5 workplace time wasters (and how to eliminate them)

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Time wasters at workIf you think of your workplace as an obstacle course filled with distractions, you’re not alone. Between long meetings, emails, social platform notifications, alerts from your mobile phone and loud colleagues, most of us are inundated with potential time wasters. But the killer is not just the distraction, it’s how much time it takes to get your focus back on the task at hand. According to a UC Irvine study, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to where you left off, after an interruption. Honestly, it’s a wonder work gets done at all!

But maximizing your productivity at work can mean the difference between leaving at a reasonable time or being endlessly chained to your desk. Work-life balance is important to maintain your sanity and actually have a life outside work. So let’s identify some of the biggest time wasters in the workplace and see how we can address them.

Time Waster # 1: Email

We’ve all become addicted to email. It’s a great way of asynchronous

Too much email
Too much email

communication. Chances are checking email is the first thing you do when you wake up and the last thing you do before you go to bed. But emails can also lead to lots of unnecessary back-and-forth communication that wastes time. And with trigger-happy Reply All co-workers, your Inbox is probably full all the time!

Solution:

  • If it’s something that needs to be discussed, talk face to face with the person and get the issue resolved.
  • If you can’t do face to face, then call them on the phone and get the issue sorted out.
  • Follow the call with a quick email detailing what you discussed.
  • If you are not the person to whom the email is addressed, set it aside for later.
  • Check emails at specific times during the day. Respond to urgent ones quickly. Set aside others and Reply All emails to be dealt with at a later time.

Hack: If you are not the person to whom the email is addressed (you have only been CC:d), then don’t feel obliged to respond. Use the same logic when you send out emails too.

Time Waster #2: Meetings

Meandering Meetings
Meandering Meetings

Meetings can be a huge time-sink. And if they are poorly planned and executed, then they are doubly so.  Doodle (an online scheduling service) just released results of it’s study of 19 million meetings in the US, UK and Germany. The cost of poorly organized meetings just in the US in 2019 is estimated at $ 399 billion.

Solution:

  • Make sure that every meeting host has a set agenda to be discussed and that it’s distributed to attendees before the meeting starts.
  • Talk to the meeting host and ask why you should attend. If you feel that someone else from your team would be able to contribute more to the task at hand, then get them to go and give you an update.
  • If you are hosting the meeting, make sure that everything is set up and visual aids are up and running before people walk into the meeting.

Hack: Set up all your meetings to be stand-ups. Schedule them for 20-30 minutes. Very little chance that they’ll go over. 🙂

Time Waster # 3: Smartphones and Social distractions

Smartphones enable us to be more connected and tuned in. But it also comes

Social distractions on your phone
Social distractions on your phone

with a built in productivity sink. US adults spent an average of 3 hours 35 minutes per day on mobile devices in 2018. Recent research shows that 58% of staff spend at least 4 hours per week on non-work websites. That’s a lot of your work time that’s going into unproductive stuff.

Solution: 

  • Turn off all Notifications on your phone during work hours. Believe me, you’ll get a lot more done.
  • If you can’t resist checking your social media accounts every 5 minutes, block them.
  • Give yourself a proper lunch-break. Use that time to check all your social media accounts and non-work websites, without feeling guilty about it.

Hack: Put your phone face down when you’re working. Stops all calls and notifications. Most smartphones let you set up some numbers (family) that will still ring, when your phone is face down. But all other distractions will stop.

Time Waster #4: Chatty coworkers and a noisy office

It’s hard not to talk to colleagues. After all you spend 40 hours (perhaps more)

Chatty coworkers
Chatty coworkers

with them every week. But chatting with colleagues is one of the biggest time wasters. And with open plan offices, even if you aren’t chatting, the noise of others chatting, laughter, phone ring-tones can all contribute to stop you from staying focused.

Solution:

  • See if you can move or work in an empty conference area / room when you need to do focused work.
  • Limit banter to lunch time or break time.
  • If possible, see if you can work remotely when you have important things to complete.

Hack: Wear headphones while you work. Signals to your coworkers that you are busy and they’ll only disturb you if it’s work-related and important. Also, several studies state that listening to calming sounds like flowing water or rain can help you focus.

Time Waster #5: Failed multi-tasking

You probably think that multi-tasking makes you more productive. But the reality

Failed multi-tasking
Failed multi-tasking

is very different. Studies have consistently proved that the majority of people have lower performance when trying to do multiple tasks. So if you find yourself juggling 3 or more tasks at a time, it’s time to reevaluate your work habits.

