You’re a year older, but are you a year wiser? You trudge down the same poor-productivity path year after year hoping that somehow the work will wane or your staff will step up. You ignore new versions and repel updates because you were barely trained on the last one and don’t have time to invest learning the new ones. Make this the year you get out of the poor-productivity ditch.
Resolution No. 1: Upgrade to Office 2010 (or 2013) and LEARN IT!
Say what you will about Microsoft, they know how to dominate a market. And no market is so dominated as the one they dominate with Office – aka Word, Excel and Outlook. If you make a living with words or numbers they are your toolkit. Are you a craftsman or a klutz?
The best part about Office 2010 is that Outlook search got a lot better. Search is the soul of information management. If you are hoarding thousands of emails in your inbox or folders, you deserve the joy of being able to find something faster.
Resolution No. 2: Empty your inbox
An inbox makes a horrible to-do list and worse project management system. Your inbox is where email goes to die. Resolve to move email to folders – and if you can – delegate your inbox to someone who can help. Assign expiration policies to folders . . . use it (file it) or lose it.
The new version of Outlook lets you drag emails to tasks. With the right system you can simply convert requests delivered by email to tasks you can assign to your staff in a single stroke.
Refer to my website http://emailtrainwreck.com for more about email.
Resolution No. 3: Learn keyboard shortcuts
Since the invention of the mouse I’ve noticed too many seconds are wasted by aiming smaller and smaller arrows at smaller and smaller targets and clicking to do almost everything. By the end of the day you’ve probably wasted enough time to play an 8x8 game of Sudoku. If you are going to waste time, at least you should have fun doing it!
Almost everything you do with a mouse can be done with a keyboard shortcut. Ctrl-S for example saves the file you are working on. Visit http://shortcutworld.com for hundreds more in dozens of programs – especially Word, Excel and Outlook.
Resolution No. 4: Change your passwords
2013 will probably be a good year for hackers. More high-value targets, more online applications, more connected hackers. Protecting yourself doesn’t need to be complicated; just use passwords that have a mix of upper and lower case letters, a number and a special symbol or two. (I wrote about this last January in the Indiana Lawyer.)
Don’t use the same password everywhere! And if you ever lose a password and have it (or a link to a password reset page) emailed to you, DELETE THE MESSAGE! If someone hacks your email and browses your inbox, imagine their delight when they find the credentials to your banking and shopping sites kept there forever!
Resolution No. 5: Unhook, disconnect
Studies have shown that as our focus is stolen by the constant interruptions of our digital life, we think less, react more and actually lose IQ points. It is ironic that the Internet, source of all knowledge, is making us stupid.
Most of my customers are afraid to disconnect. It takes courage. But the first step is to make an agreement with the people you connect with about your availability. I’ve added a link to an ‘Email Policies’ page in my Outlook signature. Everyone who receives a message from me is welcomed to learn ‘how I roll’ with email. Setting expectations is everything.
Try this: Share your inbox. Outlook rules are fine, but only a human can decide how to reply, forward or call someone making an urgent request via email (which is stupid all by itself). Leave the rest to wait for your ‘four-times-a-day’ email review windows. Seriously.
I hope you have a happy and productive 2013!•
Kim Brand is a technology expert and president of Computer Experts Inc. He is the inventor of FileSafe, an on-premises file server, and he speaks and writes frequently on technology subjects. To attend a free seminar on Outlook titled: “I Was An E-Mail Sinner,” contact his office: info@ComputerExpertsIndy.com or call 317-833-3000. The opinions expressed are those of the author.