As organizations continue to restructure and become more lean than ever, many of us find ourselves today with more and more work to do since there are less and less people left to do it. When my parents were in the work force, if you needed a report written or a presentation put together you could ask your department secretary (later renamed the "admin") or you could go to the graphics department to help you out. Today the expectation is that you will do all of this work yourself. In addition, as people leave organizations the expectation is that business continues on as usual with no interruptions; which means their work gets added onto yours.
The first reaction to this is to try to step up by putting in more hours and work harder than ever to hold on to what you have and be grateful you are a survivor. This may work temporarily, until you either get burned out or run into a clash with your other life (spouse, kids, family, church, health). The problem here is that simply doing more of what you did before is not going to work out in the long term. If the answer is simply more hours, it will not be long before these hours are transferred to someone somewhere else in the world where labor costs are much lower. The real answer for proving your value to our organization and keeping your sanity is to find ways to do things differently such that you can get the most work done in the least amount of time.
Having other people to help you is no longer an option, so let's look at another option to boost your productivity to the max.
Putting emotions aside about current trends and organizational dynamics, let's look at a some facts. The fact is that many organizations are reducing the money they are willing to spend on human resources (people). But at the same time most if not all organizations are still paying for the most up-to-date automated resources (computers, software, networks, etc.). Companies want their remaining employees to have the latest tools to make the company more competitive and to save money.
Back in the old days, memos were typed on typewriters by secretaries who listened to dictation tapes. Presentations were produced on "slides" which were actual pieces of acetate which you had to put on an overhead projector or if you were really a big spender, you could opt for true slides which could be loaded into a slide projector with a carousel. Hopefully you had no mistakes in the presentation because then these would need to be printed again. This stuff is all gone due to advances which enabled computer users to make these items quickly and cheaply using software. Those who could or would not use the software too well eventually were phased out. Those who used the new technology effectively become more valuable.
So what can these computers do for you to help you out in today's crazy business world? Computers can automate many of the repetitive manual information management tasks you currently do. This includes looking up information, comparing lists, manual calculations, producing documents, sorting data, reformatting information... and the list goes on. Computers may be a pain to deal with and a necessary evil, but compared to the alternatives, they are a great productivity tool which you already have at your disposal right now. And we are talking about regular standard computers with MS Office (Word, Excel, maybe PowerPoint, Project or even Access). Many people use these tools for basic functions such as word processing and financial calculations or presentations, but this just scratches the surface of their full potential to help you become a master of your productivity. MS Excel, one of my favorite tools, has many handy database functions which allow you to analyze and manage very large amounts of information in just seconds. This can be done using just basic functions in Excel; you do not need to understand "computer programming" to set up a simple LOOKUP in Excel which enables you to link information from one list and compare it to information from another instantly. This is really handy for looking up information, populating data, error checking and so much more.
For example, let's say you were given a mailing list containing 30,000 street addresses with zip codes but missing the CITY, STATE information which you need to fill in before the list can be usable. You can find the information you need in a list of all US zip codes with related post office information, To finish the mailing list this you could either spend your time manually looking up each and every zip code and then manually entering the City and State in the mailing list over and over again... , or you could use an automated tool such as MS Excel to automatically lookup the needed information for each zip code and automatically return the City and State for each address. This will take you a little bit of time up front to set up, but once you have it you could then analyze multiple lists within seconds. If you opt for manually looking up each item, this could take you all week and you will need to then double-check it because you probably missed some things or made some mistakes. And then, just when you think you are done someone always asks you "can you lookup the 2-letter State abbreviation" or "can you look up the whole name of the state" or "can you add the +5 to the zip code" or "we need GPS coordinates added so the delivery crew knows where to go"... so you need to go through the list again!
This is a very simple example, but the same logic applies to more complex information management as well. This type of stuff is going to drive you crazy as you will most likely have a whole list of other work to do at the same time. Too much of this stuff is going to rapidly drain your productivity and burn you out. The fact is, if you are sill manually doing things which take you a lot of time, this task becomes a candidate for outsourcing to a lower cost labor market where the cost of 3 people manually looking up information would be less than your time is worth.
If there was a way to process a list or 30,000+ items in seconds with no errors, wouldn't that make you more valuable to your organization? And reduce your stress level?
You need to find a competitive edge which enables you to take charge of your time and productivity. And the tools you need are right at your fingertips. You just need to know how to harness them to work for you. So the next time you have an information management task to perform that is very repetitive and takes you more than 15 minutes to complete manually, look for ways to automate the process so you can did it quickly, with no mistakes and be ready for more requests. As technologies continue to advance, companies will continue to invest in them, so take full advantage of all the tools they are providing you with. Technology right at your fingertips will provide you with the "more resources" you need to be able to meet the demands of today's lean organizations and provide the most value to your organization and to help you reduce your stress levels.
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