What One Hacks Will Make Me More Productive?

The question what one hacks will make me more productive sleep 9 hours a night seriously it might not be the sexiest or most unconventional hack but if I was only allowed to get one piece of productivity advice for the rest of my life this would be it could sleep deprivation leads to depression delirium hallucinations impaired cognition and an.

Risk of preventable accidents not to mention an increased risk of infections cancer and overall mortality now consider that similar studies were conducted with subjects who received more than enough high-quality sleep the results were improved memory lower systemic inflammation improved immune function elevated mood learning and problem-solving abilities improved I don’t think I need.

To spell this out any sleep is essential to productivity and success.

In life you might have heard some guru proclaiming that you only need four hours a night but rest assured pun intended that they’re wrong do yourself a favor and get your eight hours nine is even better.

Reset Days | Weekly Productivity & Stress Free Tips

What’s up guys and welcome back to my channel in today’s video we’re gonna be talking all about reset days so for those of you who don’t know I live with my boyfriend right now and we actually just moved to a new city a couple of months ago so I don’t really have any of my friends that close by.

A lot of time alone and on my desk and getting work done which means I’ve really learned to appreciate my alone time.

But at the same time it gets a little bit lonely.

Sometimes so we decided to have a Halloween party and invite all of our friends over and just kind of let loose for a weekend and a lot of my friends came up to visit and it was so much fun we ate pizza. and chips and cookies and we were drinking and we were having a great time but that being said usually I’m a pretty organized person and I like to.

Go off of a schedule so that I.

Don’t get overly stressed out because quite frankly I am pretty easily stressed out and triggered even though I I’ve been working really hard on that it’s the morning after and that’s why I’m not wearing any makeup or anything but I wanted to give you guys some tips and what I’m gonna do to kind of reset for the day and get right back on track because I’m also going to Fiji in two days and I just.

Want to make sure that I’m feeling my best.

For it and my house is clean and my life is together and so today it’s gonna be a total reset day so follow along with me and I’ll let you know exactly what I’m doing and what’s helped me the most prepare for the trip.

And to just get back in the groove of things for the next two days until I go alright without further ado let’s get started so the first thing that I did well when I woke up the first thing that I did is made myself a matcha latte a4 stigmatic matcha latte.

But that was right after I drank a ton of water because I always feel fairly dehydrated after I’m having a couple drinks with friends or anything like that so definitely get your water intake in check that probably goes without saying though and then.

You know get a little caffeine new system if you need to or have a hearty breakfast I’m actually about to go make some food but other than.

That the first thing that I did after I had a little bit of time to relax and wake up was make myself a list a to-do list and what I want to accomplish today so right here this is the list that I’ve created so far I’m not quite done with it yet but this.

Is the first thing I’m gonna.

Do it I call it my Fiji reset because I have about two days to get everything done that I need to in order to fully prepare myself for the.

Trip so you can see I want to get in 15 minutes of yoga I want to go on a long walk because yesterday I definitely only took about 2,000 steps and I try and aim for 10 K a day drink.

A gallon of water and I have a big glass so I’m just gonna mark off whenever I get a cup.

Clean the bathroom bedroom and closet and get.

In a full body workout there’s a couple more things I’m gonna add to this list but what really.

Helps me is just making a listen seeing the physical version of everything that I want to get.

How To Use Google Docs Or Drive Offline On Pc & Mobile

If there’s one downside to cloud-based services and apps, it’s that you always need to be online to use them. If your Internet goes down, or if you’re travelling, your work grinds to a halt.

Fortunately, Google Docs, now better known as Google Drive, has this covered. You can take the service offline, and access and edit your files even without an Internet connection.

Best of all, you can do it on virtually any platform or device. In this guide, we’ll take a look at how to set it up and get working everywhere you use Google Drive.

On the Desktop in the Browser

You need the Chrome browser to be able to access Google Drive offline on the desktop. This is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and works in the same way on each platform. On non-supported browsers, the settings to activate offline access are missing.

Google Drive

To get started, you’ll need the Drive Chrome web app installed in Chrome. It comes as a default option with Chrome, but if you need it, you’ll be prompted to install it before you continue.

Activate Offline Mode in Google Drive

Log into your account at Google Drive, drive.google.com. Click the Settings icon (the cog) toward the top right corner of the screen and select Settings.

drive offline

In the window that opens, check the Sync Google Docs… option in the section labelled Offline. Your  files will begin downloading to your computer — these include Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings.

Activate Offline Mode in Google Docs

Go to Google Docs — docs.google.com — and login. Click the hamburger menu icon toward the top left of the screen and choose Settings.

turn on docs sync

Under Offline sync click Turn on. A new tab will open with instructions to install the Chrome Web app if needed, then to confirm you want to enable offline access.

Editing Files

It takes a few minutes to download your files, and also to cache copies of the Docs apps. Don’t disconnect from the Internet too quickly, or you won’t be able to access them. To ensure that a specific file you need is available offline, simply open it and then close it again.

When you are offline, open Google Drive or Google Docs in your browser by going to the same URL that you use in online mode. All of your files will be listed as usual, but the ones that aren’t available offline will be grayed out.

docs files offline

Double-click to open a file. You’ll see a gray “Offline” icon displayed alongside the filename.

offline icon

Your changes are saved automatically as you edit a document. When you go back online they will be synced back to your account. Any files that have been edited locally but not yet synced will be displayed in bold type in your docs list.

You can also create new documents when working offline. These will be uploaded to your account the next time you are online.

On the Desktop Using the Drive App

Another way to use Google Docs offline comes via the dedicated Google Drive app. This is available for desktop devices for Windows and Mac, as well as for Android and iOS on mobile.

By default, the Drive app for desktop downloads the entire contents of your Drive account to your computer. It’s similar to how desktop cloud clients like Dropbox work. To only download specific folders go to Preferences > Sync options within the app.

drive sync options

When installed, you can access all your Drive files — not just documents — through an Explorer window on Windows, or the Finder on Mac.

You can edit any file downloaded through the Drive app. Google Docs files, saved in the .gdoc, .gsheet etc formats, are edited in Chrome.

You have to double-click on the file to open it, so you must have Chrome set as your default browser: a file won’t be accessible if it opens in another browser. You also need to have activated the offline feature within the Drive web app itself, as we outlined above.

gdocs finder

Other files open in your local app of choice — Excel spreadsheets in Office, images in Photoshop and so on.

Edit these and save your changes as normal. They will be synced to your cloud account when you next connect to the Internet.

changes saved offline

The Drive app is probably the most convenient option if you primarily use the service on a single computer. It does come with the inconvenience of having to store many gigabytes of data locally, so is not ideal for having on multiple machines.

On a Chromebook

Contrary to popular belief, Chromebooks do work offline for a variety of functions. This includes using Docs offline.

The process for setting it up is exactly the same as that for using Chrome on Windows, Mac, or Linux. Open the Drive or Docs apps to load the corresponding site in the Chrome browser, then activate the offline feature in the same way as you would on those other platforms.

