In this episode, I shed some light on 3 killers of Mac productivity and explore built-in solutions to combat them.
To measure the number of clicks and cursor movement you’re experiencing on your Mac, I suggest installing the free app called Mouse Miles: https://www.pointworks.de/software/mouse-miles/
Here are 40 keyboard shortcuts that will help you reduce unnecessary clicks (no signup required): https://macpreneur.com/ks
Curious to know how well you are taming the 3 Mac Productivity killers?
Visit https://macpreneur.com/score to discover your Mac productivity score.
Hello. Hello. Have you ever considered that your everyday Mac usage might be killing your productivity? It might sound shocking, but you might be draining your time without even realizing it because of what I call the three killers of Mac productivity. I’ll unpack all of this after the intro.
You are listening to the Macpreneur Podcast, the show that helps solopreneurs save time and money by streamlining how they run their business on their Mac. Here is your host and technology mentor, Damien Schreurs.
As solopreneurs, we spent countless hours on our macOS, but often we unknowingly commit productivity sins that holds us back. Today, I’ll be focusing on the three killers of Mac productivity that lurk in your daily workflow.
The killers are unnecessary clicks, repetitive typing and file clutter.
Worry not? Because in this episode I’m not just identifying this productivity killers, but I’m also sharing some built-in techniques and tools to combat them. So get ready to say goodbye to wasted time and hello to a streamlined, efficient Mac experience.
Killer #1: Unnecessary clicks
In January, 1983, Apple released the Lisa, one of the very first commercially available computers with a graphical user interface and a mouse.
Before that, computers were operated exclusively via the keyboard and especially the top row of function keys. Moving a cursor with your hand was much easier and more user-friendly than relying solely on the keyboard or needing to remember terminal commands, which brought at the time a big boost of productivity.
Now, 40 years later, it’s still the norm and with laptops now the trackpad has replaced the mouse.
But like a fish, who’s unknowingly swimming against strong currents, very few Mac users think twice about the amount of clicking and cursor movement that they do on their computer.
Every click might only take a few seconds, but they add up over time and, the time it takes is less about the click, but more about the time spent thinking where to click, the distance that we need to move the cursor around before we even able to click, and finally, tiny delays in the user interface.
Now if you are curious, I recommend installing the application called Mouse Miles. It’s developed by the Paint Works software development. I will put a link in the show notes.
This app will record every click or tab that you do, as well as the total distance traveled by your cursor. Now, over a period of three months, I’ve clicked more than 23,000 times, and my cursor has traveled more than four kilometers, it’s 2.8 miles.
Now, assuming that a click takes about one second and that my mouse cursor travels at 10 centimeters per second, or about four inches per second, all this activity has taken me about 18 hours. That’s about six hours every month, just clicking and moving my mouse around.
So the question is, how can we, solopreneurs, achieve more in less clicks and less mouse travel distance?
Built-in solutions to reduce unnecessary clicks
And the main reason, we need to click and move the cursor around are to access and interact with files and folders as well as with applications.
And the good news is that macOS offers us built-in solutions to deal with that.
The first one are keyboard shortcuts, right?
So for instance, when you need to duplicate a file, you would normally right click, copy and then right click paste or you would go to file, copy, file, paste, things like that. Well, there is a keyboard record, which is command D for duplicate, right?
So if you’re in finder command D will duplicate that. If you’re in Keynote command D will duplicate a slide.
So very quickly, with keyboard shortcuts, you can reduce the amount of clicks and cursor movement.
There is one that I use a lot, to move files to the trash. It’s command backspace: very quick.
One that you absolutely need to use if you’ve never used it before, if it’s command space, because it’ll invoke then Spotlight and Spotlight allows you to type a few letters of an application, for instance, to launch it.
But you can also find stuff. You can type the first letter of a folder, the first few letters of a file. You can type the name of one of your contacts.. And it’ll find emails related to that contact. It’ll show you the contact card or you will be able to quickly access the contact card.
And when dealing with applications, the best shortcut in my opinion is Command Tabulation: command tab.
So you, you keep the command key pressed, and then you press the tabulation key once and you will see a list of all the currently active and open application. You will see the icon and so you keep the command key pressed, tab, tab, tab, tab, and you will then be able to quickly jump to another application.
No need to go to the dock and maybe find the right window. And if you do command shift tab, it goes the other way around. So instead of from left to right through the list, command shift tab goes from right to left.
So a few keyboard shortcuts like that can help you save a lot of time.
I will put in the show notes a link to keyboard shortcuts that I’ve prepared for macOS and Finder.
