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4 Productivity Tips for Mac Users

Clock with sign saying "time is precious waste it wisely"

Most Mac users are pretty savvy. However, there’s always room for improvement. And if you want to maximize productivity, it helps to understand some of the different tricks and hacks that are available.

Try These 4 Mac Productivity Tips

For as many hours as you use your Mac each day, it makes sense to learn how to really use it. Here are a few productivity tips that will save you time and mental bandwidth:

1. Clean Up the Clutter

Get rid of the clutter! Seriously, you need to do away with all of those stray files and folders on your desktop background. Most of them rarely get used, but they’re constantly competing for your attention. Whether you realize it or not, every file and folder clamors for your mental processing power and limits your ability to zero in on whatever task you’re trying to complete at the moment.

Your desktop should be used as a temporary folder and nothing more. Treat it like a 24-hour holding ground. Anything that’s still on the desktop after a day should be sent to the trash can or filed away in a folder.

2. Optimize for Multiple Displays

Sidecar requires macOS 10.15 Catalina and iPadOS 13.1

There are times when you have no choice but to work with one screen, but whenever possible, you should use a multiple display setup. This gives you more space and requires less minimizing and expanding windows in the middle of a task.

Plus, if you want multiple screens when on the go, you can always use Apple Sidecar. This excellent feature allows you to use an iPad as a second screen for your MacBook. Plus, you can even connect wirelessly via Bluetooth. And as long as you stay within a 10-meter range, the two screens will communicate with one another.

3. Learn These Keyboard Shortcuts

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

It can take some time to learn new keyboard shortcuts, but they can save some valuable time, especially when it comes to repetitive tasks that you do multiple times per day. Here are a few keyboard shortcuts specifically designed to promote productivity:

  • Command+Space: Search for anything on your computer (or even the internet) by pulling up the Spotlight feature.
  • Command+X,C,V: Why waste time right-clicking to cut, copy, or paste? With these keyboard shortcuts, you can move text around quickly and effortlessly.
  • Command+Tab: If you have multiple windows open, clicking back and forth between various apps gets tedious. Use this shortcut to automatically transition between apps with minimal effort.

Want more shortcuts? Mac lets you create your own so that you can optimize your system according to your own workflow preferences. Just go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts.

4. Use These Built-In macOS Features

In addition to keyboard shortcuts, macOS has some pretty neat built-in features that can be used to increase daily productivity and output. Here are a few that you might be interested in:

Mac transparent Notification Center icon
  • Go to your system settings and remove all non-urgent notifications. This prevents those annoying pop-ups that frustrate you and slow down more important processes. (You can either turn off all notifications with one click or remove them on an app by app basis.)
  • The Mac Time Machine feature is awesome. It allows you to backup all of your work on an ongoing basis, which averts so many potential disasters. (It also allows you to set up a new Mac relatively effortlessly.) The key is to invest in a good external hard drive, which doesn’t have to be expensive.

A Word on Productivity

Perhaps you’ve read through all of the tips highlighted in this article and think to yourself, “Yeah, but what good is saving three seconds by using a keyboard shortcut?” Or maybe you’re asking, “Why would I take the time to set up multiple displays when I can just minimize windows?”

The best answer is that it comes down to compounding repetition. Saving three seconds isn’t meaningful in the moment. But if you save three seconds every time you perform a task – and you perform the task 20 times per day – that’s one minute per day. Still doesn’t sound like a lot? Well, that’s 365 minutes per year, or six hours.

Now think about how many different tasks you can streamline like this. Five? Ten? Fifteen? Suddenly you’re saving hours of time every single week – dozens or even hundreds of hours per year.

This is the beauty of embracing productivity tips and prioritizing efficiency. You might not move the needle in isolation, but you’ll see some profound gains over the long-term.

Anna Johansson
the authorAnna Johansson
Contributing Author
Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for,, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends.
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  • I would be interested in how to determine a “good” hard drive to purchase. I just lost a lot of data and photos on a Western Digital (WD) Ultra Passport that went bad just as the 3-year warranty had ended. The spinner or disk is not functioning. I was told it was a lost cause — unrepairable.

    I did check with three different businesses that can diagnose a hard drive problem and maybe fix it. Very pricey — potentially more than a thousand or more.

    I purchased another hard drive, but no longer know what to trust. I do have iCloud but the purpose of hard drive was to have data saved so that I could retrieve it whether I had iCloud access or not.

    • Sorry about the drive loss – too many of us have been through that. Any well-known and reputable company like WD should be fine, but random drive failures do happen, and no drive will last forever. There is wear and tear, the number of times data is being written and read, etc. I would highly recommend a cloud backup as well as a redundant external backup. OWC makes some of the best hardware on the market, so I would definitely check out our external drive options. For extra peace of mind, consider using a RAID.

      FWIW, I have a WD My Passport Ultra as well. I use it mostly for mobile storage, but also for occasional manual backups when I’m on-the-go and away from my home network and wirelessly backing up with a TimeCapsule.

    • A sad moment when a drive fails. What an awful thing to happen.

      I’ll give you my process and you can decide if it might work for you.
      a) I don’t rely on one backup. Like you, I use iCloud for my computer disk, but I do a lot of work on external disks that are in an OWC storage case.
      b) My objective is to have 1-a Time Machine BU in case of a complete failure; 2-a secondary backup that lives at a neighbour’s house in case we have a robbery or a fire at our house. Those off-site backups are in addition to my external drives that are constantly connected.

      My critical files are photography (I’m a fine art photographer) and writing (I’m a published writer). The writing is in iCloud and on one of my external disks (which is backed up with an offsite disk). My current photography lives on my computer drive, an external drive, and an offsite drive.

      Yes, this costs more because of the additional off-site disks, but I had to make use of that one time because of an accidental erasure of one of my external disks (I’m not proud of that moment I can tell you.) and that was a life-saver.

      I love TimeMachine because, if I wreck a file, I can immediately go to TimeMachine and get the previous hour or so.

      The mechanics of the offsite backup can either be folder by folder or you can buy a cloning disk caddie and use that. The cloner does exactly that, it replicates the whole disk, segment by segment.

      Re: your question of disks – I’ve used WD for ages. I’ve had 2 bad disks, but they were bad right out of the box and were replaced by the vendor. I have had a failure of a Seagate disk. I recommend that you always buy the disk without any extra software on it. The WD version with the USB bus powered disk is called ‘Elements’ and the Seagate version is called ‘Expansion’. If you use an external disk caddy you will fine WD ‘Blue’ to be a good price break for backup. They are not intended for constant, main disk use.

    • I don’t use Spotlight any more, not since I found out Finder will not only find your file or app, but will display the path so you know where things are. In a rush to declutter, things often get put in odd places and memory doesn’t always serve well when trying to recall what you named things. Finder helps with that.

  • Well said, Anna. I have used all those things you mentioned— for many years. They really do save time. I’m forwarding this to many I know who still haven’t realized the benefits of shortcuts.