In Google Apps at Work

Offline access to Google Docs can also be enabled in Google Apps for businesses. The feature isn’t available to individual users, though, and needs an administrator to activate. As always, the users need to be using Chrome.

Log into the Google Admin console and go to Apps > Google Apps > Drive > Data Access. Check the box labelled Allow users to enable offline docs followed by Save.

These settings are applied to the entire organization. For Google Apps Unlimited or Google Apps for Education accounts, you can restrict offline access to individual users or groups for security purposes.

On Mobile

The Google apps for iOS and Android provide offline support for smartphone and tablet users. On Windows tablets you should use the desktop methods for Chrome outlined above; for Windows Phone there is no support. The third-party app GDocs gives offline viewing on Windows Phone, but no editing.

Use Docs Offline on iOS and Android

The apps for iPhone and iPad, as well as Android devices, work in the same way. They don’t feature an all-encompassing “offline” setting, but instead you need to make your content available offline on a file-by-file basis.

offline docs ipad

There are three different ways to achieve this. From the app’s main screen simply tap the “three dots” menu button beneath your chosen file and select Keep offline.

Alternatively, when the file is open you can select Keep offline from the menu. Or select Details and select the same option from there. In all cases, just deselect the option to remove the offline version from your device.

Once you select it, the file will be downloaded. A notification will alert you when the process is complete.

android notification

Swipe in from the left edge of the screen and choose Offline from the options to display only the files that are available offline.

Any edits you make are automatically saved, and those changes synced to your account when your device next connects to the Internet.

Avoid Problems When Working Offline

There are a few issues you should be aware of when working with Google Docs offline.

  • Sync Issues. Two of the main benefits to Google Drive is that you can access your files on any device, and that it is easy to collaborate on documents with other users. Remember that when you edit a document offline, the changes won’t be immediately available in another browser, or to another user. If you sync your offline edits after the document has been edited elsewhere, the two versions of the file will be merged. To avoid confusion, you should let any collaborators know when you take a file offline, so they know not to work on it themselves.
  • Offline Spreadsheet Compatibility. Spreadsheets created in Google Sheets before December 2013 cannot be edited, and only accessed in read-only mode. Copy and paste the content into a new document if you need to edit an older spreadsheet.
  • Limited Functionality. When you take Google Docs offline on the desktop, it reverts to being little more than a basic text editor. You get basic formatting options, but many common features are removed. These include spell checking, adding images, and accessing any add-ons you have installed. This is less of an issue on mobile, where the apps are already lighter in features.

Check out our cheat sheet for a handy collection of hints, tips and shortcuts for getting the most from Google Docs.

Working Offline is a Compromise

Taking Google Docs offline does not give you a full-on replacement for MS Office, or any other traditional desktop office suite. You’ll get the best from the service by using it online whenever you have an Internet connection available.

But so long as you’re aware of the limitations, as well as a few potential pitfalls, the functionality is incredibly useful. It enables you to keep working wherever you are, safe in the knowledge that your data is secure, and will be seamlessly synced once your connection resumes.

With no performance hit for having the feature switched on, we’d recommend activating it now, even if you don’t think you’ll need it that often.

What are your experiences with using Google Docs offline on your computers or mobile devices? Let us know what you like about the service, or of any problems you have with it, in the comments below.

How To Convert Powerpoint Slides To Flashcards For Better Study Results

The technique of spaced repetition is one of the more scientific ways to remember something. Many flashcard tools and apps have arrived to help us use repetition as a learning tool even as information overload batters our memory.

The free flashcard software we talk about today uses another tool we all are familiar with: Microsoft PowerPoint.

How to Convert PowerPoint Slides to Flashcards

OpenCards

PowerPoint slides can be an incredible resource for knowledge. But once the presentation is over, we tend to quickly forget what it was all about. OpenCards is a free flashcard learning software that uses Powerpoint to build your flashcard decks. Here’s how:

  1. OpenCards runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Download the latest version and install.
  2. Create PPT slides on any operating system. You don’t need Microsoft PowerPoint as you can save or export files as PPT with free Office suites as well.
  3. When you prepare your slides, slide titles are treated questions and the slide contents as their answers.
  4. Save the presentation as a PPT file.
  5. Launch OpenCards and import the PPT file into the software. You can also drag and drop the file or right-click on an appropriate category and then select Add card-set.
  6. Click on Start Learning to begin your flashcard session.

Key features of OpenCards:

  • It is a free and clean Open Source software.
  • The interface has a file manager that allows you to organize your flashcard files into categories.
  • An intelligent learning algorithm helps you review the cards and learn with the help of spaced repetition.
  • Supports all PowerPoint slides with tables, charts, formulas, Unicode, images and much more for your flashcards.
  • Implements two learning modes—a long-term memorization mode with spaced repetition and a last-minute mode for quick study.
  • Schedule and progress graphs give you visual feedback on your learning achievements.
  • It also supports markdown files as flashcard sets.
  • Import new flashcards from CSV-files.

You can customize the way you learn by going into the software’s Preferences. OpenCards doesn’t have the fancier features of other flashcard alternatives like Anki, but it is one of the few tools that allows you to turn any PowerPoint slide into a learning project.

Download: OpenCards (Free)

How To Blast Through Your Emails In Microsoft Outlook

Emails are supposed to be a convenient method of communication, but many of us spend much more time than we would like to trying to make sense of our Inbox. Without proper organization, you might find that emails are costing you more time than they save.

Microsoft’s Outlook contains a number of features that can help alleviate this problem, but many users simply aren’t aware of the functionality that’s hidden away in the program. Use these bits of functionality to ensure that your Inbox is as well-kept as possible, so you can focus on more important matters.

Find a View That Suits You

One of the first steps towards becoming an expert Outlook user is tailoring the program to your workflow. Just about everyone uses email these days, but that doesn’t mean that we all do so in exactly the same way. What works for someone else might not work for you, and that’s why it’s a good idea to tweak the default layout of Outlook to best suit your usage.

Head to the View tab to see what options are available to you. The Change View button in the Current View section will give you a few different choices, but it’s well worth digging into the Arrangement and Layout section to get into the nitty-gritty of customization.

For instance, you might want to change Message Preview to 3 Lines, which will give you a more detailed preview of a smaller amount of emails at any one time. Or, you might want to set the Reading Pane to Off, which will save you some much-needed screen space in favor of opening individual emails as a new window when you want read through them.

view options

The key here is simply to figure out what’s best suited to the way you use Outlook. Try things out — it’s as easy as changing these settings back to their defaults if you find that they don’t work as well as you had hoped.

Use Rules to Automate the Process

Rules are a great first step towards organizing your emails, because once they’re in place, they’ll take care of a great deal of the legwork before you even check your inbox. To get started with Rules, head to the Home tab in Outlook and navigate to Rules > Manage Rules & Alerts.

