Free Time 2 - scheduling made easy!

Meetings are unavoidable in academics. For busy professionals, finding a time to meet can be a daunting task. Although apps like Outlook have built in scheduling features, few use them. One major limitation; Outlook's scheduling features only work for individuals using the same corporate domain.Previously, I wrote about my love of Sunrise Meet--a fabulous add on to Sunrise that smoothed the task of scheduling meetings. Sunrise was purchased by Microsoft and, unfortunately, the app will soon be shuttered. Thus, I went on a quest to find a Sunrise Meet replacement. I'm happy to report I found great alternative: Free Time 2Free Time 2 is a standalone app for iOS. The interface is clean and intuitive. If I receive a meeting request, I merely open the app and surf to the potential day(s) of interest. Each day displays a list of appointments along with my free time.C-DF75AA9E-8B7A-4A60-B188-B4207270E4F5I select as many potential meeting times on as many days as I’d like to propose.C-E1A86AA5-587D-4EE9-91B1-0A60EA3442EEI then hit “Share,” opening the Action Menu.C-F6FDD8D9-F7F1-4D2B-A943-C9E2C8DBC728I choose what app I’d like to share my availability. Free Time formats the list of the potential dates for me. Here is an example in Spark.C-D1B5F683-D57B-4D79-B155-66783086CC09Free Time 2, in many ways, outshines Sunrise Meet. I use Free Time several times each day to schedule 1:1 meetings. Now if only there was an app that could seemlessly handle multi-person scheduling. Enjoy!

Spark by Readdle - my new email app

eMail is the bane of everyone's existence. Although I’ve been pretty diligent about reading email on the go, a problem I frequently faced was the issue of “skimmed emails”-those emails I read on the go but failed to immediately process. Later, when I returned to my Mac, I often missed the skimmed email because each appeared "read." Unfortunately, until recently, I had not found a suitable solution to this recurrent problem.I am a big fan of Macsparky. One of my favorite features on David Spark’s Web Site is the sharing of user’s home screens. In a recent post, I saw Brett Kelly (Website)(Twitter) mention Spark by Readdle and decided to give it a try. I have to say I’ve been incredibly impressed. Spark has completely replaced on my phone and iPad. I can’t imagine going back.Spark is one of those apps that is a delight to use. The developers paid a great deal of attention to user-interface design. Even now, several weeks into my exploration, I continue to find subtle features that really do live up to Readdle's promise to have me “Like Your email Again."Spark has almost completely eliminated the Skimming problem on my phone. I now process 98% of my emails as I read them on the go. My Inbox has remained essentially empty since I started using the App.A few minor suggestions that could make the program even better: 1. the ability to add actions to swipes (ala Drafts) and 2. the addition of other gestures (taps?) that would further enhance the number of customizable processing options.Spark is now my iOS email client of choice. I hope you give it a try too.

Using Skitch and Papers to Capture Figures and Tables

Few would argue that the most important point of a scholarly manuscript is made in its figures and tables. I am going to share with you how I capture figures while reading scholarly information on my Mac. This workflow uses:SkitchPapersInstall Skitch and make sure, in Skitch Preferences, to enable the “keep Skitch Helper running in background when I quit,” and “Start Skitch Helper when I log in to my computer.”Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 9.12.13 AMAs I’m reading scholarly literature and come across a table or figure I want to save I do the following. I make the figure as big as possible on my screen. Then, from the Skitch menu in my menubar, I select the Crosshair Snapshot. I then select the figure (and sometimes the caption) trying to balance the white space surrounding the figure.Next, I go to Papers, select the reference in my Papers Library, and then from the Edit Menu:Copy As:Reference.I return to Skitch and double-click at the bottom of the figure then paste the reference text. I then balance the text. The height of the Skitch figure will expand to accomodate the new text.Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 9.14.40 AMWhen I want to refer to or use the table or figure I view it directly in Skitch or find it in Evernote. Using this method, I can also search for words in the reference (e.g. the author’s name or the title of the manuscript) and sometimes even the words in the figure itself.If I want to use the figure in a presentation or to send it to a colleague or trainee I can export the figure from the Skitch File Menu.Using this method I’ve captured hundreds of figures. I hope this workflow helps you too.

Google GBoard - Love it!