Solution:

  • Spend some time creating a daily task list that promotes single-tasking.
  • Prioritize and then break up your day accordingly.  If possible, assign a set time to do each task, based on importance.
  • Complete one task before moving on to the next.

Hack: Put specific tasks at specific times on your calendar (phone/desktop/paper). Make sure that you do the tasks at those times.

While each one of these time wasters probably doesn’t seem that serious, collectively they can be a huge drain on your productivity and work time. They can prevent you from focusing on real work, causing you to stay late or taking unfinished work home to your family. I hope this list helps you identify your personal time wasters. And gives you some pointers on how you can get more quality time with your family and on things that you really enjoy. Good luck! And do share your tricks to eliminate time wasters.

 

 

 

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10 Inspirational Quotes About Time

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Each of us has things that we are passionate about. For us, that “thing” is Time. That’s the reason why our software products are all about helping people track time. Whether in the for-profit or in the non-profit world, our goal has always been to help track their work and volunteer time easily and effectively.

And that’s why we decided to put together this list of the 10 most inspirational quotes about time.  Here’s our list. If you have found (or made up) interesting quotes about time, please do share them with us. We’d love to hear about them.

Let’s start with this classic one about “Today”.

Quote from Bill Keane

How appropriate is this quote from Steve Jobs about the limited amount of time we have.

Steve Jobs quote

For someone who spent so much time imprisoned for his political activities, Nelson Mandela’s capacity for doing good is unmatched.

Nelson Mandela quote

The great writer – Leo Tolstoy – evokes a powerful image.

Leo Tolstoy quote

And how could Sigmund Freud have predicted the Internet’s obsessive hangup with cat videos?

Sigmund Freud quote

Only a poet could have painted such an evocative picture of the value of time.

Rabindranath Tagore quote

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol has some profound quotes including this one about time.

Andy Warhol quote

Here’s a humorous one. This one’s often mis-attributed to Groucho Marx.

Andrew Oettinger quote

And from William Penn, this one about what most of us do with time.

William Penn quote

And we wind-up with this succinct and completely relatable quote from Ben Franklin.

Ben Franklin quote

Here’s a bonus one. I couldn’t let you go without one from my hero – Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein quote

I hope these quotes will inspire you to spend your time wisely and perhaps have more fun, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is time really moving faster? The story of time measurement

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Talk to almost anybody and you’ll hear about how rushed their lives are and how they never seem to have time for anything. Talk to older people and they’ll tell you about how their growing up years were slower and gentler. So has time measurement changed? Are we measuring it differently now?

Think about life in an agricultural society. Nature set the pace there. Farmers woke up when the rooster crowed, ate their mid-day meal when the sun was right overhead, brought their animals home to the barn at dusk and went to bed, when night fell. A simpler time? Perhaps.

That worked when people lived and worked individually. Even when craftsmen and handloom workers worked individually or with a few apprentices, they had the luxury of doing things at their own pace, perhaps even taking a day off because they felt like it. But as work became more inter-connected and inter-dependent, that lifestyle began to change. And pretty dramatically at that.

The Industrial Revolution
Our modern value of time stems from the Industrial Revolution. It brought about a huge change in the perception of time. Time became more defined and standardized.

Factory Time

With the Industrial Revolution came factories. With factories came

The 8 hour work day
The 8 hour work day

machines. Machines were expensive to start and run. So the factory owners needed people to start and end work at specific times to maximize the use of their machines. And with that came the concept of factory clocks and loud sirens that aurally signaled to workers when they had to come in to work. Sirens or whistles would signal lunch times and break times. These break times were the only times that the machines would stop and fall silent. And gradually, all factory workers times and schedules got inextricably linked to the machine on-off times. Factory workers became slaves to time as demands for efficiency became greater.

As the Industrial Revolution progressed, banks and other commercial activities began to grow to provide services for the fast growing and expanding factories. While workers at these commercial activities were not ruled by whistles or sirens, they too had specific, defined work hours. Easier perhaps than those of the factory worker, leading up to the term “banker’s hours”.

Transportation time.

With roads and turnpikes and tracks for steam engines criss-crossing the country, the Industrial Revolution completely upended travel in England. And from a time perspective brought about big changes. Towns generally went by solar times and kept it’s own local time. Even in a country as small as England, these times could

Owen Blacker
1913 time zone map of the US

vary by over 30 minutes if the town were on opposite ends of England. Now transplant that same system to the United States and see how much more complicated things become in this vast country. The greater speed of locomotives made inconsistent times even more difficult to control. Scheduling trains and stage coaches was a nightmare. So uniform time became a big issue. As a result in England, a uniform railway time was adopted, based on the Greenwich Mean Time, leading to the division of the world into time zones.

