10 Creative Ways to Save Time

10 Creative Ways to Save Time

Time is the most precious commodity we have, mostly because we have so little of it. Even the wealthiest of people can’t buy more time, and we can’t replace time that has been lost. This makes it important to make as much of your time as possible because wasted time is time that you will never get back again. 

The chances are that all of us are wasting time in some ways, even if we don’t realize it. Take watching TV shows, for example. Now, watching a TV show is not necessarily a waste of time per se – we all need our downtime. But how much time have you spent watching intros that you’ve already seen numerous times before? Last week, Netflix revealed that in the 5 years since introduction, the Skip Intro button had cumulatively saved it’s users a 195 years! 

Here, we look at ten creative ways to help you avoid wasting your precious time. 

1. Time Tracking

Many of us will be wasting time without even realizing it or not realizing how much we are spending on unproductive tasks. However, investing in time tracking software like the PK4 TimeTracker can help you recognize where your time is being spent. Using time tracking tools makes it easier to know how to make adjustments to your day so you become more productive in project management.

2. Avoid Multitasking

Many people believe doing more than one thing at once is a great way to get more done to save time. However, quite the opposite is usually true. Indeed, studies have shown that we can lose up to 40% of our productivity if we try multitasking. Instead, it’s best to focus on one thing at a time, moving on to the next task as soon as the previous task is done.

3. Make the Most of Waiting Time

We all need to wait sometimes. Whether it’s in a waiting room for an interview or on a train on the way to work, there are moments when we are essentially doing nothing productive. However, you can even use these moments to get something done. Some tasks can be completed with a laptop or even a smartphone, leaving you free for other tasks later on. 

4. Delegate

Many tasks are time-consuming and unproductive, but they still need to be done. If you have such tasks on your itinerary, you could consider delegating accountability to somebody else. Delegating unproductive tasks will give you more time to focus on what matter most, boosting your productivity overall and making for good project management.

5. Avoid Pointless Meetings

A common issue that affects team management is calling meetings for no good reason. For example, some will want to call meetings to distribute work management reports that could otherwise be shared and discussed by email. If you are called to a meeting that you feel isn’t necessary, politely decline if you can. It’s important to be tactful because refusing to go to too many meetings could give the wrong impression, but it’s something to consider when you’re busy.

6. Learn To Say NO

Learning to say no is one of the most important skills to master when it comes to time management. Too many people will gladly disturb you when you’re already doing something, hindering your performance in the process. When it comes to team management, it’s important to draw lines and say no when people are disrupting your working day. It’s OK to allocate some time in the day to other people, but they need to know to leave you alone when you’re working. This includes friends and family as well as colleagues and employees. 

7. Plan Your Day

Planning your day ahead will help give your performance a boost. You will be able to see what needs to be done and when, making it easy to identify potential issues before you get started. Making to-do-lists will help you plan your day, while you can also use online calendars with staff and colleagues so they know what you have planned. 

8. Prioritize Your Tasks

A key tip to effective product management is to focus on your most important and most productive work priorities, and tools like the timeboxing technique will help you achieve this. Make sure to do the most important and most productive first, leaving the rest for last. Even better, delegate the least important tasks to give you more time to focus on important things, including essential downtime.

9. Automate

Many menial tasks will take a long time, but one of the advantages of menial tasks is that you can automate many of them. Some tasks like processing emails and replying with messages can be automated, potentially reducing wasted time and boosting your productivity. Another advantage of using automation tools is that they give you access to feedback data, which can empower you to make impactful decisions.

10. Look After Yourself

Taking accountability for your well-being is one of the most important time management skills you could learn. Eat well, sleep well, get a reasonable amount of exercise and give yourself time to relax. When you look after yourself, you are better prepared to handle whatever comes at you, making you more efficient. You will get through tasks quickly and accurately, helping to save time overall.

