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Episode 27: Boosting Personal Productivity: Hacks and Strategies for Success

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Are you struggling to keep up with the demands of your business? Do you find yourself overwhelmed with emails, meetings, and tasks? Look no further! In this episode, Dave and Richard provide practical tips and tools for improving productivity in the workplace.

 

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REad the transcript

Please note: Whilst all transcripts are double checked for accuracy, they are transcribed via Otter.AI so may contain errors.

David Parry 02:27

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The SME Growth Podcast. I'm Dave Parry from Wellmeadow and Richard Buckles here as well. 

Richard Buckle 02:45

I'm here. 

David Parry 02:45

Surprise, surprise,

Richard Buckle 02:46

surprise. 

David Parry 02:47

Yeah. Good to be back in again. It's just the two of us. We've had a couple of guests recently, haven't we? 

Richard Buckle 02:53

Yep.

David Parry 02:53

So we thought we'd have a bit of self-indulgent waffling, we were talking earlier about what should we make today's podcast about and I was listening to the tail end of the podcast we did on the UK productivity puzzle, which was couple of weeks ago. And we talked about the fact that one of the main contributors is our own personal productivity, you know, how good are we at just getting better and faster with the same resources. And it sort of rang true because we're still struggling everywhere we go with the recruitment problem. We can't get enough people in, we're getting busier. And it's a good positive sign actually. But it does sound like lots of bits of the economy are getting going certainly in the companies that we talk to. So they're trying to recruit and they're not always getting there. So there's a big benefit to be had, if you can increase your personal productivity. Yep. So we thought we'd make today's one a bit more specific, rather than that general point we made about the productivity puzzle, but a few tips from Rich and Dave about productivity hacks. So we started working on this three months ago And we kept putting it off. And we wrote it out long hand. 

Richard Buckle 04:00

So yeah, I guess we thought we'd start with like, Why should we bother being productive? I mean, it's kind of it's a bit of a

David Parry 04:06

well, when you mentioned that it was one of those. That's not even a question, is it but actually, it's deeper than you think. Because it's it's so true that some people are motivated to be more productive all the time to continuously improve. And other people seem to be quite comfortable, don't have the same pressure.

Richard Buckle 04:23

I haven't got the exact stats to hand but it's those you know what, how engaged are people at work in the survey that came out? Did it Gallup or someone that 56% of employees are unengaged at work, or whatever the number is, is a hybrid. There's a very, you know, whether they're neutral or disengaged, you've got a very small percentage of people who are really engaged and I think if you're going to be productive, then that's probably tied in in some way to how engaged you are with your work and how motivated

David Parry 04:54

And presumably that doesn't just lead to productivity and wanting to improve but just learning generally, yeah, you know, I mentioned the phrase autodidactic. Love that phrase, are you teaching yourself stuff? And one of my triggers, as you know, is when people say I have not been trained in that, well, have you bought a book on it? If you Googled it, try to look it up yourself. We don't have to as adults, we don't have to be spoon fed stuff. But you're right. The same goes for productivity improvement as it does for learning new skills, if you're not motivated to do it. And you maybe some people are, some people aren't. But certainly in amongst our audience of business owners who we typically talk to and directors of those businesses, I would say there's a reasonably high level of motivation to find quicker and better ways of doing things. Now, whether they can cascade that to their teams is perhaps a trickier question. 

Richard Buckle 05:44

I think it's an it's enabling, you know, I guess, as business owners, people are going to want to, it's maybe not even a want, it's more of a necessity, isn't it, you've just got too much to do when you want to, you need to get through more than there are hours in the day. But I think as well, if you can enable your team to be more productive, either by giving them access to software, or giving them the freedom to do things in the way they want to do them that that can be quite powerful. I was just talking to my wife this morning, who, incidentally, listened to one of our podcasts the other day, and she said, it's actually not that bad.

David Parry 06:20

High praise indeed

Richard Buckle 06:22

I could hear your voice in the kitchen.

David Parry 06:25

You go home and hear me. 

Richard Buckle 06:26

I thought, "What's going on here?" And, no, but she was sitting there with a cup of tea.

David Parry 06:26

Listening to my dulcet tones, chatting to you.

Richard Buckle 06:26

Yeah. And she watched the whole episode as well, apparently. Maybe she was missing you and she thought it'd just be nice to hear your voice. Anyway, enough of that.   But, yeah, so, yes, we were talking about, she was talking about her work and how they put a ban on ChatGPT. Just various reasons, I guess. They've got reasons. But it just struck me as a way of saying, well, maybe this is, okay, there are issues around it, but...

David Parry 07:02

well that in Okay, so there's two things there one, ChatGPT itself, is controversial. people worried about the fact that it's coming up with incorrect answers. In that sense. It's dangerous, or some other people think it's cheating, certainly around an education sector. But I guess the biggest sensitivity for organisations is accepting the fact that ChatGPTis still a beta product, as is Bard, the Google equivalent. And it is taking your questions to teach it what it needs to learn about. Yeah. And when you ask it to refine the answer, it's taking that in as well. And you're giving away your right to privacy. So you're the fact that you may search for, you know, one of the best restaurants in town, that's pretty innocuous. But if you want to say, rank the companies locally for those most likely to grow or something, you might be giving away something confidential about your work. So I guess that's why her work may have done that, but it's a shame. So that's the bit that's specific to ChatGPT. But we know from and it's so frustrating, we're going to the larger companies that we deal with, and their IT department for all sorts of good reasons have locked down any number of other services, you certainly can't instal a piece of software on your machine. Although, these days that's less required than it used to be because you can do browser based stuff. But even then they banned that. And you can't go on and use the services. And here we are just assuming that everybody has access to all this stuff. And a lot of people are locked out from it.

