Find Out More About Minimalism

Over the course of the last three months, I have been reading a lot about minimalism. It's a subject that has fascinated for me a while now as last year, one of my three words that function as waypoints for the year was, in 2016, simplify. I was driven by a belief that the two of these could live together, hand-in-hand, thereby learning more about the art of minimalism could help with my drive to simplify my life.

It turns out that the subject of minimalism has been a little bit of a rabbit hole for me and it's slowly becoming an increasingly important part of my lifestyle.

The first thing I learnt is that minimalism is not all about getting rid of your material possessions, disconnecting yourself from your family and friends and living in a 6 x 4 room with no furniture or connection to the outside world! Far from it, minimalism is about fostering a feeling of freedom and helping to focus on the things that are truly important in your life.

I'lll give one such example, which is common amongst people who start looking at adopting a minimalist lifestyle in some form. A visit into my loft/attic last year quickly showed me that there were a lot of items sitting idle that were not serving a purpose. Two of these had a reasonable monetary value that could be assigned to them. One was an Xbox 360 with all of the add-ons you would expect - a large number of games, extra controller, Kinect sensor etc. The second was a Nintendo Wii, again, with a host of extra peripherals and games.

My first thought upon seeing them was financial. How much can I get for them? So I looked on some local marketing sites, as well as the standards (Ebay etc) and saw that there wasn't much of a resale value. As well as this, there was certainly a lot of effort involved in getting them boxed, photos taken, listed, posted etc. So I did what the majority of fairly well-to-do people would do in that situation.

I left them where they were.

Then I read The More Of Less by Joshua Becker and I quickly realised my perception of the situation was wrong. My first thought was to assign a monetary value to the two consoles, yet this was wrong and against my core values in life. I've always considered myself to be a kind and generous person, however my desire to ensure that I am a good role model for my wife and children has been driven by money. I have to make money and provide for them in order to earn their respect.

I took some of Joshua's advice and detached the monetary value from them (which to be fair, wasn't much now). Instead, I looked at the joy and pleasure that others may derive from using them.

It didn't take me long to find a fantastic British charity (I'm in the UK after all) called GetWellGamers. They receive donations of video games and equipment and distribute them amongst over 65 childrens hospitals in the UK. One quick communication to them on their site resulted in a volunteer collecting the consoles and games and they are now providing far more joy to people that need it than they were collecting dust in my loft.

How did this make me feel? Pretty good, I can tell you.

When I told my wife about this, I was so pleased to see that it had an effect. Again, it's only a small thing, yet we had a large pile of old blankets and pillows that my wife was organising ready for selling. Now, they are going to be heading towards a local charity for young families that are in desperate need of food and warmth.

A soft minimalist approach to household possessions was able to give us the freedom to do something we always thought we weren't financially able to do - help people. That, in a nutshell, is one of the core fundamentals of minimalism - allowing you the freedom to focus on the things that truly matter to you.

Do you feel like you have too much 'stuff'? Do you find yourself spending more time working and tidying yet not enough time with your family? (if you have children, I'm sure you relate to that!) Do you frequently find yourself overwhelmed? So much to do, yet you can't fit the time in?

If so, I recommend these resources - give them a try:

If you have found that minimalism has affected your life, I'd love for you to share your tips and advice.

4 Ways to Avoid Distractions When it Matters Most

Deadlines, by their very nature, suck.

 

When you have a deadline approaching, you just have to sit down and get work done whether you want to or not. You’re used to deadlines from back in your school days, and have learned by now that they’re just a part of life.

 

Now, you can either hate and fear them, or you can use them to your advantage to get focused. As the saying goes:

 

“Nothing ever gets done without a deadline”

Read More

Picture In Picture with YouTube in macOS

It cannot be denied that a large portion of videos stored on the internet can be found on YouTube. Isn’t it frustrating then that when you navigate to the web interface on YouTube and look for the Picture in Picture button, there isn’t one there?

