Sometimes it’s the little things. Sure I’d love to win an all-expense-paid trip to Venice, but there’s something to be said for the quiet joy I feel when I discover that my fabulous husband has already emptied the dishwasher. Those small daily triumphs can be just as sustaining as a big win, and are certainly easier to come by.
On that note, there are a few tips and tools that I use regularly. Not only do they save me a lot of time, they make my day just a little bit happier.
How many times have you typed out the full name of your organization? How many times have you written stock phrases like “Thank you for your inquiry…” or “Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.”? Or even your own email address?
Text expanders come in a lot of different flavors, from the built-in Autocorrect on your laptop to the Text Replacement feature on your smart phone. There are also a number of 3rd-party apps (a former colleague introduced me to aText years ago and I’ll be forever grateful). Text expanders all work on the same premise: you type a shortcut (for example, “omw”) which is instantly and magically replaced by a longer phrase (“On my way!”).
Beyond the built-in defaults, you can create and customize all kinds of shortcuts – with or without formatting. Here are a few quick examples:
|My shortcut…||…expands to…||…which is:|
|.firstname.lastname@example.org||my email address|
|.wsb||Wall Street Bound, Inc.||an incredible nonprofit in NCY|
|.lorum||Morbi congue ex id dapibus aliquet. Cras euismod hendrerit nisi, id porttitor quam consequat vitae. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique…||several paragraphs of formatted lorum ipsum text – really helpful when I’m designing a web page or newsletter template|
|adding diacritical marks for my Duolingo lessons|
A tip I picked up early on: I preface most of my shortcuts with a dot, so they don’t kick in unexpectedly.
If you find yourself repeatedly typing out phrases like “We will proactively leverage our dynamic strategy to innovate purpose-driven core competencies in order to foment an outcomes-driven paradigm shift,” please walk away from your keyboard. For everything else, try setting up an auto text, and see what a difference it can make.Here’s how to set up text replacements on Mac/IOS and Windows/Android.
Email Subject Lines
No tech involved on this tip. Email conversations can sometimes continue for days or weeks or months, often evolving and morphing so what began as a quick question (“please re-send the Zoom meeting info”) eventually becomes an important discussion about program development. Do yourself (and everyone else on the thread) a favor and update your subject line to match the actual subject currently under discussion. This makes searching much faster and more accurate, and promotes quicker responses (folks are much more likely to open a message that’s headed “new launch timeline” than one headed “Re:Re:Re:Re:printer is out of toner”)
Get Some Styles
Styles are combinations of formatting characteristics that you can apply to text to quickly change its appearance. All the major productivity suites support styles, including MS Office and Google Suite.
Have you ever found yourself tweaking the font style or color in one heading, and then laboriously making the same change to all the other headings in your document? Instead of directly formatting each instance of a heading (or title, or bullet point, or…), you can assign them to an appropriate style (Heading One, Heading Two, Bullet List, etc.).
One of the best things about using styles is that they “cascade,” which means that if you decide to change a style, that change will apply to every piece of text that’s been assigned to that style, all the way through the document. Not only does this save you a ton of time, it helps ensure that your document (or spreadsheet, or slide, or web page) has a consistent and professional look.
Styles are especially important when building web pages, because search engines give extra weight to Heading styles.
Once you’ve mastered Styles, we can start talking about the magic of Templates, but we’ll save that for another day.
A small piece of advice from my late father, one rainy cold day as I was searching for a parking space close to the entrance of Home Depot. “No no no,” he told me, “always park by the cart return.” Sure enough, when we came out of the store with our loaded cart, it was a relief to be able to pile our stuff in the car, swing the cart into the rack, and drive away. And now every time I go grocery shopping or run to Target, I smile and think of Dad as I pull in next to the cart return.