I recently overhauled my productivity system.
What I was doing wasn’t working. School wasn’t working. My body wasn’t working.
I was forgetting things. I wasn’t getting enough sleep1. I was burned out. Stress with school, stress with trying to get my side projects together. Stress with finding employment. Stress with a cluttered apartment. It took its toll.
What I Did
Immediately I went about throwing out all the junk in my apartment.
First, I threw out old clothes, a potpourri steamer, old placemats from my first apartment, paper that had accumulated from all the junk mail I receive. I threw it all out.
Then I cleaned my living room, overhauled my kitchen, moved and cleaned my bedroom.
Of course, this happened over time. But the tossing of junk happened at once.
Productivity Systems Revisited
If you’re going to write about productivity and relevant applications for productivity, it is best that you are actually putting your money where your mouth is.
First rule for me at least: If it doesn’t look good, I am probably not going to use it.
This is something I found out early in my Apple software life. I appreciate good design. If it is cumbersome, fiddly, or ugly, I’m just not going to want to use it.
I ditched BusyCal for Fantastical 2. It helped that my friend Francesco D’Alessio was giving away software licenses for his 5,000 subscriber YouTube giveaway.2 Luckily I won the Fantastical 2 license and went about setting off to be more productive.
This book changed the way I work.
That’s not hyperbole. It did change the way I work with my tools, and how to just be a better, more organized, and less stressed productive person.
I set up a system I will talk about in the next post. So far, it has been a success. I have been more productive than ever before in my life, working on paid work and open source software as well, while I gain better programming skills and look for employment.
So as promised, I am penning the second part to my best Mac productivity apps of 2016. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
The Best of 2016 Mac App Roundup
- Hazel - This app saves me so much time by moving files around that I’ve collected in different places across my Mac and external hard drive. You can move any type of file with a rule, from photos, disk images, and epubs, the list is endless.
- BusyCal - This is my calendar app of choice, at least for now. I use BusyCal along with BusyContacts as a CRM but the more I look at Fantastical 2 the more I am intrigued by it. Maybe a review for 2017?
- BusyContacts - My favorite way to manage my contacts on macOS. It isn’t pretty but it is full-featured and integrates well with BusyCal. None of BusyMac’s apps are very good looking, but they are powerful.
- MindNode - I don’t mind map as much as I’d like– my mind doesn’t work in such a scattered way. But the few times I used MindNode[note]and still do, sometimes[/note] I was impressed by its look and robust feature set. If mind mapping is your bag, definitely check it out.
- Paws for Trello - This is a nice, elegant Trello client that has desktop notifications and a quick switcher for board management. It’s cheap– $3. I use it quite a bit as I have several boards going for different projects.
- Dropbox - If you are doing any type of collaboration with teams using files that aren’t just documents, this is the app you want. Even if you aren’tcollaborating, just having your files everywhereis a piece of mind you can’t afford to live without. The free tier is not really generous; 2gb is paltry. But it will work for small text files. I’d encourage you to upgrade to the Pro plan at $99/yr or $10/mo. 1TB of storage for that price seems steep but it is the best cloud file manager available, and the most reliable.
- Google Drive - If you need real-time document editing, file-sharing, and online presentations that are easily shareable, this is the app you want. Unlike Dropbox, it gives you 15gb of storage on the free tier and up from there to 1TB and they have plans for businesses too.
Do You Agree with My List?
Let me know of what apps you’re using in the comments. There will be another New Year’s Mac App Roundup coming early 2017.
If you like what you read, could you share it? I appreciate the love. ❤️
The end of the year is here and with that comes end of year mac app roundup posts of the best apps for productivity, games, and other popular app genres.
Here, at That Mac Nerd, it’s no different. I have moved from app to app this past year, looking for the perfect tool. That’s a fool’s errand: there is no perfect tool, just a perfect system [note]I will write a post about systems soon[/note] and that system is unique to your own needs.
While writing this post, I noticed how long it had gotten and that I had 16 apps I wanted to talk about. So instead of pumping out a very long article, I decided to break it up, two posts with 8 apps each. Same for the End of the Year iOS Productivity App Roundup.
My Best Productivity Apps This Year
So what apps I am using are the best this year? Here’s my list.