Military time

The mania for timekeeping and efficiency spurred by the Industrial Revolution made pocket and wrist watches very popular. And with the growth of wrist watches, life became simpler for the military. It was easier to coordinate attacks across larger geographical stretches with officers having synchronized wrist watches. For the most part, officers were expected to purchase their own wrist watches, preferably with a luminous (radium coated) dial and an unbreakable crystal. By the end of the First World War, all officers and soldiers in the British Army had been issued wrist watches. The wrist watch made it simpler for soldiers to check the time, without having to take their hands off the gun to take out a pocket watch. After the war, men continued to wear their wrist watches, propelling them into the mainstream.

The number of minutes in an hour or the number of seconds in a minute has not changed over time. But the ruthless efficiency demanded by the Industrial Revolution, has regulated our lives and made more synchronized withe clock, rather than with the natural rhythms of nature.

 

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For whom the clock chimes… with apologies to Hemingway

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Every Sunday evening, I wind up an antique wall clock at home. Last evening, I

Pendulum wall clock
Pendulum wall clock

inserted the clock key into two winding points to wind the clock for the week, and painstakingly moved the minute hand around to set the correct time.  Then I made sure that the clock was correctly positioned. If not, the clock either runs too fast or too slow. As I did all these mundane tasks, I began to think of how quaint the whole process seemed in today’s fast-moving world, where things seem to change in a fraction of a second. And I began to think of how the process of time tracking began and changed over time.

So how did human beings first start tracking or measuring time? Ever since humans noticed the regular movement of the Sun, the moon and the stars, they observed the passage of time. Pre-historic people first recorded the phases of the moon 30,000 years ago, but the first minutes were accurately recorded a mere 400 years ago. Atomic clocks that allowed humankind to track the approach of the third millennium (the year 2001) by a billionth of a second are less than 50 years old.

Measuring time in ancient times

The earliest time measuring devices were made to divide the day or the night into different periods in order to regulate work or ritual, so the lengths of time periods varied greatly from place to place and from culture to culture.

An Egyptian obelisk
An Egyptian obelisk

Our sexagesimal  timekeeping was first started in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt nearly 4,000 years ago, Around 3500 BC, the Egyptians used tall obelisks to track the shadows cast by the sun, which helped them separate their days into two halves. They kept improving their time keeping with the development of the sundials around 1500 BC. The ancient Greek, Roman and Chinese civilizations all used sundials extensively.

Oil lamps and candle clocks were used for telling time in China. They were used to mark the passage of time from one event to another, rather than to tell the exact time of day.

And then we have the very interesting Water clock. The Water clock or Clepsydra was

Water Clock or Clepsydra
Water Clock or Clepsydra

invented around 1600 BC. It relied on the flow of water from or into a container. A simple water clock measures time by measuring the regulated flow of water into or out of a vessel of some sort.  Water clocks existed in Egypt and Babylonia as early as 1600 BC and possibly significantly earlier in India and China. While the clepsydra was more reliable than oil lamps and candle clocks, the water flow still depended on the variation of pressure from the head of water in the container. The ancient Greeks and Romans used complex gears and escapement mechanisms to increase the accuracy of these water clocks.

Samrat Yantra, Jaipur India
The world’s largest sundial in Jaipur, India

Sundials or shadow clocks which measure the time of day by means of the shadow cast by the Sun onto a cylindrical stone, was widely used in ancient times. In a typical sundial, the Sun casts the shadow of a gnomon (a thin vertical rod or shaft) onto a horizontal surface marked with lines indicating the hours of the day. It can give a reasonably accurate reading of the local solar time. As the Sun moves across the sky, the edge of the shadow aligns with different hour markings. Sundials can therefore only be used during the daylight hours.

Mechanical clocks

Mechanical clock in Prague
Mechanical clock in Prague

And as we moved to the middle ages, mechanical clocks started being used. Mechanical clocks with continually repeated mechanical (“clockwork”) motion, began to be developed independently in China, the Middle East and Europe in the early Middle Ages.  They used a method of gradually and smoothly translating rotational energy into an oscillating motion that can be used to count time. They used a variety of toothed wheels, ratchets, gears and levers. Early mechanical clocks were housed in church towers or important government buildings. Early clocks did not have faces and just struck the hour for religious or administrative purposes. By the late 14th century, the convention of a rotating hour hand on a fixed dial became common. These clocks were still not very accurate and errors of 15 minutes to an hour per day were common.

