Journaling is Boss Mode Thinking

Those of you who are familiar with the work we do at Think Productive will be familiar with the concept of Boss Mode thinking. This is the time when you sit back, you review your current projects and commitments as well as make decisions on where your priorities should be. This frees up the time for your Worker Mode self to crack on with the work at hand, safe in the knowledge that you are doing what you should be doing, when you should be doing it. 

On a personal note, I’ve expanded this concept a little and viewers of my Learn OmniFocus live session with Tim Stringer will already be familiar with this. I allocate time-blocks during the day where I solely concentrate on Boss Mode thinking.

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BusyCal is on Setapp

As if there weren't enough reasons to subscribe to Setapp, the team have announced that the popular Calendar application, BusyCal is now available. 

BusyCal is a great application and fulfils a lot of needs for the Power Users among you. I love the way you can customise the views to suit your needs - the ability to change the number of days in a week to 10 is a real benefit! There are integrated to-dos, the ability to include Travel Time with your appointments and much, much more. 

Check out what BusyCal has to offer here.  The value offered by Setapp goes from strength to strength. 

How I Use: Search in Mail on macOS

Over the past couple of months, my mail workflow has changed. I used Airmail a lot on all devices. Aesthetically it’s great on the eye, lots of Power User actions and it was a pleasure (in the main) to process my Inboxes. I did find, however, that there were occasions where mailboxes weren’t syncing correctly and I was losing important messages. Also, there were times when messages were being stuck in my Inbox on one device, despite being moved to Trash, or Archived, on another. As much as I try to minimise my use of email, it’s still got to be reliable when I need it, so despite the fact it still looks kinda ugly, I moved back to Mail.app as my default Mail client. I also use MailButlernow which makes using Mail a lot more pleasant and I’ll write about my experience with this application soon. 

One thing I missed about Airmail when I first moved across was the Searchingcapabilities. By default, Airmail will search all mailboxes rather than the one you are currently in so this was a habit I had got into that needed to break. Why do I rely on Search so much? Well, my workflow means that I have a minimised email structure. For each email account I have (unfortunately I have several clients, meaning several different accounts as I work with them), I have an Inbox and an Archive folder. Oh, and Trash of course, however I don’t really count that. I don’t like the whole subfolder culture that is around. If I took the time to file every email that came in into a dedicated folder, I’d never have time to work! Also, how often do I find myself retrieving that email? Not often. The time taken to file is a lot longer than the time it takes to perform a search on the whole, so I decided to learn as much as I could about how to search effectively within Mail.app. I was pleasantly surprised when I dug a little deeper and while the below isn’t an exponential list of all of the functionality, it highlights how I use it daily, so hopefully will help you. 

1 - Natural Language

I didn’t realise that Mail was able to understand natural language. I guess I’ve been away from it too long, so when I started to type in phrases like from Kelly yesterday or pdf files to Mike, it was nice to see the right results appear. I’ve got into using natural language parsing a lot when using apps such as Fantastical 2 and voice assistants such as the Amazon Echo so I’m pleased that I can keep that habit going. 

Other searches I’ll use over the course of the day include

  • from (person)
  • To (person)
  • Excel files
  • (date)
  • To (person) about (keyword)

2 - Stack Search Criteria

You aren’t limited to one search term. Once you’ve clicked on your first search element, continue typing and another list of potential search criteria will appear below. Click again, rinse, repeat as often as necessary. You can see below that I’m creating a search for emails from my wife, received yesterday, that have attachments. 

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3 - Saved Searches

If I find myself searching for the same criteria more than once, I’ll save the search so that I can use it again at the click of a button. When you’ve configured your Search criteria, click the Save button below the text entry field. You’ll see a dialog window appear that allows you to configure what is known as a Smart Mailbox. Smart Mailboxes are ace. Just like a Smart Playlist in iTunes, Smart Mailboxes are dynamic and will only show you emails based on the searches you have defined. If you find yourself always looking for emails from your boss that were sent in the last week, then setup a Smart Mailbox that will only show these messages. Saves a lot of time. 

4 - Ranged Date Searches

Sometimes I know roughly when I received an email from somebody, however I”m not entirely sure as to the exact date. You can specify a date range for Mail to search through. Type date followed by a colon and then the range. 

5 - BOOLEAN Operators

Of course, we can utilise BOOLEAN operators if we want an effective search system, such as ANDNOT and OR however I have to say I don’t use them as often as you would think. Generally, I find 95% of the emails I need using the methods above and in a very timely manner. There are occasions where using BOOLEAN operations has helped with complex searches, however if it’s something I may need to search again, I’ll simply setup a Smart Mailbox and use the built-in tools for building the search there. 

So that’s a brief overview as to how I search for emails in Mail on macOS. If you find you need to use more complicated methods than this, or indeed you have simplified ones, then comment below! Would love to hear from you.