OmniFocus - This is a workhorse for those busy folks that need to manage their tasks. This is a GTD powerhouse though you can use it for a simple list. OmniFocus is the best of the best and the app most entrepreneurs use if their on a Mac. Pricey, so make sure you’re going to commit.Spark - I know I wrote about Spark before:
and then I switched to Airmail:
on Mac and iOS. Spark’s Mac app was in beta and I didn’t really want to test it– I was pretty happy with the power of Airmail. Spark is powerful as well but not quite as powerful as Airmail– the OmniFocus share extension is much, much better with Airmail. I switched over to Spark after I looked at their Mac app. It’s beautiful and fast. On iOS I keep Airmail around just for that share extension but on Mac it doesn’t make a difference. Spark is almost as good as Mail.app and it’s free.Alfred - This is a must-have app. I don’t know what I’d do without it, and I am not even using its full power. It’s an app launcher, a web and website searcher, and with web APIs, AppleScript, and things like Python and JXA, you can script workflows for the apps on your machine or access web services. And with the revised workflow maker screen, you can think up and create all kinds of relevant workflows for you. You will need to pay for the PowerPack, which is around $30. Upgrades are cheap– I got my upgrade to version 3 for $10.Keyboard Maestro - Keyboard Maestro is an app that once you play around with it, get a few macros made[note]or downloaded[/note] you won’t know what you did without it. I have made, and downloaded, 184 macros that do things behind the scenes that I no longer have to think about. It has a learning curve, so make sure you are doing repeated tasks often enough to justify the time and monetary costs of this app. But, if you’re willing to take a little time to learn it[note]It helps to know AppleScript, Ruby, Python of JXA but you really don’t need to[/note].Hazel - If you are constantly moving files across your Mac and maybe a few external drives, or even into closed file formats like Evernote[note]Katie Floyd has a great little Hazel rule that I will share[/note], Hazel should be your first choice for this. In fact, I am pretty certain Hazel is the only choice for this currently. Hazel saves me so much time, and it doesn’t have to be a slog to setup. Just a few rules can get you going. I wrote about my Hazel setup on Mac Automation Tips blog:
Check it out for how to get started with Hazel. Check out Katie Floyd’s Evernote Hazel rule as well.Evernote - I absolutely love Evernote, despite the team’s flaws, despite its warts, despite the uproar over their pricing model. Since Phil Libin left, the Evernote team has since regained focus, shuttling their ill-advised store and some other products that weren’t at the core of who they are. I tried the plain text system of storing information, as well as a DEVONthink Pro Office system of storing info, but at the end of the day, nothing is as malleable to GTD and productivity as Evernote. I keep and use DEVONthink Pro Office as an archival database for books, videos, and pdfs that I may need to refer to later. But for my everyday, I still use Evernote. I am currently writing a book on Evernote so stay tuned.Scrivener - With the recent release of their iOS app, Scrivener is back on my radar as a worthy tool to write non-fiction in, as well as the sundry school research papers I’ll need to write. It is, in all its cluttered glory, a behemoth– it does so much, so many bells and whistles– but it does it in ways other software can’t match. When Scrivener launched for iOS I immediately bought it and have since started two book projects. It syncs with Dropbox only: for some reason the developer said iCloud Sync didn’t work correctly, however Ulysses, which also uses package files, works flawlessly with iCloud Sync. In any case, this is a must have if you’re doing any type of long-form writing.Ulysses - Ulysses is the markdown app for serious writers. I write practically everything in Ulysses that isn’t going to be extremely long form or things like journal entries or goals. You can put that stuff in Ulysses, but that’s really not taking advantage of its power. I am currently writing this blog post in Ulysses on my iPad Pro with Logitech Smart Keyboard but the Mac app is always in my dock, always accessible. I write all my blog posts, newsletters, and scripts in Ulysses. It’s an App Store app and quite pricey, like Scrivener but one of the best apps on the store.
Stay Tuned for Part 2
Part two has some web apps that have integrations locally on your Mac and a few utilities. The next post should be out by the end of the week.
In the meantime relax, stay motivated, and keep productive.
Are you still using IFTTT recipes?
I have deleted some recipes and added others. They are adding new channels every week. A lot of it is home automation stuff the Hue and WeMo lights[footnote]And of course, the Amazon Echo.[/footnote]. That seems to be their focus and I understand that.
They asked for suggestions on their Facebook Page and I, as well as other users suggested multiple accounts as well as more fine-tuned conditionals for greater flexibility. Seems like power-user features but one that Zapier has had for a while now.
The IFTTT Giveth and The APIs Taketh Away
One notable issue with IFTTT is that it relies so heavily on web service APIs that are constantly changing. I used Instagram’s Save a Photo You Like on Instagram to Your Camera Roll recipe quite often. There were several different triggers for Instagram. But because of changes to their API, they took away a lot of triggers which crippled some of my workflows.[footnote]You can find the article about that here: https://ifttt.com/blog/2016/05/a-change-in-how-instagram-works-with-ifttt[/footnote].
It isn’t ideal, but it’s what we have when services like IFTTT tap into other web apps for free.
My IFTTT Recipes
So what am I using these days? You can find them below.