International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

While Charles Babbage is regarded as the inventor of the computer, we all know hardware is useless without software. Ada Lovelace saw the potential in the mechanical device and is regarded as the first programmer.

Grace Hopper was a pioneer in the 20th century in several areas related to computers and programming as well as one of the few female Rear Admirals in the Navy. I feel fortunate I learned about her in my early 20’s while she was still alive and continuing to break barriers.

A search of “pioneering women in technology” brings up plenty of articles on these women. One such article is “13 Famous Women Who Changed Tech History Forever.”

To learn about other pioneering women, both current and past, head on over to


Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. How diligent are you in securing all of your devices? Do you change your passwords? How secure are they? Are you using multi-factor authentication for logging into your accounts? I used to give a presentation on identity theft and started with an image of a lion chasing a gazelle. I said you don’t have to be the fastest gazelle; you just have to be faster than the slowest gazelle. And while that is still mostly true, you now have to be faster than a fair number of other gazelles.

First, realize you will be compromised at some point. Even if you are 100% locked down, companies you do business with can be compromised and expose your information. So, have a plan in place. Subscribing to a credit monitoring service is one thing you could consider. When you are compromised, contacting your credit card company is step one. Other ideas include contacting the credit reporting agencies and changing passwords (especially on any sites that have your credit card information). Look at how you were exposed and take steps to fix any issues it caused. Then, do what you can to prevent future issues.

Second, work on being faster than other gazelles. Follow all of your company’s security practices on all of your devices (even if they aren’t company owned, the IT people know what they’re doing, and their advice is sound). Use a firewall, anti-virus and anti-malware software programs (and set up routine scans). And yes, this is a good time to use a belt and suspenders – just make sure they don’t interfere with one another. Use secure passwords, change them on a regular basis, and use multi-factor authentication when available. I am so glad a few of the companies I use (banking, insurance, etc.) have switched to this. Now, instead of trying to remember all those answers I’ve given to challenge questions (and the capitalization I used), I can use my cell phone to get the authorization code after I’ve typed in my password.

For passwords, I suggest using a password manager like LastPass. The program will generate secure passwords for you and store them for future use on all of your devices. Then, the only password you need to remember is the one to that account. That password should be changed regularly. I change mine when I have to change my work login password. There are plenty of ways to help you remember a complicated password. I make sure mine are at least 16 characters long. I’m sure you’ve been told to use a combination of letters, numbers, and other characters. One way I do this is by substituting numbers and characters for letters. I often use a phrase and capitalize each word. So, for those of you who want to use “password” as your password, it would look like this: “P@55w0rd P@55w0rd.” (the period is part of the password; you can’t always use a space). Easy to remember and astronomically more secure. If you’re not using a password manager and have to create your own passwords, come up with variations on this theme. You can use phrases, song titles, book titles, or anything you’re likely to remember. Then, substitute numbers and special characters for some of the letters.

See my post Protect yourself from cyber-scams for managing downloads.

Here are some resources to learn more:

Federal government’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. Their tips page has plenty of ideas for the average user. And surprisingly since it’s a government article, it’s clear, concise, and thorough.

Wikipedia has an entry on Cyberattack that will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about cyberattacks (okay, more than I ever want to know – it’s just too depressing).

Just about any computer-oriented website will have more information for you. Decide how much you want to know and focus on learning to that level. The basics are the same and it just becomes a matter of how much depth you need or want to know.


Have the right tool for the job

In an earlier post I wrote about information management and the tools I use. This is an expansion of that. Simply put, have the right tool for what you’re trying to do. However, there’s a balancing act between having the appropriate tool and having so many programs you never really get good at any of them. For me, I have found the balance is easier if I find a program that can do multiple routine tasks.

First up, is Microsoft (Office) 365. Outlook obviously handles email. But it does so much more. And, most features like color coding, flag for follow-up, insert files, and more work in all modules. So, you can spend time learning all the ways you can flag for follow-up and it will work with email messages, contact records, calendar items, and tasks (and yes, I agree all those reminders do get annoying). You can link a calendar item to a contact record. Your flagged email messages show up in your tasks list. I’m sure I’ll have more posts that expand on this application.

So take some time and explore those features. I’m sure you’ll find useful ideas. The good news is since the different parts of the program all work alike (color-coding, flags, prioritize, etc.) so time learning a feature pays off in a big way. And that’s the balance I mentioned. One program you learn really well can do multiple things.

Just about everyone uses Word and Excel. While Word is pretty straight-forward, Excel offers some versatility to accomplish a few different things. I’ve written about some of the ways I use Excel in the last post. Time learning these applications is well spent. And, since many of the features are in all of the applications, you get extra value learning them.

