Getting your life in order

Last week I spent quite a lot of time looking at a website looking brimming with tips on how to improve your life by getting things done quicker and more efficiently.

I spend so much time, in fact, that I almost didn’t leave myself with enough time to get the most important thing done, this column. The website is called Life Hacker (www.lifehacker.com) and does have a strong computing flavour about it but it also has an idiosyncratic selection of articles on various other subjects ranging from how to prepare an infused olive oil, to making a revolving rack for your tins of food.

One of the interesting computer articles which I read was written by Life Hacker founder editor Gina Trapani, who says that you can easily keep your e-mail under control by using what she calls the Trusted Trio of mailboxes, or folders. She says that most of us spend far too much time filing our e-mails based on the subject of the e-mail, the person who sent to us, or any number of other criteria.

She believes that the secret to keeping on top of your e-mail is to scan it on a regular basis and complete any tasks arising, that can be completed in less than a minute. Apart from that, she believes that you should only have three other mailboxes in addition to your inbox, which she labels as Follow Up, Archive and Hold.

Messages that require you to do something which is going to take you longer than a minute should immediately be moved into the Follow Up box and you should regularly go through them and complete the tasks that arise from each. The Hold box is a temporary holding station for messages that you want to keep around for quick reference.

Examples of this might be a tracking number from your latest Internet purchase which you will no longer need after the package arrives. The Archive mailbox is for the long-term storage of all the messages that have been dealt with or are no longer required in Hold.

Gina makes the point that the search facilities that we have available on our computers today make it unnecessary to file all our messages in the elaborate and time-consuming ways we used to. I hadn’t really thought about e-mail in these terms but using the Trusted Trio does make perfect sense and sounds as though it would save a lot of time.

Another recent article on Life Hacker concerned their Top 10 Tiny and Awesome Windows Utilities which all seem potentially very useful to those of us who spend a lot of time in front of our computers. One that I have tried is called Revo UnInstaller, which can be downloaded free from revounistaller.com, and which provides a lot of useful looking tools for Windows computers.

The most important of these is the Uninstaller which you use in place of the one provided in Windows, to properly uninstall programs that you no longer need. Once you’ve selected a program to uninstall, Revo activates the program’s uninstall feature, as Windows does, but it also searches out files and registry entries left behind by program.

I tried it a couple of times and the process seem to work very well. Other facilities offered by the program include one that deletes junk files from your computer, one that cleans the history and temporary files from your browser, and one which makes it impossible to recover deleted files, which would be useful from a security point of view.

Life Hacker is a very interesting website and one that I’m going to keep my eyes on for sure. In other news, I was having a look at a British newspaper, over the Internet of course, and I see that the firm previously known as British Telecom, now BT, has announced that it is providing Internet connection speeds of 60 megabits per second to many areas in the UK from the beginning of 2010.

This is apparently eight times faster than the previous fastest speeds offered by BT and they apparently plan to jack that up to 100 megabits per second by 2012. It’s enough to make me cry, slaving away night after night over my hot computer trying to download podcasts at a measly 384 kilobits per second and finding that many of them bomb out halfway through because of server time-outs, or whatever have you.

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