Category Archives: Productivity

My desk and inbox zero

Physical inbox zero!

Last week, I attempted a weekly review, but failed to get past clearing my inbox. I probably got into a few rabbit holes, because it seemed like I barely made a dent.

I woke up around yesterday 5:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep. I decided to work through my towering physical inbox one item at a time. It started off slightly taller than my iPhone 5S (4.87 inches), and hasn’t been empty in years.

This time, I kept the GTD workflow diagram by David Allen in front of me. The diagram kept me grounded, rather than taking action on items that would take longer than two minutes.

Two hours later: empty.1

I feel amazing, and look forward to progress in my next weekly review.


  1. I zero my email inboxes daily, too. 
About these ads

Quick capture with Drafts 4

I heard Merlin Mann and Mike Vardy mention Drafts for iOS on a few podcasts, and Drafts 4 was released a few days ago. It’s an endless notepad with the ability to “move” the text into other apps with ease.

Drafts swiftly gets my thoughts out of my head. It’s in my dock, so I’m more likely to write.1 I’ve also added it to my Today menu. (e.g. Swipe down from the top.)

Start in Drafts and decide where to save (publish) later.

  • Workflows are magical. If I start writing a (rare) tweet, morphing that into a full blog post is easy. Drafts can turn a few words into a task in Things, or save a random observation to Day One.
  • Cool feature: When you open an existing note, the cursor is set at its previous location.
  • I love Markdown Preview for longer posts when I’m away from my laptop. I want to quickly confirm any linked text is correct, and I copy my draft from Simplenote.

The app is $4.99, and totally worth it! :)

Here are some workflows I use:

Do you have any Draft 4 workflows or tips to share?


  1. I type faster than I write. 

Alfred snippet idea: Waiting For

I often need to wait to hear back from someone about an issue or question, but I didn’t have a system for tracking those instances.

Lazy.

So, I created a new Alfred clipboard snippet!

Alfred waiting for clipboard snippet

Dynamic placeholders are cool.

  • {date:full} looks like Thursday, April 24, 2014.
  • {time:long} looks like 10:18:20 PM PDT.
  • {clipboard} is used for the internal thread URL.

In practice, each entry takes less than one minute:

  1. Copy the URL to my clipboard.
  2. Press Command–Alt–C to display Alfred’s clipboard viewer hotkey.
  3. Type my “Waiting For” snippet keyword: a8cwf.
  4. Fill out the “Who” and “What” lines.
  5. Review your Waiting For entries when needed.

I could remove the “Who” line, but the “What” line should be a super short sentence (or two).

Once the entry is no longer relevant, remove it.

Why not use a task manager?

I don’t feel like putting these into Things. Those are tasks I need to do.

In contrast, I review my Waiting For entries periodically and ping people when appropriate.

I confess. I’ve scheduled a task to appear every other day to review my Waiting For entries. If those grow, perhaps I should consider adding more context in those threads.

I’m feeling good about this one. :)

Sharing lists

My colleague, Andrew Spittle, asks:

What do you and Amy use to keep track of groceries?

We use Listary. When we’re low on something, we add it to the list.

It’s quick, simple, and syncs instantly with Simplenote.

Inventory tip — To easily see when you’re running low on stuff, add the quantity to the beginning of the item. For example:

  • 2 Bathroom tissue paper rolls
  • 5 Dishwasher packs
  • 1 Brita water filter
  • 2 Snack Pack cups
  • 1 Bagel
  • Half jar peanut butter

View an article with Instapaper Text only using the keyboard

As a happy, longtime Instapaper user, I need the Instapaper Text bookmarklet often when settling in for a lengthy read on my MacBook Air.

I’d like to share a tip that’ll save time of switching to your mouse or trackpad.

When the bookmarklet is saved to your browser, you can use it with the page you’re viewing by following these steps:

  1. Move your cursor to the address (a.k.a. location) bar by pressing Command + L.1
  2. Type the first few letters of the bookmarklet name (or the whole thing if you type quickly).
  3. Press Enter.

If you use folders in Instapaper2, you can take this a step further by saving the bookmarklet for those folders as well.


  1. Mac: Works with Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari
  2. Pro tip. If you send saved articles from Instapaper to your Kindle, don’t mix text articles with media so those particular entries aren’t wasting space in that periodical (Amazon’s term, not mine). I have video, audio, and photo folders as well. 

How I organize my life with Simplenote

I meant to blog about something geeky and exciting. After starting to re–organize my slew of notes in Simplenote1, I decided to write about this instead.

Let’s call this a very tiny weekly review. ;)

(No, come back! Phew. Thank you.)

Simplenote feels like the perfect fit, and it doesn’t hurt that the guys that started it are super rad. (Hi Mike and Fred!)

So, I love the speed and flexibility of plain text, as well as Markdown. I’m also really glad WordPress.com finally supports Markdown, too.

Here are a few ideas on how I use Simplenote:

  • Agenda notes for coworkers, family, friends.
  • Tasks (personal or shared).
  • Blog post drafts.
  • Inventory.
  • Tracking data that doesn’t need to be displayed in pretty graphs.
  • Health notes, so you can discuss issues to your doctor, dentist, or optometrist with a shred confidence.
  • Restaurants. (A whitelist. These dishes are delectable! Or, a blacklist. That place was not good.)
  • Business hours of places you frequent (e.g. stores, malls, mechanic).
  • Late–night sparks of inspiration.

I also love how you can use other apps with Simplenote, like:

  • nvALT for Mac, which I previously used.
  • Listary for iOS, which Amy and I use to share a few todo lists.

Things is still my main task manager. When talking with my coworkers, in the flow of typing within Simplenote, I sometimes slip the word “TODO” inline with the note, which I can quickly find later and import to Things with more context.

Pro tip: Date everything. You never know if you’ll need it later, and you can always cull or delete later.

Brett Kelly raves about Drafts for iOS (which I finally bought last month and still use), and it feels like Simplenote opens and works just as fast.

If you’re curious about “embedding” images and files, I’d suggest uploading them to your favorite file sharing or hosting service — like Cloudup! — and paste the link into your note.

Is your brain percolating? Do you have any other ideas to get the most out of Simplenote? I’d love to hear them. :)


  1. The Simplenote Mac and iOS apps are gorgeous! 

Later 2013, what’s shaking, 2014?

In 2013, I worked a lot, traveled a bit (mostly for work), and enjoyed quality time with Amy.

We’ve continued to reduce our debt, and I still think we’ll be out of debt by June 2014. Amy is hopeful it’ll be sooner. :)

For 2014, I’d like to:

  • Be less anxious. Relax.
  • Spend more time with Amy.
  • Hang out with friends more often.
  • Be more efficient.
  • Be a great example for others.
  • Exercise.
  • Track the right stuff so I know what to change.
  • Purge.
  • Read my backlog of articles and books.
  • Publish 156 posts (three times a week).

That…is a lot.

Reviewing the list, many are related to the concept of budgeting time. Here’s a shorter, revised list:

  • Budget my time so I can be with people — or do the things — I love and enjoy.
  • Be less anxious. Relax.
  • Be a great example for others.
  • Track the right stuff so I know what to change.

On that note, off I go. Happy new year!