Summary

This is just a small selection of creative ways you can save time. In many cases, we aren’t even aware of how much time we are wasting, and time tracker tools can help highlight areas for improvement. Planning your day and avoiding unnecessary tasks and meetings can also help, while automation tools are also beneficial. But, perhaps most importantly of all, make sure to look after yourself so you’re firing on all cylinders. 

If you have other effective ways to save time, do share it with us in the comments. Would love to hear from you.

Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

 

7 Tips to Make Team Meetings Productive

7 Tips to Make Team Meetings Productive

Productivity is an essential metric for businesses. Without high performance levels, targets aren’t met, and the bottom line can be affected, potentially jeopardizing the company. Some methods can keep performance levels high. For example, time tracking software like the PK4 TimeTracker will help make time management easier and limit wasted time.  

Individual employees must work together as a team for maximum project management effectiveness. However, getting individuals to work together can be easier said than done, with meetings often necessary to help the team gel as a unit.

Regular meetings can help make team management easier and boost productivity by getting everybody together and discussing roles and processes. Here are a few tips to help you get the most from your team meetings.

1. Create An Agenda

No meetings should begin without a meeting agenda. You should also send a message to others beforehand to ask if there’s anything they’d like to add to the schedule. Once you’ve created your agenda, you should ensure that everybody has a copy before the meeting starts.

An agenda is important because it helps ensure that everything is covered. A plan will also help ensure there’s enough time to cover everything, and it also helps you allocate time to agenda items to ensure they don’t’ run over.

During a meeting, it’s easy for people to come up with ideas that are not on the agenda, which could derail the meeting. However, such ideas may be valuable and should not be wasted. A solution to the issue is the parking lot technique that lets ideas be ‘parked’ so they can be revisited later.

2. Create the Right Environment

For a meeting to be constructive, it needs to be held in the right environment. The right environment means being in a place where you are not disturbed and where everybody has the opportunity to speak freely. Also, make sure that there’s plenty of space, everybody is comfortable, and you have all the tools you need.

In some cases, it can be constructive to hold team meetings in a casual environment with beanbags and other comfortable sitting arrangements. Helping people relax can help them think easier, helping their creativity to come out.

If your meeting involves remote workers, make sure all the equipment is in place at both ends. It’s a good idea to check equipment first to help ensure audio and video is clear and any other required functionality is working.

3. Assign Meeting Roles

Some meeting attendees should be given specific roles that will help ensure the meeting goes smoothly and is productive. The manager will usually lead the meeting, while other important roles include note-taking and time keeping.

It can also be a great idea in some meetings to assign somebody the role of devil’s advocate. This person will have the responsibility of challenging ideas to provoke thought. The devil’s advocate doesn’t necessarily have to disagree with ideas they are challenging – it’s more of a brainstorming exercise. 

4. Talk About Teamwork Not Reports

 Team meetings should ideally be about teamwork and work priorities. For example, team meetings should cover matters like roles within the team and if there is anything team members can do to be helping each other more.

It might be tempting to use a team meeting to distribute reports on project management, but this would be a waste of valuable time. Instead, reports can be sent before the meeting is held, so time is spent on more productive discussions. It’s a good idea to send the reports in plenty of time, so everybody has a chance to read them.

5. Assign Accountability

It’s all very well talking about what needs to be done, but one of the key issues is ensuring people know who is responsible. During the meeting make sure to assign accountability to the appropriate people so everybody understands who is responsible. Not only does this help the person responsible understand their role, but it also helps the rest of the team understand their position in the group. Assigning accountability during a meeting is also effective team management because it allows people to voice any concerns they might have. 

6. Ask For Feedback

No meetings should be a monologue coming from the meeting leader. Instead, they should be an opportunity for everybody to get involved and say their piece. Not only should you allow people to speak, but you should actively encourage them to speak. If needed, make sure to address everybody individually to make sure they know they have a voice.

Active listening is also very important for workplace management. Active listening means letting people speak and considering everything they are saying. Don’t be too quick to pass something off if it doesn’t sit well to begin with; the person speaking might have a very good point. 

