Tag Archive for ‘Productivity’

How to Avoid Read Later Queue Bankruptcy ➝

Marius Masalar:

There’s been a lot of conversation in my circles recently about how to effectively save links and deal with articles you want to read later.

The trouble these folks run into is that their queue quickly grows to impractical proportions, forcing them to give up, empty it, and start again.

I don’t pretend to have the one true solution, but since this isn’t a problem I run into, I thought it might be worth outlining my approach in case it helps.

I don’t have the same workflow as Marius, but I’m glad he started the conversation. And I think his thoughts on the matter or certainly valid and could likely be adopted as is by many others or altered to fit your mindset.

Personally, I save just about everything to Instapaper. When I read my queue (in Reeder), I don’t go there to read necessarily, I go there to process the links that I’ve saved. As I go through my queue, I’ll move links to my to do list, watch videos, subscribe to new RSS feeds, read articles, link to interesting things here on Initial Charge, share links on Twitter, save thoughts in Bear or Day One, and so on.

The key to keeping my Instapaper queue under control is to actually make the time to go through it regularly. Marius has some great thoughts on this:

Those articles aren’t going to read themselves! It’s all well and good to have a system for saving things, but if you don’t have a method for doing something about those things then of course you’re going to find yourself frustrated.

I have two main article reading times: morning and evening. I always hit at least one of the two, and on normal days I do some reading during both time windows.

I don’t make time for processing my queue as much as I used to, although I haven’t found myself saving as much to Instapaper recently either — so it’s likely a wash. But my prime time for going through my queue is right before bed. My wife and son go to bed before I do, which gives me a little bit of time where I can focus on the task at hand.

If it’s worth anything, Marius’ article is actually the last item in my queue, so once I hit publish, I’ll be at Instapaper Zero.

➝ Source: mariusmasalar.me

Why Working Quickly Is More Important Than It Seems ➝

James Somers:

The obvious benefit to working quickly is that you’ll finish more stuff per unit time. But there’s more to it than that. If you work quickly, the cost of doing something new will seem lower in your mind. So you’ll be inclined to do more.

The converse is true, too. If every time you write a blog post it takes you six months, and you’re sitting around your apartment on a Sunday afternoon thinking of stuff to do, you’re probably not going to think of starting a blog post, because it’ll feel too expensive.

Some good examples of this in the full piece. The key take away: if you want to do something well, do it a lot. And do it fast.

Information Practices ➝


Your most precious asset is your time. You can start and adopt the following set of habits right now to give yourself hours of your life back. Equally important, these habits will substantively increase the quality of your time by reducing stress, increasing focus, and ultimately improving the quality of the things you build with your hands.

There’s some great suggestions in here.

Cultured Code Releases Things 3 for Mac, iOS, and Apple Watch ➝

Préshit Deorukhkar:

Today marks the launch of Things 3 — a completely rebuilt suite of apps from the privately funded company based out of Stuttgart, Germany. I’ve been using and testing Things 3 for Mac and Things 3 for iPhone & Apple Watch for over a month now and this is, by far, the most refreshing and polished change I’ve seen an app update launch with.

I’ve used Clear as my primary task manager for a few years now, but it hasn’t been updated since 2015 and their iCloud syncing functionality has been broken for quite a while. Syncing between iOS devices works fine, but as soon as you throw a Mac into the mix, all of you devices refuse to sync.

The only way to fix the issue is to stop using the Mac app entirely and open up a hidden menu in the iOS app that allows you to reset the iCloud sync data. It’s an irritating bug that, because I rarely use macOS, I’ve been lucky enough to mostly avoid. But to me, this bug is representative of a bigger problem, the app is essentially abandoned. It’s been over a year since the last update and I don’t expect to see one anytime soon. It’s time to move on.

The release of Things 3 is the perfect opportunity for me to jump ship on Clear and transition to something that’s under active development. So far, I’m very impressed. The onboarding experience was top notch, the interface is gorgeous, and I love how it organizes all of my tasks in a way that keeps me from feeling overwhelmed.

