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In this high-pressure, results-oriented world, everyone is expected to perform quickly and efficiently. What with all the Getting-Things-Done (GTD) applications for Windows, Mac and even mobile devices, there are hardly any excuses for not completing the task in hand. However, when it comes to increasing productivity, it’s not always about working harder but working smarter. It’s rewarding to learn to use the same amount of time to accomplish more than you could before.

So, this article is not about Getting-Things-Done, but Getting-More-Done on your Mac.

1. Map Exposé hotkeys onto your mouse buttons

Three or four button mice are pretty common these days, and mapping the two most often used Exposé functions (All Windows and Show Desktop) on to your mouse buttons means never having to reach for F9 and F11. The reason why I do this is because I constantly have my left thumb stuck on the left Command button to execute shortcuts and my right hand on my mouse.

2. Block out distractions when working

Turning off Growl notifications, Twitter and other little pop-ups reduces diversions from your work when you’re trying to concentrate and keep your train of thought. You could also download and install this little free application called Think by Freeverse. It shades background applications and the desktop, letting you focus on the task at hand.

think- Block Distractions

If writing/journalism is your line of work, and you get distracted easily by movements on your desktop, Writeroom provides a serene and good ol’ fashioned writing environment. It strips away everything from the screen, leaving you with a black layout and green font. It’s reminiscent of the olden days (remember those fluorescent green CRT screens?) with a little nostalgic journalistic feel.


Unfortunately, Writeroom isn’t free but JDarkRoom is. It works just as well and because JDarkRoom is based on Java, it’s cross-platform (Win, Mac, Linux). It has been covered before by Mark Eliminate Writing Distractions with JDarkRoom Eliminate Writing Distractions with JDarkRoom Read More . They also have a Windows only counterpart called Dark Room and it’s free!


3. Use keyboard shortcuts

Like I said, my left thumb is glued onto the left Command button to execute shortcuts. It’s very helpful to familiarize yourself with the common shortcuts to save on a few mouse-clicks. Some of my more frequently used shortcuts are:

  • Command -W: Close window
  • Command-H: Hide window
  • Command-Up arrow: Move up one directory in Finder
  • Command-Delete: Move to Trash
  • Command-Shift-Delete: Empty Trash
  • Command-Option-I: Show Inspector
  • Command-K: Connect to Server
  • Command-T: Shows font palatte
  • Command-Shift-C: Shows color palatte
  • Command-Shift-3: Takes screenshot
  • Command-Option-Eject: Sleep
  • Command-Option-Control-8: Invert colors
  • Command-Shift- { or }: Switches between tabs in Safari

Apple maintains an up-to-date list of keyboard shortcuts here.

4. Sidenote

side note Sidenote is like the child that came out of wedlock from Yojimbo and ShoveBox. All of these applications have one thing in common – they’re essentially inboxes for the things that you might want to have a look at later. In other words, they’re dropboxes for scraps of information e.g. pictures, URLs, text, etc. They come in very handy if you’re a hardcore internet bug who surfs countless webpages each day and comes across a lot of pictures and neat articles which you’d like to keep and have a look at at the end of the day.

Yojimbo is, in my opinion, the most superior of the lot because it has way more features to offer in terms of tagging, adding notes, flagging, adding bookmarks and can even sync via The Missing Sync to your Blackberry, Windows Mobile device or Palm. Unfortunately, Yojimbo and ShoveBox aren’t freeware.

However Sidenote accomplishes the simple task of a data collector pretty well. It sits on either the left or right edge of your screen (hence the name!) and hides when inactive. Adding stuff into it a matter of dragging the material over to the edge of the screen where Sidenote is and letting go. After you’re done collecting, you may either export your stuff out, email, or print it. Basic and straight to the point.

5. Use Spotlight

Leopard’s Spotlight has come a long way since it was implemented in OS X Tiger. It works so amazingly fast that I use it as my application-launcher. For a lot of Mac users, Quicksilver is still the number one choice. I’m not saying that Spotlight will replace Quicksilver, however it does offer some neat enhancements and upgrades since it debuted:

    Dictionary function: Spotlight works in collaboration with and entering words into it will result in their definition.

    Calculator function: Try entering 7/3 into Spotlight.

    Application-specific results : Typing in a name into Spotlight will reveal the person’s vCard from Address book, and the emails they sent if Apple Mail was used.

    Search according to file-type: Adding a string like ‘kind:music’, ‘kind:PDF’ or ‘kind:images’ will restrict Spotlight to search within specific file-types.

That’s it for Part One. In the next article, I’ll discuss matters like organizing your Mac, tagging, using GTD/To-Do apps, integrating Mail, Address book and iCal, doing more with Safari, and Automator.

(By) Jackson Chung is a full-time med student attempting to perform a juggling act with relationship, studies and his future.

  1. baker
    January 11, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Great post, I always find it hard to balance work/life on the mac, and some of these tools really help in the process. I however always thought I would love the darkroom or writeroom ideas until I tried one out. It was something about not have all the formatting and features avaliable on the screen that turned me off. So what I use now is a word processor with full screan capabilities, i.e. Scrivener.

    Back to brokenstones

    baker at

  2. Jackson
    March 22, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Thank you, I appreciate it!

  3. Jackson
    March 22, 2008 at 6:26 am


    Spotlight has really improved and it's amazing how quick it is now. Results are almost instantaneous.

    Your site looks pretty neat.

  4. Alex Palma
    March 22, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Hey, awesome post, well written. I don't think I could function properly on my Macbook without my 4 button mouse modified to work with expose,quick desktop view and Dashboard. Excellent tips keep it up.

    Check out the latest Apple news at if you have a minute, I would love to have you there.

  5. Dan
    March 21, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Great tips! We're often posting new hints and tips on getting the most out of your Mac at

    I'm personally interested in Sidenote. Would love to read more about it.

    I've always used spotlight to launch my apps.

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