Richard Buckle 08:30

I think as well. Another reason to be productive is around, like the competitive advantage, which I think will become more and more apparent. Things like... AI, for example, becomes more of an enabler. So maybe not. So I was reading... I can't remember. One of the Magic Circle law firms has just started using a model, I think, trained on OpenAI. Oh, I think I saw that in the Gazette. Yeah. And it was, you know, talking about how it's going to enable people to save an hour a day or something. 

David Parry 09:03

It's not cheating, it's using tools

Richard Buckle 09:05

But it saves three and a half thousand people an hour a day. That's pretty serious. Pretty serious gain, in terms of what you can do. So I think those companies that adopt, say, AI, but also maybe a more enlightened approach to productivity, will see that.

David Parry 09:20

Well, you did the math just now, didn't you, for this podcast?

Richard Buckle 09:23

If you could save half an hour... Half an hour a day. A day. It's 125 hours a year. You know, thinking working days or whatever. So that's nearly three weeks or whatever 

David Parry 09:33

three weeks, three to three in a bit.

Richard Buckle 09:35

So almost, you know, what could you do with that? If someone said, Well, you can have three weeks now, okay, it's not all going to be condensed into one bit of time, but

David Parry 09:45

and it would be possible, quite possible to see the difference in if I was to had all my productivity tools taken away from me. It would take me at least half an hour a day longer to get my work done. So yeah, they're already benefiting me and there's more I could do, but I think we're reasonably full-on adopters of tools around us 

Richard Buckle 10:02

Having decent IT equipment, isn't it? I mean, that's probably a major. 

David Parry 10:05

Yeah, we got to one of our team the other day was having some problems with Excel just gumming up even though it's a really high spec machine. We just got to get the machine cleaned and sort it out. It's like giving somebody a blunt chisel to do their work on the bench. you know, you gotta give people the right tools for the job. So that's why we thought today, let's rather than just bemoaning the state of everybody not doing it properly, let's give a few tips for those that are interested. And it'd be harder to give tips, but still interesting to how to get other people to adopt this stuff. You know, if you've got team members report to you how to persuade them to forget this. So maybe you could have some sort of tip a day or lunchtimes you show someone a neat way of doing something or once a week, everybody gets to share something new, they're found, or you need to sort of develop a bit of a culture of sharing good ideas Create a culture of curiosity, I believe. It starts Here, UK productivity revolution. When they trace it back, you mean in 50 years' time, and the economists are saying, "What happened? 2023, it all seemed to get better." Yeah. It's amazing. They'll link it all back to this podcast. History makers.

Richard Buckle 11:12

Here we go. Yeah.

David Parry 11:13

Well, let's talk about a few practical ones. We're having a bit of a think about which the general areas and not surprisingly, we both started with Microsoft Excel. Because I don't know why we use Excel, loads of people use Excel. You know, I've seen people using Excel just to work out your shift rota or whatever, you know, you don't have to be a numbers based thing. It's just a scratchpad, isn't it? But lots of people do use it for numbers, but

Richard Buckle 11:38

classic interview question. How will you how good are you at Excel? I'm pretty good. Pretty good. Can you do pivot tables? I've done I think I did them once. That's a no then

David Parry 11:52

People think they're good at Excel, they can create a graph, add up a column of numbers, maybe do some basic functions, you know, that sort of thing. So anyway, it's good. If you've got any sort of job that has got numbers in it, you know, I'm sure we all think we're gonna Excel, however good, you think you are Excel, and that's us included. That's a 10th of what you could be, if you really knew how to use Excel properly. There's so much that you can do. But even with that. And the reason we both settled on Excel as a point to start our list of Top Tips, is because we see other people using all the time by looking over their shoulders or the screenshare on Teams. And it's so painful, you want to scream sometimes to see somebody doing something longhand that you know that if you just did that, give it to me moment, grab their keyboard, you could, you could do a lot faster.

Richard Buckle 12:39

Whereas literally I mean, with things like Excel, you can probably save days. If someone if you've got complex data that needs to go, you know, go through and someone's gonna go through a list of, I don't know, separating out addresses, you've got a big long list of addresses with commas in or something and they're gonna go through an d celebrate all

David Parry 12:59

r putting capital letters at the beginning of names, first name, last names. So many checking for errors, checking for things that match, deduplicating lists. So if you've got a list of a thousand data points, but you know it's made up of a certain number that repeat, how do you boil it down to just the unique values? Deduplicate using Excel.

