5 Changes You Can Make Right Now To Be More Productive In Windows

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 09/28/19 •  7 min read

Given that everybody works differently, wouldn’t it be great if Windows was designed around the needs of your workflow, instead of being forced function the way that Windows thinks you should?

There are 5 things you can do right now to drastically change the look and feel of Window 10 so that it will work for you, making you far more productive each and every time you sit behind your computer.

Windows 10 does allow for a lot of customization. Some of the settings you can change may be small, but will still make a difference. But then there are some drastic changes you can make that will make all the difference in the world making you far more productive. Let’s take a look a some things you can do right now that won’t cost you any money, but can make a big difference in how productive you are.

Use the Dark Theme or a Combination of Light and Dark

Windows 10 offers a dark mode. Nearly every place that you see a white background, is replaced with a dark background. Take the SETTINGS screen for example, (see below).

Dark Mode makes colors POP, and it’s a lot easier on the eyes, for sure. It just makes the colors come alive. Windows defaults to Light Mode, but you can easily change that. Here’s how: Simply click the START button, and then click the SETTINGS gear-like icon, (as shown on the left here). When you do, the WINDOWS SETTINGS dialog box will appear.

Simply type the word, “DARK” in the FIND A SETTING text box at the top of the dialog box. Once you see the following search results, click on “TURN ON DARK MODE FOR APPS“. It should be the second one down.

Under CHOOSE YOUR COLOR, change it from LIGHT to DARK, and you will see an immediate affect. You’ll notice that the dialog box will turn dark, and the TASKBAR at the bottom of your screen will also turn dark.

I have to admit, I love the dark theme . . . but not everywhere. For example, I want a dark Taskbar, but I don’t want Windows Explorer to be displayed in Dark Mode. Fortunately, there is a solution for someone like me. Windows 10 allows you to customize the theme so that dark mode appears in some places, but not in all places. Let me show you how to do this, and what it will look like after you do so.

Instead of clicking DARK, (as indicated in the image above), click CUSTOM. This will display the following option on that same dialog box. Change each of the highlighted areas below to see what my setup looks like.

In using these CUSTOM settings, you will find that the Taskbar and Start menu are dark, but your dialog boxes and Windows Explorer are not dark. Personally, I like to see a white background when viewing Windows Explorer. I also like a dark Taskbar because it makes the icon colors in the Taskbar pop. Finally, by turning the TRANSPARENCY EFFECTS on, it ads a tint to the things such as the background in the left pane of the Windows Settings dialog box. Simply turn it on, and you’ll immediately see the difference in the left pane.

Resize and Unpin Tiles

If you click the Start menu, you are confronted with menu items that are thrown in your face, taking up nearly 25% of your screen real-estate. The Start menu now consists of square “tiles” that are designed for easy access, but these tiles even contain ads. Really? Ads?

You may not use or care for the tiles displayed once you click on the START button. You can remove these tiles [one at a time], by right clicking on a given tile and selecting UNPIN FROM START, but by default, there are . . . . 9,456 title ready to slap you in the face every time you click on the Start menu button. OK, maybe not 9,456 tiles, but way too many. Obnoxiously too many.

Move the Taskbar to the Top or to the Side

The ability to move the Taskbar to the left side, right side, or top of the screen has been around forever, and though it is easy to implement, it can make a world of difference in your productivity, especially if you are used to using a Mac, where the Main Menu is at the top of the screen.

To move your Taskbar, simply right-click on the Taskbar and click then click LOCK THE TASKBAR to unlock it, (it’s locked by default).

Then left-click on the Taskbar and drag it to the right side of your screen, or to the left. If you want the START menu to drop down from the top, like MacOS does, simply drag the Taskbar to the top of the screen.

Once you have the Taskbar where you want it, simply right-click on it again, and left-click the LOCK THE TASKBAR to lock it in place again. The reason you want to clock it in place, is because it is very easy to inadvertently drag the Taskbar unintentionally.

Reduce the Size of the Taskbar

One of the first things that I do when I install Windows is to reduce the size of the Taskbar. I just think the icons are too large and it feels in the way. To make the Taskbar smaller, simply right-click on the Taskbar and click TASKBAR SETTINGS. When the Taskbar Settings dialog box appears, simply turn on the USE SMALL TASKBAR BUTTONS setting, and the taskbar will immediately be reduced by 25%, but that 25% can make a world of difference, especially if you are on a laptop. Try it out now and see for yourself. You just might like it.

Reduce the size of Your Desktop Icons

I almost did not include this, but I have to. Before you skip ahead, let me explain why this is important to your workflow.

Having worked in the tech industry for nearly 20 years, I can tell you that the majority of users dump files and folders on their desktop for quick and easy access. In a few cases, I have seen Desktops that are completely full of icons, to the point where they could not add any more icons to their Desktop. I hope that this is not you, but if it is, I have a solution for you I’ll share in a minute.

There are two things you can do here.

  1. Reduce the Size of Your Desktop Icons
    To do this, simply RIGHT-CLICK on your Desktop, click VIEW > SMALL ICONS. It’s such an easy change, you have to try it out and see if it will work for you. I personally find that smaller icons make it feel like I have more room to work with.
  2. Change the Display Resolution
    Changing your display resolution is almost as easy. Again, RIGHT-CLICK on your Desktop and click DISPLAY SETTINGS. You will then see the Display Settings dialog box will appear. The part of that dialog box that is significant, is displayed below:

You can select a higher DISPLAY RESOLUTION here, but understand that it will make everything a little smaller, not just your Desktop Icons.

With a higher display resolution, your icons, images, and most importantly, text, will appear sharper. Fonts will appear crisp and won’t have jagged edges, which will make reading text on your computer screen much easier. No more burning eyes. One final point on this: Your computer screen will almost certainly allow for 1080×768 and 800×600. The higher the numbers, the smaller the display. Try it out, you won’t break it. If you like it, you will be asked to accept the changes, or revert back to what you had before.

Closing Thoughts

We have covered 5 things that you can do right now to make your computer work for you, all of which have been cosmetic in nature for the most part, but it’s the little things that can make a big difference in the way you complete your daily tasks. This is the way your computer should work, with you in mind, so that you can be as productive as possible.

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.