’s Scott Hanselman at SXSW a couple of years ago plays a big role in why we end up this way:
“Somehow we’ve become convinced that we can learn all the stuff,” said Hanselman at a panel discussion Monday as part of the 2013 SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Tx. But the drive to improve productivity by consuming ever more information only leads to confusion, disorganization and a sort of frenzied idleness, he argued. “I have a supercomputer with a quad-core processor in my back pocket, and I use it to show people cat pictures and argue with strangers on the internet.”
Frenzied idleness. That’s a great description. People wear “busyness” like a badge of honor, but what are they actually busy with? (And we all know how many are arguing with strangers online!).
It’s easy to find yourself in a kind of information overload that impedes your ability to get started and be productive with your work. It also can create too much of a division of your attention so that you’re less likely to do good work.
Hanselman went on to describe the difference between excellence and efficiency:
“This is why you don’t see Usain Bolt texting,” said Hanselman. “He is trying to sprint. If he were trying to multitask, he’d probably be slowed down.” Effectiveness, said Hanselman, is doing the right things, and efficiency is doing things right.”
Aha. So for effectiveness, we should be starting by prioritizing our work and ensuring that important things get done first. The problem with using a standard to-do list (especially if you’re a procrastinator) is that you now have options about what to choose to work on next. Insanely productive Georgetown professor Cal Newport (who almost always finishes his day by 5.30 and doesn’t work weekends), favors scheduling instead.
“Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.”
Cool, but what to schedule? Going back to Scott Hanselman’s presentation, he recommends that you focus on the things that really matter by writing down three outcomes for the day. These should be the three things that, if done, will make you feel awesome about having achieved them.
As Ellen said, “procrastinate now, don’t put it off!” If only that could work as a neat little reverse psychology trick to help you procrastinate over the procrastinating and get on with your work instead.
Procrastination is where you’re actively avoiding work, usually to avoid unpleasant feelings. In a work context, that could be because of a number of possible negative experiences such as boredom, frustration or even things like having to deal with an unpleasant person when you do the work.
Any of these things could mean that you’re really in the wrong job or need to rethink the clients and projects you take on, but it is also a very common part of any job. Most people who are in jobs that they otherwise love will tell you that there’s at least one thing they don’t enjoy.
One way around this is to create a reward for yourself, even if it’s a kind of “do the right thing for the wrong reasons” deal. So for that client who you really don’t want to deal with, plan something you enjoy as your reward immediately after, even if it’s as simple as having a good coffee (you might need it!).
You’re Seriously Unmotivated
For some people, they may not be procrastinators who actively avoid work, it may just be that they are not motivated.
The reasons for this can be multiple and certainly not clear-cut, but a good example can be when there is some kind of external stressor on your mind. This can end up taking up so much of your mental energy, you don’t have much left to motivate yourself for work.
There isn’t really any one solution for this, in fact you might need to try a few different methods. The key is to at least be able to start with one task at a time, so that you’re still achieving something (this could work with your “three outcomes” plan as discussed earlier).
You might try rewards or you might even try some of the apps out there that help you to gamify productivity. These types of solutions tend to be good when the source of your lack of motivation is external. Internal motivation is a different story.
In a TED Talk, Dan Pink talked about motivation and how internal motivation requires three factors: autonomy, mastery and purpose. If you struggle to get motivated internally, then one of these is probably out of whack. You need to figure out which one and why. For example, if you’re working a job where you’re micromanaged, perhaps autonomy is the problem and maybe that role is not for you.
You Lack Discipline
Ok, how many times have you sat down with good intentions for getting work done, only to find yourself still on Facebook an hour later? Sometimes it’s not really procrastination, it’s more a lack of discipline.
As Jim Rohn said; “discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” Of course, if you’re not good with discipline, you’ll end up with a bigger bridge to cross!
Scheduling is a great way to help you maintain discipline, as is setting a timer for doing only work until you allow yourself a break. The Pomodoro Technique works like this with timing for work and quick breaks.
If you struggle with keeping your hands off social media, then definitely utilize apps such as Rescue Time, which will help you by blocking them. This means turn your phone off too or put it away where it’s not so easy to grab and start browsing.
