Productivity Nerd-Vana

As you’ll likely be well aware if you’ve followed this blog for any period of time, I’m a bit of a productivity nerd. In all the jobs I’ve worked, I’ve looked to implement systems and workflows that work for me, and I think I’ve finally done it – I’ve found my own personal productivity nerd-vana.

I’ve been experimenting with various applications, devices, and more for years now, and here’s what I’ve settled on:

(Oh, first – a note on my workflow. I write, so this is based around creating written content, often one piece after another on busier days.)

The key apps featured here are Fantastical, Things 3, Drafts/Ulysses, and Apple’s Numbers and Pages, as well as Spark for emails and Slack for work communications.

The first thing I check in the morning is my Things 3 to-do list. I run a Shortcut on my phone to brings up the day ahead at 7:30 every morning. Not only does this show me my tasks for the day (with deadlines where applicable), but it also gives me my calendar appointments because it ties in with my calendar accounts.

I have it as a widget on my iPhone and iPad, so I can see things at a glance while having my coffee and sitting with Jackson in the morning.

In truth, Fantastical remains somewhat in the periphery. It’s there for adding appointments, obviously (usually through the Menu Bar item on my MacBook), but unless I’m due to call into a meeting, I leave it be.

When it does come time to call in, though, Fantastical has a great feature that checks any meeting link in an appointment entry, and provides a clickable menu bar icon that takes me right there. So, if I’m calling into our Teams-based company-wide meeting on a Friday, I can do so just by clicking a Teams link at the top of my screen. It’s a small touch, but when you have Skype, Zoom, Teams, FaceTime and Slack installed, it’s nice to be able to jump into the right one immediately.

Speaking of Slack, that’s what our company runs off of. I try to do my best to cut down on the number of channels at any time, but it’s not always easy to do – still, I try and do some ‘spring-cleaning’ once a month or so. It’s here that I liaise with my team, my bosses, other editors, and more as we divvy up stories.

Working in press also means I get a LOT of emails from all kinds of sources. Press releases, documents to sign, and more.

I essentially use Spark as a second to-do list. It’s an email client which works faster than most on the Mac, and it has great iOS and iPadOS apps, too. I can archive an email when it’s done, removing it from my inbox without deleting it while still having a powerful search to fall back on if I need it.

When it comes to signing documents, I have my signature saved as a ‘drag and drop’ element in Preview, Apple’s PDF reader. This means I can open, say, an embargo document, read through it, and sign it without needing to pull out the iPad and Apple Pencil – although that is still an option.

Drafts and Ulysses are very much two sides of the same coin, at least in the way I use them. Ulysses is a writing app, and I don’t use it to anywhere near its full potential. While our new CMS is really adept at saving as I go, anything longer than say, 400 words I’ll use Ulysses to write. It’s clear, it’s on all platforms, and I can copy it straight to where I need it to go.

Drafts, on the other hand, I use as a smaller text capture option. I can create a new ‘Draft’ from my menu bar in seconds, making it ideal for making notes or simply getting things out of my head and onto a page.

Finally, a note on freelance. I’ve got a new blog on the way explaining the delineation between my job and my freelance work, but essentially the long and short of it is that I use a colour-coded Numbers spreadsheet to track commissions with a variety of data, as well as invoices.

I then use an invoice template created in Pages to ensure I get paid, each with a number that refers back to the spreadsheet.

So, there we have it – almost 800 words on my productivity heaven. I need to get out more.