Rajesh Kumar

Optimizing life, one day after the next

Pareto Productivity

30 Jan 2011

In addition to the Matthew effect, one of the most important principles of triaging that is a must-know for every person who goes through University is the Pareto Principle. Also commonly known as the 80/20 rule, the adapted Pareto Principle states that for a lot of things in life, and especially in University, as much as 80% of the benefits come from just 20% of the work you do.

Which led me to wonder: what is the Pareto point of internet productivity? Given that I spend so much time on the internet, what is the minimum amount of work I'd have to do in terms of learning, practice, and training in order to achieve the maximum gain in productivity? These min-max optimization problems are of great interest to me. Productivity, like many other things, is certainly a logarithmic graph with most of the gain achieved during the early stages, while marginal benefit declines to zero with each extra unit of effort.

It turns out that internet productivity can be severely boosted with improvements in just 3 areas (in order):

  1. Typing speed: I spend a lot of time inputting text while on the internet: emails, facebook comments, blog comments, IM/chat, blogs, essays, code, etc. Improving typing speed even by just a little bit therefore has a tremendous impact on overall productivity by virtue of how frequently we use our keyboard. I've used 3 typing tools in the past before:

    • GNU typist or gtypist is a simple command-line based (ncurses) touch typing tutor. I used this a lot back in Grades 11 and 12 when I was exclusively running linux as my operating system. A simple "sudo apt-get -y install gtypist && gtypist" should get you started towards the elite path of speed typing.
    • Typingtest.com has some nice short essays for practice. However, the tests are limited to a mere 10 essays. The advantage of this tool is that you'll be mimicking real life by typing out complete and meaningful sentences.
    • Fast-fingers.com helps you practice individual words that are commonly used while typing. The words don't form a coherent sentence so this doesn't quite represent the real world. But the speed gains are still very real.

    A minimum typing speed of 80 wpm is a must on the internet these days. Ideally though, you'd want to be at a 100 wpm or above. And I'm talking about typing proper English: words with numbers in them like b4, e1, sum1, any1 don't count. Start on some of these tests and then try to beat your score everyday. Practicing 4-5 times a day every day of the week should get you in pretty good shape in just under a month.

    Another simple hint to improve typing speed is to use a full-size keyboard as much as possible. Netbook and laptop keyboards are compact, but you will always get your fastest speed with a good external keyboard. Get the ones where you don't have to push the keys too hard. I'd recommend the cheapest non-wireless Dell and HP keyboards. I've used them both extensively and they're the best keyboards I've ever used. I currently use the HP one at work.

  2. Keyboard shortcuts: Keyboard shortcuts are a life saver. It saves you from having to move your right hand between your keyboard and mouse all the time. Especially if you're using an external full-size keyboard, your right hand has to travel all the way across the numeric keypad before it can reach the mouse. If you use Gmail extensively like me, make sure you enable keyboard shortcuts, and learn all of them. Hit '?' to view a full list of shortcuts in Gmail.

    Here's the pareto list of must-know Firefox/Chrome keyboard shortcuts:

    • Alt + Tab to switch between programs on Windows
    • Alt + F4 to close the browser window
    • Ctrl + N to open a new browser window
    • Ctrl + Tab to cycle between tabs
    • Ctrl + Shift + Tab to cycle between tabs in reverse
    • Ctrl + T to open a new tab
    • Ctrl + Shift + T to re-open a closed tab
    • Ctrl + W to close the current tab
    • Ctrl + L or F6 to focus on the URL bar
    • Ctrl + E or Ctrl + K to make a Google Search
    • Ctrl + 1 to focus on the 1st tab, Ctrl + 2 to focus on the 2nd tab and so on
    • Ctrl + 9 to focus on the last tab if you have 9 or less tabs open
    • Ctrl + R or F5 to refresh the current window
    • Ctrl + F to start searching
    • Ctrl + G or F3 to find next search instance
    • Ctrl + H to view history
    • Ctrl + X to cut, Ctrl + C to copy, Ctrl + V to paste, and Ctrl + Z to undo
    • Ctrl + A to select all text inside the URL bar, or a textbox
    • Ctrl + A, then Ctrl + C, to take a quick backup of the contents of your textbox
    • Esc to stop loading current page
    • Alt + Left Arrow Key or Backspace to go back to the previous page in History
    • Alt + Right to go forward in History
    • Arrow keys to move between search results in Google and browse through photos in a Facebook album
    • Tab to move to the next input element
    • Tab and then space (or enter) to send an email in Gmail or post a comment on facebook

  3. Firefox/Chrome keywords: Keyword searching is the holy grail of internet productivity. I know very few people who use it, and the ones who use it are blazingly fast at everything they do, not just when they're at their computers.

    Here's my full list of search keywords that I absolutely cannot live without. The keyword, shown in parenthesis, is the shorthand to activate a given search. For example, the keyword for Google is 'g', so I would just type 'g lemon' in the URL bar to search for lemon.

    1. Google Search (g)
      URL: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%s

    2. Facebook Search (fb)

    3. Google Image Search (i)

    4. Acronym Search (a)

    5. Google Maps Search (gm)

    6. Google Maps Directions from Home (gmh)

    7. Google Maps Directions from Work (gmw)

    8. Google Dictionary Search (d)

    9. Dictionary.com Search (dict)

    10. Thesaurus.com Search (thes)

    11. Urban Dictionary (ud)

    12. Current Time In a Country/City (t)

    13. Wikipedia Search (w)

    14. YouTube Search (yt) http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%s

    15. Imdb.com Search (imdb)

    16. Rotten Tomatoes Search (rt)

    17. Watiam Search (wt)

    18. Bit.ly URL Shortener (bl)

    19. PHP.net Documentation Search (p)

    20. Twitter Profile (tw)

    21. Twitter Search (ts)

    22. UWLive Course Search (uwl)

    23. Fahrenheit to Celsius Conversion (f)

    24. Weather in San Francisco (we)

    25. DuckDuckGo.com Search (ddg)

    26. Meetrajesh.com View Latest Blog Post (b)

    27. Crontab Quick Reference (cron)

    28. Google Docs (docs)

    29. Let Me Google That for You (lm)

    30. FishEye Search (fe)

    31. BigHugeLabs On Black (ob)

    32. UW Class Schedule (adm)

And always remember, 20% of the work gives you 80% of the gains!

« Oct 15, 2009Obstacle Race »

[ about | all posts | subscribe | resume | contact ]