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Saving Time on Routine Tasks: Optimized Writing

Saving Time on Routine Tasks: Optimized Writing

    Last time we looked at saving time on routine tasks, we found a few ways to optimize our reading process. Today, we’re covering the opposite side of the same coin with optimized writing. Technically, we’ll spend more time on optimizing your typing than writing, but in this day and age there’s really not much of a difference.

    Using your computer, by nature, involves writing. You no doubt write something at some point during every work day. You also no doubt write something for some purpose each day outside of work. Since so much of what we write each day is repetitive or has some kind of standard format, why don’t we optimize the process?

    Automatically Replace Short Snippets of Text with Longer Snippets of Text

    TextExpander on Mac OS X is one of the best pieces of software I’ve ever used. It’s a small and unobtrusive application that largely runs in the background, but TextExpander does more for my productivity than any massive suite of office applications. TextExpander simply replaces a short snippet of text with a bigger block of text.

    For instance, I could load it up with different email signatures and tell it that when I type sig1 or sig2 it needs to drop one of those signatures in. Or, if you’re a web developer who repeatedly uses pretty similar blocks of code in various projects, you can have it in your text editor within a few keystrokes – no hunting for it in that last project you did, or looking for the template folder you swore you had placed somewhere sensible.

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    There are endless possibilities when it comes to text substitution software, all of which are certain to save you anywhere from a few minutes a day to hours each week.

    Here is an alternative program for Windows users.

    For regular writers: idea files

    If you have ever written as a freelancer or staffer you know how hard it can be to come up with new ideas. You probably won’t be able to come up with a good one two hours before your article’s deadline.

    Writers waste more time by leaving idea generation until the last minute than any other cause, except for procrastination.

    You are much more likely to brainstorm enough ideas to keep you going for a while when your schedule is more relaxed. Also, even if you’re not specifically brainstorming ideas for articles, you may be struck with inspiration on the spot while reading or having an interesting discussion.

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    So that you can capture that spur-of-the-moment idea, or just so that you’re reminded to brainstorm a list when you’re running low, keep a document on your desktop or somewhere readily accessible and frequently seen. This is your idea file. You should never let it get any less than one or two full pages long. Extra points for smaller fonts and fewer line breaks.

    A text file is perfect for this job – bloatware Word documents take too long to load when dealing with something so elusive as a good idea!

    Since many ideas will come in the form of a draft title, remember to make some notes. A paragraph or two will do the trick.

    If you don’t have a paragraph or two of notes, you won’t be able to pick up on that train of thought again when you’ve got an article deadline approaching and the time spent maintaining a list of ideas will all be for nothing.

    Never, ever trust that your brain will remember anything about your ideas!

    Email templates

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    Regardless of whether you realize it (or believe it), 90% of your email that needs a response from you can be dealt with using a template.

    Sometimes the most customization that you’ll need to do will be dropping in a name; sometimes, you’ll need to do more extensive editing, but keeping a collection of email templates for the kinds of messages you receive most often is a smart productivity move.

    Many email clients provide easy ways to reply to messages with templates ready to go, but if your client doesn’t provide this kind of feature, it’s still faster to keep a folder of text documents containing templates than to type each message individually over and over and over again.

    Better yet, fire up TextExpander or the alternative of your choice and have complete templates dropped into your message by punching a few keys in the body text field. You can really use this software everywhere.

    Remember that less than 10% of email truly requires a reply; 90% of that 10% can be dealt with using templates. If you pull this off, you’ll only need to type original replies to 1% of your incoming email, saving you hours that were once wasted on back-and-forth, counter-intuitive and non-productive “communication.”

    For the record, you can extend your use of templates into instant messengers and text messages, especially if your use of those technologies is more professional than it is social. A good rule of thumb for instant messenger productivity is to never mix those worlds at the same time. You’ll spend the work day chatting.

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    Subversion for Writers

    Using Subversion as a writing tool is what some would call a geek chic thing to do, but more so, it’s a practical thing to do. How often have you needed to go back to an earlier revision of a document when you realized you deleted a huge chunk of important text? Or that you need to rewrite an entire section that was correct in its original form?

    Subversion is a piece of software that was intended for developers to manage revisions of code, but Strange Noises has a guide on using it to control revisions of your human language documents, too. Imagine how many hours of your time this system could have saved you, had you implemented this a year (or decade) ago!

