Tag: productivity

Productivity Systems Overhaul, Part 2: Apps and Systems

Morning Rituals

Getting to bed earlier has had a very profound effect on my productivity systems and productivity in general 1.

For instance, today is Saturday. I went to bed at 10:56 PM on Friday night and woke up at 4:44 AM, rested and ready to go. Granted, by 7 AM I was tired again 2 but I did what I have been doing for a few months now, when I don’t slip up:

  • 8 AM Get up
  • 8:05 Drink water
  • 8:30 Shower
  • 9:00 Eat a good breakfast
  • 9:30 Listen to a podcast/book
  • 10 Get a coffee
  • 10:05 Read a few pages of a book
  • 10:45 Check out OmniFocus and Fantastical
  • 11 Begin work for the day

Getting to bed earlier and getting up earlier has allowed me more time to write, flesh out programming projects, edit old blog posts, do research, eat, and clean up around the apartment.

Just this small change has helped me be super productive. Figuring out a morning ritual was key to being able to write code, write blog posts, research my book projects, and get cleaned up, and ready for any task or learning I needed to do throughout the day. Simple, yet you won’t believe how hard it is to implement after years of listless and unstructured days.

Figuring Out My Tools

In the Mac Power Users Facebook Group, Chris Upchurch posted a link to his blog talking about inventorying his tools.

I found the concept interesting and decided to do the same.

This list is comprehensive: most of the apps listed here I use in some form throughout my daily life 3. I want to take the time here to assess the tools, and give you some suggestions on what you can do to take stock of your digital productivity systems

Already Use Frequently:

  • Chrome
  • IDEs and Text Editors
  • Terminals
  • Evernote
  • OmniFocus
  • Fantastical 2
  • Ulysses
  • Alfred
  • Google Drive/Docs
  • Dropbox
  • Clean My Mac
  • BetterTouchTool
  • CheatSheet
  • RescueTime
  • 1Password
  • Slack

Would Like to Use More Frequently:

  • Day One
  • Droplr
  • Feedly
  • Keyboard Maestro
  • Hemingway
  • Grammarly
  • MindNode
  • OmniOutliner
  • Scrivener
  • Reeder
  • TaskPaper
  • Studies
  • nvAlt
  • Paws for Trello
  • SuperTab
  • Byword
  • Dash (Developer Documentation)
  • Duet Display
  • Gitter (Open Source Slack-like client)
  • MediumDesk
  • DEVONthink Pro Office

Apps to Cut Down on Using

  • Airmail
  • Gmail
  • Tweetbot
  • App for WhatsApp

I think if you look at this list, you get a sense of where my priorities are, from the bottom up 4.

I tend to use social and email apps more than general productivity apps. I am spending less time on social media altogether, but could really cut back on my use of Facebook and Twitter.

The apps I would like to use more frequently include some reading apps. Maybe that might be considered a distraction, but as I currently use them for news, I think opening them in the morning and looking through them isn’t too bad. Sometimes I need to keep up with developer news and tutorials so these apps come in handy.

What’s interesting here is that the apps you use to get real work done are apps I want to use more frequently 5. This doesn’t surprise me as I am/was a huge procrastinator. Taking time to figure out what I am supposed to be doing and when has really helped with this. I am hoping to have usage of these apps sort of like my Alfred statistics 6 :

What You Can Do to Take Inventory of Your Tools

Have a look in your Applications folder. List them in the order that you use them. Try to assess which ones you use the most, that you’d like to use more or less, and ones you should delete.

I tend to hang on to apps, especially if I paid a lot of money for them. Sometimes, it’s best just to keep the installer and put the license inside of 1Password, and call it a day 7.

Anything you’d add? Leave me a comment. Tell me how you’re going about using your productivity systems during your day.


  1. It is really rough with the double whammy of insomnia and sleep apnea which makes me very tired during the day. 
  2. That damned sleep apnea 
  3. Most of them, anyway 
  4. Kind of backwards, I know. 
  5. Scrivener, Byword, MediumDesk for writing articles for publications, etc. 
  6. Well, maybe not that much. 
  7. Unless you bought from the Mac App Store. 

Productivity System Overhaul: Tidying and Tools

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

First, I read a summary of the KonMari method of tidying things from her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

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.

I got a copy of Carl Pullein’s book Your Digital Life. It is a primer on how to be productive in the digital age, with digital tools, implementing the GTD method.

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.

Stay tuned.


  1. I still am not getting enough sleep. I have a sleep disorder that is being taken care of now. 
  2. Check out his YouTube channel. Excellent content. 

End of Year Mac App Roundup, Part 2

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 MindNode1 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.


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End of The Year Mac App Roundup, Part 1

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 1 and that system is unique to your own needs.

Two Parts

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:

That Mac Nerd: 10 Best Productivity Apps for iOS

and then I switched to Airmail:

10 Best Productivity Apps for Mac

 

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 made2 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 it3.Hazel – If you are constantly moving files across your Mac and maybe a few external drives, or even into closed file formats like Evernote4, 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.

Trello for Project Management

trello-logo

I know I have a BusyContacts screencast to get up and running here– I’ve recorded it but I have to go in and edit it which takes a lot of time. Getting up in running in the university as well as other projects takes a lot of that time.

So I made a brief screencast for my other blog, a blog about my journey as a new developer over at Code Newbie in Pittsburgh about Trello, a not-so-new productivity web app based on the Kanban principle for agile and lean development which is, of course, programmer speak. Kanban isn’t in itself a developer productivity principle– it was first used in manufacturing at Toyota back in the 40s.

I was, and still am, using OmniFocus for more linear tasks. I’ve spent too much on it to give it up. But with Trello and the new TextExpander I have found an enjoyable way to be productive.