Windows 10 productivity tips: Work smarter, not harder

Find yourself suddenly needing to be more productive? Good news! Windows 10 comes loaded with all sorts of tools designed to help you Get Things Done, along with deeper tweaks that can optimize the operating system for productivity even more. Each new major upgrade—like the Windows 10 May 2021 Update, the most recent one—adds even more. Now for the bad news: All those excellent productivity-boosting Windows tools and tweaks aren’t immediately obvious, with many of the most useful settings buried deep inside a maze of options menus.

We can help. Taking five or ten minutes to tinker with Windows 10 can supercharge your setup, regardless of whether you’re trying to keep at work while stuck at home or setting up something more permanent. Let’s dig in.

Get rid of interruptions

If you want to stay focused on a task, reducing your interruptions is key. That can be as simple as checking your email and social media only at designated times, but Windows 10 can still pop up notifications that can kick you out of a productive headspace, be it from apps or the OS itself. Let’s eradicate those first.

notifications Brad Chacos/IDG

Windows 10’s notifications options

Open the Start menu, click the Settings cog icon, and head to System > Notifications and actions. You have a few different options here. To nuke all notifications from orbit, eradicating them completely, move the Get notifications from apps and other senders item to Off. Boom.

For a more nuanced approach, you can click the tiny Focus assist settings link underneath that option, which allows you to set up rules for when and how you’ll receive OS notifications.

focus assist Brad Chacos/IDG

Windows 10’s Focus Assist options.

If you want to receive some notifications—say, Mail and Calendar events—but not others, head back to the main Notifications and actions screen. At the bottom, you’ll see a big list of all the apps that can potentially send you notifications. Slide the ones that aren’t critical to off. I like to disable the Razer Synapse and Discord system notifications, for example, because even though I’m a gamer they’re prone to interrupting me during work hours. I also avoid Mail notifications, preferring to check my inbox on my own schedule.

Notifications aren’t even the worst offender when it comes to interruptions. Nothing is worse than Windows 10’s forced restarts your PC to install updates. Fortunately, Microsoft’s worked in lots of tools over the years that make that scenario much less likely to occur—if you know they exist, that is.

windows update Brad Chacos/IDG

Windows Update options.

Head to Start > Settings> Update & Security > Windows Update to tinker with your options. Particularly, check on your Change Active Hours settings. These let you tell Windows when you’re working, and it won’t automatically reset your PC during that time. The ability to pause all updates for a week is handy, too; if you dig into the Advanced options menu you can push them out for just over a month.

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