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Computers: Sucking our will to live since 1975

Cady McGovernA nationwide survey commissioned by Crucial.com indicates Americans lose four days each year waiting for their computers to behave, cutting into precious time survey respondents say they’d rather spend exercising, sleeping or planning healthy meals.

I always knew the machines were out to destroy us.

The survey indicates that 66 percent of Americans say waiting for a computer system they know should be working faster is one of their top frustrations. Survey respondents said they wasted an average of 16 minutes each day waiting for their computer to load.

Almost half the survey respondents between 18 and 34 years old said waiting for a slow computer leaves them more drained than a hard workout.

“A slow computer is not only wasting valuable time that could be put towards improved health, but it is also a source of immense frustration and constant stress, two things that are never good for anyone’s health,” said Kathy Kaehler, a celebrity trainer and fitness expert, in response to the survey results.

I hear that.

I consider impatience one of my biggest weaknesses. I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to do in my life, and when something holds me up, I get frustrated. I’ve also got a lot of stuff to do at work, much of which is deadline sensitive, and nearly all of which I do on my computer. So when my computer refuses to toe the line, I can get pretty upset.

Hardly a week goes by when my co-workers don’t get to enjoy at least one one-sided conversation between me and my computer.

“Seriously, computer?”

“Computer, why you gotta be like this?”

“Does it violate company policy if I threaten this computer?”

And I keep myself pretty well under control at work. When my computer goes on strike at home, it’s a rage fest not fit for print.

Which is, of course, terrible for my health. I grit my teeth. I slam my fist down on the desk. I’ve never taken my blood pressure while the spinning wheel of death mocks me from the center of my unsaved work, but I’m sure it’s in the Lewis Black Zone.

Internet sources such as WebMD and Underground Health Reporter say anger and anxiety trigger humans’ “fight or flight” response, which obviously is not necessary (satisfying as the fight would be) when it’s a computer pushing you toward the brink. The hormones released during that “fight or flight” response can, over time, cause physiological problems.

So how do we defeat the machines?

The obvious answer, of course, is to buy top-of-the line machines and upgrade every few years. But that’s an expensive and daunting proposition for an individual, let alone a business with multiple computers. Most of us will have to make do with workarounds. Fortunately, there are a few easy tricks I’ve learned over the years.

Keep a clean desktop. It’s actually a drain on your computer’s resources to have a gazillion icons littering your desktop. “But I need that stuff!” you say. Well, create a new folder, name it “desktop,” and throw everything in there. Done.

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever download any sort of toolbar for your web browser. Just don’t do it. Every time a glacially slow computer’s been bequeathed to me, its main web browser had an inch-deep bank of toolbars from Google, Yahoo, AOL, Bing and VirusesRUs.com. Those toolbars do not add ANY functionality to your web browser, but holy cow will they slow your computer down. If you find someone else has downloaded one to your machine, nuke that sucker (the program, not your co-worker).

Ask the Internet for help. There are a ton of online tutorials to help you turn off unneeded features, remove unnecessary programs and perform routine maintenance tasks. If you still aren’t sure what you’re doing, find out who in the office can help you out so you don’t somehow delete your operating system.

And maybe buy one of those little zen gardens for your desk. Just in case.

Cady McGovern is Focus editor for the Idaho Business Review.

About Cady McGovern

2 comments

  1. Amen sister (or probably daughter)!

  2. What a great article Cady. I often wonder how often Boise based business owners think about employee time wasted on technology and slow computers. Do they ever calculate the costs it can have on their employees and their bottom line?

    A few things I might add to your article. With the cost of computer parts declining often times slow computers can be upgraded to increase speeds without having to go out and buy a whole new one. Also, Internet speeds now play a huge part in our productivity so it’s helpful to review services from the phone and Internet companies yearly.

    Best,

    Josh
    Perfect Computing
    208-322-9290
    7982 W. Fairview, Boise, ID, 83704