Use these productivity tips, nifty tools, and suggested methods to streamline your office tasks, master your tools, and get more done.

These are things I’ve discovered while teaching people, that I get asked a lot, or things found a fun hack for myself that I want to share!

The new icons that began propagating across the Google universe last week are having an impact on how I work.

Previously each application was a different color, so I could easily just look for a color and not really pay attention to the shape of the icon or the words in the label. It was so easy to use, I even deleted the words from my bookmarks. I know the icons. Mail was red, calendar was blue, Drive was was blue yellow green but still clearly different from the calendar and mail. Meet and Maps did it too, so now they’re all rainbow and at a glance they’re all the same. I have to actually pay attention to the shape and some of the color blurs into my background color on my Chrome theme so I can’t see it that well. This is really messing up my workflow. There were three layers of identification, in order of how quickly my brain picked on them was color, then shape, and then a word. Now I actually have to stop and think. Even though it’s just for a split second, it’s still a step backwards for Google UX.

…it’s a step backwards for Google UX.

Google is the one that used to tout the value of using color to help quickly identify things. This resonated with me and most of the G Suite users I trained. The labels in your inbox make it so much faster to, at a glance know what the email categories are. We don’t even have to read the text on the labels. We recognize color faster than anything else.

It’s seems that Google has forgotten their own fundamentally smart user experience.

Steaming Pot
Pea Soup Recipe

I have a photo of a pea soup recipe that my brother sent me a few weeks ago. It was an old family recipe, hand written in a fine cursive as a paragraph on an index card. I managed to collect most of the ingredients before we began sheltering in place. 

The weekend has now come and gone and I have not made the soup. Some of the ingredients are going to get funky.

But when I think about the recipe and the paragraph of steps, I can’t even visualize all the things I have to do, I feel a bit overwhelmed so I keep putting it off. So, I’ve decided it’s time to approach this soup the way I approach any project that feels overwhelming. Think about how much I want to eat that soup (my goal), then just focus on the next step. 

You know what the end result should be (the food), have the resources (ingredients and utensils), and the steps to complete (once you decipher Nana’s writing).

How to Stop Procrastinating on Nana’s Pea Soup

Pea soup ingredients ready to cut

Okay. Well, what’s the first step? Buy the ingredients. Great, I already did that! Check ✅. (Well, mostly check. I forgot the bay leaves!)

Second step: Wash and chop the veggies. I can visualize washing and chopping celery pretty easily. But I am impatient and hate food prep, so I break this down into two steps: washing, then chopping. I only have to commit to doing the one small washing step right now. This feels manageable enough and I can imagine getting back to my computer afterward.

So with the vegetables washed, I can go get some more work done. 

Next time I get up for a glass of water, I’ll chop the carrots, celery and onion. I can totally do this.

Steps three and four are the big ones where I actually have to cook, and I can’t wander off in the middle. So I’ll time it so I can go take a call before starting this. 

After the call and the follow up actions, I’ll have more than an hour to get through the last steps.

Third step: Cut and cook the sausage. 

Fourth step: Add the sausage to my stockpot with the veggies, and add spices, a bag of dried peas, and chicken broth (from a tetrapak). 

Fifth step: Cook on the stove for about 45 minutes. (And I wash up the prep dishes.) 

End result: Homemade soup made exactly how I prefer that will last me several days.

Recipes Are Tiny Work Breakdown Structures

Recipes are an easy analogy for how to break down work. You know what the end result should be (the food), have the resources (ingredients and utensils), and the steps to complete (once you decipher Nana’s writing). But if you just look at the recipe as one big blob of work that you have to figure out and get done, it’s hard to visualize what it will actually take. A big fuzzy cloud of things that have to get done can feel heavy, and causes many of us to feel overwhelmed. This is one of the causes of procrastination. 

As someone who always feels a need to be getting things done, my own procrastination often manifests as doing busy work. I am never short on small, easy to complete, or slightly more fun tasks that may not be as valuable or important as what’s in that big fuzzy cloud.  

If you find yourself procrastinating when faced with any task that requires multiple steps, make sure you have a good idea of what you want the end result to be, then focus on the one thing that needs to be done next. Even just one step will move you in the right direction.

