There are hundreds of thousands of Chrome extensions. And there are almost as many people telling you which of those Chrome extensions are the best for productivity. I'm here to add my hat to the ring, but remember: these aren't the best. These are the ones that fit my workflow—you need to find the ones that fit yours.
How to choose Chrome extensions
I love the idea of a cat appearing when a new tab opens, but you might not be a crazy cat lady like me. So before I dive into the Chrome extensions I find the most helpful, here are some tips to discover which ones you might want in your toolbar:
Consider the apps you already use. Take a look at your workflow, and identify the apps you use. There's a good chance a Chrome extension exists for most of those apps that can make your life easier.
Notice what distracts you. The internet is basically just billions of voices that want your attention. Are you distracted by ads, social media, your favorite websites—or all of the above? There are Chrome extensions to help you manage all types of distracting content.
Ask around for recommendations. Your colleagues and Twitter followers might have some shared apps or workflows, so ask them for suggestions. It's especially helpful to ask people in the same role as you at work.
Browse and search. The Chrome Web Store categorizes extensions, so you can do some browsing and searching to see if anything sparks your interest. I found a lot of the extensions I use this way.
The best thing about Chrome extensions: they require close to zero effort to install, so if you try one out and don't like it, you can just remove it and move on. No harm, no foul, no cats on new tabs.
13 Chrome extensions to boost productivity
These are the Chrome extensions that I use the most. Unless you happen to use these exact same apps (in which case, soul mates?), you'll want to use it more as inspiration than anything. For example, I use Koalendar to schedule meetings, but if you use a different meeting scheduler, find its Chrome extension instead. That's why I'm highlighting what these extensions do as much as which apps they're for.
1. Check grammar and spelling (Grammarly)
Even as a writer, I need a little help from my friend, Grammarly. It proofreads everything I write in real-time and then provides suggestions on spelling, grammar, punctuation, and even tone. If you're willing to splurge for Premium, it can also improve your vocabulary and clarity.
It saves me time proofreading for basic errors and makes me think deeper about my writing. The Grammarly Chrome extension works on everything from casual tweets to Google Docs.
2. Manage passwords (LastPass)
I probably have accounts on websites I don't even remember visiting. A password manager keeps track of all of my passwords and holds them in a secure place. (Much less risky than using a spreadsheet.)
Whenever I open a login page, the LastPass Chrome extension autofills with my login credentials. You can also create new or updated passwords from the extension.
3. Streamline note-taking (Evernote Web Clipper)
I use Evernote to organize research I do for work. Maybe a particular statistic strikes me as interesting, or I want to use a quote in an article. I can use Evernote Web Clipper to save the whole article or take a screenshot of just the part I want to save. Then Evernote lets me add annotations, highlights, and tags to help remind me why I saved it to begin with.
It's a lot better than simply bookmarking a web page since I can highlight the parts of the page that I need for future reference.
4. Block comments (Shut Up)
The comments section can be an incredibly insightful conversation or a wasteland of idiocy. I prefer not to find out, and the Shut Up Chrome extension helps. It turns off comments by default, so I can browse the internet without the risk of falling down the comment rabbit hole.
5. Schedule meetings (Koalendar)
When I click on the Koalendar Chrome extension, it makes it easy to share a link to schedule a meeting. I don't have to go into the app and scrounge around trying to find the link, and I can quickly schedule a meeting with minimal fuss.
6. Set website time limits (StayFocusd)
One of the first Chrome extensions I ever used to manage my time online was StayFocusd. It can completely block websites or set a timer for how long I can use a website. I use it for news sites and social media—my main time-sucks—but it'll work for any site you find yourself spending too much time on.
If StayFocusd doesn't work exactly how you want, there are plenty of similar focus-oriented Chrome extensions available. Get some ideas from Zapier's list of the best apps to help you focus and block distractions.
7. Block social media feeds (News Feed Eradicator)
Blocking social media sites completely is always an option, but there are situations for lots of folks—myself included—where access to social media is necessary for work tasks. When I'm in that situation, the news feed can quickly distract me, so I found a Chrome extension to block it.
News Feed Eradicator works on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Reddit, and GitHub. It removes the feed and replaces it with an inspirational quote. But it still lets me use social media sites for any other tasks I need to do (like searching or viewing a specific post). It's also easy to turn it off for a specified amount of time as necessary.
8. Use the Pomodoro Technique (Focus To-Do)
Out of all the zillions of productivity methods out there, the Pomodoro Technique won me over. The concept is simple: you work for 25 minutes, and then take a break for five minutes. After two hours, you take a longer, 15-minute break.
There are tons of Pomodoro apps out there, but I use the Focus To-Do Chrome extension to keep track of the time—and also track what I worked on during the Pomodoro session. Not only does it help motivate me to work, but it also serves as a time tracker.
9. Get motivated (Momentum)
Momentum was one of the first productivity Chrome extensions I installed, and it's a favorite to this day. It replaces my default new tab page with a nature photo and an inspirational quote. Cheesy, yes. But because it changes frequently, it leaves me feeling energized and motivated. It's a nice way to start (or restart) the day.
You can also use Momentum to help you choose the main focus of the day—and it'll be displayed right there for motivation and accountability.
10. Save articles to read later (Pocket)
I often find articles I want to read but aren't relevant to the work I'm doing at the moment. And when I'm being good, I don't read them right then and there—instead, I save them to Pocket. It creates a database of articles I've saved, and I can organize them using tags.
11. Avoid inbox overload (Inbox When Ready)
My work communication is mostly via email. That means my inbox is constantly sending me notifications for new emails, and my instinct is to click over to them right away. Inbox When Ready lets me hide my inbox and create a schedule for it to unlock. I can still compose emails and search through messages, but I won't get so distracted by new emails asking for attention—except at the times I've specified for reading new messages.
12. Manage tasks (Todoist)
There are few feelings as satisfying as checking off tasks. Todoist is my to-do list app of choice, and the Chrome extension speeds up the process of adding tasks (including adding websites as tasks). Whichever to-do list you use, there's almost definitely a Chrome extension for it—and it'll save you a lot of time clicking back and forth between apps.
13. Automate workflows (Zapier)
The Zapier Chrome extension lets you kick off automated workflows with a click of a button from anywhere on the web. Zapier connects to thousands of apps, so in one click, you can do things like save URLs to a spreadsheet without leaving your browser or create tasks, calendar events, or database records straight from Chrome.
Default to extension
If an app you use has a Chrome extension, give it a whirl. Force yourself to use it for a few days, and then decide if it's helping your workflow. If so, keep it around; if not, remove it. Simple as that.