I've got five tips for how to transform your desktop into a bastion of productivity. I've also got a short video that shows it all in action.
1. Keep a clean desktop. The fewer icons and shortcuts you scatter across your desktop, the easier it will be to find stuff when you need it. That means, of course, that you'll have to file things properly to begin with instead of just leaving it on the desktop, and that's the real benefit here -- follow through, and your Web bookmarks will be properly categorized in Favorites, your files will be in Documents, and downloaded files will be in Downloads.
2. Fence in the stuff that remains. We all know that icons will end up on the desktop anyway. Make sure you're using Stardock's free Fences, which lets you organize icons into smart groups and make them all disappear with a double-click.
3. Use Notifications. I don't buy the study that recommends doing away with notifications; I think their methodology was flawed. E-mail notifications let you know something arrived so you don't keep popping your e-mail client open over and over all day long just to check. There are all sorts of notification tools out there; I like Growl for Outlook and Outlook Web Access. For simple Outlook POP notifications, try Chameleon Glass.
4. Pin apps to the taskbar. Why mess with the Start menu? Pin your most common programs, like the various Office apps, to the Windows 7 taskbar so they're always a click away.
5. Use Jump Lists and Favorites. Pin your most common files and folders so you don't need to root around in the file system to find stuff you use all the time.
And I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. (Whatever that means. That's a very odd expression.) Here's a 2-minute tour of my desktop in which I show you how I take advantage of each of these tips: