7 Ways to Turn Your Browser into a Productivity Tool

While your web browser can certainly be the source of many of these distractions, it can also, when used thoughtfully, help significantly boost your productivity.

7 Ways to Turn Your Browser into a Productivity Tool
Image via Unsplash

How protective are you of your browser during the work day? Are all of your tabs work-related? Do you have different browser windows open for things that are productive and things that aren’t?

Listen, we all need a distraction once in a while during the day. But there’s a limit. According to a study from the University of California, every time you switch your focus, whether to a different task, website, or digital tool, it takes about 20 minutes to mentally get back to your original work. When collectively tallied, these time-sucking interruptions and distractions add up to around 28 billion wasted hours per year for U.S workers.

While your web browser can certainly be the source of many of these distractions, it can also, when used thoughtfully, help significantly boost your productivity. In this post we’ll explore seven of our favorite ways you can turn your web browser into a productivity tool.

Keep track of time spent online

Just like tracking your expenses with a budget can help you identify what areas of life you might need to cut back on, tracking where you spend your time online can help you figure out what sites are killing your productivity the most.

Install a browser extension like TimeYourWeb Time Tracker to get detailed statistics on how much time you spend on any websites you visit over the course of a day. TimeYourWeb can distinguish between “active” and “total” time by how often you press keys or move your mouse, plus it provides you with daily, weekly, and monthly summaries so you can see how your internet usage changes over time. Once you have this information, you can cut down on sites that lower your productivity levels.

Block distracting websites

Image via StayFocusd

Of course, cutting down on distracting sites may not be enough. If you want to take it one step further, you can install a web browser extension like StayFocusd. StayFocusd lets you set time limits that will block certain sites of your choosing once your time is up.

For example, if you find yourself scrolling through Pinterest for more than an hour every day, you can set a fifteen minute Pinterest browsing time limit through StayFocusd. Once your fifteen minutes are up, Pinterest will be blocked for the rest of the day.

With Stayfocusd you can block entire websites, specific pages, and particular in-page content like games, images, or forms.

Customize and automate your web experience with PixieBrix

A screenshot of PixieBrix's browser extension.
PixieBrix browser automation extension

Not all websites are set up for the specific way that you work. You’re left to work around them, instead of them working for you. Browser automation tool PixieBrix allows you to flip that script.

PixieBrix’s building blocks (called “Bricks”) can be mixed and matched to create custom workflows that help you and your team be more productive. For example, you could automate data entry for your sales team by extracting customer information from across the web into your CRM.

Instead of your team having to constantly switch back and forth between multiple tabs and information sources, or changing the way you operate, PixieBrix eliminates repetitive work, streamlining your browser-based workflows. The power of this browser extension is really limitless.  

                             Ready to automate your browser-based busywork?

Experience the benefits of white noise

A study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that “background noise distracts the brain, causing it to start making lateral connections that lead to more creativity.” Concluding that 70 decibels (about the same as a moving car ten meters away) is the ideal volume for increasing productivity, researchers found that white noise can provide similar results.

Enjoy these productivity-boosting benefits by turning your browser into a white-noise machine. Browser extensions like Noisli, Focus, or even Spotify, can play the white noise of your choosing so you can cancel out other distracting sounds. Instead of listening to your neighbors’ dog barking all day, you can play soothing nature sounds and focus on the task at hand.

Take the Pomodoro technique to your browser

Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant browser extension

The Pomodoro method is one of the most well-known ways of managing your time and increasing productivity. The idea is simple: work for 25 minutes (without switching tasks or taking breaks), take 5 minutes for a break, and repeat. This way of working is proven to save you time, help you create more focused work, and increase productivity.

Bring the power of the Pomodoro technique to your web browser with an extension like Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant. Marinara features a toolbar icon and countdown, desktop and tab notifications, audio notifications, and configurable timer durations. No need to break out the kitchen timer.

Take control of your tabs

We’ve all experienced the stress of having too many tabs open in our browser at one time. While you might feel like having all of your tabs available is helping your productivity, the time spent trying to switch through them to find the information you need is actually slowing you down.

Optimize your tab usage without experiencing the separation anxiety of losing your info by adding an extension like Toby. Toby lets you organize all of your tabs with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. You can assign tags to your tabs so you can find whatever you need quickly and accurately, in addition to saving an entire web session in one-click.

For example, if you’ve spent the day conducting a competitive analysis and have tabs open with all of your competitors’ websites, you can save all of these tabs in one place. When you want to continue working on this project, you can open Toby in your browser and reopen all of the relevant tabs in a click. With a number of productivity-boosting features, Toby claims some users save up to 8 hours per week — the equivalent to 48 work days per year!

Turn your browser into a to-do list

Todoist Chrome extension

When you’re super busy, adding tasks to your to-do list can feel like a project in and of itself. Make this process as easy as possible, and keep track of your tasks, by adding a to-do list extension like Todoist to your browser.

Todoist lets you create a to-do list, add tasks (and check them off), add websites and articles to bookmark, track your progress with personalized productivity trends, and organize your day — all without leaving your browser.

Transform your browser from foe to friend

From reducing the time spent on distracting websites to customizing sites to work harder for you and your team, there are a number of ways to turn your browser into a productivity tool. With the tips above, you can save time, increase your focus, and get more done — all with the help of your web browser.