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Tech Savvy for Sept. 10, 2009

Getting things done on the computer

by Dan Harper

    While having lunch with a client after fixing her computer, I was asked by a young lady “How do you get anything done on these [expletive deleted] things?” She explained she had tons of work to do by the end of the week.  It was Friday and the computer′s breakdown had killed her morning.  She′d have to work overtime, canceling a date with her fiance… again.  This week′s Tech Savvy is about getting things done quickly and efficiently.

    Time savers are important when you do work on a computer.  Computer work is repetitive, and small improvements will multiply, saving several minutes per day or more.  She was my last call, so I asked her to go ahead with her work as I watched so I could show her some shortcuts.

    As my client began to type, she began to hammer on the C key on her keyboard and jiggle her mouse.  “Not a big deal,” she said “it does that every now and then.”

    Keyboards and mice are cheap and replaceable, but your time is neither. Clean or replace them soon or you will spend an enormous amount of time coercing the system to do your bidding.  Make sure the computer works for you, not the other way around.

    After I replaced her recalcitrant keyboard and mouse, she really started to fly.  Everything went fine until she started to frantically dig around for a form.

    French cooks, surgeons, and efficient computer users have something in common… organization.  Figure out what you need to accomplish your tasks, and have these within your immediate grasp before you begin working.  Clear the rest out of your way.

    Once we got that squared away, I swear that woman became a machine!  She was so used to fighting everything in her environment that she was very fast at her actual work.  Rather than overshoot her deadline, she was done in under 3 hours.

    The remaining minutes of the day were spent organizing.  She put the forms and documents she needed in the hutch on her desk, filing and stowing the rest.  Meanwhile, I fixed the rat’s nest of wires in the office.  Keep wires out of sight and out from under foot; in walls and under floors is best, but attached to the baseboard or behind furniture works too.  Wires can be a tripping hazard even if hidden under a rug or taped down.

    Quitting time came, and we looked at what she had accomplished.  Her work for the week was complete.  Her work space was clean and organized, prepared for the following week and she was looking forward to Monday!  She could leave work and enjoy time with her fiance knowing that this wasn′t “borrowed time”.

    Working efficiently not only gives you more time, but looks good to your boss.  He′ll likely give you more to do, but you can use this to negotiate for more pay.  My client became more valuable to her employer and later got a significant raise.