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For years, I’ve felt that there was something missing in books about using technology effectively—both those I read and those I’ve written. From books and workshops on management and personal development, I learned a great deal about principles and practices, but not how to implement them using the technology tools that I love. From computer books and classes, I learned how to use a host of different applications, but not what to do or why. It always seemed to me that the effective knowledge worker needed to start with basic principles and practices and then use technology to systematize and automate them.

In this book, I’ve made an attempt to integrate these two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that together allow us to accomplish work productively and efficiently. For instance, in the section on organizing your day, you’ll find a discussion of the “big rocks” principle, practical suggestions for how to do a weekly prioritization, and specific techniques for how to put this into practice using Microsoft Outlook.

Who This Book Is For

This book is written for knowledge workers who use computers in their daily work and who want to become more effective at using technology to increase their efficiency and productivity.

Knowledge workers, for our purposes, are broadly defined as people who spend a significant part of their daily routine working with data and information. Many of them add value to their organizations by creating new knowledge or intellectual capital; others are consumers of knowledge products and use that knowledge to increase sales or create client deliverables. If this sounds pretty universal, it is, and that’s a reflection of how today we are in an information economy, and our workforce is increasingly technology enabled.

This book is for average folks who use their computers for a number of varied tasks. In my experience, most people use their computers habitually: They find one way to do a task that works, and then they repeat it until it’s a habit. It may not have been the most efficient way when they came upon it, and new techniques may be incorporated in new software versions, but they “sing loudest the words they know.” As a result, you’ll find a range of techniques in this book—from some that are new to you to others that seem extremely simple. They are all chosen because, in my experience as a trainer and consultant, they represent techniques that many people could benefit by starting to use.

In addition, this book is not for specialists. If you spend your days doing financial forecasts and industry trend analyses using complex Microsoft Excel workbooks with formulas that take five minutes to calculate, the chapter on forecasting trends isn’t for you! However, this book does provide the basic information that non-specialists need to get their work done, as well as pointers to resources you can use for further information.

This book was written using Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Office XP, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0. Users of other versions of the software may find differences in the details of the procedures, but the central concepts will prove valuable nonetheless. In addition, other applications, Web sites, Web services, and companies referred to in this book will change over time, so I ask your indulgence in advance if a listed resource is no longer available. To partially account for this, you will find search terms that you can use to find the latest resources in particular areas throughout the book.

About This Book

This book is divided into four sections. Each one addresses one of the main activities of knowledge workers:

  • Finding Information

  • Organizing Information

  • Creating Knowledge

  • Sharing Knowledge

Within each section, you’ll find chapters organized by the types of tasks people need to do. So, for example, in the section on organizing information, you’ll find chapters on organizing your day, your files, your e-mail, and your mobile tools. Each chapter may concentrate on one application or may have information on many, as knowledge workers are increasingly task-centric rather than tool-centric.

As today’s workers are increasingly connected to the Internet with persistent, broadband connections, and because they often must be able to work from anywhere, at any time, an emphasis has been placed on Web-based tools. While there is certainly a Microsoft focus to the book (check out the publisher!), I have had the liberty of discussing best-of-class tools and Web services in my writing, and I have taken advantage of it throughout the book.

Conventions Used in This Book

The formatting of this book is designed to help you identify practices and learn techniques quickly and easily.

Procedures are specified using the simplest or easiest-to-understand command sequences and are not meant to cover all the alternative ways to invoke commands. The names of dialog boxes and commands are in initial caps (whether or not they appear this way on the screen), and text you type is in bold.

Screen shots are provided throughout the book to give you a sense of what you will see when you use various features of the software and Web sites discussed. However, you should realize that in this digital world, nothing (including screens) stays the same! The ability to update your software with a few mouse clicks, the changing nature of Web sites, and the ability to configure the appearance of applications on your desktop virtually guarantees that sometimes the screen you see will differ from the screens in the book.

Several elements are used in this book to help you quickly scan through its pages and get the content you need.

  • Tips provide shortcuts or recommendations for how best to use an application.

  • Cautions provide warnings about common mistakes to avoid or limitations in the application you should be aware of.

  • Notes provide short additional items of information that amplify material presented in the text.

  • Sidebars provide more in-depth information that may be of interest to particular readers.

  • Each chapter ends with a practical checklist of skills that will help you assess where you might want to go for further information.

Each time you pick up this book, I hope you’ll take note of one or two techniques you can try today. I believe that you’ll soon find that your investment of time is well repaid by your improvement in productivity, efficiency, and the quality of work you do.

Editor’s Note to Second Edition

This second edition of Bill Bruck’s Taming the Information Tsunami includes three new appendices that offer security-related and privacy-related information on Microsoft Office XP, Microsoft Windows 2000, and Internet Explorer 6—the three applications on which the book focuses. With explanatory text and step-by-step instructions, these appendices help you better understand security issues and potential threats, which in turn allows you to protect your documents, operating system, and hardware more effectively. In addition, Appendix C provides useful information for Windows 2000 system administrators. These appendices were originally published as individual documents on Microsoft TechNet, but by bringing them together here, we provide the security information most relevant to you, the knowledge worker

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