26 Mac Tips We Use Every Day for Productivity

Everyone is supposed to know how to use a computer or a Mac, right? My experience is that most people I see don’t really have a solid grasp on how to use theirs efficiently. I gave my team some training after receiving requests and seeing some of their usage, and I wanted to share my tips with you, too.

You’re on your MacBook between 6 and 10 hours per day, so let’s say if you optimize your efficiency by even 10%, it would make a huge difference every day— and it’s cumulative over time.

This training is based on my own experience as a digital native who has used a Mac for the past 10 years. I’ve refined my usage over time, and the 26 tips are the ones I use most often. Important to note: this isn’t just shortcuts, as that’s the first thing that comes to the mind for people I tell about this training. It’s higher- level tricks that englobe most of my usage.

I’ll go through the following categories:

  • Removing clutter
  • Deep dive into built-in macOS features
  • Additional apps
  • Fast typing
  • Hardware tips
  • Windows features replacement  

So, let’s start:

Removing clutter

All of those files on your Desktop are grabbing parts of your attention hundreds of times a day, all for nothing. Just remove them completely. Bonus: you’ll enjoy macOS’s beautiful background images even more. 

The only files that should land on your desktop are temporary files that need sorting., The two most common types of files on my desktop are screenshots and files transferred from an email. My rule is that no file should stay on my desktop for more than 24 hours before going to the trash or to the right folder in my drive.

When you decide to work on one task— for example, preparing the training inthis post— you don’t need to see anything else running on the side. Just keep one or two windows and focus on the task at hand. Bonus: try removing the top bar of mac OS, as well as the app bar. This gives you extra space for the content that actually matters and removes even more distractions, especially if you still have notifications in there (more on that in tip #5).

I use my second screen (or a second virtual screen) to show my to-do list and my calendar. This basically replaces Post-it Notes and a physical calendar and makes it much faster to add a to-do item or an event.

To summarize, this is how I work most of the time at my desk. Sometimes, I reduce the luminosity of the screen of my MacBook screen to not see it and to focus even more on my main screen.  

In comparison, this is what I see on most people’s screens. It might seem like a small difference, but it’s not. I would estimate that this setup would make me lose a few percentage points of focus per day. And if you have Slack always open on a second screen, you should stop right away. That is nonsense.

Deep dive into built-in macOS features

Notifications can be powerful tools that are unfortunately misused and not well understood by most users. You can configure the notifications of one app both inside macOS and inside the app itself (within Trello, for example). I highly recommend that you remove all of them and keep only the really urgent ones. For me, it’s only the calendar events and the calls. Everything else doesn’t pop -up, show an indicator, or appear anywhere. If it’s too brutal for you to turn everything off at once, start by removing the banners, then the badges on the app, and then keep only the calendar and the phone. This could save you up to 1 hour per day of deep work.

Preview is a great built-in app to quickly look at a PDF, annotate it, and (a feature I love) ad a digital signature. You save your signature once by using your trackpad and can then use it on any PDF documents.

This is the single feature I lacked the most on Windows until they implemented (copied) it. You have an overview of all your windows and can rapidly switch from one app to another. You can also use space to make a window temporary bigger if you just need to read something, for example. And it becomes even more powerful when combined with special shortcuts or gestures (see tip #21).

The window buttons on Mac are different from Windows, and you just need to get used to it. The most important features are described above, and once you’ve learned them, they work very well.

Spotlight is a handy little tool that is very useful when used with a shortcut, and much faster than using Google as a calculator, for example.  

Browsing files are what we do a lot on our MacBooks, so we’d better optimize it. This is what works best for me and saves me a lot of time every day.

I mentioned this before, but Preview is a super handy feature that loads the document in milliseconds, instead of seconds for the whole document, which makes a big difference if you open hundreds of documents per day.

Time Machine is great and super user-friendly. It’s worth investing in an external hard drive for less than 100€ so you have a backup of your Mac in case something happens. With this tool, you can restore a new Mac any time.  

The Mac App Store is great for personal use, as you can update all of your apps in one click. It starts getting messy when you have a team, and I would recommend that your IT admin take care of it every quarter instead of each user installing every update.

iCloud is a great service for personal use to sync your contacts, calendars, and more, but I would just ignore it in a business setting.

Shortcuts are great when used every day. I use the most common shortcuts and set up some custom ones using an additional app (tip #21).

Additional apps

Fluid transforms your web apps into “native-like apps” that load faster and are better integrated into the system.

You should use Chrome, but not too much.

I love this tool that helps me save a lot of time when I need to copy and paste several cells, as well as when I need templates for different use cases (for example, invite to participate to our hangout, text for calendar events, etc.).

Spark is very close to the ultimate email app and the best I’ve tried so far. I highly recommend you try it out and see if it works for you. Gmail in the browser is pretty good too, but it offers a less- clean user experience.

BetterTouch is the best tool for setting up keyboard shortcuts and trackpad shortcuts that are not offered by macOS.  

Toggle Desktop is a tool I mentioned previously and that I always have open on my screen. You can also use it on your phone or tablet if you want to spare screen space on your MacBook.

Fast typing

I’m typing relatively fast but can still improve. I plan to do it further this year.

Hardware tips

The trackpad on a MacBook is just amazing, and I’m using it every day instead of a mouse. Those multi-finger gestures help me navigate much faster between windows to save precious time every day.

Paying attention to your battery will extend its life: charge your computer’s battery in cycles, and leave it plugged in when you’re at your desk.

Windows features replacement

Here is a list of features that I’m missing from Windows. There are a few good ones, but generally, both systems are now very advanced and refined.

That’s it for now! I hope this training was helpful, and please let me know below if you have follow-up questions— I would love to help you even more. 😉

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