One in a series of posts on various things you can do with technology to make yourself more productive …
- Filter your company’s inbound e-mail. More than 90% of all the world’s e-mail is spam, according to one spam filtering service. If you block all that junk mail before it ever gets to your company’s mail server, you and your employees will save a lot of time deleting it out of your inbox and/or junk mail boxes. Your mail server will thank you, too, by spending less of its resources wading through all that garbage. I use and resell a highly effective and affordable service (not the one that did the survey), and my customers are extremely pleased with it. It costs only $5.00 per month for each domain and $1.40 a month for each mailbox. It also acts as a temporary mail holding facility in case your mail server ever goes off-line.
- Use multiple monitors. Remember the console that Tom Cruise had in “Minority Report,” which allowed him to move the pre-cogs’ videos around by pointing at them? Well, my setup isn’t quite as cool, but I am able to drag images from place to place and see a whole bunch of things at once. I have two 19″ flat screens side by side, which gives me a 30″ x 12″ display area. This saves me a lot of time when I’m writing about something that I’m looking at on a different screen. No more Alt-Tabbing every time I want to see something different. LCD monitors used to be priced so that the average business user couldn’t afford one, much less two, but now that you can get an excellent monitor for under $300 it may be within your reach.
- Use Outlook’s Search Folders. This is an instant way of seeing a subset of your messages. The ones I use most frequently are “Unread Inbox,” which is created for you automatically, and “Inbox Red Flag,” which is a custom folder I designed. (It shows me all the messages in my inbox that I have flagged for follow up.)
- Use Roboform. I know, it was just a few months ago that I recommended Whisper 32 as a password manager, but I’ve since become a Roboform devotee. Roboform is not just a password database. It works in combination with your web browser (IE, Firefox, or AOL) and fills in web forms automatically. I bought the Pro version, which allows me to have an unlimited number of passwords and keep my passwords synchronized between multiple machines (desktop, laptop, Pocket PC). For a while I was nervous about software that automatically filled in password and credit card information for me, but Roboform’s strong reputation and the incredible ease of use made me feel comfortable.
- Turn on the Quick Launch toolbar. This gives you one-click access to your favorite tools. Anything you can create a shortcut to — a document, a folder, a web site, an application — can be put here. One of the most popular items there, and one that’s put there automatically, is the “show desktop” shortcut. For some reason the Quick Launch toolbar turned off in most default installations of Windows XP. Turn it on by right-clicking in a blank section of the taskbar and going to the Toolbars menu. Once it’s turned on, just drag and drop the icons for your favorite shortcuts there.
More productivity steps to come … keep checking that RSS feed.