Last week I got a brand-new computer. I had put it off for several months a couple of years because it would mean that I needed to clean out my old one and decide what to keep and what to trash.
It sat in the box for a couple of days, but finally I took it to Osama, our computer guru guy, to make the transfer. When I picked it up on Monday, I knew that there would be a few things I’d have to amend myself that didn’t make it in the transfer or that he wouldn’t have wanted to make an executive decision about.
The first change announced itself when I launched Outlook and discovered that all of my calendar entries were wiped out in the transfer. All of my appointments – past, present and future – were just …gone. There was a momentary heart-stoppage when my contacts didn’t seem to be there, either. I’m ultimately safe – I did a backup (and so did Osama) – but of course you can’t help the autonomic adrenalin rush that hits when you think that it’s all gone.
All my settings and defaults for programs have to be updated, one by one, as I open them for the first time. For example, I’m typing now in Word’s awful default of Calibri (11 point) because this is the first Word doc of the week. That’ll be the next thing to get changed.
And yes, Mac heads, I know. If I had a Mac all of this transfer business would be seamless and entirely hassle-free blah blah blah. Rick Snyder spoke for all of you in our IM on Monday as I was complaining about the process:
Just for the record, I have an iPhone (I’ve got the honking big one. I call it my “FAB-u-let”) as well as an iPad, so I’m aware of the awesomeness that is Apple. And the ease with which I could have (purportedly) ported everything over from iMac to iMac. But I actually like my new Dell. I find PCs easy, but when they’re not, that’s okay too. Usually.
Things that are easy rarely make us think. If everything transferred over in one huge chunk, would I be spending the time to look at how my files are organized? How I actually want to see my calendar and address book? Would I take a step back and say “okay, now that I know what I know about how I use and manage this stuff, what’s the best way to organize, view, and use it?” Would I? No way.
A brief comic aside
In case you haven’t seen them, there’s a company called Despair, Inc. that sells Demotivators, which are posters (and mugs, and calendars, and everything else) that are very cheeky riffs on those awful motivational posters from the 80s and 90s.
One of my favorite ones illustrates how ill-advised it can be to keep doing what we’re doing just because we’ve always been doing it that way. The poster’s got a point.
Now back to our regularly scheduled (computer) program
That being said, you definitely want to keep the stuff that works. I’m always interested in learning about (and stealing!) the short cuts and add-ins that other people use to make life easier, so I thought I’d share the things I did immediately to customize my browser. I use Firefox, but you can do many of these same things in other browsers.
- Set things up to dump things out. I’ve got no history, no cookies and no cache at this point and I want to keep it that way (within reason). I went into Tools/Options and went through every menu to set everything up the way I wanted. Like making sure that the tabs I had from today are still there when I boot up tomorrow morning.
- Pin tabs. There are 10 websites that I use every single day. Instead of typing in the urls or going to my bookmarks, it’s lots more efficient to have them load and be where they’re not taking up a lot of room. It’s one of my favorite things. Go to the top of the tab, right click and select ‘Pin Tab’. You’re welcome.
- Add frequently-used sites to the ribbon. For the sites I don’t use every single day, but frequently enough, I put them in the ribbon. I also put sites here that I use frequently but don’t want to ‘pin’ because they take a while to load or automatically play annoying ad videos. To add a site to the ribbon, highlight the url or grab the name in the tab and just drag the whole thing down to the ribbon and drop it there. If you don’t like the way it’s listed, just right-click it, go to ‘Properties’ and re-name it.
- Check out the lovely free Add-ons. Firefox allows for customizing your user experience. They’ve made a (largely free) marketplace available for us to download elegant (or clunky but workable) work-arounds. Two of my favorites are Awesome Screenshot (guess what that does?) and Ghostery, which tells you exactly what a website is tracking (or adding to your computer) when you visit it.
- Take a fresh (and very jaded) view of the apps, customizations, filing mechanisms, naming conventions, or whatever that have been bothering you. Or things that fall under the two week rule*. What can be dumped, updated or reconfigured? I rediscovered quite a few things that I’d added during a special project two years ago that I never use now. Buh bye.
I really wasn’t looking forward to doing this computer portage, but now that I’ve started it’s kind of re-energized my thinking about a lot of other things as well.
You don’t have to buy a new computer (or, to take it one step further, do a database conversion) to do something about the computer in your life. Being forced to make changes can be a good thing, but if you’re getting in a rut on Easy Street, maybe you should force yourself to do it. You don’t have to do the whole project at once. Just start small and set aside a certain time every week to chip away at it.
*So, the two week rule goes like this: If something is left in a spot in your home or office and it isn’t moved or dealt with within 14 days, you stop seeing it. First it becomes like a rock (heavy, grey, unmovable) and then it becomes an invisible object.