Create a Productivity Workflow That Works for You

You don’t need to be a programmer to build your perfect system.

How to Use Facebook’s Settings to Have More-Productive Conversations

HBR Staff

The past year has served as a wake-up call for many Facebook users. Between the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony and the advent of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), we have fresh insight into how much Facebook knows about us—knowledge that has inspired many people to re-think what they share on Facebook, how they manage their Facebook settings, or even whether they want to use social media at all.

While Facebook’s algorithm uses our data to show us content and ads that it thinks is more likely to be of interest to us, it can also distort our view of the world by limiting our view to the people and perspectives we find most appealing or otherwise engaging. That algorithm is also the reason that some Facebook threads unfold as civil, respectful (but perhaps insufficiently representative) conversations among like-minded souls, while others turn into all-out

Continue reading “How to Use Facebook’s Settings to Have More-Productive Conversations”

How Your Phone Can Help You Set Better Habits

VANDAL Photography/Getty Images

We often blame tech for our worst habits, like distraction or bad spelling. But our phones, computers, and gadgets can just as easily help us build good habits — if we understand how habits work and the right technology to use. Devices can even help us break bad habits, if we use them to create new habits that replace the bad.

After all, a habit is just a behavior that becomes a pattern: something we’re so used to doing that it becomes baked into our subconscious. That’s what makes bad habits so dangerous (we can’t stop doing them!) and good habits so powerful (we don’t have to decide to keep doing them — at a certain point, they become automatic).

As Charles Duhigg points out in The Power of Habit, a habit “loop” is made up of three pieces: the cue or trigger (whatever prompts you to engage in your habit), the routine

Continue reading “How Your Phone Can Help You Set Better Habits”

7 Email Problems, Solved

An Ode to the Underappreciated Spreadsheet


Spreadsheets get a raw deal. We are so dependent on tools like Excel and Google Sheets for managing budgets and P&Ls that it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing spreadsheets only as applications for managing money, or at the very least, for working with numbers.

But the structure and features of spreadsheets make them so useful for a wider range of purposes, from project planning to writing. Breaking information or text into cells helps you break your work into bite-size chunks so you can find different ways of structuring it. The ability to sort and filter cells makes it easy to find, categorize, or reorganize lists or content. And yes, it’s nice to be able to do quick calculations when you are working with numbers.

Content Creation

Spreadsheets can be useful writing tools because they can help you organize resources and ideas. Here are a few ways you can use spreadsheets

Continue reading “An Ode to the Underappreciated Spreadsheet”

Using Social Media to Build Professional Skills

The 8 Digital Productivity Tools Everyone Should Adopt


I’m a super adopter. I love trying out hundreds of new applications, social networks and devices every year. But not everybody wants to live the thousand-app lifestyle. For most people, the goal is to adopt the smallest number of tools necessary to work efficiently. That’s why my friends and colleagues often ask me which technologies I regard as must-haves: the tools and tactics that will make a big impact on their productivity without spending a lot of time or money getting up and running.

While I often find myself recommending specific technologies to people with particular challenges, there are some tools I suggest again and again, because they are useful to just about everybody. In many cases, they are tools that not only benefit individual users, but entire teams, by reducing inbox clutter and communications overhead. But in other cases, they are applications I suggest because I find it viscerally

Continue reading “The 8 Digital Productivity Tools Everyone Should Adopt”

The More People We Connect with on LinkedIn, the Less Valuable It Becomes


When it comes to social networking, is bigger always better?

Many internet users have taken Tim O’Reilly’s definition of a Web 2.0 application — “one that gets better the more people use it” — as a personal axiom. A big network, goes the argument, gives you reach and, potentially, that holy grail of “influence.”

Many users are beginning to discover, however, that a larger number of social network connections may be less valuable than a smaller, more intimate circle. With an enormous collection of friends or followers on a network, you lose the benefits of intimacy, discoverability, and trust, all of which can work better when you have fewer connections.

