Expert Interview with Nick Narodny from Grovo

As part of our series on Productivity we’ve interviewed Nick Narodny to quiz him about his own personal productivity challenges, how he handles them and the tools he uses day to day to help.

Nick Narodny is the Cofounder of Grovo.com, the leading online Internet education and training platform. Nick is an expert when it comes to helping brands implement web solutions and social media strategy to increase brand awareness, convert customers and boost productivity. Nick has contributed thought leadership and how-to articles to a variety of media outlets, including CommPRO, Intuit, AllFacebook, InformationWeek and MediaPost.

Meetings

Meetings are often cited as being unproductive – whether that’s because they run on too long, are unfocused, fail to result in action (the list is endless!). Please share your experiences and your tips for keeping meetings productive.

We have found that the best way to make meetings productive is to make sure that the meeting leader is prepared with a detailed agenda. When scheduling a meeting we try to ask, “Must this person be included?” so that we don’t use up unnecessary bandwidth. Likewise, if a team member only needs to be present for the beginning of a meeting to check in or provide an update, that person is free to leave and focus on other things when their update is complete. At the end of the meeting the leader rounds up next steps. If those steps are complicated, he or she sends out an email to the entire team.

Workload

How do you manage your own personal workload?

I do all of my work in Evernote and Google Docs. I have my Grovo life divided up into different notebooks in Evernote and every time I start a new project I create a different note.

These notes are then with me and editable wherever I go. On the plane, in a meeting or at my desk. When a project is ready to be viewed by others I then “commit” it to Google Docs and share it with the team.

At first I did everything in Google Docs but I found it much more difficult to manage the documents there and virtually impossible to manage them from my iPhone.

For things that I am working on today, I write them down on a sticky note and add them to a to do iPhone app named Clear. There is still something satisfying about crossing out items on a physical to do list.

Collaboration

How do you manage collaboration between your employees? Are there any tools or apps you’d recommend?

The best tool for collaboration is Google Docs. Everything we do is in Google Docs and a solid collection organisation allows us to ensure that everyone has access to the documents they need.

Boomerang, the Gmail plugin, has been helpful for collaboration because it allows managers to connect two team members and then forget about the connection and set Boomerang to remind them in a few days if no one has taken the lead.

Email

How often do you check email a day? Do you have a system for managing your inbox?

The first step in me managing my workload is to manage my inbox. I separate my Gmail inbox between starred and un-starred emails. Longer-term high level projects or emails waiting for responses get stars. Things I want to get done today don’t. This way my goal for every day is to focus my brainpower on the longer-term projects while completing the “tasks” that exist in the un-starred portion of my inbox when I don’t have as much mental focus.

I also use Boomerang for Gmail, which can be a lifesaver when working with clients. It allows me to set follow ups if I don't receive responses in a certain amount of days and it lets me schedule emails to be sent in the future.

Remote working

What are your tips for working efficiently when you’re away from the office?

We don’t work remotely that often as we find that our best work gets done when we are all sitting together at a big table. But the best way to set up remote working is to ensure that you have as much of your data in the cloud as possible. Because we work so much in Google Docs if someone is sick or traveling, they can use virtually any computer and be plugged in as if they are sitting at their own desk.

Your top productivity tip

If you had to give one tip to small companies looking to grow and improve their output, what would it be?
Focus. It is very easy to get distracted in a small company and one of the hardest things for me to do was to avoid being to excitable and impulsive. No productivity app can save a company from being unfocused.

ROI

What ROI have you seen on your efforts to improve productivity within your company?

In terms of hard ROI metrics we strive to improve a number of internal metrics every month and our month over month growth has been consistently up and to the right. One of the best parts about improving productivity is that it often happens because the team is happier and more confident in their work.

We have seen the largest increases when we have empowered team members and allowed them to focus on what they are good at.