How DropTask helped ‘Storyminers’ to complete one of their most complex projects of 2016

casestudy-storytellers-header

Mike Wittenstein runs one of the world’s first experience design firms, ‘Storyminers’. He and his teams have helped over 700 companies in 25 countries. Here’s how DropTask for Business has helped him.
profile-mikewittenstein
In his own workplace, Mike was fed up with a disorganized amount of messy papers that landed on his desk when new client work started. Reminders, tasks for others, copy points, strategy notes, and other ideas seemed to be floating everywhere. The proper communication of key actions to others sometimes slipped. Then, he stumbled across DropTask, which helped him to organize and track the company’s entire workload in one productive workspace.

One morning I found myself at my desk with several piles of papers over an inch thick, with each stack and page mixed up within a disorderly pile which was getting me down. I needed to convert all of the information on the pages into my new Business/Marketing Plan for the New Year, but I just couldn’t get the information to flow into the new picture of the way that I wanted things to work. The problem I had was that the picture was in my head, and no-one else could visually understand the way I wanted the company to progress forward.

Then I came across DropTask. As soon as I created my first project, I felt more in control. I had all of the tools that I needed to work quickly and think nimbly. DropTask comfortably shaped itself around my working needs, and its visual nature of displaying tasks as circles showed me that it was different from other tools on the market. No matter when or where my ideas came to me, I could instantly input them into DropTask and watch them come to life as the new business model took shape. The ability to nest categories within one another made it easy to share the relationship each idea had with others on my team and let me quickly assess where my time needed to be spent.

casestudy-storyminders-img3

We also use DropTask to plan new accounts. Typically, the work begins in the Canvas view where all of our tasks are displayed as engaging circles which are easily accessible by using the drag-and-drop feature. Initially, we use this view to code everyone’s ideas in real-time. If members are having a 1:1 conversation, they simply use the ‘@’ icon, which notifies one another that they’ve been mentioned in a comment. As a team, we view the entirety of the year’s project, including its minor details, by zooming in and out of the Canvas, giving us the bigger picture of who’s working on what and what is yet to be completed.

‘It feels like we’re all on the same page, because we literally are!’

We have planned one of 2016’s most complex projects in DropTask for Business, including one of our key workshops, the ‘Reason for Being’. This workshop is part of the work that we do to help our clients to understand, in one sentence, whom they serve and what their value is to their clients. It sounds easy but it’s really hard work. Now, thanks to DropTask, it’s faster and easier. Using DropTask has helped us reduce the time that it takes to work on these workshops by 50%. It adds much needed simplicity to the planning process and allows us to quickly add information to our projects without losing any detail – something that we frequently experienced when we were limited to voice notes.
casestudy-storyminders-img4
Seeing in real-time where each key thought lands on the Canvas for our new 2016 business model helped us to pull all loose ends together and form a strategy which the entire team was able to understand. There’s something special that happens when you connect your thoughts in your head and share them on screen; It not only creates a lasting association which makes it easier to remember what order you need to act upon tasks, it also helps improve everyone’s understanding of the connections between tasks.
casestudy-storyminders-img5
With the help of DropTask for Business, we now share all of our ideas in one creative space, communicate with one another, edit task progress and assign ownerships, all before transporting our finished Project into iMindMap, in preparation for our next meeting with our clients. Now, team members and I can share the same context about work because DropTask for Business simplifies the whole process of planning, managing, and getting projects across the finish line.

To learn more, sign up for free at www.droptask.com/signup

Already a DropTask user? Share your story with us at contact@droptask.com for your chance to be featured in a future post!

What a year! A look back at DropTask in 2016

As 2016 says its goodbyes, we can’t help looking back and reflecting on the incredible journey we’ve made so far. Thanks to the loyal support and feedback of our users, the DropTask brand has gone from strength to strength. It’s been an eventful 365 days packed with feature improvements, added integrations, and of course the launch of our cutting-edge new version DropTask 2!  We’ve loved every minute and hope you’ve enjoyed the ride with us.

Here’s a round-up of our high points of the year, as well as a sneaky glimpse of what’s in store for 2017.

A recap of our best moments

New-look notifications

bye2016-img1
As developments in our beta program steamed ahead, early 2016 brought the announcement of a transformed notification center. When it comes to our tasks and projects, we all want to be in the know. But what we don’t want is to drown under a wave of information, alerts and updates. With our new-style notification center, simplicity is the goal, so now you’re only alerted to key changes or updates to your tasks (such as reminders and comments). This limits interruptions and gives you the chance to focus and take action on what’s most important. Worried you’ll miss something? Your notifications won’t go anywhere until you’ve seen and ‘dismissed’ them, putting you firmly in control of information, not the other way around!

More powerful integrations

bye2016-img2
While last year saw the release of our Evernote and Outlook plugins, we hit another milestone in the first few months of 2016 when we added even more cool integrations, allowing you to streamline the way you work across a bunch of your favorite services. From managing incoming emails to syncing calendars to file sharing, we have you fully covered:

  • Gmail and Outlook: Master your inbox and transform emails into actionable tasks, ensuring no inbound to-dos are forgotten.
  • Evernote: With two-way sync, you can bring your notes to life in DropTask or send to-dos straight into Evernote to build up your ideas.
  • Google Drive and DropBox: Instantly upload documents and images to tasks, making it easy to share important info and stay organized.
  • Google Calendar: Sync your projects with Google Calendar for a complete view of your schedule, with visual priority settings to keep you on track.
  • Google Contacts: Invite your existing contacts to collaborate on tasks, and get more done together.
  • iMindMap 10: See your ideas through to completion by exporting branches or whole mind maps into DropTask. Or collate your to-dos in iMindMap 10 to explore ideas further.

