Sadly, there’s a problem. Your team’s productivity is holding them back from success.
Without practice and planning it’s nigh on impossible to keep your productivity consistent.
Remote teams are a perfect example of this, as they often rely on settling into a workflow where the slightest friction can derail a worker for an hour or more.
You don’t have the luxury of working in a room with your colleagues, and without constant oversight it can be difficult for managers to notice when an employee is struggling.
Thankfully there are tools which help encourage our team of marketers so that we stay on target and produce several long-form articles every week. You have content marketing tools after all, so why not ones to encourage productivity?
The following seven apps not only encourage a smooth and productive workflow, but double up to ensure that all work is up to standard.
After all, there’s no point in writing 20,000 words or more every week if they’re only going to damage your brand upon publication.
Trello is one of the best project management apps we’ve come across. Not only does it allow us to always have our priorities straight, but it leaves no question as to what stage a project is at.
Each member of our team has their own board for personal tasks, and then we have a few shared boards for items like blog articles or knowledge base updates.
We then separate each board according to the priority or progress of our projects, such as an “In Progress” and “Needs Manager Review” column.
This makes it easy for our marketers to go into Trello, quickly see what they need to be working on, what needs approval, and get straight to it. Everyone knows what they need to do, and can easily access the task through the links we store in each card’s (task’s) description.
This ability, along with the option to set due dates, upload images, create simple checklists and integrate with other apps makes Trello the centre of our project management efforts.
Buzzsumo is fantastic for organizing our blog efforts and knowing what kind of content we need to produce in advance.
By running the results of our keyword research process through Buzzsumo, we can see a list of the most popular (shared) articles which use those keywords.
This means that we know what kind of content goes down well, and can plan our articles to be even more interesting and actionable than the existing content.
Think of it like assessing the competition; when combined with the top Google results, we can see the standard of content that we’re going to need to beat in order to effectively target a keyword.
Buzzsumo also help us in our guest posting efforts through searching keywords relevant to our audience.
The most shared articles give us an idea of blogs which are potential outreach candidates, and we can then search their site in Buzzumo to see what their most popular content is. If it lines up with our own audience, then chances are it’d be worth pursuing a guest post spot with them.
No matter whether you’re blasting through a short 500 word announcement or compiling a 3,000 word skyscraper post, Grammarly is a lifesaver.
Grammarly automatically checks your writing for spelling and grammar mistakes, providing suggestions for what it thinks to be errors.
Think of it like an accurate, persistent spellchecker that you don’t have to turn on; as long as the program you’re writing in is compatible, Grammarly will check it for you.
The free plan works perfectly for our needs, and there’s even a Chrome plugin to boot, making it incredibly easy to keep track of our team’s overall accuracy.
Speaking of overall accuracy, Grammarly also sends weekly reports to your email address, telling you how many words you’ve written that week and how many mistakes you corrected.
Admittedly, however, you need to take the weekly word summaries with a pinch of salt – if you’re copying and pasting large masses of text they will be counted for every time you paste it.
Essentially, take the average reading on Grammarly, rather than the dubious claim that you’ve managed to match the word count of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in a week.
That’s 200,000 words, in case you were wondering.
Process Street lets our team run like a well oiled machine; it’s the glue that holds our remote workers together.
We document all processes which we run more than once, allowing us to both have guidelines to follow to ensure consistent high quality content, and to track the progress of each team member.
For example, we have a blog checklist which is run for every blog post we publish.
This checklist takes us through every step to a successful piece of content; SEO, writing style, image style and more, everything is covered in its own step which we tick off as we progress.
Not only does this help our marketers (including myself) to keep hitting our targets and produce great content, but it also provides an easy way for our manager to track our progress.
If something is wrong with a post, we pull up the checklist that was run for it. We can see exactly who checked off every step, when they checked it, and can instantly tell whether or not the instructions are being read.
For example, let’s say that one of us forgot to put a “more” tag into our content. Our team would go back to the pre-publish checklist for that post, see if the “Insert more tag” step was checked off, and react accordingly.
If it was marked as complete, then the person responsible needs to run through the whole process again and make sure that the instructions are actually read and enacted.
If not, then we need to find out why it wasn’t followed, and maybe tweak our process to relfect the feedback.
Trello might be fantastic for project management, but it’s easy to get lost in a simple task for hours on end.
To combat this, our team uses Pomello – a simple app which tracks the time you spend on projects and links them to your Trello cards.
This means that our entire team (not just the person using Pomello) is aware of how much time has been spent on a specific task, and in turn how well a project is going relative to the time spent.
It also plays into the psychology of productivity a little, in that the quiet ticking of Pomello’s clock timer makes you acutely aware of the fact that you’re spending time on this project, and that you need to stay focused.
You even have your breaks planned out for you, as it follows a slightly modified version of the Pomodoro technique. These short sprints of 25 minutes of work, then a 5 minute break help our team keep a fresh head and stay on task.
Admittedly, it’s not perfect. Shorter tasks that don’t require a whole half hour assigned to them mess up the timing, meaning that it’s sometimes better to stay off the timer and just dedicate an hour to clearing our multiple small tasks.
In general, however, this little timer is a wonder for tracking your work time and recording it in Trello.
It also puts cute tomatoes onto each card you clock time in, which is always a bonus.
These last two apps accomplish much the same thing, but for different members of our team; focus through music.
[email protected] has 22 music channels which contain tracks specifically designed to encourage productivity, from acoustic to ambient.
The track blend into one another pretty well, meaning that you have a constant cycle of music hand-picked to get you into your ideal workflow all day.
You can also set time limits if you need to switch to another task after so long, and after every session you’re asked to rate your productivity.
These ratings are collected over time, allowing you to see a graph of your productivity over the period you’ve been using it.
[email protected] isn’t for everyone, but if you find it difficult to focus in silence or when playing music that you either know or has words, it’s a great way to keep yourself “in the zone”.
I’ve already mentioned how music can help your head stay on task, and playlists in Spotify can be great for giving your the motivation to keep going, whilst switching things up often enough to not get stale.
Again, I’d like to stress that you should experiment a little with the kind of music you play though; sometimes having your favourite music on whilst you work is more distraction than it’s worth.
Productivity is a fickle mistress, but with the right encouragement it can be maintained like anything else.
Test out the apps above, scour the market for other options, and do everything you can to find what works for you.
Have experience with these apps? Want to share your thought on any others? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Benjamin Brandall is the head of content marketing at Process Street by day, and runs Secret Cave by night. He’s appeared on TechCrunch, The Next Web, and Fast Company.