From here, click on New Rule. You’ll see a selection of templates, as well as options for starting from scratch. For the moment, it’s best to stick with the templates on offer — there will be ample opportunity to customize the Rule to your liking on the next screen. For the purposes of this demonstration, we’re going to select Move message from someone to a folder.

rules wizard

Now, it’s time to make the rule serve a purpose. I want to set up a system where any mail I receive from another MakeUseOf author is sent directly to a priority folder. To do that, tick the box on the conditions window that reads with specific words in the sender’s address. Then, click specific words in the section below — I set it to makeuseof so it would only respond to emails sent from an email account from the site, but obviously this can be anything you want — and then select a sensible folder by clicking specified and navigating to it.

rules edit

Next, choose what you want to do with the messages that this Rule puts aside, and consider carefully whether or not you want to stop processing more rules. Depending on what other rules you have active, keeping this option ticked might cause organizational issues later on. Then, select your exceptions, and you’ll be ready to name your Rule and activate it. From there on out, it will automatically sort through your mail until you turn it off.

Divide and Conquer with Categories

While Rules are a great way of dealing with the bulk of your email, certain organizational tasks require a human eye. Stringent use of Categories can help streamline this process, allowing you to classify mail quickly and accurately. To set up your Categories, head to the Tags section of the Home tab in Outlook and navigate to Categorize > All Categories.

Here, you’ll see a rundown of all the Categories currently in place. They’ll default to a simple system of colors, so you might want to simply edit those entries to begin with. To make them a little bit more useful, click on a Category to highlight it, rename it to something pertinent to the sort of mail you’ll be receiving and assign it a shortcut key that you’ll remember from the dropdown.

categories

With these settings in place, you’ll quickly and easily be able to organize your emails as you receive them. Simply highlight a particular message in your Inbox and use the appropriate shortcut that you just assigned. You’ll now be able to see all messages tagged under a particular Category simply by entering that Category’s name into the Outlook search bar.

Utilize the Search Bar

The secret to keeping your emails organized is forward planning — a little work ahead of time can prevent headaches from arising later on. However, there are bound to be times when an email goes astray and there’s no sign of it in any of your carefully maintained folders or Categories. In that case, it’s wise to call upon the search bar.

Outlook’s search functionality is as nimble as it is thorough. Enter a search term into the field above your Inbox, and it will quickly present all instances of that word that it can find, whether it’s in a subject heading or the body of an email. This can be especially useful if you can remember a particular detail of a specific email that you can’t find through normal means.

outlook search

It’s worth remembering that search speeds are going to slow with a full Inbox. If that’s the situation you’re working with, it might be worth searching particular folders, rather than every single email Outlook has access to. To do so, use the dropdown menu on the right hand side of the search bar to narrow your sights. For more in-depth tweaks, head to the Refine section of the Search tab.

Remember to Use Outlook.com

The online version of Outlook might not have all the bells and whistles of the Desktop version, but the fact that it’s easily accessible from any device with a web browser means that it shouldn’t be overlooked. If you need to access your emails at a moment’s notice when you’re away from your work station, it’s a perfectly acceptable option.

However, there’s more to the web-based Outlook than just checking email. By clicking on the Settings cog at the top right-hand corner of your screen, you’ll also be able to access a pretty comprehensive set of Options that can be pretty handy when you’re on the go. Plus the same dropdown menu will give you access to your Rules and Categories.

outlook.com

Knowing that you can access your Outlook emails from anywhere can be combined with a Rule to help you thin out your Inbox even while you’re away from your computer. If you have a regular commute, it might be possible to transform your bus or train ride into a convenient time to assess your Inbox before the day gets underway.

Do you have a great tip for using Outlook to keep your emails organized? Let us know about it in the comments section below.

10 Free Printable Productivity Planner Templates

Ever noticed a train whooshing through a tunnel?

That’s what our panicky brain feels like when it goes up against an overpowering list of things to do.

There is a hyper-drive option in the old head but it needs to set up some scaffoldings to handle the headlong rush into the day. Productivity planners are the little struts that help frame our goals.

Even with the glut of productivity apps out there, the feel of paper hasn’t lost its place yet. Today, with the monkey of productivity on our backs, printable productivity planners are making a comeback. Or, as these free printable productivity planners prove – they never should have gone away!

Why Printable Planners Work?

Three short reasons with long benefits:

  1. They are flexible.
  2. There is no learning involved.
  3. There is no download, no irritating notifications, and no annoying updates.

I made my own customized PDF templates for planning learning goals. After a few months into it, I learned a lot, not only about the kind of productivity system that worked for me, but it also brought my hunt for the next great productivity tool to a halt.

Trust me, there is no perfect app.

But there are perfect productivity systems that can be tailor-made for each of us. Printable planners help because you can download and tweak their design to make them your own. If they don’t work, discard them and start a new one that just might.

So, let’s dive into the web and find the best and free printable productivity planner templates out there.

1. Journal Life

We used to call them “Diarists”. Journaling is the term that is in vogue now. From John Adams to Virginia Wolf, everyone kept a notebook to record their thoughts. Journal Life is a physical notebook which you can purchase. Before that, as a journaling beginner, you can subscribe to their free six-week course and a little 16-page guide to start off.

Productivity Planner -- Journal Life

The free ebook does not have a template, but it is a useful primer to make one of your own. Journaling is one of most uncomplicated habits you can start to improve your productivity and it needs nothing more than a pen and paper or a digital journaling tool like Day One.

My friend Rob Nightingale makes an excellent point in his article on the productivity benefits of journaling.

By developing the habit of regular journaling, you’re cultivating a self-discipline that can be extended to many other areas of life and work.

2. Intelligent Change

When writing a diary or a journal scratches your itch, make your journaling templates. I would especially recommend the 5-minute journal for those who might hate to take the plunge when dipping a tiny toe would do. Intelligent Change promoted the 5-minute journal.

For a deeper sense of accomplishment, you can buy their Productivity Planner. Or put together one of your own by following the concept as laid down in their template.

Subscribe on their site to download the guide and template. The Productivity Planner combines the idea of MITs (Most Important Tasks) of the day with the Pomodoro Method. Estimate or set the number of Pomodoro’s for each task by filling in the target boxes for each task.

Productivity Planner -- Intelligent Change

At the end of the day, calculate your productivity score and see if you managed to overcome procrastination. There’s also enough space to write down your thoughts and review your performance for the day.

3. Productive Flourishing

Take a time tracker and the Productivity Heat Map (PDF Download) to find out the periods of time when you are in the flow. The quick visualization exercise that should help you slot your most important tasks in the zones of maximum productivity.

Productivity Planner -- Heat Map

After all, many brain studies have found out the usefulness of managing energy rather than time for peak productivity. The Productivity Heat Map also helps you understand the quality of your work.

Take a look at the other free planner templates available on this site. The Productivity Jumpstarter and Individual Project Planner deserve a click if you are working alone. The Handoff Holder is when you are working on a project with a team.

4. Daily Planit

Rosemary Rice loves Superman and wordplay. She loves productivity and personal growth even more. Her focus is on using systems that combine the best of digital tools with offline paper systems that stick to the Keep It Super Simple (K.I.S.S.) system for productivity. In short – flexible list making systems that you can use for any situation.

To complement her paid tools, she offers a whole page of free tools.

