How do you know if your method of getting work done using Office is efficient or inefficient?
Here is a simple but powerful test you can use to find out.
Estimated reading time 4 min.
UNDO is used when you make a mistake and you want to revert. That is fine.
But that is NOT the primary reason for which we end up using UNDO so often.
But often we perform some activity expecting some specific thing to happen.
Unfortunately something else happens and then we get frustrated.
To repair the damage, we press UNDO. Ok so you are back to where you started.
Did UNDO solve the problem? Did it give you what you expected? Not at all.
We have to then do that activity using some other work-around.
Obviously, it requires more time and effort.
So here is a fresh revelation:
Undo = you don’t know how to do!
Is this sounding like a bad news? May be – because it is exposing your ignorance.
But wait, let us look at it positively –
Undo = Learning Opportunity
Today is UNDO awareness day. Here is what you should do.
Consciously notice when you are about to press UNDO (CTRL Z) and STOP.
Think… what went wrong? Can I perform the activity in a little different way so that I can get what I want?
Now look around carefully. In most cases you will notice these inexplicable and irritating icons appearing from nowhere.
Usually we hate them and ignore them.
But from today onwards, we are going to click on them, look at what they have to offer and learn from them.
You will realize that whatever you expected, is available there.
Microsoft has thought of all possible variations of that actions and provided relevant actions.
Just try it and let me know how much you learnt!
Till now, most of my articles focused on individual efficiency. Now it is time to introduce team efficiency.
The most commonly used application is email. Unfortunately, it is also the biggest reason for inefficiency!
No matter how much you invest in collaboration tools, cloud based storage and so on… we still happily spoil our own lives by misusing email.
In the good old days when the only way of sharing documents was email, this was fine.
But good old days are over. Bad new days are in.
Does this sound familiar?
- You are supposed to create a critical document (say, response to RFP or Tender) and submit it before deadline
- You need inputs from technical team, finance, operations and legal
- So you create a shell document containing the main headings and send CC to those 3 people.
- Congratulations, now you already have four copies of the same document. That is called IT as an enabler!
- Each of those people try to put some information into the respective sections… and send it back to you.
- More achievement! now you have four documents with same name but different content
- You love such challenges. You have a Post Graduate degree in Copy Paste Management.
- With eager enthusiasm, we indulge in the pleasure of repairing Formatting inconsistencies, tables with their own minds, adamant pictures and incongruous collection of fonts
- Finally a 5th copy is born
- Now you send that copy to all those people again… because till now they have not had a chance to see what each other has written
- Welcome to 9 copies
- Now you get 3 more replies – another round of rejuvenating Copy Paste marathon
- After many such iterations the document is finally ready
We are so used to it, we don’t even think it is a problem
Experience with technology has taught us that this is absolutely normal. Part of the game. Everyone does it. Boss also does the same thing. Competitor also is in the same boat.
Is there really something like “MY documents”
In business context, My Documents is a misnomer. Invariably, you will need to involve someone else for something about any business document. For review, reference, inputs… whatever.
The hard truth is that even if you created a document, it is never fully yours!
The solution: Think before you Attach
Email was designed for communication and delivery of stuff. What used to go by telegram, telex, fax, courier can now be sent by email – faster and cheaper.
That is true even today. However, over the years, we have been misusing it for doing things which are not just inefficient, but they are actually hampering business execution.
We have to actively stop this bad habit.
There are two scenarios you have to choose from….
Am I delivering the document or am I sharing it?
Delivery means you give it to someone and then forget about it. No review, update, reply… nothing.
For example, if I send a mail to my staff with their salary slip attached, it is called DELIVERY.
Sharing is different…
Sharing means I am interested in what happens to the document even after I send it to others. When you attach a document which you are interested in – you are making a big mistake… You just created a copy of the document.
So the cardinal rule of sharing is that you never make a copy. The thing being shared is always a single copy. Others who want to work with it must use the SAME copy.
Sharing = 1 copy
Now the question is… where do we keep that copy? On your own PC? Or on a departmental server?
It should be in such a place that it is accessible to everyone who needs it but it should also be secure.
Finding such a place as a replacement to email attachment will improve your efficiency.
I will explain how to do this in the next post.
But for now … remember this…
CCs with attachments are the enemy of efficiency!
In a hurry?
Skip the introductory part and scroll down to the section Inefficiency Benchmarks and follow instructions.
In each of my posts, I have shown how work can be done more efficiently.
You probably already knew a method of doing it.
I am highlighting the best, fastest, smartest method. That is called Efficiency.
The problem is that there are millions of business activities we perform and there are thousands of features. I cannot help you with every activity you perform.
The question is, as an individual, how do you detect your inefficiency?
The solution: Self-Audit
The solution is simple. YOU must start detecting your own inefficiencies – while you work.
How to do that? By a simple process of SELF AUDIT.
Start noticing how you work and think about what are the exact steps you are taking.
Usually, while working with Office tools, we do not notice the actual steps. We have been using it for years. So things happen automatically.
Self Audit means consciously noticing the activities you perform. Click, Right click, Keyboard shortcut, mouse movement, repetition, Undo… everything.
Initially it will require some proactive effort. But soon it will become a habit.
Next problem: How to find if my method is inefficient?
This is a tough question to answer. Because, in most cases you know only ONE method of performing the activity or task.
Office allows you to perform most activities in many different ways. You found one method which worked for you and you stick to it lifelong.
How did you find that particular method? Most probably by trial and error.
Even if you found that method from documentation or research, there is a good chance that Microsoft has added more features to make it simpler. You have not taken any extra effort to find a better approach because your existing method is working anyway.
This is what I called Active Inefficiency!
If you know only one method, how can you say it is good or bad? Efficient or Inefficient?
You have nothing to compare it with. No benchmark.
The method which was best on day one may be the worst way of doing it today.
Here are simple benchmarks to tell you whether your method is inefficient or efficient.
These may sound arcane at first. But just try these for next few days. I will post more explanatory articles later.
Repetition = Inefficiency
This is obvious. But still we continue to do many repetitive activities instead of trying to find a better way.
Struggle = Inefficiency
If you are struggling and fighting with the software to get something done, then it is definitely not the right way – even if it eventually works.
Feeling that you are helping Office rather than Office is helping you
You try something. It works but it does not work elegantly. Are you trying to help Office? If yes then STOP IMMEDIATELY.
Remember that Office is created to help us. Not the other way.
So if you are faced with a situation where you are helping Office do its job, that means you are not communicating correctly with the software. Stop and try to find a way of communicating correctly.
Hands in active use but brain is idling
Content is important. Not formatting. But most of us spend disproportionately more time on formatting Word and PowerPoint documents. That is inefficiency. Content comes from brain. Formatting comes from hands. So an imbalance between usage of hands v/s brain indicates inefficiency.
Small data = less time, Large / Complex data = exponentially more time
This is a corollary to repetition. Even if you use an inefficient method few times, it does not matter. But if the data becomes bigger, that inefficiency is going to take inordinate amount of your time. This is a sure way of detecting inefficient approach.
Undo = Inefficiency
If you made a mistake and pressed UNDO, then it is absolutely fine.
But in reality, we often use UNDO because you tried to do something (intentionally) and what happened was not what you expected. Therefore, to repair the damage we use UNDO. This type of UNDO usage is a sure indicator of inefficiency.
In this case UNDO is telling you that you don’t know how to do!
Again it is time to discard your current method and find a better one.
Try these benchmarks while working in the next few days. Post your feedback as comments.
In future articles, I will cover examples so that you can relate to it better.