Archive for January, 2020

Your First 2 Hours

January 28th, 2020 by Heather Maloney

productivity at workOver the New Year break I try to read at least one physical book. Usually the book is in some way connected to business, with the aim of helping me during the business close down period to refresh and reframe my views of business, and start the year with appropriate, positive changes. It’s a great time to reflect and take a step back.

I don’t make New Years Resolutions though! [We all know how successful they aren’t].

I was delighted this Christmas & New Year to read the book “The First 2 Hours – make better use of your most valuable time” by Donna McGeorge (a gift from Lynne Cazally, a long-term business colleague). The book was actually a quick read; I got through it over the course of about 3 days. Despite the quick read, it contains some profound insights into how to work more productively, in sync with your body’s natural rhythms, instead of trying to fight them. Importantly, the book is supported by much research.

Since being back in the office on the 6th January, I have been applying the strategies suggested in “The First 2 Hours” in my day to day work, and also encouraging members of our team to embrace the recommendations. I can thankfully say it’s made a huge difference to my productivity. And when I am productive, I feel much better about each day!

I won’t attempt to paraphrase the book in this blog post, but the changes that I am personally making include:

  • Only skimming through emails at the start of the day to look for anything super urgent, and leaving the task of addressing my inbox fully until after lunch.
  • Spending my first 2 hours working on the most difficult task for the day, or the one that requires my greatest level of concentration.
  • Using the next 2 hours to focus on the needs of the team, and supporting them in the decisions that need to be made so that they can accomplish their work. Meetings with clients are now more likely to be scheduled in this timeslot, when I’m still firing on all cylinders.
  • I consciously delay or ignore the myriad insignificant but energy consuming tasks until midday, in order to save myself from experiencing ‘decision fatigue’ earlier on in the day.
  • In the post-lunch slump, I will deal with admin tasks or routine tasks that need to be done, but don’t need me to be at my best.
  • Ensuring that at the end of the day, I plan for the next day and know exactly what I am going to be working on during that critical time of the day.

As a team we have had to make adjustments to accommodate the changes I described above, including moving our weekly team meeting from Monday at 10:00 AM to Monday at 11:30 AM. I now feel confident that I can accomplish important work on Mondays too! I meet with our project co-ordinator at 10:00 AM each day to review workload across the development team by which time I would have already knocked off the toughest part of my day’s tasks and would be feeling charged to take on the day ahead.

With all the team on board with this new way of working, we are respectful of each other’s time in a new way, and are helping one another to utilise our most productive time well, interrupting each other less, and thinking about the way in which questions of one another can be grouped and asked at the right time of the day. It’s been a great start to the new year.

How has your new year started? Have you read anything helpful over the break?

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Contactpoint Switches Project Management Tools

January 14th, 2020 by Heather Maloney

When Contactpoint started back in 2006, there were no internet-based technologies for meeting a core need of our organisation; that of managing the ad hoc requests from our clients for modifications to their websites, as well as project management of new websites and software development. Consequently we built our own solution, which we named the Contactpoint Client Area – exciting name, I know! – we had no intention of marketing it to anyone :-).

Over the years, regularly updated our client area to keep up with the growing needs of our organisation and our team members. For example, we added kanban boards to help manage workflow as our team grew in size. We expanded it to associate tickets and project tasks to standard process checklists to help with quality control. We added a prospect section to help us keep track of enquiries which then could be easily associated with a new client. Anything we wanted to improve about how we worked could be embodied into our online tool to help us achieve it, and clients also were able to see the details of the work. Needless to say, we revelled in our work on the client area.

As the architect of the client area, I was very proud and, yes, attached to our client area. Not only had it served us well, it also contains 13 years of client history, which is a valuable resource for all sorts of reasons.

Roll forward to 2019, it had become clear that there were now many commercial project management tools with price tags that made them very attractive for SMEs, some of which came with features that we had not had time to build. Our team – a mixture of developers, project co-ordinators, designers, and digital marketers – were needing our work management tool to better support their work practices and workflows.

Over the past 18 months I have reviewed more than 50 project management tools to try and find a solution that had everything our client area included, as well as the better features that we were hoping to take advantage of, so we can focus more on what’s of prime importance to us – our client work – without having to tend to regular updates to meet our ever growing needs or having to compromise on the features that are essential in helping us deliver quality work. Unfortunately I didn’t quite find that; all of them called for compromises. Yes, our client area was full of useful features that were hard to be substituted, but I continued my research until in the end, I zeroed in on – a cloud solution built by an organisation dedicated to producing the best possible work management solution for businesses of all sizes.

We cut over to the new software on the 1st November, 2019. It was a big change for us, and not something we took lightly. Initially we planned to import our historical records, but in the end we took across only current tickets and projects.

Online solutions constantly evolve, so we are confident that the few pieces of functionality we are missing compared to our in-house built solution will be provided in the relatively near future. The benefits we have gained from the new solution are substantial making it easier for us to manage team workflow. One the of biggest benefits is the concept being able to assign a task to the person who is ultimately responsible for its delivery, while being marked as action required by another team member. The tool allows you to view work in lists, table views, kanban views and gantt charts, allowing our different teams (particularly digital marketing compared to software developers) to work in the way that best fits the type of work they are performing, thereby achieving something that was always high on our client area wish list. It also supports tagging, filtering, customised views, and a powerful search facility across all types of information. It also has a great name – nice to think of having a good day at work, everytime you use it. 🙂

We are still only using part of the functionality it offers, and look forward to using more as we continue to discover how it can help us.

The change our clients will see are as follows:

  • Ticket numbers, which had reached over 11,000 in our client area, have been started again from zero in the new system. To help differentiate, we now refer to them as tasks, as this is actually the naming convention used by
  • While we wait for a more feature-rich client-facing view of the information, we won’t be providing access to the project management tool for our clients. However, it is quicker for us to produce a gantt chart view of a particular project, and predict completion dates.
  • Automated ticket update emails will not be generated to our clients from the solution for the time being. However, as always, we will provide updates by phone or email.
  • It will now be easier for us to quickly determine when a particular piece of work will be able to be completed, with workload easier to view per team member, including scheduled future work.

Because our in-house built client area resides on our own servers, we can keep it indefinitely as a source of the historical records for as long as required.

If you have any questions about the process we undertook to review the extensive list of work management tools, or our transition to the new tool, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

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