    There you have it – four simple, but insanely useful and effective, methods that I use to save time when it comes to writing; all the way from memos to longer articles like this one.

    More by this author

    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on January 12, 2021

    Why We Say What We Won’t Do (but Still Say It Anyway)

    Why We Say What We Won’t Do (but Still Say It Anyway)

    Every day we say a lot about what we want and will do.

    “I want to pet a cat.”

    “I want to buy a house for my parents.”

    “I don’t want to be single anymore.”

    “I will love you no matter what.”

    “I will work harder in the future.”

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      It’s easy to make plans for the future. And we make resolutions all the time. Consider that a full 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.[1] And that a vast majority of relationships (plus many marriages) end as well with break-ups or divorce. The best intentions and the best-laid plans generally speaking end in failure.

      No one intended to lie

      In general, people make these kinds of promises or resolutions with the best intentions. They don’t want to fail; if anything, they want desperately to be right, to improve themselves, and to make their friends and family happy. So even if a resolution doesn’t work out, when they utter them, it’s far from a lie.

        People often speak without thinking. They say what comes to mind, but without really thinking it through. And what usually comes to mind is wishful thinking – the ideal result, not what’s possible and practical. It’s tempting to fantasize about a beautiful and perfect future: a good romantic relationship, to have the approval and respect of your parents, and to have a successful career.

        But how to get what you want is not always clear to you in the moment you utter it. It’s hard to see beyond just the easy, idealized image. The challenges you may come across, the disappointments and sadness you may face – none of that is anywhere to be seen in a daydreaming mind.

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        Wishful thinking often end in crushing disappointment

        The problem is this. Wishful thinking and fantasies will only end in disappointment if you don’t follow through. You disappoint your friends, your family, your boss, and – most importantly – yourself. This can really take a toll on your own psyche and sense of self-worth.

              At a personal level, you’ll have so many unfulfilled dreams and goals. This is an incredibly common situation for people everywhere. As a teenager, you might have dreamed of what your life would be like as an adult: happily married and with a successful and high-earning career by the time you’re 25. But these are two seriously challenging goals that take planning and effort. Many people find themselves alone and in a dead-end job – rather than a career – wondering where they went wrong.

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                  On an interpersonal level, making empty promises is hurtful and damaging to relationships. Friendship and healthy family relationships are built on trust. People who want to be your friend take you at your word and expect you to follow through. If you tell your friends that you’ll “be there for them,” but never pick up the phone, they will be hurt and no longer want to hang out. The same is true for family or even professional relationships. You might find it tempting to tell your boss that you’ll finish a major project “by the end of the week,” without considering whether this is plausible. If you are unable to complete the task in the timeframe that you set, it’s not easy to regain your boss’s trust.

                  Keep what you want to yourself

                  It’s vital to be clear about what you want. Notice when people around you are prone to saying “I want ___” and “I don’t want ____.”

                  Kids are very prone to saying all their wants out loud, partly because they don’t have the independence and resources to get it themselves. This is why children and young people are often vague about what they want in the future. They have lots of wants without a concrete plan on how to get them.

                  This is one of the challenges of being an adult. As you gain the practical ability to provide for yourself, and as you learn from your mistakes, it’s more and more important to be clear about how you plan to get what you want.

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                    Practice visualizing plans to attain your goals. For example, you might want a pet – everyone shares pictures of their dogs and cats on Instagram! But before you go out to adopt one at the shelter, make sure you visualize all the things you have to do to take care of your pet. Pet-ownership involves: cleaning up after it, house-training it, taking it to the vet, walking it, buying it food, and making sure that it gets plenty of stimulation and exercise.

                    If you want or need a car, think about how much you need to save to purchase the car, the cleaning and maintenance costs, how to pay for regular car insurance, parking costs, et cetera.

                      If you really want something, don’t just say it. Plan for it and do it. Create conditions that make what you want inevitable. Do small things consistently and make it a habit. You’ll amaze yourself and your friends if you constantly work on attaining your goals. Read more about how to follow through your goals here: Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time

                      It’s easy to make or break promises. Set yourself apart from others by being reliable, deliberate, and thoughtful. Match your intentions with planning and action, and you’ll find that you’re happier with yourself and that your relationships are enriched.

                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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