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Project Management posts:

Quick Time Saving Tips for your Workday

The one resource we all have the same amount of is time – how you spend it defines so much about your life. We’ve assembled a few tips to help you make the most of the time you have in your workday.

Managing your time needs to become a ritual, an ongoing process you follow to keep you focused on your priorities throughout the day.

  • Do all of your invoicing and paperwork in set groups, so that you can pull things out all at once, and put them away more efficiently.
  • Have 2-3 attainable goals for the day. No one is productive w/ endless to do lists.
  • Learn to say no to projects where the time investment outweighs the return.
  • Find the perfect GTD system out there: there are no magic answers, it’s simply the one you trust and use so your mind is free.

Know the strongest times of your work day. If you can match your best times for work with the most intense tasks, and your least productive times with more routine tasks, you’ll get more out of your day.

  • Read emails before leaving for work, mentally process while commuting, then answer on arrival at the office.
  • End your day by making a list of things you want to accomplish the following day.

Budget your time. 

Many thanks to the Twitter community for sharing your own tips for this article. We’ll announce the winners of our Time Savings Tuesdays contest next Tuesday (along with the new contest theme), and feel free to share your own tips in the comments!

Ode to Co-op

There has been plenty written recently on distributed teams. A couple of weeks ago @dhh wrote a post on the 37signals blog that generated an enormous amount of discussion. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about since I joined Harvest because I happen to think we run our distributed team really well.

A huge part of Harvest’s successful distributed team is our use of Co-op, a free online collaboration tool built by the Harvest team. Co-op is a private status update stream that is seamlessly integrated with Harvest (naturally!). The original intent was to create a water cooler that was less invasive than group chat. However it has become absolutely vital to the operations of this business as well as to the culture.

The reason Co-op works is that it enables one-to-many communication in addition to one-to-one communication. As a marketer, I shouldn’t be surprised that communication should vary if speaking to many people versus one person. It just never occurred to me that successful distributed teams need tools that enable multiple types of communications. It’s quite obvious now.

I’ll admit, when I first got here I was a bit overwhelmed by Co-op – it just seemed like one more continuous stream of chatter that I needed to pay attention to. I have now come to love it. In addition to keeping me up to date on what everyone is working on it has helped me build relationships with my co-workers both in and out of New York. Personalities come through in Co-op in a way that they don’t on email. It has helped create and maintain the sense of culture in the office.

If you have a distributed team, or even if you don’t, I recommend you check it out here.

Quick Time Saving Tips For Meetings

Time is money, and meetings are a notorious time sink. Forbes points out that, “a one-hour meeting of six software engineers costs $1,000 at least. People who don’t have the authority to buy paperclips are allowed to call meetings every day that cost far more than that.”

The only way to run (and participate in) efficient and useful meetings is to invest in certain areas, and reduce in others. Last week, we launched our first Time Saving Tuesday, and we’ve combined our own time saving tips with some excellent Twitter suggestions for making meetings most productive.

Remove from your meetings.

  • Get rid of chairs, coffee, donuts, and cell phones. Everyone seems focused on not wasting time when they have to stand, and the number of distractions is limited.
  • Use collaboration tools (like Co-op, IM, or email threads). Quickly solve the questions that don’t need a meeting.
  • Keep meetings on target by using accurate time estimates. It makes people antsy when meetings run over their time limit, so check previous time reports to effectively gauge typical meeting length.
  • Downsize your invitee list. Curate your attendance list wisely.
  • Encourage open (for everyone) and closed (selected participants) portions of meetings, where people who do not have to be at entire meeting can be dismissed. You can share meeting notes with everyone afterwards to review.
  • Create “meeting-free” days, to allow employees to capitalize on focused, uninterrupted concentration.
  • Don’t accept every meeting invite. Says Seth Godin, “Don’t bother having a meeting if you’re not there to change or make a decision right now.”

Invest in your meetings.

