How To Instantly Increase Productivity on your Mac [Part 2]

In the first part of my article, I wrote about mapping Exposé onto your mouse buttons, blocking out distractions while working, using keyboard shortcuts, Sidenote and Spotlight. Now, in the spirit of productivity, let’s just get on with part two!

1. Organize your Mac

Having a cluttered workspace takes up precious time when you’re trying to find certain documents which you might have misplaced. The first step in increasing productivity and using your time wisely to do work is organization – knowing where everything goes. There are several ways to accomplish this.

I’ve seen some desktops with over a hundred files on it. Some people like to show how busy they are by leaving all their documents right where others can see them. A messy desktop can only be more time consuming when you’re trying to figure out which was the last file you were working on, a hassle to look for a certain file and will only increase the tendency to accidentally move things about (especially into Trash). Also, clearing your desktop will indirectly clear your mind psychologically, so you’ll probably think better. For instance, check out the screenshot below.

leopard screenshot   How To Instantly Increase Productivity on your Mac [Part 2]

2. Organizing files into folders and labeling

Most of my important document files are in my Documents folder and within that folder, there are about twenty sub folders. Each one has got a very clear title to describe their content. And since I have so many folders, I add color labels to the ones which I frequently open, so that my eyes zone into them before I know it.

But the thing is, you may have folders within those sub folders. And sometimes it may even be several folders deep before you reach the file you want, making it more of a hassle to get to. Another problem is, not all files can be distributed to only one folder. For instance, if I have a PDF file about Multiple Sclerosis (i am a med-student), it could go into my PDFs folder and also my Medicine folder. In order to tackle this problem, I use tags.

3. Tagging made easy with Punakae

The idea of tagging is to add one or several keywords to a file, making it easier to find files relating to those keywords. It may sound like a hassle to tag every file you have, but trust me it’s easier than it sounds, and more rewarding. Tags can essentially eliminate having multiple folders since files can be found much easier this way. This idea of tagging is not new, even iPhoto uses it and allows you to add keywords to each of your photos.

browser   How To Instantly Increase Productivity on your Mac [Part 2]

To find out more about Punakae and how it works, check out this video screencast. But be warned, the guy narrating might not be a native English speaker and it may sound a little funny.

4. Doing more with Safari

Tabbed browsing is extremely useful. Nobody denies this. But if you’re like me and have 15 tabs opened at the same time every morning when I browse through all my favorite sites, it gets a little tedious clicking the X on each tab to close them. Mastering the Safari shortcut keys are very helpful in making your browsing experience a pleasure.

  • Command-T: Open new tab
  • Command-N: Open new window
  • Command-click link: Opens link in new tab
  • Command-W: Close tab
  • Command-Alt-W: Close all other tabs
  • Command-Shift-W: Close window
  • Command-R: Refresh current tab
  • Command-Shift- { or }: Switch tabs
  • Backspace: Back
  • Spacebar: Page down
  • Command-D: Add bookmark

By default, Google is Safari’s search engine. However I recommend installing [NO LONGER WORKS] Inquisitor. It is a search engine plug-in which extends the capability of searching by giving you suggestions and showing you some possible results even before you hit Return. Clicking on those results will take you directly to that site bypassing Google’s results page.

picture 3   How To Instantly Increase Productivity on your Mac [Part 2]

5. Use To-do lists

Reminding yourself constantly that you have a list of work to be done could be stressful so you might as well forget them! I’m not saying that you needn’t remember anything at all. I’m only emphasizing that thinking about the task at hand will make life easier. Jotting down your list of things to be done somewhere, organizing your thoughts and assigning due dates to each of them is the easiest way to accomplish this.

Getting-things-done applications (GTD) are widely popular so I won’t cover them again. A few good ones have already been elaborated on this site, which are Things for Mac, Remember The Milk, Simple GTD, Task Toy and a few others covered by Daniel.

6. Integrating Apple Mail, iCal and Address Book

There are several new features in Apple Mail 3.0 and a very prominent one is the addition of Data Detectors. Place your cursor over an email address and you have the option of adding that person as a contact into Address Book. It will also highlight dates, times, and certain keywords like ‘tomorrow’, ‘later today’, ’15th of March’ which can be added into iCal as appointments. Addresses will also be detected and mapped into directions. Since Apple provided us with these features, we might as well make use of them.

leopard data detectors   How To Instantly Increase Productivity on your Mac [Part 2]

7. Use Automator for repetitive tasks

I basically use Automator to save time on little tasks such as batch renaming, automatically sending birthday emails to friends, properly re-capitalizing song titles in iTunes, watermarking my PDF files and batch-resizing images. If you would like to know how I do all this, shout out in the comments and I will consider writing a tutorial solely on Automator.

8. Enlarge your screen estate

The easiest way to do this is to get a larger screen, of course. Or have 3 of them like Al Gore. Another way is to use Spaces. By default, Spaces extends your desktop up to 4 times (4 desktops). However, if you notice its preferences more carefully, you will see that you’re actually able to have up to 16 desktops! That’s a whole lot of estate to play with, and pretty troublesome to maneuver too.