Social networks can help us balance the access and influence of large networks with the benefits of small networks, but to do so they need features that let users focus their engagement on subsets of the people they connect to or follow. There

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 11.42.05 AM

Continue reading “The More People We Connect with on LinkedIn, the Less Valuable It Becomes”

The Social Cost of Bad Online Marketing


Dan Lyons’s book Disrupted is an often-delightful tour through startup culture, based on the author’s experience working at online marketing firm HubSpot. Despite taking the faux-curmudgeonly attitude of an anthropologist exploring the strange world of business dudes — is a sales funnel really that much of a novelty? — Lyons’s dissection of the startup world is warmly humorous far more often than it’s coldly cynical.

But there are parts of his book that should send shivers down the spine of anyone who uses the Internet — like his tale of writing blog copy that prioritizes lead generation above all else, to the point of explicitly eschewing smart content. Or his account of email marketers who automate the pestering process, sending message after message to anyone who was foolish enough to indicate some kind of interest in what they’re selling. Or his anecdote about corporate executives exhorting employees to use

Continue reading “The Social Cost of Bad Online Marketing”

What Technology Companies Can Learn from Toy Makers

Psychographics Are Just as Important for Marketers as Demographics

laura schneider FOR HBR

Marketers are used to thinking and speaking in demographics, since slicing a market up by age, gender, ethnicity and other broad variables can help to understand the differences and commonalities among customers. Think “our target audience is 14- to 34-year-olds” or “we are launching a campaign aimed at urban Latinos.” But psychographics, which measure customers’ attitudes and interests rather than “objective” demographic criteria, can provide deep insight that complements what we learn from demographics.

Until recently, however, it was a lot harder to get psychographics than demographics, and even if you had psychographic data, it wasn’t always obvious how to make it actionable. The internet has changed the relative importance of demographics and psychographics to marketers in three key ways: by making psychographics more actionable, by making psychographic differences more important, and by making psychographic insight easier to access.

To see the value

Continue reading “Psychographics Are Just as Important for Marketers as Demographics”

The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations


Smart organizations have recognized that introducing new technology into the workplace isn’t about hardware or software: it’s about wetware, also known as human beings. If you want to be the kind of nimble business that can make the most of successive waves of tech innovation, you need human beings who can adapt to change.

That means equipping each person in your enterprise with the skills and mindset that will help them successfully adapt whenever you introduce new tools like Slack, Basecamp, or even Google Drive into your workplace. But what exactly are these digital skills? They may be more familiar and low-tech than you think. Here’s how to cultivate a more digitally nimble workplace:

Goal-centric thinking. It’s really easy to get caught up in the pressure to adopt the latest cool platform or tool. But most people only embrace technologies that actually help them achieve concrete and valued goals. Accept

Continue reading “The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations”

Your Digital Year in Review

What the Death of Topsy Tells Us About Today’s Social Web


For several years now, conversation on social media has been locked in mortal battle with campaigning. Spontaneous user-driven conversations are increasingly crowded out by content that companies and organizations have disseminated across the social web by paying for high-quality production, advertising, and promotions.

But for a while, one online service seemed to hold conversation and campaigning in balance: Topsy, acquired by Apple in 2013 and shuttered abruptly by the Cupertino behemoth last week.

Hasty obituaries for Topsy described it as an analytics tool, speculating on whether and how its functionality has been absorbed into Apple’s search technology. Those pieces let us file Topsy away as roadkill in the ever-more-competitive landscape of analytics tools, or as yet another example of a tech startup that is purchased and then dismantled for parts.

But those obstacles obscure Topsy’s role as a facilitator of conversation. And they miss seeing something more profound and troubling in the death of Topsy:

Continue reading “What the Death of Topsy Tells Us About Today’s Social Web”

How Content Marketers Can Tell Better Stories with Data

jennifer maravillas FOR HBR

Content marketers have started to tell stories with data, and best practices are quickly emerging. The first step is to find the story you want to tell: how you approach data collection and analysis will determine what kind of content you’ll be able to develop. Once the story becomes clear, craft your message without letting the data overwhelm it.

