I’m Julian and I'm really pleased that you've chosen to download and listen to this episode. I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to little 'ol me!
If you're new here, then welcome to the Productivity Matters podcast. A podcast all about apps, products and services that help you be better at getting things done.
On this episode, I’m going to take a look at a number of things, so without further ado, let’s get started.
Getting Things Done
I’m currently reading Getting Things Done... the productivity methodology by David Allen.
Yes. Whilst I’m a great advocate of being as efficient as possible, using apps, products and services, this is one area that I haven’t looked at. Until now.
I’m about halfway through the book and already it’s having a effect on my thinking and I’ve made some tweaks to my workflow to better use it. I’ve also listened to some of the GTD podcast episodes to try and soak it up, as well as read some interesting blogs on the subject.
In summary, GTD is based on storing, tracking, and retrieving the information related to the things that need to get done. Mental blocks we encounter are caused by insufficient 'front-end' planning. This means thinking in advance, generating a series of actions which can be done later without further planning. Our mind's "reminder system" is inefficient and seldom reminds us of what we need to do at the time and place when we can do it. Consequently, the "next actions" stored by context in the "trusted system" act as an external support which ensures that we are presented with the right reminders at the right time.
I’m also amending the way I use Todoist to fit it into the GTD method. I’ll update you about that in a future episode.
You can buy the book here
Shortcuts. It’s the app that was born out of Apple buying Workflow and integrating it into iOS.
It’s recently been updated, adding more functionality.
For those that don’t know, Shortcuts is a way to create small apps and launchers to get things done more easily. The best thing is you don’t need to know any coding language.
For example, you may want to take a selection of pictures, create a gif and then send it in a message. With Shortcuts, you can do this very easily.
You use a wizard to create the flows.
I’ve created quite a few, one to record blood pressure, a couple to automatically post blogs and the best one is a script to quickly commentate on my sons football (soccer) match.
I start with entering the name of the opposing team. A quick welcome includes the current weather conditions.
Each action can be called from a menu and the name of the boy taking it. When a goal is scored, I enter the new score.
Each of these are then sent to the WhatsApp group; as they happen. I do it for fun, and the parents seem to like it. So much, that they don’t even come to watch !! Maybe I should stop.
It’s fine in good weather; but if it’s wet out I tend to be less frequent with updates!
The new update adds several new actions, the biggest of which is the ability for Shortcuts to work with the Notes app. There are now actions for Create Note, Append to Note, Find Notes, and Show Note. This is going to make both the Shortcuts app and the Notes app a lot more useful.
If you haven’t had a play, then spend some time looking at all the things that Shortcuts can offer… it’s not built into the OS, you will need to download the app, but it’s free and it’s definitely worth investing a little time to see what it can do for you. There are plenty of pre-built Shortcuts, that you can use, and then maybe edit to build upon them for your needs.
Drafts is a great way to capture text and has been on my iPhone for about a year. Earlier this week the developer released a version specifically for the Mac. It has all the great formatting functionality; the only thing missing at launch is the Actions - but they are on the way. When that happens, it opens up a whole new way to interact with Drafts and other apps.
I use Drafts 5 to update a Google Sheet. When I take a payment from a parent at my Cub group; I have a pre-formatted page, where I enter the date, amount and reason - I then run an action, which in turn calls a Zap from Zapier; and the sheet is updated.
The same for creating my monthly invoices. Again, using a similar page to the one I just mentioned; I enter the date and number of days to be invoiced; and when I run the action, a Zap will enter this onto a new line in Sheets. A Zap, from Zapier, then picks this up and creates the invoice inside my invoicing software. Brilliant.
One final example - returning to the Cub pack; if I want to send a group message, I can write it in advance in Drafts, and when it's time, I'll send it directly via WhatsApp, to the group. It means I can create the message without fear of sending it in error; and if I have a task in ToDoIst to remind me to send it - then, job done!
Cardhop - the contact manager from Flexibits, that was released on MacOS about 18 months ago, has today launched their iOS app; available for iPhone and iPad
I’ve been using it for a while, and jumped in straight away when I saw this available in the app store. It costs £3.99, in the UK, and I believe it’s $4 in the US. I’ve been waiting for this, as I just don’t like the standard Apple contacts app.
Like the Mac app, the iOS version of Cardhop makes it fast and easy to add a new contact or look up an existing one and it’s simple enough to use that it you may actually want to manage your contacts.
There have basically been no good contacts apps for mobile.
As I mentioned, Cardhop comes from Fantastical creator Flexibits, and is great because it lets you deal with your contacts quickly.
At the bottom of the app, there’s a single search box that controls everything. Type a name / address / company / etc, and if there’s a matching contact it will be presented to you.
The natural language capability of Fantastical 2 is also prevalent here. You can type commands; so typing “email Jane” will let you tap her name to immediately open up a new email - and since you can select your default email app, it’ll open it there too.
The search box also lets you add new contacts. So, start typing the name of someone who isn’t in your contacts list, it’ll automatically begin creating a new entry. You don’t have to go field by field to fill in their details, either: if you type “John Smith 01611234567 firstname.lastname@example.org 1/1/01,” it’ll recognize those individual details as a name, phone number, email address, and birthdate, and plug them into the appropriate fields.
When you launch the app, you’ll be presented with your favourites; which is obviously blank to begin with, but is easy to add and re-order to suit you. Click on a contact and you’ll see all the information you have for them. Bear in mind the the app doesn’t create its own contact list. Instead, it syncs with major contact list providers like Google and Microsoft Exchange.
Beneath the name, you’ll find the quick action buttons, which you can designate yourself in the settings. Call, video, message, email and more, are all available.
What’s really good, is that when you are looking at a list, simply swipe the name to the right to access these quick actions, without opening the contact.
I mentioned you can email from the search, but it doesn’t stop there.
The really clever bit is in the shortcuts that you can type into the search box… enter WhatsApp Karen, and the contact card will appear, with the WhatsApp logo. You don’t even need to enter WhatsApp - just wa and the name.
Enter Call and the contact name, and the telephone button will appear for each number you have for the contact. Type Message and the contact name to go into iMessage. Whilst it may take some getting into the habit, it’s a great way to interact with your contacts.
Cardhop for iOS does have one feature that the Mac app doesn’t: a business card mode. If you turn your phone into landscape, it will automatically pull up a business card with some basic contact info about yourself along with a QR code. If someone else scans the code, it’ll automatically import whatever contact info you’ve chosen to share about yourself.
I’ve only downloaded it today, but it’s already replaced the stock contacts app… Thumbs up from me for this one.
And that’s it for this episode.
Shortcuts, Getting Things Done, Cardhop and Drafts 5… I’ve covered quite a few things here and details of them all are in the show notes.
I hope you’ve found this episode interesting.
If you have any questions about anything, then please get in touch via the Contact Me button at the top of the page.
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Thank you very much for listening and until next time, remember, Productivity Matters.
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