Archive: June 30, 2020

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.

Problem solving

Problem-solving

I saw a book on problem-solving in my daily email from BookBub and it struck a familiar note. Many moons ago when I was in college, we covered problem-solving in one of my classes. (And, yes, I actually remember a few things I learned in college!) The first step is identifying the problem. Sounds obvious but in the decades since, I have seen so many examples of people not clearly identifying the problem before they move on to the next step. They then waste loads of time spinning around and around. So, spend all the time you need on step one. Clearly identify the problem. It will save you time in the end.

With some experience starting with identifying the problem, you’ll be so far ahead of others, it will only do good things for your life and career. When I was in my 20’s I had a boss tell me I had creative common sense when he saw how I solved problems. That has stayed with me over the years, and I often see my #1 job as problem-solver.

On a side note, I would encourage you to visit BookBub.com. They curate great deals on books from several sources (Amazon, Apple, B&N, etc.). I have found plenty of interesting books for $2.99 or less (including free).