At Microsoft, I acquired lots of neat tips and tricks that I have now adapted into my daily life as a CS student. I’ll share some of my favorites.

1. In to-dos and tasks, use $ for in-progress tasks and * for mostly completed tasks


In my team, in our bug-tracking system we used $ to mark items currently in progress and * to mark when a work item or bug was moslty completed but not yet checked in. That makes it very easy to track how progress on a given tasks is going. I have since incorporated this into my regular to-do list.

2. In code that does a lot of error handling, use status variables and macros to check for errors


Instead of writing long if clauses to check the result of every system call, hide those error checks behind a macro. It makes code much cleaner and makes error checking and logging a much more painless affair.

3. Lock your computer often


More about privacy and security than productivity, it’s always a good idea (and company policy at Microsoft) to lock your computer when you’re going to leave it for a while. You never know when someone might come by and use your account or steal your data. Windows+L is a very easy keyboard shortcut, so use it often.

4. Use Zune Pass to keep your music fresh


There’s nothing worse than listening to the same music over and over again while you’re trying to work. Zune Pass is an awesome service because not only does it let you download all the music you want, but it also gives you recommendations on new music to listen to. This way, you can keep your playlist fresh and new. Grooveshark, and Pandora also work, but Zune Pass is the only one that also lets you download music to listen offline and copy to MP3 player.

5. When working from the command line, batch scripts and shortcuts are king


This one’s a no-brainer for anyone that spends a large portion of the time on the command line. Whether it be Windows or Unix-like shells, shortcuts and scripts always help a lot when navigating and getting stuff done on the command line. Use aliases, scripts and commands to get the best out of your command-line experience.

6. Keep highly hydrated for best performance


Microsoft offers free drinks to all employees for a reason. It’s very important to keep hydrated to be productive. Whether it be water or your favorite caffeine-rich drink, try to keep you brain happy while you’re working.


Have a tip of your own for working better? Leave a comment!