Spring Clock
Spring Clock

Spring driven clocks began to appear in Europe in the 15th century and new innovations were developed in order to keep the clock movement running at a constant rate as the spring ran down. As accuracy increased (correct to within a minute a day), clocks began to appear with minute hands, mainly in Germany and France in the 16th century. By the time of the scientific revolution, clocks had become miniaturized enough for wealthy families in Europe to have a personal clock, or perhaps even a pocket watch.

In 1656, the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens developed the pendulum clock, based on the earlier ideas of Galileo, who had discovered the isochronism, or constant period, of a pendulum’s motion in 1583. The pendulum clock used a swinging bob to regulate the clock motion and achieved an accuracy of within 10 seconds per day. with this level of accuracy, the seconds hand now became possible on clocks.

Mass production of clocks began in the United States in the late 18th century. In 1836, the Pitkin Brothers produced the first American-designed watch, and the first containing machine-made parts. New innovations and economies of scale with mass production, made the United States the leading clock-making country in the world. Competition reduced the price of a clock to $ 1 or less, making clocks affordable to a large number of families.

Modern clocks

An Electric clock, which winds the mainspring using an electric motor, was patented by Scottish clockmaker Alexander Bain in 1840. By the end of the 19th century, the invention of the dry cell battery made electric clocks a popular and mechanical clocks were now largely powered by batteries, removing the need for daily winding.

1915 wristwatch. Electa 250
1915 wristwatch. Electa 250

Meanwhile, the military hastened the development of the wristwatch. Most forms of communication were vulnerable to enemy interception. So the British military issued wristwatches to it’s officers in the late 19th century, so that they could coordinate activities and movements without having to communicate directly during battle. By the end of World War I, all British troops had been issued wristwatches specially designed to withstand the rigors of trench warfare. These troops returned to civilian life still wearing them, and they quickly became an indispensable time management tool for managers and workers. Wristwatches remained an indispensable part of daily life until the early part of the 20th century.

Apple Smartwatch
Apple Smartwatch

With the advent of cell phones in the late 20th century, many people replaced the wrist watch with their phones to tell time, as an alarm and as a timer. But in a remarkable switch around (and a validation of how quickly technology changes) wearable smartwatches are developing so quickly that they could replace smartphones. Smartwatches today, offer cellular connectivity and can function on their own. With a separate data plan, smartwatches can handle basic tasks – texting, emailing, workout tracking – without a phone in Bluetooth range. You can even make phone calls.

But with all the advances in technology, for me, the reassuring tick of my clock and the chimes as it strikes the hour and the half-hour signify a kinder, gentler time, when things moved an unhurried pace than ours. And I think of that immortal quote from the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” – “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings”….

 

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How the Gods and the Romans made your New Year

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Our lives are run by Time, and time begins with the New Year, in our minds. For most us in the Northern Hemisphere (where roughly 88 percent of the world’s population lives), though, starting the new year on January 1st feels strange and counter-intuitive. It’s the dead of winter and most of nature is quite literally sleeping. The way that we humans devised systems to track time has been a complex affair, influenced by religious traditions, politics, astronomical events and seasonal changes. So with all of those and more at our disposal, why does our new year start on January 1st, which is no time for renewal and rejuvenation.

So why Jan 1?

Simply put, it’s all about politics. When the Romans used a lunar calendar, the year began in March, on the day that the new consuls took office for the year. But the lunar calendar frequently fell out of step with the seasons and had to be corrected. To make matters worse, the Roman pontifices (who were charged with overseeing the calendar), often added days to extend political terms or interfere with elections. And here you were thinking that only the Russians did that….

So in steps my favorite Roman dictator – Julius Caesar – who decided that the

Janus, the two-headed Roman god
Janus, the two-headed Roman god

Roman calendar desperately needed to be fixed. With the aid of Sosigenes, an Alexandrian astronomer, Julius decided to do away with the lunar calendar completely and follow the solar year, as did the Egyptians. The year was calculated to be 365 and ¼ days. Caesar added 67 days to 45 B.C., making 46 B.C. begin on January 1st, rather than in March.

Julius also decreed that every four years an additional day would be added to February, thus keeping his calendar from falling out of step. This started our current practice of the Leap year.

