Why Are Spreadsheets Still Used for Fieldwork Management?

No matter how you slice it, getting up-to-date information to several different fieldwork teams - spread across dozens of active sites in a portfolio of dozens or hundreds - is a big job. Then compiling the incoming data into a something readable and providing updates to a bunch of clients all wanting a different reporting format… it’s a huge undertaking. The whole process can be exhausting, not to mention a drain on resources. So why don't companies use software tools to speed up or even automate some of these processes?

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Maps: Navigation or Communication Tool?

Since we first scratched directions into the dirt, maps have been the go-to when it comes to finding an unfamiliar place or geographical location. 

But they can offer more than just an address or walking route. Beyond the directions and street names, maps can tap into our instinctive understanding of the world in a powerful way by using identifiable symbols, geographical identification and legends to keep details clear. Digital mapping technology is a generational advance in mapping. Maps are increasingly popular interfaces for navigating to information.

Visuals = Understanding

People use applications like Google or Apple maps to get from Point A to Point B, with step-by-steps. 3-D mapping differs greatly here: instead of steps, the static visual experience is of primary importance. When it comes to learning instead of following directions, static maps make it easier to absorb information. 

A good example of how visual mapping can work is the Clean Streets Initiative in Los Angeles, a program organized by the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti. With the goal of documenting the entire city, the Bureau of Sanitation was sent out to explore all of the streets and alleys of Los Angeles – stretching to over 22,000 miles – to determine their cleanliness score. The city was then broken down into colours: streets that were clean (identified in green), somewhat clean (yellow) and not clean (red). 

Creating an easy-to-understand map meant that, without anything but a color and a code, citizens can now see and respond to the conditions in their city. For Los Angeles, it meant that officials could instantly recognize problem areas and had the ability to deploy a Clean Street Crew to where it was needed most. 

Legends = Clarity

The legend keeps a map clear of excessive detail, without limiting information. 

In San Diego, the city has used mapping to communicate its regional transportation network: cycling paths, public transportation, and streets and highways used by commuters. The city’s map is useful for sharing information like street repairs and environmental restoration projects with its citizens. 

It’s a lot of information, but current technology now allows more than just a static diagram filled with data: it enables live filtering so users see exactly what they’re looking for.

The Importance of Spatial Understanding

In the case of the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, using a map to gain a spatial understanding has gone a long way towards planning their art walking tours. With the map, it's easy for newcomers to the city to get a clear understanding – by way of the legend – of the art activities available in the community and how accessible they are by foot, bike and public transit. From playgrounds for children to green space sculptures to the Ewell Gantz mural, the distance between neighborhoods, the concentration and breadth of art contained within the city of Lancaster is now clearly visible, thanks to their informative Art Tours Map.

Unexpected Breakthroughs

While a map is certainly an ideal means of determining distance or visualizing a place, it can also be an ideal platform for collecting and overlaying information to produce new and unexpected insights. It can contain information on a multitude of services, transit systems or even natural geography. 

For example, the Grand Canyon is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States. But there are many elements within it that are physically separated from a visitor’s primary experience. Using a map, visitors can now learn about things like national monuments, river rapids, major highways, minor roads or other areas that may be of interest but would be hard to find otherwise. 

With more than 5 million visitors each year, maps like this can provide a great overview of the many experiences the vast stretch of the Grand Canyon has to offer.

Maps for Industry and the Future

It’s easy to think of a map as something that enables us to get from the starting point to the finish line, but with the advent of technology maps have become an important communication tool for business. While there are limits on how much information a map can hold, the use of legends, color and identifiable visuals can make for a particularly effective method of translating knowledge. Maps and Global Information Systems (GIS) are gaining traction as a method of information storage and access in tourism, urban planning, disaster relief, oil and gas production, construction and many other industries.

If you’re in a fieldwork industry and have data that would be best represented on a map, let us know! We’d be happy to walk you through some of the ways project management has improved with the addition of project maps. 

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8 Google Maps Tips and Tricks Worth Knowing

There was a time when everyone had to deal with the struggle brought on by paper maps, searching for street names and dragging their finger along until the decided-upon destination was discovered. However, with the advancement of technology and the appearance of Google Maps, mapping a trip to the grocery store or across the country has become a much easier task. While creating a map on Google is pretty familiar to most people by now, if it’s a service you use frequently it may be worth knowing a few tricks that can make your mapping experience even more effective.

Map Your Address Book

While many people know how to get to their favorite locations by rote, with Google’s mapping feature you can have all of the addresses you’ll ever need available by simply pinning your friend’s and family’s locations to your own personal maps. All you need to do in order to utilize this neat feature is export your address book into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, clear the ones that you do not want mapped, and then import the spreadsheet into a new map. Once you’ve completed this, the pins will drop and the addresses you require at the ready will be instantly accessible.