Beautiful task management – DropTask 2 unveiled

bye2016-img3
You asked for it, you got it! The DropTask HQ was a hive of activity this year as we sought to implement our biggest shake up yet, taking on board your valuable ideas, comments and suggestions in our forum and community pages. Launched in September, DropTask 2 was the result of many insightful conversations and interactions with you guys – our faithful supporters – and is a proud achievement for us all!

In this completely revamped version, we unleashed a stunning new interface design and more fluid operation, with fresh features like:

  • Workflow View: Offers a Kanban-style workspace to map out your project workflow and take you from ‘Doing’ to ‘Done’ with ease.
  • Built-in Calendar: Brings together all of your tasks from every project and allows you to view them by Start Date or Due Date, helping you plan ahead and stay on top of your schedule.
  • Team Calendars: Check the availability of others by viewing their calendars and collaborate more effectively as a team.
  • Start and Due Dates: Assign start and due dates to your tasks to better manage your time and boost your planning efficiency.
  • Collapsible Categories: Eliminate information overload and improve your focus by hiding tasks to reveal only what you need to see at any given moment.
  • Auto-Layout: Activate this feature to optimize the arrangement of your tasks within the Canvas, giving you a centralized view of the whole picture.
  • Completed Tasks: Celebrate achievements with a historic view of all the tasks you’ve successfully completed.
  • Enhanced Filtering: Cut through the noise and focus on the tasks that matter with a variety of extra filter options, including Assignee, Importance, Keywords, Effort, Tags, Due Date, Attachment and Status (Not Started, In Progress, On Hold).

We love bold visuals here at DropTask, and this advanced, feature-packed rendition doesn’t let the side down. Now with four display modes (our original Canvas, Workflow, List and Completed), you can view and manage your workload with confidence, and bring teams together like never before. Learn more about DropTask 2 in our previous blog post.

Where we’re headed in 2017

bye2016-img4
With an awesome (and super busy!) 2016 behind us, you may be wondering what could possibly be on the horizon for next year. To give you a hint, we’ll be branching out and looking to make DropTask accessible to more people around the world. New options for introducing reporting are also on our radar, giving teams greater insight into progress, performance, and management. And, in keeping with what makes DropTask special, we’ll be experimenting with some exciting alternative visualizations and enhancements.

Above all, what we’re most excited about in 2017 is helping our users achieve their productivity goals in bigger and better ways. Stay tuned for more by checking our blog from time to time, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for our hottest news and tips.

From all of us at DropTask, thank you for making 2016 our best year yet. See you in 2017!

Setting SMART work goals for the new year

newyear-productivity-img01
With 2017 just around the corner, our thoughts turn to our aspirations and goals for the coming year. For many of us, this involves making New Year’s resolutions for what we want to accomplish professionally. But while we may kick off the year with good intentions, the hard truth is most New Year’s resolutions don’t live long enough to see February. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 8% of people that set New Year’s goals go on to actually achieve them!

There’s a good reason for that, and it’s not just about lack of willpower or motivation. Often resolutions are simply too vague, over ambitious, irrelevant or not feasible enough to work. To avoid new year failure in the workplace, try making SMART resolutions for your career instead. Like SMART goals, these are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. What’s cool about this clever approach is that it transforms wishy washy New Year’s resolutions into powerful objectives that can be boldly actioned, helping you work smarter rather than harder.

What are you waiting for? Get ready for the new year with these SMART steps.

1. Make your work goal specific

newyear-productivity-img02
The first step in SMART goal setting is to define your goal with enough detail to make it crystal clear what you want to accomplish. Generalized goals such as “get more clients”, “write a book” or “find a new job” aren’t great for getting results because they don’t provide sufficient direction or motivation, and can be awkward to measure. By adding more clarity to each of these statements, we can narrow down exactly what we want to achieve:

  • Obtain three high-spend ($50,000+) corporate clients
  • Write a 60,000 word small business guide
  • Land a marketing position at xyz company

It’s simple but it works. Research by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham found that setting specific and challenging goals led to higher performance in 90% of cases.

To make your goal more specific, think about the who, what, when, where and why involved in making it a reality. DropTask users will know how easy it is to turn goals into actionable tasks, complete with added notes, files, sub-tasks and priority settings. You can even create an entire Project dedicated to your goals, which can act as a visual, clutter-free hub for all your goal setting and tracking activity.

2. Make your work goal measurable

newyear-productivity-img03
How will you know if your goal has been reached? Add precise targets, metrics or best practice standards so you can measure your degree of success. Try to use numerical values where possible as they’re more clear-cut. Things like sales volume/profit, units of production, word counts, costs to be reduced, budgets to work within, number of customers, clients to be contacted, time taken or ratios. For your email marketing, key goals might include “increase new subscribers by x%” and “increase conversion rate by x%”. If you publish regularly on a blog, you might set measures to write at least 2 blog posts and research 5 new post ideas every week. Is your goal too soft to evaluate in a quantifiable way? Then create a list of behavioural standards or observations to check progress, such as correct procedures to follow for dealing with customer complaints. Whatever the nature of your goal, making it measurable is a great motivator and helps you easily review how you’re getting on. At regular intervals, set aside 5 minutes to assess your progress using our Task Status feature – mark off the measures you’ve completed and re-plan or re-prioritize around your upcoming tasks.