The Roman God of beginnings and endings

January had a festival for Janus, the Roman god of time, duality, gates or beginnings. Janus’ has a most interesting association with time. His two heads were said to allow him to see both the past and the future. He was said to have witnessed the beginning of time, and could see ahead to the end.The association between Janus and the calendar was cemented by the construction of 12 altars, one for each month of the year, in Janus’s temple in the Forum Holitorium.

From 153 B.C. onwards, the Roman consuls took office on the first day of January, offering prayers to Janus. The Romans distributed dates, figs and honey to their friends, hoping that the new year would turn out to be as sweet, as well as coins hoping that the year would be prosperous.

The Middle Ages.

By the middle ages, the celebration of January 1st as the beginning of the new year fell out of practice, even with die-hard followers of the Julian calendar. This was because Caesar and Sosigenes were a bit off in their calculation of the length of the solar year. The correct value of the year was 365.242199 days and not 365.25 days. That 11-minute a year error added 10 days by the mid-15th century. So in 1570, Pope Gregory XIII commissioned Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius to come up with a new calendar. In 1582, the new Gregorian calendar was implemented, omitting 10 days for that year. And establishing a new rule that only one of four centennial years should be a leap year, thus correcting for the additional days in the Julian calendar. Since then, the Gregorian calendar has become the most widely used calendar across the world and people celebrate January 1st as the precise arrival of the New Year.

Are there other New Year dates?

Yes, there are. Even though most cultures follow the Gregorian calendar for day-to-day functions, plenty of cultures have their own calendars. Religious calendars from the Muslim, Hindu and Jewish traditions specify the beginning of their new year at different times in the Gregorian calendar. For example:

  • Sep/Oct in the Judaic tradition. The Jewish new year festival of Rosh Hashanah comes between September and October.
  • Changes every year, in the Islamic tradition. The Islamic new year fluctuates, thanks to it’s lunar calendar.
  • Persians and many others mark the new year on the first day of spring, in a festival called Nowruz. Nowruz coincides with the vernal equinox, which falls between March 19 to 21st and comes when day and night are exactly equal in length.
  • March / April, for Hindus. There are two schools of thought in the Hindu Calendar. One is lunar and the other is solar. So for some Hindus, the month of
    Balance of sweetness and bitterness
    Balance of sweetness and bitterness

    Chaitra is the first month and for others the month of Vaishaka is the first month. The first day of the month of Chaitra or Vaishaka (spring) is known as Yugadi (yuga – year and adi – beginning). Both dates fall in March / April according to the Gregorian calendar. Growing up in India, I remember that unlike the Roman tradition of just sweets, the Hindu new year tradition of bevu-bella (neem and jaggery) signified the symbolic balance of bitter and sweet in the new year.

  • January or February, for the Chinese. The Chinese New Year is also a spring festival which is a lunar festival and generally falls in end January or early February.

While a lot of cultures have their New Year’s day on different dates, celebrating the Julian/Gregorian New Year’s Day on January 1st is now universal. And the Times Square ball drop on a chilly New York night is a much watched tradition world-wide.

As we help our customers track time. we’ll bring you more interesting tidbits about work, time, life, phone and the balance between them. Wish you a very joyous, peaceful and healthy 2019.

Until next time!

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The Power of the Hub!

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It was a cold and stormy night…. Nope, not the start of yet another horror story. In fact this story is the exact opposite. At 2 AM on a chilly Bangalore night, there I was typing responses into an online spreadsheet. And feeling pretty good about it. But let me start at the beginning…..

In the summer earlier this year, TJ Warfield put up a wish-list for an Event check-in tool for nonprofits on the Power of Us Hub (The Hub, as it is sometimes called, is an online community for Salesforce.org customers, certified partners and staff). Caroline Renard, who knew of our work in the mobile app space for nonprofits, brought us into the conversation. Over a lively discussion on the Hub involving multiple people, a detailed list of functionality came up. Looking at that list, it seemed to us as something we could deliver, given that we had so much of the Salesforce and mobile infrastructure already. So we took it upon ourselves to deliver an Event add-on to our V4S Kiosk product over the next couple of months. That started a hectic round of design, development and testing internally, running into September.

Come the end of September and it was Dreamforce time. And time for virtual conversations to become real. At the Amplify breakfast, I met  with TJ and Caroline and spoke about what we had done with the wish list for Events. It was truly exciting for all of us to see how a conversation in the Hub had turned into something concrete.

Back home after Dreamforce in mid-October, we connected across the world, our team in Bangalore with TJ in San Francisco and Caroline in Seattle. And we were back in the virtual world to review the Events add-on. TJ was very happy with what we showed and graciously offered to demo and test the add-on at the Salesforce.org Open Source Community Sprint, held in Portland, OR  (#SFDOsprint) in end-Oct.

