Omnifocus and Launch Centre Pro for iOS

This is a very short post but a really good one. I can say that because all the clever stuff is the work of other people!

Michael Shechter is the power behind A bester mess and this post about Launch Centre Pro and OmniFocus for iOS is the best thing I have found on the web in a long time.

Michael’s article explains things far better than I can here so head over there for the full details.

In a nutshell he has managed to collect a series of very useful Launch Centre Pro triggers to allow OmniFocus users to quickly add all kinds of actions in ways that seem impossible to a regular iOS user – and no jailbreak required.

I suggest to take a look at the post here, download Launch Centre Pro and take you productivity to the next level.

Web finds, Saturday 23 June 2012

Here is a collection of what has piqued my interest in the productivity sphere this week.

  • Project Shoebox: Making a Physical Filing System David Seah is best known of his paper based productivity tools. In particular I like his emergent task planner and the compact calendar – more on printable calendars below. But the main link here is to a really engaging blog post about his recent excursion into filing his physical stuff. A good read
  • The small calendar 2012 Grafish Design produce this great version of a printable, compact, full year calendar. There is a knack to reading the calendar. You use the colour coding of the months to figure out the date and day. It is also a great replacement to reciting ‘30 days hath September …’. I print them on to large self adhesive labels to use in notebooks and to give to friends. I also have one printed on an index card and stored in my wallet.
  • Productive desktop wallpapers If you store working computer files on your desktop (you shouldn’t but lets gloss over that for now!) then these wallpapers are a great way to help you organise those files for easy retrieval. There are a few more here. You could even combine this idea with a personal kanban, like the author of this article.
  • How to Stay Focused When You’re Tempted to Slack Off – in 3 Simple StepsI’m not usually a fan of the blog posts with titles like ‘8 ways to remove stones from a horses shoe’, or ‘10 ways to avoid list’ but this post offers good solid advice on how to force yourself to stop procrastinating and just get your stuff done. It boils down to:
    1. think about the immediate goal
    2. get rid of distractions and
    3. trick yourself into ‘just spending a few minutes on task x’.
  • How to Build New Habits with Mind Maps The Asian Efficiency crew have come up with a great article on using mind maps to build new (good!) habits. A fun introduction to the concept of habit building and how to develop better practice.
  • What Is ‘The Zone’ Anyway? Lifhacker tackle the concept of being in the zone and explain how to get there. The zone, for me, is that state where I just ‘do’. I’m totally engrossed, focused on the task at hand and time seems to fall away as I work. The feeling is great and allows you to reach levels of productivity you never thought possible. The more often you can get there the better.
  • Do the work is a manifesto by Steven Pressfield. Think of it as the little brother of his excellent book The War of Art. It takes around an hour to read and I keep it on my kindle and read it about once every 6 weeks. Written from the perspective of a creative writer it offers some really useful advice on how to just get on and ‘do the work’. Just do it and ship it. This is highly recommended reading.

So, a fair bit to get your teeth into there. If I had to pick the best two I would go for the zone and do the work – one really useful and one inspirational.

unroll.me is a great way to unsubscribe to email newsletter and package up your bacn

unroll.me is a beta web app that aims to help you manage your email subscriptions and keep on top of your (gmail only at the moment) email inbox

It does this in two ways:

  1. Gives you a clean and simple interface from which to unsubscribe from newsletter you no longer want to receive but cannot figure out, or cannot be bothered to figure out, how to unsubscribe from

  2. Rolls-up the newsletter you do want to receive, bacn, in to a nice digest email via which you can view all the stuff you do want to see.

If you have recurring email which you want to keep receiving direct, like Merlin Mann’s always excellent ‘Bulk Bag’ then you can tell unroll.me to ignore it and you will continue to see it arrive in you regular inbox.

unroll.me is not a spam filter – it is a smart way to handle all the stuff you once said you wanted to receive but now find intrusive to deal with.

It’s early days for this web app and I’ve only been using it for a while so I’ll let you know how it works out over the next few weeks.

Web finds, Thursday 14 June 2012

 I’ve not posted here for a while because I’ve been away on a family camping trip. The great outdoors emerged as a bit of a theme in my web surfing as the first two links show.

For me the best find of the week was from the guys at the always outstanding Asian Efficiency. If you use both Omnifocus and Evernote then I think you will agree with me.