So just visit the show notes and you’ll be able to download it. No signup required.
To access files and folders without the need to use a Spotlight would be by pinning your most used or your most accessed folders directly into the Favorites section of the Finder.
So when you open Finder on your Mac, on the top left you will see a Favorites section. You might need to click on a small Chevron to expand it. And this is where you can see already predefined shortcuts. You have the Downloads folder, the Applications folder, the Documents folder.
Well, did you know that if you go through your own folder structure, and let’s say you have a folder called Invoices.
You can drag that folder from the Finder window onto the left sidebar, within the Favorites section . You should put your cursor between two existing folders. You will see a small pin-like icon that will appear. When you release the mouse, it’ll create then a shortcut to that folder.
And so, the next time you need to access all your invoices, you just open Finder and you click in the sidebar. You don’t need to go through your folder structure to find those invoices back.
And you can put as many shortcuts or pins as you want. So very easy built-in solutions to speed up the time to access files without the need to click everywhere.
Now there are obviously many more solutions, intermediate solutions, advanced solutions, and I will cover those in episode 59.
So, episode 59 will be diving deeper on reducing unnecessary clicks.
Killer #2: Repetitive typing
The second killer of Mac productivity is repetitive typing.
So whatever we do in our business at one point, it will involve using our keyboard to write stuff.
And even though most of what we type or write is unique, we still oftentimes need to write the same information or similar information on a regular basis. For instance, when you need to reply to clients via emails or messages.
Now if like me, you are using ChatGPT or Google Bard, it’s also highly likely that you’re using the same prompts or similar ones.
And so, one way to type faster would be to take typing classes. But even then, your average speed would plateau to around 80 words per minute.
So in preparation for this episode, I went through a typing speed test, and my average is 48 words per minute. So in my case, learning to type faster would only yield a 66% improvement or 1.7 x multiplying factor.
Built-in solution to reduce repetitive typing
Now, there is a built-in solution in macOS that can improve your typing speed more than 10 times, and you don’t need to learn to type faster.
And this solution is simply the Text Replacement capability of macOS.
So if you have macOS 12 Monterey or earlier, you open System Preferences, you go to the Keyboard section, then you click on Text.
On macOS 13 Ventura, or later, you open System Settings, you go to Keyboard, and there you’ll see a small button that says Text Replacement.
There, it’s easy, you, you define a short snippet of text. For instance, the letters “omw” and that could be then replaced by, for instance, “On my way!”
Now, if we use for this specific example, the number of characters as baseline, this very simple text replacement “omw” becomes “On my way!” would be equivalent to a 3x speed up. Twice what I could achieve, even if I would maximize my typing speed.
And obviously, the longer the replacement, the bigger the multiplying factor.
Now imagine typing a four to five letters snippet that gets expanded into multiple paragraphs of text. That would immediately give you a 30 x to 100 x increase in speed.
And the trick, if you want to use longer text with different paragraphs, is to write that text in Notes or Pages or even a Google Doc. You copy it with a keyboard shortcut command C, then you paste it with a keyboard shortcut command V into the text replacement field.
And even though in the Settings app or the System Preferences app, it’ll look like a long sentence. When expanded, the text will indeed span multiple paragraphs with invisible return characters.
Now, the built-in text replacement capability is a great starting point, but it has limitations, one of which being that it doesn’t store formatting, so like bold, underline italic, or if you have a bulleted list, for instance, That’s not stored properly.
Now, to keep this episode short and sweet, I will cover intermediate and advanced solutions to reduce repetitive typing in another episode will be in episode 60
Killer #3: File clutter
Now the third killer of Mac productivity is file clutter.
There is a direct negative impact, which is losing time trying to find and move files, especially if you don’t follow a proper naming structure for your folders, for your files, and so on.
But there’s also a, an indirect negative consequence of file clutter: it creates an unnecessary mental load and increases also the risk of being distracted. So every time you access the Downloads folder or you see your Desktop, if it’s cluttered, it’ll not help your productivity.
Now to decide whether or not you are concerned by this productivity killer, let me ask you a few questions.
Question one: does it take you more than 30 seconds to find any file that you are looking for?
Question two, do you have more than a hundred files in your downloads folder? Number three, is your desktop a complete mess?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you will love the built-in solutions that I’m about to share with you.
Built-in solutions to reduce file clutter
Let’s start with the desktop.
So it’s very easy to turn the desktop from an unorganized mess into organized piles of files based on their type.
It’s called Stacks, and you just need to right click on an empty area of the Desktop to activate it. Old pictures will be put together. The same goes for videos and documents.