We were of course thrilled with the idea, but we were also very aware of the many things that could go wrong. TJ had seen the app near-complete, but the last 10% takes 50% of project time, right? Our team in Bangalore worked pretty much round-the-clock to put together a demo org for the Sprinters to use. We made sure there was a reasonable amount of data, a clear set of instructions and other resources for the Sprinters and a shared Google spreadsheet to collect suggestions and feedback.

The Salesforce.org Community Sprints are amazing events. Participants discuss everything from best practices to general experience to solution requirements. Working in teams, participants go all the way to produce solutions with documentation, code and data models. And everything produced by the teams goes back into the Community, making the whole ecosystem better for everyone. The Portland Sprint had that same terrific energy and enthusiasm. With 130 people at the event covering the Nonprofit and Higher Education sectors, we had a large number of people trying out the Event add-on.

With our mobile app still in beta on the iTunes Store, we did some pretty hairy

Across the world on a mission for nonprofits
Working for a mission

back-and-forth using the iTunes TestFlight platform to get our friendly Sprinters in Portland on board. It was incredible seeing the Sprinters in Portland, our awake-at-midnight team in Bangalore and the Test flight platform (wherever that is hosted :)) all coming together for a good cause. Watching from across the world as multiple Sprinters installed V4S Kiosk via TestFlight was awe-inspiring, to say the least. And as suggestions and feedback came flying into the Feedback sheet from the Sprinters, it truly felt great to be typing in responses at 2 AM :).

Kudos to all the Sprinters who dedicated their own time to test and review the Events add-on, all for the cause of enriching the product range for Nonprofits. Thanks to these hard-working Sprinters, there’s now a terrific set of feedback and suggestions that we will add into the product. A product that nonprofits can use to raise money, manage volunteers and deliver education. Which goes to prove that “All for One and One for All’ is not just the Three Musketeers slogan but a way of life for a lot of people!

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Moving to mobile time tracking: Are you prepared?

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So you are transitioning from paper time sheets to a slick new mobile time tracking system with all the bells and whistles. You’re excited about the new technology and you know the ROI of automated time tracking. But after years of using a manual time tracking system, you’re definitely apprehensive about the move to a mobile time tracking system. And if you are anxious, then consider what your employees would be feeling.

The transition from paper to mobile, can often seem confusing and overwhelming at first. But regardless of your company size or goals, automating your time and attendance process, will simplify procedures, eliminate errors and provide savings, overall.

But like with anything new, the transition to an automated time and attendance system needs planning and preparation. So here are some tips to help you implement the new technology and get it running smoothly.

  • Get your team on board
Select project
Select project

First things first: it’s critical to make sure that you have the right people on board to support a big change like this. New processes only work, when there is buy-in at all levels. Make sure that you sit down with team leads and influencers and explain why mobile time tracking will benefit them and the business as a whole. Get a couple of the enthusiasts to be the champions for the software. That way, the rest of your team will have someone to turn to if they need help. You might even want to offer some short-term incentives to get people to adopt the new technology quickly.

  • Explain the goal of the time tracking

First, start by asking yourself why you want to set up the time sheets. Perhaps, you spend too much time on payroll and there are too many errors in the process. Maybe your clients need more accurate time records with your billing. Perhaps you need to balance your employee workloads better.

Whatever your reasons, communicate it to your employees. Do you want to make sure that everyone is carrying their own weight? Do you want to estimate project times better for their next projects? Explain it to your employees in terms of the personal benefits that they will gain from it. Smoother distribution of efforts, better time frames on projects, faster payroll with fewer errors.

  • Choose the right level of detail

If you start tracking time without the right level of precision, you may not benefit from the new system. But start tracking too many details, and you’ll end up overwhelming your employees. So the right level of detail for time tracking must be neither too vague nor too precise. So what does that mean, exactly? We recommend that you go in stages. Start your time tracking process at a “project” level, so that you can figure out the hours spent on a project, without over-burdening your employees.

Get your team used to the  software before heading into more detailed tracking. Later on, you may want to include what tasks/deliverables people worked on, so you can get a more detailed breakdown of your projects. But remember that the more you need to track, the harder it is for your employees. So maintain a trade-off between the detail that you want and the tedium for your employees.