Browse and choose one to fit your need. Maybe, you are trying to set up a morning routine and need a simple system to jot everything down. The Daily Routine List can help to start the day like an athlete. Try the Monthly Repeating Tasks template to take your life goals across a month and turn them into good habits.

Productivity Planner -- Daily Planit

You’ll find a bunch of planning printables for carrying out a self-review or set smart goals for a bigger project. Look into those. Keep scrolling down because Rosemary includes printable templates from many other sources. If you have a fondness for paper planners, this single page is worth a large red bookmark.

5. Weekly Desk Planner

This is in French. But it is cute enough to easily duplicate in any language of your choice with Microsoft Word.

The three-faced template (PDF Download) covers the key elements of the day and the week. There’s space for the key objectives and the people to contact. And then there’s a side for some positive musings for that push you need on a drowsy Monday.

Weekly Desk Planner

Print this on a slightly thicker A4 paper, fold on the dotted lines and prop it on your desk.

6. Organise My House

Chrissy Halton offers a fantastic timesaving (and tree-saving) tip that you can use for almost all planners.

I printed mine out and then laminated it – so I can simply keep it in my diary and write on it each day (with a dry erase marker) and then reuse the following day – saves paper and ink!

Her Daily Productivity Chart is a useful insert for any diary. It helps to take a quick overview of the day without getting bogged down in the details. You might like the idea of tracking five critical areas of your life with the S.M.I.L.E (Social / Manage the Home / Income / Leisure and Energy) boxes.

Productivity Planner -- Organise My House

Browse through her site for a host of other free printable templates.

7. FortyPreneur

Entrepreneurs need all the systems they can handle. But then, aren’t we all “entrepreneurs” of our own lives? If you believe that, you will go far with this neat and well-designed collection of 23 free printable planner templates. You can download them in one go, or pick them off one by one. Seriously, there are some cool ones to be had.

Start your morning with the Brain Dump template. Then, bite down with the Project Planner. Or, how about a longer view of your life with the template that says Bucket List for This Decade.

In the right spirit for “do no break the chain”, I went for the Resolution Streak Log as below.

Productivity Planner -- Resolution Streak

The minimal templates were designed by Jeannie Ombania, the creator of the site that’s next on our list.

8. The List Lab

Jeannie has a thing for paper and lists. So much so, that she uses her graphic designing sorcery to create some wonderful templates. This is an online shop, but I discovered some freebies on offer. Not many, but hitting this link with the freebies tag should take you to all of them.

My favorite pick? The Daily Routine template, which is thoughtfully divided into morning, day, and night.

Productivity Planner -- Daily Routine

I am also partial to this Streak Challenge printable that can rescue you from dropping off the wagon. Don’t forget to include the winner’s reward.

9. Life by Mom

Trust me, you are not going to run short of free printables for planning every area of your life. Especially when you have bloggers like Alicia to help you out. There are printable planners you can buy and then there are the freebies. A whole page of them!

My ultimate like goes to the Reflections template which is a whole list of prompts you can use to note down your thoughts.

Productivity Planner -- Reflections

Also, it might be too late for the 2016 Yearly Calendar planner, but it’s not too late for the Holiday Sales Tracker printable. And it’s definitely not too late to download this free template for a micro-journaling habit.

10. DIY Planner.com

If your analog fixation is strong, then you will love the tons of resources here. The site feels a bit dated, but don’t let that detract you away from the collection, which is still golden. The community contributions remain alive and strong.

Check the article topics in the left sidebar. You can find planner templates as well as specific GTD (Getting Things Done) and other time management tools to organize your life.

Productivity Planner -- Unschedule

One of my best finds has been the “Unschedule” template. Here’s how it is described:

If you have an important project that you’ve been procrastinating, schedule in *everything but* that project first, including breaks, meals, and so on. This will give you a realistic idea of how much time you actually have available. Once you’ve done the above, you can use the available time to work.

Check the design of the templates in thumbnail mode and then download the files by clicking on the link that says “Attachment”. The templates are commonly in PDF or ODF (Open Document Format). All are licensed under Creative Commons.

Do You Set Goals with a Planner?

Still looking? Here’s another handy list to find more free printable planners.

Shake the productivity tree and DIY printable planners will drop like ripe fruits. But the trick is not in the planner. The secret is YOU.

Planners are organizational systems. The actual work starts after you dump your brain on the sheet…create a bulleted list…or dream your vision. Every paper system will test your zeal to accomplish the goals you have put down. Keep trying both.

Just answer three questions for us.

Do paper planners work for your productivity style? Or do you prefer smartphone apps over PDF downloads? Have you designed and stapled your own productivity planner yet?

7 Google Drive Search Tips To Help You Find Anything

Google Drive is brilliant. You get 15+ GB of free storage, a free online office suite, and it integrates with Gmail to boost your email experience. But that means your Drive has a whole bunch of files. How do you find the right one? With these Drive search tricks and tips.

Unlock Our “Essential Google Drive Keyboard Shortcuts” Cheat Sheet Now!

Enter your Email

For a long time, Drive offered only basic search tools, which is ironic considering this is a Google app. But recently, the search tools were upgraded and now it’s easier than ever to locate a file. Plus, remember, Google Drive can look into images and PDFs to “read” those and find content in them as well.

1. Search by File Type or Extension

You want to browse all the spreadsheets in Google Drive? Click or tap the search bar and you’ll see a list of different file types.

  • PDFs
  • Text documents
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations
  • Photos and images
  • Videos
  • Audio
  • Archive
  • Drawings
  • Folders

Note: If you’re using Google Drive on a desktop, you’ll need to click the little drop-down arrow in the search bar or More search tools, and then click Type to see the last four options.

Google-Drive-search-tips-drive_search_update

This method shows you all file extensions in a certain category. For example, you can’t separate a PNG from a JPEG in photos, or an OGG from an MP4 in videos. However, Google Drive has a simple method to do that: an old command line classic.

Enter *. followed by the file extension, and search to find all files with that extension.

For example: *.png for all PNG files, or *.MP4 for all MP4 files.

2. Search by Date

Google Drive always lets you sort and manage files by date, but what about when you need to find files within a specific range. For example, when you’re doing your taxes, you might need to find certain files from a particular month or week.

In the More search tools on desktop and the default search options on mobile, you will find a few preset date ranges that you can use:

  • Today
  • Yesterday
  • Last 7 days
  • Last 30 days
  • Last 90 days

Note: This uses the time that a file was last modified. You cannot sort files by when they were created.

Google-Drive-Search-Tips-date-range-time

Desktop: To define a custom date range, click the last option Customized and use the two calendars to find files between the two dates.

Mobile: You’ll need to use a text command as there’s no Customized option here. Google Drive recognizes two self-explanatory commands for dates: before and after. The date itself needs to be put in the format yyyy-mm-dd. And you can use both commands together to find a range between them.

For files modified before a specific date:

Before:2015-10-18

For files modified after a specific date:

After:2015-04-22

For files modified during a specific date range:

After:2015-04-22 Before:2015-10-18

3. Search by Owner or Who It Was Shared With

Cloud-based office suites can share files easily, but managing shared files on Google Drive isn’t that easy. At least you can now search with those parameters.