Richard Buckle 13:19

a lot of that around, that's, I suppose more data cleansing, isn't it. But just in data integrity, which is something that we're seeing a lot of at the moment in terms of,

David Parry 13:29

Well, it hits our world a lot because we do a lot of CRM-based stuff. If you haven't got the correct data, it's that classic garbage in, garbage out problem with any system. And the integrity of a company's data is becoming increasingly what drives its value. You're going to be back to productivity again, but if you've got loads of incomplete data or incorrect data, you're going to be spending wasted time chasing prospects, chasing invoices, dealing with projects that take longer than they would have. 

Richard Buckle 13:56

The downstream impact of dirty data or incomplete data is probably quite..

David Parry 14:04

Well, people don't notice it, maybe, or measure it. Especially if it's not them that suffers the impact of it, it could be a colleague, couldn't it? 

Richard Buckle 14:11

So in terms of productivity, sharpen up your Excel skills. And how would you suggest people do that?

David Parry 14:16

you suggest people do that? Go on a course. Don't go on a course. Top tip.

Richard Buckle 14:22

Don't go on a course. Yeah, just YouTube.

David Parry 14:24

Courses are great. But you remember 10% of what you learned, of course, the day after and 1% A week after you know, you're going to have a reason to need to learn something when you say, so you can't really learn this stuff in a vacuum. So yeah, Google it, Stack Overflow, or you'll come up with these websites that have solved things before. But just whenever you have a problem, just assume that there's a better way and ask Google or ChatGPT I'm trying to sort out a list of blah, blah, blah, how to

Richard Buckle 14:52

Somebody cleverer than me has solved this problem.

David Parry 14:55

Yeah, there aren't many brand new problems. So a couple of tips in there. You've mentioned over tables, maybe it's some people see that as a bit of a rarified thing, but if it's not, it's flipping useful to create a table of your data, just got to get head around it, look up, some people do V lookups, in a very clunky way, but you can do it back on the data integrity thing, fuzzy logic lookups are probably quite a new concept to people. But the amount of times you run into problems where you're trying to do a look up on it doesn't quite match because of small typos or a comma in one person's address or not in the other order. So there is a free plugin for Excel, which does a fuzzy lookup, and it's great. If anybody wants to know about it, contact us send you the link, put in the notes. So that's very, very helpful, even gives you a score, if you're doing lots of them, gives you a score of how close a lookup is, okay, so give you a very rough and ready match. So this isn't really right, but it's probably the best you can do. And I'd say it's a 40% match. So that's quite good than one of those

Richard Buckle 15:56

VBA, we used to do a lot of that.

David Parry 15:58

Well, and still do. So VBA stands for Visual Basic for Applications. Okay. And it's a basic program in language. We don't tend to teach you much in schools these days because they're teaching Python, which is fine. But if you live in a Microsoft environment, you can't write Python directly, whereas you can write Visual Basic, which is VBA. Now, a lot of people maybe won't know about that and don't necessarily need to, but they will have heard of macros. So I was doing a job the other day with one of our team where a row of data had, it was badly structured data that we were given, And each row had one of four different potential products within it. And really, you needed that split out so that it would be four rows instead of one row. So it's just a bit of, you know, inserting rows and copying this. So you just start recording a macro, make sure you do on relative references, if you're familiar with using Excel rather than absolute, and then you can keep doing over and over again, and it just carries on through your list. And you you do the functions that you need it to repeat, you insert some rows, copy some cells, and then you make sure you finish the same place you started but one row further down, save a shortcut key on it. And then you can just sit there pressing CTRL, whatever you want t or something and it goes blah, blah, blah, blah, no changes or brilliant about time that saves 

Richard Buckle 17:12

So how many rows of data was that?

David Parry 17:13

So that would have taken, imagine if you were doing that, someone gave you the tasks, put that data out so that every row becomes four rows and copy these bits pops out. That would have taken you probably all day. Yeah. At least all day. Yeah. And by writing the macro and okay with a bit of VBA knowledge, instead of pressing it 250 times, you can go into the code and just say do this 250 times for next. And it took 20 minutes. Maybe 20 minutes to write the code, 20 minutes to run it. And whilst you're running it, you can do something else. The computer just sat there. So you can watch something on Instagram or TikTok, use some of these to use your time more productively when you're probably learning something.So maybe that will be seen by some as a bit advanced. And the VBA bit maybe but macros just for goodness sake learn how to use macros. That's that easy. Or

Richard Buckle 18:04

OR find someone that does. So that's good. I guess the other thing is about Excel as well. It was just, I guess more recently, the ability to link it into other programmes. You can link it into ChatGPT if you want to use that kind of functionality within your Excel spreadsheets, there's loads of like, 

David Parry 18:25

Just so everyone's aware other spreadsheets are available. Google Sheets is used by lots of people. And actually that is more integrated because it's a browser based thing inherently whereas your whilst you can use Excel in a browser is more powerful as a standalone app. But Google Sheets is very good. And that links to ChatGPT if you instal the function on there, just like you might have equals sum open brackets or equals average open brackets you've got equals ChatGPT open brackets. So you can process data using a ChatGPT question, 

Richard Buckle 18:57

I suppose phosphor on the kind of Microsoft vibe, even using things like Word.