  • Select the activities you’re going to track
Time worked by Employee
Time worked by Employee

Once you’ve selected the level of detail, decide on the projects and activities for which you want to track time. Then start adding in more operational activities like maintenance and support that may not necessarily be tied in to specific projects. Then think of adding in administrative tasks such as holidays, time-off and training.  If you don’t need that level of detail, simply create an activity or project called “Other” to which people can add time.

  • Set up a test run / pilot

Now, you need to make sure that you and your team get a better understanding of how to incorporate mobile time tracking into their day-to-day routine.

  • Make sure that your reference data such as Projects, Users, Tasks are all set up correctly.
  • Deploy the software in manageable chunks.If you have a very large number of employees, you may want to start with one team and then deploy it to others
  • Schedule a training session for your employees. Make sure that someone is available to answer any questions that they may have.

Depending on your employee mix (age, tech familiarity), the time to get comfortable with the new technology will vary. Give them time to ease into the new technology.

  • Run in parallel

After you and your team have tried out the new software and worked out the kinks, formalize the new time tracking process. Put in place whatever rules you want for the process.

Based on how the initial roll-out goes, you may want to run the new mobile time tracking in parallel with the old paper-based time sheets for a few weeks. That way you’ll have a backup as you and the team get up to speed with the new system.

But make sure that you give everyone a firm end date for the old system and ensure that you stick with the date.

The first step, of course, is to find a mobile time tracking system that works for you!

 

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Integrating Salesforce addresses with Google Maps on your mobile phone

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Have you ever futzed around trying to copy addresses from within Salesforce to Google Maps to figure out where you need to be next? It can be incredibly frustrating.

One of the great things about the Salesforce platform is that there are an infinite number of little features that can make life easier for users. Take for example, a little feature called the Compound Address data type and let’s see how you can use it to make life simpler and easier for your road warriors.

Compound fields group together multiple elements of individual data types, such as numbers or strings, to represent complex data types such as a location or an address. Compound fields are an abstraction that can simplify application code that handles the values, leading to more concise and understandable code. Compound fields are accessible as a single, structured field, or as individual component fields. The values contained within the compound field and the values in the individual fields map to the same underlying data in Salesforce.

Standard addresses – addresses built into standard Salesforce objects – are accessible in SOAP and REST APIs as an Address, a structured compound field that combines several address fields. Using API 30.0 and later, you can directly access the Address data type using both SOAP and REST APIs. Geolocation fields are also accessible as Location. Location is another compound field that combines latitude and longitude. You can only access these compound fields using the SOAP or REST APIs.  Also, they are read-only. If you want to edit the field values, use the individual field components.

Any record with an address in Salesforce can be displayed on Google Maps. So in terms of Standard objects, that’s Leads, Accounts, Contacts and Users.

Access the Address data type on a mobile app using SOAP or REST APIs.

Salesforce address on Google maps
Displaying address on Google Maps

Integrate that Address with Google Maps and voila! Suddenly your mobile users can use that address to open up directly in Google Maps from inside the mobile app that they are using. No need for copying and pasting addresses from Salesforce to Google Maps. Your road warriors more productive now. And much safer, without having to juggle between multiple applications on their mobile phones!

That’s exactly what we’ve done in the dftly Time Tracker mobile app. Field Service technicians can view the address of their next assignment within the Time Tracker app on their mobiles. Clicking on the red location icon, opens up the address on Google Maps or on Apple Maps. It’s really that simple!

 

 

 

 

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Top 5 best practices for volunteer management

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Volunteers are a nonprofit’s dream. They believe in your organization and it’s

Your real superheroes
Volunteer Management

mission 100%. They put in their best efforts of their own volition and their contribution to your organization is invaluable. But just like with employees, volunteers need to be managed professionally. Which means that you need to recruit, train, delegate, evaluate and show appreciation just as you would with employees.

So let’s take a look at some best practices for managing your volunteer program successfully.