3. Make your work goal attainable

newyear-productivity-img04
Setting goals is one thing, making sure you can achieve them is another. Facing a big mountain of a goal can be daunting – you’ll have little hope in reaching the top and risk losing confidence in your abilities. On the flip side, you shouldn’t set goals that are too easy either. Look to ‘raise the bar’ and go beyond your current level of achievement with goals that stretch your abilities. There’s a greater chance of hitting a larger goal when you build on it ‘bit by bit’ rather than through huge leaps. So, our advice is to start small. If customer satisfaction levels are low, aiming for a 10% improvement right away may be far too big an expectation. Aim for 5% instead, and once you’re there, look at increasing the challenge to take you closer to that 10%. Examine your own goal. If it’s looking a bit hairy, break it into smaller milestones so you don’t get overwhelmed. This is easily done using DropTask’s Checklist which allows you to add any number of sub-tasks to a bigger task. These can be completed and checked off individually, clearly showing progress. Repeating tasks can also come in useful for reminding you to stay on top of any recurring activities in your action plan.

4. Make your work goal relevant

newyear-productivity-img05
Are your work goals being set for the right reasons? Don’t set certain goals just because you think you should, otherwise you won’t be as passionate or committed to achieving them. Make sure that each goal is relevant to your overall vision for your career or to furthering the mission of the company. Ask yourself: Does this goal fit into the bigger picture? Is it worthwhile? When you have a sexy goal that’s relevant to your future, you’ll be far less likely to toss in the towel when any obstacles crop up along the way. Think about how you can align all your lower-level, short-term goals so that they advance the pursuit of your higher-level, long-term goals and you’ll be sure to stay on the right path. In DropTask, use Task Dependencies to visually display and maintain the structure of your goals as you move closer and closer to your achieving your ambitions.

5. Make your work goal timely

newyear-productivity-img06
Every work goal should be time-bound in some way, either with a deadline for completion, time scales for key milestones or a frequency cycle. Deadlines add a sense of urgency to a goal, bringing quicker achievement, and are the final anchor in making your goal real and tangible. Pick a sensible time frame to allow yourself some leeway for the unexpected, while still prompting you to press ahead. Quarterly deadlines can be quite manageable for most work projects, and prevent goals drifting: “I will reduce monthly expenses by 10% within 3 months.” Or set dates for key achievements along the route to a major goal, such as deadlines for the planning, development and implementation of a new IT system, and then further time frames for testing the system and training the team to use and understand it. Our in-built Calendar allows you to plan your work goals by Start and Due Date, so you can get started, maintain momentum and achieve all you set out to do, right on time.  With Team Calendars you have the ability to share your calendar with others, so you can garner support from your colleagues to help you stick to your goals. And they’ll be there to celebrate with you when you reach the finish line!

We would love to hear about your SMART work goals, so please leave a comment below. What other goal methods do you like to use? Happy goal setting for the new year!

How to stay productive over the festive season

xmas-productivity-img0
It’s coming up to that special time of year – the mince pies are out, cheesy Christmas tunes are blaring and everyone’s full of festive cheer. But with a relaxed vibe permeating the workplace, the winter season can end up being a productivity black hole. Minds drift to gift shopping, travel planning and holiday entertaining, and focusing on your work to-dos and deliverables is trickier than ever! It’s no surprise that lots of businesses opt to put decisions and new projects off until the new year.

How can you keep your productivity (as well as your festivity) on a high as the holiday season takes hold? We’ve put together a list of 4 ways to help you and your team dodge the end of year workflow ‘dip’ without dampening the Christmas spirit.

1. Get a head-start on year-end projects

xmas-productivity-img1
When it comes to end of year productivity, good planning is key. Start working on your upcoming projects earlier than you need to so you’re ahead of target when the Christmas chaos hits full swing. Do some brainstorming, prepare content, plan your milestones or set the wheels in motion to bring in new clients. In DropTask, create Templates for projects that will require similar actions, such as events, and you won’t have to start from scratch each time. While you’re getting organized, why not Archive any completed projects so that they don’t distract you from your new focus? With fewer to-dos on your plate later in the season, you’ll be able to eat, drink and be merry at office parties and social gatherings minus the guilt.

2. Don’t over-commit

xmas-productivity-img2
During December, the boundaries of work and leisure can start to blur quickly as people get into the holiday spirit, and colleagues won’t be as inclined to stay late and work overtime. Make sure you have realistic expectations of what you and your team can achieve in this period. Aim to prioritize any critical tasks during the first half of the month and don’t schedule any important meetings for the last two weeks if you can manage without them. You may have to say no to some obligations in order to meet your most important deadlines without overfilling your calendar (or losing your sanity!). Use DropTask’s Task Importance feature to keep sight of your main goals and wrap up the year in style.

3. Catch some winter rays

xmas-productivity-img3
When all the holiday pressure starts to get on top of you, take a break outside to get some daylight before the sun makes its customary 4pm disappearance. Lack of sunshine in wintertime can lead to lower energy levels and alertness, making you less productive. Seek out the sun to nourish your body and mind, or use a sun lamp at your desk to simulate the effects of natural light. This will give you a chance to refresh and recharge your batteries before jumping back into the fray.