Finally there are a smattering of other useful links for you to consider.

  • Boost Your Creativity, Happiness, and Focus by Stepping Out Into Nature Here lifehacker discuss the restorative effect of getting away from your desk and out into the big wide world. You don’t have to go native for a month – just 30 minutes in a local park can have a huge impact on your level of focus. No more gobbling your lunch ‘as you work’!
  • Mom Was Right: Go Outside And this is the science bit from a ‘real’ newspaper to back it up.
  • How to Automatically Transfer Evernote Notes to Omnifocus This is my big find of the week. If you rely on Omnifocus to organise your tasks and use Evernote as your external brain then I think you will like this too.
    You need a certain knowledge of using Applescript but the excellent guide from Asian efficiency takes you through all the steps.
    Once you set up the system you can tag any note in Evernote with the word ‘review’ and when the Applescript triggers it sends the note to Omnifocus (and clears the ‘review’ tag in Evernote). But here is the magic bit – the new Omnifocus task has a url link back to your Evernote note – not the web interface to evernote, but to the actual native client note! If you have an iOS device in the mix it gets even better. The Omnifocus link will take you straight from the Omnifocus app and into the note in the Evernote app.
    This is amazing.
    For extra geek points you can skip installing Lingon, follow the comments thread and set up a cron job to run the Applescript on a regular basis. You need to be comfortable with using terminal.
  • Simple-for-Ever Keeping on the Evernote theme you might be interested in this web app that keeps an evernote notebook synced to your simple note .txt notes. This is a great way to keep your text notes within evernote but keeping the simplicity and portability of plain text. I urge you to give it a try.
  • 3 Ways to Be Less Busy and More Productive This post at Lifehack caught my eye. One of the methods they champion is to develop the habit of journalling. It is a goal of mine for the month to journal on a regular (daily) basis. I’m 14 days in and already finding it a great way to clear out my head at the end of the day and to gear my self up for upcoming the day ahead. Good, solid advice – as I’ve come to expect from lifehack
  • How to Make Good Use of Time Pockets This is an old 2010 article from the Dumb Little Man. It is a quick five minute read that does a good job of making you realise just how much you can get done if you just stay present, focused and put systems in place to make sure you can take advantage of the little bit of time that we all have during the day.

Well that should keep you going for a while and I’ll post my regular original content soon.

Productivity aid: Scripton Chronodex Planner

One of my daily productivity habits is to spend a few minutes each evening reviewing how the day went and planning the following day. This does not take long – usually 20 minutes or so.

Part of this process is to block out time in for the following day to ensure that my MITs (Most Important Tasks) get done. I have been doing this as a simple vertical timeline which I sketch into my notebook each evening as I set up the page ready for the day ahead. This works well for me but lacks a bit of flair.

Then I found Scripton Chronodex and their DIY day planners. Put simply it is a stylised clock face on which to plant your day and your blocks of time.

It is a really creative way to visualise your day and taps into our instinctive reaction to analogue clock faces.

The website has a number of different, free to use, downloadable templates to try and some very detailed instructions for creating a calendar and todo list notebook.

My favourite way of using the system is to print them onto sticky labels. Then I peel one off each evening, put it on the next blank page in my notebook and then plan away.

I think that you might find it useful to plan ahead and enjoy this interesting visual stimulation along the way.

Use your feet to commute

Why?

 I read a recent article in a trade magazine which was about options for driving down travel expenses for knowledge workers.

One section was on the topic of commuting to work or to meetings by foot. This post is the result of my thinking on the subject.

What are the benefits of commuting on foot?

 There are some obvious benefits to walking for work:

  • It’s green – reduces greenhouse gases
  • it has physical and mental health benefits – works you body and allows time to think
  • it is cheap – no more £0.50/mile expenses to sign off!

There are some less obvious benefits too:

  • it takes longer than the equivalent drive (depending on traffic) – this gives you some valuable time to think
  • it can offer an opportunity to discuss projects with any co-walker you may have commandeered
  • it allows you to arrive at work / meetings alert and ready for action
  • it provides time for reflection after a meeting or day at work

Is it always possible to commute on foot?

In truth there will be times when it is not an option but if you commit to doing it you might be surprised how seldom walking is not possible.

I’m lucky enough to be in the position where my major client is within a 15 minute walk of my office. But several of the sites we are working on are not.

