We all use computers and computer-based devices. Some of us use them effectively, but more of us use them just effectively enough that we're unaware of how truly powerful they can be. Computer-based devices have three levels of capabilities.
- Ready-to-use capabilities
- All our devices have capabilities intended for use with almost no training. Menu and ribbon commands, keyboard shortcuts, and email message filtering are examples. But some capabilities are hard to find, and some, once found, are hard to understand and remember. The ease-of-use of these machines is often oversold.
- If you want to benefit from these capabilities, invest effort in learning about them. Because that investment pays for itself quickly, learning one new thing generates time to learn the next. Try this: Windows Mac
- Organizational If everyone is so busy doing "real work"
that they have no time to learn how to
do it better, they'll just use what
they already knowleaders who expect employees to learn how to use these capabilities on their own are perhaps a bit naïve. Employees need support, assistance, and time to explore. If everyone is so busy doing "real work" that they have no time to learn how to do it better, they'll just use what they already know. The lost productivity rapidly accumulates to levels beyond the savings that came from not offering training and support.
- Simple extensions
- Many software applications support stationery, templates, styles, bookmarks, hyperlinks, macro recording, and so on. Mastering these simple extensions takes some effort — more than simple menu commands and keyboard shortcuts.
- Although these extensions seem easy enough in blog posts and YouTube videos, for many, the simplicity is deceptive. The shortest path to mastery usually involves getting help from peers or user groups. Seek help and pay it forward.
- Organizations can make some templates, stationery, or styles available to everyone. Tragically, organizations rarely support effective education in using these assets, but they could. Making it easier for employees to learn does reduce costs.
- Programmatic extensions
- Because this third class of capabilities usually involves programming — scripts are an example — most employees cannot exploit them. Even when they know what tools they want and what tools could simplify their work, they don't know how to produce them. Some do, of course, and they do benefit.
- Unless you have a talent for programming and user interface design, leave these items to experts. People who try to exploit these capabilities, and who lack necessary skills, often find that the effort does not pay.
- This class of automation tools is the domain of the expert. The organization must step forward, making resources available to the people who know what tools they need, but lack the ability to build them. Supporting those resources is cheaper than letting people waste their time trying to do what they cannot.
Whether you have broad organizational responsibility, or you're just trying to get through the day without falling further behind, there's much you can do to get more done with less effort. Exploit automation. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Dangerous Phrases
- I recently upgraded my email program to a new version that "monitors messages for offensive text."
It hasn't worked out well. But the whole affair got me to think about everyday phrases that do tend
to set people off. Here's a little catalog.
- Astonishing Successes
- When we have successes that surprise us, we do feel good, but beyond that, our reactions are sometimes
self-defeating. What happens when we experience unanticipated success, and how can we handle it better?
- You Might Be Stressed If…
- A little stress once in a while keeps us sharp, but chronic intense stress shortens lives. Stress can
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- Hill Climbing and Its Limitations
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The key word is "usually."
- Irrational Deadlines
- Some deadlines are so unrealistic that from the outset we know we'll never meet them. Yet we keep setting
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- And on May 30: Chronic Peer Interrupters: I
- When making contributions to meeting discussions, we're sometimes interrupted. Often, the interruption is beneficial and saves time. But some people constantly interrupt their peers or near peers, disrespectfully, in a pattern that compromises meeting outcomes. How can we deal with chronic peer interrupters? Available here and by RSS on May 30.
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