Sometimes, even when you have read all of the productivity articles and got yourself a good set of apps, it’s still not enough to keep you productive.
Examine whether there might be other things going on, such as lack of motivation or discipline, procrastination or being overwhelmed about where to start with your tasks. Try some of these techniques to keep yourself on the straight and narrow. You won’t win all the time, but we quite like the idea that you might just still achieve three important things each day.
When your team is based remotely, a lot of your success depends on having the right processes and tools for the job in place.
Collaboration and communication become extra-vital because you can’t simply hang out over coffee or have a casual conversation at the watercooler. What you need is a good set of apps to help you include all of your team members and streamline for efficiency wherever you can.
Some Thoughts on Remote Teamwork
By far, your best asset is always going to be (or at least should be!) the people who you hire into your remote roles. Quite simply, not everyone is wired to be suited to remote work. They need the drive to just get on with the job on their own, without the face-to-face contact that a co-located office brings. For some people this lack of social contact would be torture.
Your remote team members should naturally be good communicators. You can have the best apps in place for communication but they’ll be useless if a) they don’t get used or b) the person using them simply can’t get their messages across well.
Good, productive work habits and processes for making them happen are a must. While tools won’t substitute for skill or habits, they can become an essential part of the process for aiding those things.
It’s also worthy to note; there are a lot of possible tools out there, so many that your head may spin trying to come up with the right combinations. Our suggestion? Before trying to explore all tools, put together a list of the essential functions that you really need. Tools on tools on tools can be tiring to manage, so err on the side of using only what you really need.
Tools for Remote Teams
It’s not easy to come up with a short list from all the available tools out there, so we’ve chosen some popular tools the teams we work with tend to use. Generally speaking, they need tools that will facilitate communication, collaboration, productivity and workflow management. (Note that we also love Slack and Trello, however have covered them previously). Here’s our list:
#1. Teamwork PM
Teamwork actually offers a range of tools for, well, teamwork. These include project management, helpdesk and team chat options. Teams like it because it pulls together a lot of features and has an interface similar to the previous version of Basecamp (for those who preferred it).
Despite having a lot of features, Teamwork is rated for being relatively simple to use. One of the standout features is that file sharing is centralized. While you can still attach files to tasks within projects like other project management apps, you also get the option of accessing files via a central files tab.
Other popular features include the ability to integrate and create tasks via email, while there is also a Google Drive integration. Pricing is tiered and begins at free.
#2. Google Docs
Shared docs are often one of the cornerstones for remote teams. You need to be able to collaborate, keep essential docs where everyone can access them and have a way to monitor version control (just in case!).
Google Docs/Drive/Sheets is a good free solution for editing and storing essential documents, particularly those that are needed often. It doesn’t have the best organization (you have to sort that out yourself), but virtually everyone has a Google account so it will be readily accessible to team members.
Wunderlist is a competitor of Todoist (which we have reviewed previously) and compares favorably in the task-management category. The app allows users to create to-do lists and share them with others who need to be involved.
Wunderlist works across devices and will send reminders when tasks are due, no matter what device you are on. Unlike Todoist, it does not have location-based reminders, so if this is an important feature for your team members, look to Todoist. (If you want to have one view of all your apps, Wunderlist is one that integrates with Rindle).
Asana is a very popular project management tool choice for remote teams. It easily facilitates collaborative project and task management in teams, including allowing file sharing and messaging from multiple devices.
The interface is simple (and tends to be more popular than that of Teamwork) and users receive automatic notifications of any changes. Team members like it because they get to prioritize their own workspace, organize tasks, delegate and report simply and accurately.
GoToMeeting is one of the more popular choices of video conferencing apps. You will need to meet with your team or with clients and it provides a simple, reliable streaming service. The app is easy to use, although it is very basic so doesn’t have the bells and whistles (such as polling or recording) that other meeting apps have.
Your team members might be remote-based, possibly even working in their pajamas, but team meetings via video conference can add an extra social element to your remote team. It helps to break the ice with team members and help them to know each other a bit better.
Simple really – remote teams need a reliable cloud-based storage for the files they need to share and keep easily on-hand. Dropbox is one of the original and most popular solutions for cloud storage.
