High-volume, micro-improvements

High-volume, micro-improvements [PMP #281]

An area of productivity and efficiency that I like to optimise, which I feel not enough people focus on is: high-volume, micro improvements. In other words, optimising small tasks that you do all the time which adds up to big improvements in efficiency.

I’m going to share some examples of things we all do every single day, and if you can do these things just a little bit quicker, the time savings really add up over time.

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Email templates

This will come as no surprise to readers of my blog; I use TextExpander (affiliate link) hundreds of times a day to recall text as I type. And one of my main uses of TextExpander is for composing emails using templates.

Whether it’s TextExpander or some other tool, if you’re not storing and using email templates on a regular basis, you’re likely missing out on a big potential efficiency gain.

Since I started using TextExpander many years ago, I’ve saved over 50 days based on my average typing speed. That’s over 1,200 hours of time I’ve saved on typing emails, sharing links, correcting mistakes and writing text. Just think about that for a second… 50 days, 1,200 hours I’ve been able to get back just by using one tool to do my job a little bit quicker which has really added up over time.

Sharing links

Sharing links with colleagues or clients is very common. Whether it’s a link to various pages on your website, scheduling links, payment links or links to articles and videos.

When you share a link, you have to copy it from somewhere; either by going to the page itself and copying it or by finding it in a document or note. Either way, finding these links takes a short amount of time, which really adds up.

This is why, again, I use TextExpander to easily recall links to Calendly, my website, or other services very quickly.

Another tool I use a lot is Alfred’s built-in clipboard manager. Any clipboard manager will do. Basically, you’re looking for a tool that saves your recent clipboard history.

For example, maybe I want to share a link to an article and I don't have this saved in TextExpander, but I remember sharing the same article with someone else a few weeks ago. By using Alfred’s clipboard manager, I can quickly find the link to the article and add it to my email or message without having to find the webpage again.

This is another small time-saving improvement that really adds up as I’m not having to go back to my browser or email to find links that I’ve previously shared.

Copying and pasting information

I use Alfred’s clipboard manager dozens of times a day for things like:

  • Finding an email address that I copied earlier so I don’t have to go back searching through my inbox.
  • Copying contact information from someone’s email signature into my CRM.
  • Adding text to an email. For instance, before my recent holiday, I was able to quickly copy the same text when sharing my availability when emailing clients.

Basically any time I catch myself wanting to use text, links or images again. I have them easily accessible via a keyboard shortcut.

Keyboard shortcuts

One of the simplest ways you do your work quickly is to learn as many keyboard shortcuts as you can. Whether you’re composing and sending emails, creating tasks in Asana, updating your CRM or navigating the web, the more you can get away from using your mouse, the better.

If an app doesn’t support a shortcut, I’ll try and use Keyboard Maestro on the Mac to create my own. For example, in Apple Mail, when I’m done with a search and I want to get back to my inbox, I use a custom shortcut: Command + ESC to trigger Keyboard Maestro which puts the cursor in the search box, deletes the text that’s there and then it the app types another shortcut to navigate to the inbox, all in a fraction of a second. It’s a small amount of time saved but keeps my hands off the mouse and helps me navigate faster.

I actually can’t even tell you most of the shortcuts I use. Muscle memory is a powerful thing and my fingers always know what to do.

My tip is to not take on too much at once. Focus on one tool or app at a time and once you’ve committed the shortcuts to muscle memory, move on to the next one.

Again, you’ll notice the benefits of these shortcuts really add up over time. Whether it’s opening a new tab in your browser, switching between apps or searching your email. By saving a second or two, hundreds of times a day, you can get your work done that much faster.

The big takeaway

My big takeaway is this; always be on the lookout for things you do on a repetitive basis and ask yourself: “How can I do this quicker?”. Take the time to find these micro-improvements. While it may feel like such a small saving of time that it’s not worth it, if it’s a task you do hundreds of times a day or week you’ll easily make this back later.