These shortcuts, when strategically placed (and/or placed in multiple locations!) quickly become hard to live without.
Windows 7 Taskbar Program Shortcuts
To add a program to the Taskbar, first find the program (Start > All Programs > etc.), right-click the program, and select Pin to Taskbar.
Drag the icons around in the Taskbar to reorder them in the order of importance to you (or alphabetically, or any other order that you choose).
Start Menu Program Shortcuts
One option is to “Store and display recently opened programs in the Start menu” (a Start Menu Privacy setting), but a more permanent solution is to specifically pin programs to the Start Menu. I use both simultaneously.
To add a program to the Start Menu, first find the program (Start > All Programs > etc.), right-click the program, and select Pin to Start Menu.
Drag the icons around in the Start Menu to reorder them in the order of importance to you (or alphabetically, or any other order that you choose).
To create a Desktop shortcut “from scratch”, right-click on the Desktop and select New > Shortcut. This is the most difficult option, as you either need to know the full name and path to the program/file/folder/document/etc., or you need to be able to find it by browsing.
To remove a program/shortcut/icon/file/etc. from the Desktop, right-click the icon and select Delete.
These are a few tips that, although they take a few minutes to set up initially, enable me to save time each day.
As my needs and preferences change, I like to periodically switch out programs that I no longer use, to prioritize new programs that I find myself using more often.