The best way to be productive on the computer is to know the program(s) that you are working with. The best advice I can give you is to take a basic technology class. Knowing how to work programs like Microsoft Word and Excel become invaluable.
Another tip I can give you is to take advantage of the F1 key when you are confused or don’t understand. The F1 key is the help button. Just learning what keys go to what functions will save time too. For every function you can do with your mouse you can also do with the keyboard. For example Ctrl+v is the function for pasting items from the clipboard.
For internet searches there are a whole set of rules to follow. Knowing Keywords will help when searching the internet. For example if you are looking for the life cycle of a frog, keywords would be life cycle”: and “frog”. You shouldn’t use words like (a, the, he, it, and, to, from) these confuse the “search engine and you will get every document on the internet that has those words. Use quotation marks when possible; quotation marks tell the search engine to only look for those words. Make sure you have correct spelling.
Being productive saves time, so let's assume they are one and the same. "How can a person save time when using their computer?" That depends on the user and the answers range from larger to smaller time savings. Here are some ideas in no particular order (see how I am saving time already on the computer by not organizing my thoughts before hand : )
First, let's start with some small ones. How about physically starting your computer and shutting it down? If you are "in and out" all day you can shave off some time by just putting your computer to sleep. I know it sound asinine, but Vista especially takes forever to load and if you start and turn off your computer many times a day it will add up (think of it as saving about 1 minute per start up, twice a day, 5 times a week.) That's 40 minutes a month saved!
Next, max out your RAM. The more you have the quicker your machine will feel. Turn off all memory resident programs that you don't need that will load themselves when you start up, like Google desktop and other such nonsense.
Have a bottle next to your desk so you don't have to take bathroom breaks (kidding!)
Think about how you use your aps...what is it you spend the most time doing? That is where you need to focus to save time. Most programs have shortcut combinations to perform certain actions. For example, simple ones like CNTRL-C to cut (instead of clicking on edit/cut) to more complex ones. Learn what they are for the program you are most likely to use. Again, the time savings is not much on a "per use" basis, but it will add up and time is money.
Next, assigne the function keys to your computer better jobs then the ones they have. This will be even easier if you have a fancy keyboard that has dedicated shortcut keys. Assign them to the programs you frequently use and web sites you frequently go to.
As for browsing, organize your bookmarks well. Make use of the tools given to you by the browser in this direction...the toolbar, etc. Some browsers, like Opera, use a "speed dial" that can help you find favorites faster, while some, like Safari, have a "most visited sites" page. Tell the browser to open links in a new tab, so that when you click one you won't loose the original page (in case you need it again) and you won't open new (memory hogging) windows. Some browsers even have it where you can "link" a bunch of sites together so that when you click on one bookmark it opens them all in different tabs.
Obviously, get the fastest internet you can afford that isn't a waste of bandwidth for the type of work you are doing.
Use all the shortcuts available, such as dragging a file to a printer to print it (instead of opening it, and then clicking on print.)
Get a good video card with a high resolution...you will have more space to work with and will have to flip between windows a lot less. If possible, buy a card that supports two monitors and use them both at the same time. Not only will you look like a bad-ass to all the chicks, you will also get more work done!
Use "work flows" or "batch processing." If you have to apply the same effect to a picture, for example, use a batch command to apply the same filter to all the photos at once rather than clicking on them one at a time.
I could go on and on, but I am out of characters!
Here a few suggestions:
1. Try to kill two birds with one stone, which means basically try to figure out what things that you need to do are compatible. If you find that several things are compatible, then you will save a lot of time. For example, if you have to commute and read, why not do both at once? This is why I always take public transportation.
2. As for the computer, organize your files in a way that is easy to access. This saves a lot of time when you need to look for files.
3. Email yourself all your important files. This is a great way to back things up. This also allow you to work on your files from any computer with an internet connection.