Fallback Searches with Alfred

How many times do you find yourself searching for web content a day when you’re on your Mac? Ten times? Twenty? More than fifty? OK, it’s a rhetorical question, we know it’s a lot however it’s only recently that I’ve stopped defaulting to Google for every search I make. If I need to check the definition of a word, I go to Google first. When I watch something on TV and recognise an actor, yet can’t remember for the life of me where they are from, straight back to Google again. Who are my favourite football team playing this weekend? Once more, straight to Google. (OK, sometimes it’s Alexa, but she seems to have the hump with me a lot of the time and refuses to understand my wonderful British accent).

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DaisyDisk 4.5 Released

DaisyDisk 4.5 Released

DaisyDisk has long been a favorite application of mine. It’s got a wonderful graphical interface that allows for a seamless method of looking through your drive(s) for retrievable disk space and freeing it up there and then. 

One limitation of previous versions of DaisyDisk has been the inability to see purgeable space - this is the space that is taken up by local Time Machine snapshots and other caches that cannot be scanned. I’ve just freed up 45GB that was in use that I couldn’t do before - thanks to this new version!

For a full list of updates included within this version, please visit here and you can download the latest version of Daisy Disk here

Why I Love: TripMode

I’ve found myself tethering to my iPhone from either my MacBook or iPad more and more over the last month or so. 

I’ve got a very generous data allowance with my service provider, however, it’s still crucial that I don’t accidentally allow an application to use more data than I’m comfortable with. As vital as Backblaze is to my backup workflow, I don’t want it sending data whilst I’m on the train!

True, I could spend time in those individual apps and pause the syncing - Dropbox is another great example - yet a central application that manages this for me is what I need and that’s what I have with TripMode

With TripMode, no application can access your network connection without you explicitly saying so. It sits in the menu bar and monitors for requests to send/receive data. When an unchecked application makes an attempt, the icon flashes red, so you know that it’s working. 

Allowing applications is a simple process. Click the menu bar icon to view a list and click the check box to permit as you feel appropriate. You will also see the amount of data that an application has used in the current session - although this can be changed to show the totals for the day, as well as the current month. I’d love to see a weekly option here as well. I set myself allowances and targets on a weekly basis for data and it would be good to see how much data I have remaining for the week. Maybe in a future release.

 
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Another great feature of TripMode is the ability to create Profiles. A profile contains settings for allowed/blocked applications as well as your own personally defined data caps. 

When you run TripMode for the first time, a Default Profile is created and any changes you make from the menu bar icon will be reflected immediately in this profile. If you open up the Preferences menu for TripMode and click on the Profiles tab, you have the ability to switch profiles Automatically. I have activated this setting, as this allows TripMode to automatically switch profiles based on the network connection I am currently using. As you can see from the screenshot below, when I tether to my iPhone, I have set a weekly cap of 5GB of data to be transmitted. When the total reaches 4GB, a warning will pop up alerting me to this fact. It’s a weekly cap because I’ve set the renewal period as Weekly (there are also options for manual, daily and monthly). This is great because it allows me to ‘set it and forget it’ in true automation style.

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Next to the Monitoring tab is the Application tab and from here, I can define the applications that are permitted on the iPhone USB connection. The benefits to this are obvious on a cellular connection however if you look, you’ll also see that I have profiles for my current contracting clients network (CDP Guest WiFi) and my home network (LKSLA Secured 2 5GHz). Whilst I’m not as interested in the amount of data that is being transferred whilst on these networks per se, I am interested in ensuring that the correctapplications have enough bandwidth to do what they need to do. The CDP Guest Wi-Fi network can get very congested when there are lots of people in the office so when I’m using applications that have a very strong reliance on internet connectivity, I need to deactivate applications that may be getting in the way - so this profile only applications that I need to get that particular job done. 

Oh, and Apple Music. I need music to work.

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Within Preferences, there is also an Advanced tab that defines how you treat local traffic. By default, all data that enters and leaves your computer will count against the data totals. In the same vein, it doesn’t count loopback traffic (network traffic from your computer to your computer). If you are not fussed about monitoring all data that doesn’t pass through your local internet gateway/router, then you can change this behaviour by checking the Treat local as loopback checkbox. If you do have a concern, you can Block loopback traffic and add whitelisted application exemptions.

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TripMode is a great app if you regularly tether in order to access internet services or hop between different networks with varying bandwidth constraints. I can’t recommend it enough and It’s available as part of the Setapp subscription bundle.

Why I Like: - Jisoncase Microfiber Leather iPad Pro Case

I’ve found myself using my iPad Pro a lot more over the course of the last few months - more specifically, I’ve been making use of the Apple Pencil. It’s great in meetings, when you want to take notes digitally yet still give the air of professionalism and not look as though you are hiding behind a laptop, checking your emails!