  1. Recruit right. Your organization and your projects have specific goals. First, develop a list of all the volunteer jobs needed to achieve your goals. Then make a list of all the volunteer skills and characteristics that you’ll need for those jobs. Create simple recruitment forms with all the details that you need including contact details, skills, availability dates and times, previous volunteering experience. If you use volunteer management software, then you’ll probably have these forms already and should be able to get them on to your website fairly easily. Use social media and local media to get the word out about your volunteering opportunities. Target places where your ideal volunteers work or play. Local gyms, libraries, sports bars are all great places to put the word out, depending on what you are trying to recruit for.
  2. Train appropriately. As baby boomers retire and millennials look to give back, volunteer motivations and skillsets are changing. Make sure that your volunteer orientation and training are in step with your project goals and with your volunteers’ skills. Volunteers today want to make a tangible difference to causes and programs. So involve your volunteers in planning and execution, so that there’s a feeling of ownership in the process. Your orientation and training need to focus on cultivating a relationship with volunteers and engaging them long-term. That means everyone from your board members down, need to be in sync with your volunteer program and be involved in the training process. And that you understand volunteer’s skills, commitment and time availability.
  3. Delegate effectively. Empower volunteers by delegating specific projects to specific volunteers or volunteer teams. This delegation should be based on qualifications, responsibilities and time availability that you’ve drawn on from the first two stages. Make sure that you have defined responsibilities, limits and freedoms clearly. Staff your projects based on the strengths and skills of your volunteers. Set appropriate short, medium and long-term goals, so everyone is clear of what needs to be achieved. Stay involved with your volunteers to motivate them and provide continuity. But provide advice and help only when requested.
  4. Provide supervision. Just like regular staff, volunteers need regular direction and feedback. Supervision is about helping your volunteers get a handle on what they are supposed to be doing, let them know when they are doing well and providing direction when they need it. You need to support your volunteers so they can contribute effectively to your organization’s needs, while at the same time meeting the volunteers’ motivations for being there. This role can be played by a volunteer manager or a senior volunteer. This is also a great way to get feedback and ideas from your volunteers. You can use your volunteer management software here to provide additional means of feedback and communication to volunteers.
  5. Recognize volunteer contributions. Show your volunteers that you are grateful for their help. An easy way to keep your volunteers engaged is to acknowledge their contributions to your organization. You could use formal recognition such as awards or certificates to publicly demonstrate gratitude to your volunteers. Use informal methods such as thank-you notes and emails to volunteers for finishing a job. It’s important that you mark your volunteer’s milestones with you. Maybe they’ve reached a certain number of hours of volunteering or number of months of volunteering. Use your software to keep track of these events and thank volunteers immediately. Use simple gifts like buying pizza for a volunteer group, free movie tickets or gift cards to recognize volunteers.

Following these principles improves the outcomes of your volunteer programs. It also gives your volunteers a more relevant experience and helps to build positive long-term relationships with them.

Would love to hear from you about specific ideas that you use to manage your volunteer programs.

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The ROI of automated time tracking

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If you are like most US businesses, payroll and associated costs form as much as 50% of your total budget. And like a lot of businesses, you may not be using automated time tracking systems.

Traditionally, payroll is a manual and labor intensive process, with employees hand-writing or punching in time cards. Not only is this process error-prone and rife with time padding and buddy punching, it’s a system that requires additional audit and reconciliation. There’s overwhelming evidence that streamlining the payroll process with a simple and automated time tracking system can significantly reduce payroll costs.

Let’s take a look at how an automated time tracking system can eliminate errors and increase accountability.

Reduce human error.

Let’s face it. Errors on time sheets are not exactly rare. For the most part, they are genuine human errors in rounding up or down, perhaps a misplaced decimal, maybe a miscalculation of hours worked. And then there’s those completely illegible timecards. Can you blame your payroll processor, if they couldn’t read the timecard correctly? Or even if they hit the wrong key? Automated time tracking systems reduce such human errors by close to 90%.

Your Mobile Time Tracker
Time tracking with optional photos, notes and GPS locations

Buddy punching” – the act of clocking someone in when they are not actually there – affects 75% of businesses in the US. It can cost businesses up to 7% of a company’s gross payroll annually. Let’s say your annual payroll is $ 250,000. That’s an additional $ 17,500 in payroll costs that you could easily avoid and send to your bottom-line, with automated time tracking. Then add in the costs of hour inflating. With a mobile time tracking solution, you have the added benefits of photos and GPS locations, to avoid these time theft issues.

Speed up payroll processing.

With all timesheet data collected digitally into a single system, you completely eliminate the need to collect manual timecards, transcribe them, calculate hours worked and manually update your payroll system. You can either integrate the data from your time tracking system directly to your payroll system or just export data from your time tracking system and import it into your payroll system. Automating this process can easily save you 50% of your payroll processing costs.

Eliminate material costs.

Automating your time tracking system eliminates several recurring costs associated with a paper-based system.  Reduce the costs on paper, ink, storage, mailing. And win big for Planet Earth with an environmentally friendly digital system.

It’s a win-win-win for your employees (faster payroll), your company (reduced costs) and Planet Earth (reduced paper and ink). Time to make the move?

 

 

 

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