Turn Your Meetings Around: 6 Tips from Our Users

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Let’s face it – no one wakes up in the morning itching to go to their meetings for the day. There’s a reason why many people can relate to the dread of the infamous meeting and it’s this – they often don’t work. Meetings have good intentions, but the manner in which they are held often results in the loss of productivity.

Ready to turn your meetings around? On our Facebook page, we asked users to complete this sentence: “Meetings are productive when ____”. We received some interesting responses and noticed a few trends. Here are 6 tips small business owners gave to help you make meetings worthwhile:

Make Meetings Work

  1. Allow Voices to Be Heard. No one wants to go to a meeting where they are unable to give their knowledgeable two cents. Creating an open atmosphere where people can be heard can make a meeting more enjoyable and give way to creative problem solving.
  2. Make Action Items. When people leave a meeting feeling lost and wondering what the purpose was, it’s often because the meeting did not reach a clear decision. A meeting shouldn’t start and end with planning to make plans. Instead, it should answer the ‘what’, ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of the meeting. When this happens, participants will leave knowing what has been decided and what next steps to take to achieve the goal of the meeting.
  3. Don’t Bring Distractions to the Table. It pays to leave behind mobile devices and put up with a few minutes of separation anxiety when attending a meeting. When distractions are left behind, participants are more focused and can help a meeting be more productive and stay on track.
  4. Have the Right People There. Keep the number of people in a meeting small. This will help avoid situations where participants who are not crucial to the core of the meeting are left asking why they are there in the first place. Make sure a meeting only consists of key players of your meeting’s agenda.
  5. Use Tools to Be Efficient. There’s a fine line between bringing in distractions and bringing in tools that will be useful during the meeting. Choose wisely! If you’re unsure, ask yourself 3 things:
    • Will it help me contribute to the meeting?
    • Will it be a necessity to the meeting’s success?
    • Will it help me get the most out of the meeting?
  6. Less is More. If a large number of meetings are scheduled and cover the same agenda, it may be an indicator that the meetings aren’t staying on track. If you have successful meetings to begin with, you won’t need to have many meetings. Make sure meetings stay focused and on point.

What are your thoughts on these six tips? Do you have your own that you didn’t see on the list? Feel free to share your advice on our Facebook page or in the comments below.

Zoho Projects 4: Work More Efficiently, Even On-the-Go

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Today we’re announcing general availability for Zoho Projects 4, the most complete mobile project management tool ever. Everything you need to get work done better: planning, tracking and collaborating is available wherever you are – even from your smartphone.

The Zoho Projects users who got an early preview of Zoho Projects 4 have already been experiencing the many improvements we introduced in this version – from being able to know what’s going on around your project at anytime thanks to Feeds (we like to think of it as your very own Project Coordinator), to the ease and simplicity of use by having most things you need on a daily basis within easy reach, on one page with no tabs or separate windows required.

But that’s not all. When we opened the Zoho Projects 4 preview we promised a surprise for the general availability, and that has arrived. We saved the best for last: taking your projects anywhere with our rich mobile apps.

Push Notifications
Away from the office on a trip? How will you keep up with what’s going on in your project? Zoho Projects gently reminds you about important deadlines from your phone using push notifications – there’s no need to keep refreshing.

Photos As To-Dos
A picture is worth a thousand words. But if you happen to be using a cramped mobile keyboard, then the picture is worth 10 thousand words. It’s just easier. Using the Zoho Projects mobile app you can upload pictures from your phone’s camera, and that way better explain your ideas about the project or how something needs to get fixed.

Easy Access To Everything While On-the-Go
The mobile apps allow you to add tasks, comments, change priority, and order anywhere you go, all in a simple, elegant UI that fits well on your phone. You also get to stay in touch with everything that is going around your project, including the latest updates and status notifications from everyone on the team. In a hurry? You can quickly add a task/milestone/status post with just a couple of taps.

The Zoho Projects 4 mobile apps are available now for both Android and Apple devices. Get them now at the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

With the general availability of Zoho Projects 4, we’re also moving to the new version full-time and retiring the old one (Projects 3.0) at the end of this month. And that’s a great thing, because our new desktop-web UI allows you to do things you couldn’t do before. If you didn’t get to experience the Zoho Projects 4 Preview, here’s what you missed:

Better Organization With The Kanban View
When viewing your task lists and tasks, you can now choose the all-new Kanban view. Kanban is just a fancy term to say you can see your activities as they move towards different steps towards completion. For example, you may have 5 tasks in the Design stage, 15 in Implementation and 3 in Review. Kanban view is great for whenever you have multiple concurrent processes or tasks all going through the same basic flow.

