7 Ways to Make Your Computer a Super-Powered Productivity Tool

You want to become a productivity powerhouse — one of those people who can write an entire report, answer all their emails, and finish all their projects, and still have time to go to the bar with friends and enjoy some video games.

If you were one of those people, your life would be much better. Your boss would love you, your partner would be happy you spend more time with them, and you wouldn’t have to sacrifice your social life for work.

Sometimes improving your productivity takes a lot of work… but sometimes it doesn’t. Often, what keeps you from being productive is simply time-wasting habits you’ve had all your life — time-wasting habits you didn’t even know you had. You learned to use your computer the wrong way growing up, and nobody ever told you.

These computer tricks will teach you new, better, time-saving computer habits. By spending a little time re-learning how to use your computer, you could shave hours off your workload every week.

Yes, hours! Do you know that co-worker of yours who never gets files to you on time and always seems a little behind? He’s behind because he doesn’t know how to use his computer well.

Don’t be that co-worker. Learn how to use your computer well instead.

Diagnose Your Productivity Problem

You probably don’t know how you spend your time on your computer. You think you know, but your irrational money mind tricks you. You think you spend hours working, but you really spend half that time scrolling.

The best way to understand what’s holding your productivity back is data. Download the app RescueTime and track how you spend time on your computer. Then you’ll see how many hours you’re really working, as opposed to how many hours you say you’re working while you scroll. It will be much easier to target distractions and make changes to your life when you know what changes you need to make.

Download Browser Extensions That Make Your Life Easier

There are a million little tasks that add friction to your day, like finding and entering usernames and passwords, saving articles and links you want to keep. You think these don’t take much time, but for some people, they add up to dozens of hours every week.

Get rid of this time suck. Download browser extensions like LastPass and Pocket and use these instead of forgetting your usernames and keeping hundreds of tabs open. Closing those tabs will also make your computer faster, saving you even more time.

Stop Yourself From Scrolling

Scrolling happens to the best of us. Makes sense, since entire teams of highly paid software engineers dedicate their waking hours to making websites that are addicting to scroll through.

Trying to resist that engineered temptation through willpower alone is the hard way to do things. Make it easier on yourself by downloading UnDistracted. This extension allows you to block social media or block only addictive features like feeds, suggestions, and social feedback. You can’t get sucked in if your computer won’t let you.

Make Email Easier to Deal With

Your email inbox is exploding. It takes you days to respond to emails and you have a hard time finding the information you need. That’s bad for business. A cleaner email inbox means you’d be more on top of things, have fewer tasks, and ultimately spend less time working.

Go through your email inbox and unsubscribe from newsletters, coupons, and anything that isn’t critical for your eyes to see. (If you still want those newsletters, bookmark the blogs they come from in your browser instead. Then you visit when you want to visit, not when your email wants you to).

Give Files Good Names & Use Your Computer’s Search Function

How much time have you wasted during the workday searching for a file you needed but ultimately couldn’t find? That’s the kind of time-waster that crushes productivity.

Some people try to overcome this problem with complicated file organization systems, but this doesn’t work. You end up spending just as much time sorting the files as you do searching for them.

The best solution is to skip the work. Give files good names (“Holstein-ABC-Contract.pdf” instead of “Agreement2190747892.pdf”) and learn to use your computer’s search function. When you need your ABC Inc contract, all you need to do is open your search bar and type “ABC contract.” The file you need will pop right up.

Learn to Type Properly

Most people type an average of 32 words per minute. That’s about two single-spaced pages per hour. People who work on computers a lot average closer to 65 words per minute, or a little under four pages per hour.

But I type 88 words per minute, or five-and-a-half pages per hour. In the time it takes you to write one college paper, I can write three and have time left over. (I used to be able to type above 100 words per minute!)

Typing skill isn’t only good for college papers. Faster typing means replying to emails faster, navigating websites faster, pulling up the tools you need during a meeting faster, and doing all your other computer tasks faster as well. Computers are everywhere, and knowing how to use them efficiently will only pay off in the long run.

Measure your typing speed here. If you aren’t crushing your words per minute, head over to TypingClub and learn to type properly. Two weeks of practice will save you time for the rest of your life.

Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

Computer mice and trackpads are easy to use, but they’re a slow way of navigating computers. It takes time to move a mouse from one side of the screen, navigate menus, and find the functions you need.

A much faster way is keyboard shortcuts. Certain combinations of keys on your computer can trigger functions on your computer in a fraction of the time it takes to use your mouse.

Learning keyboard shortcuts is easy. Print out a list of keyboard shortcuts for your computer (Mac or Windows). Look over the list to see what your options are. For the next 24 hours, any time you want to perform one of these functions, force yourself to use the keyboard shortcut. It will take more time at first, but after a few days, it will become muscle memory and save you much time over the long run.

In Conclusion

It seems like a big promise for such silly little tips. “I can save ten hours of work every week by learning to type differently and downloading browser extensions? Please.” But for some people, it’s true. I work with people to help them be more productive, and for many people the only thing standing between them and accomplishing everything they want to accomplish is good productivity habits.

You may be one of these people. You won’t know until you try.