Asana – a great online organization tool

I love trying new applications to improve productivity, and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Asana.com.

Asana was developed to address the frustration of spending too much time doing “work about work.”

The founders, Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein, developed this web application to “empower humanity to do great things.”

It works wonderfully for both individual entrepreneurs as well as teams to improve their productivity.

How Asana benefits a small business owner

A small business owner can easily create a project, break it down into tasks and subtasks to be accomplished, and assign these tasks and subtasks to his/her staff. It is a great way to make sure that all staff members are optimally engaged in reaching the goals of the organisation, because you can see at a glance who is working on what, who has too much on their plate, and who can be given more responsibilities.

It is also a great tracking tool of what has been accomplished during a set time period.

An example of how a virtual assistant could use Asana

A virtual assistant can open a Project for every client, and list the tasks, subtasks, and due dates of all that should be accomplished for each client. Every time a new task is received via email or other means, it can be added to the task list for that client. It is easy to see at a glance what needs to be done on a daily basis, as well as for making sure that none of the balls the virtual assistant is juggling fall on the ground. It is also simple to report on what has been accomplished, as the lists and the dates tasks were accomplished are already in an easy-to-use format.

I also like the ability to create repeat tasks for things that have to be done monthly, weekly, or at other preset intervals. Never again do you have to try to remember what needs to be done – it is all there at your fingertips.

If you have people that you outsource work to, you can invite them to specific projects and assign tasks to them as well as track their progress.

Asana can be used for personal projects too

It is not necessary to separate your work life and personal life. You can put all your projects and tasks into one place, so that remembering where you put certain information is never a problem again.

Asana is really a simple, intuitive online productivity tool. I can really recommend it.

Delegation and its consequences

What is delegation?

Delegation is sharing tasks and authority with your team in order to accomplish your goals more quickly and effectively.

What happens if you don’t delegate?

• Your stress levels increase because you have more work than you can cope with
• This leads to unaccomplished tasks on your plate
• Your small business suffers
• Client expectations are not met

What happens if you do delegate?

• You can meet the demands of your business
• You create competence in your employees
• You nurture a sense of responsibility and trust
• Your small business benefits
• Client expectations are met

Why is it so difficult to delegate?

I encounter small business owners daily who find it extremely hard to delegate. They know that it’s the right thing to do, but are scared of losing control of the outcome. They know that they can likely do the task themselves more quickly and better than if they delegate it. They also are afraid that the time it will take to supervise the task will be more than if they simply did it themselves.

I met a business owner with the motto: “If I do it myself, I know it will get done.” This may be true, but he has a huge amount of stress because he tries to do it all himself, and the prospects of his business growing past a one-man show is very slim.

A simple example of the consequences of delegation

A client contacts two small businesses to complete a similar project. The deadlines are tight.

The owner of Company A understands how critical time is. Because time is so tight, he cannot go back later to reconsider or check the work done. He considers that his team have made some mistakes in the past, so he decides to tackle the project himself.

The owner of Company B also understands how tight the deadline is. He also realises that he won’t have much time to review the work done. He therefore sits down and breaks the project into specific parts. He then delegates each part to a team member. This frees him to check the work, since he has also noticed that his team has made some mistakes in the past.

Both the small companies meet the deadline with their projects. However, Company B delivers a more complete and well-thought out project. Company A with its overburdened manager ended up sacrificing quality just to get the job done.

Who will the client chose for the next project?

Identifying Gaps in Productivity – A Case Study

A certain new subdivision of a company managing a 5-year project approached me recently.  They had been formed 6 months previously, and were in the process of setting up administrative and operational systems in order to support the implementation of the project.  This involved establishing all office systems including administration, filing, communication and logistics.  They needed me to provide guidance and support to the project staff in setting up the required administrative systems.

Their brief was to

  1. Review the current project administrative systems
  2. Work with their headquarters to compile Standard Operating Procedures
  3. Assess the administrative staff capabilities and needs against job functions/responsibilities
  4. Recommend changes and additions to current systems and staff functions
  5. Provide on-the-job training in establishing the project administrative systems.

What was clear to me from this brief was that they had identified both systems and training as areas of reduced productivity, which needed to be addressed.

After reviewing the company documentation to find out what the goals of the organization were, my first step was to consult with the administrative staff to find out exactly where they stood regarding their systems and training.

What emerged during the interviews was very interesting.  Although there were areas of reduced productivity in their current systems which I identified and addressed, it seemed that there was a much larger problem:  the management.

The problems experienced were the following:

  • The manager of the subdivision was the typical example of a micromanager.  Although a very intelligent and competent individual, he could not trust his staff to do their work without his continual interference.  His frustrated staff, instead of supporting him and the goals of the organization, did everything they could to undermine him.
  • There was confusion among the staff as who to report to, as the existing reporting structure was not adhered to.
  • The administrative staff had no job autonomy.  They were constantly interrupted as line staff had “emergencies.”  Some of these “emergencies”  had nothing to do with the goals of the organization, but were of a personal nature.  The administrative staff had been reduced to running personal errands for fickle staff, and the core administration was not being attended to in a timely and efficient manner.
  • There was no means to evaluate the job performance of staff, resulting in some staff being overworked while others had nothing to do.  The staff had no motivation to perform well.