Well with macOS Sierra, it IS possible to play this video and have it displayed in a corner while you work on other things (if that’s your bag - personally it’s not mine!)

If you control or right-click the video, you’ll see a contextual menu. Sadly, the first time you do this, there is no option for Picture In Picture. 

Don’t give up though. Do it a second time and you’ll see a nice new option appear. Select Enter Picture In Picture and you’re off to the races

Quick tip, but surprising to many people

Trickster Review

Trickster is a great application for keeping track of recently used files on your Mac. I’ve been using it for the last couple of weeks and was pleasantly surprised with the increase in productivity it has brought me. Rather than spend time searching for files, I can hit the Trickster icon in my menu bar and it’s there, ready and waiting for me. 

Here’s how it works:

When you download the application (available on a 14 day trial) and run for the first time, you specify the folders that you wish Trickster to monitor. You can add or remove folders from this list at any time by clicking the Configure File Tracking button in the Filters Menu (see later)

Once these folders have been selected, Trickster hides itself away in your menu bar until you need it. Let’s look at what happens when you click the top hat icon that’s now appeared (I love this icon, especially because the logo for Trickster is a rabbit being pulled out of a hat - love it!)

trickster3.png

At the top, you can see the Anchor icon which pins the Trickster window, leaving it accessible while you browse through other applications.

On the right hand side is a Favourites star. Toggling this off/on will open a side bar that present files and folders you have marked as a favourite. 

You can see some of my recently access files, folders and applications in the middle of the window. Clicking on one of these items brings up two icons - a flag and a gear iconFlagging the file allows that file to be marked with a flag and is able to be seen in a different view. It could be that you are working on a certain project and you would like to flag files that you will need to access frequently within the session of work you are currently in. That's where flagging can come in really handy. The gear icon brings up a context menu related to the file (see image below). This allows you to perform various actions on the item, aside from just opening it.

 
 

To the left of the file list, there are ten icons in a column. These are known as filters and represent different views of the items in the middle column. 

You can rearrange these filters by dragging/dropping in-line. Filters can be added and indeed edited by right-clicking on any existing filter and bringing up the context menu.

When configuring a filter, you can test the filter settings by dropping any file into the box labelled “Drop a file to test”. This checks to see that the file passes the filtering rules that have been applied. 

The ability to set Favourites is great, as well as configuring different Filters so that I can only see image files, or recently access Dropbox files - or even more granular if I so wish. Sometimes I may need a filter that only shows me files with a certain client's name in the filename, within a specific folder. This is easy to do as well. It’s very detailed and allows for almost any situation you need. The feature that blew me away though was the keyboard shortcut support. There are keyboard shortcuts for every feature you need within Trickster. 

Need to open it? Click ctrl and z. From there, you can use the left and right arrows to navigate the different windows. Need to flag a file? It’s  and F. Configure the folder tracking?  and T. There is a whole list of shortcuts that can be found within the comprehensive user manual. 

You can also drag and drop files out of the Trickster window and place them directly into running applications. I love this for inserting image or audio files into documentation that I am providing for clients. With the filters setup correctly on the left, this can make creating this kind of documentation a breeze. 

I recommend Trickster for anyone that has to deal with files that are stored in multiple folders on their Mac (so that’s you, right?!). The developers have clearly sweated the details on making our lives easier. It’s functional, easy to use and can save you a whole heap of time when it comes to your day to day work. 

Trickster is available here on a 14 day free trial and costs $9.95

My PopClip Setup

There are some applications out there that can seem daunting when they are first opened. OmniFocus 2 is a great example. DEVONthink Pro Office is another - large applications with an amazing feature set (and a price to match). 

I may use those two applications every day, however, when I recently reinstalled macOS on my laptop and started working, there was one application I was missing that affected my workflow. It’s nowhere near the size of other applications and often you barely realize it’s there. Until it’s not. 

That application is PopClip

PopClip is a wonderful little application that takes any text you highlight and performs an action of your choosing, either with the formatting of the characters or sending it to a third party application for processing. 

