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Many of us spend more time with our computer , than we spend in bed every night. You’d think we’d all be pros at handling a computer, especially at work, where it’s one of our most essential tools. The problem is, most of us never learned how to use computers that way.

The beauty is, productivity is a mindset and you can teach yourself. You can identify sub-optimal habits, find better ways of doing things, and improve. Bit by bit you reduce friction, which conserves energy and time for the things that really matter.

This process can be tough. Maybe we can ease the transition from being an average computer user to becoming a seasoned pro who optimizes health and satisfaction.

Mind Your Body

Who decided sitting was the best position for working at a computer? The truth is, sitting can kill you 4 Serious Health Issues From Sitting Too Long & How To Avoid Them 4 Serious Health Issues From Sitting Too Long & How To Avoid Them When you work at any job that requires long hours sitting at a computer - programming, accounting, writing - it is very easy to stay in that one position for eight to nine working hours... Read More . This headline made waves a few years ago and more recent studies confirm the correlation between sitting and mortality. Fortunately, you don’t have to sit all the time.

10 standing task chair

Likewise, staring at a screen for hours can cause eye strain, typing and using the mouse can give you repetitive strain injury, and bad posture can cause back and neck pains. We’ve covered the health aspects of using a computer 5 Reasons Working With Computers Is Bad For You & How to Stay Healthy 5 Reasons Working With Computers Is Bad For You & How to Stay Healthy Working on the computer may sound like the most relaxed job in the world, but it's quite the contrary. It's very tough on your body, which is not used to this modern type of work.... Read More in detail in previous articles. Briefly:

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Ergonommic Desk Design

Difficulty: Depends. Some changes, like taking regular breaks, are fairly easy. Other, like switching to a standing desk, could be difficult, depending on your situation.

Typing

The following observation inspired this article. My colleagues at university spend the bulk of their time hacking letters into a computer keyboard. They write emails, grant applications, and research reports. They are academics with fancy titles and impressive CVs; in other words, very intelligent people. While they think and type for a living, only very few of them ever thought about learning to touch type.

Touch typing is the skill of accurately typing on a keyboard using all one’s fingers and without having to look at the keys. You can focus your attention on the screen, while your fingers do their magic. It’s faster, less interruptive, and more comfortable. And touch typing is easy to learn Learn How to Touch-Type With These 8 Top Tools & Tutorials Learn How to Touch-Type With These 8 Top Tools & Tutorials Learning how to touch type could mean the difference between 10 words a minute to more than 40. That could also mean the difference between adding half a day to your productivity. Or, more than... Read More .

You can choose from a variety of desktop and online typing tutors 6 Free Typing Tutors Online That Teach You How To Touch Type [Chrome] 6 Free Typing Tutors Online That Teach You How To Touch Type [Chrome] Believe it or not this is my day job. I get paid to produce content for the Web, writing mostly about technology in all its forms. This means my working day consists of two things... Read More ; they all work very similarly. You start with only a few keys and with each lesson the number of keys and complexity of words increases. After the first couple of lessons, you’ll master all the keys. After a week of practicing for about half an hour a day, you’ll type slowly but surely. When you start to type faster than with your old hunt-and-peck technique, which should happen after around two weeks of daily practice, you should switch for good.

To measure your progress, test your typing speed before you begin with a training. Once you’ve reached a plateau, you can further improve your speed with typing games Boost Your Typing Speed With The Typing of The Dead: Overkill Boost Your Typing Speed With The Typing of The Dead: Overkill Sega's The Typing of The Dead: Overkill is a fantastic game PC to test your typing speed in a world of Grindhouse Cinema zombie blasting. Read More .

Typing Speed

Difficulty: Easy, provided you can get yourself to practice a little bit every day.

Reading

This is my own weak spot. My reading speed is average at best and when I speed through a text, I feel like I retain very little information; definitely nothing in long term memory. You can test your reading speed here with a web app from STAPLES.

Speed Reading Test

If you’re often pressed for time, however, you could look into the following tools to improve your reading speed:

Speed reading does have benefits, but it can also be valuable to just take the time to read properly Put A Brake On Speed Reading: 5 Tips To Be A More Engaged Online Reader Put A Brake On Speed Reading: 5 Tips To Be A More Engaged Online Reader The idea of speed reading has been around for decades, but there's been an explosion of speed-reading apps lately that promise to get your reading speed up. But is it worth it? Read More . What do you think?

Difficulty: Medium because the challenge is not only to read faster, but also to remember what you read.

