Embracing Emerging Technology: Innovative Time Management Tools With Ken Babcock

pennyTake Back Time Podcast

TBT Ken Babcock | Time Management Tools


In this era of technological rise, everyone is bound to adapt to technology to make things easier. Which of these emerging technologies can be useful for time management? Ken Babcock, the co-founder and CEO of Tango, dives into embracing emerging technology for time management in the workplace. Tango operates within its space to serve users with a better way to do tasks. The tool Ken creates helps by getting the documentation for teams to spend less time finding the documents. Focus and invest in the right tools to achieve better outcomes. Tune in to this episode with Ken Babcock today!

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Embracing Emerging Technology: Innovative Time Management Tools With Ken Babcock

We are always looking to find new angles and new ways for you to work smarter, not harder. A lot of people are bogged down, overwhelmed, and feeling burnout. Now is going to be an apropos discussion to talk about how we can use technology so that we can be more effective in our time management and take back time.

I’m excited to have Ken Babcock with us. He is Cofounder and CEO at Tango. Tango allows users to create beautiful step-by-step tutorials of any digital process without the performance, art of video recordings, and all those fancy things that you have to spend lots of time preparing. Ken, along with his Cofounder, Brian Shultz, and Dan Giovacchini dropped out of Harvard Business School during the pandemic to start this company. Since then, the company has grown to nearly 50,000 users and 20 full-time team members. Without further ado, we are going to invite Ken to join us. Hi, Ken.

How are you doing? Thanks for having me.

You gave up a Harvard education for this job. Is it worth it?

So far so good. It’s funny. I sent that to you when we first connected. We now have over 350,000 users and almost 40 team members. Tango has been growing.

I remember when we were first in touch and we were going to have this interview, it was in 2022.

The growth that we have seen has been tremendous not to get too much into the product, but the transition of how people work and how they are embracing remote work and hybrid solutions and what we are going to talk about with emerging technology to make you more efficient. Everybody is looking for that. There’s a certain shift that happened in the pandemic where people started to get more ownership over their time.

They don’t have to go into the office. They don’t have to clock in and clock out. They can work from home. People are saying, “If no one is measuring those inputs, how much time I’m spending, I need to produce on the outputs. Let me do that in the most efficient way possible.” That’s the trend that we have capitalized on and it’s exciting to see not for our customers but our internal team too.

What you said brought up some thoughts for me. People are at home. They want to make more use of technology and better use of their time, but I believe also that being at home has also created some overwhelm that they are faced with even more tools than ever and the companies in an effect to work more efficiently added more tools. How do we find talking about embracing emerging technologies? Maybe it’s also worth starting with how we know which ones. How do we reduce the complexity because there are so many out there to help us to be more efficient and, in the end, it becomes a distraction?

That’s a fundamental piece that we have at Tango too. If you think about zooming out in the last decades, it’s gotten exponentially easier to build software and iterate on software. This is true. It will be true of any day moving forward. What you are seeing now is we are at the peak of the number of tools that are used within an organization.

Okta, which is a software company, does this report on how many tools the average enterprise uses. They do it every year. Every year, it’s been going up. The average large enterprise uses 90 tools to get work done. They might be building a tool themselves. That distraction and not a distraction, but the ramp-up that’s required to be able to utilize those to their full capacity is super high.

You talk about I’m going to join a company. I have to ramp up on the company, its goals, and what it stands for. I have to ramp up on my role, what my goals are, who my team is, and what’s expected of me. There’s this third boogeyman that no one is addressing right now, which is how do I use all the tools in my tool belt to get to that point? I know about the goals, but if I need to use these things in order to do it, how do I use them?

Often, there are no rules around which tools to use in which case. Communication tools alone, most companies have 5 to 10 communication tools. Whether it’s email, Skype, WhatsApp, or Slack. Some of the people who are using the Microsoft environment. That’s a whole host of communication tools. There are no rules behind it either. That’s also a problem. This isn’t necessarily what we were starting out to talk about and we will come back to that. As an individual, how do you navigate that? Even though there’s a responsibility from the organization to reduce this complexity, how do you as an individual deal with all of this? What did you call it? The boogeyman.

Especially as it relates to communication. That’s the one that is probably the least clarified of the rules. We are a remote company. We have been a remote company since we started. Mainly because we started during the pandemic. This inertia of hiring people remotely distributed. We acknowledge the hardest part of operating remotely was going to be communication. We took a ton of inspiration from a company called GitLab.

They were a remote company well before it was popular. They publicly share what they call their remote manifesto. It’s like, “If you are going to join this company, you are going to be part of us. You got to know how we work. It’s unique, different, and we have norms that we have set around communicating.” We copied them in a lot of ways in setting up communication norms as a company.

