Inform – errr what?

So, if Act is what you get paid for, Inform is learning how to do what you get paid for… better. To use the old adage, this is about ‘sharpening the saw’. Let me give you a simple, but perhaps surprising example.

I recently made a presentation of the AIR concept to a group of PAs. These are people whose job involves a lot (and they were adamant it was a lot!) of writing reports and so on. Each of those reports had Titles, sub titles, headings and sub headings. Some even had sub-sub headings. To format each of these, just about everyone in the room told me that they way they created these was to:

  1. click and drag to select the text that was to be come the text (or heading, or sub heading, or …)
  2. embolden it
  3. increase its font size
  4. centre justify (or similar)

… and they guessed it took them maybe up to 30 seconds a time to do this to get it just right. For a report with a bit of complexity, that can total up to an hour, just spent faffing about (great word, faffing), even assuming there were cock-ups in the process.

And heaven help you if someone changed their mind about how a sub-sub-heading should look!

The correct way of doing this, as I’m sure you know, is:

  1. triple click to select the text
  2. click styles
  3. select ‘Heading’.

All in all it takes about five or six seconds. Even if we pretend it takes a full ten seconds it’s not hard to see how quickly even something as trivial as this can start to save time. Learning how to do this took me about five minutes to get the vague idea and another ten to really, truly master it. By my quick-and-dirty calculations, investing the 15 minutes to learn about this trick (and a couple of others I picked up along the way) started to pay back for itself after a bit less than two weeks.

Admittedly it was an unusual couple of weeks, and also admittedly you might not have the same sort of job as me, but I think the point is pretty well made.

Inform is the time you set aside to do things like learn how to use the styles sheet in Microsoft Word. It’s easy. What’s not so easy is the mental self-discipline you need to make sure you do that and don’t just get carried along on the work, work, work treadmill!


Act is the first part of a three-part system. Check out Inform and Restore.