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Despite the progress of Singapore’s economy, our solution to doing more or better seems to be putting in more hours.

According to Trading Economics (a site that provides accurate information for 196 countries), Singapore appears to be relatively on par with productivity leader like Germany.


source: tradingeconomics.com

Germany has a productivity index of 103.40 as of Jun 2018 and Singapore is at 107.90 around the same period.

From the surface, it looks good.

But if we dive into the number of hours worked, we can see the huge difference.

Going by OECD employment data, the productive Germans average 1,356 worked hours per year.

There are no data on Singapore by OECD on this. But we can reference to MOM statistics which shows Singaporeans averaging 45.1 worked hours per week (in 2017).

To account for paid annual leaves, public holidays and other form of absenteeism, I would multiply 45.1 hours by 48 weeks instead of 52 weeks.

That gives us an annual average of 2,164.8 worked hours, exceeding the Germans by a whopping 808.8 hours per year.

Equivalent to an additional 16.85 hours per worked week or 3.37 hours per worked day (over a 48 weeks period).

 

Can We Be Like The Germans?

 

I had the fortune to witness a German office in operation.

Few small talks, short lunch and if they hit their goal/target for the day, they would pack up for the day even if it is a hour before official knock off timing.

Obviously you need the blessing from senior managements. Using a football analogy, as long as goals are scored, the number of passes, fancy foot works are insignificant.

In Singapore, I am still seeing business owners that refuse to give up their previous Saturday half-day and compress it into five days.

When I started my first business, we did begin with alternate Saturday. But after you realise no one else is free to talk business with you and work gravitate to online gaming, you know it isn’t a good use of time. We cane it after a month.

Chasing up to the Germans is a tall task but I’m certain there are many things that can be done right now to bridge that gap.

All it takes is a bit of courage and willingness to experiment.

Here’s where you can start:

 

1. RescueTime

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. And to improve your productivity, that means to measure exactly how you are spending your time on not just a daily basis but by the minute.

The RescueTime app (which is free for individual use) tracks the time I spent on my laptop and provides an overview of how I spent my time.

Similar to how money tracking software works but this tracks time instead. So you can tell if you are spending way too much time on social media, or if you have a killer week, review the data and see how you managed to achieve it (and hence replicate it)

 

2. LastPass

With so many different platforms and websites to utilise everyday, it isn’t uncommon to forget your login credentials once in a while.

Getting your account back by resetting the password can be done but it involves wasting at least 5 minutes of your time that you can never get back.

And that is just for one account.

LastPass makes it easy and simple to manage all your different passwords.

The best part is the app they have on different platforms. You can save a credentials on your computer and gain access to it on your iPhone.

 

3. Calendly

Fixing up appointments is a major time drainer.

The to-and-fro of checking out each other’s availability. A good 15 minutes is gone just trying to firm up a date and time.

Calendly takes all that away. By integrating with your gmail or office365, your availability would come with a branded url and a dashboard for people to pick and choose the date and time to connect with you.

Here’s how my calendar dashboard looks.


You can choose to block out any day or time of your preference so they would never be shown as available.

 

4. Microsoft To-Do

With so many things to complete on a daily basis, one can easily lose track of the important tasks to prioritise on.

I have been using Microsoft To-Do since they were known as Wunderlist. Microsoft bought them out and it came back as To-Do.

With different platforms support (I use it on my Windows and iPhone), I can create different lists and even share them with other users.

Each tasks could be attached with a reminder and you can prioritise them however you want it.

 

5. Bitrix24

Even if your company only has 5 people, effective collaboration would start fading away.

Files are kept locally, ideas are in notepads and conversations are forgotten.

Wouldn’t it be good if a company, even a small one, could be on Facebook Workplace?

If only it doesn’t cost so much.

Bitrix24 actually costs nothing (if you have not more than 12 users). It gives you an enterprise social network, instant messaging, shared file access and even project management abilities.

 

6. Franz

How many messaging platforms are you on?

For me, I have Facebook Messenger, Skype, Google Hangouts, WeChat, LinkedIn Message, Telegram and Whatsapp.

If you want to access them on your computer, you either download their apps or open a browser tab.

I would be having seven browser tabs at any one time.

Instead, I turn to Franz to be a catch-all app for all my different messaging platforms.

They are sorted vertically and doesn’t take up any of my browser space. Toggling between them (to copy-and-paste things) also become a breeze.

 

7. Zoom

Remember the time when Skype had lag free video and crystal clear audio?

I can’t.

It probably never happened unless you are on the enterprise version.

Zoom is everything that Skype should have been but didn’t.

It’s light, fast and the quality of your call is incredible.

All this with a free plan that comes with the ability to host up to 100 participants, unlimited 1 to 1 meetings, 40 mins limit on group meetings and unlimited number of group meetings.

 

8. Loom

Don’t you hate it when you have an issue with a piece of software or website?

But the real frustration kicks in when you try to explain to the help desk.

Loom is a free screen and video recording software that sits on your Chrome as a plugin (their desktop app is coming soon).

But recording can be extended beyond what is shown on the browser.

I use it whenever I need to communicate with supplier on login issues, design problems, etc.

 

9. Zapier

This last one is my personal favourite but it require a bit of work to learn on how to maximise it.

Zapier allows all the hundreds of popular web apps to talk to each other.

This allows you to put in automated work flows.

For instance, I uses TypeForm for my contact form on the website and also HubSpot as our Sales CRM.

Any contacts are automatically pushed (by Zapier) from either of these platforms to MailChimp so I can grow my mailing list automatically.

 

Conclusion

Many of these tools are free and would just take a bit of time to get the hang of.

But the returns are huge and recurring.

As we approach the end of 2018, it is high time we bid goodbye to manual processes at every possible turn.

It is tempting since it is quick to give an instruction but in the long run, you just have to throw more hours to sustain.

Using tech to replace the mundane and freeing your employees to do higher value work make more business sense.

And ultimately more profits.