David Parry 19:03

Yeah, this bugs me a bit because I see you often watching people typing stuff when you share screens on teams calls or Zoom calls. And you see the clumsy way I see people manoeuvring around a document to do stuff. And I think it's because a lot of people aren't used to using the keyboard shortcuts. And there's a lot that they've designed it to make it quicker to use, but people still reach for the mouse and move the cursor and click and right click and all that nearly everything has got a keyboard shortcut so you don't always have to go back to the mouse and look at the ribbon at the top and select something down. So even moving around, text, if you press ctrl as you go left and right it jumps one word at a time I've come down here in paragraph at a time. If you want to select a whole paragraph, you just triple-click any word within it and it selects the whole paragraph and you can come paste it. Control C for cut, copy, sorry, control X for cut, control V for paste. You know, all these very quick things, control Z to undo, control Y for redoing when you want to repeat something over and over. You know, all these, very simple, when you use them enough, they become second nature. But a lot of people you see don't know them and they're just going find a place, control H. You just go in there, put in your text you want to find replace 

Richard Buckle 20:12

I remember teaching some people trying to teach them how to cut and paste. And it was copy and paste, it was just years ago, just a nightmare. I won't, I'll keep the names of the guilty, 

David Parry 20:24

Protect the innocent, or the guilty

Richard Buckle 20:29

Another nice one with Word and also with Outlook as well is using the AutoCorrect function to create your own hacks. So if you've got something like, I don't know, a paragraph, or like, I don't know, hope you had a good Christmas break and Happy New Year or whatever the usual sentences that we will send, you could just have like Hny or something, type that in autocorrect will pick that up and then put that whole sentence in for you. Save having to rewrite it every single time. And you can apply that to the whole paragraphs of text. You can Yeah, so if you've got

David Parry 21:02

people's names that are difficult to spell, or addresses that you need, whatever, yeah, do all that sort of thing. Also in Word where you get the red squiggly line for a misspelling, once again, people tend to reach for the mouse, put the cursor over the misspelt word, right click and then choose the one, you can just if you've just typed the word, then just go back a couple of spaces with the cursor on the keyboard. And there's always the equivalent of the right click button on the mouse on the keyboard, it's usually a function button or one click that give you a list of misspellings to put up one. You've corrected the spelling. So silly little things like that really all in all within the Microsoft environment is designed for you to do nearly everything on the keyboard. And it's so much quicker when you add up all those little movements where you're trying to use the mouse,

Richard Buckle 21:46

like a team Sky's incremental gains, isn't it? It's that little

David Parry 21:49

Yeah, Dave Brailsford

Richard Buckle 21:50

1% here 1% There. I guess he's just talking about data management as well. Things like actual CRMs, that type of thing as well, isn't it?

David Parry 21:59

Yeah, to use those efficiently. And you know, back onto our old hobbyhorse about CRMs. It's still unfortunately the case that most users of it see it as a monster to be fed for no noticeable gain from their point of view, which means you've got it set up incorrectly, you're not using it properly, right, it's a tool. And there isn't any point feeding if you're not going to use it.

Richard Buckle 22:21

And it is that I guess the productivity gain from a CRM whilst there is maybe perhaps a little bit more effort, good to go in to keep the data to get the data, right to keep it right. But the downstream productivity gain of being able to have a clean marketing list, a clean set of data for sales teams to work off. You know, project management, financial reporting, whatever you're doing with it, so long as that data integrity is maintained. You haven't got people then running around trying to find bits of information, missing things out and missing opportunities

David Parry 22:57

And it's not just from marketing point of view, it's the company's central database of everybody and every company that it knows. So rather than everybody having their contacts in their phones, you know that I mean, the majority of people in SMEs probably don't have a CRM or anything equivalent. But someone in the organisation knows the people, but it's in their phones or in their outlook. Yeah. And it's not shared. So if someone else in the in the company's during that they got to go and ask that other person or look them up from scratch. And, and of course, by having a central database, you can see other information about them, you know, have they paid their bills, for example? Or products have they had before? All that sort of stuff? 

Richard Buckle 23:33

if you can, if you can take out that unnecessary communication? Or have you got that email address was so and so. What was the last thing that they purchased? Or what was that? When did you send that quote, or you can remove all of that? That would be that's a huge productivity gain. Yeah, that kind of knowledge, and conversation, and communication.

David Parry 23:50

We'll come back to the comms bit emails and things in a minute. But yeah, that's there's so much we could we can and indeed have done whole episodes on CRMs. And the benefits of it, so we wouldn't repeat ourselves there. What about project management? We use a number of tools, don't we? Software as a Service browser based tools for this,

Richard Buckle 24:08

we tend to use monday.com. Yep. But there are other project management tools available.

David Parry 24:12

Yeah, we've use Basecamp. In the past and others.

Richard Buckle 24:17

Trello. Trello is good.

David Parry 24:19

f people haven't heard of Trello, it's an amazing free tool and so simple. It's just columns. People may remember T-cards in the old days. Just columns of cards, if you like. And you can move things from one column to the next, change the order. Very shareable

Richard Buckle 24:35

You mean, Monday, it's very, it's very powerful, but it's also quite easy to use. I think you've almost just got to settle on something that your team likes. Yeah. Monday works well for us. We can automate boards. I can annoy people with reminders.   And again, even things like shared boards as well, so we can partition what we're using, but also what we're using internally versus what we're sharing with clients. And that, again, is a productivity saver because we can be working on it. We haven't got to then keep going backwards and forwards, saying, "Where's this? Where's that? Where's the other?"