4. Spread Christmas cheer

xmas-productivity-img4
Never underestimate the value of creating a fun and festive atmosphere in the workplace. Holiday decorations, Secret Santa, ugly Christmas sweaters and tasty treats might seem a bit childish, but they work wonders for morale, demonstrating that you care for your team members and want them to enjoy themselves. Try planning amusing games and contests for your workers to unwind and bond, such as a ‘decorate your space’ or most creative out-of-office holiday auto reply competition, or even a surprise visit from Father Christmas. Recognition through small gifts and rewards (gift cards, sports tickets, time off) can also go a long way in motivating people and making them feel valued. In a Workforce Mood Tracker survey conducted by Globoforce, 86% of workers say that being recognized motivates them to work harder in their jobs. So, no matter what, don’t forget to thank everyone for their year-round efforts in helping to make your business successful.

How do you and your team stay on the ball at work during the hectic holiday season? Share your festive productivity tips in the comments below.

 

iMindMap 10 – Out now!

iMindMap 10 - Out now

A creative powerhouse to make your ideas unstoppable

Christmas has come early as we celebrate the latest evolution of a much-loved tool for Mind Mapping this week. Give a big, hearty welcome to iMindMap 10!

Loaded with sparkling new features and enhanced functionality, this supercharged new version will ramp up your creativity like never before. Bigger and better in every way, iMindMap 10 offers a complete kit to help you capture, sort and transform your ideas into tasks before launching them into action in DropTask. Now with five different views, it’s the perfect digital thinking space for any activity, from brainstorming and mind mapping to full-blown project planning – you name it. Choose how you want to work for infinite productivity.

In iMindMap 10, you’ll encounter the most inspiring and free-flowing work environment yet. Get ready for more authentic branch drawing, in-line access to thousands of Mind Map templates, fast consolidation of ideas, optimized brainstorming, advanced categorization, added imports and integrations, and a whole new view for managing your projects. Paired with its visual partner DropTask, you can convert your brightest ideas into practical tasks, enabling you to seamlessly plan, prioritize and bring them to life in the real world.

Here’s an overview of the smart features you can expect to find in the newly enriched iMindMap 10…

timemap

1. Manage projects from idea to implementation

Get your ideas off the ground with an entirely new view. The introduction of the Time Map View is a productivity game changer, bridging the gap between Mind Mapping and timeline project planning. Whether you’re launching a new product or arranging a party, you get a fully equipped workspace to move any kind of project across the finish line. Add brightly colored tasks to your Time Map using the click and draw method that iMindMap users are familiar with, and set Time Scales by specifying custom start dates and durations for your projects and tasks. For ultimate organization, group your responsibilities and priorities into clear Swimlanes, and visually track your most important Milestones as they appear at the bottom of the timeline.

No matter how big your project, checking your progress is a breeze with graphical cues indicating what tasks have been planned (yellow icon), started (green icon), put on hold (red icon) or completed (checkmark), as well as alerting you to any tasks that are overdue. At one glance, you get a clear view of what’s ahead, making it simple to coordinate your workflow and perform at your best. With complete switchability from Mind Map View to Time Map View (and back), watch as your Mind Map branches convert to tasks, keeping all their properties, so you can follow through on your ideas and take them to new heights. Go full steam ahead on your tasks by exporting your Time Map into DropTask, and benefit from real-time collaboration on team projects.

biggerplate

2. Get inspired

iMindMap 10 brings instant access to the world’s largest Mind Map collection via its all-new Biggerplate Mind Map Library Integration. You can now search and download thousands of time-saving Mind Map templates and inspiring examples all from within iMindMap. Whether your purpose is business related, educational or personal, find useful maps to kick-start your ideas and spur you into action to reach your goals. Simply download a template of your choice and edit it to suit your needs. Likewise, you can also inspire others by sharing your own creations with the global Mind Mapping community in just a few clicks.

fast-capture-and-brainstorm

3. Consolidate your ideas with ease

New updates to the Fast Capture View give you extra flexibility in gathering and consolidating your ideas at full speed, so those precious ‘aha’ moments never slip you by. Change the color of idea bubbles to categorize your ideas and create a structure that makes sense to you; then relax in the knowledge that these will be carried across to your branches automatically when you switch to Mind Map View. Add cover images to your idea bubbles for a double visual hit, bringing your ideas to life and boosting your ability to memorise and recall important info.

Revive lacklustre brainstorming sessions and give immediate shape to your ideas with the optimized Brainstorm View. Brand new conversion tools give you the freedom to organize your growing pile of ideas in a format that best fits your preferences. As your ideas develop, add or convert them into new groups to bring greater order to your thoughts, or input them as a list – it’s up to you! For the ideal recall tool, try the new Flashcards. Whether you use them as revision or speaking prompts, they’re handy for keeping extra info hidden until it’s needed.

branch-target

4. Go organic

iMindMap 10’s Branch Drawing Tool has been remodeled to make your Mind Mapping experience even more natural and intuitive, so your ideas can radiate from branch to branch without restriction – just like they do in your mind. The organic movement of the drawing tool feels effortless and helps you work quicker, freeing up more time for in-depth thinking. All your essential editing and customization tools are now conveniently located at the end of each branch, exactly where they’re needed most, so your thinking remains fluid and uninterrupted. Simply click to open the all-new Pop-Up Edit Menu to easily access editing tools and keep your work area neat and tidy. The most fundamental Mind Mapping element has been refined, and it’s oh so powerful!

tags-and-icons

5. Create some order

The latest rendition of iMindMap brings two cool new systems for categorizing information – Tags and the Icon Manager. These updates offer a way of ordering any of your iMindMap creations in a way that’s totally unique to you. Define your Tags by various themes, such as team members, task importance, topic or performance metrics to set up your own classification system for any purpose, and assign them to branches, sticky notes, idea bubbles or tasks. If you’re more visually minded, add meaningful Icons to create an attractively organized yet clutter-free workspace, and benefit from a sharpened focus for getting more done. A robust filtering system helps you refine your project by Tags or Icon to find information quickly and get a clear view on what matters most at that very moment.