Know The Hours Of Your Favorite Places

In an age where almost every restaurant or business has an updated website, it can be more than a little frustrating to go to your favorite retail location only to realize that it’s actually closed. Conveniently enough, Google Maps now has a feature where you can find out this information at the click of the “Search” button. By simply typing in the name of the place you’re heading off to, you’ll be able to see if the business or restaurant has special holiday hours that may have an impact on your visit. While this can be a timesaving feature, be aware that it will only show up on your map search 7 days prior to a major holiday.

Go Back In Time

While this aspect of Street View is only available in certain popular locations around the world like Rome and Paris, this is one of the neatest features you’ll find that comes along with the mapping feature. Street view offers up a relatively current view of streets all over the world, but by searching for a popular locale, you can actually get a look at how the area has changed over time by clicking on the clock icon and the date. This will give you a selection of dates so that you can see how a different area has evolved over the years.

Watch The Cars Go By

Google Maps compiles traffic data that is derived from past information, but this historic data isn’t particularly useful when you’re heading home at the end of a long weekend. Instead of leaving your travel time to chance, you can now use Google’s Live Traffic feature which provides you with the ability to view the traffic for the place you’re going in real time. As a convenient means of planning your route home, this is a great way to avoid a lot of traffic congestion issues that can stop up the end of a trip.

Review Local Transportation Options

It can be more than a little arduous to search for local options for bus and train service when it’s 1 AM and there’s a taxi right in front of you, but Google now has an easy feature that puts this information at your fingertips. By simply mapping the journey of where you are and where you’re going, and clicking on the train icon followed by the setting icon, you can get a description of whether or not your regular route is available at the time you require it. With this feature available in more than 18,000 cities across 64 countries, this is sure to be a benefit for the homeward bound.

Utilize A Map Offline

Mapping is definitely a more useful application when you have Wi-Fi and the ability to determine where you need to go from anywhere, but the mapping application actually offers the ability to see a given area in the event that Internet access isn’t readily available. To save your map for offline viewing later, simply search for the area you want to map, click the “Download” button and save the map. It means you won’t have to worry about finding your destination through a process of trial and error later!

View Your Mapping History

Photo galleries and email searches give you the ability to go back in time and see what you were looking at or doing on a given day, but you may not be aware that Google Maps also has a similar capacity. As long as your location services are clicked on, you can choose the “Your Timeline” option which will give you a listing of all of your map searches. This easily enables you to click on your history so you don’t have to go through the process of searching for a previous location again.

Layer and Map Your Events

If you have a lot of places to go and many people to see, there is a function on Google Mapping that easily allows you to map a number of different events without having to worry about the clutter of mapping multiple locations. By applying the “Add Layers” option on your personal map, you can instantly change the location you’re heading to day after day. All you have to do is name it and save it and it will be added to your personal maps.

Since its advent, Google mapping has become a useful tool for many people to get around the neighborhood or safely travel to destinations throughout the world. Luckily, from plotting your own personal routes to looking back in time to the way a street view has changed, there are a lot of features now included that can really alter the way you utilize mapping. With new innovations on the forefront, the future of mapping is likely to make many of your travel plans a lot more manageable in ways that haven’t yet been envisioned. 

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8 Simple Methods To Improve Your Productivity

Arkit Productivity • 9 minute read

The pace of the world is swifter than ever before, and along with that comes a work environment that is highly demanding and must be adapted to with each new day. While it is quite common for many people to struggle with their schedules and the day-to-day work that threatens to overtake them, there are a variety of easy-to-do methods that have the ability to improve the way work is approached each day and what can be accomplished within it. If you seem to be falling behind lately and are wondering how to stay on top of your tasks, here some tips that will help you see the light at the end of the work week.

Decide On A Daily Strategy

We all have moments at the office where we’re feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated, and this can often mean that we rush headlong into the flow of work without really considering what must be prioritized and what can be put off until a little later. Instead of getting waylaid by your in-box or what your boss has plopped down in front of you, set a few minutes aside at the start of each day to really get yourself configured and determine what you’d like to accomplish before finishing time. This might seem like a futile task given the almost assured barrage of emails and phone calls, but being aware of exactly what’s on your plate will keep you focused on the target so that you’re prepared, no matter what else happens to unfurl in front of you.

