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A lot gets written and said about technology these days. Of course, this is hardly surprising when you consider that we live in the most technologically advanced age that the world has ever known, and that the repercussions of this are immense – both in terms of how we live our lives – and in terms of how we conduct our work.
Of course, there are certain reasons to be wary of some technologies and technological innovations. For example, the fact that we now store so much of our data online, means it is pretty much inevitable that we are infinitely more vulnerable to cyber attack, and data breaches, than ever before.
That being said, it is also the case that recent technological innovations allow us an unprecedented level of productivity, and opportunity, to the extent that these technologies can make or break our careers in many cases.
Of course, as the old saying goes “money is time”, and those who are able to get more done, in less time, and to a more exacting standard, are all but inevitably bound to prevail over the competition.
So, bearing that in mind, here are some examples of technologies that may allow you to get far more done with your business – and consequently improve your chances of success.
Virtual answering services
In all professions (more or less), answering calls in a professional and timely manner is an important skill and consideration.
Often, if you fail to answer a call from a would-be important client, they will take this as a sign of unprofessionalism, and will react accordingly by deciding to not use your services after all. Of course, even in the cases in which your prospective client has not immediately come to this conclusion, they may well decide that they can’t afford to wait around for an answer, and will therefore go elsewhere in the meantime.
In certain professions, however, the ability to take calls quickly and professionally is far more “make or break,” or even “life-and-death.” For example, in the legal profession.
These days, however, the Internet and the various high-speed communications technologies which we now enjoy have created a situation where third-party phone answering services are more effective and accessible than ever before.
What’s more, these services will often be aimed specifically at particular industries. So, for example, you will find an answering service for law firms can provide you a certain degree of quality, and a certain “phone style”, that is perfectly tailored to the norms and expectations of the industry.
Communication software (including virtual numbers)
If you’re a small business owner, or the type of solo entrepreneur who works out of their bedroom, you will undoubtedly want to present yourself in the most professional light possible – while also doing whatever you can to maintain an appropriate level of division between your personal and professional lives.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is highly likely that you will need to take client calls on a fairly regular basis, and to leave a phone number on job applications, business cards, and so on.
Of course, giving out your own private phone number might be a bit jarring, and disconcerting. Not least of all when prospective clients phone up without warning on the weekend or evenings, and you answer the phone in an all too relaxed, and all too unprepared manner.
Fortunately, modern communication technologies mean that it is now possible to have a “work number”, and the “private number”, without having multiple phones, and having to try and keep track of them at once.
This can be as simple as creating a Skype number, and leave yourself signed into your Skype account during the day. You can then buy Skype credit, set your number for the country of your choice, and have at it.
Of course, short of actual calls, there are many other tools that can be used for workplace communication – including Gmail’s inbuilt “chat” function, and services such as Trello’s chat function.
Task and project management tools
A lot of things can go wrong when you’re trying to figure out how to organize, and execute your plans for a business venture.
You might, for example, be tricked into wasting an exorbitant amount of time on a given path of action, without first doing your due diligence and ensuring that it will actually yield dividends.
Then again, you may simply never come to the point of being able to reasonably identify what the “most important” next action is for any given project.
Many project and task management systems have been developed over time, in order to address the specific issue. The famous Getting Things Done system, created by David Allen, is one of the leading productivity systems in use in business. It rests entirely on the fundamental premise that the human mind isn’t very good at organizing things – only generating new ideas.
These days, there are a wide variety of task and project management tools available in digital format, that are powerful and nuanced enough to change your professional life. These range from the basic and “free” – such as Microsoft To Do, which is built on the premise of helping you to track your projects and to-dos in one central location, and then identify the tasks that you should execute on, on any given day – to the more complex, such as Trello, which are targeted specifically at team project management.
In any event, the key is that you find a task and project management tool that you can use comfortably, and which allows you to filter out redundant actions, and identify the most important “next step” to take.
Time management tools and software
It’s been said before, and it bears saying again, that “time is money.” No matter how well-off you may be in terms of your material resources, a business (or for that matter an individual) that doesn’t have a good grasp of time management, is in a deep rut, and is unlikely to thrive as a result.
Money can be earned and lost, but time is allocated in daily batches, and can never be regained once it’s been spent
All serious professionals – and just anyone who wants to enjoy the highest quality-of-life possible, for that matter – have to be very mindful of how they spend their time. In the case of entrepreneurs, though, time management is a truly fundamental necessity.
If you run your own business, and especially if that business is a start-up, you will have a dozen, or a hundred, different balls to juggle at once. Your ability to be efficient, and to allocate your time as effectively and carefully as you possibly can, is essentially equivalent to your ability to be successful in your business endeavors.
Fortunately, time management tools and software are among some of the most prevalent technological innovations in business. If you want to ensure that your team is wasting as little time as possible, you could use a service such as Time Doctor, in order to “keep an eye on them”, and automate “nudges” to remind them to stay on task.
Then again, if your time management issues are of a more personal nature, you could sign up to a subscription with Rescue Time – a service which monitors how you spend your time at your computer, and uses learning algorithms to assess how “productive” or “unproductive” your days have been.
Then again, there are more basic systems available, which can be used for tracking the amount of time spent on a given project. Toggl, for example, allows you to monitor the amount of time that you spend on an individual project.