TAKE a serious minute for some sorely needed self-assessment. Are you slothful, inefficient, disorganised? Do you procrastinate hopelessly until tomorrow stretches into three years? If your desk bears paper on a Himalayan scale and your computer is more enemy than friend, then Kerry Gleeson's The High-Tech Personal Efficiency Program: Organizing Your Electronic Resources to Maximize Your Time and Efficiency (John Wiley & Sons, US$16.95) could be just what you need. This is a text Microsoft could never have produced, a sensible, down-to-earth book written for those who, decades into the computer age, still have not worked out how DOS functions, what ASCII stands for (it is American Standard Code for Information Interchange) and think 'drag and drop' refers to bodies over cliffs. In this age of increasingly sophisticated gadgetry, how many of us really use these devices to ease our lives? This is the question Mr Gleeson asks, emphasising that the whole point of his book is to maximise efficiency to stretch out leisure hours. Whether Hong Kong's work force is ready for this book is debatable. The first section addresses the vagaries of cleaning a desk. The author runs through 10 principles for cleaning up sloppy work habits. Not surprisingly, he says the single most important work principle is to tackle the job at hand immediately. 'Act on an item the first time you touch it or read it,' he writes. The rest of the chapter sounds a bit parental: 'Have a place to store things; put things back in their place; clean up after yourself.' The point is that if your habits in the paper world are lousy, they are not going to be much better in the electronic cosmos. So, Mr Gleeson says, the first task is to develop a conceptually solid filing system and transfer that to a computer. Using a computer as an effective tool means setting up systems that are easy to handle and convenient for storing information in easily retrievable forms. This includes creating a file system for the documents in the computer, creating a file system for retained e-mail and fax messages, creating a computer desktop (the screen that appears once the computer has finished booting up) that makes access to files easy. There are two bits of information that might be of value to the uninitiated. The first is using a personal information manager (PIM). This is software designed to help organise appointments, keep track of basic personal data, connect to the Internet, schedule group meetings and so on. The book provides a guide to the PIMs available on the market and how to use them. Part of maximising efficiency lies in controlling finances effectively. Mr Gleeson advises using a software package like Intuit's Quicken to keep track of cheques, income, expenditures and miscellaneous costs. Also in this book are tips on how best to use a computer when travelling, explanations of smart phones (when wired to a cappuccino machine, these make secretaries and spouses redundant) and the latest on groupware. For those who are wondering, groupware is powerful new software designed to enhance the collective work of teams. It avoids, for example, people clogging up the computer system by sending duplicate and unnecessary e-mail to each other.