I’m not thrilled that the iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps all have to be purchased separately, but the folks at Cultured Code are offering each of them at 20% off the regular price until May 25. If you’re at all interested in Things, it’s a good idea to make your purchasing decision before the price goes back up next week.

Open Floor Plans ➝

Brent Simmons:

Here’s why I work in an office: when I’m around other people — it doesn’t matter who they are — I feel a constant low-simmering level of anxiety. And I find it extremely difficult to be productive when I feel any level of anxiety at all.

Same. I find it incredibly difficult to work while other people are milling about in the same room as me.

Recapture Time With Moment ➝

John Voorhees, on Moment’s app usage feature:

There are no public APIs for tracking app use on an iOS device, so Moment reminds you every morning to go to the Battery screen in the iOS Settings app and take a screenshot of the number of minutes you used each app. Moment reads the time each app was used from the screenshot using optical character recognition. If you use more apps than fit in the screenshot, you won’t get data on the ones that don’t fit, but in my experience, there was space to fit about a dozen apps, which covered my most heavily used apps.

It’s unfortunate that developers have to resort to these types of solutions, but it’s definitely a clever workaround.

Quitter, Marco Arment’s First Mac App ➝

Marco Arment:

Quitter is a Mac app that automatically hides or quits apps after periods of inactivity, inspired by my Automatic Social Discipline method. It’s great for minimizing distraction from social apps like Twitter and Slack, news readers, or even your email app.

I don’t spend much time on the Mac these days, but when I did, this is the kind of app I would have loved.

Push to Ulysses Workflow

Push to Ulysses (v1.1): A minor update to my link composing workflow. The update features my new writing template — originally discussed in Launch Ulysses Workflow — that’s designed to work with my upcoming WordPress publishing workflow, which I plan to share in the coming weeks.

In short, the new template lets me save URL slug and tag information within a Ulysses sheet. And the new publishing workflow is able to grab that information and pass it to WordPress with minimal interaction. It’s a major improvement over my original Push to WordPress workflow.

Push to Ulysses (v1.1) no longer uses X-callback-URL to send information to Ulysses and, instead, incorporates Workflow’s Ulysses actions — introduced in version 1.5.

If you’re interested in learning more about this workflow, links to the original version and my initial write-up explaining the thought process behind it will remain below.

—June 24, 2016


As many of you know, I’ve just recently started using Workflow to automate various tasks. I’ve only built a few of my own workflows so far, but it’s quickly becoming my favorite iOS app. Not only does it help me improve my productivity, it’s also incredibly fun to use — who doesn’t love hacking together Rube Goldberg-like systems and seeing if they work?

My use of Workflow quickly accelerated when I made the decision to reorganize my bookmarks a couple weeks ago. I realized that I had all these bookmarklets that weren’t necessary anymore. Most of them had been replaced by native iOS apps with action extensions. And not only were these action extensions more intuitive to use than my old bookmarklets, but I could easily manage them on my iOS devices and add new ones to boot.

There was one glaring exception, though, WordPress’ Press This bookmarklet. This often-overlooked feature is what has fueled Initial Charge’s Linked List since it was first introduced in 2011. Nearly every link published to this site began by clicking (or tapping) the Press This bookmarklet in Safari’s Favorites bar.

But it’s finally time for a change. The Press This bookmarklet worked, but it was never really well suited for the task. I had to use a couple of WordPress plugins — CF Setter and Slugger+ by Justin Blanton, both of which are great — in order to bend the simplistic compose window to my will. But even then, it still wasn’t as smooth as I always wished it to be.

Every single link was an exercise in frustration. This is what I went through with every link I published to the site:

  • Delete all of the text automatically generated by the Press This bookmarklet.
  • Edit the title and run it through TitleCap.
  • Copy and paste whatever bits of text I was quoting.
  • Write my own thoughts about the topic.
  • Type out the CF Setter and Slugger+ tags — which was made easy with iOS’ Text Replacement feature.
  • Copy and paste the URL in between the CF Setter tags.
  • Write out the piece’s slug in between the Slugger+ tags.