Are norms like rules?

They are rules. Without saying they are rules, they are rules. It was something we came together as a team and agreed upon. Some of the core ones that readers can take away is being clear about what your schedule is. What are your working hours? When are you on? When are you off? When are you getting notifications? When are you not?

Another one too is we use all types of different communication channels where we say default to public. The idea there is there’s a public channel where you can have this conversation so other people can consume it and see what you are thinking. Do that. These direct messages are what create all these silos and those get hairy. We say default to public and set your schedule. Another thing that’s hard is assuming positive intent. Studies have shown that especially in remote work or when you are exchanging more text-based communication, there is a negativity bias that exists.

TBT Ken Babcock | Time Management Tools

Time Management Tools: These direct messages create all these silos, and those get hairy. So default to public, and set your schedule.


You assume someone means something or they don’t. You read between the lines. You don’t take something at face value. You assume there’s something passive-aggressive. We said, “Even if that is the case, we all operate assuming positive content.” The last one that is valuable is assuming low context. What that means is that whenever you are communicating with someone, you say, “I’m going to assume that I have more context than you, or I have a perspective that’s different from yours.”

When we are sharing messages and updates, we are a little bit verbose, but the idea is that you are providing all the context that you have to somebody else who might not have it. We have set and there’s more in there, but they get specific to the tooling, but what we said was, “Here are the guardrails and this is what’s going to help us operate better.”

Choosing when to use those tools is a whole different thing. We have had to role model that ourselves as founders and leaders within the company. I go to my email inbox twice a day. That sounds crazy to a lot of people. Those emails build up, but I have two points in the day where I focus on email so that I don’t get distracted. I remove notifications on my mobile phone during the workday, during a set period of hours. There are a lot of things you can do so that it doesn’t feel like you are constantly getting pulled into these tools, which frankly they are designed to do.

We have to create these norms and boundaries for ourselves because if they are not being set in the workplace, then it’s on us to set them. Looking back, those boundaries used to be there, and over time they have been eroding, especially with us working from home. As you said, now it’s up to us to manage our time a little bit more strictly. We have to put these into place so that we can focus otherwise, we will, “Squirrel.” We’ll be everywhere all the time.

Yes, and it’s easy to fall into that trap.

I do want to get to the piece about looking at those new technologies. Those are some great tips as to how to stay focused as an organization by having and setting those norms together. I love that. We wanted to talk about also using emerging technologies as those resources to save us time. What’s most important there for you that you want to share with the readers about that topic? It’s also a very big topic.

The way I start thinking about it is, “If you are going to take an inventory of your day and you are going to say, ‘Here’s what I spend my time doing. Break it out into certain buckets.’” Look at the ROI. Typically, what people come back with is, “I’m in too many meetings.” Remote makes it so much easier to say, “We have got a Zoom room over here. Why don’t you jump in and help us out?” That can take over a lot of the benefits of working remotely. It can take over your time. A few things that about from a meeting perspective, I will talk a little bit about how we frame it as a company, but then also these emerging technologies that are helpful in removing your meeting loads.

Emerging technologies help remove your meeting load. Click To Tweet

We have this concept that we talk about, which is how expensive is that meeting? We ask people to think about everyone that you are inviting. Think about, “Do I have the people in the room that I need to be able to make a decision?” and make sure that there’s an outcome for every meeting. That reduces meetings to a high level where it’s like, “I’m not going to invite the whole team or invite somebody because they want to be there.”

It’s like, “Let’s have the decision makers. Let’s have the people that need to provide input on the decision,” and so that’s one. When we get to the technology, what our team has embraced and a lot of other teams have as well, but they are still not widespread enough are tools like Loom. Loom is a technology that allows you to record your screen and voiceover and share that with a bunch of people.

We have used that to replace certain meetings. We might say, “We are going to skip all hands this week. There’s a lot going on.” Instead, I will go ahead and record a Loom video of the updates that we are going to share. That way, it’s on me. It’s just my time. It’s not 40 people at the company that need to log into the same meeting. That’s a big one.

The other piece that we hear a lot as an early-stage startup, we are constantly talking to customers. A lot of folks on our team wish they could be a fly on the wall with every customer conversation, but that can quickly become overwhelming. We use call recording software that plugs directly into Zoom, which is where we have a lot of these customer conversations, and then people can go back and watch the highlights. They can watch the replays of those conversations, and you can, within some of these tools, parse out different points of the meeting where you say, “That was a good point.” I want to share that with somebody on the team.

I have a tool called Fathom that I’m playing with that does that. It will take the Zoom call and you will highlight certain pieces and so it will create minutes and all sorts of stuff.