7. Make Meetings Fun

Meetings can become boring and, when things get boring, even the most attentive of people can begin to drift away. However, if you make your team meetings fun, then you’re likely to keep everybody’s attention. So add some wit to your meetings to help make them enjoyable, while you can also try role play for a fun way to help team members understand other people’s roles in the team.

Of course, it’s important to remain professional and ensure that everything is covered. If things start getting a little too rowdy, it’s best to bring everybody’s attention back to work priorities. 

Summary

These are just a few tips that will help ensure that you get as much as possible from your meetings. Different types of organizations will need to adopt different models according to the nature of their work. For example, some will need to focus on creativity during their team meetings, while others will have more of a focus on technical issues.

Regardless, if you prepare and execute your meetings accordingly, they should help make project management easier. Do share any other tips that you find useful to make meetings more productive.

Photo by Joseph Mucira on Pixabay

 

6 Tips for Effectively Communicating Project Delays

6 Tips for Effectively Communicating Project Delays

It doesn’t matter how effective you might be at team management; it’s all but impossible to avoid the possibility of something going wrong with projects sometimes. In many cases, problems might be completely out of your hands. Delays are not uncommon, a survey has shown that a staggering 77% of projects run late, with 75% going over budget.

Although delays can be infuriating for all involved, project management will need to keep their focus and concentrate on what to do next. An important part of dealing with delays is communicating them with the client. This can be tricky to do and get the desired results, so here are 6 top tips on how to communicate project delays effectively.

1. Update The Customer as Soon as You Know

Having to tell a client that their project is delayed can be an awkward situation and something that a lot of people would try to avoid if possible. This might lead some people to try and delay telling the client, but this is only likely to worsen the situation.

It’s best to make the client aware of any delays as soon as you know. Doing so will help you maintain your professionalism despite the delay. It will also help give the client time to make other necessary arrangements. If you leave it until the last minute, you can leave the client in a tough situation with no time to fix it.

2. Keep Records

If there is a delay, the client may have questions. In such cases, it’s best to have all the answers available to you. 
Keeping productivity records will ensure you can show the client that you’ve practiced strong team management to keep the project running on time. You can also consider using project management software like the PK4 Time

Project Management in the PK4 TimeTracker

PK4 TimeTracker Gantt Chart

Tracker to help ensure you can show your client that your team has been working hard to reach the best possible performance levels.

Using a project management tool like the  PK4 TimeTracker can help you manage projects, organize tasks and build confidence within your team. You don’t need to shuffle between complex spreadsheets, email and other tools to keep your projects on course. Everything happens within one integrated system. And you’ll have all the time that your team has spent on the project, right at your finger tips. So you can present accurate data to your customer to back up your efforts.  And you can make it easy by giving your contractors access to the PK4 TimeTracker Mobile or Web app, so that tthey can track their time to the project as well, without needing to be in Salesforce.

3. Have a Solution Ready

Before you let your client know about any delays, it’s best to have a solution available. When you have a solution available, it helps to demonstrate that you’re doing what you can to rectify things as soon as possible.

Having a solution is one of the most important aspects of workplace management. Telling the client about your solution will help to take the edge of the bad news and help them to focus on the positives instead. It also allows the client to have their say about your solution, allowing them to contribute to making it work.

It’s important to remain positive yourself. Remember, you’re the professional and project management is what you do best, so you should always give the impression that you’re in control even when overall performance doesn’t go to plan.

4. Don’t Blame Others

Blaming other people for poor performance is a sign of poor team management, no matter how accurate you might be. If the client presses you for specific reasons regarding work priorities or similar, you should be honest with them, but it should never be done to try and deflect blame away from yourself.

Blaming others will make you look very unprofessional and will achieve nothing. It can make you look as though you’re unwilling to accept responsibility yourself, which could make your client concerned about how the rest of the project management will go.

There’s no need even to mention why a project has gone wrong or who is to blame in most cases. The client will usually only be concerned about what is being done to get everything back on track as much as possible. 

