076 – 5 Productivity Hacks for Your Digital Workspace

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Episode Summary

Being productive doesn’t always have to be about freeing up time to get more things done. Think about it as a means of creating margin and space in life. Here are five of Amy’s best hacks for setting up a more productive digital workspace.


Items Mentioned in this Episode

  1. Work from a computer, not a device.
  2. Learn how to type properly.
  3. Be persistent in learning keyboard shortcuts. (Keyrocket for Windows).
  4. Take time to learn how to use apps and programs.
  5. Use a password manager.


Do you perk up when you hear the word productivity or does it make you cringe a bit? Even for someone who enjoys organization and efficiency, when it comes to being more productive, it can be easy for it to bring on feelings of angst. The act of trying to be more productive can feel like we’re creating more work for ourselves in order to figure out how we can do more work.

Really this is more about mindset than anything. What’s your reason for wanting to be more productive? It doesn’t always have to be about creating time to complete more work. I like thinking about productivity as streamlining for the sake of making things feel easier and smoother. It’s almost more about creating breath and space than room for opportunity, if that makes sense.

Since being productive is something that can be considered from many angles in life, I wanted to hone in specifically on some of my best productivity tips related to managing your digital life and workspace. I think you’ll find today’s tips to be ones that are easy to consider and implement.

I’m Amy Chaplin, a piano teacher with a strong proclivity for organization. I love helping you – my independent teacher community – get a grip on your daily digital workspaces. If you could use a little help getting your email inbox under control or figuring out a better system for managing all your files and the influx of information that comes at you daily, consider joining me for a 3-day intensive Monday, July 31 – Wednesday, August 2.

In this small group coaching series, I’ll walk you through a step-by-step process for gaining control of your digital life. Together we’ll clean up and reorganize our devices, computers, document management systems, media storage, email, and more.

For just $79, you’ll get a total of 10 hours of coaching access and accountability time with me and a small group of other teachers struggling just as you are to keep up. Visit PianoPantry.com/digital for more details and to register.

Together, we’ll organize our digital lives.

1. Work from a computer or desktop, not a device.

While the cloud and devices of today have created a wonderfully useful and convenient way for us to access everything from anywhere, it has also created a less productive setup. I can’t believe how much I see people doing from an iPhone these days!

Yes, it’s possible to email and do things from our phones, but I work much quicker when I’m on a computer with a keyboard and mouse. Working from a phone has its perks, but it can also be a slower way of doing things.

At a minimum, if you don’t have a computer, at least use an iPad that has a keyboard so you’re not always using a touch screen.

Are you someone who works a lot from your device? Start paying attention. If you feel like you don’t work as fast from a computer it may simply be because you’re not doing it regularly enough. Pay attention when you’re on your device. Are you trying to do something that would be much faster from a computer?

In episode #75 which was a teacher talk with 4 ladies who attended the piano pantry retreat, Florence shared that one of the big things she took away from all the digital organization work we did was finally realizing that not all work was created equal on each of our devices. Just because, for example, you CAN reply to emails from your iPhone doesn’t mean it should be making that the place you spend your time in email.

We have so much more control in managing system settings, layouts, and more from our computers than our devices. Make an effort to do the bulk of your work form an actual computer or laptop and save the iPhone or iPad for portable convenience.

I do have to tell you though that this first hack has a disclaimer, because working from a desktop computer or laptop may not be any easier for you IF you don’t do a few other things, which brings me to my second productivity hack.

2. Learn how to TYPE properly

This may sound obvious, but not everyone has learned how to type properly on a keyboard. Certain keystrokes make the flow of typing much quicker. I remember teaching myself to type on my mom’s electric typewriter in middle school. By the time I took computer classes in early high school, I was already typing at 100 words per minute or more.

If you have to, find an online course and work to undo some of your bad typing habits – even if it takes a little time upfront. Faster and more accurate typing skills will be a much more productive use of your time in the end.

