Blogger series graphic showing a woman and a baby.

One of the many reasons I work for Microsoft is our fundamental belief that AI augments human capabilities, rather than replacing them. I’m not technical in any sense of the word. When I hear Java I think coffee, not coding. I do recognise that AI is already infused into the products I use every day and enhances my capabilities as a result. With a busy work and home life to balance, AI helps me manage my time more effectively. I can communicate more clearly. It also helps me improve my skills with using tools like PowerPoint.

Here are a few ways that I use AI every day to be better.

1. Make presentations pop with minimal effort

“PowerPoint slides are like children; no matter how ugly they are, you’ll think they’re beautiful if they’re yours,” – Scott Adams, ‘The Joy of Work’

If, like me, you end up delivering quite a few presentations but lack inspiration at times, here are a few easy tips to make you look like a PowerPoint pro. Firstly, there are some great plug-ins you can use for royalty-free stock images. Pexels and Pickit are two that I regularly use and they provide a fantastic range of images. Once you’ve added some images to your slide, click the ‘Design Ideas button under the ‘Design’ ribbon. It will give you some excellent suggestions for how your slide could be laid out for maximum visual impact.

‘Design Ideas’ is powered by AI. It understands the focus of each image and makes appropriate recommendations for how they should be arranged on the slide in seconds. Much easier than faffing around yourself!

‘Design Ideas’ is powered by AI. It understands the focus of each image and makes appropriate recommendations for how they should be arranged on the slide in seconds. Much easier than faffing around yourself!

Link to video on how to use Design Ideas

2. Recycle slides to reduce workload

When I first joined Microsoft, I was surprised by the sheer volume of PowerPoint presentations everyone had. Over the years I’ve adopted the practice of having a walking deck for each of my projects. I often re-use slides, however. This meant opening various decks and copying slides into new decks. But not anymore, thanks to AI. Now I simply click on the Reuse Slides button in the ‘Home’ ribbon. The AI knows which presentations I’ve been working on recently, brings them up on a side panel. I then can simply select which slide I want from the various presentations and insert it with a click of a button. Easy.

3. Never forget another thing

An example of setting a reminder in Cortana.

Between managing my day job and remembering which day my son needs his PE kit, I’ll admit that I sometimes forget things – much to my frustration. Integrity is one of my core values, so when I let someone down, I feel terrible. AI helps me avoid that. Shared a presentation in a meeting? Outlook now prompts you to see if you want to share the presentation as a follow-up.

Even better, if you refer to an attachment in an email but haven’t attached anything, an alert pops up reminding you that you may have forgotten to attach something. No more repeat emails with ‘oops, I forgot to actually attach this’. Genius.

I also love Cortana. She helps me remember truly mundane things like picking up bread from the supermarket or putting out the bins on a Monday night. The reminders are contextual, so she knows when I’m at the shops and reminds me. She also works across my Windows 10 laptop and Android phone.

Gif of MyAnalytics

4. Manage your precious time

We all have the same 24 hours, whether you’re a CEO or a stay-at-home mum. It’s our choice to decide how we use those precious hours. I use a handy little tool called MyAnalytics to help me manage that time and, more importantly, protect it. Microsoft has a culture of meetings, and while that’s great for collaboration, at times you just need to get your head down. MyAnalytics uses AI to help me understand how I’m using my time and makes suggestions for using that time more effectively.

For example, if I’m emailing during meetings, do I really need to be there? It highlights who I’m spending time with so I can see if I’m spending too much time with colleagues, and not enough time with customers. Slots in my diary are identified and can be blocked out for focus time. It also flags if I’m working outside office hours to help me maintain a positive work-life balance.

5. Find the insights you need, fast

Nowadays most businesses rely on data in some shape or form, but data alone isn’t that helpful. It’s the insights you can extract from that data that helps businesses make better decisions, based on fact instead of opinion.

I predominantly work with small businesses where cash flow is key to survival. It’s vital for them to have insights at the tips of their fingers, like profitable customers. Many of the customers I meet use Xero to manage their accounts and it provides incredible data.

However, turning that data into actionable insights without resorting to speaking to a bookkeeper or accountant is important if they want to save time and money. Using a free service like PowerBI can help. It can help visualise data and bring it to life.

It also uses AI to help you query data, so you get the insights you need as fast as you can type! For example, if I connect PowerBI to my Xero account (very easy instructions here), I can ask PowerBI to show me all my overdue invoices by customer, so I can easily chase up those payments. I simply type “show my overdue invoices by customer”. By using natural language processing, it understands I want to see overdue invoices and that I want to see that data by customer. It then searches all my unstructured data and only shows me what I want to see.

Get back your time

As someone who really values time with my family, I use the tools mentioned above every day. They help me get more done during my working hours. This means I don’t miss school pick-up times or have to work late into the evenings. Whilst you may not have been aware of it, core products that you use daily already have AI infused into them to help you connect better with others, get more done and improve your decision making. I, for one, am wholly up for that.

Learn more about how you can achieve more with technology

About the authorAlison Wright

As Customer Programme Manager, Alison Wright is responsible for helping high growth businesses and start-ups get the most out of their Microsoft technologies. However, she considers her most important role to be a mother to her son. As a result, Alison is passionate about helping working parents use technology to be more effective in their day jobs, so they can achieve that all-important work-life balance.