Also part of the Microsoft (Office) 365 suite is OneNote. I use it extensively. I have my task lists (ongoing, project-focused, brain dump, etc.), information I need to keep (style sheets, resources, and notes on a topic like COVID-19), and reference material (notes I’ve taken in webinars and articles I’ve found). So, lots of information, one tool to manage it.

Next up is Snag-It by TechSmith. They call it a screen capture tool and it certainly is that. It has plenty of features that take screen capture as far as you could want it to go. And, they constantly improve it. The part that makes me happiest is the Editor software that comes with it. While I have high-end graphics programs, this Editor is my go-to for 95% of what I need to do with images. Not just the screen captures, but any image. I use it to add borders and shading to photos, change colors on graphics, and a few other things. Every image I’ve used in these posts was edited in Snag-It. It’s so easy to learn and use. With the broad selection of features in this duo, it is right behind Outlook for most bang for the buck ($49.99 with a 30-day free trial period). The image on this post is the Snag-It program.

The last program that gets opened every morning when I start my day is The Brain. I use it for so many things I don’t know where to begin. My suggestion is go to their website and explore. It’s so much fun!

That’s my list of go-to applications. Look at the tasks you have and find your balance.

Spreadsheet worksheets

Fewer spreadsheets, more worksheets

A friend of mine is a professional organizer (who would be appalled at my office!) and she once told me that no more files than will fit on a screen is the ideal number to have in any given folder.

With that thought in mind, I found it so much easier to find spreadsheets if there are a limited number to search through. So I use fewer spreadsheets with more worksheets in each. For example, I have one file with lots of sheets for miscellaneous financial information. This includes credit card processing costs, insurance policies and their costs, business loans, staff pay rates and benefits, and just about anything else that needs just one or two sheets. This came in handy when I needed to create a sheet for our COVID-19 PPP loan information. I just added it to my miscellaneous financial spreadsheet. No muss, no fuss.

I have another spreadsheet for all of our clinical supplies. One sheet is a form the assistant can give me when she needs me to place an order. One sheet has all of the vendors we use along with websites, phone numbers, account numbers, etc. Another sheet has information on our handpieces with serial numbers, date purchased, repair history, etc.

You get the idea. Fewer files to find (or pin to my File Open list). And, while much of the information is number-oriented, not all of it is. And, it doesn’t have to be. It’s not information I need to format extensively or is even likely to be printed. And, what isn’t numbers is typically some kind of list or checklist so keeping like information together has the greatest value for me.

There’s plenty you can do to make those worksheets more usable for you. As you can see from the above image, you can color code them. You can also reorder them, rename them, insert new ones, move or copy one to the existing spreadsheet or to a different spreadsheet, and more. And, how are you going to find out all you can do, you may ask. Just remember, when in doubt, right-click.

quick tip - outlook

Get your email message read

Even after all these years of email, it seems like people assume others are just waiting at their computer with bated breath for their message. Surprise, they’re not. I get at least 50 messages a day. Others get hundreds. If you want your message noticed and read, be clear in the subject. Let the recipient know what it’s about and why they should care. Sometimes, I use the subject as the entire message. The sales mantra of WIIFM applies…what’s in it for me. Answer that question and your messages will get read. Just be sure and deliver on that promise.

On a related note, if you’re changing a topic in an email thread, start a new thread with a clear subject. It will make it much easier for everyone to find that information again.

cyber security

Protect yourself from cyber-scams

Back in the dark ages before cellphones, I used a simple strategy for dealing with phone scams. My mantra was “I never discuss anything financial if I haven’t initiated the phone call.” It served me really well.

Then, when email came along, I applied my mantra to that as well. And, obviously, to cellphone calls. While I did once click on a bad attachment (yes, only once, although I’ve probably jinxed myself now), I learned the lesson of not trusting attachments of any kind.

Now, I scan every file before I open it. And, even then I don’t download it at all unless I was expecting it or the email message made it perfectly clear why I was getting it and what it contained. From a known source, of course.

Just in case you need a reminder on how to scan a file, you can follow one of my favorite rules…when in doubt, right-click. Assuming you have some kind of antivirus installed (if you don’t, get one!), you can right-click on the file in File Manager and Scan with… should be an option. That’s all there is to it.

“But,” you might say, “the file on the website just opens when I click it.” To which I say… “when in doubt, right-click.” If you right-click on a file on a website, like the one below, you will get options to open it or Save Link As…

For those of you who love infographics, here are a couple from Terranova Security specifically about the rise of COVID-19 scams and how to deal with them (and yes, you should scan this before opening it).