5. The Client Is Not Your Enemy

It’s entirely understandable if the client is frustrated at delays. After all, they have their time management and other issues to worry about. However, this does not mean a client becomes the enemy if they express their frustration.
Remember that the client will want the project completed in good time more so than you do, and they will likely cooperate with any attempt at getting things going again. You will likely need their cooperation to keep productivity high and get the project back on track, which means not making enemies.

You should certainly avoid saying it’s the client’s fault; doing so will only make them defensive. Instead, try to focus on work priorities and do what you can to get the client and team members working together to reach the same goal.

6. Update Often

In the case of a delay, it’s a good idea to keep the client regularly updated. They will be eager to know what progress is being made and will likely become frustrated if kept in the dark. You don’t necessarily need to keep in touch with them every day, but you should at least keep them posted on significant developments.

By keeping the client updated, you can help put their mind at rest while also giving them the opportunity to contribute. They may have a way of helping to make everything run as desired, so it’s a very good idea to have them fully on board. 

Summary

While communicating project delays can be awkward, you can make things go much better if you communicate effectively. Remember to communicate as quickly and as honestly as possible and be ready to present a solution. It’s also essential to always remain professional. Avoid blaming other people and instead focus on what you intend to do to overcome the problems you’re facing.

Keeping time management details and other useful records can also be very beneficial. Doing so can help you identify where things went wrong, and they can also show to clients that you’re doing your best if you’re pushed to give explanations. Regardless, it’s best to keep on communicating clearly and do what you can to keep the client and your team working hand in hand with you. 

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

 

Great Customer Service Productivity Metrics

Great Customer Service Productivity Metrics

Customer service productivity metrics are essential for any business that wishes to remain competitive. However, not just any productivity metrics will do because it’s essential to get feedback on what helps drive your business and keep your customers happy.

The need to use the right metrics leads to the question of which metrics you should use, so let’s take a closer look.

Staff Productivity

Case Console with automatic timer

By staff productivity, we mean time spent by staff on productive tasks rather than time-consuming, menial tasks that offer little value. It’s not to suggest that employees are necessarily lazy, but some processes might take up much of your team’s time without you realizing how inefficient your processes are. A survey has shown that around 89% of people waste time every day at work, making it an issue that clearly needs addressing.

One way to help ensure your staff are working productively is to track how much time they spend on particular tasks. Sophisticated time tracker software like the PK4 Time Tracker makes it seamless for you to track how long your staff are working for, including a breakdown of which tasks they are working on. Armed with this information, you can refine and streamline your process to help ensure your staff get more done during their working day.

Time tracker software can also help reduce time spent on other tasks like updating systems with cases that were worked on during the day. Such features help to reduce the workload on staff, giving them more time to focus on more productive tasks.

Ticket Volume

Even the hardest working and most efficient staff are only human. If there are too many tickets to process, some customers will be left waiting too long for a resolution. Monitoring your ticket volume will help ensure your customer service teams can cope with their workloads. When monitoring ticket volume, you can get helpful information like which days of the week are busiest and whether you need more staff to help.

In addition to looking at ticket volume, you should also monitor ticket backlog. If the backlog is building then, it’s a clear sign that you need to take action, especially if there are tickets not being resolved at all due to staff being too busy.

First Response Time

Making customers wait too long for a response from customers services makes a bad impression. Make them wait for too long, and you may end up losing them altogether. The need to make a good impression makes it essential that your customer services department delivers a good response time.

Monitoring first response time will help give you a good overview of how effectively your case management is and whether you have enough staff to cope with the workload.

Average Resolution Time

Responding to queries is a good start, but how long it takes to solve resolutions is another critical metric. If issues take too long to resolve, customers are likely to become frustrated, which could easily mean they choose to do business with your competition instead. Calculating your average resolution time is easy. Simply divide the total time spent on resolving tickets by the total number of tickets processed, and you have your figure. Automatic case time tracking software will help make this easy for you.

You can improve average resolution times in several ways. For example, empowering your agents with an appropriate customer relationship management (CRM) platform will help ensure they have quick and easy access to all the details they need. Another potential solution is to check that your agents have sufficient training in resolving customers issues.

