Don’t you love those ‘a ha!’ moments, where you realize that things you’ve seen every day for the past five years actually have a use … and could save you time! No, I’m not talking about the moment you realize that your kids are old enough to do the dishes on their own. That’s always nice too … the Windows logo key is the subject of our forced ‘aha’ today.
For years, I thought this was just another piece of Microsoft marketing, and ignored it. Then my toddler pressed it, along with some other funky buttons one day, and shut down my computer, losing my work in the process. Hmm, better watch out for that one, I thought. Then I stumbled across a blog post on how to use the thing, apart from keeping little fingers in your house away from it, and I saw the light!
If you are currently uninitiated in the joys of the Windows logo key (or indeed, any other handy computer shortcuts), let me introduce you to its ecstasy (and sometimes agony!). Use the Windows logo key to:
- Minimize all applications – Logo + M
This is great for getting back to the desktop, or you can press Logo + D to do exactly the same thing.
- Pull up the Start menu – Logo by itself
I don’t use this one that often, since you usually need the mouse to navigate that menu anyway, and it’s right there. But, horses for courses.
- Lock your computer desktop – Logo +L
I love this one for office situations. You just need to pop your computer password in after you get back from lunch to unlock it – another Logo+L doesn’t do the trick, fortunately.
- Open Windows Explorer – Logo+E
Now, if only they could make all the blasted subfolders mind controlled, I’d really be saving some time.
- Open your Find dialog to search for files and folders – Logo+F
This is actually the easiest way I have found to look for anything in Vista. I much prefer XP for search.
- Flip through all your open applications like a 3D book – Logo+Tab
If you are the sort of person that has fifty programs open during the day, and each has an obscure title or is grouped with five others so you can’t easily get to them, this is a great one.
You can also get third-party programs to personalize Windows logo key functions – let us know your thoughts on the best of them. You can use the time you’ve saved navigating your Windows to drop us a line in the comments!
It’s almost become a truism that computers take up at least as much time as they save. If you’ve ever spent several minutes clicking through your Windows Explorer (or Mac) ‘filing system’, trying to get to where you want to save something, experienced the joy of a virus, spent hours comparing online shopping prices only to find that they won’t ship to your area, then you’ll be feeling that dull, throbbing pain the front of your head right now … just like me! So today we’re posting a few random tips on taking the power back from your computer, despite the fact that it’s the Machine Age.
1. Use both your hands on the computer
Many of us are mousebound, using only our right hands on the computer, with our left wasting away in a desert of isolation. Bring the poor little guy back into the fold and you can save time!
- Ctrl + C to copy, Ctrl + V to paste.
- Ctrl Z to undo the last thing you did; this can be repeated in some programs but not in others.
- Shift + Delete – delete permanently, so you don’t have to suffer through being asked ‘Are you sure?’, by your computer a hundred times a day
- Windows button + D – return to desktop. Press this again to restore all your windows to previous positions
- Alt + F4 – close active program
- Ctrl+S saves a file in most programs
- Ctrl+F allows you to find a word in a file – this will save you scanning hundreds of webpages for the part that is relevant to you.
You can always find more keyboard shortcuts by reading the menus that you use in programs. Most list any keyboard shortcuts just to the right of the option in the drop down menu.
2. Quick Launch
Always add your frequently used programs to the Quick Launch bar, if you don’t want to clutter up your desktop. I’m not sure about your computer, but mine seems to load programs quicker from the launch bar than the desktop, anyway. You can do this by right-clicking the program in your Start Menu, and selecting ‘Add to Quick Launch’.
3. Startup Programs
On your work PC, add programs that you have open every single day to your Startup folder, so that they automatically open for you in the morning. While you’re having a debriefing, making a coffee, or tidying up paperwork, your programs will be loading themselves.
Feedreaders, like most things in life, are both a blessing and a curse. If you have websites that you must get the updated content from in order to complete a task or to be productive, then use feedreaders like Google’s, or Bloglines’. I personally don’t recommend subscribing to feeds that you are juts interested in … not if you’ve ever said ‘There aren’t enough hours in the day!’, anyway :-).
5. Google Toolbar
Love or hate Google, they make some pretty cool free stuff. Their toolbar has been out for ages, but many of you might not know how much time it (and Google in general) can save you. There are hundreds of customizable buttons, which allow you to do things like translate, convert currencies, check webmail, add and tag bookmarks, get driving directions, look up lyrics, check craigslist … just about anything you want, all with the ease of a button right on your browser. You don’t need to hunt through bookmarks, or even open a new window or tab.
If you do anything on the net repetitively, it is worth checking if Big Brother sorry, Google, has a button for it.
You’re obviously an organized person. I can tell just by looking at you! That hair, the way you click the mouse, that focused glaze on your eyes … Just kidding! The real way I can tell you are organized is not through your hacked webcam (they are watching), but by the fact you are reading Best Time Tools.
So, like all organized people, you probably run the risk of over-organizing – spending more time creating, updating and checking off lists that organization itself is costing you time. Of course, not making lists isn’t an option! I, for one, get the cold sweats if I don’t open one of my lists on Outlook within the first few minutes of having the computer on. Well, sometimes, any way :-).
There is a balance – so today we’re going to share with you a simple method for using Microsoft Outlook to ensure you Get Things Done, and maintain the balance of power between the evil List god and real life. Thanks to Tim, one of the web’s finest GTD thinkers, for the tips.
Outlook is huge and addictive. One of the dangers of its sheer size and the number of places you can put things is that you lose track of, well, everything. This means that little bits more often are always preferable to big bits, less often. Review your tasks daily, tick off completed tasks and add new ones. Incidentally, I never use the percentage complete function except to indicate that something is 100% complete. This function is better for reporting to superiors than to yourself.