David Parry 25:11

But if you can self-serve information, it stops you having to interrupt that other person's thought process, doesn't it?

Richard Buckle 25:17

And just looking and it's just like today, I was just going through with someone talking about how we organising all the content we're trying to produce. And just being able to break it down within Monday with a couple of unit put all the information in a couple of clicks. And Monday's organised it for us into you know, different projects across the different stages of work that needs to be done. Very, very clear, very easy, everyone can see what's going on.

David Parry 25:38

And actually that's just triggered another thought as well. But if you're trying to explain something to somebody, you don't have to wait until you do a team's call with them and go through it, it gets it can sometimes be more efficient for you to record your screen recording of the solution. Now, people may have seen this other people are not realise it's so easy to do. But it is there are some of the software options out there are free to record your screen. Some of them even put a little circle on the screen with your webcam of you doing the talking explaining it and you can point to stuff and that sort of thing. If people use Dropbox, we use Dropbox professional version as one of our file sharing services that's got an inbuilt screen recorder to it. Videoyard is another one Vimeo, if there are other solutions out there that allow you to do this, 

Richard Buckle 26:22

I would say as well from a proposal, sort of sales proposal, quote, type of angle, if you are sending documents like that out if you record a little video going through the document. So camera as well as its functionality while highlighting key points, and just talking it through say okay, this is what we think the problem is and this is the solution but the conversion rate on that is allegedly a lot higher 

David Parry 26:49

Imagine if you had the option of someone just send you a document 60 pages long. Oh, I can't be bothered to read it. Okay, I'll give you a 10 minute run through Oh, yeah, great. That's great. I 10 minutes, I can handle and you're doing a lot work. You're telling me the bits I shouldn't be missing. That's what that solves for you. So you're either talking through a long document in almost a salesy way, or just helping someone to understand something because then they can replay it if they get stuck. I think

Richard Buckle 27:12

it is that just building relationship, isn't it rather than here's a, here's a document, it's around, you know, kind of just, we're explaining it, we're building relationships. So anyway, I think the data on that you can look it up. But yeah, it's a good, it's almost like a 30/40% increase in conversion rate just by doing something like that.

David Parry 27:30

Another good comes one is Slack. Now slack, a lot of bigger companies use Slack quite a lot. So have you not heard of it? It's an internal messaging service. So it's a bit like when people go on teams and send a team's message to another, it's a it's a bit like that or other instant messaging services. But we use it as I think a lot of other companies use it to eliminate as much as possible internal emails. So we all have too much email. And that's a problem anyway. But it's made worse by the fact that inside an organisation everyone's emailing each other as well as external. So if you can cut out all the internal stuff, then you know, email is just there to talk to outside parties with

Richard Buckle 28:07

And then we have you can organise slack in it is flexible, isn't it in terms of how you organise it? So we have different channels for different things? Yeah. Try and have a general kind of update news. This is what's going on? Yeah. professional broadcast everybody. Yeah. Bit of a random watercooler one for just random thoughts Fokes and they are for sale and all that. Yeah. And and then client focused channel,

David Parry 28:32

subject focus channels. And you can be a subject you might be a group of people just for that group of people to talk amongst themselves, which may be for one single purpose, or it may be, generally speaking that group has 

Richard Buckle 28:42

And they have got a great what's it called? The bit that you can speak on it. Huddle. That works very, very well. It's a kind of a zoom thing where only one person can talk at a time. Yeah, with huddle. It's like having a conversation just in the room. But everybody's talking through through Slack. So is 

David Parry 29:01

it we can all talk over each other?

Richard Buckle 29:05

So that's very good. I guess other things are project management, we're using Dropbox a lot with commenting tool, at the moment to trying to get things approved, or just trying to collaborate on, say, a video or something. It's really, really easy for Dropbox. I think you've got the pro account to use it. But you can timestamp your comments. So people can go through timestamp a comment in terms of reply to comments that have been replied, so but in terms of time saving, if you know exactly that, like one minute, 25 seconds, that's the bit that needs to be changed rather than Can you change the bit that says, Oh, you mean when you're videoing when you're videoing and editing things in yours gives you that ability to be able to go through and that's that I would say that just the time stamping bit, probably saves you half an hour to an hour.

David Parry 29:55

And you made a comment there about having the professional version of this relates to earlier on, we said, you know, you can pay for the proper version of Slack on Dropbox or whatever it may be. A lot of companies are shy from doing that though everyone wants to try and get something for free. And I see this trait quite often in smaller businesses where the people making the decisions almost apply the same logic they do to their household accounts at home, as they did you running the business. And you just tried to save money almost at any cost, if you not to me almost regardless of the consequences. And it's just a plea really to say to people, these pieces of software are designed to make you more effective. There are 1000s of companies worldwide pay for them, because they do make them more effective. So don't always go for the free stuff 

Richard Buckle 30:38

back to the half an hour a day. Three weeks a year. 

