How to be efficient as a GIS professional (part 1)

There has always been a wide interest in how to stay effective regardless of what kind of work you do. There are tons of blogs on personal effectiveness, lots of books on getting things done topic, and lists of useful pieces of software that can be awesome time-savers. My thought was to summarize in here what I’ve learned so far about staying efficient being GIS professional to make it more relevant for everyone involved in GIS industry. There will be multiple posts on that.

1. Get to know the GIS products you work with.
No matter what GIS software you use, you will spend most of your day operating a certain application or two producing a map, converting datasets, or solving geographical problems. Therefore, it is of crucial importance to be familiar with the software. One of the first things I do when learning any new application is going through the top menu and checking what are the options available to me. I hate working with an application I spend most of my time without understanding what is the purpose of the settings and options available in the menus.

Maybe you will find out a cool tool that would save you some time. Or there could be an option for the customization, so you could enjoy interacting with the application much more by changing the background color or toolbars layout.

2. Always think how you can do things faster.
It is always tempting just to get things done and forget about them. This urge is hard to beat. Maybe you need to run a data processing tool by going through a couple of menus. If you do it several times per day, this will result in a half a minute per day which will result in 15 minutes in a month. Take here other things you do which could be done faster. You’ll get a whole hour in a month. You could spend it for something valuable rather than clicking through the menus, right?

Let’s start with the operating system shortcuts. Most of you are on Windows, so learn its ones well. Sometimes you just won’t have a mouse and you will need to start a Windows Explorer with just a keyboard. Pressing the keys is way faster than moving the mouse cursor around.

Then learn the GIS software shortcuts. If you edit geographic data a lot, learn Keyboard shortcuts that can be used while editing (ArcGIS); learn shortcuts to get around the application, too, by Assigning shortcut keys. You will be amazed how much faster you will operate the application. Search the ArcGIS software documentation for the shortcuts already embedded.

3. Master touch typing.
You should be able to type fast (touch typing) without looking at your keyboard. If you are brave, why not get a Dvorak keyboard and learn typing on that. The research shows some evidence that Dvorak layout is safer and nicer to work with. I’ve got mine from TypeMatrix and quite like it, even though it was painful to accept typing really slow first. It usually takes around a month to switch to Dvorak completely.

If you run many Windows programs, why not add Windows shortcuts to them? Windows is capable of creating shortcuts for nearly everything from a program installed to a control panel item.

All these things initially take time to setup, but it is worth it in the long run. Just think of this as of an investment which will pay off rather soon.

More tips will be published soon!

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