Time Management’s Greatest Tool Ever
The Internet (especially the blogosphere) is filled with advice extolling every flavor of tip and trick designed to help you manage your time better. New managers are especially vulnerable to the lure of something easy that can help them squeeze more hours out of every day.
The truth is that you cannot effectively, and for the long term, manage your time – you can only manage yourself. Without complete and lasting paradigm shifts, an ineffective individual will always be ineffective.
Given this, you might be surprised to hear that we have discovered the greatest time management tip and trick of all time, and this one really works. Used correctly, this time management tool just might make the transformation into an effective leader unnecessary. Google, it seems, is the greatest time management tool ever.
Google Can Give You Your Life Back
While we mean this with tongues firmly planted in cheeks, the AskTheManager editors do find themselves using Google to complete and manage tasks that, in the past, took much, much longer. And although we’re still not convinced that any tip or trick ever works over the long term for those seeking to become more effective, we are convinced that properly understanding and using all the important tools and jewels available on Google.com can make you (at the very least) feel more productive.
It’s inarguable that search engines in general can save countless hours per query just by the nature of bringing together massive amounts of data and serving relevant results to the user. Prior to Google, however, search was not quite the timesaver we see today. Prior to Google we found ourselves looking to the third, fourth, tenth pages of search results before either giving up or changing the order of our search terms. Search was a mess before Google.
Life in the Year 10 A.G.
Over the past ten years, Google has literally reinvented everything from how we use the Internet to marketing in the new millennium. In addition to these obvious improvements, Google has also created a platform that flat out makes us more efficient. This, we argue, is what made Google “Google.”
Examining months of search engine data, it’s clear to us that less than 1/10 of 1% of the searching public uses any of the great tools or shortcuts Google makes available. Perhaps if you knew that you didn’t have to be a computer geek to utilize these great time management tricks, you’d be more likely to employ them.
As members of the Ultra Busy Professional Leaders Association (pronounced uhb–pluh) we regularly employ the following Google tools and shortcuts to add precious seconds back into our daily schedules:
Search within a Site
Have you ever tried to use the internal search feature when surfing most websites? If so, then you know that the results are often not even close to what you were really seeking. To eliminate the need for unproductive searches within a website, you can use Google to return pages that match your search criteria from any website. In the Google search box, type the term you wish to search and site:sitename.com (or .org; .gov; whatever), and Google will search the specific website for you.
For example, if you wanted to find all of the articles on AskTheManager.com where we mentioned Jennifer Aniston (surprisingly, we’ve included her three times including this post), you would type: Jennifer Aniston site:askthemanager.com and click “search.” Follow this link to see how these results appear in Google.
When searching for information we know is contained within a government site (like tax information or the hours of our local DMV office) Google occasionally returns results from commercial websites that don’t quite meet our needs and cause us to sort through more choices than required.
By simply including the “site colon” modifier (as we did above) we can limit our searches to just .gov (government) websites.
For example, if we wanted to find the locations of all DMV offices in Arizona we could use the following search in Google: DMV locations Arizona site:.gov. This search will return the official State of Arizona website first and not include any commercial websites. This is important, because leaving off the site:.gov modifier will return a commercial site (dmv.org) that happens to have a better Google Page Rank. Follow this link to see how using the site:.gov modifier improves the search. Follow this link to see the search results without the modifier.
Note: The site colon modifier can be used to limit searches to specific country websites, as well. For example, search term site:.ca would return only Canadian results.
Google Alerts are the answer to keeping up with what is written on the Internet for topics/people/companies with whom you’re interested. Instead of going to Google periodically to conduct searches for things that interest you (for example, your name), you can set a Google Alert and have the information delivered directly to your inbox as it occurs on the Web. Google Alerts are simple to create and maintain – to set up a Google Alert, follow this link.
Search Your Own Computer
Using the power of Google to search for files on your desktop or laptop is a true timesaver over the alternatives. For whatever reason, Microsoft and Apple just don’t want to make it a quick, painless task to find that Excel spreadsheet from August 2006 where you included the phrase “Housing Meltdown” to predict the current economic turmoil.
Setting up the Google Desktop Search is a snap, and the search functions and results operate precisely as they do with online searches. To set up the Google Desktop Search, follow this link.
Use Gadgets and the Google Sidebar
Like most things Google, the Google Gadgets (and the optional sidebar) were not an original idea from the Google Gods. Google just made them better and easier to manage. Google Gadgets are simply tools/widgets that can be placed on your desktop so you can view important information in real time and at a glance (like weather, stock prices and news).
Some of the news gadgets, as well as the Google Calendar and the Weather gadgets are our favorite timesavers; while the Answer Ball and the HOT or NOT gadgets are our favorite time-wasters. To view the current gadgets lineup, follow this link and use the left navigation to narrow the list of gadgets to those that interest you.
Install the Google Pack
Stop wasting money and (especially) time managing your virus and spyware protection software packages – the Google Pack solves this by providing these tools (along with a few others) for free. The time savings occurs when you aren’t continually bombarded with requests for updates – all updates can happen virtually automatically and are free of charge. To install the Google Pack, follow this link. (Sorry, not for Mac, just Windows XP and Vista users.)
Use These Random Google Timesavers (Shortcuts) We Also Love:
Search Ranges of Data – Simply type search term #…# in the search box to limit your results to specific ranges. For example, if you’re in the market for a CDMA phone between $50 and $100, you would enter CDMA phone $50…$100 and click “search.” To see these results, follow this link.
Do Quick Math Problems – A couple of the editors at AskTheManager.com no longer have calculators on their desks at work or at home. They claim that between Google and Excel they can work more efficiently than with an old fashioned ten-key. For Google, they simply enter the math problem they wish to solve in plain language. For example, if you wanted to multiply 750 by 324 you would enter 750*324 into Google and click “search.” To see these results, follow this link.
Get a Quick Stock Quote – Entering stocks:symbol will return the current stock data for any publicly traded company. For example, you would enter stocks:goog to find the current price for shares of Google. To see the current market price for a share of Google, follow this link.
Get a Quick Weather Forecast – Enter weather:zip code (or city, state) and you’ll instantly get a four-day forecast for that area. Viewing the current forecast for Beverly Hills, CA, for example, is as easy as entering weather:90210 and clicking search (or following this link).
Find Movie Times in your Area – Movie:zip code (or city, state) gets you all of the movie showtimes (plus reviews) for anywhere you wish. To see the current showtimes in Beverly Hills, follow this link.
Find the Definition of a Word – One of our favorite Google shortcuts should get even the most ardent paper dictionary supporter to come to the dark side. Typing define:word (where “word” represents the word you wish to define) will get you the definition for any word you wish. For example, to see the definition of the word “leader,” follow this link.
Of course, there are scores of Google shortcuts, though these are the ones we find the most helpful in making us more productive. Got a favorite shortcut or a way you use Google to save time that we failed to mention? Just leave us a comment below…