Re-Consider Your Snack Choices

Whether it happens to be a sugary coffee early in the day or a mid-afternoon donut, few things will have a more marked effect on the way you feel than what you choose to put into your body. It’s often the case that a sweet treat or salty snack can provide a brief escape from the office - and the promise of an instant lift - but these food items can actually weigh you down, both mentally and physically, and cause your body to crash rendering productivity impossible. Instead of the unhealthy options that will only give you a quick burst of energy, you may want to consider packing items like fruit, vegetables, nuts or even granola bars which will provide nutrition until the next meal but won’t unbalance your body and lead to exhaustion or office malaise.

Get A Good Night’s Sleep

Whether they’ve experienced them or heard the stories, everyone’s aware of the coffee and caffeine pills that have enabled many a student to get through their finals, but when it comes to work pushing your way through it isn’t necessarily the best strategy. It certainly seem like productivity can be a matter of more hours worked and less post-professional life, but you’ll actually be a better employee if you get the proper amount of sleeping hours instead! While the metric for ideal sleeping time has traditionally been 8 hours, recent research from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society has suggested otherwise. According to AASM president and panel moderator Nathaniel F. Watson, “Sleeping six or fewer hours per night is inadequate to sustain health and safety in adults…seven or more hours of sleep per night is recommended for all healthy adults.”

Discuss It Face-To-Face

With the commonality of email when it comes to resolving workplace issues and providing clarity, it’s become a bit of a foreign concept to actually engage in face-to-face time with your co-workers; however, this can actually save a lot of valuable time every single day! All of us have suffered through those email strings that go on for days and accomplish little in the way of a solution, so if you have the option, forget about the “Send” button and make time for a quick chat. This will allow you to address the issues head-on and you won’t have to worry about wasting a lot of time on editing. Keep in mind that if you like to have things in print, you still have the option of sending an email afterwards to clarify your conversation and follow-up on any loose threads that were left hanging.

Delegate The Small Stuff

It can feel empowering, no matter how oversized your workload is, to be able to handle it all on your own, but simply because it’s almost manageable, it doesn’t mean that you should take it all on. While deciding to do all tasks great and small can make you feel important, it’s possible that your energy is being divided on less-important matters, so you may want to consider moving the things you can off of your plate. Whether you have an assistant you can hand the task off to or an eager co-worker, this will enable you to put more energy and focus into the tasks that should really command more of your energy. According to a study completed by the University of Sussex, those who multitask constantly have a lower brain density in the part of their brain responsible for cognitive control, so delegating can actually be a good thing for your brain!

Avoid Meeting Madness

We’ve all been in the kind of boardroom meetings where it seems like everything that’s accomplished could have been sorted with a few short emails, but meetings are still a pretty typical aspect of daily office life and can be pretty hard to avoid. Instead of getting bogged down by a slew of random meetings that you have to attend, try to arrange them in blocks of time so that you’re not skipping out of one, working for 30 minutes, and then heading into another. It may often be the case that your co-workers won’t be able to schedule their meetings around you, but you also have the option of seeing if they can give you the lowdown after the meeting is over or even if they’re willing to send you the minutes for your own reference.

Don’t Get Device Distraction

The smart phone has become a fixture of the business world, and it’s not uncommon to see everyone staring at their phones on an elevator or standing on the street. However, in the office, whether you’re waiting for your friend to text back about a lunch meet-up or surfing the web, the work time that can inadvertently be used up by playing on your phone is time that you won’t get back. It might seem hard at first, but instead of avoiding the problem, set aside a few minutes every few hours for reading your texts or checking your favorite website. A minute or two here and there might not seem like much, but putting limitations on how distracted you are by your device can make a huge difference in the amount of work that’s left over at the end of the day.

Take An Exercise Break

It’s quite common when the paper on the desk is overflowing to think that working through lunch is non-negotiable, but if sticking to the course and staying focused is your goal, taking a bit of a breather for some fresh air and exercise will actually enable you to re-tool. Whether it happens to be mid-morning or late afternoon, set aside at least 15 minutes each day to step out of the office and walk around the block for a bit of fresh air. It’s not the length of time that counts, but the time away from the screen that can make all the difference. While working straight through may make you feel like you’ll be able to get ahead of the work, a study by the app, DeskTime, found that the highest performing 10 percent of workers tended to take a 17-minute break after 52 minutes of work!

When the office is a little busier, the workplace can be more stressful and taxing than usual, and these are often the moments when it’s hard to be as productive as you might like. While it’s important to have patience with yourself and realize that you can only do so much, doing daily checks-ins with your workload and making time each day for a break can have a huge impact on your productivity by the week’s end. It may seem like taking the time to re-tool is working time that’s wasted, but this can actually assist you in streamlining your tasks and may make you a more efficient – and well-rounded! – employee. 

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