Until recently I’ve been using the Logitech Create keyboard cover. Whilst it has a great keyboard, I’ve found that I’m now using the Pencil more than ever. Also, I’m using the iPad for consuming a lot more media than before - namely magazines, comics and books - so the need for the fancy keyboard is diminishing. My needs now are for a pouch-style case which can also house the Pencil and function as a stand. 

I’ve been using the Jisoncase Microfiber Leather Case and I”m very impressed with it! 

Visually, it’s great. The Microfiber Leather material looks very stylish and conveys a look of professionalism when you’re in those important meetings. 

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Sliding the iPad Pro in and out of the case is smooth. Sometimes these cases can offer resistance as the dimensions seem a little small for the tablet, however no such experience here. It’s a perfect fit, not so large as to slip out accidentally, yet not so snug as to bring on the gnashing of teeth when trying to fit the darn thing back in. 

It doubles up as a stand, which is important, especially if I decide that I’m going to use a Bluetooth keyboard with it (I’ve got my eye on this Microsoft Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard). When I first opened it, however, I had to question how on earth it folded together to form the stand. It didn’t take long to suss out how to fold the pre-built ridges into the required prism shape. It holds the iPad Pro 12.9 solidly in both landscape and portrait mode, which I have to say was a bit of a surprise. It doesn’t look as though portrait mode should be possible, however, it’s a very strong, resilient case.

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The slot for the pencil is perfect, at no point has it slipped out whenever I’ve picked up the case, or placed it in/out of my work bag, which happens multiple times daily. 

I’ve been using the case for a couple of months now and there is no physical sign of wear and tear or degradation on the surface, in fact it still looks brand new, which is very important for this style of case. You buy it because it looks nice and you want to look professional and so far, I’m happy to say that it does just that. 
 

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I opted for the brown case as it goes with my Snugg Messenger bag, however it also comes in black, red or blue. 

Whilst I love writing about software that I like, I don’t often feel compelled to write about hardware or accessories that impress. This case changed that. Credit where it’s due to the folks at Jisoncase, they’ve created a quality product and I think I may have to add them to my list of favourite suppliers.

If It's Not a Hell Yes, It's a Hell No

If It’s Not a Hell Yes, It’s a Hell No

With Christmas now a passing memory, I’m hoping that my wallet can recover from the open heart surgery it experienced towards the end of last year. It’s certainly an expensive time when you have a young family - although the rewards trump the cost by a significant factor. 

I’ve found that when I spend money on others, a net result of this is a change in attitude regarding how I spend money on myself. There’s only a finite pool of cash that I can spend, so at times when my loved ones are the focus of my expenditure, I have to be ruthless when it comes to spending on myself. In fact, I’ve learned to adopt a strict strategy when it comes to buying something I like. I ask myself a simple question. 

“Do I 100% want/need this? Is it a Hell Yes?”

If it’s a Yes, then I’ll make the purchase. I trust my thought process enough to answer honestly. More often than not, however, the answer is No (In fact I’d say that 95% of the time, it’s a No!). 

I love this way of managing my purchases. It means I have to be ruthless with the money resources I have available and it allows me to make the best use of them that I can. 

So - why is a productivity guy talking about money management? Well, I quickly realised that this approach doesn’t have to be used solely for my finances. There is another resource that needs closely monitoring to make sure it’s utilized effectively and that’s my calendar

If I spend a little too much money in a month, then by hook or by crook, I can find ways of replenishing the pot - whether it’s by working extra hours, selling household items that are no longer needed - the bottom line is, there is a way of redressing the balance. Can I do this with my calendar? No chance! When the time is gone, it’s not coming back. This means that I need to be every bit as protective of my calendar as I would my bank account. 

This allows me to adopt the Productivity NInja characteristic of Ruthlessness when looking at Projects I have available and requests for my time. I ask myself a simple question. 

“Do I 100% want/need to do this? Is it a Hell Yes?”

If the answer is yes, it goes into Omnifocus as an Active Project and I schedule the necessary time in my calendar to work on the next actions for it. The same approach goes for meeting requests - If I’m 100% required to be at the meeting, then I attend happily. Otherwise, I make a point of requesting the meeting minutes as soon as it’s complete and picking up any relevant actions (which as I’m not at the meeting, is an infrequent occurrence - double win!). 

There are so many demands being placed on us within this Information Age that we live in. We’re all connected, our brains are being overwhelmed with the stuff of life and we need to adopt a ruthless approach if we are going to protect the resources that are dear to us. We don’t give people open access to our wallets - we shouldn’t do the same with our attention.

Protect your attention. Be Ruthless. 

When you create your magic and perform superbly at the office and home, everyone will thank you for it.