Had a bad day at work? If you find yourself ending your day frustrated and grumpy, it may be because you spend too much time looking for something you needed, and you aren’t getting things done. Details and important documents are hidden within scattered projects, and you couldn’t reach teammates located across multiple time zones. Or maybe it was because of this: so many people were trying to get your attention in so many different ways—email, instant messages, calls, meetings—that you couldn’t find the focus you needed to accomplish anything. No, we weren’t spying on you. You just fell into one (or more) of the top aggravations people encounter at work. Scattered info does more than ruin our days. It ruins our productivity. And we at Evernote care about productivity. A lot.
Platforms and apps designed to make us faster suck up our time
A McKinsey Global Institute study revealed that people spend 19 percent of their time in an average work week just searching for things. That’s almost a full day lost from a five-day work week, and the effect is compounded by the time needed to get back on track after an interruption (as much as 25 minutes, according to a separate study by Gloria Mark at the University of California, Irvine). The McKinsey report suggests that if employees could regain all that lost time, productivity would go up by as much as 30 to 35 percent. The solution to this problem can be complicated. We often turn to technological solutions that promise to speed us up, but McKinsey estimated that only 5 percent of all the companies they surveyed are using that technology to its full potential. In fact, many companies are clogging up their workflows by misusing the technology designed to help them.
A study by Hubspot also noted that people are wasting time at work, and we’re not talking about time spent updating Instagram. 82 percent of respondents said they spend an hour a day just logging into and managing the many different systems they’re required to use. Most companies have up to five different applications to store and share information, and one extreme example in the study reported a staggering 88 different apps that employees needed to manage. But when projects sprawl across a multitude of systems, apps, and platforms, how can we possibly manage them effectively? We’re not even sure who put which document into which system. And those systems don’t talk to one another, so there’s no way to look for information globally. No wonder employees spend so much time searching for things.
The right tools at the right time
Which is not to say such tools are bad. And it’s fine to use more than one. But the first step to regaining control is for everyone on your team to agree on how each tool should be used. Some communication apps best lend themselves to specific situations, says Dr. Beat Bühlmann, Evernote’s General Manager of EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and an expert in team productivity and dynamics. As he explains it, “If our house is on fire, we don’t email the fire department.” In his team, phone calls still take top priority, especially if the question is urgent. Messaging is better for quick one-off conversations, and email, which is especially vulnerable to being misinterpreted or getting lost in the shuffle, is the medium of last resort.
With his communication apps focused on communication, Beat turns to Evernote Business as the place to get the work done. For his Zürich-based team, Evernote works like a Swiss Army knife for business productivity. It’s a place to create, store, scan, and find documents of all types, synchronize projects across physical boundaries, and eliminate the perceived need for multiple apps.
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The theory in practice
Leadflow, a digital marketing agency based in Hungary, took this advice to heart when organizing the workflow for their entirely virtual office. Without a central physical location, it was crucial that the small team located in different cities be able to find up-to-date information quickly and not duplicate work. They implemented a system within Evernote Business in which each client gets a dedicated notebook. A Table of Contents in each notebook is linked to individual documents and frequently updated, so no employee is ever more than a couple of clicks away from the precise document they need. To make it even easier, the team members agreed on a convention for tagging documents using symbols. Everyone on the team understands, for example, that the symbol “@” stands for “client name,” “$” means “project name,” and “#” means “topic,” so searching by document type across the many notebooks is remarkably efficient.
While these particular standards might not fit every team, they’ve given Leadflow a clear understanding how to find each bit of information, and the team members have embraced them. Instead of locking important information away on individual hard drives or burying them on a bulk storage service, it’s in everyone’s best interests to ensure that all materials are collected, organized, and shared in Evernote.
Once you’ve set your rules of engagement and collected all your team’s important information in one place, keeping that knowledge alive, even as your team changes over time, should be no problem. Get everyone in your organization to commit, and make sure those standards become part of onboarding. Once everyone is on the same page, finding and managing work across teams is easy, and it’ll put an end to a bad day at the office.
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