5 tips and tools to boost your digital prowess and productivity

how to boost productivity and focus

See that thing in front of you that your hands rest on for a good portion of the day?

You know what I’m talking about. It’s called a keyboard.

The way most work is today, if you can figure out a few ways to use your keyboard and computer more efficiently, you can boost your productivity substantially and at the same time decrease your frustration. So here are five tips and tools to supercharge your time sitting in front of your computer.

1. Google canned response. If you use Google mail, you’re going to kick yourself for not having discovered this little jewel of a shortcut. If you find yourself sending the same responses to a variety of emails you receive, you can have your email already composed and ready to send with just a few mouse clicks. In Gmail:

  • Go to the setting menu in the little gear icon on the right side of the web page.
  • Select “Labs” from the selections you get across the top of the window.
  • Look down through the various “Labs” and select “Canned Response.”
  • Click “Enable.”
  • Select “Compose” in Gmail and type a standard response you often send.
  • Select the little triangle in the bottom right corner and click on “Canned response.”
  • Create a new canned response and save it with a name you’ll remember.


2. Search smarter. Tired of scrolling through pages of search results to find the best match for your query? Make Google narrow it down for you instead of wasting your time. There are many “operators” that allow you to better focus your searches. Sometimes I’m looking for a specific thing on a specific site and I can do that by typing “thing I need to find site:www.anysite.com.” This operator – site: – narrows my search to one website. If I need an exact match, I put my search item in quotation marks.

Here is a rundown on Google search operators. While you’re on that page, go through all the Google search help pages. With just a half hour of study, you’ll be an expert.

3. Timewarp. This is an extension for the Chrome browser that steps in when you spend too much time on productivity-sapping websites, like Facebook. You tell Timewarp your weaknesses and what you would like it to do when you’re spending too much time there. It will automatically take you to a different site you specify, give you an inspirational quote, or show you a timer indicating how much time you’ve lost.

4. Rescue Time. While Timewarp is like a drill sergeant, Rescue Time is like your friendly personal advisor. It will tell you how much time you have spent in various activities so you can really take control of your workday. It also allows you to block certain sites for given periods of time and set goals for yourself. You can use it to help you adopt strategies like the Pomodoro system. (If you think an online time clock system would boost your small business productivity, or help you keep track of freelancers, check out this comparison article by Chad Brooks.)

5. Textexpander. Not all of your writing is done in Google mail and that’s where Textexpander comes to the rescue. If you have snippets or blocks of text that you input repeatedly, you can create shortcuts. Further, if you have a team working on a project together where it’s important that certain phrases or sentences are always worded the same way, you can use this app. It will work with most of your Apple and PC software, including Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Safari, Google Chrome and Firefox.

Get these tips under your belt and put some of these apps into action and you will find yourself achieving more whenever you’re working at your computer.