First Contact Resolution

The holy grail for customer service teams is to solve customers’ problems on the first contact. Customers may begin to get quite frustrated if they must call or message multiple times to have their problems solved. Like average response time, the first contact resolution metric will help you gauge how well trained and equipped your agents are for case management.

Customer Satisfaction Score

The customer satisfaction metric probably speaks for itself and is one of the most powerful customer service metrics there is. This metric involves asking customers how satisfied they were with your customer service department. It’s also an opportunity for you to discover what you could be doing to improve the experience for your customers.
In many cases, customers’ opinions can be gathered with help from automated messaging systems or similar. At others, it might be necessary to run customer surveys to gauge how satisfied or otherwise your customers are with your service.

Customer Churn Rate

No matter how much effort you put into solid customer services, some of your customers will still leave. The number of customers who stop doing business with you is known as churn rate, and the lower the churn rate, the better.

Churn rate is an important metric because it helps you look deeper into why your customers might be leaving. If a customer says they are happy with the service they received from your agents but still left, it suggests another underlying issue that you need to address.

Summary

If you don’t monitor how well your customer service department is doing, it can be easy for standards to slip, which could be very bad for business. Above is a selection of metrics that you can use to help ensure your business remains effective at case management, maintaining customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

It’s important to remember also that technology has transformed the way we communicate in recent years, and your customers will expect you to adapt accordingly. Not only that but using the right technology can help you keep your staff productive by monitoring which tasks they are working on. The right technology will also help ensure your customer service agents have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.

Plugging Gaps in Customer Support Revenues

Plugging Gaps in Customer Support Revenues

Interview with Mr. Jason Liner, VP FP&A MercuryGate International, Cary NC

MercuryGate is the only full power, feature-rich transportation management system (TMS) that is singularly focused on strategic freight transportation management automation and has been for over two decades. The result is the best-of-breed transportation management platform that enables logistics experts to execute efficiencies previously unattainable and empowers relative newcomers to perform at expert levels they could not otherwise achieve.

The MercuryGate TMS simplifies and centralizes the management of freight transportation within a single software platform to save time and money for shippers, 3PLs, brokers and carriers around the world. The platform supports all modes of transport including ocean, air, rail, truckload, LTL, last mile, parcel and intermodal to give you visibility to every shipment, automate manual processes, and make smarter decisions based on delivery performance.

Mr. Jason Liner is the Vice President of Financial Planning and Analysis at MercuryGate International.

1. What is your primary role in the company?

My primary role is in Financial Planning and Analysis. As a part of my role, I work across Finance, Operations, Product Development, and Product Strategy. I help drive strategic decisions throughout the business, isolating issues and articulating appropriate business solutions.

2. What was the main challenge that you wanted to solve?

Some of our customers pay separately for Customer Support. For those customers, support is not a part of their subscription fees. We also do a fair amount of implementation services for our customers. We have three different teams working on customer-facing issues. There are Tier-1 and Tier-2 Support teams, the implementation team, and sometimes the development team. All these teams primarily work in different siloed software systems – the Customer support team in Salesforce, the implementation team in OpenAir, and the dev team in Jira. Our billing to customers is done based on the Case Number in Salesforce on yet another system. Reconciling hours spent on customer Cases across these systems was a nightmare. Some of the time details would have missing Case numbers. In addition, since some of our teams needed to log their hours in duplicate, they would often forget to do that. We recognized that we were losing out on our support revenues with all these issues. We desperately needed a single system-of-record for the hours that the different teams worked on Customer Cases. One that we could easily integrate with our billing system.

3. What is your number 1 challenge to tracking employee performance? 

Disparate and siloed systems for different teams

4. What is your team size?

About 120 people in Customer Service and Implementation teams. Plus, another 50 people in the development team who also work on customer-facing issues.