  • Define specific goals for the meeting ahead of time, so that you can stay on topic.
  • Have a clear agenda, w/ time budgets for each item, and then enforce those time limits.
  • Offer a way for people to submit questions and ideas in advance of the meeting.
  • Circulate any reading materials before the meeting, and insist that all attendees read them beforehand.
  • Make use of a talk object (a hat, stick, staff, feather, or something else!), so that people can talk freely without having to talk over others.
  • At the end of the meeting, ask for feedback about its efficiency. Keep improving the process!
  • Hire a meeting fairy. This magical person can manage and enforce all of the above suggestions, and keep everyone prepared and informed both before and after meetings.

Many thanks to the Twitter community for your great contributions to this article. We’ll announce the winners of our Time Savings Tuesdays contest tomorrow, and feel free to share your own tips in the comments!

Don’t Take On That Project!

The following is a guest post by Edward Guttman, Director of User Experience at CodeStreet, LLC and Harvest customer. Ed has been honing his craft as a designer for close to 20 years, and here he shares his thought process behind deciding which projects to take on.

Let’s say your design firm is looking at a healthy sales pipeline and the signs are that you may get more work than you can handle. Everyone should have such problems, right? Should you just hire more people and grab all the work you can? Maybe not. There is a good chance that some of that work isn’t good for your business because it doesn’t align with your goals and your company vision.

Everyone who starts a business does it with some goals in mind and a vision of what kind of company they want to be. Most prospective clients have no idea what these are, so it’s up to you to make sure that you only pursue and take on work that best serves your needs. At my firm, we found that a useful tool was to establish assessment criteria that helped us to filter out work that we didn’t want to take on. These criteria gave us an agreed upon framework for our discussions and allowed us to make decisions efficiently and with confidence. We defined this framework by identifying three key things that an ideal project would provide us:

Venn diagram of an ideal project

Continue reading…

Resources for Small Business – Guides, Templates, and More!

Since January of this year, we’ve curated and shared #workbetter articles via @harvest on twitter. The goal was to provide you with the very best advice for growing your business. We’re expanding on our lofty goal by sharing our own knowledge and tools geared towards helping you work better. You can find what we crafted over at the new Resources Section, or read on for a quick tour of the section.

Harvest Guides -We’ve started to distill down conversations we’ve had with team leaders, who use Harvest every workday. From these conversations we’ve assembled a series of Harvest Guides that cover how small business owners and project managers can get started with team time tracking, and how to get the most out of it. For example, our Time Tracking for Project Managers Guide will walk you through how to use reports in Harvest to better allocate time on future projects.

Free Templates – We love our in-app timesheets and invoices. They are impeccably designed and powerful. However, for your friends and like-minded strangers who are completely new to tracking time, or are looking for a basic invoice, we’ve created simple, editable versions of both. As an example, our Daily Timesheet template is ready to download and print, and is structured to help you keep track of your day in 15 minute increments. Track time this way for a few weeks, and you’ll have a much better picture of where your time is going. Our Invoice template also comes ready to be filled out, and looks professional. Most of the templates are already available in PDF or Google Docs. If you’re trying to hook your friends on the benefits of time tracking or automated invoicing, the free templates can be their gateway drug.

Webinar Series – Our Getting Started with Harvest Webinar Series covers the basics of Harvest’s core features including time tracking, invoicing, and reporting. The series has been popular, so we’re giving it a permanent home. You can learn more about the series, sign up, and share pre-recorded Webinar clips with your friends or colleagues to get them started with Harvest. Down the road, we’ll be expanding the Webinar Series to include integration tutorials and more.

As we continue adding to the new Resources section, we’d love to hear feedback from you. What else would you like to see? What are you reading or using right now to improve the way you work? If you’re using Harvest to work more effectively, we’d love to know your thoughts, let us know!

The New Uninvoiced Report

We’re excited to announce the release of one of the most requested features in Harvest: the Uninvoiced Report! This new report will help you catch any missed invoicing opportunities, and will significantly speed up the invoicing process. Here’s a quick video to explain how it all works:

Invoice Faster

The goal of this report is simple and straightforward. It allows you to quickly scan and find all the outstanding, unbilled amounts for each client and project. You can view the amount by month, quarter or year; and each client has an “Invoice” button – click it to create an invoice for the selected timeframe. If your account has rounding turned on, this report will automatically round the hours according to how you configure it.

