Your basic productivity tools



Many people consider productivity tools as applications like task managers, reference databases, calendars, diaries etc. they good for making us more organized more focused but not to produce any work, not to design presentations and writing reports.

When you look at the usage patters the primary productivity tools are not calendars or task managers but word processors,  spreadsheet applications, presentation design tools.

These are the programs that allow us to produce something. These are our tools that allow us getting the work done. We use them everyday, we write reports, read emails, compile data. Word, Excel, Keynote are our basic tools.

Office applications developed for over 20 years grew in features and became more sophisticated. Today’s workplace tools have hundreds of features and functions. User guides and tutorials have thousand and more pages. There are countless websites and forums devoted to answering all sort of questions about them.

Despite the availability of information and training many knowledge workers simply don’t know the tools they are using. Most people spent hundred of hours every year using those tools yet they never go beyond the basics they have learned in their early years of office work.

Not many see the link that being proficient with the software helps get the work done.Many businesses are all about finding efficiencies and increasing productivity yet they look at software proficiency as one of the elements of their strategy. Perhaps they think that it’s enough what they know but is it really, can you really tell that you know everything about your field of work, can you really say that you don’t need to learn.

I think when you look are the obstacles that prevent you from moving forward ability to use software might be one of them. Think of this, if you were a writer would faster typing skills and better knowledge of word processing program not improve your chances or if you are an analyst would better understanding of spreadsheet and database software not improve your chances. 

By learning the ins and outs of the software you can save yourself a ton of time and use it on developing your knowledge and other skills. You can create custom phrases, improve the speed at which you operate, make thing more appealing, and finally go beyond simple ctrl+c or ctrl+x and abandon that mouse.

There are over 500 million Microsoft Office users worldwide that use Word, Excel and Outlook on daily basis. Therefore I’m listing just a dozen of various resources which help you increase your knowledge of above applications.

Keyboard shortcuts:

Keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Word

Keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Excel

Keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Outlook

Functions, tips & tricks, how-tos: office

How to Geek/Microsoft office

Ultimate List Of Office 2010 Tips & Tricks

PC Unleashed

How to Outlook

Not sure where to start



Photo by di_the_huntress

With the advent of Christmas holiday season and up coming New Year the is a growing pressure to have as much things done as possible and to avoid carrying things over to the next year. As result of this you might feel overwhelmed with too many projects and actions that need your attention at the same time. There are too many pressing deadlines and none isn’t clearly more important than the other. Being in this state can become overpowering and most likely can cause further stress.

With mountain of things coming in there is no easy way to start and all choices appear to be bad. To sort this all out you need clarity. Clarity to see all your commitments, clarity to see the priorities.

For some , simple tactics below, maybe counterintuitive. As the faster you start the further you can get comes to mind soonest. This is misleading for two reasons. First you may not be doing the right things and secondly you will not be able to properly pace yourself not knowing what the actual tasks are and how much time will they take.

There are couple of tips that are worth trying when your are overwhelmed:

Take a deep breath

Intense work uses a lot of energy. To generate more energy human body needs oxygen, a lot of it. Take three deep breaths. This will calm you down. Also it provides more oxygen and helps you think clearly. Once your head is fresh you can start looking at things, assessing priorities and building action plans.

Take a step back

As you work on projects you may become too involved in them. this potentially can block your ability to judge and make optimal decisions about what needs to get done. Take a qucik  walk outside, maybe go to water cooler or fountain and drink some water. Don’t rush. Come back to your desk and look at your commitments with fresh eyes. See what stands out and make it your priority. Once it’s done find another thing and work on it.


Some of our tasks are delegated from the top. Your boss asked you to do a number of thing and as a result your have a myriad of conflicting priorities and deadlines. Although this maybe easier said than done ask your boss what’s bigger priority. Remember that his performance depends on your performance so it’s in his best interest to makes sure that your are spending your time on the right things. Also it’s better to ask, than feel sorry and put a lot of effort and energy in the wrong thing.

Try any of these techniques whenever you find yourself pushed to the limit without any break on the horizon. What usually happens is the situation looks terrible only from the distance. Up close once you get going it isn’t that bad at all.

If you have any favourite tips for dealing with overwhelm please share them in the comments section below.