David Parry 30:42

Yeah, it's 10% of... Is it 10%? No, it's 1% isn't it? No, weeks, sorry, not days. I was thinking number of days. Three weeks. Well, three weeks a year. 15 working days, let's say, out of your what, 250 odd. Yeah, you're up at 6, 7% of your working time, aren't you? What would you pay for that? Yeah. 7% pay rise. So it's just a plea that take these things seriously even if they cost sometimes modest amounts, 10 quid a month or something. But in fact, how much would you have to save to be worth 10 quid a month? 

Richard Buckle 31:13

10 quid a month, that's what Magic Minutes cost? This episode brought to you by... Magic Minutes

David Parry 31:18

Very good, I like what you've done there. So let's do a quick roundup of other useful bits of software or techniques that we're both used to using, we've mentioned some of these before, but

Richard Buckle 31:30

ChatGPT if you haven't heard of it, 

David Parry 31:34

I'm still finding people who haven't heard of it, or maybe have heard of it, but think it's a bit not for them. And it is it's everyday we're using it still aren't. Whatever it is, you need to do draft a job description or come up with a list of ideas for x y z, or you come up with the pros and cons of an argument just also 

Richard Buckle 31:52

It's not a replacement, but it's a supplement, and it's a good starter for 10 Often, yeah, you know, all the caveats around could be wrong. But I think there's a whole there's a whole I guess this ties into the other you know, the other thing we use as well things like Midjourney, which is more image based. But all of this is rains a whole new area growing up around prompt, prompt engineering, so that you actually feed it the right information to go away and build the image.

David Parry 32:21

Well, that's going to become something that is a productivity hack, asking ChatGPT just a bland question may or may not get you a decent answer. But getting the right prompt will give you a better answer

Richard Buckle 32:32

I saw something on Instagram, which obviously means it's true that that there's like six figure jobs now going as prompt engineers. It's like the prompt engineer, AI prompt engineer is now a new job 

David Parry 32:45

Incredbile. Because when we do the school talks, we talk about jobs that don't ask adults for opinions on because they don't exist yet. Yeah, you know, there'll be a lot more available when today's school kids go into the workplace. And there's one of them, prompts engineer who'd have thought

Richard Buckle 32:58

Prompt engineer, another thing we use, which is quite good is Otter, yet, once

David Parry 33:03

again, we pay for the professional version of this. So if ever there's a chance to record a phone call or a Zoom meeting or a conversation in an office, just capture that on audio, run it through auto and gives you a transcription.

Richard Buckle 33:14

So I was in a meeting the other week where someone we'd filmed a presentation or something that they given. I said, what you want us to transcribe that and then and it was almost as if we were going to sit and listen to it and type it all out. Yeah. So I had to sort of explain that things have moved on a little bit. 

David Parry 33:34

Yes, speech recognition is now out there. But I was reading this month's Harvard Business Review, which got a great little chart and it may be online actually have a look at it as to how the different uses of aI have accelerated in their performance as compared to humans performance, right. So if you mentioned the graph has got the 100 point is where humans are. Speech recognition started 20/30 years ago, but for a long time was down at 5/10% As good as a human. And then about five years ago, it breached the 100% mark. So speech recognition is now better than humans. Interestingly, handwriting recognition is a very hard thing to solve. But it's just about well, you're smiling because I've seen your handwriting 

Richard Buckle 34:13

hold my beer.

David Parry 34:16

But now AI has just about got better than humans at handwriting recognition. They've not seen your handwriting

Richard Buckle 34:23

Not seen my handwriting. So if anybody needs to keep anything encrypted and safe from AI

David Parry 34:29

Just get you to write it down 

Richard Buckle 34:30

I write it down, I can't even remember most of this. I write it on the whiteboard, and I can't read yourmy own writings later on

David Parry 34:35

Well, AI would do it. Image recognition is better than humans, and there's stories out there about diagnosis of cancers from mammograms and that sort of thing where the AI is better than the doctor. Yeah, so AI... If you just start with chat GPC, you'll find a lot, and we talked a lot about that before, and Otter for doing what it does. Another one is Fathom, which is similar to Otter, but it's a plug-in for Zoom. So if you're having a Zoom call, Fathom sits there in the background, recording it all, transcribes it as you go along, and at the end of it, you ask it for an AI summary, and it gives you a short few paragraphs summarising the last hour of what you've been talking about. It's phenomenal. Very, very clever.

Richard Buckle 35:14

AutoHotKey, that's something that you use.

David Parry 35:16

Yeah, if you haven't come across this, not a lot of people have, but it's a way of getting your computer to simulate keystrokes. Now, that sounds like, why would I need to do that? It's a bit like you said earlier with the auto correct, so that you type in H-N-Y, and it comes up with Happy New Year, I hope you had a good... It's an expanded version of that, but instead of just typing characters, you can get it to do tab commands or press enter or up and down with your cursor and that type of thing.   So I use that to good effect just for auto correcting misspellings that you're doing with your auto correct, but it applies then in any place that you're doing it. It doesn't have to be in a Microsoft product, which is where auto correct works. It could be on a browser or whatever. And because we take our magic minutes, notes, meeting notes in a browser rather than in a Microsoft product, that's where it becomes particularly useful. So I've got lots of little shortcuts there. All of the email addresses of my frequently referred to colleagues   are all in there, so I can just type R.B, and it splits out to british.bokker.willmedo.co.uk and so on. But there's so much more you can do with it in terms of getting to wander around web pages and click buttons. You can use it for web scraping to a certain degree or processing things. If it's the sort of thing that appeals to you, you'll find so much support information out there on it, but it's a great productivity hack

Richard Buckle 36:34

Emails that we talked we talked about that already didn't we? 

