Tools to Pack more Productivity in Every hour of Work

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Tools play a crucial role in today’s day to day work. The common ones are email clients, spreadsheets, word processors, schedulers, etc.

Depending on your work, you can have a lot of specific tools as well. For example, if you’re a financial analyst, you may rely on databases and Bloomberg. If you’re a designer, you may be using photoshop and illustrator on a daily basis. If you’re a writer, you may be into MS Word or Google Docs.

Today, I want to share my top 5 productivity tools that I use almost daily. These tools have helped me become more productive in my 9-5 job and I am sure these can help many people like me.

Also, these are not industry specific tools, it generic ones that can be used by anyone.

  • Evernote: Evernote is a great app to take notes and arrange it. I often get an idea at weird times – sometimes when I am traveling, while walking my dog, while having lunch, while trying to sleep. Since I can use Evernote on my phone, which I always have with me, it’s super easy to note and arrange these thoughts. It allows me to tag and categorize stuff that I record so that I can pick it up later when needed.
  • Google Docs: Google Docs is a powerful tool and I find it way better than MS Word. The fact that it is cloud-based makes it a lot more convenient. Among the G Suite of Apps, Google Docs has really picked up and I see everyone using it, from someone in the office to a blogger in the café to a serious author. Google Docs allows a lot of customization and you can even create a research report in it (which I considered was the forte of MS Word). You can easily style the pages, change margins in Google Docs, insert images, insert headers and footers, and do a lot of cool stuff.
  • To Do Lists: This is one of my favorite tools. You can create a to-do list on a paper, on your phone, in an Excel spreadsheet, or any other way that suits you. The trick to making a to-do list work is to make sure it is realistic. As a practice, I try not put more than 5 tasks on my to-do list.
  • Pomodoro Timer – With the attention span as low as mine, it is really easy to get distracted. Pomodoro Timer works on the concept that you should work in batches. A typical Pomodoro timer is set for 25 where you’re expected to focus on the work at hand and not get distracted at all. So you need to keep your phone aside and close all those tabs that have social media website open and only focus on what you need to get done in the 25 minutes. When you’re done with a 25-minute slot, you can take a short break and then come back again for another 25-minute slot.

These techniques and tools have been working great for me.

3 Excel Tricks that will make your 9 to 5 a Breeze

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Excel is everywhere.

If you work with data, there is a 96% chance that you are using Excel in your daily work. (I just made up the statistic, but it sounds legit)

Excel has hundreds or maybe thousands of features. But as a part of my regular job, there is only a handful of these that I need to know to get work done efficiently.

Here are three Excel features that I regularly use to get the work done. And I the difference in knowing these and not knowing these could be huge (in terms of time and efficiency).

#1 – Knowing how to remove duplicates from you data

Data often comes in screwed up forms. For example, there could be missing data points, errors, or duplicates.

Duplicates can be hard to spot of you have a huge dataset. However, Excel has an inbuilt feature that allows you to remove duplicates easily.

Here is how to use it:

Select the dataset and go to the data tab. In the ‘Data Tools’ you will find the Remove Duplicates option.

When you click on the Remove Duplicates icon, it opens the remove duplicates dialog box.

Now you can select the columns from which you want to remove the duplicates and Excel will remove these duplicates instantly.

Just make sure you don’t need the original dataset. If there is a possibility you may need the original dataset, I recommend you first create a copy of the data and then do this on copied data,

#2 – Quickly Cleaning data using Find and Replace

Imagine you get a worksheet with thousands of rows of data.

And unfortunately, there is a comma instead of space in all the data points (maybe in the case of address or names).

What do you do?

Do you go and change it manually.

Absolutely not! That would be a huge waste if time.

Here is what you do. You use the awesomeness of Find & Replace.

Select the entire dataset and go to the Home Tab and with the Editing group, click on the Find & Select option.

From the drop down, select Replace.

This opens the Replace dialog box.

In the ‘Find What’ field, enter what you want to replace (a comma in this case).

In the ‘Replace with’ field, enter a space character.

And now click on Replace All.

That’s it! You just saved yourself a couple of days of manual hard work.

#3 – Using Format Painter to Copy Formatting

Often we have a fixed format in which we need to prepare our reports in Excel. This could be based on your company brand colors or project specific colors.

Now you don’t need to do this over and over again for all the tables and datasets.

Instea you can use an awesome Excel tool – format painter.

Here is what you do to quickly copy and paste formatting in Excel.

Select the cells from which you want to copy the formatting.

Go to Home tab and within the clipboard group, click on the Format Painter option.

You will see that your cursor changes and becomes a plus sign with a paint brush adjacent to it.

Now you go and select all the cells where you want his formatting applied and simply select those cells.

Tadaaa! All the cell that you selected would now have the same formatting as the one from which you copied it.

