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7 amazing methods for Methodists

By Darby Jones

Try saying “amazing methods for Methodists” five times fast. It’s hard, but I’m sure you will find a way. You’ll break it down into steps and train your tongue to slowly say each syllable until you build up speed. Or maybe your technique is to sing the words, so there’s a rhythm that makes the syllable soup easier to say. Before long, you’ll sound like an auctioneer peddling best practices for United Methodists. Hey, that’s pretty much my job! MyCom is in the business of sharing ideas. We may recommend an excellent resource for minimal cost, but, because we know you’re on a budget, you’ll only be investing time. And since that’s pretty valuable, let’s jump right in.

Continual learning provides your church with more options to serve the Lord. Here are some of the most efficient computer systems doing those pesky computer-based chores. Optimizing these tasks means more time to do the most important work for saving souls for love and glory.

We’ll start with systems that you can use immediately and work up to systems that are a little more complex. You might want to take notes and bookmark links for later reading.

If you don’t like computers, then these tips will:

  • Make computers easier to use, and
  • Help you spend LESS TIME ON COMPUTERS!

1. Basic time-saving computer shortcuts

Shortcuts work in almost every computer program and internet browser. Print off all these shortcuts now and tape them to your monitor. If you use a Mac, you can Google “keyboard shortcuts for Mac” and find the equivalents.

Ctrl + FFind a word or string of text in almost any program. If you’re looking for one topic inside a giant web page, document or application, use this shortcut to skip to the exact location. Find what you’re looking for. Forget the rest.

Ctrl + K – Insert a hyperlink into a word or string of text. You can paste entire URLs into your email until it looks like letter salad, or you can clean it up and create better links that embed the URL into relevant words. In Microsoft Word or any other text editor, you may be used to looking for the “Insert Hyperlink” icon or going through the menu to accomplish the same thing. Skip that. Just remember this shortcut.

Arranging/Navigating Windows

  • Window Key + Any of the four arrows – This splits windows exactly in half and arranges them in different quadrants on your screen. Try it now. See what happens. “Wheeeee.” It’s fun!
  • Window Key + Shift + Arrow – Move one window to another monitor. So helpful.
  • Window Key + D – Minimize all windows in one step so you can easily find your desktop. Yay!
  • Alt + Tab – Alternate between the last two windows you have used — great for data entry or copy/paste tasks between programs.

Moving cursor quickly
Use shortcuts to quickly edit text and spend less time wrangling your mouse. Practice them now in any text editor to see how easy it is.

  • Ctrl + arrow – Skip to the next word.
  • Home/End – Skip to beginning/end of line
  • Ctrl + Home/End – Skip to beginning/end of document — works in web pages, too!

Highlighting text quickly
These are the same shortcuts as above, except the shift button is added. Give it a try.

  • Ctrl + Shift + arrow – Highlight one word
  • Shift + Home/End – Highlight the beginning or end of a line
  • Ctrl + Shift + Home/End – Highlight the beginning or end of a document

2. Outlook’s “From,” “To” and “Has Attachments” filters

These filters allow you to easily search for and find specific emails. Before my Outlook epiphany, I would enter keywords in the search box and wade through a sea of irrelevant emails before finding what I wanted. If you’re searching your inbox, click the “From” icon and type the name of the person the email is from. As you type, Outlook drains the sea until it becomes a small river of emails from one person. Next, in the search box, place your cursor outside the “From” filter’s parenthesis with the aforementioned name inside and start typing a keyword unique to the email of interest. Outlook now drains the small river until a little creek of specific emails from one person remains. If your keyword is completely unique, you’ll be staring at one lone little fish flopping about. You caught it! Feel free to add Outlook Angler to your resume.

If you’re searching in the “Sent” folder, it’s the same process, except click the “To” filter and type the name of the person for whom you sent a particular email.
If you know a certain email in your inbox or sent folder has an attachment, then click on the “Has Attachments” filter and, voila: Outlook narrows the results down even further.

3. Mice

That’s right. Mice are my little friends. They cut my workload in half. I used to have what my doctor called “computer back,” which was pretty debilitating. She prescribed putting my mouse on the other side of the keyboard and use my other hand to give the inflamed side of my body a break. This one single step relieved the pain and quickly allowed my right shoulder to heal.

I thought I’d be horrible wielding a mouse with my weaker hand, but amazingly, I became ambidextrous rather quickly. The brain is quick at adapting when it needs to. However, moving one mouse back and forth was a waste of time and broke my concentration, so I just plugged another mouse into a USB port and the problem was solved. So, give mice a try. It’ll cut both time and pain out of your life.

4. Clipboard managers

There are a lot of programs out there, but Ditto is a great option. It’s a simple clipboard manager that doesn’t have a character limit and can store many more copied entries than standard clipboard managers allow. It’s easy to use and has a ton of extra features that you can ignore if you want to keep things simple or explore for more time-saving techniques. Learn more about Ditto.

5. Shortcuts for frequently used text snippets

Texter turns abbreviations into frequently-used snippets of text. For example, you can type an abbreviation like “let,” then press a pre-designated trigger key (tab, enter or space bar) and then Texter magically turns “let” into “Let me know.” It appears instantly, saving you from typing eight characters.

Think about common responses or information you input in forms. It only takes a second to type the abbreviation and the trigger key and the program populates these large portions of text for you. “He” could render Home Email. “We” could render Work Email. “Ha” could be Home Address.

Create shortcuts, or “hot strings” as Texter calls it, for entire emails or letters that you often repeat. If you send the same “Thank You Donation Email,” your hot string could be “TYD.”
My favorite feature is a little stats tab that tells you how much time Texter has saved you from unnecessary typing. Currently, I’ve saved 54 hours and it just keeps on ticking.
Lifehacker has a great Texter tutorial with other ideas and more features. The possibilities are endless.

6. One password to rule them all

Password managers like LastPass make it possible to only have to remember one password … forever. They have plugins to your browser that fill in login information so you do not have to remember every unique password. It also goes a step above Texter and fills out entire forms at the click of a button. You can create several “form fill” profiles and begin filling out forms for family members. Spend a little time setting it up and it saves hours, days, even weeks of your life in the long run. You also can store login information for relatives, which makes managing their online activity much easier.

If you decide to use a password manager, it’s important to protect your information. Fortunately, most programs like LastPass use the same (if not better) encryption technology that many online banks use. However, you will need to set up some security features yourself. These articles provide the information and teach the protective measures to put your mind at ease:

7. Online forms

Church leaders can use online forms to save paper and optimize:

  • New-visitor cards
  • Surveys
  • Volunteering for various ministries
  • Sign-ups for nursery duty
  • Childcare registration
  • Prayer-request forms
  • Contact forms

There are many more examples.

Free services like Google Forms and Wufoo make it easier than ever to whip up a form and start gathering data. Wufoo includes customizable templates for three common church forms:

Before you jump in, figure out how your users will need to interact with church forms. If you need payment processing for events, you may need something a little more robust. Come up with all your technical requirements and do a side-by-side comparison of several form services to see what will meet your needs. Here’s an article dedicated to online forms, so jump in and start learning.

Let us know of other systems that help your church optimize computer tasks. And if you liked this article, look out for the next MyCom issue. We’ll cover 7 systems to help with pastoral care and managing church staff.