Get More Done with Less

Put Your Team’s Productivity Into Overdrive

Ever heard of the Japanese concept of ‘Kanban’? It might really help your business.

I pulled this article from Entrepreneur news feed.  Don’t get caught up in the details but focus on the theory behind them.  Regardless what your company does these processes can be executed at any level.  As a matter of fact it was all done on pen and paper before all of this computer stuff started coming around. – Gordon Lear LLC

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A typical day in the life of a professional team consists of an endless number of to-dos. Unless there’s a plan in place to tackle them, the items on the checklist pile up fast.

We are decades into the digitization of the world, but there still continue to be Luddites who would rather use pen and paper to make lists than use apps on their small-screen phones. Pen and paper? More reliable, these people believe.

But this approach cannot work in a company set-up where teams need to collaborate across offices and geographical locations, and where members need lists to be centralized so they can ascertain the status of tasks. Such centralization ability is especially helpful for big projects involving multiple players and tasks within tasks.

That’s where the right kind of project management software becomes essential: It can prevent confusion and improve productivity. Here are some simple but effective ways to help your team remain on top of the workflow.

There is a lot of shiny words below trying to explain a simple concept.  Kanban is just a big board (wall / whiteboard) with a bunch of “to-dos”.  Think sticky notes.  But the sticky notes are color coded based on priority and each person has a row to stick their notes in the to-do, doing, and done columns. I have found this to be an effective way to plan and track any project.  I have been using this type of process for years and it has never failed me. – Gordon Lear LLC

1. Kanban board apps for greater control

The meaning behind the concept known as “Kanban” becomes clear when you realize that the word literally translates from Japanese to signboard or billboard.

Yes, a billboard. A message spelled out in big, bold letters so that it cannot be missed.

Kanban board apps rely on their clever structure/software rather than size and flashy neon signs to help teams set up and execute systematic workflows. The underlying principle, however, remains the same: Messages are laid out in a way that makes it hard to miss those important to-dos.

While many to-do list apps have their place and a deservedly dedicated following, they might be somewhat flat in certain situations. Depending on the apps you use, they might  lack the ability to establish hierarchy; and they might present no way to intricately detail a task mentioned on the list.

A Kanban board, in contrast, helps users visualize workflow by splitting tasks into color-coded lanes that stand for simple and complex processes. Think of these as colorful digital sticky notes laid out on a screen with appropriate titles.

Quire implements the concept of the Kanban board and combines it with structured to-do lists to give companies ultimate control on workflow organization. It lets you break down big ideas into small chunks to create nested to-do lists and makes use of a Kanban board to color-code and visualize these steps.

From within the nested to-do lists, users can switch to the Kanban board to track progress and/or execute tasks, all from one place.

Other notable Kanban apps include the ever popular Asana, Github and Trello. Trello, in fact, may just have popularized the whole Kanban concept with its lean interface that requires almost no learning.

Smartly designed Kanban-board apps help teams streamline their work, track progress and spot obstacles as they arise. This promotes productivity, transparency and accountability.

Everyone has a To Do list and I am not sold you need an APP that is just for a To Do.  But I think this article misses the biggest productivity issue when it comes to do list.  Choosing what to keep off them!  I  build what I call a MUST DO list!  Keeping track of everything is one thing,  but knowing what are the high value tasks and which ones to let go are the difference between getting big things done and having trouble getting out of you own way.  Figuring out what NOT to do is just as important ask keeping track of what you MUST DO – Gordon Lear LLC

2. Invest in the right to-do list app for your team

Sometimes, especially if you are just starting out, a simple to-do list app is all you need. You don’t need a full-fledged project management tool, just  an effective checklist app that simplifies task management for your employees. The latter has its advantages; as a long-time user of Google Keep, my reliance on the app means I can’t go a single day without using it.

In an office setup, however, you need something more professional. We have many excellent choices in this field to help users organize their tasks and navigate through busy days and projects.

For instance, you can assign priorities, delegate tasks and set reminders with Todoist.

Any.do, meanwhile,  is a beautifully designed app that goes beyond being a barebones to-do tool and lets users set daily reminders in the form of push notifications. Users can also make voice entries, and drag and drop and swipe to complete tasks.

OneNote, which is offered as part of Microsoft Office 365 suite, is an excellent tool for task management. In its entirety there’s a lot this software helps small businesses with. But it can also be used as a checklist app on the phone.

Then there’s Evernote, the darling of all note-takers. The only problem I have with it is that it is very restrictive unless you purchase a premium plan.

All of these tools have collaborative features and integrate with other popular tools. Find the one best suited for your purpose.

Mind mapping isn’t a new thing but it sounds like a futuristic CIA spook concept to me. But all it really means is to take all that stuff that speeds through your head while you are trying to fall asleep at night and document it so you are not so overwhelmed.   Being able to see it all laid out allows you to see any gaps or opportunities that might not have been so obvious while it was a mashed up stealing your Z’s.  However, I am not sold on all these apps, I think there is a place for them, but not so sure it is at the core of the solution.  My fingers are not even close to being as fast as my head so this is where I go old school with a whiteboard. I can fill up four walls in about 10 minutes.  Of course I take pics with my phone and upload to OneNote so it still all goes digital. – Gordon Lear LLC 

3. Use mind maps to boost creativity

It would be reductive to say that a mind map is essentially multiple to-do lists in one. The reason: A mind map is so much more than that.

It’s a detailed drawing that allows users’ creativity to flow. It’s an excellent brainstorming tool, and it’s something I highly recommend all businesses invest in. Use it to start the conception journey for a project and see your productivity jump. Not just your productivity, but also the quality of your ideas.

With the right kind of mind-mapping tool, teams can visualize complex tasks in great detail, zero in on the gaps, see obstacles and predict outcomes that might otherwise be easy to miss.

MindMeister, Lucidchart and XMind are some of the top tools in this space. Their collaborative properties allow virtual teams to work together to create magic.

While smart time management is at the heart of productivity, the right tools can prove to be of immense value. If something doesn’t click, it’s a simple matter of switching software until you find which works. The range of tools in the market means that no business, no matter its size, need suffer a dip in productivity because of chaotic task management.

All three of these processes have been trending way up for years and there is a reason for it.  They work!   You don’t need to bring in new apps to apply some of these proven productivity boosters.   If you think improving your team production is a good idea for your company let me know.  I can help you with the learning curve and save you some headaches by showing you what works and what does not.- Gordon Lear LLC

The original article was published here.

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