Warp is a preference pane that will allow you to use your mouse to switch between Spaces, rather than using the keyboard shortcut. By moving your mouse cursor to an edge of the screen, you will see a small preview of the neighboring desktop, and clicking on it will ‘warp’ you there. It’s a pretty cool application to help you navigate if you can’t remember what’s running on each desktop.

ksuthercom warp   How To Instantly Increase Productivity on your Mac [Part 2]

If you would like to see how Warp works, check it the screencast at the bottom of this page.

That concludes my two-part article on increasing productivity on your Mac. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I have writing it.

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

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36 Comments -

Rudy Clemens

Thanks for the interesting and useful post. I’m bookmarking the page and will try to organize everything the way you advise. Here’s a great overall productivity tool I’ve recently discovered. It saves me up to an hour per day.

Tyler Love

Just a quick note, you should update your article on the safari shortcuts.

The official tab switching short cut is Cmd + Opt + “{” or “}”

You will notice that when controls or flash objects have focus the arrows will simply not work. The curly-brackets will.

The arrows have long been deprecated.

Also the official short cut to go back or forward is Cmd + “{” or “}”

This makes tab switching and browsing go by way fast, I’d say those are my most used Safari shortcuts

Jackson

Noted!

Thanks.

Marty

Very insightful stuff!

I recently wrote an article on the philosophy of productivity you may find interesting…

martinrayvaughan.com/word

…and I hereby request an in-depth article on AUTOMATOR. Looks cool, but how can it become a practical tool for me?

Thanks! and you’re in my Google Reader.

M.

Sumesh

Good tips. I’ve bookmarked it – need them when I switch to a Mac some time next month.

One thing, though – Inquisitor was under fire a bit. See http://tuaw.com/2008/01/07/inquisitor-raises-some-questions/

Copes Flavio

Nice tips :-) I also suggest using one of the best idea organizers, Journler!

Jackson

Journler used to be free, but the latest version is shareware, unfortunately.

Gadgetsguru

Lame!

Jackson

Well,

To each is own.

Have a nice day.

Aibek

maine231, is it you ?

:-)

Zach

What is that sweet chat application in the first screenshot?

Jackson

It’s Adium

Dan

Great Tips.

You can maciverse.com/10-ways-to-enhance-your-safari-browsing-experience.html get the most out of Safari with these 10 hints and tips.

Also, don’t forget the power of Automator!

Gadgetsguru

yes im here! thanks for the laugh :) im just enjoying taunting you! i really like your website and topics thou. Whats the enjoyment without any critical appreciation.

Dave Drager

Great stuff Jackson! Now to get a Mac to try it on! :)

Travis Quinnelly

I’m with you Dave, I just need a Mac. My lame attempt at a “Hackintosh” wasn’t too successful as I couldn’t get any working network drivers.

Aibek

I want Leopard too ! Anyone wants to change? I got Vista here :-)
It’s full of surprises, you will never be bored again.

Jackson

You guys really should. Call me when you’ve all gotten Macs, and we’ll have a party :P

Write Service

I always wondered what a Mac was! Well done; many thanks.

anonymous

How To Instantly Increase Productivity on your Mac…. JUST USE WINDOWS

Jackson

Haha Good one!

pile

I’m down with an Automator tutorial!!! I haven’t been able to figure out how to make it work for me. Thanks for the great tips!

Armen

Nice article, and one I need as a fairly recent ‘switcher’.

However, I’m not too sure about the tabs thing. I just use the search bar in finder, and can find files instantly.

Morgaine

I could definitely get into a tutorial for automator. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. Thanks!

Jackson

Thanks for the kind comments, everyone.

And since there are a few people requesting the Automator Tutorial, I’ll start working on it.

John B. Kendrick

Great tips! You might want to try a great GTD app I recently integrated into my Mac life, and even use it at work on Windows and on my cellphone. I wrote about my experiences with the app in a recent blog post at johnkendrick.wordpress.com

poictesme

Totally off topic, but I really like the black wallpaper in the screenshot, where did you get that? Mind posting a link?

Cheers.

poictesme

Thanks, but it looks like the forum doesn’t want to show the url. :\

[m]

I’m glad that the picture of my messy desktop came in handy for something!

Nik

Hi, I know this post has been posted for a while, but I was wondering if you could link me to the wallpaper you have? By the way, this article is great!

Joe Kimmel

i liked both of your articles about increasing efficiency for mac. however, i had one intriguing question about the automator. you have mentioned that automator can be used for various purposes. for example automatically renaming files and adding watermark to sending birthday letters and other works. Will you please write an article on using the automator?

Thanks,
Joe.

thinktwice

Automator tutorial please.

baker

Once again great post. My comments are, I don’t like spaces. I have friends that love it, but I have never really found its use, but I do have a dual monitor set up and that may be the problem. I don’t like tagging, all the latest tech trend gurus shoot me down, but I am a folder guy. I want a clean interface with multiple places for stuff to go in. On that note, I liked your folder organization methods, I need to start color coding my folders. I also use automator like crazy. I love apple script, but if automator can do it I am right there. Now if we could just get a x y image scale it would be perfect.

oh, and one more thing, brokenstones,

baker at swgms.com

iPhoner

On my iPhone I use project tools from 5PMweb
It keep me organized all the day and its possible to manage task for team in any time.

pagerank

i like mac because of it robustic performance