Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Most of us would not dream of operating an unfamiliar piece of equipment (like a drill press) without some sort of instruction. So why, then, do we think that we can do it in other areas of our life? In fact, without learning how to use a tool properly, you can actually hinder yourself, or cause yourself lost time when you have to re-do things.
Take the lowly hammer. It’s a simple tool, using the power of levers to push a nail into or remove a nail from something. Most people learn how to use a hammer by watching someone else.
But imagine if you had never seen a hammer in use. How would you use it? The metal end is shaped like a handle in some respects. How efficient would you be if you held that end and tried to push a nail into a wall with the stem handle? You could probably do it with brute strength, but it would take much more effort than using the hammer properly.
Let’s take a look at the thing that seems to thread through modern existence: software. Software is there to give us a way to make computers do something. Yet if we don’t know how to tell the computer to do something, we lose out on the power and end up taking longer.
Spreadsheets are made for calculating and churning through things that used to take long and be prone to errors. Yet the very basics of the application can escape people.
For instance, when I was doing temporary work, a woman in a neighboring cube was adding up receipts. She had been told she needed to provide a list of the receipts, their amount and a total in a spreadsheet. I watched as she entered all the information, then pulled out her 10 key calculator and ran a tape of the receipts. For the next hour I listened to her swear under her breath as she made mistakes, had to back out numbers and then run a second tape to check the numbers. When I asked why she didn’t use the spreadsheet to total the amounts, she stared at me blankly. She had no idea the spreadsheet could do anything other than put numbers in nice neat columns for printing.
Learning basic formulas by heart (so you don’t have to hunt around looking for them) can save you time and frustration.
The Word Processor
There are so many things you can do with modern word processors – but there are many quick and easy shortcuts that can save you a whole lot of time.
Another temp job showed me a lady who had been working for an agency for many years. She was a skilled typist – she could do 120 words per minute on a bad day. But she could not get the hang of the mouse. Every time she had to use a mouse, her lips would thin, she would pick up the mouse, place it back on the desktop, move it, pick it up, move it, until the thing would finally be in place. Teaching her the keyboard shortcuts made her smile, and kept her ultra-productive.
Do you know the keyboard shortcuts for bold, italic and underline? What about printing? Think about this: you could hit two keys together, or have your hand leave the keyboard, grab the mouse, navigate and click; then move your hand back to the keyboard.
The Slide Show
Many people in business rely on PowerPoint or like software these days. It’s a good medium for communicating ideas to highlight a talk. Consistency is needed between slides, or the presentation has an incoherent look.
A former coworker of my husband prepared a beautiful slide presentation for management. He had the date of the presentation at the bottom of every slide – all 58 of them. Then the presentation was rescheduled, and he had to change the date. So he went through all 58 of them and changed the date.
Do you know about master slides? One place to put common elements that show up on every page. It can save a lot of time and work when you need to change something common quickly.
Do you really know how to use your software? Or are you barely adequate? There are many free and paid courses on the web these days. Look into one to see if you can learn some tips to help you streamline what you do.
Photo by foxypar4