Globe wearing phone headset

To get help with any of your Office 365 Business applications you can have Microsoft support call you. However, you won’t find a Microsoft support phone number listed on their site. Instead, you need to open a ticket and wait for them to get back to you. I know for me, finding my way to the right contact form to have them call me can be a bit tricky, and I have spent a bit too much time clicking around the Microsoft support pages. I hope this quick article helps get you there faster (and me when I forget in the future).

You need to be logged into your Microsoft admin account, then you can contact a support agent from the Microsoft 365 admin center

Once logged in, click the red Need help? button at the bottom.

Make sure the O365 Assistant button is off (otherwise you’ll just wind up talking to a chatbot).
Then enter a description of the issue.
Click Get Help.

Some links to articles will open under View Solutions. Collapse this because the call option and some other choices appear below this.
Click New service request by phone.

Enter your callback number in the field. The Expected wait time is… value reflects actual estimate.
After you click Call me, a support person will get back to you so have your phone handy.
They will keep following up with you until the issue is resolved.

So, although the Microsoft support phone number isn’t available, I hope this article helps you reach a support person in a jiffy.

Did you know you can Add a Google Drive Doc, file or folder to multiple folders (kind of like Windows shortcuts)? Then you can access to the single copy of the file from different places. No need for managing duplicates.

Say you have a Google Doc that has marketing content that is useful both for the website, as well as email marketing. Instead of making a second copy and needing to keep track of which is most up to date, you can have the single file appear in both places.

You can accomplish this with the Add feature.

Adding items to multiple Drive folders

Select the file or folder so it is highlighted in blue. 

Highlighted Google Doc in Drive

Click SHIFT + Z keys (same on PC or Mac), an Add popup will appear, allowing you to select a second (or third, fourth…) folder to include the file in. 

Note the word Add appears on the button, instead of Move.

Highlighting the Add button on popup

Navigate to the second folder in My Drive and click Add.

Arrow points to the Add button

That’s all it takes. Now if I were to visit the original folder or newly added “Training” folder, I will see my “SOP – Documentation Projects” Doc.

Removing items from multiple Drive folders 

Highlight the file or folder you want to change, then turn on the Details pane in your Drive.

Highlighting the icon that opens the Details pane

Ensure the Details tab is selected.

Highlighting the Details tab in Details pane

Toward the bottom of the Details pane, you can see what folders an item currently appears in.

Showing multiple folders on Google Doc in Details pane

You can remove item from folders you don’t want them to appear in anymore, by clicking the “X” next to the folder name.

Arrow pointing to Remove folder "X" on Doc Details
Three generic Chrome avatar heads

Do you ever get frustrated because you are trying to use a couple different Google accounts at the same time?  You have work Gmail open in one tab, and personal Gmail open in another. When you click on an attached document in one email account, the document opens in the other account- saying you don’t have access.

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The Great Suspender extension icon in Chrome

Let’s look at why our Tab-itis is slowing us down, and review how a free Chrome plugin- The Great Suspender – can help! [Update: This plugin has been disabled by Chrome.]

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Padlock on Google Drive logo

When someone wants to share logins and passwords with other team members, freelancers, or family members, they often put them in a Google Doc or Sheet. It’s super convenient to share and have access from any device or location. But are Google Docs really a secure place keep your passwords?

In my opinion, No. There are too many easy to make mistakes that create security risks to call this secure.

Any account that can be reset with a new password sent to your email address is never more secure than your email system.

If someone were to gain access to the email account you use with your various other logins they could easily reset the password to accounts. They click “Forgot password?” on each site they want to try and get into, and then from your email account complete the reset.

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Wall calendar and alarm clock

When talking to people who have made the switch from Outlook to Google I’ve heard a couple concerns regarding the calendar reminders.

Outlook’s popup meeting reminder had an easily customizable snooze function.

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USB data blocker

Chances are you’ve been at an airport, on a bus, or some other public space and your smartphone’s battery was about to die. More and more of these spaces offer convenient and free USB charging jacks. Before you reach for your charging cord, you should understand that there are security risks with these free power ports and learn how to protect yourself. Read more

Self adhesive camera cover

Black Friday is almost here and the sales have already started, so I thought it would be a good time to suggest a simple and very inexpensive holiday gift idea- stick-on webcam covers.

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