importers-and-email

6. Enjoy more flexibility

iMindMap 10 gives you more options and greater flexibility than ever before through its new Software Importers. Now you can access and edit maps created within other software through iMindMap, and work seamlessly with colleagues and friends who are using alternative map formats. Once you’ve brought your ideas together, don’t forget to action them! Two-way integration with DropTask allows you to take your ideas further with optimum efficiency. Alternatively, switch from bubbles to branches by exporting your DropTask projects into iMindMap for an extra brainstorming boost within a vibrant, interactive canvas. And that’s not all, iMindMap 10’s Email Integration also helps to streamline the flow of your communications by allowing you to send your iMindMap creations directly by email from your workspace. No more switching between iMindMap and your inbox to share your work.

All these convenient updates are designed with one goal in mind – to produce a faster, more focused and more visually engaging work experience. Find out more about these features and other additional improvements over at www.iMindMap.com

5 Tactics for driving end of year sales success

5 Tactics for driving end of year sales success
December is typically crunch time for sales reps and managers who work on the front line. While most people are thinking about their Christmas shopping and festive party plans, you’re caught up in end of year anxieties about hitting your annual sales targets. With just a few weeks to go, you need to close sales pronto, but you’re getting rebuffed by prospects who want to put buying decisions on hold till the new year. Things start to get real tense as you’re weighed down by the pressure to do more with less, and do it yesterday!

Need some help to drive up your win rates? Here are 5 tactics you can use to make quota and finish the year on a sales high.

1. Prune your pipeline

5ways-img1
The clock is ticking and having too many opportunities in your pipeline at this time of year can stall your progress. Don’t waste time trying to target anyone and everyone as this will just dilute your attention. Focus on the deals that are most likely to close this year, and remove any less certain prospects from your December pipeline. You can always follow up with them next year. Use the Progress Percentage feature in DropTask to identify which deals are near completion in the sales cycle. In addition, a quick analysis will help determine which prospects are the best fit and have the most urgent need for your product or service. Look at your last 10-20 leads and identify some criteria to describe those that went on to close successfully. For example, were the majority startups or established businesses? Which departments tend to respond better? What’s the average sales price? And so on. Use this customer profile as a guide for directing your primary sales activity.

2. Get creative with incentives

5ways-img2
There’s fun and festivity in the air, so now’s a good time to think of creative ways to nudge your prospective customers to say yes. Consider special holiday discounts to encourage prompt purchase, free shipping/returns, competitions, giveaways, flexible payment schemes and add-ons; or bundle your products into new combinations so you can sell at a higher price point. Flash sales via email and social media are a great way to create a sense of urgency and encourage last-minute buys. According to a study by Monetate, 56% of businesses agree that flash sale campaigns tend to have better response rates than regular campaigns. Shorter duration flash sales – say three hours – are particularly successful. With DropTask Notifications, you can keep a tight rein on all your campaigns and communicate available offers to the sales team in real time, so everyone can capitalize on a more receptive ‘holiday happy’ market.

3. Automate sales workflow

5ways-img3
The best sales teams operate within a standardized process that defines a particular sequence of steps – Research, Approach, Qualify, Presentation/Product Info, Close, Aftersales/Follow-up. In the mad rush to drive immediate year-end sales, however, this process can often go to pot, and with it, so do the chances of achieving customer satisfaction. Technology is valuable in helping to automate workflow for your reps. Even simple tools like email templates can ease the pressure. By cutting out extra procedures and reporting, sales people won’t get bogged down by the daily grind and can devote more energy to what they do best – selling. The DropTask Workflow Board is a great feature for enabling up-to-the-minute tracking of each stage of the sales workflow, without overcomplicating things. In just one glance, you can quickly evaluate your key sales activities and progress, and realign as necessary to meet your goals.

4. Remove roadblocks

5ways-img4
As crazy as things are right now, it’s worth taking time to review all the proposals and campaigns you made throughout the year to identify any significant roadblocks that held your prospects back from purchasing. Make notes of the challenges you faced and what worked well in response. What lessons can you take on board to make this final month a winner? Assist your team in overcoming any obstacles and set clear metrics to hold your sales reps accountable, for instance, outline targets for number of calls or appointments. Support and accountability for tasks can be easily administered through DropTask by establishing effort and urgency levels, attaching files/notes, determining task dependencies and redistributing tasks between team members.

5. Celebrate wins!

5ways-img5
People are motivated by recognition and rewards, and this is especially true for salespeople! A little celebration can mean a lot at the end of the year, when the atmosphere turns festive and joyful. It’s the perfect time to thank your reps for their hard work and reward wins to keep everyone revved up and hungry. Extend the same celebratory spirit to your loyal customers by reaching out to thank them for their custom, wish them ‘happy holidays’, or even send a surprise gift. A small gesture can go a long way in cementing good relationships for the future.

Any other tips for boosting sales success as we reach the end of 2016? We’d love to hear about them.

Bring Thanksgiving to the workplace for stronger teams

Bring thanksgiving to the workplace for stronger teams

As Thanksgiving approaches, we look forward to gathering around the dinner table with our loved ones to be thankful for all the blessings of the past year. But the heartwarming tradition of Thanksgiving shouldn’t only be practiced at home with our spouses, children and special friends; it should also be celebrated with our “work families” – the co-workers and colleagues whose hard graft powers the engine of the business.

