Digital Power Tools (Embracing Geekdom)

A few months back, I did a podcast with Dom Goucher where we talked about some of the “ninja” tools and tips that we use to make our workdays easier and more productive.

Watch the PreneurCast Podcast on ‘Learn to Use the Tools You’ve Got’.

It’s about 50 minutes long, so I thought I’d condense the main tips into an article.

Yes, some of it is a little on the geeky side, but I’m reliably informed that geeky is the new sexy.

That might be a misquote.

Anyway, let’s get into it.

Swapping Applications

I’m starting with an obvious one, but there will be some people who haven’t come across this shortcut before.

Basically, you hold down the “Alt” key (“Command” key if you’re using a Mac), tap the “Tab” key, and a list of all the running applications will appear in the middle of the screen. Keep tapping “Tab” (while still holding down the “Alt” or “Command” key), and you can scroll through the open applications until you get to the one you want.

Bonus Tip: If you’re using the latest version of Windows, trying using the “Windows” key instead of the “Alt” key for a flashier version of the same technique.

File Organisation

Filing documents on your hard drive properly is a challenge. Even if you start out on a new machine with good intentions, creating lots of tidy folders and grouping files together in a logical order, it’s not long before the sheer volume of data makes finding something again almost impossible.

This is because most people neglect the most important aspect of file organisation…

The name that you give to the individual files.

You might, for example, think you’re pretty smart in creating a folder for receipts for online purchases, but how are you going to find the receipt for that kettle you bought last year when every file looks like this…

Unless you can remember the exact date that you made the purchase, you’re going to struggle.

What you should have done, was to save each file using a name that properly describes the contents.  If, for example, you’d called the filename of the receipt for your kettle:

amazon_kettle_June2011…

Do you think that might make it easier to find?

Along the same lines, a simple trick is to create three-letter codes that represent different projects, and then include that code in every file that is related to that project, whatever type of file it is. Not only does that help your overall organisation, it also makes the files easy to find, even years later, by simply entering the three-letter code into your computer’s “search” facility.

You can come up with your own system for creating logical filenames, but it’s a really good habit to get into that most people never figure out.

This is evidenced by the number of CVs that employers receive called… you guessed it…

CV.doc

What they should be receiving is a document called…

PeteWilliams_CV_May2012.doc

Once you realise the sense in creating descriptive filenames and you start to put it into practice, you’ll wonder why you didn’t begin sooner.

Email Organisation

I discussed email management in a previous article (see “Managing Your Inbox” article), so I’m not going to rehash it here, except to follow on from the previous section by pointing out that you can also include your three-letter codes in the subject lines of your emails, to make filing and sorting that much easier.

Teach your team of employees and outsourcers to use the three-letter codes in their correspondence to you and then use your email software filters to automatically place emails into the correct folders.

Backup Everything

It doesn’t matter how smart you think you are, no one is immune to the danger of accidentally damaging or deleting content (see www.wimp.com/storydeleted, for a really scary example).

If you’re not backing up your hard drive on a regular, preferably daily basis, you’re basically collecting petrol in cans under your office and wandering around with a lit cigarette.

Sooner or later, your business is going to go up in smoke.

The funny thing (and it’s not really funny) is that you’ll never fully appreciate how much you take for granted the software, data and settings that you have on your computer, until the day you lose them all.

Better not to find out the hard way, so back up everything to an external drive, or use an online service.

You can buy a 2-terabyte hard drive from Amazon for about $100, or take a look at services such as Mozy (www.mozy.com), Dropbox (www.dropbox.com) or Amazon S3 (http://aws.amazon.com/s3/).

Use What You’ve Got

One of the quickest ways to get more out of your computer is to learn how to use the software you already own.

I can guarantee that the software you already have installed boasts some incredible features that you don’t realise exist and that you would use every day if you took the time to discover them.

Try Googling “tips on using <software name>” and the chances are good you’ll find a whole bunch of articles that will help you become a power user of everything you own.

If you own an Apple product, make sure you check out http://www.screencastsonline.com/. They post weekly videos that show you how to get the most out of your Mac, iPad or iPhone. If you purchase an annual plan, it works out about $3 a month, and you get access to the archive of existing videos.

Well worth it, in my opinion.

Typing Shortcuts

TextExpander (http://smilesoftware.com/TextExpander/) is a tool for Mac users that lets you store specific blocks of text and recall them when you enter a sequence of keystrokes.

For example, anytime I want to enter my email address somewhere, I simply type the @ symbol twice in a row, and the software removes the two @ symbols and replaces them with my full email address.

Depending on the kind of work you do, there are lots of different ways to use this software, from inserting signature text, to saving email templates.

And you may be pleased to read that there is a PC version of this software called Phrase Express (www.phraseexpress.com).

Just Read It Already

I heard this quote years ago that went along the lines of:

I’ve got a huge library of books. I was smart enough to buy them, now I want to see how smart I’ll be if I actually read them.

I’d actually go beyond that. If buying a book and reading it are the first two steps, then the next two are…

Trusting the author enough to read the book to the end, instead of getting half-way through and thinking, “Actually, I know more than this expert, so I’m going to go off and do things my own way”.

Taking action and applying the knowledge that the book has provided you. That means, making notes as you go along and, at the end, making an action plan to implement everything you’ve learned.

So, there we go. There’s quite a variety in the last 1000 words, so hopefully you’ve found something in there that’s new and that you can start putting into practice.

And if you’re confident enough to reveal your inner geek, post your #1 power tip or tool in the comments box below.
  • http://twitter.com/mstewartjericho/status/247965712465948672/ @mstewartjericho

    Digital Power Tools (Embracing Geekdom) | Preneur Marketing Blog – Pete Williams | Author Entrepreneur http://t.co/xis2ZbYk

  • http://twitter.com/Clew_less/status/248145688955875329/ @Clew_less

    Brilliant article from @preneur about learning to use the tools you have http://t.co/bMCwdPwU Quality stuff from Pete again!

  • http://www.ronmcdaniel.com Ron McDaniel

    Always helpful to see what other tools people are using. Thanks

  • http://www.ilovetrancemusic.com Stuart Wooster

    Hey Pete,

    Been catching up with these tips that you shared with the one hour talk you did that Rich shared in ProfitHacks launch.

    I was wondering, do you know of an alternative to QuickTime for dumping audio memos quickly into an email but records to mp3 or WAV? Reason being is that not all people have QuickTime installed when they use a pesky PC or Android, so .MOV format is a pain.

about-pete
Pete Williams is an entrepreneur, author, and marketer from Melbourne, Australia.

Before being honored “Australia’s Richard Branson” in media publications all over the continent, Pete was just 21 years old when he sold Australia’s version of Yankee Stadium, The Melbourne Cricket Ground For Under $500! Don’t believe it? You will! Check out the story in the FAQ section (it really is our most asked question).

Since then, he’s done some cool stuff like write the international smash hit ‘How to Turn Your Million-Dollar Idea Into a Reality’ (+ the upcoming ‘It’s Not About the Product‘) and he’s created a bunch of companies including Infiniti Telecommunications, On Hold Advertising, Simply Headsets and Preneur Group.

Lots of other people think he’s pretty good too! He’s been announced as the Global Runner-Up in the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Awards for 2009, the Southern Region Finalist in the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year, and a member of SmartCompany’s Top 30 Under 30.

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“Now that I've got the rights back from the publishers, if you enter your email address below, you can instantly download a free audiobook version of my first book, How to Turn Your Million-Dollar Idea Into a Reality.” - Pete