Why the help menu is your best friend

Debbie Mayo-Smith


You can always count on someone covering their face with both hands in the "oh, no" expression – usually after I have shown groups an example of Text to Columns in Excel.

It is the way you can automatically split names apart from one column to two in Excel. The face in hands represents a realisation of their wasted time doing long lists one by one.

Let’s quantify one example.

Take $6923.08 in salaried time and who knows how many lost opportunities from lack of time.

The figure represents two individuals, one on $70k per year and the other at $50k, both spending three full working weeks splitting first and last names apart manually.

The pity is that instead of three weeks and two staff members, the entire project could have been accomplished with three clicks using the Text to Columns function.

This is symptomatic of the wasted time I hear about as a "productivity" business speaker and trainer.

There is a vast gulf between the everyday business tools people have on hand, and what they can actually do with them.

So much time is needlessly wasted doing computer tasks manually one by one, when it should be, and could be, done almost at once.

I think the root of the problem is two-fold.

First, computer training is not a priority now so staff are often left to DIY (do it yourself).

But DIY doesn’t happen because people at work are usually too busy. They don’t have the time to stop, think and search for a quicker or smarter way to do things.

Second is the rapid change in software and technology with upgrades. Just think of the massive productivity crash that went with the changeover from Office 2003 to 2007 or 2010. And soon we’ll have Office 2013.

It’s not only Microsoft Office, but also upgrades from the internet to smartphones. And propriety or industry software systems. From Skype to Social media.

If you use Facebook you know it seems to change monthly.

Solutions aside from training?

  • DIY – with a 10-minute schmooze. Diary a few minutes once or twice a week and have a play – looking through the file menu/ribbons or asking questions to help. Microsoft has loads of how-to videos and tutorials online.
  • Share a tip at office meetings. Make sharing a computer tip a fun part of every weekly office meeting.
  • Tips on intranet. Have staff put their top tips on the intranet to share.
  • Ask IT helpdesks to put together a tip of the week. Most IT managers and helpdesks are a fountain of knowledge but don’t have the time to comment on everyday software functions (or they think everyone will know them – which is not the case).
  • Books. Have an office library of books. I have a few

Debbie Mayo-Smith works with companies that want more effective staff and management

Check debbie@debbiespeaks.co.nz

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