Productivity | Dominik Mayer – Products, Asia, Productivity

The Best Productivity Apps for Mac

A Quora user asked for the best productivity apps for Mac OS. Here’s my answer:

There are of course the big productivity suites like OmniFocus and Things but I want to focus on the small helpers that save me several hours per week.

BetterTouchTool

My number one pick is BetterTouchTool. It’s a small, free application that lets you map actions to various forms of input. Some of the trackpad shortcuts I use all the time:

  • Three finger swipe down → Minimize window to dock
  • Four finger tap → Close Window below cursor
  • Four finger click → ⌘W (Close tab/window)
  • Three finger click → Middle click (lets you open links in a new tab)

You can also define application specific shortcuts:

Chrome

  • Five finger click → ⌘⇧T (reopen closed tab)
  • Three finger swipe left → ^Page down (switch to the tab on the right)
  • Three finger swipe right → ^Page up (switch to the tab on the left)

OmniFocus

  • Three finger swipe right → ⌘⇧R (mark as reviewed)
  • Three finger swipe left → ⌘K (update view, i.e. remove tasks that no longer belong into the current perspective)

You see the pattern. The tab switching is something I add to every app I’m using on a regular basis. Similar to going back and forth in history (Finder, Spotify, …).

You can also trigger actions from the keyboard, a normal and a magic mouse, an apple remote, Leap and from the BTT iOS app.

Hazel

Hazel is another tool I’m using on a daily basis. Well, I’m not actively using it. It’s running in the background doing its fantastic job.

Hazel asks you for folders to monitor. You can then define rules to apply on the files in this folder.

Some examples of my Hazel rules:

Download

  • Archive old files
  • Rename and move PDFs from my banks, phone companies, … into the corresponding folders
  • Move files downloaded from Facebook to a special folder

Scan Inbox

(This is the folder in which my ScanSnap document scanner dumps all the PDFs it creates.)

  • Add date and time (extracted from the document)
  • Move bills to a special folder
  • Move processed files (scans that got a date and a description) to a special folder

Desktop

  • Move Screenshots to a special folder

Screenshots

  • Move everything that’s not a screenshot but ends up here back to the Desktop

Alfred

Alfred is a launcher that you invoke with a keyboard shortcut. It can do many helpful things like find files, eject volumes, quit programs. It also lets you define search engines so you don’t have to open/navigate to your browser to start your search.

You can define complex actions, called workflows, or download shared ones. My favorite one searches LEO (one of the best German English/French/Spanish/Chinese/… dictionaries) and shows the results in Alfred.

The Job of Leadership  

Ev Williams:

The job of leadership is to foster alignment and enthusiasm toward the right goal.

Jeff Bezos' Regret Minimization Framework

Jeff Bezos:

And the framework I found which made the decision incredibly easy was a, […] what I call though what only a nerd would call, a regret minimization framework. So I wanted to project myself forward to age eighty, and so came out looking back on my life, I wanna have minimized the number of regrets I have.

I love this.

The Surprising Solution to Being More Productive at Work: Slow Down  

Joseph Stromberg:

This research has produced a number of specific tips: things you should do — or not do — to maximize the effectiveness of the hours you spend working. Here’s a brief guide.

The Case Against Time Zones  

Matt Yglesias explains where time zones come from and how we get rid of them.

How to Start  

Joel Runyon quotes advice he’s been given by Perry Marshall:

All you really need to do is three things:

  1. Commit to something
  2. Put your balls on the line
  3. Then figure it out

That’s all there is to it.

Joe Buhlig's Omnifocus Setup and Workflow  

Joe Buhlig describes his OmniFocus setup. Like Sven Fechner I especially enjoyed reading the part on contexts. Many of my contexts are quite similar. I never liked the name of my “Weekend” context and happily adapted Joe’s “After Work”.

How Maximizers and Satisficers Make Decisions  

Elizabeth Bernstein’s article explains how we make decisions:

Psychology researchers have studied how people make decisions and concluded there are two basic styles. “Maximizers” like to take their time and weigh a wide range of options—sometimes every possible one—before choosing. “Satisficers” would rather be fast than thorough; they prefer to quickly choose the option that fills the minimum criteria (the word “satisfice” blends “satisfy” and “suffice”). […]

“The maximizer is kicking himself because he can’t examine every option and at some point had to just pick something,” Dr. Schwartz says. “Maximizers make good decisions and end up feeling bad about them. Satisficers make good decisions and end up feeling good.”

I’m a maximizer. Because I know that I can’t examine every option I try to find the minimum problem set that needs a decision at the moment.

50 Pounds of Clay  

Chanpory Rith cites a parable from Art and Fear:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot”albeit a perfect one”to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work”and learning from their mistakes”the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell

Henrik Kniberg also wrote “Lean from the Trenches”, a great book about agile development.

A Password to Change My Life  

Mauricio Estrella:

My password became the indicator. My password reminded me that I shouldn’t let myself be victim of my recent break up, and that I’m strong enough to do something about it.

My password became: “Forgive@h3r”

My password expired today. Let the new one change my life.

10,000 Hours  

According to the “10,000-hours rule”, it takes 10,000 hours to master any skill.

Maria Popova has read Daniel Goleman’s “Focus”, in which he takes a closer look at this rule.

She quotes:

Amateurs are content at some point to let their efforts become bottom-up operations. After about fifty hours of training — whether in skiing or driving — people get to that “good-enough” performance level, where they can go through the motions more or less effortlessly. They no longer feel the need for concentrated practice, but are content to coast on what they’ve learned. No matter how much more they practice in this bottom-up mode, their improvement will be negligible.

The experts, in contrast, keep paying attention top-down, intentionally counteracting the brain’s urge to automatize routines. They concentrate actively on those moves they have yet to perfect, on correcting what’s not working in their game, and on refining their mental models of how to play the game, or focusing on the particulars of feedback from a seasoned coach. Those at the top never stop learning: if at any point they start coasting and stop such smart practice, too much of their game becomes bottom-up and their skills plateau.

Managing With Martians  

Julie Zhuo:

I like to think of a manager’s job as learning, designing, or teaching frameworks, where every framework is a shortcut for achieving a desired outcome in a given situation. Like a well-known childhood game, it’s fun to collect them all, whether from books, talking to other people, or personal experience.

She shares her favorite frameworks and concludes:

If you give a Martian an answer, you’ll satisfy it for a minute. But if you teach it a framework for getting answers, then you’ll give it its best chance of success in achieving Pistatort-Caliber (translation: A+) on its Tetra InterGalWarp Ewol. And really, who wouldn’t want that for our adorable little green friend?

Too Many Tabs  

Here’s a strategy that you might consider trying: Prepare some tools which can, at the moment you’re ready, put all those tabs exactly where you need them so you can close those tabs. If most of those tabs are really your to-do list, line them up in one window and then get them into your actual to-do list. I’ve found that if your tools are easy to use, you’ll be more likely to make it a part of your routine.

I love Justin’s Chrome to OmniFocus extension.

How Different Cultures Understand Time  

Time is seen in a particularly different light by Eastern and Western cultures, and even within these groupings assumes quite dissimilar aspects from country to country. In the Western Hemisphere, the United States and Mexico employ time in such diametrically opposing manners that it causes intense friction between the two peoples. In Western Europe, the Swiss attitude to time bears little relation to that of neighboring Italy. Thais do not evaluate the passing of time in the same way that the Japanese do. In Britain the future stretches out in front of you. In Madagascar it flows into the back of your head from behind.

I didn’t know there were so many different understandings of time.