For the most part, I believe that our productivity relies on big-picture lifestyle changes more than quick & easy #lifehacks. Our routines are what make the biggest difference: how well you’re eating, how much you’re sleeping, and how effective you are at reducing distractions. Most of the time, any tip that promises instant gains in productivity is trying to sell you something.
And yet, every so often, a tool comes along that makes things easier in one little area of my work life and really does boost my productivity in small but mighty ways. Many of these tools live inside my internet browser, Google Chrome, which supports a huge number of “add-ons” that act as shortcuts to help you accomplish small but important tasks. These are so helpful that now I frequently find myself Googling whether “there’s an extension for that”.
If you’re also a Chrome user, here are the extensions I find particularly useful:
I’m not a person who usually thinks that doing things faster is better, but I find myself using this extension nearly every time I watch a video. Installing the extension adds a speed controller to the top left-hand corner of any video you watch within your browser, whether it’s on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook or beyond. Even better, you can boost the speed by small increments, which means that you don’t have to strain to listen at twice the speed. Usually I hover at around 1.6x the speed which, for most videos, feels manageable.
Use this if: You consume a lot of content for your job (or because you’re curious), but want to shave down the amount time you spend watching 20 minute TED talks.
Most small business owners, entrepreneurs, and knowledge workers spend a lot of time designing graphics, websites, email campaigns, and even Instagram stories. A few years ago I found myself needing to open Photoshop or access brand guidelines documents every time I needed to know what colour to use for a particular design element, which was tedious and annoying. This extension saves me a crazy amount of time and I use it daily – you just choose “Pick colour from page” from the menu, and hover over any part of any website to grab the exact hex code. You can also access your picked colour history and copy those codes to your clipboard, which helps if you frequently work with the same brand colours.
Use this if: Your job involves putting together design elements using specific colour codes that you can never remember and don’t want to type out every single time.
I feel really passionately about expectation-setting, especially when it comes to business communications. The last thing I want to do in my work life is to teach my clients that they can expect to hear back from me after work hours or within a time-frame that doesn’t feel sustainable for me. Keeping my email under control keeps me productive in all areas of my work life. My favourite feature of Boomerang is the ability to schedule emails to be sent later, at whatever time I choose. This means I can get an email off my desk, on the off chance I’m working after 5pm, but the client won’t get it until the morning. They have other great features too (set an email to come back to your inbox when you need it, pause incoming mail), but the scheduling is my favourite.
Use this if: You want a tool to help you control your email inbox and keep things clean and streamlined.
Okay, I couldn’t just mention three! Here are a couple other recommendations that I love. I don’t use these ones as regularly, but they’re interesting and helpful too:
- OneTab: For those times you have a million tabs open! You don’t want to lose all of them, but you also don’t want them cluttering up your browser.
- Grammarly: I find this extension relatively annoying since it doesn’t like Canadian spellings (it shows 13 errors for this blog post alone), but it has definitely help me catch some mistakes in social media posts for clients, so that’s helpful!
- Library Extension: Purportedly shows you your library’s availability for any book you’re looking at on GoodReads, Amazon, or anywhere books are sold! I find it doesn’t work perfectly and often shows incorrect numbers, but it does help me get to my library website faster if I have a particular book in mind.
This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Chrome extensions have to offer! You can check out the full catalog of extensions here.
Let me know! What are your favourite Chrome extensions? What tools help you stay focused and productive throughout your workday? I love collecting tips and tools like these.