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

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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

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.

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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 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

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.

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