When we have a site based meeting I set off in the car in good time (often taking the client with me) and we park about half a mile to three quarters of a mile away from the site (where we can get free parking) and we walk the last bit.

This is a great way to get the bulk of the travelling done quickly but then get the benefits of walking and talking the last bit before the meeting starts.

It is amazing how often we can discuss and agree a point of view on agenda items, work out tactics and the like as we walk that last half mile.

A great example of the walking commute can be seen here in my home city in the legal quarter. All through business hours the solicitors can been seen walking between each others offices, some times alone, often in pairs or small groups and always ‘switched on’ and getting on with the business of doing their business.

But you’re wasting time, adding 30 minutes to the duration of every meeting”

If you are unlucky enough to have a boss or co-workers who cannot see the benefit of walking on company time then give them a few points to consider:

  • as knowledge workers we can always ‘work as we walk’. Not everything we are paid for is a ‘thing’, we don’t just ‘do’, we think. There is no better way to find some thinking time during the work day than to get out of the office for 15 minutes and get away from the phone, email and your colleagues
  • your performance at work or in a meeting will be enhanced by the thinking time you gained and the buzz from having done 15 minutes of low level exercise
  • it provides time to reflect after work or a meeting

Also – is it really wasting time? If the journey on foot will only take 15 minutes then I ALWAYS walk. By the time I have rung forward to ensure a parking space will be available, walked to the car, driven a mile, parked, got your stuff from the boot etc. I could have walked there and ordered my coffee.

Don’t forget

…to bring along a capture device. I have some of my most insightful thoughts while I’m ‘off’ and walking is one of those situations where I need to capture a thought quickly and without any friction.

Always carry an appropriate capture device. For me this is a small notebook or a voice recorder on my phone. Here are a few alternative capture devices:

  • notebook and pen
  • index cards and pen
  • voice recorder app on your phone
  • phone app such as toodledo or OmniFocus
  • dictaphone (old school!)
  • voicemail – you can call your own answer service

Your memory is NOT a capture device

Conclusion

  • give your feet and your brain a chance to play their part in your work day
  • timetable enough time around your meetings to allow you to consider walking all or some of the way
  • encourage your reports to do the same

For additional credit why not walk home from time to time? I live four miles from my office but three or four times per month I will choose to walk home. It is a great way to get some serious thinking time – but make sure you have a notebook and pen with you because you will come up with some really useful stuff!

Web finds, Wednesday 09 May 2012

Here we go again with another dive into the things on the internet that I have found interesting….

  • Mac service AppleScript for word count Mac OS X Hints has published a guide to adding a character, word and paragraph counts service in OS X. This works on any block of selected text in any application (except MS Word for some reason!)
  • Learn to Listen Art of Manliness has a post on how to listening. This is a personal hobby-horse of mine. Far too often we are forced to attend meetings where some of those present are inattentive or just plain rude. If you are in the company of someone then give them your attention. Even the dullest of meetings are an opportunity to learn something, strengthen relationships and leave the room with a different perspective. All you have to do is listen!
  • Memories of the Tandy WP–2 The always excellent David Sparks. I love old tech and David clearly thinks the same. It’s just a nice read
  • The Productivityist Manifesto Mike Vary has an interesting take on what it means to be productive and how best to achieve it
  • The rolling to-do list Lifehack have an alternative to the traditional to-do list. Take a read and see if it’s something you can use
  • Mark Forster’s Final Version Despite sounding like a thinly veiled totalitarian global take-over bid this is actually a variation on the rolling to-do theme and well worth a look. You do need to subscribe to Mark’s newsletter to receive the instructions but in my experience he does not spam or bombard you with email. You can always unsubscribe later
  • Why I look at OmniFocus Give that this is about Omnifocus you might think that this is a Mac only post. Well, oO=n the face of it this is a discussion about OmniFocus – but really it is about developing the habit of looking at your lists and acting upon them
  • The Weekly Review: How one hour can save you a week’s with of hassle and headache Lifehacker is not as good as it used to be but there is still some good content mixed in with the ‘make your own toothpaste from bacon rind’ posts. And this is one of them. A really concise, clear set of instructions to either introduce you to the weekly review or get you back on track if you skipped a week (or 2, or 3)
  • Why I write about bathroom fans and pillowcasing strategies Not about productivity, just an entertaining read from Marco Arment, creator of instapaper