Here are some other features we’ve added to enhance the Uninvoiced Report:

  • Check the Active Projects Only box to hide any archived projects
  • Uninvoiced Hour and Expense amounts generate detailed reports
  • You can Export this report to Excel or CSV

We hope the Uninvoiced Report helps your business stay on top of its numbers and get paid faster for all of your hard work. Thank you for your continued support and helpful feedback, and we look forward to hearing from you!

The New Detailed Time Report – Faster and More Precise

Last month, we revealed the new Harvest Time Report, and since then, we’ve continued working on updates to the other sections of Harvest Reports. Today, we’re launching the new Detailed Time Report. It’s faster and more precise, enabling you to easily create the exact reports you need. Take a look:

Find What You Need

We’ve added new input filters that make it so you can quickly choose what to include in your report. Simply start typing what you’re searching for and results will appear instantaneously. You can also select multiple items for the same category. Want to see a report for your two most tracked Tasks? This is now possible with the new filters.
Continue reading…

The New Harvest Time Report – Completely Redesigned and More Powerful

It’s arrived! Welcome to the brand new Harvest Time Report:

A redesign of the Time Report has been a long time coming. Reports need to effectively present the overwhelming amount of data your company enters every day, in a format that’s easy to analyze and understand. At its core, the Time Report is a decision-making tool. We want Harvest to help you make better decisions and the new version of Reports was designed with this in mind.

Here are a few of the enhancements in the new Time Report:

Easy to Scan

The new interface is designed to make it easy to understand the overall health of your business. We’ve added a summary panel at the top of the page that quickly shows you the big picture: total hours, billable percentage, billable amount, and uninvoiced amount. Details of this summary are displayed in a table organized by Clients, Projects, Tasks, and Staff. This layout will help you find what you need fast.


Continue reading…

How We Handle Feature Requests

Harvest is nearly 5 years old and serving thousands of customers from over 100 countries. It’s great to be in this position, but with a large user base comes the responsibility of receiving many feature requests. Requests flow in via email, support requests, blog comments, Twitter, and often on our forum. How do we handle such a high volume of requests?

Two Buckets

We categorize requests into two buckets:

  1. Things we plan to work on.
  2. Things we don’t – requests we don’t hear of often, or suggestions that don’t fit our vision.

Feature requests that fall in the first bucket are tricky. We genuinely want to work on a lot of these features, but if something is not in our immediate plan, the best we can tell you is that “it’s on our list.”  Whether it’s through email or the forum, we can only say that so many times before we start to sound insincere.

Whatever the case, we ask each prospective customer to make their purchase decision based on what is available in Harvest today. We are constantly improving Harvest, but we simply cannot promise a timeline for new features. We do not make false promises.

Continue reading…

New Feature: Import + Export Projects, Clients, People and Tasks

We have been hearing lots of requests from our customers to make it simpler to import data for Projects, Clients & Contacts, and People into (and export out of) Harvest. Recently we pushed out a series of updates to enable you to do just that.

Click on the Manage tab, and under Projects, Clients, People and Tasks, you’ll notice the new Import/Export button. Choose whatever action you need and just follow the simple set of instructions. More specifically, you can now:

  • Import projects into and Export projects out of Harvest via a CSV file (a standard spreadsheet format which you can prepare with Excel, Numbers or Google Docs). Note that you can also import projects via Basecamp and Highrise.  This will allow you review multiple projects’ information in one spot, and even print it out as an Excel spreadsheet.
  • Import and Export clients and client contacts via a CSV file.
  • Import and Export people via a CSV file. Harvest will automatically create an account and email each person of their log in credentials upon import (the email is optional).
  • Export all active tasks to a CSV file, so that you can see them all within an Excel file, and print out for review.

The new import/export features will make life a lot easier in setting up and managing project and clients easier within Harvest. Kudos to Doug for making this happen!

Thank you all for your feedback and support. Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts about these updates!