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Thursday, October 10, 2002


Every day I work with people who are extremely frustrated with their computers. In an effort to help alleviate any computer stress you might be feeling, here is a reprint of a past column that might help you better cope with computer troubles. -- Douglas

Tech IQ: Frustration

Originally published January 25, 2000

As you all have probably learned already, working with computers can sometimes be an amazingly frustrating experience. Computers can do so much for us but problems can and do crop up on a regular basis. Worse yet, these problems usually occur at the worst possible moment. In an effort to make your computing life a little easier, though, here are a few guidelines to help you avoid frustration and get on with your work.

Chronic Problems

Too often the problems that drive you crazy have nothing to do with your lack of skills or knowledge about the computer. Most are too quick to blame themselves when things go wrong. In reality, it is often a flaw in the computer or software you are using rather than some mistake on your part. As a general rule, if your computer is crashing more than once or twice a day, or if it crashes whenever you try to perform a certain operation, you are probably dealing with a chronic problem.

Chronic problems can be the most difficult to solve. Once you believe you are facing one you should seek out assistance from a knowledgeable computer professional or friend. Usually these problems can be solved by re-installing your operating system (i.e. Windows 98), or whichever program is crashing. Sometimes it might take more work, but at least you know during this process that it isnâ??t your fault. You may be frustrated at the work it requires to repair the problem, but you wonâ??t be frustrated with yourself.

Working it out

Even if your computer is working well, you probably still have questions about using it. For example, you might be interested in anything from changing margins to creating automated templates. These situations can be frustrating as well unless you keep a few things in mind.

First, when you are confronted with a problem allow yourself 10-15 minutes of concentrated effort. Some of you may even be able to spend a bit more time, but the moment you feel that familiar feeling of frustration, take a break. You will be surprised how many questions you can answer for yourself by taking these few minutes. If you need further help you can turn to those around you, printed manuals, third party books or even the Internet for further information. Donâ??t feel you are alone and donâ??t allow yourself to get so frustrated you throw up your hands. Once you reach that point it will take even longer to find an answer. No one works well when they are frustrated, as I am sure you know.

Asking for help, from books or friends should never make you feel stupid. Like the stereotypical male who wonâ??t ask for directions, you only get yourself into deeper trouble by going it alone. We all have our expertise. Just because you are struggling with your computer is not a sign that you are dumb, despite book publishers who insist on calling you "Dummies" or "Idiots." It just means that you have placed your attention elsewhere. It is important to remember that even after 18 years of working with computers, one of the first things I do when I encounter a new piece of software or hardware, is look at the manual. Even those things that look familiar, like an upgrade to software you have been using for years, can contain differences that can trip you up.

Taking a few minutes to solve small problems allows you to build your skills without making you hate your computer. Knowing when to reach out for help, especially for the tough problems, can help you solve your computer problems without driving yourself to distraction.


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