Everyday Tasks Just Got Easier
Getting updates about what’s going on around your projects got easier with the projects feed and notification alerts. Plus, the Follow feature lets you track individual progress and to-do’s, so you can easily view what’s most relevant to you. Similarly, now users can take control of the email notifications they get from Zoho Projects, so the emails they get are more personalized.

Attach Documents from Everywhere
With the latest Zoho Projects we make it easier for you to keep all your documents in a single place. You can now attach documents to your projects from Google Drive, Dropbox, Zoho Docs and even from Microsoft Skydrive.

And just as important, in the newest UI we have drastically improved speed and performance for a smoother and quicker access and navigation to everything you do.

We feel pretty good about our latest iteration – and with today’s mobile release we’ve delivered a major milestone. We can’t wait to see what you think of it, and most importantly, how you use it and how it helps you get work done better.

Rodrigo

The 7 Project Manager Personalities: Which One Are You?

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With the myriad of project management resources available today to ensure organized and successful project completion, one could argue that the need for a personal touch is obsolete. However, as cloud computing and mobile apps have expanded our horizons for task completion, team work is now more important than ever to connect all the dots. Most importantly, the role of Project Manager – including his/her inherent abilities and personality traits – significantly affects the overall momentum of a project.

Maybe you fulfill the role of Project Manager (PM), or maybe you work with one on a regular basis. Do you notice a connection between the PM’s personality traits and the outcome of a project? Maybe your PM is a “Strategist” type that envisions every detail of a project and therefore actively ensures each team member is doing his/her part. Having a clear grasp of a PM’s personality type, specifically how he/she communicates and interacts with others, can be very helpful in getting tasks done in a timely and satisfactory way.

So we’ve put together an infographic of the 7 Project Manager Personality Types, detailing the essential characteristics of each. Whether you or your PM is the type of “Micro-Manager” or “Mentor”, keeping an eye out for these particular traits will ease interpersonal relationships like no online or mobile app can.

We’d love to hear your thoughts: Can you relate to any of these Personality Types? Have we missed any? Let us know in the comments!

Infographic: What’s the Secret to Being a Successful Project Manager?

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Project Managers are responsible for performing streamlined juggling acts. In addition to successfully meeting goals and objectives, Project Managers must also find a balance between a client’s needs and a team’s capabilities. What traits must a project manager possess to play the juggling act to perfection?

In a past Facebook poll, we asked you what makes a successful project manager. Below, is a visualization of the responses we’ve received. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Clear the clog: Get your project flowing again with quick decisions

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This is a guest post by Shabana Shiliwala, who owns The Financial Sort, a financial planning company based in Austin, Texas.

Is your project not flowing smoothly? If you’re plagued with missed deadlines, overspending or incomplete tasks, it’s time to find out what’s clogging the pipes. A clue is that these blunders are often related to each other. For example, when overlooked tasks are discovered, going into emergency mode to complete them can require employees to work overtime, which pushes the project over budget. So if these problems are related, there must be a single culprit behind them. The usual suspect? Decisions aren’t being made efficiently. Find out what’s preventing the right people from making the decisions that will get your project flowing again.

Meetings. Think about how long it takes to organize a meeting, maneuver schedules so that all the major players can attend, keep it focused and obtain a consensus by the time it’s finished. Don’t forget the likelihood that more meetings will be required. When too many decisions are dependent on meetings, it’s no wonder your project is being held up. Keep the meetings at a minimum.

Approval channels. Decisions that can only be made after being approved by several levels of management can significantly slow down a project. All that time when staff are making presentations and waiting for approval to accomplish tasks is time they aren’t spending working on the project. Why does management need to be involved in every decision? The staff who are working on the project every day know best what needs to be done, so give them the freedom to fix minor problems and pivot the direction of the project when they think it’s necessary, leaving only major decisions to be reviewed by management.