3. Be persistent in learning keyboard shortcuts in order to minimize mouse use.

While one of the perks of using a computer is that you HAVE a mouse, relying on it too much can slow down your work – especially if you have one of those trackpads and struggle to use it well.

Back about….oh….maybe 8 or 10 years ago, I used an application called KeyRocket to help me learn keyboard shortcuts on my Windows PC. I had heard about it from Michael Hyatt on his original podcast – I can’t remember what it was even called – nor can I remember the Mac version but it acted as kind of an interactive – helping you learn and repeat certain keyboard actions.

If I can imprint anything on the mind of teachers, I coach today, it’s to just GOOGLE IT. Do a quick Google search of the top keyboard shortcuts for certain actions on your Mac or PC, and then focus on just those few shortcuts until they become second nature. Whether it’s toggling between open windows, deleting, cutting and pasting, selecting all, or whatever it may be, learn how to use at least one new shortcut each week and be persistent about it.

You might even consider creating a little document for yourself where you write down those you learn – and I’m serious when I say just do one per week. They will start to add up quickly. You could even just have a folder in your bookmarks bar where you save web pages that share shortcuts you’ve googled.

4. Take time to actually learn the apps and programs you use.

I can’t tell you how many times I have used an app or program only to discover an easier way of doing things or a useful tool that would have made my life a whole lot easier if only I had taken the time to learn how the program really worked.

I wish I could give you lots of examples here but I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences where you suddenly learn how to do something new in an app you’ve had for ages to the point it makes you almost want to kick yourself for not taking the time years ago to really learn how to use it.

I remember when I first started using Evernote years ago – I spent tons of time watching videos and reading blog posts by – once again – Michael Hyatt on how to maximize and properly use the tool. Honestly, unless you’re a naturally curious person, most of us just aren’t going to go digging ourselves.

My husband is really good at this. He has to investigate and know how everything works and runs. Case in point, in January, we drove several hours down to Cincinnati to a car dealership and ended up trading in our old 2010 Ford Focus for a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s a model that has all kinds of fun off-road bells and whistles. I drove home so he could spend the entire 3-4 hours reading the car’s manual and learning how all the bells and whistles worked. No joke.

That is not my natural inclination believe it or not, so I am preaching to myself here. I know it’s hard to take the time to do these things but ugh! Our future selves will thank us!!!

Watch tutorial videos. Learn how to use that app or program to it’s fullest.

5. Use a password manager

A few months ago, I went over to my parents house to help my dad set up a new Google and email accounts after he retired and sold his business. I about died when he pulled out a half dozen recipe cards with passwords written all over them, front and back.

We are WAY TO ACTIVE on the internet these days people – you run a business – there is no reason why we need to use one password anymore, and it’s so dangerous these days! Password managers are there to help you create and implement strong passwords on all of your accounts – and not the same one for everything. All you have to do is remember your 1 password.

We use and love Last Pass. You add the extension to your internet browser, which will automatically fill in passwords. It will also recognize when you update or create new passwords and ask if you want to update said password in your main Vault.

Not only that but it has tools for saving credit cards. We autofill all of our payment information using Last Pass as well. It was only just a few years ago that I was still pulling out the hard copy credit card to purchase stuff online. No more! It’s so easy.

By the way – if you use a 3rd party password manager like last pass, be sure and turn off the password tool on Google Chrome – go into the settings, and under AutoFill information, you can turn off the setting – that way, you’re not saving things in two places.

Today’s tiny tip is to try standing while teaching. For years, like most, I just sat next to the piano. It’s amazing though, how perspective can change from just a little further away. With more advanced students especially, standing can give you a different view of students’ technique and posture, it helps me keep perspective somehow for the bigger picture of things and feel less tendency to nit-pick. It also can give students a feeling of breath and space not having you on top of them. I don’t stand all the time, but when I find myself feeling a little less energetic, or needing a better perspective, standing is always a win.