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Amy Campbell

Amy Campbell
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acampbell@vpico.com

Deflecting Self-Storage Distractions with Time-Management Tools

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A guest installment by Matthew Van Horn, vice president of Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management

In the amount of time it takes to read this article, a number of things are in motion. Even as you contemplate that first sentence, you may notice that your computer just made a noise. “Oh look, a new e-mail.” If you have focus, you will ignore that e-mail, but a majority of people will quickly move to open it. The e-mail is just a vendor asking you for a conference call to discuss a new product. “Great, now I can get back to that article I was reading.”

As you scroll your mouse (or finger for you tablet/smartphone users) to try to figure out where in this article you stopped reading, a text comes through, then a Facebook message, someone mentioned you on Twitter, your LinkedIn app just made a noise and, oh my, another phone call, then five more e-mails.

This, of course, doesn’t count the items on your desk, including a stack of papers, two month-end reports you forgot to read, three trade magazines, some random mail, a Diet Coke from yesterday, and a book you may have purchased from Amazon. By the way, you need to pick up milk on your way home tonight.

All of this represents about a five-minute sub-section in the life of today’s self-storage managers, investors and owners.

The biggest challenge we face as self-storage operators is focus. The second is time management. Some will argue that the biggest challenges we face are financial, creating effective marketing campaigns or hiring great managers. While those are certainly huge challenges, success in any of those areas stems from our ability to successfully navigate the numerous distractions in everyday life. Effectively multitasking in today’s environment is nothing more than fantasy. If you, as a manager, don’t know what you are doing or have not decided on a time in which an activity should occur, then your day will be manipulated by any one person waving something shiny.

Technology is a blessing and a curse. Thanks to technology we have more distractions than ever, but we also enjoy more ways to deal with these distractions. I have been testing two separate project-management applications to help me with my focus and time management. Before implementing either of these options there were some requirements for successful integration. First, the application had to be cloud-based so I could have access to my projects regardless of location. Second, the application had to be accessible on multiple platforms, i.e., smartphones, tablets, etc.

The first application I tested is called Basecamp, a simple and easy-to-use tool for project management. It has the following features:

  • Multiple projects
  • Access and ability to assign tasks and projects to multiple people
  • Calendar management
  • To-do lists
  • Text documents for notes
  • Storage of project files, such as Word documents, PDFs and pictures. Dropbox integration requires a third-party application that costs $10 per month.
  • Project templates, which do not count against the number of projects available to a plan
  • Extremely easy to use

In addition to the online software, a Basecamp application is available for the iPhone. Unfortunately, a direct Basecamp application is not available for Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry systems, but the software can be accessed through mobile browsers. The cost for Basecamp starts at $30 per month for 15 projects and 4GB of storage. The company offers a 60-day free trial.

The second application I tested is called Team Work PM, which is not as aesthetically nice or intuitive as Basecamp but offers more features, including:

  • Multiple projects
  • Access and ability to assign tasks and projects to multiple people
  • Calendar management
  • Task lists, which can be set by priority
  • Notebook
  • Text documents for notes
  • Storage of project files
  • Time log for billable time
  • List of links for Web content such as YouTube videos

A Teamwork PM application is available for iPhone, iPad and Android systems. The online software may also be accessed through mobile browsers. It includes free, native integration with Dropbox in certain plans. The cost for Teamwork PM starts at $12 per month for five projects and 1GB of storage. The company offers a 30-day free trial.

After using both systems, my choice was Teamwork PM. Basecamp’s lack of a dedicated Android application and the lack of native Dropbox integration were two key reasons.

As we maneuver through endless, daily distractions, consider trying a few new things to help keep you focused and organized. As “Good to Great” author Jim Collins once said, “If you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any.”

Matthew Van Horn is vice president of Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management, a full-service management company specializing in management, feasibility studies, consulting and joint ventures within the self-storage industry. For more information, visit www.cuttingedgeselfstorage.com.

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