Installation

Installation is simple. Find the application in the Mac App Store (or click this link) and install. 

Configuration 

When you run the application for the first time, you are prompted to Open System Preferences and allow PopClip to control the computer using accessibility features. This must happen in order for PopClip to work it’s magic. Run through the process.

When complete, you’ll see there is just PopClip icon sitting in the menu bar. If you click on the menu bar icon, you’ll see the PopClip configuration window open and some options to choose from.

 
 

Home - here, you can set PopClip to Start at Login (my personal preference) and to Show in menu bar. 

Appearance - this allows you to change the size of the pop up windows that appear when you highlight text

Excluded Apps - you may not want PopClip to run in every application that you use. I don’t personally have any applications set to ignore PopClip, however if this is your preference, you can set them here

PopClip Functions - this is where you get to the meat of the application. By default, you can see from the screenshot below that there are several functions enabled. What’s important to note is that the actions will only appear if they are relevant to the Context of the text you are highlighting.

 
 

As an example, if I highlight a web address, then the option to Open Link will appear, as well as Cut, Copy and Paste.

If I highlight an email address, then the Use Address action will appear instead of Open Link. I will also have the option to run a Search for this address in my default Search Engine.

It may not seem like there are many actions here that you can utilise, but if you click the + button in the bottom left hand corner, a whole word of available actions will open up to you.

There are downloadable extensions for many categories, including:

  • Text Editing
  • Text Transformation
  • Markdown
  • Text Statistics
  • Text Display
  • Text-to-speech
  • Translation
  • Notes Apps
  • Writing Apps
  • To-Do Apps
  • Calendar Apps
  • Other Apps
  • Web Search
  • Other Searches
  • Social Networking
  • Music
  • Link Shortening
  • Work with URLs
  • Phone Numbers
  • Dictionaries
  • For Developers
  • Useful Tools

It would be so easy and go to town, downloading as many extensions as you can! I’d advise you to exercise some caution though as you may find yourself not being able to see the wood for the trees and when you highlight your text, it could take a while to find the action you wish to perform. PopClip has a limit of 25 extensions. To that end, I’m just going to highlight for you the actions that I use most often within PopClip. 

Clip To DEVONthink/Search In DEVONthink - this extension will take the highlighted text and offer you the chance to Clip to DEVONthink in a new note, or search for the text within DEVONthink itself. The Search function will open an Advanced Search window. 

Open in Chrome/Safari - two different actions here. I find myself using both browsers in macOS for different purposes. 

Shorten URL with Bitly - I often find myself needing to shorten certain URLs, whether they are mine or third-parties. When you activate this extension for the first time, you will sign in to your Bitly account. 

Search in Spotify - I moved to Apple Music but came back pretty quickly. I love Spotify and highlighting an artists name or album on a website will automatically perform a Spotify search. Great stuff. 

Search in LinkedIn - I’m a businessman that needs clients, so often use this feature when I come across a name of note. 

Add to Buffer - Great for those articles I find that I wish to share with others. 

Add To Reading List - One of the reasons I switch between Chrome and Safari is because I use Safari’s Reading List as my read it later service. I find there is a lot less friction when sending articles from my Reading List to DEVONthink for archiving. 

Add to Tweetbot - Great for those quotes you find online, or site URLs that you just want to share now. 

Search with IMDB - This will perform a search in IMDB for the highlight text, be it a film, actor etc. 

Search with Rotten Tomatoes - I use this to gauge whether or not I should add a film to my wishlist

Add to TextExpander - The highlighted text will form a new snippet within TextExpander, leaving you to configure the abbreviations and label as normal. 

Translate with Google Translate - Pretty self-explanatory. The results are generally good. 

Add to OmniFocus - Will add the highlighted text as a new task in OmniFocus

Messages - This will copy the highlighted text into an iMessage window, leaving you to add the recipient. 

Those are the key ones that I use however when you look at the actions available, yet there are more I could use. It’s extraordinary and new extensions are actively developed. 

Check it out here.