I have become a big fan of the new Google keyboard, Gboard. I've been using this keyboard for IOS over the last week. During that time, Gboard has become my keyboard of choice supplanting the native Apple keyboard. I particularly like the ability to glide type and the ability to look up information on Google without leaving the current application. I’ve found emoji links, GIFs, and image links less useful.The only three drawbacks I have found include:1.losing the ability to dictate, 2. losing the ability to enter passwords, and 3. the fact that GBoard does not understand Apple Keyboard Shortcuts.For more information check out the Cult ot Mac article. Download Gboard and give it a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Macsparky Video Field Guide on Hazel 4

My friend David Sparks has released a new video field guide--this time on Hazel. In true Macsparky fashion, he's delivered yet another outstanding resource. Even though I'm a seasoned Hazel user, I learned quite a few new tips and tricks--especially pertaining to the recently released Hazel 4. Pick up your copy of this and other excellent resources on the Macsparky website...and Hazel-on!

The Sun Sets on Calendars

One of the most-used application on my iPhone is my calendar. For quite some time, Sunrise has been my go-to app. About a year ago, Sunrise was purchased by Microsoft. This week, Microsoft has decided to kill the app. With the announcement that Sunrise will be inactivated in August, I started a search for an iOS calendar replacement. Although Sunrise appears to now be baked into Outlook for iOS, my workplace doesn’t allow me to use the app to access my Outlook account. I’m going to sorely miss Sunrise’s integration with LinkedIn and especially, the Sunrise Meet feature, that I use frequently.I am trying two calendars as replacements: Cal by and Fantastical 2. Neither seems perfect, but I’m leaning toward Cal for its clean design. I’ve never been fond of Fantastical’s user interface and I’m always a sucker for good design.I’ll keep you posted on what I find. If you have a particular go-to calendar app, I’d love to hear what you use, and why you like it.

My OmniFocus Set-up (Part 2)

As i've mentioned numerous times before, I'm a huge fan of OmniFocus. In my last entry on OmniFocus, I offered a peek into the way I organize my folders. If you haven't read that post, please do so now. In this entry, I’ll answer some of the questions about triaging, prioritizing, and adding time to actions.Weekly ReviewI am not strictly adherent to GTD methodology, but I do use many of the practices. My practice includes both daily and weekly reviews. My weekly review normally takes about an hour. During the hour, I review existing projects and actions, clean up remaining items in my Inbox, and set up new projects. I look at each new and existing project through two main lenses—a hard due date (e.g. tax filing-Covey Quadrant 1-CQ1), and the strategic importance of the project to my personal or professional life (Covey Quadrant 2-CQ2).As you saw in my last entry, all my projects are organized into folders by my personal and professional roles. During my weekly review I decide on the CQ1 and CQ2 projects with greatest strategic value, or with the most urgent deadlines. These are the projects that go into my “Weekly Priorities” Folder. My next most important strategic projects go into my “On-Deck” Folder. I try to have no more than three projects in each the weekly priority and the on deck folders. Those projects that are lower priority at the end of the week, but still active, go back into my personal or professional “Role” Folders.ProjectsI spend about 80% of my time working on items in my Weekly Priority and On Deck folders. I have a custom perspective that filters all my projects down to my priorities grouped by project or context.Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 10.37.22 AMAnother perspective shows all my flagged or due items even if they are not in my Weekly Priority or On Deck Folder.Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 1.27.05 PMAs I add new projects, or make new projects from items in my Inbox, I am cognizant of any hard EXTERNAL deadline—only items with EXTERNAL deadlines get a due date. I have a custom perspective that shows all due or flagged items regardless of whether they are in my priorities folder. This bubbles up items that are due allows me to stay on top of deadlines regardless of whether the item is strategic or not.The last part of my weekly review strays from GTD methodology—I try to roughly plot out my week, placing actions from my highest priority projects in my calendar. I try to leave free time to allow for interruptions and other inevitable delays.I’ve found time-based perspectives to be helpful in two ways…during my weekly review , when I am trying to sketch out my week, or on-the-fly when I have unexpected time (e.g. a meeting that finished early). When defining the time for actions, I try to keep each to an hour or less. If an action item looks like it will take longer than an hour, I break it down further.My weekly review is complete after I’ve sketched out my week in my calendar. Although having a plan is great, I don’t get stressed when things change. I often need to adjust my plan. This takes place in my Daily Review.Daily ReviewEach day I open OF next to my calendar and review my achievements of the day. I like to record my my major achievements (e.g. completion of a major project) in a journal app (I use Day One). Often, during my daily review, I need to adjust my plans for the upcoming day. I have a perspective actions associated only with my highest priority items. I look at this list first. Next, I look at a complementary perspective that shows me my entire list of actions, grouped by context. Anything that I have not formally placed in my calendar, but want to achieve on a particular day gets flagged in OF. When I get to the office, I use my my “Flagged or Due by Context” Perspective constantly.Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 1.27.05 PMI hope it's helpful to see how I'm using OF.I'd love to hear what you think...and would love hear the ways you use the software in your life.Addendum:In response to Owen's request....Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.07.12 AMScreen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.06.54 AM