Shortcuts for Repetitive Tasks

Now that we have the basics covered, let’s look at some more specific things. Other than sitting in front of your computer, typing, and reading all day, what else do you do all the time? Do you open the same sets of programs or websites every day? Do you repetitively perform certain operations?

I recommend you to observe your daily grind and start a list of things you wish could be automated or otherwise simplified. I bet someone already thought about it and either developed a tool or wrote an article on how to do it. If not, challenge us!

Meanwhile, here are some of the things we have covered before:

Difficulty: All over the place. If you went to extremes, you could teach yourself programming and write your own apps to do stuff for you. Learning a few keyboard shortcuts, however, is super easy.

Productivity Isn’t Everything

Don’t be fooled. Not everything can or should be automated 5 Ways to Keep Productivity from Taking Over Your Life 5 Ways to Keep Productivity from Taking Over Your Life Are we, as a society, significantly more productive? And if we are, are we happier? Productivity is important, but it needs to be put in its place. Read More and going to extreme lengths to save a few minutes won’t make you more productive, but rather more frustrated. Sometimes, simple strategies and routines How to Be Productive When Productivity Apps Don't Work for You How to Be Productive When Productivity Apps Don't Work for You You should noticed that the past few years have been about an obsession with productivity. But what if productivity apps don't do it for you? Then what do you do? Read More work better than a fancy app. Consider the long term benefits and choose wisely where you want to invest energy and improve.

We certainly didn’t cover every way in which you can improve your computer-related habits. What important aspects did we miss? Do let us know which tasks you have optimized and what tools you are using!

Image Credits: digital devices Via Shutterstock

  1. stalin wesley
    May 6, 2015 at 5:09 am

    very effective post thanks

  2. paul
    May 5, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    More time to watch the little circle spin around! Or wait for ads to download!

  3. dragonmouth
    May 4, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Why this constant and insane pursuit for higher productivity?! Why should we all aspire to be better hamsters and run faster and faster on the wheel? Let's just step back and take a look what this drive for higher productivity is doing to us mentally and physically. Higher productivity increases the amount of stress in our lives. Increased stress leads to increased psychological and physical problems. Stress is causing many of us to overeat leading to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, etc.

    • Tina
      May 4, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      I agree, which is why I concluded with this:

      Productivity Isn’t Everything: Don’t be fooled. Not everything can or should be automated and going to extreme lengths to save a few minutes won’t make you more productive, but rather more frustrated. Sometimes, simple strategies and routines work better than a fancy app. Consider the long term benefits and choose wisely where you want to invest energy and improve.

      My point is that some skills make you more productive and lower your stress. People who write / type for a living and have to meet deadlines, for example, will benefit immensely if they learn touch typing. It's a basic skill like riding a bike, yet surprisingly few people know how to do it; at least that's been my observation in my direct surroundings.

    • Enrique
      May 4, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      "Increased stress leads to increased psychological and physical problems. Stress is causing many of us to overeat leading to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, etc."
      Hi, these diseases are not caused by stress... in our lives the level of stress at work is healthy stress... the personal stress (the stress you deal with when you get home) is the one that is bad for you. Also, stress alone doesn't cause disease, but stress combined with junk food and a low levels of physical activity are the main reasons people get sick. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by healthy eating and exercise. Thank you.

  4. Paul R
    May 3, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    I agree with the typing part. I took a typewriting class in high school and it was the most practical class I ever took. My speed has never gotten out of the 20s/wpm range, but its been fast enough for me, and I've used it almost every day since then. If you type a lot at your job, a good boost in speed (if you don't touch type) is going to save you a lot more time than a few keyboard shortcuts (which I also have learned, as well).

    What I did with keyboard shortcuts is simply pick 5 or so that I can use almost all the time. I think I created a list of 20 or so, but that was too many for me to remember. If you don't do shortcuts already, click on a few of those links and pick the 5 or so for tasks that you do most often, and just get those down. That will save you lots of time. In a similar vein, if you use an office program (like Word or Excel), I'd recommend using a macro or two, and then giving that program a keyboard shortcut, to save yourself having to click all over. Also, MS Word lets you assign keyboard shortcuts for strange symbols, so I have it configured Ctrl+Alt+L for the British pound, Ctrl+Alt+E for Euro, Ctrl+Alt+Y for Yen signs. That saves me lots of hunting when I want to insert those symbols. Finally, look at the right click menu in programs to see what that will quickly let you do. Most browsers have a right click/print, as well as copy, paste, and cut after you have selected text.

    • Tina
      May 4, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks for your feedback, Paul! Great advice regarding keyboard shortcuts, Word macros, and right-click menus. I think this is something worth diving into. :)

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