Many apps you use now will have built-in integrations so that you can easily share data between the other apps you use. Data centralization is another cornerstone of productivity for remote teams. It helps if you can save time and reduce errors by removing any need for manual data entry.
For apps that don’t have a direct connection, Zapier may be able to assist. It works by forming the “bridge” between apps and is triggered by “zaps,” which are rules created. Rules are based on triggers; “if B happens in A app, then send B data to app C.” The more you can automate, the less likely things are to fall over in your team.
Do different members of your team need to be able to access various business accounts that have a password? Good examples might include WordPress, social media accounts or CRM software.
Meldium allows you to add users to your team account and give them access only to those accounts that they really need. They can access them easily through the Meldium browser extension or by logging into their Meldium account.
HelpScout is excellent from an external client perspective for providing help desk services and answers to FAQs. From an internal perspective, it’s a great way to keep communication with clients in one place and ensure the right people on your team have access to it. Rather than diving through your inbox, look for the thread in your HelpScout account.
What does this screen still and video capture have to do with remote teamwork? Well, if you work in the kind of business where team members might need to learn new software or procedures that are easier to share by doing, then making a screen-capture video or screenshots with captions is your friend.
Instead of spending a whole lot of time on one-on-one training for new team members, record your repetitive tasks and store them where they are easily accessible to the team.
Successful remote teams begin with the right people but are facilitated by the right processes and tools.
Collaboration, communication, productivity, task management and even team building can happen with the right tools, just make sure you know the features you really need first.
Find the right combination of team members who are suited to a remote work environment and figure out what works for your own work environment. Document your processes and procedures and keep them where team members can easily access them.
Do you need to get a better grip over time management and productivity?
The two tend to go hand-in-hand; after all, we need to find ways to more productively manage our time so that we can maximize our earnings or achieve our goals. How can we do that? Having the right set of tools is a good start.
There is now a plethora of tools available, so it’s often a matter of finding the right combination to suit you. Let’s look at some of our favorites for boosting productivity and taking care of time management:
Trello is an excellent tool for fans of the kanban (cards) style of project management. Plans begin with a free tier, often appreciated by hustling young businesses.
One of the key strengths of Trello as a productivity booster lies in its simplicity. You can organize virtually any aspect of your life visually, through the use of cards and lists on a board designated for your project. For example, you might have a board as a content calendar for your blog with one card designated per article. You might have a board per development project and you might have another board to organize your week.
If you’re organizing a team, then Trello can keep everyone on the same page as you’re able to invite team members to boards and assign people to cards. This is one of the reasons it has become a popular app for productivity in teams.
You’ve possibly seen or heard the basics of Trello before, but did you know there are some lesser-known “hacks” to it which can provide an extra lift to your productivity? Here are some examples:
- Keyboard shortcuts can help you to power through your work faster. For example, if you’re hovering over a card, pressing “e” will open the quick edit mode.
- Power ups. Trello integrates with a number of different apps allowing you to enable extra functionality for boards. To enable them, go to the side menu on your board, click on “Power Ups” and select any you’d like to use. For example, enabling “Voting” will allow your team members to vote on cards and may help you to prioritize work.
- Copy/paste to cards. If you have a list created in Word or Excel, Trello will offer you the option of creating a separate card per list item once you paste it.
- Color-blind friendly mode. Color blindness is a relatively common problem, so if you’re color-coding cards, there’s a chance you have team members who struggle with them. Trello’s color-blind friendly mode uses patterns to make labels distinguishable.
Slack has really taken off as an efficient communication app among teams, or even between contractors and their clients. Its simple interface and innovative “Slackbot” for real time assistance, as well as the clear organization of communication, have helped to drive the popularity of the app.
Slack has an advantage over communication tools like Skype or the back and forth of email; all conversations are easily searchable so nothing tends to get lost. You can also attach files so that important information is kept together.
Want to know a few “Slack hacks”? Here’s some we know of (there are plenty more too):
- Keyboard shortcuts. If you want a quicker way of navigating with keyboard shortcuts, hit ctrl + / (PC users) or command + / (Mac users).
