How To Make More Effective Use of Your Office Productivity Software

This post is part of the series The Best Tools and Techniques for Winning at Business and Life

Google Apps for Business / Office 365 for Collaboration and Document Collaboration

Google: $5/user/mo | Microsoft: $13/user/mo

Every team needs a collaboration solution. Individuals can benefit from having a classy email address on a personalized domain. These service are both really good. Both Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Business work great. One will most likely stand out as better for your situation, so I recommend getting trial accounts for each and making your decision based on your own needs. Here are a few observations based on my experience with both solutions:

  • Exchange vs. Gmail. Gmail works really well in the cloud. Exchange and Outlook go really well together in offices on computers. With both products you get integrated presence information, including chat, voice and video and application sharing.
  • Exchange vs. Calendar. The same discussion plays out in the calendar category. Microsoft has a great product in the Outlook desktop client and Google has a great cloud-based product. Both work equally well for scheduling meetings with multiple people.
  • Document Creation. If you need to generate documents for print, presentation, and sharing outside your organization, Microsoft has a clear advantage. They’ve been doing this for longer and produce some really rich documents that are suitable for audiences of all types. In addition if you’re analyzing database data with spreadsheets and pivot tables, Excel stands head and shoulders above the rest. With that said, if you’re using Macs and want to create beautiful content I’d skip 365, use Google for email, and create gorgeous documents with Pages and Keynote. For Google’s part, they do simultaneous collaboration on documents better than anyone else.

My advice to you is to test them both and find the ecosystem that best compliments own.


Use tasks or reminders to help you remember to get things done. Set due dates on them. Set up categories or labels to help identify what area of your life they apply to. Actually do them – on time. You took the time to write them and give them due dates. If you don’t actually do what you write down you’re not making realistic goals, or you’re not really serious about succeeding. See the next section on mind mapping and goal setting for help with that.



Google Apps for Business

Microsoft Office 365 (NOTE: the $5.00/user/month version was not considered because it doesn’t offer the desktop apps mentioned in the guide)

Reminders and Tasks

You get a two-for-one benefit with this suggestion, because if you’ve followed the first advice in this guide, you already have the tools you need included with either Office 365 or Google Apps. Where the first section covered the what part of the equation, my recommendations in this section center on the how.


Sounds simple, but it’s very important. As mentioned in the mind mapping section, I recommend creating tasks and reminders to help you make sure you’ve done the things that are truly important to you. I recommend using the full capabilities of your software. Use reminders, due dates, start dates, categories and recurrence. Some very smart people wrote these applications. Learn how to use them and get the most effective bang for your productivity buck.


One of the big rocks I add into my week is a review of what I’ve done and plan for what I’ll do the following week. This space in the week gives me a chance to do a quick gut check, make sure I haven’t wandered off track from reaching goals. It also provides me with the mental space I need to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned, the wins from the week, as well as anything I think is super important to get right next week. During this time I make sure and write down a handful of things that, if I accomplish them, will make the next week a success. Get it right and I win. Get it wrong and I miss out big time. I’ve found that if I make as many things in my life as black-and-white as this decisions come easier and action happens more automatically.


The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Why I Recommend Weekly Review and Planning

5 Choices helps you with your productivity


Next Page: Capturing Meeting Action Items and Notes with OneNote

This post is part of the series The Best Tools and Techniques for Winning at Business and Life

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