Now, if you want a little bit more control, right, you don’t want this solution, then the trick would be to drag the mouse around, so create like an area you would encircle with an area all the files that you want.
Now you have multiple files selected. You right click on one of those files and you will see an option that says Create folder with selection.
And so in one click, all those files will be put in a folder and you will be immediately prompted to name that folder.
So very easy to then move those files that are now in a folder somewhere else on your computer.
Another possible reason that your desktop is a mess could be that it is filled with screenshots and screen recordings. And the reason is simple. It’s the default destination. And like Steve Gibson, the the host of the Security Now podcast, likes to say, we are dealing here with the tyranny of the default.
But did you know that you can very simply and easily modify the default destination for screenshots?
You just press CMD (⌘) 5 or CMD (⌘) SHIFT 5, if you have a French keyboard like me, then click on the Options menu. There, you can choose among other predefined options like the Documents folder, and you can even choose your own destination.
Now, to be able to access your screenshots from any device, I suggest creating a dedicated folder in the cloud storage of your choice. And then you would choose this folder as the default destination whenever you create screenshots.
Now let’s turn our attention to the Downloads folder.
If you want to select multiple files and put them in a folder. And let’s say that those files are contiguous, they’re all together. You will see one on top of each other, if you are in list view or you see all the icons together, if you are in icon view.
So you can simply click on the first one, and then the trick is to hold the shift key while clicking on the last file of the list. And this will select all the files between the first one you clicked and the last one you clicked.
So click the first one, go down in Finder, shift click, everything will be selected together. And then: Right click> “Create folder with the selection” and everything will then be inside a folder that you can move and tidy up.
When cleaning up the Downloads folder, I suggest grouping files by kind or by date last opened. So in Finder you will see there is a button that looks like multiple square together and a line on top of it, and that allows grouping files together.
And if your Downloads folder is full of files, again, most probably it’s because it is the default destination for file downloads from Safari.
Now, you can change that if you want: you activate Safari and then you use the keyboard shortcut: CMD Comma ( ⌘ , ). CMD Comma ( ⌘ , ) will open the Settings or the Preferences pane of Safari.
There you will see different tabs. Make sure that the General tab is activated. And there, there is an option for modifying the default destination folder.
In addition to selecting another folder, you can also get Safari to ask you for the destination folder every time. So this will force you to actually think before downloading stuff and then avoid the need for cleaning up the Downloads folder afterwards.
Again, if you still prefer a default folder, I suggest creating something in your cloud storage of choice, so Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, so that all your downloaded files are then available from all your devices.
Now, there are many more ways to reduce file clutter, and I will cover those in episode 61.
Ninja solutions to tackle all 3 killers at once
So if you are already doing everything that I’ve mentioned so far, and you are looking for ways that can tackle all three productivity killers at once, here are a few ninja solutions.
You could be using native macOS automation technologies like: Automator, Shortcuts and AppleScript.
You could be using third-party automation software, like BetterTouchTool, Keyboard Maestro, or Hazel.
Or you could even use a physical device like the Elgato Stream Deck or the Loupedeck.
What elevates those solutions to Ninja level is the fact that you can make them do multiple actions with a single trigger, oftentimes reducing clicks, minimizing repetitive typing, and reducing clutter all at the same time.
So the trigger could be, for instance, a keyboard shortcut, or a mouse or a trackpad gesture, it could be launching an app, or it could be simply activating a focus mode. Or if you have a physical device, you just press a button and a bunch of things happen at once.
I am @macpreneurfm on those two platforms.
So to recap, this episode has shed some light on oftentimes invisible killers of Mac productivity, which are unnecessary clicks, repetitive typing and file clutter.
For each of them, I’ve introduced basic solutions that are built into the Mac operating system and are quite easy to activate or configure.
I’ve briefly touched on Ninja Solutions that can help you save also valuable time, especially when combining them.
The next three episodes, we’ll dive deeper on more solutions to combat each of the three killers individually.
So episode 59 will be about reducing excessive clicks, episode 60 will tackle repetitive typing, and episode 61 will help you get your files more organized.
Now to receive those episodes automatically when they will be published, make sure to follow the Macpreneur Podcast on the platform of your choice: could be Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube for instance.
So that’s it for today.
If you’d like to know how well you are currently coping with the three killers of Mac productivity, I’ve prepared a free quiz available at macpreneur.com/score S C O R E.
So visit macpreneur.com/score to discover your Mac productivity score today.
And until next time, I’m Damien Schreurs, wishing you a great day.
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