- Change the sidebar theme. Sometimes you belong to more than one team on Slack and it’s just easier to keep track by using different visuals. This changes the theme that you see only, so you don’t need to be concerned about messing with it for others!
- Close visuals. We love a good GIF or meme, but sometimes your computer speed is having none of it. To close visuals, type /collapse.
- Pin files. Sometimes you need to keep important files front and center in a group. To do so, find the shared file, click “show message actions” then “pin to group”.
- Quote messages. If you need to go back to respond to a previous message, it can be easier to quote the message. Hover over message, select “copy link”, then paste it to a new message.
Basecamp is one of the original cloud-based project management apps and is popular for teams who need a comprehensive tool. Its basic plan for internal teams offers unlimited projects and 100GB of storage space, while other plans go up in storage and availability to external users.
Basecamp tends to be complimented for being intuitive to use and having “Apple-like”, simple features. It automatically sends a daily email to keep team members in the loop with where projects are at.
Basecamp shortcuts include:
- Keyboard shortcuts (of course!).
- This cheat sheet for power users.
- Drag and drop files and reordering.
- Support for Google Docs – view them inside Basecamp.
Toggl is a great choice for teams or individuals who need to accurately track time. It’s available on iOS, Android and desktop and is popular largely due to its simplicity and ease of use.
Of course, Toggl’s most important feature is to show you exactly how you spend your time, so that you can assess reports and look for where you might be more efficient. You can indicate whether time spent was billable or not and integrate it with other apps, such as Quickbooks for more seamless billing.
We don’t really have “hacks” here, but if you are able to use the desktop app, it gives you the advantage of not having to remember to turn on a timer. You can set it so that Toggl monitors all of your website and program activity if you wish.
Todoist is a task management app that helps you to manage your to-do list across multiple devices. It comes with a clean, simple interface and begins with a free plan, although this has limited functionality in comparison with paid plans.
Todoist allows you to share projects with others (up to 5 people on the free plan) and allows a large number of open projects (80 on free and going up from there on paid). You can prioritize tasks and some of the cool, paid features include being able to set location-based reminders. Premium also allows you to add labels and tasks via email.
Here are a few “lesser known” Todoist tips:
- Create a task that cannot be checked off by putting an asterisk ahead of the title. This can be useful to prevent accidental removal of tasks that have a lot of sub-tasks attached.
- Format text. Add bold or italics with Command + B (or I) for Mac users, or CNTRL + B (or I) for PC users.
- Add tasks from your wearable. If you’re on the go, you can use natural language with Google or Siri to add new tasks and due dates.
- Location-based reminders. This is a cool feature if you just want to remember to do or get something when in a certain area. You can set a task and have it remind you as you are entering or leaving an area.
- Calendar sync. Sync your to-dos with Google Calendar.
Github is a popular tool for developers so that they can host, manage and share code. Of course, they can also keep their work completely private if they wish.
Github is like a safety net for version control of code and for allowing a collaborative approach for development teams. A few tips include:
- You are able to copy and work with open-source code snippets. This can be a great way to learn about different practices and is especially good for newer developers.
- Look for repositories that have been starred a number of times. This means that people have found the information useful.
- Use the keyboard shortcuts.
When you put all of these tools to use separately, it can wreak havoc with your daily workflow. Many people have suffered from “tool fatigue” over the plethora of tools available and the fact that often, using them becomes an extra, somewhat inefficient task, particularly if you’re jumping between different apps.
Rindle is the solution to streamline workflow automation and have all of those amazing tools you use together in one simple interface. If you suffer from “too many tabs open”, Rindle can help by creating workflows from those various channels and pulling them into one, kanban style interface.
Features such as tags, sub-cards, watch cards and calendar sync help you to keep a better handle over what is going on and what takes priority. Rindle integrates with all of the apps previously mentioned here, as well as several others.
There tends to be an app for everything now, and productivity or time management is no different. The key is often not whether there is something that will help you, but sorting through the many options available.
Before you get overwhelmed by the choices, determine which functions and features you really need to improve your productivity. Using too many tools can simply create another productivity problem for yourself.
The apps we’ve outlined are very popular in their category and can be used to good effect. Check out which integrations they have available if you want to take streamlining a step further. It’s always better if you can reduce the number of steps!