These are my top 3 Excel tips that I use daily and has saved me countless hours so far.

There are many such Excel tips and based on your work, you can have your own little set of tricks that will make you efficient in your work.

If you’re an absolute beginner, you can start with this Free Online Excel Training.

While these may not seem like a big deal, it’s simple hacks like these that can drastically improve your value as an employee.

Is Verbal Communication Dying Slowly?

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I might be stretching this a bit far but I think verbal communication in cubeville is all but dead.

And this is NOT a good thing.

How many times during the day do you instant message or email the person one seat over or in front of you?

I bet most people would say between 15 and 20 times a day.

Yes, these communication tools can increase productivity when used as an appropriate medium, but how much is appropriate vs. inappropriate?

I myself have been guilty of this many of times.

Why do we use these written channels vs. picking up the phone and calling someone or walking over to their desk or simply turning your chair to your left or right to ask a co-worker a question?

Now I am no expert on this, but here are some reasons that I have come up with:

  1. We have become lazy. Why dial a 10 digit number and wait for the phone to ring and the person to answer when you can simply type out the message? Is this a more productive form and a time saver? Many times it is NOT.
  2. We cannot stand talking to the people we work with. Ever have that person you just hate at work? You avoid them like the plague but are forced to interact with them? I think this is a major reason for the death of verbal communication.
  3. Have you heard of the acronym CYA? It’s Cover Your Ass! There is a new breed of people who live by this philosophy. They absolutely refuse to do anything unless you ask them in writing so they can throw you under the bus if you ask them verbally and tell everyone that you never asked such a question. They save every email for future reference in hopes that one day they can nail you on something you wrote to them during the course of doing your day to day job functions. Now to be honest, in today’s work-life, maybe this is a good idea. But one shouldn’t push it hard and a verbal commitment should still have it’s sanctity.
  4. You are intimidated when you have to call and actually hold a conversation with someone on the phone. I feel bad for these kinds of people because they can barely put together a sentence. How did you ever pass your public speaking class in college? Is the English language your second language and email and instant messaging have replaced them as the primary form of communication???? What is wrong with you? If these people are your co-workers grow a pair and learn how to talk to them. I think this is the second most frequent reason for the email gurus. You are afraid of confrontation and try to write it instead of speaking it when someone makes you mad, does something wrong etc. maybe an email will resolve the issue, but if the person isn’t able to see any emotion behind the written message then he/she will never realize or learn what they did wrong. You’re dead in the water if you never speak up and voice an opinion…basically, your a sheep and you should be happy to be where you are.

Don’t get me wrong, email and electronic communication are incredibly important, they provide the ability to transport files, multi-task, keep records of tasks that need to be completed, communicate with several people through a single message etc. But when it’s used as a scapegoat, or misused that’s when I believe it becomes a detriment rather than an asset. I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I love the guy/lady that picks up the phone and calls me when he/she has a question.

5 Factors That Determine your Value For A Prospective Employer

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When you apply for a new job, there are many factors that determine whether you’re a good fit for the new job or not.

While a personal interviewing is definitely something that would make or break your case, not everyone is lucky enough to land a seat in front of the interviewer.

A lot of your assessment is done before the interview (based on your resume and job application).

In this article, I highlight five factors that will increase your value to a prospective employer and give you a higher chance of landing the interview.

1. Your Experience in the field: Every job requires a certain set of skill set and your prior experience in that skill is highly valuable for an employer. If you’re an expert in that skill, it means you need no or minimal training and can hit the ground as soon as possible. That translates into less training cost and higher billable hours for the employer.

2. Your Job Track Record: When you’re hired into a role, you come with a cost to the employer. This involves the cost of recruiting you, training you, your salary and perks, etc. If you have a track record of hopping jobs, that is likely to be frowned upon. In case there are valid reasons (such as recovering from an illness, tending to an ailing relative, layoffs, etc.), it’s advisable to be upfront and pre-empt any discussion around it.

3. Your Education: While you may think that your work should speak for itself, your education matters. Since there is no dearth of people looking for jobs, if you have an education from a top tier college or certifications/diplomas on technology/skills that other don’t, you’ll be valued more by the employer.

4. References: You may have the best education or expertise, but if you can’t come up with good references, it looks suspicious. Not everyone is a people’s person and some people are especially difficult to work with. Employers look for building teams that can work coherently with minimal friction. If you’re looking for a job, work on getting good references and if possible, some recommendations on Facebook.

5. Your Achievements: Now I don’t mean you should boast a lot, but it’s good to highlight your achievements. This works as a proof of your expertise and experience. For example, if you have been recognized for driving a voluntary project for a social cause, use it to show that you work well with teams even when it is voluntary. Or if you have been recognized for training people, show it as a proof of expertise as well as soft skills.

These are some of the things that would let the employer assess your candidature and compare it with others.

Do you have anything to add? Let me know.