Scrivener iOS: From Alpha to Beta

It looks like our long wait may be over. A post on the Literature and Latte blog this week said the iOS version of Scrivener will move from in-house Alpha testing to wider spread Beta testing. From the article, looks like they will choose a small number of primary Beta testers to kick the tires....once the egregious bugs have been found they will move to more wide-spread testing. Regardless, I can hardly wait. Scrivener iOS is going to simplify my writing workflow quite significantly.

Importing Microsoft Word files into Ulysses

I subscribe to the newsletter from Soulmen, the makers of my favorite text / markdown writing app, Ulysses. From the newsletter, I learned it is now possible to import Microsoft Word .docx documents. The article said it was possible from any device, but I could only do it using the instructions for iPhone (not on my Mac).In order to import a Word file, it must be in a folder Ulysses can access. Within Ulysses iOS, choose the group where you’d like your imported document to live. Then at the bottom right of screen, choose ‘import’ and select your file. The Word document is converted to MarkdownXL with your formatting intact.Happy writing!

The World's Most Dangerous Writing App

I’ve read plenty on writing. Most resources suggest, when writing a first draft, you simply write whatever comes to mind—writing the whole first draft in one long stream of conciousness. Yesterday, I read a Wired article about The Most Dangerous Writing App, a web tool to help writers get over writer’s block.The app is simple, if you stop writing for more than 5 seconds, The Most Dangerous Writing App erases ALL your work. Not a few sentences, not a paragraph, but everything you’ve written. Now that’s incentive to keep writing (especially if you’ve chosen a longer writing period of 30 minutes to an hour)!I’m not sure if The Most Dangerous Writing App will help me or frustrate me, but am willing to give it a try. If you decide to try it too, please leave your comments below.

Quick Idea Capture Using Drafts and Evernote

Although I’ve already  written about the way I capture ideas using Drafts and Evernote, I thought it was worth repeating since these techniques were buried in another entry. I literally use this method multiple times a day. Using Drafts, I’ve efficiently captured hundreds of ideas, blog thoughts,and lyrics. As you’ll see below, I also use Drafts to start entries in Day One., ------------------------------------------Capturing Ideas in Evernote using DraftsEvernote extends its great power by linking to many other applications. I’ve found capturing snippets of text into Evernote is even easier than the method I described a few years ago using plaintext.I use Drafts on my iphone and iPad to capture / brain dump just about everything. Drafts is an essential program on my iPhone. Drafts allows me to capture without thinking about what app I need to open. Once the text is captured, Drafts routes the information wherever I choose. I wrote about one way I use Drafts to capture and process meeting notes. When I want to capture an idea, I merely open Drafts and type or dictate my idea into the app. When I’m done, I route the information to Evernote using the following custom action:IMG 0608The action automatically derives a title from the first line of the text and appends the date and time. Furthermore, it files the note in my “Ideas” Notebook in Evernote and tags the note with the keyword “Ideas."The note ends up in Evernote looking like this:Screenshot 2015 11 27 13 29 52When I get to Evernote, I append further information in the note as needed. I use IdeaX in the header so when I search for a list of my ideas, they are not mixed together with information I’ve gathered from other sources. If I search for a keyword(s), I not only see my ideas, but all the information I’ve gathered in Evernote—very useful.Capturing Blog Ideas, Lyric Ideas, Quotes, and other Snippets in Evernote using DraftsI use a similar scripts in Drafts to capture a whole host of other information on the go. Each class of information is filed into it’s own Notebook in Evernote. For example, here is the action I use to capture information for my blog: IMG 0609  Using Drafts for entries in Day One.Although I love Day One, I was not entering information often enough. Action URLs are a powerful feature of Drafts. Action URLs-open other applications, then perform functions. In order to increase my capture rate,  I decided to make an Action URL that transfers text  from Drafts to Day One.Here is how simple it is…..Drafts Day1 Action.jpgI have configured  Day One on my Mac and iOS devices to sync. I also enabled the #hashtag feature in Day One. Hashtags are translated into keywords in Day One.Since enabling this script, I find myself capturing both personal and professional snippets each day. Give it a try!By incorporating Evernote, I’ve greatly simplified many of my capture processes. I highly recommend giving Evernote Premium a whirl and trying out a few of these workflows on your own. You won’t be disapointed.

