Three ways to save time by getting things done faster

We talk of saving time, as if it is money (which we also say). But what do we mean really? Often, what we mean is spending less time on things we don’t like or that are unimportant, so that we can spend more time on things we do like, or that are important.

In the bigger picture, that means thinking thinking systematically, and doing things systematically. There needs to be an understanding of what is important, and what isn’t, and a plan for working through those things. That’s the big picture thinking.

Working at speed

The small picture matters too.

If you can take less time to (say) copy and paste text when you are working on a document, then you will finish that document a little more quickly than you otherwise might have.

I spent a large part of my corporate working life in the high-speed world of Internet journalism, and I can say without any doubt that saving a minute or two on repetitive tasks adds up, and cumulatively means you get through more work in any given period of time.

I am always looking for ways to get things done faster – and have made some joyous discoveries in the last couple of months.

Three ways to speed up your work

COPYING AND PASTING TEXT: This is a function everyone who works on a computer performs, all the time. I have watched with impatience as colleagues laboriously use drop-down menus to move text around. Keyboard shortcuts are better, I say. If you learn no other shortcuts, learn these, I say:

highlight text and hit control-c to copy text, or control-x to cut text
move cursor to where you want the text – control-v to paste text

(Note these apply to the Windows universe).

I recently discovered a little tool in this area that has made this time-saver even better. It’s called Pure Text (see cautionary note at the bottom of this post though) and it removes all text formatting from text that you copy to your clipboard. You then paste the clean text where you need it, without any need to reformat – no more Arial 10pt when what you wanted was Calibri 11pt.
I can thank Avinash Kaushlik for this – I owe him big time.

BROWSING: I run two computers that used to be Windows 7, and which have been upgraded to Windows 10. They are trustworthy but not speedy. I installed new RAM in both of them – but still something was making my Chrome browser glacially slow. Enter – again – Avinash with his recommendation of the Vivaldi browser. It’s based on Chrome, so it’s easy to understand – but it is zippy. It has revolutionised my web experience.

ORGANISING: I stumbled on Tiago Forte in one of my many “how to do things better” Google searches. He’s a productivity guru (though that is an oversimplification of everything he does). His PARA system proposes a radical approach to the way you organise your digital work, which I found just too much of a departure from the way I do things now.

But one principle has made a huge difference. He suggests having the same file structure across all platforms. I didn’t follow his suggested structure, but I implemented exactly the same set of folders and files in OneDrive, Google Drive and in OneNote. And it has made a difference! I am not spending time hunting for things because the logic is the same everywhere. It took a little time to reorganise all those platforms, but it has paid off.

So there you have it – three things that probably won’t change your life, but will save time, I promise.

Note about Pure Text
For Windows 10 users – the app is available in the Microsoft Store but you will find that when you install it, you see irritating error messages. Just keep saying ok to them – the app does eventually install itself and does work. I think that the best path might be to ignore the Windows store, and just do the manual installation, which worked fine the first time I used it.

Main picture: Fabrizio Verrecchia, Unsplash

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Also read:
Filter, filter, filter – the key to email organisation
A tip for working with multiple tabs in a browser


  1. Ctl + Alt + v = paste special (which pastes plain text with no formatting). Angels sang when I found this out 😉

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