Rethinking Workflows and Setups

Matt Gemmell recently rethought his use of OmniFocus and OmniOutliner. He decided to seek more lightweight equivalents that better suited his needs and ended up landing on TaskPaper, which he preferred because it has a simple feature set and saves in plain text.

This bit in the opening paragraph stood out to me, though.

Taking productivity seriously means always being willing to refine your setup, I think. Sometimes you have to live with something for a while before you can see the areas where it doesn’t quite suit you.

It seems as though us tech enthusiasts are often tweaking and reworking our setups and workflows. Whether it’s in an effort to find something that increases our efficiency or we’re just looking for a way to keep our workflows from seeming stale, we all go through this process periodically. And I agree with Matt, this is an important thing to do if you take productivity seriously.

I went through a similar process last week — albeit on a smaller scale. I reorganized my bookmarks in Safari. I hadn’t done a major overhaul like this in many years and my bookmarks were still setup for my pre-iOS-centric workflows.

What drove me to reworking my bookmarks was the realization that I just don’t use them like I used to. When the original iPhone was released in 2007, I created a folder in my bookmarks menu named “iPhone” that housed all of the web apps and bookmarklets that helped me stay productive in a world without native applications. I didn’t want to clutter the root level of my bookmarks menu with a bunch sites that I never visited on my Mac, so I kept them separate.

Over time the iPhone folder was renamed to “iOS” and its contents began looking more and more similar to the bookmarks that I used on my Mac. Native applications came and took over many of the tasks that had previously been performed by web apps and recently the OS became capable of using application extensions which have replaced many of the bookmarklets that I used to use. And on top of all that, Apple began displaying your favorites bar and frequently visited sites rather then your bookmarks menu when you launched Safari without a webpage open.

The favorites bar had always been an especially Mac-centric bookmarks location for me. I’ve always had it visible in Safari on OS X, but never even looked at it on iOS — including iPad. That is, until a few years ago when Apple gave it more prominent placement in Mobile Safari.

Many of the bookmarks saved in my favorites bar started feeling silly. Why did I have a link to Netflix, Tumblr, or an Instapaper boorkmarklet staring me in the face every time I launched Safari on my iPad or iPhone? There are applications for interacting with those services and there’s no need for them to continue cluttering my browser.

Early last week, I grabbed a pen and a spiral notebook and began listing every single bookmark I had saved. Then, I moved all of them into a temporary folder where they would be held until I decided whether to keep them and, if so, where they’d be placed.

The process didn’t take too long. As it turns out, many of the bookmarks I had inside of my iOS folder already existed in my root level bookmarks menu. This meant I was able to delete one or two dozen duplicate bookmarks which helped to simplify the organization process.

What I ended up with was four bookmarks in my favorites bar — the site’s Mint dashboard, WordPress dashboard, and Press This bookmarklet and Transmission’s remote interface. In the bookmarks menu I now have seven bookmarks — some for iOS and some for OS X — alongside three folders which contain several Initial Charge-related administration sites and a few bookmarklets that I haven’t found application analogs for.

This will undoubtedly impact how I use my Mac. But that’s not much of a concern to me. I use my iPad Air 2 the vast majority of the time and only login to my MacBook Air when I know I’ll be spending a lot of time in Transmit or interacting with a large number of photos. Both of which are becoming less frequent and I’m starting to find ways of performing these tasks on iOS instead. The bottom line is, any slowdowns I experience when I use my Mac are more than made up for by the increases in productivity that I’ll see on my iPad and iPhone from having bookmarks organized with an iOS-first mentality.