13 August 2010

Pass it on...

I wrote an article called We Don't Know What We Don't Know.  The reason I wrote it was because I know that every assistant knows something that their colleagues don't, but if they did it would be helpful in their jobs.  So why don't we share and better yet, how can we share?  I think the first reason is what I put in my original article.  We don't know what we don't know.  I might be doing something that works really great, but just assume others know about it so don't say anything to anyone. 

I mentioned this to our team of admins at one of our meetings so when one of my co-workers found out how to do something they thought to share it with the team.  I had no idea this could be done, but I was thrilled when I got her email, but it just proved to me once again that we are all holding on to things we take for granted that others know about.

The tip she sent me was how to edit an email that you have received.  This is useful if you want to file the email and change the Subject line to something that better describes what the email is about or to put notes in the email.  For instance I recently received an email and wanted to remember to speak to my boss about it so I flagged it, set a reminder and changed the Subject line to "Add to one on one with boss."  It was a good way to remember why I had flagged the email in the first place and what I wanted to do with it.  What I had previously been doing is forwarding the email back to myself so I could change the subject line or remove some text that I didn't need.  The tip my co-worker sent is much better, but if she hadn't shared, I would still be doing it the old way.

How to edit an email message (Microsoft Office 2007):
Open the email message from your Inbox and click on Other Actions and you will see the option Edit Message.  Click on that and you will notice you can now go in the email and change the Subject line or add or substract text in the body of the email.  I put any changes I make in CAPS (or different coloured font) so I can easily see what changes or points I made.  Close out of the email and you will be asked to Save the changes.  Click OK and voila! the email now has your changes added to it.

Something I use regularly is Tasks in Outlook.  I thought everybody used it, but I started talking about it with some assistant friends of mine and I was met with some blank looks.  I think Tasks is one of Outlook's best-kept secrets, but it shouldn't be and is a great way to follow up on items.  If I send an email to a co-worker requesting information, I immediately drag it from my Sent items to my Tasks, set a reminder to follow up and write in the Subject line "Did I get this information". (Note: The original email will remain in your Sent items and a copy will open up in your Tasks notes page).  I also drag items from my Inbox if someone sends me an email to advise they will be sending an agenda or some other item by a certain date.  I drag it to my Tasks and set a reminder so I can follow up whether the item was received.

Using Tasks
When in Tasks, click on New and you can enter a task and set a reminder, or you can drag and drop an email into Tasks and the text of the email will automatically open in the body of the Task. 

If you want the actual email to be in your Tasks follow the instructions above and once your Task is opened, click on Insert and choose Attach Item, you will then be brought to a Look In screen and you can go to whichever folder it is in and click on the item you want and it will be inserted in the Task as a usable email.  You can also attach a file from Word, Excel or PowerPoint or a business card from your Contacts if it is someone you need to remember to call and want that information available.

You can also set a Task by right clicking on an email and choose Move to Folder.  You can then move it into your Tasks.  A word of caution, if you use this method it actually takes the item right out of your Sent items (or whichever folder you got it from).  I don't like to take items out of my Sent items because I rely on looking in my Sent to verify that I actually sent the email.

When the Task is due it will pop up in a Reminders box so you can see which items you set for that day.  The Reminders box is the same box where your calendar items pop up when they are due, so should be familiar to everyone.

So how can we know what we don't know?
A good way to find out something new is to look on different website forums.  I have learnt a lot just by checking out what others are asking.  Other ways you can learn new things is to:
  • Subscribe to feeds from various admin or business sites.
  • Encourage sharing tips and tricks among the admins in your office. 
  • Share any special training you have received with others in the office or online. 
I share what I know by blogging, but whatever forum you use, communication is key.  If we don't talk about it, we will never know.

10 August 2010

Let your fingers do the walking: Quick keyboard shortcut keys

I am on vacation and on my home computer I do not have a mouse so rely on keyboard shortcut keys, which reminded me again how helpful they are and how they are a big timesaver rather than reaching for the mouse all the time.  Better for you ergonomically as well. 

I must admit that it helps that I learnt to use a computer on the old DOS system and shortcut keys were the only option, but even those who normally use a mouse can transition over quite easily.  Once you see the benefits and get into the habit, I am sure you will not look back.