David Parry 36:36

Well, we all overloaded, which is why we use Slack. But there's couple of techniques I've come across for managing a bit better. Not everybody's cup of tea, but I like to not use the folder structure. On the left hand side, I see a lot of people when they're triaging their emails, you watch them doing it, they spend a lot of time grabbing emails from the inbox when they've dealt with them, and putting them into a folder. Imagine how many times you're doing that throughout the year, that's a lot of time, I just leave everything in the inbox, which is actually Google's advice of how to deal with emails when you use Google Mail. And then just use the very powerful search functions to to find the things you want rather than the folders. But the benefit of that is your inbox is then your full to do list. And a quick way of me triaging that is using the keyboard shortcuts to turn an email into being either unread or red. So Ctrl Q marks it as read. So I just go down the list and even open the ones where I know from the subject heading or the sender, that I'm not going to be giving that anytime today. So I just Ctrl Q and sometimes I select whole swathes of emails in a period and Ctrl Q mark them all as read, they're off my list, and you can do CTRL you to put it back to being unread again. Another neat trick as well, if we're all a bit of a prisoner, sometimes to triaging emails as they come in. And I could be working on something in my inbox, and the new email arrives at the top and immediately distracts me and we're all shiny new toy, shiny new thing. So I tend to collapse the bit at the top, which says today, because it's usually grouped by today, yesterday, last week. So I collapsed that today. So then when I'm working through the older stuff, I'm not getting distracted by newer things that are coming in. And you can also decide to timebox your day to only use your certain times a day, maybe first thing in the morning, first thing after lunch, to even look at your emails, it's good to have control 

Richard Buckle 38:21

I suppose we'd be remiss not to mention Magic Minutes, which is another...

David Parry 38:25

Yeah, other meeting management software is available. As we've mentioned before, we have our own that we've developed and that's commercially available. The reason we did that is because in the board meetings that we run lots of, we wanted to make sure that any actions that were agreed don't just get written down and then forgotten. They become a living thing. So the system will chase people up and allow you to put comments against them and automatically include them into the follow-on meeting so that they get dragged in to the next set of minutes and you can explain what's happened. It works very well. 

Richard Buckle 38:55

ut you can do meeting minutes quicker, so that you actually... Our style of doing that was to take the minutes in the meeting so that when the meeting's finished, everybody's seen the minutes so they can agree them. You haven't got that. Well, I never said that. I didn't read that thing. That's taken care of. But also you can just move on to the next thing rather than thinking, "I've got to go trying to decipher what I've written down on a scrap of paper and then turn that into a set of minutes.

David Parry 39:19

nd that was your version of the truth rather than someone else's. To be fair, a large part of that is solved by just the fact of presenting or these days sharing on screen the page where you're taking the minutes. Everybody owns it then and they can stop you mid-track, say, "Oh, no, I didn't say that," or "Don't forget, there was an action there. You didn't collect it." Even down to misspellings. But you're right, the amount of time that saved us. We used to employ somebody, didn't we, to manage. And that wasn't even taking the minutes. That was just a process. Manage the actions. Board packs, put the agendas together, manage the actions, send out the minutes, chase people up for the dates for the meeting. All of that is managed by the software so that saved us a person. And then, as you say, instead of taking the notes and then coming away that evening, usually having to write up the minutes, it's done in the meeting. Project it on the screen. Everybody can see it happening. Use all the snazzy keyboard shortcuts to refer to the reports that have been uploaded and job done. 

Richard Buckle 40:11

I suppose yeah. Another thing that we did integrate into Magic C inutes, but is available for the things is Zapier

David Parry 40:17

yeah, I'd be surprised probably quite a few people haven't even heard of Zapier. But it's increasingly useful because it links together two or more existing browser based pieces of software. And because there's so many more browser pieces of software, now it's even more useful. But imagine if you've got, say, a Trello board that we talked earlier, we got some projects on it. Every time a job moves from one column to the next, you could get it to either send you an email in simpler sense, change your status to something else somewhere else. And you know, there's lots of Internet of Things type products available now like the Philips Hue light bulbs, you could say that when an order arrives on HubSpot, it makes the light go green in your office, you know, the possibilities are endless. Really, you can make all sorts

Richard Buckle 41:02

We used to use this thing was that if it does a similar thing to Zapier?

David Parry 41:06

Yes, If This Then That.

Richard Buckle 41:09

you had your you had a geofence around your clients, didn't you?

David Parry 41:12

Yes, put a geofence around every client and every time I arrived at or departed a client, it sent a Slack message so everybody else on the team knew that I was either busy or available, and they could give me a call in the car. 

Richard Buckle 41:24

Call in the car. Don't get me started. We've covered that before.And then I guess Yeah, HubSpot automations is another thing we use a lot of.

