Article: "Never, Ever, Ever Do The Same Thing Twice."

Do you find yourself doing some things over and over
again? Could it be automated? Put a process or system in
place, before you waste another minute of your precious
time. If you learn how to perform a repetitive task
efficiently, you don’t waste time to achieve the same
results. Try some of these ideas:

· Use a macro. To address an envelope or label, I used
to look up the contact’s name in my ACT contact
management software, get out a pen, grab an envelope,
and hand-write the information. I knew my printer was
capable of printing envelopes and labels, but I was “too
busy” to figure out how to use the feature. After I
accidentally stumbled across the “print, envelope” feature
in my database, I tested it. My printer printed a
beautifully typed address on plain paper. So I finally
figured out how to manually load an envelope in my
printer. I took it a step further and figured out how to
create a macro. Now I simply find the client name, click
one button, and load the envelope…presto! Everything
else is done automatically. I’m amazed at how much time
that little system saves. By investing a small amount of
time in figuring out how to systematize the process, I
recovered significant lost time. Always look for software
packages that work WITH each other, especially products
that work with the Microsoft Office Suite or supports
Object Linking and Embedding (OLE).

· Reuse information. My agent has always impressed
me with his detailed explanations of the publishing
process. He takes the time to explain everything to me in
terms I can understand. I knew he must spend significant
time composing his rather lengthy emails, because they
were so jam-packed with great information. Out of
curiosity, I asked him if he saved it for future use.
Surprisingly, he hadn’t (he has always said he needs my
book). So he copied the most recent messages he’d
composed and saved them as a word processing
document. Now he will be able to use that information
again with the next author who asks the same questions
…and the next…and the next. Why reinvent the wheel?

· Create document templates. A template is a shell
document that contains the formatting, text, and graphics
you use each time you create a specific document. When I
first started my business, I found myself repeating myself
over and over again in the letters I wrote to clients. I was
also switching back and forth between ACT (my contact
management software) and MS Word (my word processing
software) to get address information. I manually copied
and pasted information from one application to another to
create contracts and other agreements. After some trial
and error, I learned how to create ACT document
templates, which automatically created a Word document
and filled in the blanks. Now I execute a few simple
keystrokes, and the documents write themselves! In MS
Word, create templates using the “.dot” format, so they
opened as an Untitled document. When you save, Word
will automatically prompt you to save the document with
a different name, eliminating the chance you’ll accidentally
save over a template. Create templates for large mailings,
letters, newsletters, labels, and reports.

· Learn Shortcuts. If you find yourself opening the
same computer file over and over again from the Start
menu, why not create a shortcut on your desktop to that
file? You could also use shortcut keys to replace any point
and click feature, speed up the process by using the
keyboard instead. I often need to change the case of my
text from sentence case to capitals, and I find it tedious to
use the menu system. Instead, use a shortcut. With the
cursor on the word to capitalize, hold shift and press F3,
once to capitalize the first letter, twice to capitalize the
entire word, and a third time to lower case. If the word is
already capitalized the sequence works anyway: “Capital”
becomes “CAPITAL,” becomes “capital” in that order (for
MS Word). At
ard_shortcuts.html, you will find a list of the most
common keyboard shortcuts. Most are a combination of
two or three keys that you will need to hold down
simultaneously to trigger the command. While they may
seem a little awkward at first, they will become second
nature once you start using them regularly.

· Use Calendaring. It was simple to schedule my
appointments and speaking engagements when I was
single, because I only had one calendar. Enter a husband.
Enter children. Enter clients who wanted to be able to
check my speaking calendar without having to place a call
to me. Enter an office assistant. Suddenly, I had my
personal calendar, the family wall calendar, my husband’s
calendar, the office wall calendar, and a web-based
calendar. Any time a client placed a hold on a date, five
calendars would have to be updated. Don’t I teach this
stuff? Boil everything down to a single system. All my
speaking engagements are now tracked on a single web-
based program at (there are many
other calendaring services on the web). This master
calendar links to my website and my speaker bureaus’
websites. Clients can check my schedule, and my husband
can access my calendar from any location. Anything that
affects my time is recorded in my Franklin Covey planner.
The dentist appointment card is recorded and tossed.
Meagan’s soccer schedule is written and tossed. The
phone message to call my friend is written and tossed.
Consolidate everything into a single system, rather than
having fragmented pieces of information everywhere.

· Provide Information. If your co-workers are
repeatedly asking the same things, create a “Frequently
Asked Questions” (FAQ) document. If people are
interrupting you to ask for forms, create a “self-help”
center outside your office and load it with the desired
information. As much as possible, try to take yourself out
of the middle of the process. Whenever I’m hired to speak
at a conference or meeting, my client will always need my
room set-up requirements, an introduction, and a bio.
After sending it out 100 times per year, we finally figured
out we could house the information on our website. My
clients are now able to access the “Meeting Planner”
portion of my site and get anything they need. I can’t tell
you how much time that system has saved.

· Use the Auto-Correct Feature. If you are constantly
typing out the long form of common abbreviations in your
company or correcting the same misspelled word, using
the auto correction feature of your word processing
program will save you much time. Most programs
automatically fix commonly mistyped or misspelled
words, and you can add your own to the list. For example,
you can program it to spell out Table of Contents each
time you type “TOC” in quotes, to distinguish it from the
actual acronym.

Look through the tasks that you do every day, week,
month, over and over again. What can you do to replicate
that task? Once, great...twice, automate!

© Copyright 2003 Laura Stack, MBA, CSP. All rights
reserved. Portions of this newsletter may be reprinted in
your organization or association newsletter, provided the
following credit line is present:

"Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is “The Productivity PRO,"®
helping people leave the office earlier, with less stress, and
more to show for it. She presents keynotes and seminars
on time management, information overload, and personal
productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or
[email protected]."