An Efficiency Expert Hacks Google Docs
As a systems and efficiency expert, I’m often asked what my favorite tools are for organizing everything from meal plans to complex social media strategies.
And what a time to be alive, right? The list of digital tools and services at our disposal is endless.
I’ve tried nearly all of them, rely on many of them, and still find myself recommending the simplicity of Google Docs over and over.
If you you aren't quite sold on Google Docs for organizing your latest brain-storming session, thesis research, or trip itinerary, perhaps you haven't been introduced to some of Google Docs' best features! These are the ones that will change your life:
You know those colorful little paper flags you dutifully put in your favorite books? These are sorta like that, but digital and better. A Bookmark creates a reference point in your document that can then be hyperlinked to. When the user clicks on the link, they will be brought not just to the document but to that specific page/paragraph/word in the document. This is great for lengthy projects and also really helpful for things like guidebooks or tutorials. To get the link to a specific bookmark, click on it and press the copy button. You can now use that to send someone to that exact point in your document via text, chat, email, and so on. To add one: Insert > Bookmark.
These are another way that Google Docs can be far more powerful than most people realize. A Building Block is basically an optimized space for common tasks or embedding other documents, such as Meeting Notes or Progress Trackers. Insert > Building Blocks > pick one to insert!
The internet loooooves the way those dropdown menus appear in Notion (they are really having a moment over on #ProductivityTok), but Google Docs can do the same thing. Insert > Drop Down.
Live Word Count
If you are writing captions with a character limit or want to monitor your progress on a creative writing project, you might enjoy using Docs built-in Word Count feature, which you can pin down in the bottom left of your screen, so it's visible while you're working. Tools > Word Count > Check the box for "Display Word Count While Typing".
My favorite thing about storing all my information and research in Google Drive is that all of my files are searchable from the address bar in my Google Chrome Browser. That means when I'm surfing the web, and find an interesting restaurant to visit on my trip to Italy, all I need to do is open a new tab, start typing Italy, and my Italy Itinerary Google Doc will pop up as a top option. One click, and I'm adding the restaurant's info into my Doc.
Custom Page Colors and Fonts
You can easily customize the look of your Google Doc to meet your needs or preferences, including the default background color and fonts. Two of these can be found under File > Page Setup where you can alter the default background color and switch to a "Pageless" design that is a bit more modern. You can also add new fonts by going to the font drop-down and choosing "More Fonts" from the top of the list.
The ability to easily hyperlink throughout your document is another feature that makes Google Docs easy for organizing information. Highlight the text > Right Click > Insert Link > Paste the desired URL destination. You can also use the "@" shortcut to tag people, other documents or folders from your Google Drive.
All the marketing pros will tell you to "write the way you talk" in order to sound more authentic and casual when writing blog posts or newsletters. A trick that I've found helpful is using Google's voice dictation tool to talk and have my voice translated into text, and with it built right into Docs it's easier than ever. Tools > Voice Typing.
If your document uses headers and subtitles, Docs will automatically create an outline view that can help with navigation. It'll appear in a left sidebar. I love this when creating guides or tutorials, as it creates a "table of contents". View > Show Outline.
While I wish the Table features in Docs were a bit more powerful and could add numbers or support formulas the way Sheets does, it is still helpful to insert a table into documents when you are trying to organize information, such as a budget, itinerary, or meal plan. Insert > Table.