iStock_000000221829MediumI spend quite a bit of my time in front of a PC screen as part of running my business. I think that is probably true for most of us these days?

Whenever I give ACT! or Time Management training people often comment upon the way I have my PC set-up. I’ve developed this system over many years and it works perfectly for me. Others I have shown it to have also adopted my approach. There are some utilities that I use on a daily basis as well that save me time, stress and lost business. This blog is quick overview of my top (PC) effectiveness tips. Perhaps some may be of value to you…

A Clear Desktop

I only have shortcuts on my PC desktop. These are changed at the beginning of the working week depending upon the clients, projects and documents that I need quick access to for that week. So, if I plan to do some work on Project X this week, I drag a shortcut to my desktop for Project X at the very start of the week. The shortcut gets deleted when the work I need to do is completed. So, most weeks I have only a handful of shortcuts on my desktop.

Common Structure to Email, Documents and Filing Cabinets.

I was once told that the brain can only hold between 7 and 10 items at the same time. Not sure where I heard this, but it feels right to me. This means that, when given a choice of where to file something, keep the number of options below 10, or if possible to below 7. So, within My Documents on my laptop, I only have¬† 10 sub-folders. This means that when it comes to finding (or saving) something it’s pretty obvious where it goes (or went). The 10 folder headings I currently have are:

  1. Clients
  2. Opportunities
  3. Finances
  4. Marketing
  5. Projects
  6. Sage & ACT
  7. Training Material
  8. Family & Friends
  9. Me
  10. Resources

Each folder is then sub-divided. So, for example, 4. Marketing is sub-divided into: 4.1 Networking, 4.2 WebSite, 4.3 Newsletters, 4.4 Synergy Partners, 4.5 Case Studies 4.6 Social Media and 4.7 Mailing Lists.

The idea for this approach is part of the Time Manager International system and for years I used their paper system, before transferring it to my PC. The folders / sub-folder hierarchy is also mirrored exactly within Outlook. So when I want to file an email, again it’s pretty obvious where it should go. Finally, the same hierarchy is present within the physical filling cabinet that I have as well. This makes it far easier to file & retrieve an item, whether it is electronic or physical.

So, the above are my 10 sections. Why not try and work out yours?

Firefox and X-Marks

Firefox is a great web browser. I love the flexibility offered and the host of add-in’s that enhance its power. One of these, X-Marks, lets me store my favourites and web passwords and have them sync’d to multiple PC’s. I have three PC’s that I work with at various times and it’s great to be able to have the same menu structure, favourites etc on each of them. It also means that if I have registered on one web site that needs a user name and password, that this info¬† is sync’d to all the other machines as well.

Splash ID

This is the only thing mentioned in this blog that will cost you money. And it’s worth every penny. Splash ID is a simple little password protected program that that stores all the other important bits of information that you don’t want to forget. This can be other passwords, pin numbers, account numbers, credit card info, insurance policies etc etc. Pretty much anything that is important and you don’t want to forget. This information is then sync’d to Splash ID on my phone. So I have all that information with me, all the time. And if I lose one device the other serves as a backup.


An excellent add-in to Outlook that helps you track and store email conversations and documents sent and received with your contacts. XOBNI also integrates into Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn so you can see the activity of your contacts on these social media sites. A built in search means that it is really fast at finding contacts, conversations, documents – pretty much anything really.

These tools improve the efficiency of the way I work. In fact, I reckon that I save about and hour or two a week by having and using these tools. OK, it’s taken a little bit of time to configure and make a habit of using them. But I have got that time back many times over as a result.

I’d be interested to hear of any other time saving PC programs or habits you have.

2 Responses to “Improve your (PC) time effectiveness”

  • This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Hackforth and Andrew Stinchcomb.

  • Very interesting Trevor, especially the bit about Splash ID which is something I definitely need.

    I organise my Inbox files in the same way and now I feel motivated to ask my staff to do the same – it’s impossible finding their email if they’re on holiday or off sick.

    We have to account for client time and something we’ve just moved to is called Tickspot – really easy to use and the person who recommended it says they never go overbudget now. Might be worth a try

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