Papers Delights Me. Again!

Papers continues to surprise and delight me. I’m glad it’s my publication manager of choice.Many years ago, I switched from Endnote to Papers. Back when using Endnote, if I wanted to make a single change to a paper’s citations, I had to unformat and then reformat the whole document.That behavior was so ingrained in me, I started doing the same thing with Papers. I would save a formatted and unformatted version of each manuscript so I could re-use text. Unfortunately, more often than I would like to admit, edits to the formatted copy did not make make it back to the unformatted copy.In my latest writing project, I discovered something great. It’s not necessary to save multiple copies of each project using Papers. Instead, just insert your new Papers Citation(s) in the body of the existing manuscript. When you’re finished writing the new section, select “Format Manuscript.” Papers integrates the new reference(s) (if necessary changing the numbering within the document) and inserts the new citation in the appropriate place in your Bibliography.Once you’ve inserted something new and formatted the document, you can unformat everything (e.g. if you want to copy a single paragraph from your original project to something new).This feature is awesome and was completely unexpected. I guess I should make it a habit to read manuals more often! Happy Weekend!

Storyist and Scrivener? Nope.

As I wrote in my last entry, I was excited when I read Ricardo Sanchez’s article on the integration of Storyist and Scrivener. Full of anticipation, I plunked down my $15 and downloaded Storyist. I was disappointed.First i tried to enable DropBox sync in Storyist, but then realized Storyist requires the native Scrivener file to be saved on iCloud Drive. I followed the instructions in Storyist to set up iCloud Drive—the Storyist Folder showed up on my iPhone, but not on my Mac. I consulted the forums and saw that iCloud sync can take some time—up to several minutes. I waited-no sync. I cold-booted my phone-no sync. I reinstalled Storyist—still no sync. Finally, I connected my phone to my Mac and iTunes.Lo and behold, a Storyist Folder appeared on the iCloud Drive on my Mac. On my Mac, I set up an alias for a current Scrivener project and moved the native file to the Storyist Folder on ICloud Drive. The file appear on my phone. The folder hierarchy appeared identical on the phone as on Scrivener on my Mac. Many of the features of the Storyist software don’t work with native Scrivener files.I navigated down into the Drafts folder on my iPhone and typed some text. I waited for what seemed like several minutes for the file on my Mac to update. I opened the Scrivener project on my Mac and opened the section I had edited on my phone—the edited text did not show up on my Mac. Instead, I saw file conflict notifications between the Mac and iPhone version of the section. No matter how I tried, I was unable to resolve these conflicts.To make a long story short, I feel like I wasted $15. The lack of usable features and the unreliable sync of Storyist are deal killers for me. In fact, the only advantage I can see in using Storyist is the ability to read native Scrivener files. In every other aspect, I found Storyist inferior to the Dropbox text sync method I discussed in this entry. I’m going to continue to hold out for the real deal: Scrivener iOS.

Ulysses iOS, Storyist, and Scrivener

I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Ulysses Beta iOS App for iPhone over the last few weeks. As with the Desktop version, everything is very well thought out. The iCloud synchronization works seamlessly. I’m a fan!In a few short weeks, Ulysses iOS app has changed the way I write. For my shorter writing projects (e.g. blog entries, letters, memos, etc.), I no longer need to sync individual text files to a DropBox Folder (as I discussed in this entry). Instead, I dictate my text directly into Ulysses. I can mark up the text on my phone, or wait to return to my desktop. All my text and markdown is synchronized between all my devices.For longer writing projects (e.g. manuscripts and grants), I will continue to use Scrivener with DropBox sync. I impatiently waiting for the iOS version of the app so I can ditch syncing text files. As I was looking to see if there was a projected timeline for release of iOS Scrivener, I found this article by Ricardo Sanchez discussing the integration between Storyist and Scrivener. Storyist sounds like what I’ve been waiting for in a mobile solution for Scrivener. I’ll check Storyist out and report back.

