Rejuvenating your Computing Experience

Let’s face it: being on a computer everyday isn’t always a pleasant experience. Although useful, computers can be a source of mental and physical drain. As we perform through our workdays, we interact with the same digital tasks, applications, documents, websites and user interfaces, creating an atmosphere plagued by repetitiveness. If we combine this with poor physical posture and lighting conditions, the computing experience can be downright torture for our minds and bodies. The good news is that you can combat the digital blues by using a few simple tricks.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to add some spice to the way we interact with our computers is to personalize the visual elements that we commonly interact with. You can customize screensavers, backgrounds, icons, and control pointers using your own graphics and images or by using your favorite colors and themes. Do you have a digital image of a dream vacation spot? Display it where you will see it often (on your computer!) and use these custom images to motivate or relax you. Change them frequently to sustain effectiveness.

Your new, good-looking computer deserves to be maintained, and a fast path to stress reduction is to do a little cleaning. Computers are powerful tools for information organization, yet it’s incredible how quickly we can become disorganized while using them. File systems become a clutter of documents as once relevant files become obscure, and it’s safe to say that Microsoft isn’t at fault. The only thing standing in the way of you and organizational bliss is a couple of hours a week devoted to file upkeep. You should develop a simple, logical system of file directories (or reevaluate the one you currently use) and then invest time in maintaining it. Like a library collection, your filing system should be categorized, built upon, and regularly weeded. By consistently engaging in good filing practices, you can avoid being hampered by layers of unclaimed digital information. Also, by regularly reviewing your files, you can keep track of projects and ideas, allowing you to stay on top of things.

While you’re cleaning up your file system, remember to consider internet organization. Things get messy online: your browser’s bookmark or “favorites” list become jumbled together, and emails accumulate so quickly that it’s easy to lose track of and forget about important messages. It will be well worth your investment to spend time creating and maintaining a good system for webpage and email tracking. Organize your bookmarks and categorize your emails, removing outdated or irrelevant messages and links as needed. Not only will this increase productivity, but it will also prevent you from repeating unnecessary actions to find information that you’ve already accessed.

Another way to reduce unneeded, repetitive actions is to learn about your software applications. Even if you are a computer whiz or have been using a program for years, you can still learn something new or reinforce current knowledge by looking over help menus and reading manuals, especially for regularly utilized programs. As you are learning advanced features, also practice using keyboard commands to reduce your dependence on time-consuming menus. Regularly engaging in continuing education about your digital tools will reduce frustration by giving you efficient and expert control over your computing experience.

Having control over the way you interact with your computer involves more than just organization and knowledge; creativity should be practiced to get the most satisfaction from your time. You are already a computer ‘artist,’ creating public correspondences such as flyers and brochures, emails, newsletters, memos, reports, web sites, blogs, slide presentations, etc., so act like it! You have a great opportunity to express your creativity to enhance (not distract from) your projects by incorporating photos, video, sound, graphics, and specialized text. Again, learning the capabilities of your software applications will help you understand how to do this, and you may also search online and through manuals for tutorials and suggestions. To assist in your creative process, you may consider finding software, such as photo, video, and audio editors, web page builders, and blogging tools, which range in prices (some can be downloaded for free from the internet).

The key to adding creative elements to your projects is to build a content collection. When appropriate, snap a picture or shoot some video around the office, building a supply of multi-media resources from which to pull during your projects. Take advantage of events and conferences, and also search online for free, open-source media. But always keep in mind file size when using pictures, video, or sound. Others must see your files, and huge files may make them difficult or impossible to access. Just like with library services, always keep the user in mind.

Perhaps the most important area to consider when optimizing your computing experiences is, ironically, the physical environment. For hours of your day, you are absorbed by the information flowing across your screen, yet your body must endure the being relatively stagnant during those hours, possibly leading you on a path of deterioration. Aching muscles, bones, joints, and eyes can be distracting reminders that the seemingly harmless act of computing can have destructive effects on both your well-being and your electronic workflow. This can lead to work dissatisfaction, unnecessary illnesses, and general deflation in morale.

To prevent this, take charge of your work environment and make it suit your tastes. Invest in good office chair that has adequate support for your body type. If you work in a shared environment, make sure to put identifying markers on the chair just in case it mysteriously disappears (good ideas catch on like wildfire). If you share a desk, consider bringing in a portable back support cushion. Other helpful adjustments include using an ergonomic mouse pad, adjusting the brightness of your monitor, increasing text size, securing proper lighting around your workstation, stretching, maintaining good posture and frequently resting your eyes. Periodically, shut off the screen to your computer and focus on something not computer related, such as organizing your paper files. The idea is to consider your physical, rather than your mental, computing experience and increase satisfaction by finally giving attention to where it is needed the most.

As with any work-related change you plan on making, check to make sure the alterations adhere to company policy. For instance, some organizations do not allow employees to change their desktop’s background or other visual elements. Other companies forbid downloading software without prior approval. The policies are usually in place for a good reason, so make sure you aren’t breaking any rules. If you disagree with a policy, try speaking with your supervisor to see if perhaps the rules themselves need changing.

Considering how much time in our days is devoted to computing, it seems logical that we should spend a proportionate amount of energy enhancing our digital experiences. Simple tricks, such as altering visual elements, organizing files and information, learning how to utilize software applications, creating artistic content for our projects, and improving physical conditions can go a long way to improving our productivity and perception of computer work. As long as you’re careful and follow your company’s rules, you should be safely on your way to a fresh, rejuvenated workday.