In the More search tools on desktop, you have two ways to filter based on people.

  • Owner: Files owned (or created) by you, not owned by you, and those owned by a specific person. You’ll need to have that person’s email address though.
  • Shared with: Files that are shared with a certain person. Again, you’ll need to have that person’s email address.

Google-Drive-Search-Tips-owner-shared-with

Weirdly, in this method, Google Drive does not auto-complete email addresses based on your contact book. Google Contacts is a cool new Gmail feature, so this is surprising, to say the least. However, using specific search commands instead of the More search tools box, you can get those auto-suggestions, and search by owner on your mobile.

Files received from someone else: Use from: followed by an email address. For example, for all files sent to me by my imaginary colleague Donald Duck, I’ll use the command:

from:donald.duck@makeuseof.com

Files sent to someone else: Use to: followed by an email address. For example, for all files sent to Daisy, I’ll use the command:

to:daisy.duck@makeuseof.com

Files owned/created by someone else: Use owner: followed by an email address. For example, for all files owned by Donald, I’ll use the command:

owner:donald.duck@makeuseof.com

All these commands can be used in the same search string too. So if I want to find files sent to me by Justin and also shared with Tina, a search command would look like:

from:donald.duck@makeuseof.com to:daisy.duck@makeuseof.com

4. Search by Title, or Inside Files (Including Images and PDFs)

By default, when you type any word in Google Drive, it’s looking for that word in file names as well as their content. While it’s easy to do that with text files, not many people know that Google Drive has built-in optical character recognition (OCR) to read text in images. This property also lets you search text within PDFs.

Not only that, but Google’s smart algorithms can also identify the contents of an image! For example, when I search “dog”, it can identify photos of dogs in my Drive, even if the title, description, or tags don’t say “dog” anywhere.

Google-drive-search-tips-search-within-image

It’s tremendously useful, but sometimes, it leads to cluttered results. When you just want file titles containing that word and not full files, use the advanced search tools on desktop to find the Item name box and type your keyword. It will find all files that contain this word as part of the file name and not the content.

On mobiles, you can use the title: command. For example, to search for files with the word “dog” in the file name and not in the file content itself, the command would be:

title:dog

5. All Google Drive Search Commands

Apart from the aforementioned operators, some of the best Google search commands and tricks have made their way to Drive. You can use multiple operators or commands in a single search string to find the best possible result. Just separate them with a space.

Google-Drive-Search-tips-magnifying-glass

Use quotes when you want to search for an exact phrase. For example:

Search term: “Exactly the words between these two quotes.”

Result: Files that have the exact term “exactly the words between these two quotes.”

Use the word or to find matches with one of multiple words used. For example:

Search term: Dogs or Cats or Dinosaurs

Result: All files with the word “dogs”, and those with the word “cats”, and those with the word “dinosaurs”.

Use the  sign for files without a certain word. For example:

Search term: Android Samsung

Result: All files with the word “Android” but without the word “Samsung”.

Use app to find files that can be opened with Google Drive integrated apps. For example:

Search time: app:PicMonkey

Result: All files that can be opened with the web-based PicMonkey app.

You can find all the Google Drive search operators here, under the header “Advanced search in Drive.”

6. Searching Drive on Android

Google-Drive-Search-Tips-Android

On Android, Google Drive can search by voice using Google Now. Fire up the Drive or your default Google Now search bar. Tap the microphone icon, then say Search Drive for and your keywords out loud. Drive will show you the results in a few seconds.

7. Searching Drive on iOS

Google-Drive-search-tips-3d-touch-search-ios

If you have the Google Drive app installed on your iPhone or iPad, you can use the iOS universal search bar.

If you have a new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, then the killer 3D Touch feature comes into play. You can 3D Touch the Drive icon on the home screen to access recent files or search.

Have You Switched to Google Drive?

I have almost completely switched to Google Drive now, both for its office suite as well as the excellent cloud storage.

Have you switched? What do you love about Google Drive or what holds you back? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

The 7 Best Free Microsoft Office Alternatives

Microsoft Office is the undisputed king of office suites, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Indeed, we’ve covered several reasons to use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint Online instead of buying Microsoft Office, with the most important reason being price.

Other office suites exist, and you’d be surprised how well they compare to Microsoft Office, not to mention that many of them are completely free for personal use.

Before we explore these alternatives, you may want to check out our post on ways to use Microsoft Office without paying for it. But if it’s the software itself that you dislike, or if those free methods aren’t available to you, then read on!

The 3 Best Online Office Suites

1. Google Docs

microsoft office alternatives - Google Docs

Google Docs is easily the most popular office suite in the world after Microsoft Office. It can be slightly confusing because “Google Docs” is the name of the word processing app itself, but can also refer to the combined suite of apps: Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides.

The main reason to use Google Docs? It’s just so easy. You don’t need to install anything, you can share files without the recipient installing anything, the interface is dead simple and intuitive, it’s a well-known brand, and everything just plain works.

It’s also semi-compatible with Microsoft Office, able to import DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX files but unable to export. Not ideal, but better than nothing. It also has support for advanced speech-to-text voice typing.

The best aspects of Google Docs:

  • Up to 15GB of free storage including Docs, Sheets, and Slides files.
  • Track changes and version histories for documents.
  • Real-time online collaboration with up to 50 simultaneous users.
  • Manage permissions and limit what users can or can’t do in a document.
  • Offline editing that auto-syncs as soon as you come online.
  • Integration with other Google services, including Gmail and Calendar.
  • Use hundreds of free fonts from Google Web Fonts.

Website: Google Docs (Free)

2. iWork for iCloud

microsoft office alternatives - iWork for iCloud

Here’s something you may not know: while Apple’s iWork suite normally costs $10 per app, you can use Pages, Number, and Keynote for free on the web using iWork for iCloud, which is Apple’s answer to Google Docs and Microsoft Office Online.

iWork for iCloud resembles the desktop version for Mac, and is exactly what you’d expect from Apple: simplistic but pleasing interface, enough flexibility to create whatever kind of files you need, but not many workspace customization options.

It’s the obvious choice if you already use iWork on Mac, as it integrates well and allows you to work on your documents anywhere you go. The only downside is that it relies on iCloud for storage, which is one of the least popular cloud storage solutions.

All you need is an Apple ID to use iWork for iCloud.

The best aspects of iWork for iCloud:

  • Up to 5GB of free storage on iCloud.
  • Beautiful and simplistic interface that’s easy to navigate.
  • Integrates with iWork for Mac, making it a strong option for Mac users.
  • Cleanly imports and exports Microsoft Office files.

Website: iWork for iCloud (Free)

3. Zoho Office

microsoft office alternatives - Zoho Office

My favorite thing about Zoho Office is its interface. On the surface it’s pretty much the same as any other online office suite, but there’s a smooth professionalism to it that can’t really be captured in screenshots alone. It just feels good.

Zoho Office is best for small teams, with interesting features like real-time chatting on documents, collaborative editing, digital signatures, quick document sharing, and more.

One of the cooler niche features in Zoho Writer in particular is the ability to post documents straight to WordPress, making it an effective blog writing tool.

