“I missed the email because I don’t understand how Gmail works. Outlook was so much better”

“Trello is SO complicated. I can’t touch it.”

“Slack is for slackers”

It is not cool to produce low quality output and blame it on the tool we had to use. A lot of us do it. CEOs, Executive Assistants, VPs, Managers, Engineers. A lot of us.

Granted we are mostly lazy, and we reminisce a lot about what we used to use – I went through the phase too. I still have muscle memory on Excel 2003. My fingers used to move on the keyboard like a pianist. I badly miss it. Google Spreadsheet can’t even come close. It is sh*t. But that is what we use at work now – let’s get past it. Let’s put in the effort to learn and become experts. It is good for us, our teams, and our firms. No matter whether we have the baggage of 30 years of experience, or we are fresh starts. The onus is on each one of us to be good at the tools we use. I can guarantee that it is far easier than becoming an expert at our actual job, and it will certainly make us (slightly) better at it.

I have compiled a list of actions that we could master on the common tools used by knowledge workers like me. Perhaps it can be of some help:

  • Google: Search accurately, and fast. Knowing some quick tips really helps. Here is a good list of tips.

  • Gmail: Process the inbox fast as per your workflow (also, have a workflow). Search, Fwd, reply, archive, delete, apply tags using the keyboard. Understand the different tabs / inboxes. Some ideas here.

  • Google Docs: Create, format, share with varying permissions, comment, suggest edits, restore, export in various formats. Also, master tables and drawing for bonus points. Great starting point here.

  • Google Spreadsheets: Enter data, paste from web, format, do calculations and basic modeling, share with varying permissions, create basic charts. Here.

  • Trello / Asana or any project management tool: Create projects, create issues/tasks, set due dates, prioritize, assign, comment, have a workflow, generate reports. Here, or Here.

  • Slack / Hipchat / Skype or any group chat tool: Add a contact, send message, share files, search for messages, create-join-leave groups. Here.

Do share your tips, tricks, and expertise to expand this basic list.