You can assign a category to tasks in Outlook by highlighting an item after it has been created and going to Edit-Category, selecting the category(ies) that it belongs to.
Keep your categories simple, if you want to save time on your organization. One idea we’ve heard is to use:
ACTION – Work related items requiring action
AGENDA – Work related topics to think about and discuss at meetings
HOME – Personal tasks
SOMEDAY – Ideas for the future. Not urgent, but you don’t want to forget them.
Create a new category in the Master List (Edit-Categories-Master Category List button), if you don’t want to use the default ones in Outlook.
Of course, you may choose to create your categories differently (perhaps according to the department that a task belongs to, or using an Urgent/Non-urgent scheme). The key to saving time with them, though, is to try to have as few as possible.
Finding your tasks again
Use the ‘Customize Current View’ option on the left hand panel in Outlook’s Task view (click Tasks on the bottom left menu)
to sort your tasks according to priority. Choose to:
- Group by categories (ascending)
- Sort by Due Date (descending), and also by Subject (ascending)
- Fields – use Priority, Subject, Notes, Created, Due Date, Complete
- Customize Current view link and Task View in Outlook 03
As we mentioned, Outlook is huge – so we’ll have to get into the Calendar and Notes functions another day!
Sometimes I can feel the neurons jumping from one side of my brain to the other … a task will remind me of something else I have to do, which triggers another internal reminder, and another … like pushing over a line of people in a bank queue, or a bunch of phone boxes. Only maybe not quite so fun, and a little more frazzling!
I have a great memory, and it is rare that I forget to do something – but I also find the hours melting away from my workday quite often because of this internal reminder system that I have going. Research has revealed that it can take anywhere from 8 to 20 minutes for you to regain proper focus for your task after an interruption … and internal interruptions are just as insidious as annoying colleagues! Perhaps even more so, as you can’t lock them out and pretend you’ve gone to lunch. So what’s the solution? Make a list!
Lists are one of those love or hate items, and almost all people who hate them don’t know how to use them properly. If you feel that lists take up more time than they save, we have a list of lists of lists (ha ha! Made you look ;-)), that will actually SAVE you time, as well as mental space. Check them out after the jump.
Do you ever curse, rail and scream at your computer for wasting your time… more specifically, at the internet? Every time I find that I’ve been following links in Youtube ‘Related Videos’ for more than half an hour, every time I forget to change my status in Skype and get hassled with messages, and every time I sit through 45 seconds of pointless pictures loading on a front page, I let rip! Then I slink back into the room shyly, put out my arms, and tell the internet … ‘I’m sorry … let’s never fight again!’.
You don’t have to go through all of these constant relationship highs and lows with the web, though. Here we give you some handy hints for making your web surfing faster and more efficient.
The best way to save time on the internet is to discipline yourself not to be distracted by extraneous links -or use a tool to control your unnecessary browsing. However, even when you are your most focused, Terminator-like self, there are still ways you can make your netsurfing more efficient. So, “Come with me, if you want to live” … more efficiently!
Interruptions at work are like little landmines scattered throughout your day. You hit one of these interruptions, are thrown fifty meters into the air, fly off in whatever direction the wind is blowing, and then have to make your way back through dense scrubland to your original path. What a soldier! Most of us make this trip at least ten times a day, depending on the culture and size of our office. Dr Gloria Marks, of the University of California Irvine, says that it usually takes between 6 and 20 minutes to recover focus after an interruption. Yowsa!
It’s astounding – time is fleeting. Madness takes its toll … so listen closely. Not for very much longer … I’ll just get through these time-saving tips for stressed out workers, and hopefully you’ll be able to drag yourself out of that time warp!
If you’re caught in a time warp at work, we may not have any solutions that are as much fun as Dr Frank N. Furter’s house … but that’s okay, because you probably don’t have too many colleagues that look as good in their skimpies as Janet and Rocky! Besides, our list of time-saving tips is designed more for efficiency than fun … darn it. Hit the jump to check out our full list of 15 time saving tips for work. Most of these are related to organization and focus, you can check out some of our broader tips also.
Everybody’s time warp is slightly different. Some hang a little bit to the left, others wear fluffy accessories, and some are impossibly clean. Skip over what you don’t need, gloat about what you already know, but don’t bother smacking your head in realization of your ignorance when you find one that you can use … guilt only wastes time .
What, the web REALLY CAN save you time on your shopping? It isn’t just saying that in an effort to get you to click on a banner ad? Yes, it can … but only a few sites have this rare magical power. If you’re feeling frustrated with comparing domestic and local prices, searching in eBay stores and auctions, those bloody shopping comparison sites that are more ad than info, prepare to be enchanted. Here are our tips on best time saving shopping sites that actually do work.
Not only does Amazon have a huge range of products, usually at quite cheap prices, they have a new, superior time-saving website feature. ‘I am your leader’, says Subscribe and Save … The way it works is:
- You choose a product you would purchase regularly, usually something you can find in the non-perishable sections of the supermarket.
- Instead of adding directly to shopping cart or using 1-click ordering, look for the Subscribe and Save options at right of screen. You can choose any quantity between 1 and 30 to be delivered every 1, 2, 3 or 6 months.
- You receive a discount on the everyday Amazon supplier price (although remember, other Amazon sellers sometimes have items cheaper than Amazon itself), and also free shipping on every order.
- There are no catches – you can cancel at any time, and your credit card is only charged when the order is shipped.