33 Obvious, “No-Duh” Ways to Increase Your Computer Productivity
“Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining.”
– Jef Raskin
Wasting work hours playing games online is not your style, but are you losing time because you’re not as organized, informed or efficient as you could be? Increasing your productivity on the computer can impress your job, help you to surpass your colleagues and generally make your day more enjoyable.
So if you consistently find yourself behind in daily tasks, use these tips to increase your computer productivity.
1. Support your back.
Use a chair that supports your lower back. Adequate lumbar support helps prevent muscle fatigue, which causes many people to lean their heads and upper backs too far forward or to slouch downward. With good lower back support, spinal muscles are relaxed and the spine is able to maintain its neutral position.
2. Comfortable leg postures.
To promote comfortable leg postures, consider clearing away items from your legs to allow comfortable leg positions and movement. Feet should be flat on the floor or you may use a footrest if your feet do not rest comfortably.
3. Minimize reaching.
Position work station components to minimize reaching and twisting. Keep frequently accessed objects as close as possible to body center.
4. Comfortable shoulder and arm postures.
Place your keyboard and mouse at the same height; these should be at about elbow level. Your upper arms should fall relaxed at your sides. Also when typing, center your keyboard in front of you with your mouse located close to it.
5. Wrist and finger postures.
Keep your wrists straight while typing and while using a mouse or trackball. Avoid bending your wrists up, down, or to the sides. Use the keyboard legs if they help you maintain a comfortable and straight wrist position. Type with your hands and wrists floating above the keyboard, so that you can use your whole arm to reach for distant keys instead of stretching your fingers.
Make sure you keep your fingers relaxed while typing and using a mouse. Use a soft touch on the keyboard instead of pounding keys with unnecessary force.
6. Minimize neck bending and twisting.
Center your monitor in front of you. Consider placing your documents directly in front of you and the monitor slightly to the side, if you refer to your documents more frequently than your monitor.
Sit comfortably in the chair. Close both eyes and relax. Then, slowly reopen them. Where the gaze initially focuses should be when the eyes open is the place to put the center of the computer screen. The screen can be raised using books or a stand if needed.
7. Minimize eyestrain.
Place your monitor at a distance of about arm’s length when seated comfortably in front of the monitor. Also avoid glare. Place your monitor away from light sources that produce glare, or use window blinds to control light levels. Don’t forget to adjust your monitor brightness, contrast, and font size to levels that are comfortable for you.
Throughout the day, give your eyes a break by forcing them to focus on something other than on your screen.
ADDRESS YOUR NEEDS
8. Use reliable hardware and software.
If you use your own personal notebook or desktop computer, make sure that you have purchased the most reliable hardware and software. A high-speed Internet connection, a large amount of memory, a fast processor and reliable software will ensure that you make the best use of your computer time.
9. Use automate updates.
This applies to virus checks, file backups and operating system enhancements. When you have to take three hours out of your day to deal with a virus or to defrag your hard drive, productivity goes down the toilet.
10. Be security conscious.
Never open a suspicious e-mail attachment even if it’s from someone you know. Viruses can infiltrate e-mail contact lists. Choose a strong password that no one will guess. ILPC4F (I like playing chess for fun) is a much better password than your birth date. Test your computer regularly for security vulnerabilities. Relying on a NetBIOS file-sharing port is like leaving your Ferrari unlocked with the keys in the ignition.
CUT CLUTTER AND GET ORGANIZED
11. Unclutter your desktop.
If you are always searching through five dozen icons on your desktop to find the program you need, you’re wasting valuable minutes of working computer time. Instead, try to make your desktop as intuitive as possible, with your most frequently-used programs in the upper right-hand corner. If you don’t use a program at all, remove the desktop icon completely; there’s no sense making your job more difficult.
12. Organize files immediately.
When you’re strapped for time and working on ten different projects at once, it can be temping to save new files into a “catch-all” folder that doesn’t ever get sorted. Instead, take an extra ten seconds to save new files in their appropriate folders. That way, you’ll be able to find them without continually using the search function.
13. Learn those shortcuts.
Use your shortcut keys and you’ll save time. It’s much faster to tap a combination of keys than to use your mouse and the infinite maze of menus that exists on most computers. If there are websites you access regularly, save them as favorites and sort them into headings for easy reference.
14. Centralize your information.
Create one spreadsheet with the information you need to access regularly. Program your calendar reminders in Outlook and maximize the use of technology.
15. Sort your e-mail.
Get a fresh start with your e-mail. Delete any old e-mails you no longer need and promise yourself not to hoard messages. Sort your inbox into descending order by date and stop wasting time scrolling through old messages to see the newest ones. Use the preview feature to quickly glance at messages before opening them. And store your e-mails in folders and subfolders, this way you won’t waste time searching for important information and you can delete messages in a block once a project has been completed.
16. Now turn it off.
If you always have your e-mail account open in one window, you’ll never get anything done. One of the best ways to increase computer productivity is to check your messages only at pre-determined intervals. For example, try doing this when you first sit down at your desk in the morning, then again when you take a break for lunch, and once more at the end of your work day. That way, you wont get distracted by e-mails when you’re trying to work.
17. Vary your daily activities.
Plan your work so that you are not doing the same thing for extended periods of time (such as performing the same activity or using the same part of your body). Also use different input devices, such as your mouse and keyboard, to accomplish the same task. For example, to perform a scrolling task, you can use the wheel on the mouse and the arrow keys on the keyboard.
18. Take microbreaks.
While working at the keyboard, try dropping your hands to your lap and exhaling every single minute. You have to let your shoulders, arms and hands curl down and dangle toward the floor. And after 1-2 seconds, bring your hands back to the keyboard and continue your work.
