Tune Windows 10 for laserfocused productivity
PCWorld|July 2021
These tips make working from home less distracting—and a lot easier.
BRAD CHACOS

Find yourself suddenly needing to be more productive in the midst of chaos? Good news! Windows 10 comes loaded with all sorts of tools designed to help you Get Things Done, along with deeper tweaks to optimize the operating system for productivity. Each new major upgrade—like the Windows 10 May 2021 Update (go.pcworld.com/2021), the most recent one—adds 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 working while stuck at home temporarily 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.

Open the Start menu, click the Settings cog icon, and head to System > Notifications & 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.

If you want to receive some notifications—say, Mail and Calendar events—but not others, head back to the main Notifications & 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 interrupt 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 of your PC to install updates. Fortunately, Microsoft has worked in lots of tools over the years that make that scenario much less likely—if you know they exist.

Head to Start > Settings> Update & Security > Windows Update to tinker with your options. In particular, 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.

ORGANIZE YOUR WORKFLOW

Instilling some order into your workflow can make a big difference. Sure, Alt-Tab-bing through all your open programs can work, but taking the time to set up some sort of organization can help keep things running as smoothly as possible. Windows 10 includes several tools that can make multitasking even more productive.

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