As an employer or manager, do you take time to say “thank you” and appreciate your team for going the extra mile for you?

As a team worker, do you express your gratitude to your colleagues and peers for their everyday input and support in your work life?

Don’t be a turkey, now’s the time to celebrate the teamwork that makes your success as a company possible. Encouraging an “attitude of gratitude” in the workplace is not only uplifting in the moment, but has a powerful ripple effect in building team morale, trust and productivity all year long.

So, how can we all be a little more thankful this holiday season? Here are some suggestions:

Chocolate cakes

1. Recognize with a prize

According to a survey by career community site Glassdoor, 81% of workers are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. And yet in the never-stand-still flurry of the modern work environment, good leaders will often take their team members for granted. A Gallup poll found that only one in three US workers could strongly agree that they had received recognition or praise from their supervisor in the last seven days. With Thanksgiving almost upon us, don’t miss this precious opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of your team. There are lots of simple (mostly budget-friendly) ways to show the people in your workplace that you really care:

  • Time off around Thanksgiving
  • A personalized thank you note, whether by email, card, letter or even video
  • Unexpected gifts such as a turkey, food hamper, grocery store/restaurant gift card or show tickets
  • A plaque, award or certificate of appreciation
  • Pre-Thanksgiving meal at work with all the trimmings
  • A day trip or outing
  • A monetary award such as a cash bonus or pay rise
  • The ability to work remotely in the run up to Thanksgiving
  • Meaningful career opportunities, training or coaching
  • Public praise and a handshake at a team meeting or company event
  • Highlighting someone’s performance in the company newsletter

Sincere expressions of gratitude like these aren’t difficult to organize, but are indispensable in making teams feel valued for their work. With a variety of Team Plans on offer, DropTask can help your colleagues pull together to achieve common goals and keep their eyes on the prize. People have greater options to work from home during the winter holidays while still collaborating in real-time, so no-one need ever miss out.
Thank you

2. Get specific by evaluating performance

To get better at saying thank you and giving rewards, you need to stay on top of people’s performance. A general pat on the back for effort is one thing, but recognition is best received when it’s specific. Rather than simply praising workers for a “good job”, highlight exactly what they’re doing right and how they’ve contributed to broader business objectives. This makes it clear what actions or behaviors you would love to see more of in the future and is one of the best ways to positively reinforce first class performance. Use DropTask to track individual and team performance on big or small projects. With the ability to Filter tasks by Assignee, Importance, Effort and Status, it’s easy to keep tabs on how workers and teams are getting on, and you’ll have no trouble finding the specifics to be thankful about.

Evaluate performance

3. Promote goodwill

Connect everyone to the spirit of Thanksgiving through different media. For instance, create a social network page, blog or bulletin board for folks to post things that they appreciate about each other. People should focus on what they are grateful for in their bosses, co-workers or teams – whether their strengths, the things they do or the times they’ve shared together during their work relationship. Showing gratitude to colleagues can build stronger bonds and spurs teams to get better results. Make a genuine effort to compliment your peers whenever you can. Thank them publicly for their help in a team meeting, bring them a tasty treat or drop them a quick message via DropTask so everyone involved in a task can see it. Better yet, extend your gratitude even further by sending a complimentary email to his or her boss. It only takes a few feel-good moments like this to establish a culture of appreciation and fellowship.


Your special Thanksgiving gift

As a thank you from us, we’re giving you and your team a whole year of DropTask for Business free* when you upgrade to any of our 2 year plans before this Friday 25th November 2016. Don’t miss out, redeem now.

From everyone here at DropTask, we wish you, your family and your entire team a very happy Thanksgiving!

Work-life balance and 5 ways you can achieve it

Work-life balance and 5 ways you can achieve it
Every business owner, professional or working parent out there knows what a struggle it can be to balance a heavy workload with a fulfilling personal life. Mastering the elusive ‘work-life balance’ can seem nigh on impossible when you’re taking tons of work home with you, cancelling social plans and answering emails at 11pm.

According to a global study by Ernst & Young, one-third of full-time workers say that maintaining a work-life balance has become tougher in the last five years. Longer work hours, lack of job security and new communication technologies make it increasingly difficult for people to leave work behind at the office, and the boundaries between home and work are blurring. But the stress that builds up from overwork and an ‘always on’ mentality can be costly, giving rise to health issues, relationship conflicts and disengagement. The need to unwind from the pressures of work, spend time with family and take care of your own wellbeing has never been more crucial. Indeed, getting the balance right can help you bring your best to all areas of your life.

Work-life balance varies from one individual to the next. Here are 5 tips to support you in finding the balance that’s right for you.

1. Work out your personal priorities

Work out your personal priorities

If you’ve been tipping over on the work side of the scale, then your private life is likely to have taken a hit lately. Take a good hard look at your priorities and consider how you can re-allocate time to the most precious things in your personal life, as well as your business. We all need personal goals to balance out our professional ambitions. To help you create space in your life for family, friends, rest and play, create a project in DropTask just as you would for a work-related goal, and manage it in the same way. Make yourself accountable by scheduling tasks for the next few weeks or months to pursue a hobby, attend your kid’s soccer match, go on a trip, volunteer or host a dinner party for friends. Focus on the people and things that are important to you so that your life reflects your priorities, not anyone else’s. We suggest aiming to give yourself something to look forward to at least twice a week, so you have an extra incentive to manage your time well. Don’t worry about trying to remember everything as DropTask will send you a Daily Summary Email to inform you on what you should be doing and when.