I’m sure there are a ton of good ones out there. We use Grain. They are awesome. They are early stage like us. We have traded some learnings back and forth. They have rapidly improved their product too.

I want to include these tools for people who are reading because they may have never heard of them. They’re various different people at different stages of their understanding of which technologies can be of support to them. As you said, that can help to reduce meetings so that you only have the people that need to be there and anybody who needs to be informed about certain things can get those minutes and those highlights afterwards. It’s much more effective. What else have you got?

There had to come a point where we talk a little bit about Tango. We serve as a complement to some of those tools. With Tango, one thing that we heard early on when we were building this company is it takes way too long to create documentation. The documentation tends to be that key artifact that helps a remote team or any team for that matter get up to speed and get the context that they need, but there’s a huge barrier to doing it and the biggest piece is around how long it takes. We heard time and time again, “It takes hours to write these articles,” and then they get stale quickly and then I have to maintain them.

You are also talking about screenshots that people have to make back in the old days if you wanted to capture certain pieces. Finding documents too is major time consumption.

It’s a huge time suck. In fact, McKinsey had a study a few years ago. They identified that most knowledge workers spend 20% of their week. That’s a full day out of a workweek looking for the right information. You don’t spend a whole day continuously, but these little paper cuts of like, “I don’t have the answer that I need. It’s not at my fingertips. What do I do in this situation?” That can become draining and take over your time.

TBT Ken Babcock | Time Management Tools

Time Management Tools: Most knowledge workers spend 20% of their week. That’s a full day out of a workweek looking for the right information.


What we created is a tool that allows you to create that documentation in the flow of work. What that means is we capture all those screenshots, the actions that you take, and the URLs that you are on, and put that into a step-by-step tutorial in about ten seconds. Once you are done with your process, we auto-generate that. You can do all your editing live in Tango and that saves teams a ton of time creating standard operating procedures, best practices, and FAQs that are valuable for process, and also educating people on all those tools that you are using internally in what we talked about in the beginning. That’s been driving a lot of our adoption is that pain point around documentation.

There are so many tools. Once you get those documented, it makes the whole onboarding much easier. I saw a statistic. I remember it being over 50% of people who had the onboarding was the decision maker as to whether they would be successful in the company. Whether they developed a good feeling about it, whether they felt overwhelmed, and whether they would stay, those that had a good onboarding stayed, and those that left.

I know that exact stat that you are talking about.

Do you have it at your fingertips?

I do. For those people who identify it as having a good or great boarding process, they are 88% more likely to be at the company within two years. That two-year, the likelihood that they will be there is significantly higher and I do think a lot of work too.

That’s huge. That’s way more than 50%.

When you talk about the cost of recruiting, opening a new role, or getting a new person up to speed, there’s a lot of value in that, and unfortunately, companies traditionally underinvest in onboarding. They think, “We hired the right person. They are going to come in and figure it out,” but there’s so much context that needs to be soaked up.

It’s not only that they underinvest. They focus on the wrong things. That’s one of my areas of highlighting to people is that are focused on the wrong things. We don’t have the right lens and so therefore we invest in the wrong things. It’s not that they are totally wrong, but they are not the most priority. They are not the things that get the greatest impact.

That’s where tooling falls by the wayside. There are so many other things that get put up on a pedestal. Especially in the onboarding process as a virtue like, “We need to talk about this. Someone needs to be trained up on X, Y, and Z.” Those things are important but you are hiring somebody to get it done. If the biggest blocker to them getting stuff done is tooling, you are probably not spending enough time on that. I fully agree with you. There are a lot of good intentions. There are probably not a lot of good outcomes in onboarding.

Good intentions don’t always translate into the right focus and the right outcomes. I asked most guests this question. How do you define productivity and why?

I’m the Founder and CEO of a productivity tool. For us, I have always focused on a quote that I love, which is, “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” In the modern workplace, there can be this checklist mentality of, “I got all these things done,” but are they the right things? We always stress to our team, it’s not the inputs. It’s the outputs. What that means is we need to be very clear about what our goals are and set goals that are ambitious. Those are the outputs.

We are hitting those goals. I don’t care if you log in twice a week for 30 minutes at a time. If we are hitting those goals, great. It’s a shift in focus that a lot of people are struggling to remove because they are so used to work that’s 9:00 to 5:00. We go into an office and we do these things. I fill my time with stuff that feels productive but probably isn’t.