Enter first, format later

This is just a tip from my experience — it saves time and effort. When writing, type in the text and edit before you begin formatting. Once you start formatting, you can get carried away making everything look just right. If you haven’t finished writing, you may run out of time and have to rush through it.

The Brain software

Information management

We all have so much information coming at us all day long! How do we manage to keep up with it? For me, I have a variety of tools. Probably too many, but I find different tools make it easiest to manage different information and engages different parts of my brain.

Obviously, practice management software (for us, that’s Endovision) is where everything patient-related goes. Our software has a call list, letter templates, and other features that allow us to manage the administrative side of patient care.

Microsoft Outlook is the next major application. Just being able to color code and flag messages helps keep up with them. I love, love, love using the notes for all those little bits of information that I have no idea where else to keep. Books I want to read. Restaurants near me that deliver. Just about anything can go in a note. I’ll usually move it to another program if it gets to be more than a few sentences.

Next up is Microsoft OneNote. This is so great at keeping up with all the information that’s too long for a note in Outlook. I also use it to maintain my ongoing to-do lists for all the different hats I wear. I have bunches of articles and webinar/seminar notes. It’s set up like you would a paper 3 ring binder notebook. It makes it easy for me to organize things and the search feature adds another level of ability to find what I need. Evernote is a similar program that a lot of people prefer. Since OneNote is part of the Office suite, there is no additional cost. OneNote, like Evernote, is in the cloud, so I have access on any device and it stays synced.

While spreadsheets are designed for numbers, I find them useful for keeping up with a wide range of information. For example, I use Microsoft Excel to track all of our clinical supplies and suppliers, including handpiece repair history. I love that I can have one file on an area (like staff checklists) and have different worksheets within that file. So much easier to keep up with information. When I look for something in file manager, I’m not bombarded with 50 files. I have a few spreadsheets each having lots of worksheets. I’ve expanded on this idea in the post Fewer spreadsheets, more worksheets.

Finally, I have two programs most people wouldn’t guess to use. First, is MindManager for mindmapping. I’m a very visual person so when I’m starting a new project, I find it helpful to create a mindmap so I can “see” how all the pieces can fit together. It has a very robust notes feature so the mindmap only needs a few words for each topic. The second is The Brain. It is so awesome! The image above is a screenshot of my Brain. I put so much in here I don’t know where to begin. So, I’ll suggest you go to their site and explore. It’s so much fun to use, I even created a Brain for root canals!

Know how to find out

You don’t have to know…

You have to know how to find out.

I had a management class when I was in college. The professor made this point and it has stuck with me all these years. It applies in so many circumstances. You don’t have to know…so liberating! Just know how to find out.

When it comes to software, there is no way anyone is going to learn everything they need to know in any training class, online or in a classroom. I trained thousands over the 18 years I did training and I always stressed this point. I told them they’re not going to remember everything I taught them. However, I always tried to show them how to find out when they were ready for a feature.

The first thing is to become familiar with what features there are. Don’t worry about how to do something, just that it can be done. That’s one of the reasons I suggest scanning the ribbons and menus of programs. Something may not make sense now, but when it’s needed, you have a better chance of knowing it exists. For example, in a scan of the Excel ribbons you may notice Conditional Formatting. It will take a little effort to learn how to do it, but you’ll know it exists.

Then, when you need that feature, you’ll know how to find out how to do it. That means learning how to use the help system. That can be the hardest skill to learn sometimes. And, while I’ve heard plenty of griping about the Microsoft help systems, trust me when I say they are sooooo much better than other programs. The main program we use in our dental practice has a help system that is simply a bunch of screenshots with little or no context. And, if I don’t type the exact word or phrase, I get zero help.

I think I can write about this concept endlessly. It just applies to so much. I’m sure I’ll find more opportunities to wax eloquent. In the meantime, try it on for size. It can be quite liberating.

quick tip - excel

Number, not number

Since Excel is designed to work with numbers, it assumes everything is a number, or a not-number. Formatting and calculating are much easier if you remember this. You can calculate on dates so those are numbers. You can’t calculate on a word so that’s a not-number. If you’re frustrated trying to get the formatting right, figure out what Excel thinks you’re formatting. If you want to treat a number as a not-number, put an apostrophe in front of the content of the cell (for example, a product number that you would not use in a calculation would be entered as ‘123).

A simple way to know what Excel thinks you’ve entered is to look at the alignment (assuming you haven’t changed it from the default). If it’s left-aligned, it’s a not-number. If it’s right-aligned, it’s a number.