2. Learn to say “no”

Learn to say no
You’ll have an easier time sticking to your personal priorities if you learn the power of saying “no” once in a while. Trying to please everyone all the time is the short route to burnout, so it’s imperative to protect your time. You don’t have to volunteer for everything you’re asked to do. Get comfortable with setting boundaries and decline any energy-sapping requests, errands or meetings that fall outside of them. Have a chat with your manager or team to communicate your limits and agree on how you’ll work going forward – can you delegate or outsource any of your time-consuming but low-value jobs? Any feelings of guilt will soon melt away when you realise how much it can benefit your productivity and work-life balance. DropTask can help you with crafting and maintaining boundaries, allowing you to Assign Tasks to others and customize Notifications so that you don’t get overloaded.

3. Telecommute

Telecommute
If you have the option, consider working from home a few times a week. Freedom from the hellish commute and time-guzzling distractions of the office (impromptu meetings, interruptions by colleagues, and so on) means that your natural workflow can flourish unabated. As a result, you’ll gain much-needed extra time to take care of your personal responsibilities. With DropTask at your service, you no longer need to be sitting in the same office to share info, stay up-to-date on progress or give your full input on team projects. You can be just as productive and collaborative as your office-based colleagues, if not more, while lounging around in your pyjamas!

4. Unplug after hours

Unplug after hours
Here at DropTask, we love new technology. But there are occasions when even we admit you have to pull the plug on it. Checking your emails every 15 minutes when you’re supposed to be watching a movie with the kids doesn’t amount to true quality time and actually injects an element of stress into your evening. Try to completely ban work-related technology when you get home so that you can focus on your family, friends or yourself. Turn off your phone or screen your calls, letting them go to voicemail if they’re not urgent. Now relax and enjoy the moment.

5. Take care of the physical

Take care of the physical
No matter how jam-packed our schedule is, the one aspect we can’t ignore is our self-care. Block out a bit of personal time in your calendar to take a walk, meditate, eat a mindful lunch or do anything that will top up your tank. That way your health won’t get crowded out in favour of other more ‘urgent’ demands. Get out into the fresh air for an hour if you can, or head to the gym for a heart-pumping session. Can’t leave your desk? Then try some deep breathing exercises or stretches while sitting down (roll your neck and shoulders, flex your feet, stretch your arms), or do a 10-minute body-scan meditation. A little rejuvenation goes a long way in helping to bring more balance to your life.

Got any ideas for tip No. 6? What strategies do you rely on for creating a healthy work-life balance? Tell us in the comments below.

4 Reasons why email can never replace a task manager

We’re all guilty of using our inbox as our to-do list. Do you ever email tasks to yourself, ‘unread’ messages or flag items as a reminder to tackle them later, leaving them hanging in your inbox? Bad idea. With a constant inflow of new emails and pressing requests, there inevitably comes a point when our inbox starts to overgrow and we feel bogged down.
28% workweek
Let’s face it, email is simply not a productive or efficient way to manage and keep track of tasks. Inbox management can easily take over your entire workday if you let it. A 2012 study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that the average worker spends approximately 28% of the workweek processing their emails (answering, reading, deleting and sorting); time that could be better occupied with high-value tasks. Using a separate task manager (hint: DropTask) to capture your to-dos in one place, including those arriving in your ever-expanding inbox, can help you avoid wasting time sifting through stacks of emails and frees you up to get more done. Plus, you won’t get distracted by each and every message that pops into your inbox while you’re in the middle of a serious assignment.

Drag yourself away from your emails for a moment and take note of these four reasons why email isn’t a good replacement for a task manager.

1. No central ‘hub’ for projects

No Central Hub
All teams need a centralized location for important project information – files, comments, updates – that can be accessed from anywhere at any time. When this isn’t available, workers take to their emails to make requests, assign tasks to colleagues, send attachments or track down the information they need. The next thing you know, numerous messages are flying around and information is scattered between various conversations, folders, labels, attachments or lists. But email wasn’t built for task management, only correspondence. While you can go to all the effort of creating your own system of color-coding and adding stars and flags to draw attention to tasks in your email program, you’ll still have a hard time keeping sight of the big picture and staying in sync with your team when relying on email alone. This is especially true when working together on long-term projects.

Cue DropTask, your one-stop-shop for project management, allowing you to collate and categorize your to-dos and responsibilities in one friendly workspace. Private projects can remain just that – private – while team or cross-departmental projects can be shared for effective collaboration with colleagues. Keeping tasks, files, status updates and comments all together simplifies the way you manage your workload and ensures that everyone stays in the loop – no email required!

2. Emails don’t have start or due dates

DropTask Calendar
An email inbox doesn’t allow you to plan ahead by setting start dates for your tasks or deadlines for completing them. By contrast, the cool tool that is DropTask helps you effortlessly manage your time by allowing you to add Start and Due dates to each of your tasks. These are instantly scheduled within your Calendar, which brings together all of your tasks from across every project you are working on. The Calendar lets you toggle between Start and Due dates so you can choose whether to view your must-do-now priorities or focus on what’s coming up to reach maximum productivity. Scared of falling behind? Set Task Reminders to alert you as deadlines approach and spur you into action.

3. To-dos get buried

Email
In a bid to stay organized, you might try to keep email communications about specific tasks all on one thread. Seems like a decent enough plan, but an email thread for a single project soon grows to an unmanageable length, with task-critical data, questions, team progress updates, FYIs and off-topic chats gathering on top of each other in no simple order. These long, bulky ‘re:re:re’ email threads bury important information and cause untold frustration when it comes to digging out what’s relevant.

