Productivity and efficiency go hand-in-hand. If you work behind a computer, you’ve likely experienced frustrating roadblocks that slow you down, from an unexpectedly full hard drive to hiccups in your Internet connection.
Ironically, it may be the work-at-home employees and freelancers who are most affected by these hindrances. After all, when you’re trusted to work remotely, coworkers and supervisors will express more skepticism and frustration if you fall out of touch. Likewise, if you telecommute, it’s up to you to manage your time. Anything that slows you down can be a sentence to long evening hours still at “the office.”
We’ve learned about improving efficiency through employee interaction within the office environment. Shaving minutes, and eventually hours, from our daily processes can be equally beneficial to online productivity, resulting in more free time and less stress and frustration—whether you work in a cubicle or propped up against pillows in your bed.
Here are seven tips to fine tune your online work process throughout the day:
1. Carve out time to organize
Just as tidying up your desk and putting things in their place removes distractions and improves workflow, cleaning up your virtual desktop also carries benefits. If you’re awash in a flood of icons, create a few folders that can sort and hold everything so that you never waste moments searching for a file again.
Likewise, your cloud accounts (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) will benefit greatly from a filing system. Put the time in upfront to organize and you’ll reap benefits down the road.
2. Keep an eye on free space
Have you ever maxed out your computer’s hard drive or your available cloud or email storage space? Nothing throws a wrench in a workday like the inability to send an email or save a file. In addition, a full hard drive can slow your computer down. Pick up an external drive with enough space to store all of your old files and data (portable 1TB drives run $100-$150). It could be worth buying two to create a backup.
Likewise, don’t let your email server space become bloated. For users like me who save everything, programs like Apple Mail and Outlook let you create folders stored on your hard drive instead of on the server. Plus, providers like Gmail sell additional server space if you run out.
3. Move your email accounts offline
Do you find yourself constantly checking email and shifting your attention away from a task? One handy tip is the “Take Accounts Offline” feature found in email aggregators like Apple Mail. I’ll typically check my email and make the necessary replies, then take the accounts offline while I work on a task.
I keep an eye on the clock and check my email every hour or half-hour, as necessary. Controlling when you shift your attention can help hone your process and you will actually complete daily tasks more efficiently.
4. Use your browser’s automatic form fillers
I recently switched to Google Chrome from Safari, and one of the most pleasant surprises was the intuitive form filling. When I’m tasked with entering my address and contact information, Chrome offers me the option to fill them in automatically.
Most browsers offer this feature but require you to turn it on and “teach” it your correct information. Take advantage, and you’ll save several minutes each time you come across an online form requiring your information
5. Learn to type faster
Fortunately, learning to type is easier than learning a foreign language, but it does take practice. If you’re still a hunt-and-peck typist, make the commitment today to speed up.
Online typing tools can be fun, and just 10 minutes a day can work wonders within a month to get you up to speed. Mashable has a nice list of eight sites and typing tools. Find one that works for you and get started.
6. Move social media to a different browser
Do you find yourself constantly tempted to check Facebook or Twitter? Although a quick social media break can be a great reward throughout the workday, it’s also a guaranteed productivity killer.
One trick I’ve found is to block these sites in my primary browser and force myself to open a new application to check my profiles. I then shut the program back down and get back to work, without the constant temptation to click a bookmark link in my primary browser. For more self-controlled workers, simply eliminating the bookmark may be all you need to do!
7. Speed up your Internet connection
Apart from investing in a faster connection with your provider, computer users can speed up their Internet access with a few other methods. Shut down other devices and computers that might also be drawing on your signal. Password protect your Wi-Fi to stop neighbors from leeching off your connection.
Most computer programs and applications frequently access your connection, so think about what else might be open on your computer that could be stealing bandwidth in the background. If you’re not using an application, shut it down.
With a bit of planning, organization and due diligence, anybody can improve workflow and increase online productivity. That makes bosses happy, benefits you and your employer and leaves more free time for everything else in life.
What other tips do you have to improve your daily work process?
Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing, one of the nation’s largest providers of promotional products for businesses large and small. Amsterdam specializes in personalized promo pens, as well as other items such as calendars, bags and water bottles.