5. What are you currently doing to make your customer service team more efficient?

We have implemented the PK4 TimeTracker for all our teams in different ways. For the Customer Service team, which works in Salesforce, we have implemented the Time Tracker lightning component that tracks time right inside the Case. The process is highly efficient, and we are now tracking every minute that the team spends on a Case. For the development team, we have integrated their Jira worklogs to be brought into Salesforce directly via the TimeTracker. So their time is recorded automatically into the Time Tracker, without their having even to click a button. Our Implementation team uses the Time Tracker web app to track their hours whenever they need to work on a Case. So all hours worked are now directly tied to Cases, and it all happens seamlessly.

6. What has been the significant impact for you?

Within the first month of implementing the Time Tracker, we’ve seen our Support revenues go up because all the hours are now accurately tracked. The time that we spent reconciling and billing customers has also drastically reduced.

Manage Projects Efficiently and Get Paid Faster

Manage Projects Efficiently and Get Paid Faster

Late payments can play havoc with a company’s cash flow. Such disruption can result in shortages meaning there’s a lack of funds to reinvestment in the company or even difficulties paying bills and staff. Regardless, studies have shown that around 64% of small companies have experienced not being paid on invoices for 60 days or longer.

There are various reasons for late payments from clients. One reason is the client lacking funds themselves, while another potential reason is a lack of organization. The company doing the work is also sometimes at fault, such as delayed delivery, quality issues, or administrative problems. 

One way to ensure that you’re paid for projects on time is to run the project as efficiently as possible.

Define the Project Before Starting

One way to help ensure you get paid on time is to define the project before starting. You need to define the scope of the task, which materials are needed, how long it will take, and who will be working on the project.

By defining the project fully, you can give an accurate quote and completion deadline, meaning the client is less likely to have anything to contest when paying. Defining the project will also help ensure you get paid fairly for your work and have everything you need to do the job. 

Track Your Team

Manpower is one of the most important ingredients of just about any project. Your staff’s experience and skills are necessary to get the job done and even the most advanced technology cannot replace most human tasks. However, as important as manpower is for getting a project finished, it is also one of the most expensive aspects. Manpower can also be one of the most difficult variables to manage.

However, solutions like PK4 Tech’s time tracking software can help to make it much easier for you to track and manage your team. For example, the technology can let you know where an employee is at a particular time, what they have been working on, and how long they have spent on certain tasks.

This ability to monitor employees in such a way is beneficial for numerous reasons, including:

  • Error Reduction: It can be very easy to make errors when timesheets are created. People are unlikely to remember all the details of their working week, especially if they have been busy. Time tracking software will help to eliminate errors by tracking your employees’ actions for you. 
  • Improved Billing: Time trackers make it easier to track the amount of time working for clients. The software also makes it easier for you to send reports to your clients to keep up with the work being done and monitor the progress of the project themselves. With everything documented, clients are less likely to have a reason to delay their payments.
  • Monitor Productivity: The average employee will spend around 51% of their working day on unproductive tasks. It’s not necessarily their fault; people just won’t always realize how much time certain tasks are taking. With time tracking software, you can monitor how long employees are spending on tasks, helping you identify where they could be spending their time better.
  • Easy Processing: Processing timesheets can be a time-consuming and menial task for managers, meaning more important tasks are pushed aside. However, time-tracking software makes it much simpler for managers to approve timesheets. Instead of using paper sheets, managers instead have all the details they need on the screen in front of them. The software makes it easy to accept or reject timesheets at the touch of a button, and let employees know why their timesheet was rejected.
  • Budget Monitoring: It can be easy to go over budget if you’re not monitoring your expenses, but time tracking software makes it easy for you. With the right software, you can get the information you need at a glance, helping you make important decisions. 

Time tracking can help you manage your project more efficiently in numerous ways. In addition to the benefits already mentioned, the software can also produce comprehensive reports that give you the information you need to make impactful decisions. Not only that, but time-tracking software can also integrate with other systems, helping you get more value from them. Overall, the software can help you identify the most productive ways to work, while reducing errors and streamlining your processes. Your clients are more likely to pay on time with an efficiently managed process.