Finding your story

Start with your dream headline. When I work on a data-driven content marketing project, I like to start by imagining my dream headlines or tweets: the discoveries that I would love my data to yield. When I was looking at child-related security risks, for example, I hoped to discover the security practices that led to the biggest reduction in online misdeeds—something like “good passwords cut hacks perpetrated by kids by 50%.” While the data rarely turns out to support that dream headline, starting

Continue reading “How Content Marketers Can Tell Better Stories with Data”

What to Do with All the Business Cards from Your Last Conference


Business travel should be about relationship building, but so often the stress of dealing with logistics and the anxiety of meeting a whole whack of new people keep it from being an effective way to connect, especially at conferences. Using social tools can focus your on-the-road time on the people you really want to get to know.

This is my seven-step strategy for using social media to turn conference introductions into ongoing connections:

Step 1: Before the conference, install a business-card-processing app on your smartphone. If you’re an Evernote user, your best bet is to use Evernote on your phone; when you use Evernote to snap a “camera” note, you’ll have the option to select “business card,” which means Evernote can create a contact note from the card and offer you the option of connecting via LinkedIn. Other options include WorldCard (iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile) or FullContact Card Reader (iOS

Continue reading “What to Do with All the Business Cards from Your Last Conference”

How the Sharing Economy Can Improve Your Next Business Trip

The Best Data Storytellers Aren’t Always the Numbers People


Taking a cue from the rise of data journalism, brands that rely on content marketing are starting to use data to tell stories about their brands, customers and products. What makes this kind of “data storytelling” distinct from any other kind of narrative is, obviously, data: it centers on the numbers. And it’s effective; whether you’re talking about holiday shopping or employee health spending, quantitative information is uniquely able to capture attention, convey a story visually and bolster your credibility.

I am just the kind of person who might be scared off by this turn. I still have nightmares about my high school math teacher—and my grad school stats class took a backseat to my grad school social life. But I’m not alone. Data storytelling has yet to take its place at the heart of the content marketing toolkit, and I suspect that’s because so many of the folks

Continue reading “The Best Data Storytellers Aren’t Always the Numbers People”

How to Give a Data-Heavy Presentation


Data storytelling has become a powerful part of the communications toolkit, allowing both journalists and marketers to communicate key messages by using data and data visualization to drive articles, blog posts, and reports. But the power of data storytelling isn’t limited to written communication: you can also use data to deliver presentations that are both more credible and more visually compelling.

Knowing how to develop and deliver a data-driven presentation is now a crucial skill for many professionals, since we often have to tell our colleagues a story about the success of a new initiative, the promise of a new business opportunity, or the imperative of a change in strategy — stories that are much more compelling when they’re backed by numbers.

In the past four years, data has become a bigger and bigger part of my own presentations, since I frequently speak about data-driven projects like the

Continue reading “How to Give a Data-Heavy Presentation”

What Customers Want from the Collaborative Economy

Dave Wheeler FOR HBR

We now have research to show that companies need to embrace the core innovations of the collaborative economy if they want to thrive in the era of Kickstarter, Uber and Taskrabbit.

That’s the key insight of The New Rules of the Collaborative Economy, a report I co-authored with Jeremiah Owyang, which was released this week by Vision Critical and Crowd Companies.

When we authored the first large-scale study of collaborative economy customers eighteen months ago, we found lots of evidence that sharing was more than a hipster fad. It turned out that the customers of startups like Car2Go, Airbnb and Etsy look a lot like the population at large—and that their reasons for using on demand and peer-to-peer services predicted long-term growth.

Our latest report bears out that prediction. The total number of North Americans who have engaged in some form of sharing transaction has

Continue reading “What Customers Want from the Collaborative Economy”