David Parry 41:33

Yeah, it can save a huge amount of time,

Richard Buckle 41:35

Massive amount of time, I think our last recruitment process. I set it up so that everything was automated in terms of responding to candidates and pushing people through the process. Yeah. And so yeah, we had somebody, you know, apply recently. And they went through the process, and

David Parry 41:53

it was very touch free from our point of view

Richard Buckle 41:57

Yep. One of those things to save you time, isn't it? Save an hour a day or two hours a day or?

David Parry 42:02

Yeah, and obviously, with a marketing point of view, people are seeing some interesting content, they want to download an asset and ebook or something, they do that then automatically they're followed up with a series of emails expanding on it and adding more value. And then they come back in again. And yeah, that's that's the magic, isn't it? You want something to be working while you're sleeping. That's good. So also in HubSpot, there's the snippets function. So if you've got paragraphs of text, like you talked about before, you can just insert that into emails. Clickable button, saves a lot of time.  

Richard Buckle 42:38

I'm worrying now that we're taking up too much of our listeners time, by listening to us 

David Parry 42:43

Yeah, so maybe the next tip is to stop listening now. I like to think that people are walking the dog or driving, you know, when you got this picture in your mind's eye of where people are listening to this. I think they're, they're not at their desk,

Richard Buckle 42:56

email in tell us. Tell us what are you doing? What do you do when you listen? 

David Parry 43:00

Yeah, answers on a postcard, please. I don't think people are sitting there at their desks listening to us are they.

Richard Buckle 43:07

Do you think they know maybe, maybe? Well, I

David Parry 43:09

tell us. That's No, that's no good. Well, we thought we try and share some thoughts. hope that's been helpful. We can always do a longer blog on the back of this country, other productivity hacks.

Richard Buckle 43:22

Good links to some of the tools, whatever. Yeah.

David Parry 43:25

Good. Well, thanks a lot for listening. Once again, you've been listening to The SME Growth podcast from Wellmeadow, and we've been talking about personal productivity hacks today. As we say, every week, please pass on the message of what we're doing. We do get a lot of satisfaction from hearing everybody's fantastic feedback. So thank you very much for that. Please share it around though to your business colleagues and friends. And if you get a chance, then give it a like or follow on. We're on wherever it is that you get your podcasts from. But in the meantime, good luck and good luck with your businesses.

 

Further Resources

Throughout the episode we reference various tools we use to boost our own personal productivity. This is a brief summary to cover some of our recommendations that you may have not worked with before.

 

HubSpot Logo

HubSpot

HubSpot offers a range of tools designed to streamline and optimise various aspects of marketing, sales, and customer service. With its integrated CRM, automation capabilities, and data-driven insights, HubSpot empowers businesses to improve productivity with workflows and collaboration tools.

Monday.com logo

 

Monday.com

Monday.com is a versatile productivity platform that enables teams to effectively plan, organise, and track their work processes in a visual and collaborative manner. With its intuitive interface and customisable workflows, Monday.com helps streamline project management, task tracking, and team coordination. 

ChatGPT logo

 

ChatGPT

ChatGPT is an advanced language model developed by OpenAI that enhances productivity by providing an AI-powered conversational interface. With its natural language processing capabilities, ChatGPT enables users to interact with the model in a conversational manner, obtaining information, assistance, and generating responses. It serves as a valuable productivity tool for tasks such as content generation, idea exploration, research assistance, and answering queries, offering efficient and reliable support in various domains and facilitating smoother communication and knowledge sharing. 

Fathom logo

 

Fathom

Fathom offers a Zoom plugin that enhances productivity during meetings by providing a seamless note-taking experience. With this plugin, users can capture and organise meeting notes directly within the Zoom interface. This feature eliminates the need for switching between different applications and streamlines the process of documenting important discussions, action items, and key takeaways.

Otter Logo

 

Otter

Otter.ai is a productivity-focused platform that offers a powerful transcription and note-taking solution for meetings and conversations. With its advanced speech recognition technology, Otter.ai automatically transcribes audio recordings, allowing users to easily review and search through the text-based notes. This capability enables efficient information retrieval, facilitates collaboration, and eliminates the need for manual note-taking during meetings.

Zapier logo

 

Zapier

Zapier is a versatile automation platform that greatly enhances productivity by connecting various apps and automating workflows. With its extensive library of pre-built integrations, Zapier enables users to create "Zaps," which are automated workflows that trigger actions between different apps based on predefined triggers and actions. By eliminating the need for manual data entry and repetitive tasks, Zapier streamlines processes and saves valuable time. It allows for seamless data synchronization, automatic notifications, and the integration of different tools, ultimately boosting productivity by optimizing the flow of information and reducing manual effort.

Magic Minutes logo

 

Magic Minutes

Magic Minutes is a productivity software designed to streamline and simplify meeting management. With Magic Minutes, users can efficiently capture meeting notes, create agendas, assign action items, and track progress—all within a single platform. By automating the process of generating minutes and managing tasks, Magic Minutes eliminates the need for manual note-taking and follow-up tracking, saving significant time and ensuring nothing falls through the cracks. The software offers collaboration features that enable teams to easily share meeting information, collaborate on action items, and stay aligned.