The key around this is to separate your tasks from your email as soon as they come in, so they don’t fall off the radar. Whenever a to-do arrives via email, transfer it straight into your task manager. It might seem like more work; after all, you’re adding another step to the process. But the act of freeing tasks from your email forces you to get clear on what has to be done, rather than scrolling through a long list of ‘re: re: re:’ emails to remind yourself.

Turning emails into tasks is a breeze with DropTask – just send the message to task@droptask.com or the special address found in your user preferences. Or, you can move emails from Outlook to DropTask with a single click of a button using our Outlook integration feature. There’s the option to set attributes for your tasks (such as Due Dates and Importance) from within Outlook before mailing to DropTask, and to include email attachments. More than that, you can also delegate responsibilities by emailing them straight into someone else’s DropTask workspace!

If you’re a Gmail user, download DropTask from the Google Apps Marketplace and send actionable items from your Gmail inbox directly into DropTask. As with Outlook, you can set time management and prioritization preferences to your Gmail emails, before firing them over to DropTask to tackle at a later date.

FEATURE FACT: The subject of your email will become the to-do name, and the body of the email will be the task description. Any attachments will be added as a file. When you next log in, you’ll see the task waiting for you in your Notifications.

4. Email distracts

Up to 15 minutes to resume tasks
Keeping your to-dos lounging in your inbox encourages constant email checking, and we all know how much of a distraction that can be! With every new ping, you’ll lose focus. A joint study by Microsoft Research and the University of Illinois found that it took workers up to 15 minutes to resume an absorbing task when interrupted by a simple email alert, whether they responded to it or not. Once you’re in your inbox, you run the risk of getting caught up processing new messages and as a result important to-dos get left behind.

Separating out your tasks into your task manager means that you won’t lose sight of them in a mass of open emails. And you have the added benefit of being able to better define, prioritize, classify and filter your tasks. Unlike email, you can also group tasks and show their relationships and dependencies in visible ways, as well as mark out which activities are complete, in progress or incomplete. In DropTask, you have a clear visualization structure of your work at all times, with options to view tasks in the original colorful Canvas, as a Workflow Board (Kanban-style) or in Calendar form.

While your inbox can offer support for your daily workload, it’s not the place for task management. Detach your email from your tasks by capturing all your actions in a dedicated tool like DropTask. What other good reasons are there not to use email to manage your to-dos? Or are you happy using your inbox as a to-do list? Let us know in the comments.

The planner versus the doer

planner-vs-doer-header
Here’s a thought-provoking question for you: Do you consider yourself a planner or a doer?

In the process of developing our new Calendar View, we noticed something interesting. Some of our team showed a preference for viewing their schedule by start dates, while others only wanted to view the due dates of their tasks. We came to the conclusion that those leaning toward start dates were the ‘planners’ of the group, and they liked to be more organized in how they approached their work. On the other side of the scale were the ‘doers’ whose main focus was on taking action to get the job done; so all that mattered to them were their deadlines.

Both planning and doing workstyles are equally valid in the workplace, and the best teams excel by harnessing the strengths of each. That’s why the all-new DropTask Calendar allows you to choose how you view your entire workload – by Start Date or Due Date – so you can manage your time in a way that suits you.

Not sure if you’re a planner or a doer? Here’s how you can tell.

“I’m a Planner”

planner-vs-doer-img1
Planners are a naturally deliberate and focused bunch. These organized types love lists, calendars, timelines, budgets, schedules and charts, and are driven to give order to the world around them. Planners tend to think more strategically and are great at exploring different opportunities or sides of a problem, as well as overseeing projects. It’s all about the where and how for these guys. Once they have the big picture in sight, they prefer to map things out in clear stages, so they know exactly where they’re headed and how they’re going to get there. Goals need to be clear and deliverables outlined at the outset, all carefully thought out to ensure the best possible outcome. Some planners hold on to their plans like security blankets. Predictability and caution is the name of the game, while ambiguity makes them edgy and nervous. Does this sound like you?

If you’re a planner, take care not to get stuck on perfecting the plan to the point that you delay the work getting done. Even the best-laid plans still need to be executed, so planners work well with others who are ready to act. And sometimes, a bit of flexibility could be just what your plan needs to make better progress – after all, things don’t always go according to plan!

“I’m a DOER”

planner-vs-doer-img2
Doers are masters of action – they make things happen. When handed an assignment, a doer’s first tendency is to dive right in, and they work fluidly and fast to check off their to-dos one by one. In other words, doers are all about the what. The ‘Shoot, Fire, Aim’ approach works well for this kind of worker, without the faff of planning everything out or holding meeting after meeting; and they nimbly sidestep the dangers of analysis paralysis. ‘Doing’ folk can happily ‘go with the flow’ and spontaneously take advantage of opportunities that cross their path because they’re not confined to the mental box created by their plan. They are intensely focused on one area rather than broadly focused like the planner. Often, doers see planning as getting in the way of their actual work, not as part of the work itself. Speed is valued over process, and any snags or obstacles are dealt with swiftly. Do these traits seem familiar to you?

While doers are able to handle truckloads of work, their lack of planning can cost them. Rushing at a doer’s pace, it’s easy to overlook important things or forget to communicate with your team. A plan is a framework for action, and a few minutes’ worth of planning before taking action makes for better and more consistent results.

Whether you’re a doer or a planner, DropTask can help you plan and do more – smartly and efficiently. The spanking new Calendar feature allows you to toggle between Start and Due dates for your tasks, so you can stay on top of your must-do priorities whatever your work style. Have you checked out the Calendar view yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.