I spend 99% of my working life in Google Chrome. 40–60 hours per week. That means sometimes, I surf more than I sleep.
While you may not spend more time in your browser than in your bed, like some of us, I’m still willing to bet navigating the web is a big part of your life.
So big, in fact, that you could easily save 10 minutes per day by optimizing how you do it. Regardless of which browser you use, here’s how.
1. Think About Links Before You Click On Them
This’ll make me sound either like Captain Obvious or a sheer genius: All modern browsers show you where a link will lead you before you click on it. When you hover over a link with your cursor, a small preview bar will pop up in the bottom left corner, highlighting the URL.
This is the single most valuable feature in modern web browsing. When it comes to time, everything you don’t do will always have a much bigger impact than how you do the things you choose to go through with, regardless of how efficiently you do them. Hence, links you can avoid clicking add up quickly.
This preview, combined with the practice of interpreting URLs, allows you to do just that. If you have to click every link to figure out if it’s useful, you’re wasting lots of time interpreting information which’ll only lead to dead ends.
Take the above example. If there was a specific picture the author wanted to show that might’ve added value, she would either have included it or, at the very least, linked to a picture. But picture URLs on Instagram look like this:
Since she only linked to her profile homepage, it’s likely just a plug. That’s fine, but if I’m only interested in the topic of the article, that’s a link I don’t need to click. There are a million more ways you can apply this.
- When you’re looking for scientific journals as sources, don’t click on links that lead to blogs.
- When you recognize a site you’ve repeatedly visited before and didn’t like, don’t click on links that go there.
- When you realize a link is about to distract you, either open it separately and minimize it for later, or just don’t engage.
- When a link looks sketchy, it probably is. So don’t click on it.
As the word ‘practice’ implies, becoming more efficient at interpreting URLs takes time. But once you do, you can easily save 10 minutes per day with this habit alone.
The point is: Think about links before you click on them. Don’t just slingshot down every rabbit hole simply because you can.
2. Learn The Basic Browser Keyboard Shortcuts
Muscle memory is faster than active recall. Therefore, the less often you have to take your fingers off the keyboard, the better. Shortcuts allow you to do just that.
Instead of clicking the plus symbol to open a new tab, then click inside the URL bar, then start typing, just hit Cmd+T and start typing immediately. And so on. You only need a handful of these to get the most out of them.
- Cmd+N opens a new window. Useful for separating tasks.
- Cmd+Shift+N opens a new incognito window. We’ll get to those.
- Cmd+T opens a new tab and jumps into its URL bar, so you can start searching Google instantly.
- Cmd+Shift+T reopens the last tab. Great for when you accidentally closed the wrong one.
- Cmd+W closes your current tab or the window if it’s the last one left.
- Cmd+[Number] jumps to that tab in the current window. With 9 you jump to whichever’s the very last one.
- Cmd+L and you insta-jump into the URL/search bar.
If you’re on Windows, use Ctrl instead of Cmd. There are even apps that help you memorize shortcuts, not just for your browser, but all applications. Like typing with 10 fingers, these mini skills go a long way.
3. Minimize Browser Windows You’re Not Using
I’m a huge fan of organizing my browsing activity by state of mind. What I mean by that is grouping tabs together in different windows, depending on the task, topic, or even mood they relate to.
For example, I usually have one “lobby window,” in which I open tabs with different music and that I go back to when I take short Youtube breaks between tasks. Then, I might have one window with tabs of readings I want to catch up on, one with all the tabs I need to write an article, another one with a movie for a longer break, and one to manage communications.
While that in itself is useful, switching between these windows quickly becomes confusing if they’re all just layered on top of your desktop, like this:
Instead, minimize all windows (Cmd+M) except the one you’re currently using. This way, you won’t accidentally land in a completely different state of mind or get distracted and pulled into the wrong direction.
4. Use Visuals For Faster Bookmarks Access
Muscle memory might always beat active recall, but even when you can’t avoid making an effort to remember things, there are things you can do to make it easier. Like using visuals instead of descriptions.
Here’s what my Bookmarks Bar looks like:
As you can see, it’s all symbols. Only the folders have short descriptions. That’s because when I look at the icon for MailChimp or Gumroad or Patreon, I instantly know what’s behind them. No verbal details needed.
Doing this saves space and allows you to have more bookmarks in close reach. It also makes it easier to spot whatever you’re looking for. To get these, simply leave the ‘Name’ field empty when saving a URL (Cmd+D).
After you’ve done so, click on it the bookmark once. The page will load and the icon should show up in your bookmarks bar.
5. Use Incognito Tabs Instead Of Disabling AdBlock
When that happens, reloading the page might do the trick (Cmd+R), but often, your ad blocker rightfully won’t budge. In that case, you could of course figure out which ad blocker you need to disable or set up an exception.
What’s a lot faster, however, is to press the following sequence of shortcuts:
What this does is jump to the URL bar, copy the link, open a new incognito window, in which all extensions are disabled, paste the link back into the URL bar and load the page. The third time you do it, it takes less than 5 seconds.
Viewing pages in incognito modes has lots of other uses, especially when you’re creating on the web yourself, because you can use it to preview content as a logged out user or visitor without actually logging out of Wordpress, Medium, your online shop, etc.
6. Use Google To Search Specific Sites
Most websites come with their own search function, but it often sucks. Google, however, has had the single greatest search algorithm for the past 20 years. Therefore, if you’re looking for anything specific, especially something you’ve seen before, you’re likely to find it faster by searching that site through Google, rather than using its own mechanism.
If I search for “letter millennials Niklas” on Medium, I can’t even find my own post (although Medium’s search is usually alright). But if I plug the query in Google, it comes out right up top.
The format is as follows:
site:medium.com letter millennials niklas
While this is great for finding phrases you’ve read before and articles you only vaguely remember, it’s especially helpful for creators. I find it to be a better way to access my own, older content than forever scrolling through my stats page or stories folder.
7. Continue To Search For Keywords On Pages
Sticking with the example of a particular phrase, it often makes sense to continue your search once you’re on a potentially relevant page. If you stop after clicking the Google result and always read everything until you find out, you might once again waste a lot of time exploring dead ends.
For example, let’s say I want to get a few experts’ latest thoughts on the yield curve inversion, a financial indicator. I google “yield curve inversion” and click on news, then open a few recent articles in new tabs (Cmd+Click).
Now I can cycle through these tabs, press Cmd+F in each one to open an on-page search box, and put in “inver” to get all variants of the words ‘inverted,’ ‘inversion,’ ‘inverts,’ and so on. Firefox even has an option to search a page just by starting to type, no shortcut needed.
By looking at all instances of the most relevant word, I quickly found out that the first article didn’t actually comment on whether the curve had inverted recently. It was more of an explanation. Alright, no problem, but that meant I could close that tab and move on to the next one.
You get the idea. Especially when you have to dig through long texts, don’t stop searching after googling. They’re highly related, but not the same thing.
There’s a great deal of things you can do to use technology more efficiently. You can streamline your operating system’s environment, use different browsers for different tasks, and learn more shortcuts, for example.
But I think the most valuable skills for the future will be those, which help us navigate the world’s rising tide of information. That process starts with mastering the gateways we use to access that information.
10 minutes a day add up to 61 hours a year. That’s 2.5 days. I’m sure you could use those days well. Maybe you’d spend more time with your kids, treat yourself to a weekend getaway, or learn new things.
You could also, of course, actually go surfing.