Recently I switched from Evernote to Notational Velocity. I was so sick of the Evernote iPhone app and saw that Notational Velocity synced with Simplenote. Since trying them both out I haven’t looked back. Now, Notational Velocity supports tagging but Simplenote doesn’t, and as I like to search by tag, this was a bit of a problem. So taking the Twitter approach, I simply hashtag my notes, which makes them incredibly easy to find in both Notational Velocity and Simplenote. I don’t put the hashtag in the name of the note but just as the first line. I found that putting the tag in the name looked a bit untidy in SimpleNote. A nice side effect is that in Simplenote, the tags appear as the preview line. Problem solved. #notationalvelocity #simplenote
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who started his autobiography, My Life, with a reference to the book: When I was a young man just out of law school and eager to get on with my life, on a whim I briefly put aside my reading preference for fiction and history and bought one of those how-to books: How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, by Alan Lakein. The book’s main point was the necessity of listing short-, medium-, and long-term life goals, then categorizing them in order of their importance, with the A group being the most important, the B group next, and the C the last, then listing under each goal specific activities designed to achieve them.
The message is simple. List what you need to do and prioritise it. While that is the core message of the book, it also covers what to do in various situations. What to do when you perhaps feel like you don’t have enough time to complete an A task, or find yourself procrastinating but always doing B or C tasks instead of the more important A ones. The main thing I took away from the book though was to always ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I could be doing right now?”. It’s surprising how asking such a simple question of yourself can have such a huge impact on what it is you actually spend your time doing.
I first picked up the Productive Programmer a few months back and after flicking through it I initially thought a lot of it wasn’t relevant and didn’t bother reading it. As I had been playing around with Vim (again!) and thinking about the whole idea of being more productive, I felt compelled to pick it up once more and actually read it. After learning a few new OSX tricks within the first few pages, I was hooked. Admittedly I skipped over any Microsoft related content, but overall the book is full of real productivity gems, and ever since I’ve been on a quest to increase my day to day effectiveness when it comes to using my computer.
My first port of call was sitting down and learning to use LaunchBar properly. I still have a long way to go, but more and more I’m using it to find and open files, as well as small things like quickly playing music and using the extremely handy clipboard history. I’ve stripped my dock of all apps except those that are running. The reason being that there is no need for me to use it as a launcher when I can use LaunchBar to start any app I need, without even having to use the mouse. I’d totally hide it from my screen, but somehow that feels “anti-Mac”.
Secondly I customised my terminal to be more “friendly” and learned some advanced command line techniques courtesy of the Peepcode screencast on the subject. Now I have a load of aliases as well as custom functions which culminate commands I frequently run in conjunction with each other.
I also spent some time learning more general shortcuts as well as trying out some other apps to help in my quest for computing Zen. One is Desktopple, which hides apps which have been in-active for a certain period of time and another is TextExpander, which allows you to create small snippet shortcuts, for example, typing r@ now automatically expands to become richard[at]ur-ban.com. Very nifty.
To try and become more effective overall in my life I’m really trying to knuckle down and keep a track of everything I need to do using Things. As with any todo app, you get out, what you put in. If you don’t really make an effort to use it and dump stuff into it, you’ll never really get anything out and never get anything done. I would have prefered to continue using The Hit List as I have a registration for it, but it would seem the iPhone app is still nowhere in sight. So for now, Things is what it’s going to have to be. I’m also now making more use of Evernote. I regularly email notes to myself and had totally overlooked the fact that I could just email them straight to my Evernote account. So now, any thoughts or ideas I have appear straight in my account thanks to the power of Email. I’ve also installed The Habit Factor on my iPhone to keep a track of my goals. It’s a simple app which lets you set a number of goals and habits, which you can then tick off each day, hopefully leading you to form good habits over time.