Everyone’s always searching for a way to make work easier. And there’s no shortage of tips, tricks, and hacks designed to help with that goal.
But the one that works for me day-in and day-out is automating repetitive tasks. The idea behind doing this is that it’ll save your mental energy for projects that actually require deep thinking and focus.
You’re probably thinking, that sounds great, but how do I do it?
All you need to do is build a cheat sheet.
The easiest and most useful sheet contains items you commonly copy and paste. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in either. If you use a computer for your job, there are probably several things you regularly have to search for before you can complete a task.
For me, it’s a few different lines of HTML code that I frequently need for uploading articles to The Muse.
In past positions, I had a couple of time-saving, focus-preserving sheets at the ready: one for Excel spreadsheet formulas, another for memorandum headers, and the most popular, a document with phone numbers and computer log-in instructions for new employees. Instead of dealing with the hassle of looking up the finance office’s phone number yet again, I could just turn to my trusty doc, copy and paste what I needed, and send the email without losing steam.
So how exactly do you get started?
Step 1: Take Note of What You Find Yourself Rewriting or Repeatedly Searching
Maybe you send a lot of the same or similarly worded emails every day. If you’re writing from scratch every time, you’re wasting valuable brain power (and time). As you can see in the example above, my friends are always asking me how to pitch to The Muse—now I have a fast response ready-to-go.
Step 2: Choose a Way to Store Your Information
There’s no one way to do this—use the program that makes the most sense for you. That could mean a Word document, Google doc, Notepad entry, or even draft emails stored in an annotated folder. Whatever you choose, the important thing is that you can easily reference it.
Step 3: Spend 20 Minutes Filling In Your Document With Those Items From Step One
Whatever it is (emails, Excel formulas, or perhaps phone numbers), it’s worth a small bit of effort to type it into a document once, and then just have it easily accessible to reuse in the future. I know for me, it was a huge relief (and saved probably hours) to just look at the note on my desktop to copy and paste the Excel formulas I found myself looking up several times a day.
And you can even keep this old school if you prefer that. Take my old office administrator: She rimmed her monitor with different colored sticky notes that helped her quickly refer to status codes and acronyms that she needed daily.
Whatever system you prefer—a note in your digital notebook, a Word document, or even a sticky note—find something that works for you. And while I know that sometimes it can be hard to hit pause on your crazy to-do list to work on something that feels tedious in the moment, this is a work hack that will save you hours down the line. You can do it in the time it’d take you to grab a coffee down the block.
So what are you waiting for? It’s one of the easiest things you can do to up your daily productivity.
Photo of person on computer courtesy of Luis Alvarez/Getty Images.
Nina understands the struggle of a major career change. After snagging her first job at fourteen, she continued down the path of employment by pursuing a motley assortment of vocations. Ask her about her time in the Army, or her stint as a Harvard research guinea pig. Say hi @ninadawdles or ninasemczuk.com.More from this Author