Remember that you can make the difference between discomfort and health just by taking a momentary interruption in muscle tension. Think of it as carrying a heavy object; if you set it down for just a second, your muscles relax and you’re able to continue carrying it.
19. Take some time off from work.
Stop right now. Stand up and move away from your computer. Well, read this article first, then do it. A simple thing like getting up from your chair and going to the bathroom can work miracles. Staring at a computer can often lead to brain-dead moments where the mind simply wanders off unconsciously. The idea is to avoid, or at least minimize, these extracurricular midday mental journeys. Going to the window and looking outside allows for a quick fix.
20. Take time for yourself; mediate or introspect.
Many studies suggest that performance can decrease by as much as 25% when people work an excess of 60 hours per week for prolonged periods of time. And as you can see this performance degradation can often negate almost all the benefits of the extra time spent at the office.
To prevent that, schedule some time for yourself. Take one hour on certain days to do an activity you truly enjoy. Work on a hobby, do some exercise, go for a walk, meditate and introspect, or read a book. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you enjoy it. These big breaks will help you renew your energy and concentration.
21. Eliminate aimless surfing.
Instead of surfing for information, download an RSS reader and hook up all your regular resources to it. It will do your research for you. Use a toolbar like Google’s Desktop Toolbar to do searches directly.
22. Just let the information come to you.
Whether you’re monitoring a developing news story, tracking scientific advances or getting the latest on a basketball team, sign up for Google Alerts. Keep current on your competitors and your industry by subscribing to e-mail newsletters to automatically receive information and news to your inbox.
23. Use those extensions.
Many applications offer extensions that can greatly improve your computer efficiency. For example, because the Firefox browser is open source, there are many cool extensions you can tack on to it. Adding a dictionary search will save you time. Highlight any text and automatically look it up in the online dictionary of your choice. Another Firefox extension, known as FlashGot, will equip your browser with a download manager to decrease download time.
BOOST YOUR EFFICIENCY
24. Create and use macros.
With a few adjustments and the old data deleted, your spreadsheet from last year’s product launch will work again for this year. Create macros for commonly used phrases in Word documents.
25. Create and use templates.
Writing the same e-mail to several people on the same subject? A mail merge will save you time. Create templates for frequent letters, reports and e-mail, and go ahead and cut and paste. Of course you should always proofread to ensure it sounds like your writing style, and include a sentence or two that personalize the letter or message.
26. Get to the point.
Be brief with your e-mail correspondence. E-mail doesn’t always have to be long. If you need to communicate a lot of information, send it as an attachment or a formal letter, not as a text e-mail. Stick to the subject. If you have three topics or questions, consider sending three separate e-mails so you can sort and file the replies under the appropriate project file.
27. Create portable productivity.
Carry important documents electronically on your USB memory stick or on a CD/DVD. Use your PDA properly. Read the manual to maximize the use of its programs. And if it would ultimately be faster to make a note by hand, use a small notepad until you can transfer the information into your desktop, laptop or PDA.
MANAGE YOUR BODY
28. Eat a nourishing breakfast.
Rise and shine! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. After 6 to 11 hours without eating, your body needs an energy boost.
So, it is very important to ‘break the fast’ from the night before. It provides your body and mind with the necessary energy and nutrients to start your day off right.
29. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily.
Through sweating, urinating, exhaling and bowel movements, most adults lose about 9-10 cups of fluid a day. And even a minor dehydration can cause serious problems, like impaired concentration, irritability, headaches and fatigue.
So, drinking more water everyday will help you think clearly. Also remember, research has repeatedly shown that staying hydrated is necessary for the human brain, which is 85 percent water, to function at optimal levels.
30. Avoid stimulants.
What many drugs do, in effect, is let you borrow energy from tomorrow. It works for a few days, but eventually you’ve borrowed over your limit, and you have to pay it back.
If I use coffee / Shark etc. to help me do more, I pay for it at some point. I’ll either get so mentally tired that I have to take a break, or I’ll hit the wall and get sick.
31. Exercise at least three times a week.
People often complain of being too tired to work out. But physical activity actually improves your capacity for work, so people who exercise on a regular basis actually have more energy, strength and endurance for daily activities than do their sedentary friends. That feeling of increased energy, and vitality is one of the benefits people tend to notice a few weeks after starting working out on a regular basis.
32. Sleep 6 to 8 hours per night.
A study from the University of Luebeck in Germany found that out of 106 people observed, those who obtained a full night’s rest were three times more likely than sleep-deprived subjects to perform well on cognitive tasks measuring memory, creativity, and problem-solving skills. This is due to the brain activity that occurs during certain segments of sleep.
33. Breathe effortlessly.
The moment we start typing, we tend to breathe more quickly and shallowly. This rapid, shallow breathing, predominately in the upper chest, may increase muscle tension in our neck and shoulders, can reduce our hand temperature and inhibit our body’s ability to regenerate. So, in order to encourage relaxation and regeneration, we have to breathe effortlessly.
During the day observe your own breathing pattern, and every time you catch yourself holding your breath, gasping or breathing shallowly, remind yourself to exhale very slowly and breathe in your abdomen. Then, as you exhale longer, continue to breathe very quietly while working at the computer.
Learning more about working comfortably and productively, as well as your overall health, are important ways to help you enjoy your computing experience. So, work at your peak and do your best each time you sit at your computer, and you’ll become a world-class keyboard athlete.
If you liked this article, please bookmark it on del.icio.us or vote for it on Digg. Thank you!