Tech Tools for Efficiency: An Online Instant Replay with the Experts

Have recent transitions disrupted your normal routines? Do you struggle to stay organized and efficient? This ACUI online learning program covered technology and techniques meant to assist with time management and organization and how to best use technology to communicate with students and professionals. The panelists for this webinar were ACUI members:  

  • Hunter Chanove from California State University-San Marcos, who discusses Basecamp  

  • Christopher Cvikota from Northwestern University, on Smartsheet  

  • Filip Pongratz from Temple University who covers David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology  

  • Manica Pierrette from University of West Georgia on Google Suites  

  • Nick Board from Wayne State University discussing Microsoft Teams  

The “Getting Things Done” Methodology 

Pongratz talked about GTD Methodology and his own belief that before you can have a good foundation for organization you’ve got to have the software that can provide the results one wants. The GTD Methodology is one way to create that foundation. BasedBook cover on author David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, Pongratz explained this methodology requires overcoming two mental hurdles: Getting to an “inbox zero” mentality; and second, looking at organization in a new way.  

The idea behind GTD is to get to “inbox zero,” where there are no more emails in your inbox. In addition to inbox zero, there are two other types of people who are out there using email. The first are the people who leave all their emails in their inbox, and the others are the ones who have a lot of folders to store their emails. Of the emails received in a given day, some of them will be junk and the rest will be actionable items requiring review, filing, responding to, or turning into a task. The “folder people” spend energy on creating folders and organization systems, which could easily be replaced by the robust search function of most email platforms. Pongratz said he uses two folders: The first is a personal folder, and the other is for work. When you stop using sub-folders you may feel a great weight has been lifted off your shoulders, but realize this may be the biggest hurdle for you to overcome.  

The next step is moving to an electronic task list. Generating a task list in an organized and structured way that helps eliminate emails in your inbox. The idea is not to think about what you need to do, but how you are going to do it. People who use lists usually have some type of structure they use to organize their tasks, and one simple way to accomplish this is within the  Outlook email client. 


The foundation of Smartsheet is a spreadsheet, Cvikota said, with the most notable features being task lists, forms, and dashboards that allow for project management. The task list can be created from a template with a major benefit of Smartsheet over Excel is the user's ability to add attachments. Comments can also be added to a task with an Smartsheet logoption to set reminders. The columns have default properties, which can be edited and customized by the user. The standard grid view can also be customized by the user from a drop-down menu. Another nice feature is form creation as Smartsheet can essentially make the form for you. The powerhouse is the dashboards feature, which brings everything together in an interactive way, and offers the ability to add widgets to go beyond the standard features.  


Chanove covered the one-stop-shop for everything teams need to do together, and that’s Basecamp, a centralized project management tool that can be used to keep a team, smaller work groups, and projects together to see what is going on, no matter how many projects a person may be juggling. This tool helps keep everyone informed, updates calendars, sets reminders, keeps documents readily available and easy to access, and tracks projects.

One particularly strong asset behind Basecamp is that it allows co-workers, student assistants, and others to stay organized with their own work, but still includes the abilitybasecamp logo to see others’ work, keep in the loop for communications, and to easily access frequently used documents. Collaborative tools include:  

  • To-do lists 

  • Message boards 

  • Schedules 

  • Document and file storage 

  • Client viewing access 

  • Direct messaging 

  • Status reports 

  • Email forwards 

Basecamp can benefit teams through enhanced team collaboration, sustainable practicing, improved cross-departmental partnership and communication, increased accountability through the ability to track job flow progress, and an organized structure for all projects, events, and teams, Chanove said.  

Microsoft Teams 

Board explained the features of using Microsoft Teams and how Microsoft has done a good job of making Teams on Apple computers look the same as it does on other computers in order to improve ease of use. Since it was built from the Sharepoint platform, Teams allows for some integration between the two. The Teams logodashboard shows all the teams a person is in, and once on a team, there are a myriad of customization opportunities that can be accessed in the settings. There is also the ability to add additional apps into the Teams program, like Trello, which Board uses, and ClickView, GoToMeeting, YouTube and many others.  

There is a general chat feed, by default, but additional feeds can be added that are more specialized for each unique team. Sharing within Teams may not be as robust as Sharepoint, but there is the option to access the full options of Sharepoint by giving broader permission controls. After a meeting is set up, meeting options allow one to open it in a browser, which gives more setting options to enjoy. There is also the option to use a whiteboard, which can be fun for icebreakers. Microsoft is consistently adding more accessibility features to this project management system, including a live captions feature that is part of the meeting recording system.  

Google Suites

Pierrette talked about the features of Google Suites, also known as G Suite, which is an integrated suite of cloud-based collaboration and production program. For Pierrette, Google Drive is used heavily in her department, which provides a lot of transparency within the department. She recommended the use of Share Drive over My Drive since with Share Drive a group of items only has to be shared once. In My Drive, every individual folder has to be shared. A person can have a Share Drive with the different teams they are on. Anytime they want to share something with that team, they place it in the Share Drive and it is automatically shared with everyone. My Drive works best for personal files that one only wants to share on occasion between a select group of people. Google Drive has recently added a priority feature so workspaces can be created in case there are files that are used frequently but not located in the same folder, allowing for a quick access location.

Google Docs allows multiple people to edit and it has a “comments” feature. If a person gets a “mention” they will get a message alerting them to that fact, tagging them to that message, which can be an asset for assigning action items. Google Sites can be used for an internal website and one central place to put frequently used files and links for easy access for staff members.  

Google Forms can be used a variety of purposes, including for hiring practices. For example, it can be set up to look at the answer to a question and then open up additional questions based on that answer. Form responses can be exported into Google Sheets. From the forms one can create employee profiles and update the information based on the updates of the form. These forms can get outdated if someone does not update and submit their forms. Google Sheets can also be used by itself as a purchase request log or for other types of spreadsheets. Pierrette said she uses it to audit employees, changing fields to different colors basedGoogle logo on employee responses. Conditional formatting is used for this, and data validation can be used for drop down boxes.  

Google Meets is an alternative to Zoom that has a present mode, can handle up to 250 participants, and up to 100,000 live stream viewers. Share screen and a grid feature with Google Chrome add-on is also an option. Google chats allows people to open multiple rooms and keep that room open for anyone to use throughout the day.  

Learn More at the Library 

To learn more about this program and associated topics, check out the On Demand version of Tech Tools for Efficiency in the ACUI Library. Included in that version are the demos offered by the presenters. This program includes many details about the tools, including a question and answer portion. You can also continue the conversation in the Technology Community of Practice discussion forum.

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