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As an executive, your responsibilities are constantly evolving as changes in the market, and your industry require you to shift how you do business. To keep up, our 2020 Executive Productivity Report found that 64% of executives regularly seek out new tools to boost their productivity.

While there’s a never-ending list of new apps and software that promise substantial results, there are a few core systems that every executive needs to sustain their performance.

Here are the top five productivity tools and systems that will support lasting success.

Photo of an executive sitting at a desk and looking at the apps his phone.

1) Productivity Management System

Boosting your productivity starts with deciding how you manage your time. Adopting a productivity management system is the best way of doing this since it gives a structure and set of habits you need to follow to consistently perform your best.

Here are three of the most popular options:

  1. Agile results. This system is inspired by the agile methodology and involves setting weekly and daily goals and focusing solely on those activities until they’re completed. It’s ideal for people who are juggling lots of projects. To adopt this system, check out our article How to Use the Agile Results Method to Achieve Your Goals. 
  2. GTD. This system takes a reflective and systematic approach to your to-do list so you can achieve as much as possible. Since it has few strict requirements, you can adapt it to fit your work style. To learn more, check out our post How to Make GTD Work for You.
  3. Time blocking. This simple system involves creating a list of all the activities you need to do each week and blocking off time on your calendar to do them. It’s great for people who like to maintain a structured schedule and be able to focus on projects for a couple of hours at a time.

If you do some research, there are plenty of others out there. To boost your productivity, it doesn’t matter which one you adopt; you just need to find the one that aligns best with your work style and stick with it.

 

2) Task Management Software

Once you’ve chosen a productivity management system, you need to choose a task management software to help you implement it. Since this is the productivity tool you’ll use most often, you need to find one that fits your goals and that you genuinely enjoy using.

If you need a place to store your to-do list, create reminders, and track deadlines, then a simple Kanban or to-do list inspired tool will work for you. Some popular options include:

However, if you want to create in-depth project plans, reports, and advanced workflows, you should choose a more robust system, including:

To get the value from your task management tool, you need to constantly use it. If you’re struggling to decide which option best fits your work style, trial a few of them until you find the one that’s most intuitive for you.

 

3) CRM

CRMs aren’t just for salespeople. If your role requires you to work with any external contacts, including vendors, investors, strategic partners, etc. then you need a system to track those relationships.

If all you’re doing is networking and you don’t need advanced fields or analytics, you can use a simple CRM including:

Use the CRM to keep all of your contacts consolidated, log emails and meeting notes, and set follow-up reminders so that you stay in touch with your contacts. This takes the stress out of networking and helps you achieve your goals.

 

4) Inbox Management System

According to McKinsey, the average professional spends nearly a third of their workday in their inbox. Though emails are important, this is a huge loss of productivity since it severely limits the amount of time you have to work on the strategic projects that drive your success.

To reduce the amount of time you spend on emails, you need to adopt an inbox management system. This will save time by giving you a structured way to respond to emails and preventing key messages from slipping through the cracks.

There are two steps for creating an inbox management system:

  1. Choose your sorting approach. These are the types of folders you’ll sort your emails into. Popular strategies include projects, level of urgency, and type of contact. Sorting emails into these kinds of categories makes it easy to find the conversations that are most relevant at the moment.
  2. Decide how often you’ll check your emails. Leaving your email open is a huge distraction. Instead, block off a few times throughout the day to sort and respond to emails. The length and frequency of blocks that you choose should depend on the number of urgent emails you receive a day and how quickly you have to respond.

To learn more about creating an inbox management system, check out our guide.

 

5) Administrative Assistant

A survey from West Monroe Partners found that the average executive spends over seven hours a week on administrative tasks. This is a huge productivity barrier since that is time that you should spend on higher-value activities.

To gain those hours back, you need to hire an administrative assistant. Admin assistants can tackle a wide variety of time-consuming tasks, including:

  • Scheduling/calendar management
  • Workflow management
  • Data entry and maintenance
  • Document preparation
  • Travel & expenses

And a variety of other tedious but critical tasks that pull your attention away from the strategic projects that drive your success.

If you’re not sure whether an in-house or virtual assistant is right for you, check out our article Hiring In-House Vs. Outsourcing: How to Choose the Best Hiring Solution. It covers the pros and cons of each option to help you select which one is right for you.

Got 5 minutes? Our executive productivity survey will provide you with personalized insights on how to boost your productivity and efficiency.

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About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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