Keeping Productive

Computer Management

One of the first tools I install on any new computer is Bartender. It is is a simple app which manages menu bar items. I have so many apps running that they overwhelm dropdown menus, so something has to give.

no-bartender

bartender

Caffeine is almost as important as Bartender. It adds a coffee cup icon to your menu bar, and clicking it disables sleep, which is fantastic when you’re reading documents or talking in a meeting. Other tools I recommend include Moom – which makes managing open windows trivial – and 1Password, the best password-management tool I’ve used (crushing its main competition, LastPass).

Connecting Tools

Connecting tools on a Mac is far easier than most people realize. Hazel allows you to apply rules (like in Mail.app) to the files in folders. These rules can help you tidy things up (delete anything older than 1 month in your Downloads folder) or can execute AppleScripts (whenever anything is seen in this folder, run a script on it). Lingon is a Cron manager for OSX. This means you can schedule tasks (every hour, run this app).

Example Workflows

Folders to Evernote & Omnifocus — I use Hazel to monitor a several folders. Whenever any PDF is added to these folders, the file gets added to a new note in Evernote. Depending on the folder, it can also get automatically added to specific notebooks and receive certain tags.

The script I use in Hazel to generate this looks something like this:

tell application "Evernote"
activate
create note from file theFile notebook {"Scans"} tags {"Email", "Hazel", "OpenTable"}
end tell

Some files, for example, get the “To Read” tag and are added to my OpenTable folder. Lingon runs an app every fifteen minutes to check whether a file with these attributes exists in Evernote, and when it sees one it creates an Omnifocus task with a link back to the note.

This means that when I get emailed a PDF to read, I can just save it straight to this folder and be sure its on my to-do list within a few minutes (and that I can archive the email — inbox zero!)

This process was inspired by Asian Efficiency, and the AppleScript code is available here.

One nice feature of OSX Yosmite is a much more powerful Spotlight search. You can summon it by hitting Cmd-space, and you can type in the names of scripts to find and launch them. I have two scripts I use regularly: M2O is my mail to Omnifocus script; launching it turns the mail message into an Omnifocus task with the content of the email in the note of the task. M2E is my mail to Evernote script; it tranforms the email (and all the attachments) into an Evernote note for archiving.

I’ve put both scripts on Github here.

InDev Tools

Indev is a company which makes two fantastic tools: Mail Act-on and MailTags. I have a dozen different workflows enabled by these tools, but two in particular are useful.

Mail Tags enables automatic filtering.

mailtags

Whenever I receive emails that meet certain criteria (I have a number of rules that trigger similar flows), it automatically runs an archive script. This script sends the email to Evernote with the appropriate tags, while highlighting the email to let me know it is has been properly archived.

The “Archived” tag is also added. Tags in Mail Tags behave just like labels in Gmail: A message can have multiple tags, and also exist in other locations. This makes them great for organization.

Mail Act-on allows me to set hotkeys. My favorite is Ctrl-F which triggers a “Follow-up” Apple Script.

followup

This script reviews the most recent message. If it is something sent to me, it takes the first email address and automatically creates an Omnifocus task that looks something like this:

task

The date is automatically set for 3 days in the future, the text is set and it pulls in the title of the email (“Chat” in the above example). I can also use this rule for emails I’ve sent: In that case, it detects that I’m the sender and pulls in the first recipient.

The source for the script in on Github.

Waiting for a solution

Contact management is the weakest part of my workflow. Apple’s native Contacts app is awful (though it becomes slightly more usable if you disable social integrations, like Facebook and LinkedIn). I’m currently testing CoBook and Busy Contacts. Both are far faster than Contacts, but they also are less integrated into the operating system, so I’m undecided on whether they’re worth the bother; moreover, CoBook lives in the menu bar which makes it tougher to access. Both have stability issues, though that should improve with time.

 

Miles

I’m a senior product manager for OpenTable’s consumer products. I focus on major features, including our loyalty program, diner profiles, social integrations, and new business exploration.