The best aspects of Zoho Office:

  • Up to 5GB of free storage through Zoho Docs.
  • Up to 25 file version histories for each document.
  • Cleanly imports and exports Microsoft Office files.
  • Real-time communication with collaborators.
  • Two-factor authentication for extra security.
  • Extensive customizations of documents, settings, and workspaces.

Website: Zoho Office (Free)

The 4 Best Desktop Office Suites

1. OnlyOffice

OnlyOffice (officially stylized as ONLYOFFICE) is a sleeper hit: not many people have heard of it, but it blows the competition out of the water. It really delivers on its product slogan: “Powerful like Microsoft Office, free like LibreOffice.”

What you’ll love best about OnlyOffice is that it natively uses Microsoft Office formats, which isn’t something that all desktop office suites can boast. The interface is also clean and professional, which is great if you hate the bloat of Microsoft Office, the slow performance of WPS Office, or the frank ugliness of LibreOffice.

Note that OnlyOffice comes in a cloud version—not just the option to access OnlyOffice on the web, but the ability to host OnlyOffice on your own server and provide private access to those on premises.

The best aspects of OnlyOffice:

  • Open source and completely free for personal use.
  • Simple and professional interface with no distracting elements.
  • Cleanly imports and exports Microsoft Office files.
  • Ability to self-host for private enterprise internal web access.
  • Real-time collaborative editing and sharing of files.

Download: OnlyOffice Desktop (Free)
Download: OnlyOffice Cloud ($120/year)
Download: OnlyOffice Enterprise ($900/server)

2. SoftMaker Office

microsoft office alternatives - SoftMaker Office

SoftMaker Office is a commercial office suite that also comes in a free version called SoftMaker FreeOffice. FreeOffice is lightweight but complete, with all the essential features you’d need and expect from a modern office suite.

SoftMaker Office earned its reputation for Microsoft Office compatibility, being the first alternative office suite that could losslessly read and write Microsoft Office formats. For you, this means you can directly open and edit Microsoft Office files without worry.

The interface is nice too. SoftMaker respects user choice, allowing you to pick between a classic look (with toolbars and menus) or a modern look (with a Microsoft-like ribbon). And either way, SoftMaker Office is a joy to use: fast, responsive, and effective.

The best aspects of SoftMaker Office:

  • Tabbed interface for editing multiple documents.
  • Version history for office files, plus ability to revert to earlier versions.
  • Export as EPUB to easily turn documents into ebooks.
  • Choose between classic or modern interfaces.
  • Portable installation to USB drives so you can use it anywhere.

Download: SoftMaker FreeOffice (Free)
Download: SoftMaker Office Standard ($70)
Download: SoftMaker Office Professional ($100)

If you want to learn more, see our overview of SoftMaker FreeOffice.

3. LibreOffice

Ask five people for a free desktop alternative to Microsoft Office and I’d be willing to bet that all of them say LibreOffice. Not only is it free and open source, but it’s been around for years and works well on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

In January 2018, LibreOffice launched the much-awaited version 6.0, which introduced lots of new features, bug fixes, performance improvements, a new help system that’s easier to navigate, and more.

While LibreOffice technically supports Microsoft Office files, it isn’t perfect yet and you will find that some document aspects break when you save in one app and open in its respective counterpart app. And while LibreOffice Calc is nice, it simply doesn’t live up to the power, flexibility, or speed of Microsoft Excel.

The best aspects of LibreOffice:

  • Completely free, open source, and cross-platform.
  • Built-in tools for creating complex documents, books, and webpages.
  • Download hundreds of publicly available LibreOffice templates.
  • Expand functionality with hundreds of LibreOffice extensions.
  • On top of Writer, Calc, and Impress, LibreOffice includes other office apps like Draw (diagrams), Base (databases), and Math (advanced formulas).

Download: LibreOffice (Free)

If you decide to use LibreOffice and want to get the most out of it, I highly recommend checking out our article on essential LibreOffice productivity tips.

4. WPS Office

Formerly known as Kingsoft Office, WPS Office is a powerhouse. It comes with everything you need in an office suite, plus some unique features like PDF conversion, PDF merging and splitting, document signatures, document encryption, hundreds of fonts and templates, tabbed document editing, and so much more.

The one huge downside to WPS Office is that the free version is ad-supported: a handful of useful features are gated behind sponsored ads, and you can unlock them for 30 minutes by watching a quick ad. In my experience, this actually feels much better than having banner ads, especially because no features are completely unavailable.

The other big downside is that WPS Office runs a bit laggy on weaker hardware, which is a shame when you’re traveling with an older laptop and the application hangs or just isn’t as smooth as you’d want it to be.

The best aspects of WPS Office:

  • Up to 1GB of free storage using WPS Office Cloud.
  • Easy sharing of files with others through WPS Office Cloud.
  • Document tabs for effortless organization while editing.
  • Hundreds of fonts and templates for beautifying your documents.
  • Built-in PDF tools, including the ability to save directly as PDF.
  • Cleanly imports and exports Microsoft Office files (Professional only).

Download: WPS Office (Free)
Download: WPS Office Premium ($30/year)
Download: WPS Office Professional ($45/year or $80 one-time)

Which Office Suite Is Right for You?

At the end of the day, all of these office suites exist for a reason: different people like different things, and what works well for me may not work well for you.

I use Google Docs because it’s simple, fast, and accessible from anywhere regardless of which device or operating system I’m on. Mac users who need an online suite will love iWork for iCloud, whereas anyone who needs a desktop suite will likely do best with OnlyOffice or SoftMaker Office.

If you end up going with a desktop suite, you’ll probably want to integrate it with some kind of cloud storage service. I personally use Google Drive, but other options exist. Get started with our comparison of the best cloud storage services.

Avoid This Email Forwarding Mistake In Outlook.com

If you use the new Outlook web app, you should know how to find and disable unauthorized forwarding. This occurs when someone has set up email filters to send your messages to another inbox without your knowledge.

Someone having access to your email on its own is scary, but this forwarding is particularly harmful. If you don’t find out about the forwarding, someone could be reading all your messages without your knowledge. Password reset links, financial information, and personal notes are then all exposed to malicious people.

Thankfully you can check for forwarding rules in your Outlook inbox. Sign in and click the gear icon in the top-right corner, then choose Options. On the left sidebar, expand Mail > Automatic processing and select Inbox and sweep rules. Here under Inbox rules you’ll see any forwarding rules you have set up. Click a name to see more info about it.

Avoid This Email Forwarding Mistake in Outlook.com Outlook Email Forwarding Rules

You could very well have a legitimate use for email forwarding, so make sure you don’t delete your own rules. But if you see a rule to forward all your messages to a strange address, click the trash can icon to delete it.

Then, you’d do well to change the password on your Microsoft account by visiting the password reset page. Select I think someone else is using my Microsoft account and walk through the steps to reset your password. Following this, keep an eye out for unauthorized activity on your account.

Avoid This Email Forwarding Mistake in Outlook.com Microsoft Account Reset Password

Unauthorized forwarding is just one of the ways you could be unknowingly spamming your email contacts.

