There’s always opportunities to improve your workflow and process. Align your team, surface key insights, and get more done with these tools.
Stuck staring at the same to-do lists for hours? Having trouble dividing up large tasks into smaller, more achievable milestones? Trust us, you’re not the only one. It’s a difficult thing to spend time and effort considering how to improve work habits – especially in start-ups where time is an extremely valuable (and rare) resource. There are always too many things to get done, and not enough hours in the day. But, spending time working on “how you work” can pay off spectacularly. Done correctly, this mindset can spread throughout teams and companies to get more done, better, faster.
As businesses begin to scale, operational debt and clunky communication channels can clog up the gears. What was once a smooth, perfectly oiled process within a small team can become impractically difficult to maintain while coordinating with multiple different teams (rather than a few individuals). Tasks that were once relatively easy to accomplish, like making a minor change to the website or scheduling a team meeting, now require multiple teams to coordinate and calendar slots to open up.
The same is true for agencies – if internal communication channels become foggy, or account managers are tied up in meetings all day, efficiency and resource gets locked up from returning value to your clients. And that rarely goes unnoticed.
One of the key differentiators between high-performing companies and those that lag behind is operational excellence and a productivity-oriented mindset. This isn’t just about getting work done faster; it’s about continually striving to improve processes so everyone can get more done. From high-growth start-ups to small agencies, the skill of “scaling yourself” is in high demand… and that often requires a bit more tooling than just post-it notes.
Thankfully, there are a multitude of tools to help teams manage their time and prioritize their tasks – whether you’re a 3-person start-up or global firm. These tools help in all sorts of ways, including task prioritization, calendar management, project management, recruitment, and process design and visualization.
There are a number of things to consider when deciding upon a particular productivity and operations tool. When selecting a tool or platform, you should bear in mind: product range and features, API access to tools you already use, platform customer service in case of issues, and tutorial materials to educate your team on how to use these tools. These qualities aren’t easy to compare across all the tools that are out there in this category. As a result, making an informed decision can often take hours of research and comparison. At least… it used to!
What type of Productivity and Operations tools are available?
There’s a huge range of tools available to help teams achieve more with their time. Some of the most popular tools aid with project management, designing workflows and processes, communication tools, and calendar management tools.
Where should I start with Productivity and Operations?
There are entire books written on this subject, and each arm of a business has a unique set of needs that require individual attention. The core practice to achieving better productivity and operational excellence is based on a principle of always examining how work gets done, and identifying areas where operations debt has accrued.
The real trick? Check in with your reports or team members regularly and ask them where they are spending a lot of time, and how these tasks or processes could be improved. Don’t let bad operation practices become the norm – or everyone loses time, money, and patience.
How do I pay for these tools?
Usually tools are paid for on a subscription basis. However, most tools do offer a discount if you buy an annual subscription compared to a monthly one. Payment options often include credit/debit cards and/or bank transfers. Don’t forget to add your VAT ID if you have one!
What are some common productivity pitfalls?
This is never a bad question to be asking. Examining processes can unearth all kinds of bad habits! For example, a lack of communication on projects can result in duplicated work – a disaster for project managers everywhere. In addition, scheduling an unnecessary meeting when a simple 5-minute conversation will do can waste a lot of time. Another thing to watch out for: always keep your asset management systems maintained. Even if it’s just a Google Drive, implementing a file naming convention or folder structure can save enormous amounts of wasted time.
The practice of thinking critically about how teams can work more efficiently is often assumed to be captured within some of the working frameworks you’ve probably heard of “Agile”, “Waterfall”, “Lean”, that sort of thing. The reality is that opportunities for productivity growth happens in between the bullet points of those frameworks – and teams need to always examine the processes that surround their work habits.
Can I add multiple users to the same account?
Most tools allow unlimited users. However, some can have limits on the number of users you can add. This is always worth double-checking before you create an account to make sure it’s a good fit for your business.
We include a range of Productivity and Operations tools in our comparison tables. In these comparisons, you will be able to find platforms and providers that are suitable for small sites and blogs, medium-sized businesses and digital agencies, all the way up to multinational e-commerce sites.
We recommend that you to review the strengths and weaknesses of each tool to find the one right for your particular requirements – there is no one-size-fits-all solution!
Organization Tools: This is where any team looking to improve their operations should start. These tools aid with task management, project management, and strategic planning.
Flowchart and Diagram Tools: Sometimes you just need to draw it. These tools help to visualize complex systems with flowcharts, workflows, and diagrams.
Instant Messaging Tools: Sometimes you don’t need to schedule a meeting to come to a decision. These tools help streamline team communications and support remote workers.
Appointment Scheduling Tools: Strip away useless diary juggling. These tools help collaborators and inbound sales leads find a time to talk.
Freelancer Platforms: Not every skill can (or should) be available in-house. These tools help connect expert freelancers with companies looking for specialist knowledge.