I acknowledge that you can say, “Outputs are more important. Achievement is more important than activity,” but you do have to, as a company, have the infrastructure to be able to measure it. That’s where we have invested a lot of time in our OKR process, Objectives and Key Results. That’s where we have invested a lot of time in our data infrastructure and our ability to measure things such that we can say as a company, we are output oriented. We are not input oriented. Inputs tend to be a crutch for people that don’t have that output infrastructure in place. That’s how I define productivity.

Achievement is more important than activity, but you must have the infrastructure to measure it. Click To Tweet

Last question and then we will find out where people can go to find out more about you and Tango. I’m writing a new book and it’s around reset moments and how we can be more aligned with our actions and our intentions so that we can be more output focused. What are some of the reset practices that help you stay focused on what’s most important?

I picked this one up from a coach who I use who was awesome. It’s one of the most valuable exercises I do every day. I look at my calendar, which is busy because I’m meeting externally and internally. Every single planned interaction I have with somebody, I try to articulate in 1 or 2 words how I want to show up at that moment.

Whether that’s, “I need to deliver a stern message. I need to pump somebody up and motivate them. I need to sell here.” It’s not clearly maybe priorities, but it helps me measure my energy throughout the day to understand, “Here’s one where I need to show up in this way.” If I don’t show up in that way, it’s a reflective process where I say, “Why did that happen? Was I being pulled in too many different directions? Did I feel like it wasn’t worth my time?” That’s the practice that I would encourage folks to embrace.

It’s almost like setting an intention, but it’s setting an intention for your way of being. If you need to be supportive, you are going to be clear before you go into that meeting that you are going to come from a supportive lens and that’s how you are going to show up. If you need to be directive, then you are going to be directive.

I’m saying this so that everybody reading understands that each one of those, by deciding how you are going to show up in your state of being, is going to determine your behavior, the words that you use, the actions that you take, and all that. That’s significant. It may seem like it’s not significant. I want to make sure that people understand the significance of that reset before each and every interaction that you take. My question to you is, how do you reflect? Do you have a planned reflection at the end of the day? You said at the beginning of the day, you will look and make that clear. At the end of the day, do you go back and look at that and say, “Let me look at how I showed up in each one?”

I have it already written down. When my last meeting is over, I take a look at that and I say, “Did I do this? Why or why not?” The reason this is so relevant to priorities, you gave the example of, “I need to be directive.” Sometimes in order to do that, you need to do some homework, you need to pull some data, or you need to reference some materials.

Understanding where those gaps are, “I want to show up in this way, but I’m not equipped to do it right now.” That’s how it helps with priorities. Sometimes you get to the end of the day and you are like, “I wasn’t able to show up in that way because I didn’t prioritize what I needed to do to be effective in that way.”

It could be some research, but it could also be preparing a few questions that you feel are going to be most relevant. We are more effective and show up the way we want when we spend a little bit of time in that preparation, that forethought. That person could say something that triggers something in you and then all of a sudden, you are forgetting that you needed to ask these questions and show up in a certain way. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you wanted to share with the readers?

No. We covered a lot of ground. In the spirit of efficiency, I will stop there.

Tell us how we can get ahold of you and then we will close down the show.

The best place would be to go to Tango.us. There you can learn more about what we are doing as a company and find our open roles. Find me. I’m on LinkedIn. Feel free to shoot me a note at Ken@Tango.us. I check email twice a day as I said, so I’m on top of it.

Thank you so much for being here, Ken, and thank you all for being here. You were blessed with a lot of big nuggets from this show. You learned a little bit about how to deal with your boundaries, creating some norms for yourself and for your teams. You learned a little bit about how you can use Tango and some other technologies to help you to be more efficient and effective, and then you learned a powerful reset moment that you can do that is going to make a difference in how you show up to every scheduled meeting. Read it again if you need to put this into practice. Let me know, subscribe, and make sure that you are keeping us up to date with the topics that you want to hear about. Thank you so much. We will see you in the next episode.


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About Ken Babcock

TBT Ken Babcock | Time Management ToolsKen Babcock is the Co-founder and CEO of Tango, which allows users to create beautiful step-by-step tutorials of any digital process without the performance art of video recordings. Ken, along with his co-founders Brian Shultz and Dan Giovacchini, dropped out of Harvard Business School during the pandemic to start the company.

Since then, the company has grown to nearly 50,000 users and 20 full-time team members. Tango’s launch on Product Hunt in September 2021 earned many accolades: #1 Product of the Day, #1 Product of the Week, and one of four finalists for Product Hunt’s Product of the Year. Tango is backed by Wing VC, GSV, General Catalyst, Red Sea Ventures, and Outsiders Fund. Prior to HBS, Ken spent most of his career in the Bay Area at Uber, where he held roles in Launch Operations, Data Science, and Product Strategy from 2014 to 2018.


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