Have you ever had unauthorized email forwarding affect your email account? Tell us your story in the comments below!

Image Credit: LOVELUCK via Shutterstock

Will Automation Make Your Job Redundant?

Last year, the BBC launched a website where people could see how likely it was that a robot would take their job in the future. It was based on some research from Oxford University and Deloitte. All you had to do was select your job title, and it would give you your odds as a percentage.

Journalists like myself are lucky. We have just an eight percent chance of being replaced. Medical practitioners were even safer, with odds of just two percent. That’s because it’s hard to teach a robot creativity and imagination. It’s even harder to teach how to interact with humans.

MedicalPractitioners

But others aren’t as lucky. Take retail cashiers, for example. They have a 90% chance of being replaced by machines. You can already see this happening in most supermarkets, as automated self-checkout machines increasingly take up more floorspace.

Taxi drivers have reason to be worried too. They’ve got a 57% chance of being replaced by robots. Hardly surprising, given the incredible progress being made with self-driving cars.

It may come as a surprise that a number of desk-based office jobs are under threat too. In fact, of the top ten most at-risk jobs, virtually all of them are office-based.

TopTenJobs

If you’re a finance manager, you’re almost certain to be replaced with an AI program. They’re at a 97% risk. Receptionists and Personal Assistants aren’t much better off, as they’ve got 96% and a 68% chance, respectively.

As it turns out, there’s a number of historical precedents for office jobs being automated.

A Long, Machinated Past

Jobs have traditionally been categorized as either white collar or blue collar.

White collar jobs tend to require higher academic certifications and professional skills, are based in offices, and tend to be centered around administration and management. Blue-collar jobs tend to involve manual labor. Actually, physically doing something.

BlueCollar

More recently, another “collar” has been defined. Pink collar jobs are those that are centered around customer interaction and sales. These are jobs that are based in restaurants and shops.

There’s a kind-of collective assumption that blue-collar jobs are the first to go when technology advances. Meanwhile, jobs based around soft, interpersonal skills (those would be your pink-collar jobs) and those that require high levels of expertise and specialization are secure. And why wouldn’t we think so? Our collective cultural and historical canon are filled with examples of how semi-skilled and unskilled workers lost their jobs, thanks to new technologies.

One of the best examples of this was found in 19th century England, during the Industrial Revolution. Advances in machinery and technology, coupled with steam and water power, had allowed the factories of the North to become the most productive in the world.

Stocking frames, spinning frames, and power looms had allowed factories to reduce labor costs, and to produce large quantities of textiles that were previously unthinkable.

Stocking-Wheel

This resulted in the small towns and cities that dot Greater Manchester and Northern Yorkshire to become some of the richest in the British Empire. But this technological advance left a great many people behind.

Previously, the textile industry was dominated by skilled craftsmen, who were made redundant by the shift to machination. They simply couldn’t compete. They cost more to employ, and they worked slower. The machines, on the other hand, could be operated by an unskilled worker with just the minimal amount of training.

This shift to machination resulted in an extended period of civil turmoil, as the now-unemployed craftsmen attacked the factories operating the new equipment. Machines were smashed, factories and warehouses were torched, and industrialists were murdered.

It has been claimed that the first person to destroy these machines was called Ned Ludd. It is from Ludd where they derived their name – Luddites. This term persists today, and is a derisory word used to describe those opposed to technology, not just that used in textile fabrication.

Luddite

There are, of course, more contemporary examples of how automation has devastated the employment prospects of blue-collar workers. You need only look at the automobile industry.

The first move to automation was made in 1961, when General Motors introduced their first robotic arm. Since then, robotics have became common-place in the factory floors of Detroit and Kentucky. Subsequently, Europe, Japan, and North America have hemorrhaged auto jobs.

Office Employment and the Machine

But you’d be mistaken if you thought it was just blue-collar employment that has fallen victim to automation and improved industrial processes. The same has happened to office-based employment. We just don’t talk about it all that much.

Long before the invention of the transistor and the vacuum tube, and before digital computers became financially viable for large companies, computers were actual people. The job of a human computer was to quite literally compute things. They would perform complex calculations by hand, following pre-defined algorithms and algebra.

HumanComputer

These were commonplace in the offices of science, industry, military, and finance. But ultimately, they were replaced as it became affordable for businesses to buy their own electronic computers. Not only did they allow companies to save on labor costs, but they also worked faster than the human computers, and with greater precision.

Computers don’t make mistakes. They just do what you tell them to do.

There was a deeply sad side to these “Human Computers”. The early 20th century was a fundamentally patriarchal society, and for many highly educated women, it represented the highest position they could get in the sciences. One of the most touching accounts of this can be found in “When Computers Were Human” by David Alan Grier, whose own grandmother worked as a computer.

Another long-forgotten casualty of the digital age was the typing pools, often called “secretarial pools”.

These were secretaries who weren’t assigned to any one employee in particular, but were shared among an entire company. Their job was to type, store, and manage documents, minutes, and correspondence.

Typewriter

Again, this was a highly female dominated field, largely as a consequence of the time in which they existed. Secretarial jobs were seen as being best suited to women.

The electronic computer was the death-knell for the typing pool. Companies no longer needed twenty employees to type the same letter, when mail merge in Microsoft Word worked just as well. They no longer needed people to manually type copies of documents, when they could just be saved to a hard drive.

Automation and the Office: What’s Happening Now

I think we’re close to seeing the end of many office-based jobs.

Companies, who are under increasing financial pressure, are looking to innovations in machine learning and artificial intelligence, as well as the automation of repetitive tasks, in order to drastically cut costs. It’s been happening for a while.

One personal account of this dates back to 1997, and was published on the Tales from Tech Support community on Reddit. This largely consists of stories from front-line IT support workers, who are complaining about the challenging customers and clients they’ve had to support.

The story, which was titled “My first day on the job, and I accidentally got the secretary fired”, was published by user Zarokima. It describes the first day on his job, after he completed his masters degree in Computer Science.

“While the boss is showing me around, he gets an important phone call leaving me outside with his 3 secretaries — he was always very busy, and would be lost without their assistance. We strike up some conversation about our jobs, and one complains about how she has to keep track of some stuff on the server to make reports that the boss wanted daily, and it’s just the most boring, tedious crap.”

Eager to impress the boss, and to help the secretary with her day-to-day tasks, he wrote a small script on his lunch hour that automatically created the reports for her. It transpired that the creation of these reports was the sole duty of the secretary, and she was immediately made redundant.

The author of the story ended up receiving a promotion, and a subsequent rise in his wages.

While we can’t guarantee that this story is accurate, or just something that was contrived for Reddit Karma, I don’t doubt that many jobs could be replaced with automated scripts. Jobs where tasks are repetitive and outcomes are predictable are especially vulnerable to this.

This is essentially what happened to the automotive industry.

The Threat From Consumer Grade Automation

But we’ve also seen jobs which require creativity and human interaction become machinated. Translators, for example, have a mere 33% chance of being automated. There have been advances in translation algorithms, but they still can’t match a human translator when it comes to accuracy, and understanding the nuance of a language.

