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The Ultimate Productivity Tools for Saving Time

The Ultimate Productivity Tools for Saving Time

Every good “productivitist” has a toolkit. Inside these toolkits, they have a number of tools and tricks that help them to get things done as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

Inside my toolkit is a program called ActiveWords, a really cool tool for reducing the time you spend doing almost everything on your computer.

I came across ActiveWords last year, and to be honest, my first impression was, “Yeah, cool, BUT I’m too lazy to take the time to set it up.” I didn’t use it. A couple of weeks later I came across an article about the program on The Clutter Diet Blog that convinced me to give it another go.

This time I did it the right way and read The ActiveWords Quick Start guide. With that information under my belt, reaping the benefits was pretty much instantaneous.

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ActiveWords allows you to substitute shortcuts or short keys for pieces of text — very useful — but you have probably come across many programs that do the same thing. However, have you come across a program that substitutes text and also launches programs, websites, folders, and files with a shortcut?

Some of the Ways I Use ActiveWords

  • If I write the words mailhubby anywhere on my screen, Outlook will automatically open up and populate a new email with my husband’s email address.

thehubby
    • When I want to write the title of my book, Chaos to Control, A Practical Guide to Getting Things Done, regardless of what program I am working in, I simply type chaos2.

    chaos
      • I often write emails to new clients and want to include a short bio. If I type bio, three sentences about me appear in the email.
      • I have shortcuts for my address, telephone number, ID number, and anything else I may type frequently.

      You can set the program to trigger automatically when you type words, like mailhubby or chaos2, or you can use a trigger key, like F8 or double spacebar, to achieve a specific task.

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      Other Ways You Can Use ActiveWords

      ActiveWords has Addins for Outlook, for Outlook and GTD, or for Lotus Notes and GTD. It also has Addins for Salesforce and Windows commands, such as minimizing a window. It appears that the makers of ActiveWords thought of everything!

      productivity

        It allows you to create your own scripts, so with a couple of clicks, you could go to your favorite website, copy and paste the latest feed, and email it to your sister.

        Well, I’m sure it could do that if you wanted it to.

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        As you can imagine, using a tool like ActiveWords will vastly cut down on the amount of time wasted on repetitive tasks. You can even check to see how much time you are saving by looking at the productivity section of the tool. You can see the amount of keystrokes you have saved and how that translates into hours and money saved.

        I was very happy with my hours saved and my frustration reduced by removing repetitive tasks. What I didn’t realize was that my life was about to get even better — Enter Evernote.

        ActiveWords for Evernote

        evernote

          If you are an Evernote User, you will already be familiar with how your life can be transformed by a small piece of software. Combine that with the functionality of ActiveWords and you now have a powerhouse of productivity. From anywhere on your PC you can do things like open a new note, clip a selection as a new note, or paste a selection into a new note. Plus, from inside Evernote you can do things like email the current note or share it on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

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          Spending a short amount of time setting up a program like this will save you hours of work and frustration monthly. Well worth giving it a go!

          What indispensable productivity tools do you have in your toolkit?

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          The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

          The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

          It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

          Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

          “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

          In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

          New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

          There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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          So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

          What is the productivity paradox?

          There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

          In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

          He wrote in his conclusion:

          “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

          Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

          How do we measure productivity anyway?

          And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

          In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

          But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

          In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

          But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

          Possible causes of the productivity paradox

          Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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          • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
          • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
          • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
          • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

          There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

          According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

          Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

          The paradox and the recession

          The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

          “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

          This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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          According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

          Looking forward

          A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

          “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

          Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

          “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

          On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

          Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

          Reference

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