I’ve been looking back over all the newsletters I’ve written over the past years – there’ve been a lot! Most of them are still relevant, too, though some bits are obviously out of date.
It set me thinking – out of all that lot, what are the most useful bits?
I could read all however-many-hundred emails again to pick the most useful… But instead of doing that, I sat down and thought: what are the top 3 pieces of technical advice I’d give – regardless of whether you’re using a PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet?
Here they are:
Number 1: If it goes wrong, don’t just do something, stand there (and wait)
Sometimes when computers or whatever in the office don’t work, if whoever’s using it can’t get it working again, they’ll ask if I’ll help.
I’m quite techie (as hopefully you’ve realised!) so sometimes I can say “have you tried so-and-so” or “Maybe it could be such-and-such”.
But other times, they’ll come and get me, take me to their PC and tell me what the problem is… I try it out… and lo – it works perfectly.
Now, it’s not that the people here are playing a trick on me and saying their PC is playing up when it isn’t (at least, I’m pretty sure it’s not that…)
But sometimes, simply leaving it to sort itself out for the time it takes them to come and get me, tell me what the problem is, wait a minute while I put down whatever I’m doing and come into the other room is enough – in that time it’s sorted itself.
So my number one piece of advice is if something won’t work properly, leave it a minute or two – and if that isn’t enough, try restarting it. Often that’s all it takes and it sorts itself out.
Number 2: You don’t need to “keep up” – but make sure you know what’s useful to you
So many techies will try to talk you into having the latest kit, learning the latest new things and using the latest apps, features and programs.
But they may simply not be what you want. Or the one you’re already using might be absolutely fine for what you want.
So don’t feel you always need to listen when people say “You should be using this latest gadget”
I’ll add two things to that, though. First, if it’s a security issue, then you might well need to switch to a newer version. There are old versions of Windows, for example, that simply aren’t really safe on the internet any more – they’re too easily hacked. Fine it you never plug them into the internet, not fine if you do.
The other thing is that you can’t know whether a new feature, app or whatever would be something you’re interested in unless you know what it does. So although you don’t have to switch to the latest stuff if what you use does what you want, I’d still suggest you keep your ears open to what new things can do – it might be something you’d never have thought of but that you’d really appreciate. You might even need to try it out in order to see if it works for you.
But if you’re sure a particular thing isn’t for you, fine – just ignore it.
Number 3: If you’re banging your head against a wall, see if you can go around it instead
If you find that every time you do a particular thing it’s a real pain in the neck, there’s a good chance there’s an easier way to do it.
Usually on most devices there are several ways to do the same thing. Sometimes there are umpteen different ways.
And often some of those ways are fairly quick, simple & easy and others really aren’t.
So if the way you’re using is tricky or fiddly… or just lots of work, then chances are there’s an easier way.
It might be a way that everyone would find easier or just a way that suits you better. But it could be worth seeing if there is a simpler way.
Often if you’re using a PC or laptop it might be right clicking on something and seeing what options you get.
Or on a smartphone or tablet the equivalent is usually tapping on the thing you want to do something with or to and holding your finger down until a little menu appears.
Of course, if it’s something you only want to do once it doesn’t matter too much if you do it in a long-winded or fiddly way. But if it’s something you do a lot, it might be worth seeing if there’s an easier way.
So there you go – my top three tips. Of course, there are lots of other useful pieces of advice, too – but these are three well worth remembering.