Last year, we came across a Portuguese startup called Unbabel, which offers quick, semi-automated translations. These were far cheaper than those done completely by hand.

Unbabel works by first translating the passage of text through an algorithm, much like Google Translate. A human fluent in that language would then go through the text, and check that it reads correctly, and would resolve any errors. While not fully automated, it’s certainly not far off.

translate-unbabel-languages

Personal assistants (PAs, who if you’ll remember, had a 68% chance of being automated) are another profession that’s presently being replaced by complicated, AI algorithms.

PAs have a lot of responsibilities. They manage correspondence and maintain calendars. They prioritize schedules and make travel and hospitality bookings. But many of these tasks can now be performed (and performed well) with cheap, consumer-grade artificial intelligence.

Right now, Facebook is road-testing their flagship personal assistant AI, called Facebook M. Although it’s only available to a small cadre of US-based beta testers, it’s looking really promising.

That’s because it uses a medium of interaction that almost all of us are familiar with – Facebook Messenger. It’s also great at understanding what you mean, thanks to its use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms. So, if you type something “Find me somewhere to take a client to lunch”, or “send my mom some flowers”, the odds are good it will understand you.

Facebook M is so potent because it ties into a number of third-party services through its APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). This allows it to make travel bookings, order products, make reservations, and even provide recommendations about places to eat and visit.

Although Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana have both made overtures at being truly comprehensive personal assistants, very few have come close to Facebook M. I can imagine Facebook M one day being a business-class product, that will ultimately make some question the value in having a human-based personal assistant on the payroll.

How Businesses Are Using Bespoke and Enterprise-Grade Automation

Some businesses have tasks which are so complicated, they cannot depend on off-the-shelf automation and AI products. They have to either create their own, or outsource the problem to another company. Britain’s New Statesman magazine profiled a number of these companies last year.

One of the companies highlighted was the mobile network O2.

Owned by the Spanish phone giant Telefonica, the O2 brand is present throughout much of Europe, with operations in Ireland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and the UK.

In the face of an ever-crowded mobile marketplace, and increasing threats from budget carriers, O2 launched a campaign of cost-cutting in 2012. By using an automation program bought from Blue Prism, they were able to reduce their dependence on offshoring and slash the number of customer service jobs.

This automation program allowed them to process simple customer service tasks with a minimal of human interaction. These tasks include the replacement of SIM cards, the porting of phone numbers, unlocking phones after the conclusion of a contract, and migrating customers from prepaid plans to contracts.

One of the UK’s largest banks, Barclays, has also been using an AI built by the Blue Prism Limited. This is the same company that produced the software used by O2 to streamline their customer service processes.

This AI was used to help the bank cope with the thousands of requests for insurance reimbursements, in the wake of the Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) scandal.

In both of these cases, AI and automation was used to replace jobs that were either occupied by humans, or could have been.

Not Just Automation: How the Sharing Economy Threatens Office Work

Could a change in business model also have an equally damaging effect on office-based jobs as automation?

Over the past ten years, we have seen the world of work become increasingly casual. Jobs which were once steady, and came with benefits like healthcare and paid time off, are being transformed into digital services that you can summon with a smartphone. This is a natural consequence of the mainstreaming of the sharing economy, and our increasing appetite for cheap, on-demand labor.

This race-to-the-bottom started off with traditionally blue-collar work, but increasingly, office-based jobs have been falling under the spell of the sharing economy.

The quintessential sharing economy product is Uber, which seemingly has just as many detractors as fans. Uber works by pairing casual drivers with willing passengers, essentially creating a new class of taxi driver overnight. On one hand, they had to pay their own expenses. However, they were not beholden to same rules as traditional taxi drivers, and they could work the hours that suited them.

blackberry-uber

Services like Handy and TaskRabbit soon followed. These allow people to request the services of casual laborers and workers, who can be assigned to single tasks.

Through the tap of an app, you could summon a craftsman or cleaner. You can even summon someone to assemble your flat-pack Ikea furniture. But don’t confuse them with mainstream employment. You’re being connected with an independent contractor, and you have little-to-no ongoing obligations to them.

In recent years, we’ve seen a few of these companies transition from unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, as they start to offer on-demand, skilled labour.

TaskRabbit in particular have pivoted, and now they allow companies to employ personal assistants, data entry workers, and even web-developers and designers on the same informal, short-term basis as they would a cleaner. Although these would be considered office-based jobs, these “TaskRabbits” work remotely, and can be based anywhere.

TaskRabbitPro

Another service, called UpCounsel, allows people to hire lawyers on a similar basis. The range of legal specialties on offer is absolutely dizzying, and it promises to be as much as 60% cheaper than engaging directly with a law firm.

The End of Employment as We Know It?

The office of the future will look a lot different to how it does today.

It will be leaner and depend more on automated processes and artificial intelligence than on human assets. It will probably be more elastic too. When demand increases, offices will be able to simply increase the number of machines they have running in order to cope. When the task can’t be automated, they’ll be able to summon some short-term workers from a service like Task Rabbit.

EmptyOffice

But what does the bigger picture look like?

For years now, people have been predicting that computer technologies and automation will have a destructive effect on employment. Some have predicted that they’ll cost more jobs than they’ll create, and ultimately there won’t be enough to go around. There’s even a term for it – “technological unemployment”.

Perhaps the cruelest irony is that while the first jobs to be lost to computerization were predominantly held by women, the jobs that are currently most vulnerable to automation are being held by men.

It’s important to remember that these jobs will be lost at every end of the employment spectrum – from the blue-collar jobs, to those in administration, and beyond.

It’s what we do next that counts.

There’s always a hope that a future breakthrough will make up for the jobs that have been lost to AI and automation. This seems plausible. After all, although human computers and typing pools were made redundant by the electronic computer, it resulted in the creation of thousands of jobs in IT departments.

ITDepartment

These new systems needed people to maintain them, and people to write software for them. They needed people to train others in how to use them.

But if that breakthrough fails to happen, our society will look radically different.

We might all find ourselves working part-time, in order to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to have gainful employment.

Our leaders might introduce an unconditional, minimum basic income (often called “mincome” after the Canadian program of the same name), where those unable to find employment will be free to pursue their own interests, hobbies, and spend time raising their families.

Experiments with basic income in Canada, the United States, and the Netherlands have been incredibly promising.

Our Automated Future Awaits

If we can learn anything from the Luddites, it’s that technological advances are a kind-of Pandora’s Box that cannot be undone after the fact. Automation and AI will undoubtedly have a radically transformative effect on our labor force, and it’s too late to stop it.

Whether that will necessarily be a bad thing remains to be seen.

Are you worried about automation? Do you think it could ultimately be beneficial? Are you in a job that’s at risk of being automated? How are you planning to cope? I want to hear about it. Leave me a comment below, and we’ll chat.

Photo Credits: People Walking by Rawpixel.com via Shutterstock, Large modern empty storehouse by Alexey Fursov via Shutterstock, Dead Office (Nicholas Eckhart), IT Department (Tim Dorr)