Becoming more efficient is a perpetual task; you can always do better. The more efficient you become, the more you can free up time to spend on the things that matter most. In 2018, I set out to become more efficient as an as an individual and find ways to help streamline some of the systems here at the IFP home office. Although I found many options available online, three tools stood out among the crowd, allowing us to improve efficiencies in a number of critical areas.
Scheduling calendar invites for meetings and calls with people outside of my company used to be painful. Someone’s assistant would request my availability, no time slots would fit the bill and we’d end up ping-ponging dates and times until we were blue in the face. I began having nightmares around the phrase, “What works best for you?”
Enter Calendly. There are a few different appointment scheduling tools out there, but we prefer Calendly because of the simple UI, ease of integration and, quite honestly, the name. After signing up for Calendly (the basic version is free) and linking your email calendar, a custom hyperlink is provided for scheduling purposes. This link brings them to a website where they can view times, check availability, and book an appointment on your calendar that works for both parties. Also, if you need to block out times and dates from your calendar, you can make that adjustment in Calendly’s settings.
Every employee at IFP has a Calendly with a link attached to their email signature. Now whenever someone asks to schedule time on my calendar, I direct them to the link in my signature. They’re able to schedule a meeting with me that’s free of conflicts without sending a single email or making any calls.
Calendly also has a robust team interface, allowing people to schedule a meeting with multiple individuals at once, see everyone’s availability on one page, and view key scheduling metrics. This is a great way to monitor your staff’s schedules and manage time efficiently.
Calendar invitations are typically long, convoluted messes filled with conference call instructions featuring 15 different numbers and codes. Then, once I finally dial into the session, I’m forced to listen to 90s elevator music until the host is ready to go. If there’s a screen sharing component, I might be required to download a separate software or plugin to make it all work.
They also love Uberconference’s hold music, which is a parody jingle about a man that’s been on hold all day. It seems like every other call I host, someone mentions how much they love the hold music. Uberconference also gives you a custom URL when you sign up. If you want to host a call with screen sharing, you simply provide the call participants with your custom URL, and that’s it – no downloads, no plugins. And the UI is very intuitive and simple.
At our firm, we leverage Uberconference and Calendly together. Now when someone clicks the Calendly link in my email signature and schedules time on my calendar, the calendar invite that gets generated automatically includes my Uberconference number and URL, which you can set up in your Calendly settings.
Project management is a skillset our firm is constantly trying to improve. It’s a challenge to manage multiple initiatives across multiple teams at IFP. Although, the ability to do this successfully is what separates good companies from the rest. For instance, we recently adopted the agile approach to project management for our marketing team and we needed a scalable, flexible tool to build on.
Enter Trello. Trello is a web-based project management application. Our Senior Graphic Designer used it at her previous firm, so she recommended we try it in conjunction with our new agile approach. So far, it has worked great. The UI allows us to categorize our projects easily into various columns and create “cards” for every project or to-do. These cards can then be dragged and dropped between columns, edited as details develop, and converted into more cards if necessary.
The Trello user interface is also great when managing projects on the mobile app. I liked Trello so much that I adopted it as my personal to-do manager, which I can access seamlessly from my laptop or iPhone. The column and card functionality also really helps me prioritize my to-do’s, something I wasn’t great at before.
When I talk about Trello, people often offer suggestions for other tools like Asana, but often those tools are pricey or offer bloated features that I simply don’t need. The free version of Trello delivers immense value, and the ‘Power-Ups’ you can buy as enhancements are priced very reasonably. Considering the price point and functionality, Trello is our #1.
There you have it – three free tools that can help anyone become more efficient. Although there are many on the market, we feel that these three have provided the most benefit with no initial investment. Check them out and let us know what type of tools use and love on our LinkedIn or Facebook.