Firefox is the browser of dreams for many people (myself included). One of the great perks of Firefox is that there are tons of extensions that enhance the functionality of the browser. With over 1500 extensions in existence, there are many that can be used to improve your productivity. The following is my take on the top 10 extensions that will keep you focused, reduce distractions, streamline your daily work flow, and improve your productivity.
Customize Google is a very robust extension that lets you customize many features of the services provided by Google. Customize Google lets you block advertisements on pretty much any Google page (including Gmail). It remaps Google Images search results to point directly at the images (no longer will you need to click through the originating site). Customize Google lets you add links from other search engines directly into your search results. It can also block Google click tracking and allows you to connect to Google Calendar and Gmail securely (https). Give it a try, you won’t be sorry.
Gspace is a content management extension that lets you turn your Gmail account into an online mass storage device. Gspace integrates nicely into your browser and lets you drag and drop files into Gmail for backup or storage purposes without interrupting your work flow. If you use Gspace, I recommend adding a tag in Gmail to your files so they can be filtered and accessed quickly. The following is the description of Gspace from its homepage: “Gspace turns the 2GB of your Gmail account into free online storage. With Gspace you can manage unlimited Gmail accounts to store all type of files within its simple, user friendly interface. Listen to your favorite stored music directly from your Gspace, view your collections of pictures and manage your Gdrive files as well. Download Gspace now and transfer files between your computer and Gspace at anytime, from everywhere!”
The default download manager built into Firefox is very handy; however, there are many occasions that you’ll find that you need more flexibility with your downloads. This is where Flashgot or DownThemAll comes in handy. The features of Flashgot and DownThemAll have their differences; however, they generally provide finer-grained control of your downloads. My personal preference is Flashgot. I recommend trying at least one of them.
4. Greasemonkey + Stylish + Ad blocking per Gozer
Greasemonkey is an extension that lets you add scripts that alter the web pages you visit. Using Greasemonkey and Stylish and Ad blocking per Gozer together will block pretty much every advertisement from any Web site you visit.
The Flashblock extension by default blocks flash from playing when a Web page is first opened. Most (distracting) advertisements are written using flash. Flashblock is particularly useful because it replaces the flash from a Web site with a “play” button so you can watch the flash if it something useful (like a video at Youtube) and leave it blocked if it is an advertisement.
Download Statusbar manages your downloads in the status bar instead of the Firefox Download Manager. I find that the download manager that comes with Firefox to be very intrusive. Download manager tucks your download progress bars into the generally unused status bar of Firefox. This lets you download care-free without the Firefox Download Manager popping up and interrupting you.
7. URL Fixer
URL fixer will replace the common typos you enter when typing a Web site into the URL bar (i.e., http://lifehack.rog, htp://pxsbox.com). The auto correct feature of URL fixer is very helpful. “[URL Fixer] will correct common misspellings of .com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov, and .mil, as well as the protocol (http:, https:). It will also correct errors in country code TLDS such as .com.XX, .net.XX, and .org.XX.”
8. Tab Mix Plus
Many of the features of Tab Mix Plus were incorporated into the release of Firefox 2. However, Tab Mix Plus allows you to add finer-grained control of your tabs. The following is a description of Tab Mix Plus: “Tab Mix Plus enhances Firefox’s tab browsing capabilities. It includes such features as duplicating tabs, controlling tab focus, tab clicking options, undo closed tabs and windows, plus much more. It also includes a full-featured session manager with crash recovery that can save and restore combinations of opened tabs and windows.”
Scrapbook is extremely useful for researchers and students. Scrapbook saves blurbs from Web pages to your hard drive along with the URL of the originating Web site. It allows you to organize and categorize your blurbs in a format similar to your bookmarks so that when it comes to creating a bibliography or works cited, you won’t waste any time.
10. IE Tab
I find myself using this extension less and less as more Web developers code their Web sites following standards. However, occasionally you will find it necessary to open a Web site using Internet Explorer in order for it to render correctly. Rather than taking the time to launch a separate browser, just choose “View Page in IE tab” and an Internet Explorer tab opens in Firefox. This is very useful if you like to have multiple Gmail accounts open and active on one computer.
That’s my take on the extensions that will improve your productivity. Like I previously mentioned, there are tons of Firefox extensions. What extension didn’t I mention that you can’t live without? Please tell us about your favorite productivity-enhancing Firefox extension in the comments.
At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.
Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.
One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.
When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.
So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.
Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day
This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.
Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.
When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.
Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity
One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.
Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.
An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.
When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.
Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day
Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.
We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.
By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.
Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment
While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.
I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.
You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.
Con #1: We Move a Lot Less
When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.
Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.
Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.
Con #2: Less Human Interaction
One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.
Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.
This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.
While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.
Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment
Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.
This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.
For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.
Con #4: Unique Distractions
Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.
For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.
To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.
Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.
We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.
More About Working From Home
- 10 Tips to Help You Be More Efficient Working From Home
- 7 Ways To Supercharge Your Productivity When You Work From Home
- 10 Work from Home Desks to Boost Your Productivity