Most of them are fairly easy to remember because the letter relates to what you want the program to do.  For instance pressing the Ctrl key plus the s saves your work.  I have gotten in the habit of doing this frequently during the day and hardly even think about it until the system shuts down for some reason and then I breathe a sigh of relief when I open the document (by pressing Ctrl + o by the way) and find that I have not lost any of my work.  Here are some more that are really easy to remember:

Ctrl + b - Turns on bold
Ctrl + i - Turns on italics
Ctrl + f - Opens the Find dialogue box
Ctrl + g - Opens the Go-to dialogue box, type the page number, press Enter and you will go directly to it
Ctrl + u - Turns on the underline feature

Are you starting to see how easy it is?  Here are some more:

Ctrl + p - Opens the Print dialogue box
Ctrl + n - Opens a new blank page
Ctrl + F4 - Closes a document
Alt + F4 - Closes the program
Windows Key + L - A quick way to lock your computer
Ctrl + c - To copy text
Ctrl + x - To cut text
Ctrl + v - To paste text
Ctrl + Shift + < - Decrease the font size (My old math teacher told us a way to remember this is the < symbol looks like an L - as in 'Less than')
Ctrl + Shift + > - Increase the font size

If you hover over the options in the tool bar, if it has a shortcut key you will see it, so experiment and see if some of them appeal to you and will be easy for you to remember.

If you have multiple programs open you can press Alt + tab and you can either arrow over to where you want to go or just keep pressing Alt + tab until you get to where you want to be. 

Ctrl + Home moves the cursor to the beginning of the open file or document and Ctrl + End moves the cursor to the end of the open file or document, but if you are in the middle of a document and want to select everything from there down, press Ctrl + Shift + End or if you want to select everything from there up, press Ctrl + Shift + Home.  Ctrl + a - Selects the whole document.

You can change the spacing by selecting the paragraph or page and press Ctrl + 1 for single space, Ctrl + 2 for double space and Ctrl + 5 for space and a half.

To change the case, select the text and press Shift + F3.  Keep pressing it and it will toggle through upper, lower or initial caps.

To select text, press Shift and the arrow key left, right or up or down depending on how much text you want to select. 

Ctrl + Z - Undoes the last thing you did
Ctrl + Y - Undoes the last undo (or redoes)
Windows key + m - Minimizes everything and brings you to the desktop (Windows key + d does the same thing)
Windows key + Shift + m - Brings everything back up (If you used the Windows key + d to minimize, press it again and it brings everything back up)

Type the ones you think you will use on a piece of paper and have it available so you can refer to it until you get used to it.  They say when you do something for 30 days it becomes a habit, so try some of these and make it a new habit that will save you a lot of time.  Of course these are only a portion of the shortcut keys that are out there, but unless they are easy you won't remember them.

These work in Word, PowerPoint, and (Excel and Outlook with some exceptions).  I even used them when I posted this blog so most of them are pretty universal in many programs.

1 August 2010

Oh where or where is my password?

I logged onto my computer last week and put in my network password, then to open my Outlook account I had to put another password in for that.  I had to open a different software program and needed yet another password for that.  I then went to check my voicemail and had to enter a password there too.  There are just too many passwords to remember, and that doesn't include my boss's passwords that I also need to know because I have to check his emails as well as my own. 

Along with our multiple work passwords, we have a password for our home computer, and if we sign up for Facebook, Twitter or any other website, we have another password to remember.  We have a password for the automated bank machine and if you bank online you have another one for that.  Even if you phone the bank they need your secret passcode or they won't speak to you about your account.  Sometimes I say to them, "Just give me a hint, how many digits are there in the password, then I will know which one I used?"  But they refuse to help me out.  I mean if it was really me I should know what my password is, but wait a minute, I am me and I still don't know. 

Of course the simple solution would be to have the same password for every aspect of your life, but nope that doesn’t work. One program requires a mix of alpha and numeric and only six digits, while another one requires upper and lower case, but only uses four digits.  And then there are the sites that assign you a password that I would never remember in a million years, but thankfully they normally give you a chance to change it once your email address has been verified.  And do we really have to change our work passwords every 60 days, and why can’t I use the same password I used a year ago? I kinda liked that one, but nope I can’t reuse the old password.

I realize the change in passwords is for security reasons, but I find it is just too hard to remember all of them so most of us just keep adding a number to our existing password, or like some people I know they put their password on a yellow sticky and stick it on their computer, which defeats the whole purpose of the secure password. Thank goodness I get three tries to pick the right one before the system locks me out. The first time it doesn't work, I assume I entered it wrong so try again.  When that doesn't work I remember, oh yeah I changed my password yesterday, but what did I change it to?  I usually get it right on the third try, but I have been locked out on a few occasions.

On some sites there is an option to "Remember my password," which is helpful until your system crashes and you lose everything and then how are you ever going to remember what the password was in the first place since you haven't had to enter it in a year?  I thought I was being smart and saved all my  passwords in a sub-folder in Outlook, but alas that too was gone in the crash.  Of course even if the system hadn't crashed, I would have needed to know my server and Outlook password so I could get into my sub-folder with all my passwords?

And let's not stop with passwords, what about log-in names? Some sites use your email address as the log in, while others require you to create your own. I can never remember if I used my email address, my first and last name or was assigned a log-in name.

I know we are probably stuck with the current system of trying to remember log-in names and passwords, but thankfully at work if you do forget your password the administrator can re-set it, and then you have the option of changing it again.  Although the new password can't be anything you have used in the last six months. Ugh!  Back to the drawing board.