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In the first part of my article How to Instantly Increase Productivity on Your Mac [Part 1] How to Instantly Increase Productivity on Your Mac [Part 1] Read More , 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 3 Steps to an Organized Desktop 3 Steps to an Organized Desktop Read More will indirectly clear your mind psychologically, so you’ll probably think better. For instance, check out the screenshot below.

Leopard Screenshot

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.


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.


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 Things - 'Getting Things Done' simplified [Mac Only] Things - 'Getting Things Done' simplified [Mac Only] Read More for Mac, Remember The Milk, Simple GTD, Task Toy and a few others covered by Daniel GTD (Getting Things Done) Roundup - Time To Organize GTD (Getting Things Done) Roundup - Time To Organize Read More .

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

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.


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.

  1. pagerank
    January 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    i like mac because of it robustic performance

  2. iPhoner
    September 23, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    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.

  3. baker
    January 11, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    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

  4. thinktwice
    November 18, 2008 at 12:00 am

    Automator tutorial please.

  5. Joe Kimmel
    October 18, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    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?


  6. Nik
    July 23, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    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!

  7. [m]
    June 6, 2008 at 1:49 am

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

  8. poictesme
    March 29, 2008 at 5:58 am

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


  9. John B. Kendrick
    March 27, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    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

  10. Jackson
    March 27, 2008 at 2:41 am

    Thanks for the kind comments, everyone.

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

  11. Morgaine
    March 27, 2008 at 1:51 am

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

  12. Armen
    March 26, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    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.

  13. pile
    March 26, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    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!

  14. anonymous
    March 26, 2008 at 5:19 pm

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

    • Jackson
      March 27, 2008 at 2:39 am

      Haha Good one!

  15. Write Service
    March 26, 2008 at 5:13 pm

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

  16. Dave Drager
    March 26, 2008 at 12:47 pm

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

    • Travis Quinnelly
      March 26, 2008 at 2:12 pm

      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
      March 26, 2008 at 6:52 pm

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

      • Jackson
        March 27, 2008 at 2:40 am

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

  17. Gadgetsguru
    March 26, 2008 at 11:22 am

    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.

  18. Dan
    March 26, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Great Tips.

    You can get the most out of Safari with these 10 hints and tips.

    Also, don't forget the power of Automator!

  19. Zach
    March 26, 2008 at 8:42 am

    What is that sweet chat application in the first screenshot?

    • Jackson
      March 26, 2008 at 12:24 pm

      It's Adium

  20. Gadgetsguru
    March 26, 2008 at 5:21 am


    • Jackson
      March 26, 2008 at 6:53 am


      To each is own.

      Have a nice day.

    • Aibek
      March 26, 2008 at 8:50 am

      maine231, is it you ?


  21. Copes Flavio
    March 26, 2008 at 2:30 am

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

    • Jackson
      March 26, 2008 at 6:50 am

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

  22. Sumesh
    March 26, 2008 at 1:39 am

    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

  23. Marty
    March 26, 2008 at 7:17 am

    Very insightful stuff!

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

    ...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.


  24. Tyler Love
    March 25, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    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
      March 26, 2008 at 6:40 am



  25. Rudy Clemens
    March 26, 2008 at 4:45 am

    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.

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