This took a considerable amount of time and was just begging to be automated. At first, I considered hacking the Press This bookmarklet in an attempt to streamline the process. I tried a few different approaches, but could never quite get what I wanted out of it. That’s when I turned to Workflow.

I decided to abandon the Press This bookmarklet altogether and move to a more modern process — giving me an opportunity to start using Workflow for more serious tasks and write full time in Markdown with Ulysses.

It may be hard to believe, but I had only dipped my toes in the water with Markdown. I tried to implement it in my writing process last fall when I attempted to use Editorial for my longer-form writing. For whatever reason, the app never sat well with me. And to this day, I can’t put my finger on why. Markdown, on the other hand, was great. I just never had any use for it in WordPress’ editor.

More recently, I started slowly moving toward Ulysses for my longer-form, Feature Articles. I loved the app, especially since it was finally available for the iPhone. And this move away from the Press This bookmarklet was a great opportunity to cement The Soulmen’s text editor as my primary writing tool for the site — going all-in on Markdown along the way.

For the foreseeable future, everything published on Initial Charge will be written in Ulysses. And Workflow will be there to help streamline the entire process. Today, I’ll be sharing my Push to Ulysses workflow, which is used to transition from looking at an interesting webpage to writing about that webpage.

I’ve already started building a workflow for publishing to Initial Charge from Ulysses, but it’s very much a work-in-progress. It functions, but in the past day alone it’s undergone some pretty significant changes. I will be sharing it in the future, but I’d like to do some more testing and smooth out the rough edges before I release it to the world.

The Workflow

I need two pieces of information from a given webpage in order to get started writing a link — the page’s title and URL. The title typically ends up changing and often needs to be properly capitalized, but I use it as a starting point that I can then craft into my own. The URL will eventually end up in a custom field which the Daring Fireball-Style Linked List plugin uses to differentiate between links and articles.

I had considered adding the ability to transfer selected text from the webpage into Ulysses — most of the links I publish on the site include a quote from the originating article. But after doing some testing, I realized that I don’t usually find the block of text I want to quote until after I’ve already decided to link to it. Perhaps this will return in a future version, or maybe I’ll find a way to use Ulysses’ X-Callback-URL support to append the quote to an existing sheet (which was added in version 2.5), but for now I’ll let copy and paste do all the heavy lifting.

Push to Ulysses is activated from within the “Run Workflow” action extension, while viewing a webpage, and performs the following process:

  • Save the webpage’s URL to a variable called “Link”.
  • Get the name of the webpage from Safari, properly capitalize it with Workflow’s “Change Case” action, and set it as the variable “Title”.
  • Input the variables into my Markdown template with the title set as header 3.
  • URL encode the template and set it as the variable “Content”.
  • Input the encoded template into a Ulysses X-Callback-URL and open it.

This gives me a new sheet in Ulysses with the title, properly capitalized, on the top line and the webpage’s URL on the bottom. From there I can begin writing my commentary in the template’s white space. It’s important that I write in between the title and the URL because the publishing workflow I’ve built expects those two pieces of information to be at the beginning and end of the document.

I’ve been publishing links to Initial Charge all week with this workflow and it’s been an absolute joy to use. Even though I’ve been using the iPad Air 2 as my primary computer for over a year, it’s never felt more powerful than it does today. Using Workflow to string together multiple applications has felt revolutionary to me. I have plenty of experience with apps like Alfred and Automator — both of which are capable of incredibly powerful things — but I never managed to build the type of intricate systems like I have with Workflow.

And that’s not to ignore the importance of Ulysses and Markdown to my newly revamped writing process. It’s been a long time since I’ve had this much fun writing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed it, but Ulysses’ beautiful user interface and the simplistic nature of Markdown’s syntax has made writing downright delightful again.