Large groups. The theory behind juries is that when more people are involved in making a decision, it will lead to better decisions. Watch any legal drama television show and you’ll see that the drawback is how long it takes to get through everyone’s opinions and objections to come to an agreement. In your project, you have to maximize every minute, so get the results you want by limiting specific decisions to only those who are most qualified to make them. For example, leave the user experience decisions to the user experience designers instead of the entire software development group. A smaller team can be more agile in making decisions, allowing the project to move forward faster.

Bring your project back on time, on budget and on task by asking yourself who, what, when, where and how are decisions being made. Providing people the flexibility to make quick decisions may be just what you need to clear up that clog in your project.

Zoho Projects 4.0 Preview Is Here: New, Easier and Faster

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It’s been over a year since we started working on the new version of Zoho Projects and are very excited about it. We believe the new Projects 4.0 is the best version our customers have ever experienced.

We recently opened this new version in preview mode for a few of our customers and we are thrilled to share some of the things they had to say about it so far:

When developing Zoho Projects 4.0, we had 3 clear goals in mind:

  • Fastest Tool. All in One Page. 

    Your projects move fast. Zoho Projects moves faster. It loads in a flash, giving you a complete view of events as they happen.

  • See What’s Ahead Feeds keeps your finger on the pulse of every project. Plan for upcoming events/tasks, be alerted to missed deliverable, view critical requests and more.
  • Helps to do things you do everydayWant to know what your fellow team members are doing (or not)? Our new Follow feature lets you track individual progress and to-do’s—so you can effectively manage work.

Today we’re opening the  Zoho Project 4.0 Preview version to everyone. Please give it a try and let us know what you think, via this short survey, by email at support@zohoprojects.com or via Twitter at @zoho using #ZP4.

Remember, this is still in preview mode while we iron out the kinks. You can continue using the current version right now. We’re going to closely monitor usage and feedback – we’ll let you know when the new version becomes permanent.

Delegating Tasks and Managing the Flow

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This is a guest post by Sandra Faleris of SmBizWinningTips. 

How does your business get from A to Z on projects, expansion efforts, and on-going tasks? After they are complete, what’s your method for tracking, reporting and reviewing? Managing tasks and work flow helps your employees, and the business, achieve goals and accomplish projects in a gratifying and efficient manner. There are positive side effects to becoming and staying organized.

It is one thing to delegate and quite another to ensure project responsibility and accountability.

Effective task management includes all aspects of a task that are important to track, such as its daily or weekly status, time spent, steps required to finish the task (internally or externally) and more.

5 primary groups of activities that can be tracked in nearly any business:

  1. Functional: These activities include everything that pertains to sales, employees, quality control, and customer delivery and satisfaction. Anything that moves the product or service from inception to completion would fall under the category of “functional”.
  2. Creative:  Brainstorming, marketing, displays, business development, diversification.
  3. Service:  Quality control, returns/refunds, special customers, unhappy customers, Mystery Shopping Programs, surveys, customer rewards programs.
  4. Project:  Special projects outside of day-to-day operations would be in this category. Planning, cost-accounting, research, testing.
  5. Performance: Performance of your staff, products and services.

Using the help of online applications or software options can offer easy management solutions for moving tasks and projects through the pipeline quickly and effectively.

Do you need a project-tracking tool?

Go through this checklist to get a better idea if a project/task management online application would help you and your business. After all, in a small business, the more automated you are, the more time your employees have to effectively work on the projects and tasks. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you visually track projects and tasks? Or are you still using the verbal follow-up method?
  2. How often do projects get completed on time?
  3. Does everyone in the company understand their role in all projects and tasks?
  4. Are incremental steps given to help projects move forward more easily?
  5. Does overall blame happen when something isn’t accomplished because no one was originally assigned to the project?
  6. Do you feel on top of forward movement in every department, every day?
  7. Is your growth managed and broken down into projects and tasks that can be tracked?
  8. Are employees rewarded for accomplishing tasks on-time and on-budget?
  9. Do you consider everyone and everything an extension of you? For example, if you are the CPA, Attorney or other service professional and you have a support staff, do you give short and long term projects and goals? Or is everyone ready and waiting each day for instructions?
  10. Do you have a vision that is on paper, or just in your head?

If you answered “No” to more than two questions, an online project management tool is highly recommended.

Task management tools and software are available in many different formats and pricing options. Depending on your industry and business-use, it’s recommended to select the application best suited to your needs.

After implementing a new system, it will surprise everyone how quickly projects get successfully completed. It is gratifying to experience project completion, particularly when it helps propel the company forward.