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Technology is only an advantage when it enables us to do things quicker and more efficiently. So if you are faster at completing a task without a computer, you should probably do it without one.
However, when most of our work involves using a computer, it’s good to know the small tweaks you can make to maximize your productivity. Here are ten of my favorite tech tips that I use to be the most productive when using a computer at work.
1. Clipboard Managers
If you haven’t tried a clipboard manager before, you’re missing out. These handy utilities remember everything you have copied so that you can avoid the copy-paste dance as you switch back and forth between apps and tabs.
Instead of copy-paste-copy paste, you can copy-copy-copy and then paste-paste-paste. A clipboard manager lets you copy a URL of a website, the title of an article, and the author’s name, all in a few quick clicks. Then, when you are ready, you can paste each one as needed.
If you need the URL of that article later in the day, no problem. The clipboard manager remembers everything you copied so you can quickly recall it later from your clipboard history.
Windows has a built-in clipboard manager. Apps like Paste or CopyClip will do the same thing on a Mac. Chromebook users will find clipboard manager extensions in the Chrome Web Store.
2. Text Expansion
When you are writing online, you often find that you have to type the same things over and over again. For instance, how many times do you have to type the date or your email address? Auto-complete can help with that, but it doesn’t work all the time. For times like that, there are text expansion apps.
TextExpander, FastKeys, or Espanso allow you to quickly save an entire paragraph of text to recall it with a simple keyboard shortcut. It’s great for emails, online forms, blog posts, and more. If you want to spend less time typing and more time getting things done, get a text expansion app.
3. Browser Profiles
One of the challenges of using technology today is keeping a healthy separation between your work and personal life. Without that separation, it’s easy to go from checking Facebook after dinner to finishing off that spreadsheet you were working on earlier in the day.
With separate profiles, you can keep your work bookmarks, email, and extensions separate from personal bookmarks, email, and extensions. Then, when you want to switch from one world to the other, all you have to do is change the profile on your browser.
4. Password Managers
Remembering dozens of unique passwords is not an efficient use of your time. Your brain was meant for bigger things! That’s why password managers were invented.
When you save your passwords in a password manager, you only need to remember one password; your master password. The master password is the key to your password vault and is the one thing you need to autofill your login credentials on a website.
5. External Monitors
External monitors give you extra screen space to view multiple windows at one time. Very rarely do we spend all of our time in just one app. Having a second monitor to show more of what you are working on is a very efficient way to use a computer.
External monitors also make things bigger and easier to read. If you are used to working on a 13-inch laptop, the improvement you will see from having your work on a 27 or 32-inch screen is like the difference between night and day.
Imagine having Slack, Twitter, and a task manager open on your laptop while a web browser and your favorite notetaking app were open on an external monitor. Dual screen setups like this make it easy to switch from one task to another and are loved by a legion of productive people.
6. Virtual Desktops
If you can’t spring for an external monitor, or you don’t have the space, virtual desktops might be the next best thing. Like browser profiles, a virtual desktop is a great way to add some separation to the tasks that you do on a daily basis, especially on a laptop.
If you’ve never seen a virtual desktop before, it is like switching to another user on your computer. You can have different apps on a virtual desktop and even different desktop wallpaper. Productive people use virtual desktops to switch between open projects.
7. Window Snapping
Whether you are using an external monitor or just viewing the screen on your laptop, window snapping is a great way to be more productive with the real estate that you have in front of you.
It allows you to group windows side-by-side by just dragging them to the side of your screen. You can choose which ones work well together and have two, three, or even four windows on display at one time.
In Windows 11, this is called Snap Assist. To snap a window, hover your cursor over the maximize button in the top right corner of an app and then choose the layout you want.
On macOS, hover your cursor over the green maximize button in the top left corner. Then choose the layout you want. The native options are limited, but apps like BetterSnapTool will give you more flexibility.
8. Functional Music
It’s great to listen to music while you work, but when you find yourself singing along to the lyrics, it might be better to try something else to stay on task. Functional music was created for that exact purpose.
It’s background music without lyrics, based on neurological science. Functional music is designed to help you focus on your work, as opposed to the music you are listening to. It breaks the monotony of office noise, but it doesn’t distract you from your work like Taylor Swift might.
Check out brain.fm for some sample music. It is available in all kinds of genres, so there is bound to be something there for everyone. You can also look for “focus playlists” on Spotify and Apple Music or check out Code Radio.
One of my go-to tools as a writer is Grammarly. It checks my spelling and grammar and helps me be more productive by catching the mistakes that I might not find when I edit my work.
I don’t agree with all the suggestions that Grammarly makes, but nine times out of ten, it at least does enough to help me think a bit more about how I chose the words that I did, and I find that really helpful.
If Grammarly doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of great alternatives.
10. Time Trackers
Do you know how you spend your time each day? You probably think you do, but time tracker apps like Toggl can give you all the information you need to ensure that you are spending time on the things that matter.
Here’s how it works. When you sit down to work on a task like email, you start your time tracker app and log it as email. When you switch to something else, you log that in your time tracker to signal the end of your email task and the beginning of your new task. At the end of the day, you can see exactly how long you spent on each of the things you did that day.
This is valuable information. For instance, if you know you spent two hours of your workday looking at social media, that could be the intervention you need to change your routine. Over time, as the data adds up, you get a complete picture of your day, and you can use this to be more productive at work.
Being More Productive Online
I always find that using technology to be more productive is a delicate balance. For instance, I can often spend hours trying out new tools that I ultimately don’t integrate into my work. Those are precious hours that I could spend getting more work done.
However, if you don’t try to make some tweaks along the way, you will never know if you could be more efficient in the things that you do. So, take a look at the tips above and see which ones might fit the way that you like to work.
Trying all of these at once would be a mistake. Pick one or two, see how they work for you, then come back and see what else you can integrate into your day. Over time, tips like these really add up. They will save you time and make you more productive with very little effort.
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