How to Set Up Your Mac to Maximize Mindfulness and Productivity

Chris Hornung '18

Update 12/11/2017: Click HERE for a complete compilation of tips for optimizing your device settings

Our computers can allow us to do things more easily and in a shorter time than if we were to go without them. They give us a one stop shop where we can get much of our daily work done. Since our computers have so many capabilities, they can also provide many distractions that hinder us from completing our tasks. Tristan Harris at Time Well Spent shared some tips on how to set up your phone to minimize distractions. I thought it might be helpful to share some advice on how to set up your Mac to do the same. The key to setting up your Mac for productivity is to think about how you can use it in the most deliberate way. Your computer has a bunch of little quirks that can distract you into doing something you didn’t plan on doing when you logged on. You want to guide how you use your computer, not have it guide you.


1.    Download RescueTime

RescueTime can be downloaded as either an add on for Google Chrome or as an application through the Apple App store. RescueTime allows you to track how you spend your time on your computer and categorize websites and applications based on if they are distracting or productive. You can also pay a small yearly fee which unlocks other features like setting limits to how much time you can spend on your computer everyday or a time when the app temporarily blocks you from sites that you marked as being distracting.


2.    Download Pocket

Pocket is another app that can help you avoid distractions when you are trying to finish tasks. Have you ever gotten stuck in a link hole? You start reading one article but find yourself following link after link and then forgetting where you started in the first place? Pocket allows you to save articles you might find interesting for a later time. You won’t feel like you need to leave the page you are currently diving into and you can better manage when you decide to read the articles since they are all stored on your Pocket profile. Pocket is also available through the app store so if you see an interesting article or website on your phone you can save it to your pocket and read it on your computer at a later time.


3.    Download f.lux

You have likely heard that screens emit blue-light that can negatively impact sleep. You might have also noticed that new iPhones have a program called Nightshift to mitigate the influence of blue-light on eye strain and sleep disturbances. Think of f.lux as Nighshift for your Mac. When the sun sets, your computers blue light will start to dim. Your screen will look a bit more reddish and will continue to become more red the closer you get to the bedtime you set on the app. F.lux might not improve your productivity as directly as the other tips in this article, but studies show that the better sleep you get, the better you are able to perform at a high level! For more information on how you can improve your sleep visit College Center for Sleep (This is a perfect link to add to your pocket to read later!)


‌  4.    Download AdBlock

AdBlock is exactly what it sounds like but it is incredibly effective! AdBlock (and similar apps) block advertisements from websites so that you only see the content you logged on to see. No more distracting video ad popups that take away from your attention.


5.    Set up your UST email using the outlook app

St. Thomas allows you to download Microsoft Office365 software as a part of your tuition fees. Making sure you stay on top of your emails in college is very important since many of your professors will send you announcements through it. As you progress in your college education you may also use your St. Thomas email to get in contact with employment or research opportunities. You can get to your email through the St. Thomas website but you might find that something distracts you on your way there. It is pretty easy to lose focus any time you go online. To be more deliberate with checking your email, set up your UST email with the outlook app. You will be able to access your emails more quickly and you won’t get sidetracked trying to get to the office365 site. More information about St. Thomas Microsoft Office can be found here: UST Office 365


6.    Turn off banner and sound notifications for iMessage, email, and websites like Facebook and Twitter, etc.

Banner notifications are the notifications that show up on the top right corner of your screen when you get an email, a notification from an app or website like Facebook, or a new iMessage. When you are trying to focus, these notifications can be very distracting. You can decide which applications you would like to receive notifications from individually. This is awesome because you might still want to be notified when someone is trying to FaceTime you but not when you get a new email. To turn off banner notifications go to System Preferences > Notifications then select the apps you would like to remove notifications for. You will still receive the message, post, etc. but you will be better able to respond to them when your time allows.


7.    Set your dock to “hide” when your cursor isn’t over it

In the last tip you may have noticed that there was one other kind of notification that I didn’t address, badges. Badges are the red circle with a number in it that appears on the top right corner of an application. You can disable your badges along with banner and sound notifications, but if you choose to leave your badges on you should consider having your dock “hide” when your cursor is not over it. You can still find out if you have an unread email or iMessage without opening up the application but that little red circle can’t capture your attention unless you scroll over your dock and make it appear. To make your dock automatically appear and disappear go to System Preferences > Dock and then check the button that reads “automatically hide and show the dock”


8.    Keep your desktop clean and organized

This advice might sound simple but it is super important. Having a messy desktop can make it extremely challenging to find your files. The last thing you want to be doing as you are trying to submit a paper or assignment is to be wondering where you saved it on your computer! There are many ways to organize your desktop, below are a few images of how I organize mine. 


I keep mine super organized (maybe a little over the top) but feel free to find a method of organization that works best for you!

By disabling some notifications, downloading a few apps, and cleaning up your desktop you will spend less time on your screen and have more time to allocate to the other opportunities college has to offer. The above list is not an exhaustive guide to make your computer or laptop distraction proof, but I have found that it has helped me more effectively use my time to get my work done and get back to doing the things I enjoy most!‌

For more information and tips on how to improve your relationship with technology visit the Tommies Unplugged webpage at