I was having a conversation yesterday with my friend Bill about the concept behind his new record and he brought up this:  Most technology we have (now and historically) is built based on our understanding of how humans function.

That means that computers are modeled after our brains. Robots are modeled after our bodies. Software, apps, products, and spaces are all built around how we as humans interact with and use them.

While creating things based primarily on what we know might be limiting in some regard, it’s also what’s driven us from caves to where we are now.

If we take a look at what helped us leave behind the cave and move toward modern culture, the primary thing is our creation and adaptation of tools.

We learned how to make items that could help us do things easier, faster, and more efficiently. That allowed time for us to focus on other things we wanted to spend our time doing.

How does this apply to coffee, to my experience at Lemonjello’s?

I have always been a fan of tools and efficiency. From the beginning, Lemonjello’s was a place where we would try things that could help us be more efficient.

Take music, for instance. In 2003 the only way we could efficiently categorize a large amount of music variety that wasn’t on the normal radio was to have a 200 disc player and a spreadsheet of what was in each slot. We could cue up records or even certain tracks to play next and keep a continuous flow of great music.

Then came iTunes. Great. It took a lot of time to upload all of the store’s record collection onto my laptop, but I did. We could then make playlists or play individual records with more control more efficiently. Then came a store iPod. And then a bigger iPod.

Somewhere along the way, internet radio started getting better and we experimented with Pandora, Spotify, iTunes Radio, Turntable, and a few others. Right now we use Spotify. That is subject to change if something proves better.

All of these things from the CD changer to streaming radio are tools to play the music you want to in the environment you’re in. They are there to make it easier. Using them can increase both your productivity and your happiness in the work environment. And they can save you time to spend on other things.

So it goes with all good tools.

I encourage you to look at the tools you use and allow them to improve your efficiency.

Find good tools for the areas you spend too much unnecessary time on.

I am not going to tell you what tools you need. You know your life, how you run your business, and what you like and don’t like spending time on.

But here’s a list of some of my favorite tools. They have significantly improved my day to day ability to get closer to spending my time how I want to (while running my business more efficiently):

Acacia Scales. Accurate, easy to use, attractive. Switching my bar over to these made my staff want to weigh and measure more often and more accurately. They actually work for baristas on busy shifts.

Mahlkonig K30 Air grinders (or the new Peak). There are other good grinders. The important thing is the efficiency that having Doserless espresso grinders offer. Switching to a more measured grinder saves us considerable time on bar.

Shopkeep. We use this POS app on an iPad for our cash register. It has streamlined our customer interaction process, cut down on counter clutter, and allowed us all of the backend tracking and reporting I need to run the business. Plus they have excellent customer service. The main thing here:  Find a POS option that works for you that allows you to understand your business numbers, inventory, time clock, or whatever you need in real time. It’ll save you a ton of paperwork, headaches, and Time.

Evernote. I have met a lot of people who hate this app, but it works for my brain. I no longer keep paper files of anything. I take a picture on my phone, add it to the right Evernote folder, add appropriate tags, and move on. Takes me less time daily and I never have to spend a week at the end of the year filing things. Plus it’s cloud based, so if I’m traveling and need to look up an invoice or tax report, it’s right there.

Wunderlist. Again, some folks hate it. I love it. I have a list for every category of my business and personal life. I can set reminders. I can update on any device and it updates everywhere immediately. I like lists and I like actually checking things off (but still having them there to reference if I need to). Plus you can share lists with other members, which can be helpful within a staff.

Trello. Great for organizing a committee or working group. You give access to those you want on board and you can share info, documents, lists, etc. and archive work along the way in an efficient manner. If you aren’t good at project managing, something like this might be a good option.

Slack and/or Telegram. Great apps to replace the group texts we all hate so much. I have a Slack channel for my staff and use Telegram with some other groups I’m a part of. Not only is it a great way to communicate with a group, but it is also an archive of the conversation. And it’s not as intrusive as a group text.

Quickbooks Online. Real time money info on my laptop or on the go is essential to me now. It’s easier to use than the old versions and you can share info with your accountant via their own login. This saves a ton of time on all the paper printing I used to have to do. And, again, real time financial info is important to my success.

There are plenty more tools that I like and that I’m experimenting with, so these aren’t the end all. And they might not be for you.

The important thing is to use the tools you have available to be more efficient.

If you save an hour a day on basic tasks, what would you do with that time?

Seriously, that should make the investment in setting up some better tools worthwhile.

[Series Description: The Lemonjello’s Way posts are an intricate look at the many things that went right (and a few things that went wrong) in the story of Lemonjello’s Coffee in Holland, MI. It’s hard to build a successful shop with longevity. My initial lack of experience led us to try some out of the box things that worked. My eventual experience allowed me to tweak and refine those things.
Lemonjello’s Coffee was started in 2003 by Matthew Scott and continues to operate as a coffee shop with its own on site bakery. It also operated as a concert venue from 2003-2012. Located in bustling downtown Holland, MI, it is in the heart of a thriving independent business scene. It’s also a block off the campus of Hope College and a tourist attraction for those visiting the shores of Lake Michigan.]