To remedy the management problem, I suggested that a team building exercise be held.  Each staff member could give a short presentation of what they do, as well as what they don’t do, what a typical day looks like, what is working/not working, what admin support they required, etc.  My idea was that this could lead to greater understanding and respect for each other’s roles in the workplace, and clarification as to who to go to when certain matters need addressing.

With excellent team building facilitators, the results of the team building was fascinating.  The managers realized what they were doing to their staff, and a process of forgiving each other and finding ways to work together more productively resulted.  It emerged that there was also conflict between the various managers, which impacted the staff, who were in turn forced to take sides.  To address this, a management platform was created, where the managers could get together and support each other on a regular basis.  They also had guest speakers on occasion, to help train them informally on how to manage their staff more effectively.

Examining the management was not part of my scope of work.  I examined the management because if there is insufficient management, no matter how well the systems work and how good the training and implementation thereof are, there will still be areas of reduced productivity.  It was clear that the productivity of the admin staff was directly impacted by the insufficient management.

My evaluation of the systems, training and management were not done in isolation to the real people who worked within the subdivision.  The subdivision was very fortunate to have staff who were highly qualified, loyal, dedicated, and goal-directed, and who, despite the problems they experienced, tried to make the best of the situation.

Once the management improved, overall productivity improved and the project could finally take off.

6 Steps to Find the Best Freelancers Online

As a small business owner you can outsource the tasks that you are not good at, so that you can focus on growing your business.  You don’t need a huge budget in order to outsource.  In fact, you can hire freelancers for small things, and then work your way up as your business grows.

But you could, however, feel that there is too much risk involved.  How do you ensure that a person you have never met face-to-face is the perfect person to do the job?  There are a few things to keep in mind.

1.  Be very clear with your instructions

Whenever you give instructions to people, be as clear as possible.  Many people overlook this.  But if you are paying by the hour, you want to save money by avoiding any confusion or uncertainty.

When you advertise your requirements, do it in a clear Step by Step format.  Beside avoiding confusion, you will be able to identify any potential bottleneck in the system.

You should also be clear on important items like deadlines, payment terms and any other expectations.

2. Check the credibility of your potential candidate

You want to work with a professional who provides quality work.  Some ways to check the candidate are what they say they are:

  • Have a look at the candidate’s portfolio.  Ask for examples of similar work done before.  Make sure that the candidate has worked on something similar before.
  • Contact the references given, or check for online references.
  • Google the person’s name, website name, and e-mail addresses.  You want someone with an established history.

3. Work according to milestones

If you need to outsource a big project, pay according to specific deliverables.  This protects you.  The worker is also protected if you provide an upfront deposit.

4. Expect short daily updates

Have the freelancer give you a short summary on:

  • What they did and the results they got
  • Any problems or challenges they faced
  • Any questions they might have

This way you keep on top of things.  Someone may forget to send you the summary.  It reflects on their calibre.  But for those that do remember, you can see how they are doing and fix any issues before they escalate.

5. Give regular feedback

Whether the work is done well or is subpar, give feedback.  Let people know exactly what they are doing right or wrong.  Focus on the positive, and build a strong relationship with your worker.

6.    Never hire someone full time immediately

Start by hiring a candidate for a small project.  You can then ask for more complicated work if you are satisfied.  Be sure that the candidate communicates well with you and that you feel comfortable with him/her.

It is actually very easy to ease the burden of your day-to-day tasks with a little planning and foresight.  You also have the opportunity to finish essential projects you simply don’t have time for.  If you would like to find out how Virtual Productivity Solutions can help you in this regard, visit our website.

11 reasons why we procrastinate

Procrastination is putting off tasks that you can do today.

Confucius says:  Do not do today what you can do tomorrow.

In running a business, this is a very sad state of affairs!  The results:

  • Missing opportunities to get new clients and build relationships
  • Customer dissatisfaction
  • Missing deadlines
  • Missing out chances to take your business to the next level
  • Less profit (if you’re lucky enough to even make a profit while procrastinating!)

A blog post on how not to lose employment states: “Making up lame excuses, even when there may be the slightest reality in it, will never justify the work undone.”

Do you procrastinate?

  • Do you often wait until the last minute to start a project?
  • Do you often put off making a decision about something?
  • Are you waiting for “the right time” to make that dreaded phone call, confront a lazy employee, or to prepare for your sales presentation?

Procrastination leaves us with an uneasy feeling of doom somewhere in the future.  Our productivity levels are impacted, because we cannot focus on the tasks at hand, knowing there is something we should do but we are avoiding.  Yet at some time or other, we are all guilty of procrastinating.

We know that procrastination is something to avoid, so why do we procrastinate?

Some reasons we procrastinate:

  • We feel overwhelmed (often because of an overload of information/details)
  • We get distracted
  • We think the task is more difficult than it is
  • We think the task will take more time than it does
  • Fear of success. If you complete it successfully, will you be able to keep up the momentum?
  • Fear of failure.  What if it is not good enough?
  • We’d rather be doing something else.
  • We hope if we wait long enough, the problem will go away.  The project will be cancelled, the employee will suddenly become productive, etc.
  • We want to do it perfectly.
  • We don’t want to assume responsibility.  After all, if I don’t do something, I cannot be criticised for it, can I?
  • We claim to enjoy the last-minute adrenaline rush.  We claim to thrive under pressure.

Can you identify with any of the above reasons?  Are there additional reasons you procrastinate?  Please share them with us below!