How can you dramatically increase productivity on computers? Not having enough time is one of the biggest complaints of white-collar employees and often leads to lots of issues including work-life imbalance.
Increase Computer Productivity
It is entirely possible that your boss loads you with more work than what is humanly possible (in which case you should start working on your resume). But it is also possible that you are losing valuable time without even realizing the same. This post recommends 10 tips that will help you save time.
1. Stop wasting time on your favorite sites
Everyone loves to read few websites (news, blogs, gossip, etc) every day and spend time on social networking sites. Many times this can become addictive and consume a lot of our time even without our realization. It’s important to read what we like but at the same time, we should also honor time. The best way to do this is to install tools like LeechBlock (Add-on for Firefox) and StayFocused (Add-on for Chrome). These add-ons let you set up a list of “time-wasting” websites and force you to stop using them (by blocking them) after some time (as set up by you). I have personally gained at least 30min or more every day by using LeechBlock to block Techcrunch and Ycombinator after 15 minutes of usage. Also, try this Chrome extension that will block out your favorite social media sites after some time.
2. Use a fast and clutter-free OS and Browser
If you are a software professional or a geek who spends most of his or her time in front of the computer, you need to get a good system. There is no point in having a slow computer bugged with viruses or malware which hangs often. If you are using Windows Vista, I would suggest you downgrade to Windows XP or upgrade to Windows 7. Also, uninstall all the unnecessary programs that you don’t need. Install a good lightweight antivirus like Avast or Kaspersky or Microsoft Security Essentials and keep your system clean. Get a Linux machine, if you love it (without loving it too much). If you are still stuck with Internet Explorer, dump it. Move on to Google Chrome or Firefox (Chrome is better). It does not hang often and has an effective auto-fill form feature which comes very handy.
3. Use a faster internet connection
As internet connections become faster, web pages are becoming bulkier as well. A lot of time gets wasted while waiting for pages to load, especially if you are on a slow connection. The time for a single page may not look significant but it tends to add up over 100’s of pages. The worst thing about a slow connection is that it tends to break your concentration. Get a faster connection if your budget permits or else you can make your existing internet connection work faster by following simple suggestions like using OpenDNS, Anti-virus or a proper wireless router.
4. Take a 5 min break after every 90 minutes
The human brain cannot concentrate for more than 90 minutes after which the attention span reduces. It is important to take a 5 to 10-minute break after every 90 min. You can go have a 5 min walk or just stand up and stretch. It’s preferable if you can go out-door or stand (and stretch) near the window or in the balcony with the outside view to relax your eyes as well.
5. If you are using multiple emails then configure them on the same client
Many times a person needs to monitor multiple emails for his personal and professional work. It is cumbersome and time-consuming to open and track them in separate email services or clients. It really helps if you can configure them in one email client (Thunderbird or Outlook) or in one Gmail account where you can use the ‘Reply As’ feature to reply to any email id you want.
6. Become offline (or make your status as busy) in IM for 3 most productive hours
One of the biggest distractions is Instant Messenger. While it is one of the easiest and most effective tools for quick communication in a collaborative workplace, it also is a big distraction. Pings (or IMs) become a frequent interruption in your work. It is best if you become offline or make your status as busy for the 3 most productive hours of your day. This way you will be able to concentrate on your work for those 3 hours and finish your major work for the day without any interruption. Slowly people around you will also realize that you are unavailable for those 3 hours daily and they will not mind you being offline (as far as you are available for the remaining part of your workday).
7. Use task list software. Paper and Pen also works fine
It really helps to have your tasks listed somewhere so that you can keep closing them. At the same time, you should also not go into too many details. Your task list software/tracking should be easy to use or follow. While pen and paper work fine, if you are a computer professional and work on your system for the whole day, I would suggest that you can use Workflowy for your task list and Evernote for note-taking. Both of these work really well and are very easy to use. They can make a marked improvement in your daily productivity.
8. Talk to people over Skype or phone instead of messaging
Instant messaging is good for very objective quick discussions or questions and responses. But if you have to discuss some topic or seek opinion IM can really eat up time as both sides have to write and read. In such a scenario, it is best to have a voice discussion. Use Skype for the same if possible or use your office phone for such discussions. You will realize that what takes 15 minutes on IM, can be done in no more than 5 minutes on the phone or Skype.
9. Don’t keep checking your emails every 10 minutes
If you have an urge to check your mailbox for new mails every 5 to 10 minutes, you are not alone. This is one of the biggest time guzzlers of your workday. I would suggest that you open your mailbox only once in an hour, check the mails, and reply as required, quickly (should not spend more than 15 minutes on this), and close your mailbox. This way you might just end up saving around 30 minutes in a day.
10. Use RSS Feed Reader to read daily blogs and online magazines
If you read lots of blogs and online magazines every day for your interest or professional knowledge, you should use RSS Feed Reader like Google Reader (Online) or FeedDemon (Desktop Client). This pulls in all the stories from all your popular blogs and shows you the headlines you need. You can then skim through the headlines and decide what to read. This way you can quickly go over many more articles than what you would have read by visiting individual websites.
This is a guest post by Sulakshan who blogs at BinaryDay.com. You can also write guest posts here.