Simplifying Your Life: Four Easy Ways to Automate Your Work

“The first rule of technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft.

When people think of the term “automation,” most visualize robots designed to take jobs away from ordinary workers. But this is less common in the white-collar field. Personal automation involves not large machines but small ones, along with simple smartphone and computer applications.

Let’s look at four remarkably simple ways to save little chunks of time, especially if you spend most of your time with a computer.

  1. Learn computer shortcuts. This one may seem obvious to you, but even people who use their computers daily don’t know every trick. For everything you can mouse over to and click on, there’s a keyboard command, something requiring a right-click on your computer’s mouse, and then selection from a drop-down menu. Most people are familiar with copy/paste (Control-C and Control-V). But have you heard of the little-known Spike function in Microsoft Word, where you can gather multiple blocks of text from different locations and paste it all at once? Basically, to gather information into the Spike in Word, select the text and/or images you want to add and press “Ctrl + F3.” To paste the text collected in the Spike, press “Ctrl + Shift + F3.” Just google it to learn more!

  2. Program macros. If you use Speed Dial on your phone, you’ve got the basic concept of macros down. A macro is a shortcut for a set of commands that open automatically when you select the macro. For example, you can set a macro to automatically back-up all your important files daily. You can set macros in MS Word for letter templates, or record them for lengthy titles or names so you don’t have to repeatedly type them or even use your computer shortcuts. Basically, you save time on your timesavers, making them doubly effective. Some websites, like this one, offer free macros you can record with ease.

  3. Use speech recognition software. Programs like Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Office’s new Dictate program (which comes with the program) can prove helpful if you work in an environment with little background noise, or where you won’t bother other people muttering to yourself constantly. However, they do require a learning curve, both for you and your computer, since the program will have to learn your vocal mannerisms and accent. If you’re like me and use Google Voice for typing on your phone, this may feel natural to you (if you speak and accidentally say “period” after your sentences, this is a good clue). It will save you oodles of time typing documents!

  4. Use your smartphone more often. We’re you’re away from your computer, you need not really be away. As important as breaks are, even in the breakroom you can use your smartphone to check email, open websites, do research, and many other things. While at your desk, use the timer to remind you to focus for 30 minutes and have it play music to help you work or provide ambient sound. Your phone’s not just for moving animated jewels and crushing candy anymore.

In the End, It Does Matter

This little list barely scratches the surface of simple personal automation tips; I offer it just as a springboard to get you started. Now, you may not think these automation tips are a big deal, because they save you maybe 5-10 minutes a day each, at most. But ten minutes a day adds up to 45 hours a year—a full workweek. Multiply that by the number of automation tips you use regularly, and you can end up with an astonishing amount of time saved annually. This is especially true when you combine it trimming time-wasters, like all that time you spend on social media. Then invest the recovered time investing in high-value activities or getting out of the office on time and going home to your life!

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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