My Omnifocus Set-up (Part 1)

I am a huge fan of OmniFocus (OF). I am so dependent on the software, I’m not sure I could function without it. Although there has been much written about the use of OmniFocus, I have yet to see anyone else that uses the software quite the way I do. In this entry, I’ll introduce you to my OmniFocus set-up. In future entires I’ll demonstrate how I use this set-up to maximize the impact of my work in my personal and professional life.My set-up is an amalgamation of many different things I’ve read online. I’m sure, after seeing what I do, others will continue to build on my ideas.The struggle to keep on top of one’s commitments is not new. Before Getting Things Done and OmniFocus, the go to resource for productivity was Stephen Covey’s First Things First (amazon link). This book suggested breaking down your personal and professional lives into various roles (e.g. Researcher, Clinician, Mentor). Each week, within each role, you were to decide up to three important tasks to accomplish (based on both urgency and importance). Each task could be added to one of 4 quadrants:Covey's QuadrantsThe fact that not all urgent tasks are important, nor are all important tasks urgent was a complete revelation for me. Once I understood this, it was much easier to prioritize my personal and professional life. Per Covey, in order to maximize productivity, one is to spend the majority of their time in Quadrant 2 (Not Urgent, Important). Rather than working on projects haphazardly, Covey recommended spending the vast majority of time focused on Quadrant 2 projects. I choose to define Importance as the project’s impact on my long-term goals.I have blended Omnifocus and First Things First (and a little bit of Agile Programming—but that’s an entry for another time) to develop a system that’s truly my own. In the image below, you can see how I organize Omnifocus. I have four high-level folders: Weekly Priorities, Single Tasks, Projects, and Meta.ProjectsMy Weekly Priorities Folder contains three folders: Maintenance, Weekly Priority, and On Deck. The Maintenance Folder contains all the projects to keep my system running—reminders for my daily, weekly, and monthly reviews. The Weekly Priority Folder contains my weekly highest priority level projects (both personal and professional) I chose during my weekly review. The On Deck Folder contains other important projects—if I’m ultra productive and blast through my priority projects, I look in the On Deck Folder for next tasks to accomplish.The Single Tasks High Folder is self-explanatory.The Projects Folder contains two subfolders: Professional and Personal. Within each of these subfolders I have folders that define each of my professional and personal roles. For instance, my Professional Folder contains the following role folders: Administrator, Clinician, Communicator, Consultant, Fundraiser, Innovator/Entrepreneur, Mentor/Teacher, Researcher, Society Member. Each new professional project is placed within the folder of one of my roles.The Meta Folder Contains my Someday/Maybe project folders (things I’m interested in, but have not yet committed to doing). I also store my completed and dropped projects here.After defining a new project, I place the project into one of my personal or professional subfolders. In the Notes Field of OmniFocus, I use Text Expander scripts to label each project by Covey Quadrant. I then may use OmniFocus Perspectives to quickly locate ALL my projects of a particular quadrant.Window_and_PerspectivesUsing these methods, I am able to juggle a huge number of concurrent projects, each week prioritizing those most important to my personal and professional life. In case you’re wondering, I do most of my heavy lifting / organizing on my Mac. I primarily use OF on my iOS device as reference.In a future entry, I’ll explain how I use this set-up in my daily, weekly, monthly, and annual reviews.

Using Hazel to Organize Grant and Manuscript Files

It is almost the beginning of February and thus I am in the throes of writing another grant (2 actually). I thought I'd take a quick break to tell you how I keep my grant information organized using Hazel.I have a folder that has a template for all the subfolders I use during the preparation of the grant. When starting my project I make a copy of this template and name the parent folder including the funding agency, the year, and the type of grant.Folder Template 2Hazel can rename files and subfolders. I take advantage of this feature to keep the names of my files consistent.I navigate to the folder I am working on and set up new Hazel rule to rename the file and subfolders. The rule looks like this:Hazel Script 2Anytime I put a file into a subfolder, it is automatically renamed appending the name of the grant to the end of the file. This appended name is hugely helpful when I go back to search using program such Houdah Spot or Foxtrot.Folder Results 2I use the same method when I'm preparing manuscripts or working on other projects. Using Hazel I never have to think twice-every file I put into the parent folder or subfolder is appended with the name of the project.Try it out.