Today, I’m stepping slightly away from the classic theme of pure software development to discuss something that concerns the entire world of work and is unfortunately often underestimated, although it should be the foundation of everything: The work method.
Every type of activity needs a method to express itself in the best possible way, from the traditional retail store to web agencies.
I am collaborating with many businesses as an external consultant, and I have noticed that very few apply a serious and optimized work method. This often causes problems in workflow management.
Every business has a main focus and a series of activities that revolve around it.
For example, I create websites and custom software, but around this, I also have to handle email and phone management, storage and management of customer data, invoices, taxes, etc.
I often notice that many companies focus a lot on the primary focus, only to get lost in corollary activities, often considered less important and therefore left to themselves, without much concern.
This leads to a great disorder in the company, and in the long run, it causes delays in deliveries, activities performed incorrectly, difficulties in time management, and many other negative effects that undermine the company’s reputation.
I want to try to provide some good advice that I have encountered in my work, hoping they can help others as they have helped me.
1. Have a good calendar
Every day has a limited number of hours, and often unlimited activities to perform…
Efficiently managing your calendar can truly make a difference.
I’m not saying to go crazy and mark every single activity of the day, but organizing all appointments, meetings, and calls in a visual calendar can be a great help in managing your days.
This way, it is easier to manage appointments and video calls without delays and without having to respond to emails at 11 pm. The calendar is the basis of a good work method.
2. Email is not a task manager
We are all overwhelmed by emails. Relying on a good email client is essential, but it is also important to remember that this is not software designed to manage tasks.
Leaving it to the email client to signal upcoming activities, perhaps by marking an email as unread until the task is completed, can work for small workloads, but if you manage multiple addresses and multiple clients on multiple projects, things can get out of hand…
Better to let the email client receive and make us read emails, and move tasks to be performed to another software.
I find myself very well with the integration between Gmail, Google Task, and Google Calendar. They are well integrated, graphically nice and cheerful, and allow for very good workflow management. Plus, they are free!
3. Email or chat?
Many companies are abandoning email for internal project management in favor of chats, because they are faster and more immediate.
In my experience, this works very well in medium-small groups and within the company.
Thinking of using group chats on large projects without the ability to isolate the type of topics can become problematic.
As far as I’m concerned, I say “Better emails,” but many speak well of services like Slack, although I have used them too little to judge.
4. A good scalable management software
This is the most important point of all!
As a software developer, I love using apps for business management, and I have even created one myself (a project abandoned… it was called ORange CRM), for internal use but not only.
Software comes to our aid, helping us a lot in managing our activities.
Thinking of managing incoming invoices, outgoing invoices, customer registry, projects to be carried out, tasks of various projects, accounts of various projects, etc., only with a system of Word files and subfolders is unthinkable and deleterious…
A good software can help us by allowing us to enter all this data and make them communicate with each other so that we have the right relationships between files, can recall them instantly, and create workflows and statistics that can help our business grow.
I’m using Notion to manage this aspect, and I’m finding it very good.
Certainly, at the beginning, it seems like you have to spend more time managing an activity than doing it, but when these activities grow exponentially in number, managing them well becomes crucial.
5. Separate private and business
It often happens to get lost in work and forget to have a life outside…
This becomes problematic on both fronts. Social life risks disappearing, and work life risks exploding without the right breaks.
Knowing how to disconnect is very important, but not so easy. I often receive calls on Saturday night at 8:00 pm, or even on Sundays or holidays.
My standard reaction is to ignore them.
There is a time for everything, as the good old Ecclesiastes used to say (my thesis in theology is making itself felt again…)
If I dedicate myself to work from Monday to Friday from 8 in the morning to 6 in the evening, outside of this time, I don’t want to be bothered unless it’s an emergency, something serious.
Don’t be too strict
You don’t have to be too strict, I’ve managed a website on a terrible server that was attacked over the weekend. In this case, I answered and even started working to solve the problem. It wasn’t a showcase site but one of the company’s biggest sources of
income, so it was very important to them, and in the end, they recognized and rewarded my work.
But beyond special cases, I try to be as tough as possible on this.
After 6, I mind my own business ??
On the practical side, this translates to
- Two phone numbers
- Two email clients
- Two computers
This doubling happened gradually. As I realized that my two lives (personal and professional) were too intertwined, I decided first to divide the emails, then the phones, and finally also the computers.
This way, at work, I have my “tools,” and in free time, I use others, without having reminders between one and the other (I don’t read business emails on my leisure notebook). This has changed my work method significantly.
Fun fact: I talked a lot about Apple notebooks vs. Windows notebooks; in practice, I use the Mac for work and an Asus Vivobook Pro for gaming and leisure.
6. Coexist with complexity
I am generally a minimalist. I love order and tend to seek perfection, but it’s not always possible.
Going crazy behind the idea of “having only the essential” can do more harm than good in the business world.
Thinking down can’t take you very far. You need to start accepting large workloads and large amounts of data that can be managed in the best possible way, but never perfectly.
You need to relax from the perspective of perfection and accept some chaos, without letting yourself go to disorder though!
You have to find the right middle ground.
7. Open to changes
You shouldn’t be too closed in your environment.
I use all my systems, but working with different companies, I must adapt by force to the methods of that company (although I often find them less efficient than mine… but I’m a productivity integrator, so it doesn’t count… ??)
You shouldn’t get anxious about using different strategies and techniques but be open to welcoming them.
After a short test, you can understand if they are better than yours and learn from them or if, on the contrary, they don’t work, you can talk to your collaborators to try different paths.
Because it’s not just about the work, but also about the method through which it is carried out!