Do you work on a computer all day? How would you like to get more done in the same amount of time? Here are my top ten tips on how to be more productive on a computer, without getting a new computer. Some involve hardware changes; some involve behavioral changes. Some cost money; some are free. See which ones are best for you!

1. Get a Bigger Monitor or Dual Monitors

Freelancer deskStudies have shown that getting more monitor real estate is one of the best things you can do to improve your efficiency at a computer. Most computers can drive two monitors, why not get a second one? They’re pretty cheap these days.

Just make sure you know the maximum resolution that your computer can drive (especially if it is an older computer), so you don’t end up with a huge monitor where everything is just bigger instead of denser (unless that is what you want).

2. Replace Your Hard Drive with a Solid-State Drive

Samsung SSDDoes your computer take forever to boot up or open new applications? Is the hard-disk activity LED blinking furiously during these operations? If so, you might be able to speed up your computer by an insane amount by replacing its hard drive with a Solid State Drive (SSD).

I did this to my PC, and sped up the bootup time from over five minutes to a minute and a half! If you boot up your computer once every work day, that’s a savings of fourteen hours a year, not including having your computer run faster during other operations!

3. Get More Memory

RAMMy Mac Book Pro was slowing to a crawl whenever I opened any Adobe applications, notorious for being bloated memory hogs. It took literally a minute to open a file. After I replaced the 4GB of RAM with 16GB, it was like having a new computer!! No lag at all!

Replacing RAM is something you can do yourself with most computers and laptops. Just go online and find the correct memory. I suggest getting the most memory that your computer can take (and that you can afford).

4. Turn off Distractions

cell phoneSo far I’ve covered hardware upgrades which can be a bit pricy. This one is free. Studies have shown that interruptions kill your concentration and productivity. It can take minutes, sometimes ten or more, to recover from an interruption. Therefore, turn off as many popups and alarms on your computer as you can. Definitely turn off email notification popups, Facebook alerts, and so forth.

I also log out of any IM programs unless I have a chat scheduled. That might not be feasible at your workplace, but if you are able to do it, give it a try. Get rid of as many of these efficiency-killers as you can!

Same goes for your phone during work hours. Turn off distractions when you need to concentrate.

5. Use Keyboard Shortcuts

computer keyboardMost people know the shortcuts for cut (CTRL-X), copy (CTRL-C), and paste (CTRL-V). If you don’t, you should learn these!

You can also set up keyboard shortcuts to launch any program or document. In Windows, create a shortcut for it and save it to your desktop. Then, right-click on that shortcut, go to the Shortcut tab, and specify a shortcut key. After that, pressing CTRL-ALT-(that key) will launch that document or program!

If there are other tasks that you do often, see if there is a shortcut that will do it! If there is a complicated program that you use daily (for example, Photoshop, Autocad, etc) you can definitely save time by learning its keyboard shortcuts!

6. Back Up and Maintain Your Computer

dropboxYou might not think of backing up your computer as a way to improve productivity, because it does take some time. But, if your hard drive dies and you lose weeks of work, the backup could save you.

I use Dropbox to keep my stuff constantly mirrored in the cloud, plus I make a back up on a USB hard drive every month (because Dropbox protects against drive failure, but not against accidentally deleting something).

Same thing goes for keeping your computer and antivirus up to date with the latest updates. Getting your computer hacked is no fun and very detrimental to your productivity!

7. Learn to Friggin’ Type

Learn to typeI’m always amazed when I see someone who works on a computer on a daily basis hunt and peck at the keyboard. I know it takes some initial effort to learn, but using all ten of your fingers will speed up your typing tremendously!

8. Get Some Awesome Input Devices

small_IMG_0786How old is your keyboard? Are you still using that clicky-IBM keyboard? Go to Staples or Best Buy and check out some new keyboards which have much less key travel and are quieter. I got a new keyboard and it felt like I had a new computer!

All of this goes for your mouse as well! Check out alternative input methods like a stylus with pad. Some of my friends swear by these, especially folks dealing with graphics.

9. Tidy Up Your Real and Virtual Desktop

PC desktopDo you have a million icons on your desktop going back ten years? How about doing some spring cleaning and getting rid of the clutter? If you want an instant cleaning, create a folder called “Old Desktop” and drag everything in there. Only put the items on your new desktop that you really need. Believe me, doing this will make your computer more pleasant to use.

Also, changing your background image might be just the change of scenery you need to keep you motivated.

The same goes for your physical desktop. Clean it off and you’ll be much happier!

10. Get a Standing Desk

Standing DeskI don’t know of any study that confirms that a standing desk will increase your productivity, but I personally believe it has for me. I actually stand only about 20% of the time, but the change in position from sitting to standing revitalizes me, especially when I feel bored or sleepy after lunch. It’s like a jolt of energy. Eventually, my feet get tired, so I go back to sitting, but I’ve made it through the tough part by then. Try it out!

I hope these tips will help you improve your productivity in front of you computer! What has helped you improve your productivity? – Brian

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