There’s nothing more soul-sucking than sitting there picking your earwax while you watch Windows 7′s blue ring of fire. Yet, to be fair, your poor laptop spends a lot more time waiting for you to act than you waste watching it load applications, boot up or finish processing. If your computer takes .8 seconds to load your browser, but you take 5 unnecessary seconds to type in a username and password, who’s the slow poke?
Fortunately, you can reduce the human bottleneck if you take just a few simple steps that will double your personal processing power. To show the benefits of overclocking yourself, I’ve put my stop watch where my mouth is and recorded the amount of time you’ll save by following each of my tips. Sure, you may only save a few seconds by using a particular shortcut, but those moments really add up, particularly when you’re performing scores of similar actions every hour.
Follow these time-saving tricks to keep your computer from sitting around and twiddling its fans when it should be turbo boosting to keep up with you:
Any time you have to roll your mouse pointer across the screen, you’re wasting precious milliseconds of your life that you’ll never have again. Just imagine that your pointer is sitting in the upper right corner of the screen and you have to roll it all the way over to the Start button, click to open the menu and then navigate your way through the folders, just to find and launch PowerPoint. That’s 5.46 wasted seconds, according to our estimates.
However, if you assign a keyboard shortcut to the application, you can launch it in under .5 seconds, the amount of time it takes to hit a combo like CTRL + ALT + C. To assign a hot key to an application, simply right click on its shortcut icon, select properties, click the shortcut tab, and then enter some combination of CTRL + ALT + (Letter or Number) into the Shortcut key box. To make remembering them easy, I recommend using letters that match the name of the software you want to load. For example, assign CTRL + ALT + W to Microsoft Word.
Time saved: 5 seconds per app open
If you have something you type frequently such as “Dear PR crony, For the 100th time, I’m a tech journalist. I don’t cover the Oak Ridge Boys. Now please go away,” you can accomplish that with just one key stroke rather than 17 seconds of touch typing. Even if you’re just entering your email address, you’ll save a good 3 seconds.
A number of programs allow you to assign text to hot keys, but Quick Paste is my favorite, because it’s totally free and very easy to use. After downloading Quick Paste, be sure to select “Start with Windows” from the #Options menu and “Minimize to tray if Close” so that it will always run in the background.
Time Saved: 17 seconds more or less.
There are few bigger time sucks than remembering dozens of different username / password combos and typing them in every time you need to log in to your email client, social media service, favorite shopping site or bank account. And while you could use the same simple set of credentials everywhere, that leaves you wide open to hacking and identity theft.
The fastest and most secure way to type in your login credentials is with a password manager like the totally-free and popular KeePass. With this utility, you can keep all your credentials in a single encrypted key file and then set the program to type them into any form, online or offline, when you hit a key like CTRL + ALT + A. A number of KeePass plugins allow you to keep your password file synced across multiple computers and to integrate it with your browser for even faster web logins.
Time Saved: 4 Seconds to 5 Minutes per login, depending on your long-term memory.
If you’re like me, you need to know right away when someone references you on a social network and you need to know about every email the second it arrives. However, you waste precious moments every time you navigate to your accounts just to see if you’ve gotten anything new.
I recommend installing some browser extensions that will alert you the instant you get a new message, even if you don’t have the web page for that service open. Though you can get some plug-ins for Firefox and IE that provide some alerts, Chrome Browser puts your alert icons in the most prominent place, right next to its address bar.
For Chrome, I recommend the following extensions:
Time Saved: 30 seconds every 5 to 10 minutes (or however often you would have been irresistibly compelled to check your accounts).
Most of us need several windows open at once to do our work. If you’re writing a report in Word and need to glance at the assignment your boss sent via email, check the results of a calculation in Exel, and grab some additional data from a website, you’ll have at least four windows you really need to look at. If you can only fit one of these windows on the screen at a time, you’ll spend an eternity switching between them. Pivoting your eye balls from one side of the desktop to another is infinitely faster than moving your pointer or hitting a key.
To save time, try putting more windows next to each other on-screen. Hit Window Key + Left on one window and Window Key + Right on another to snap two applications right next to each other. Add a second monitor to give you more windows on the screen at once or two windows running at full screen. The Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421 portable monitor is a great second screen for laptop users on the go, because it weighs less than 3 pounds and is powered by USB.
Time Saved: 1.5 to 2 seconds per window switch, which adds up to several minutes per hour.
If you can’t type without looking at the keyboard and using all 10 fingers, you need to learn touch typing. Every time you sit there pecking at the keys, your computer is secretly laughing at you and texting all its friends on the network to tell them what kind of noob it has caressing its keys.
Fortunately, many online programs can help you learn how to touch type or improve your touch typing to where it should be, 80 or more words per minute. TypingWeb provides some good, free typing lessons, but I really like the paid service at Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor which costs $25.95.
Time Saved: Enter text 300 percent faster or more.
If you need to perform a web search there is absolutely no reason to waste time by navigating to Google.com or Bing.com and then typing your query into the search box. Instead, all the modern browsers will query your search engine of choice if you just type the text you’re looking for right into the address bar.
In a test, we found that navigating to Google.com, waiting for the page to load, typing in the search term “laptops,” hitting enter and waiting for the results took 9 seconds while simply typing “laptops” into the Chrome address bar, hitting Enter and waiting for results took 4 seconds.
Time Saved: 5 seconds per query
When you need to find a file or program, there’s no reason to go fumbling through dozens of folders like some kind of Watergate burglar. It’s not necessary to launch a dedicated explorer window either. Simply hit the Windows key or CTRL + Esc to pop-up the start menu and start typing into the “Search for programs or files” box.
You may need to only type the first few letters of a file name before Windows starts making suggestions for you. This instant search feature is particularly useful when you know exactly what you’re looking for. For example, when I wanted to find a document I had written about SSDs, I typed “SSD” into the start menu and had my results in 3 seconds. When I browsed the documents folder to find the same file, it took 6 seconds.
Time Saved: 3 seconds