Being Efficient

There is so much to do, and all you really want to do is make art. Don’t waste time working on your machine, make the machine work for you.

Here’s some resources…

1. Email

Here’s a few resources you’ll want to look at right away:

Once you understand the concepts, the following will make more sense.

Some tips on managing email

Most of these are covered better in the inbox zero video but…

Let your Inbox be your Inbox. Not a dumping ground.

Delete mail

If it’s not important and there’s nothing you’ll want to refer back to, throw it away. Seriously, delete. A lot.

Archive mail

Keep important messages you think you might refer back to in an archive folder. This keeps your inbox free of clutter. Also, don’t bother using subfolders in your archive – or keep them to a minimum. Almost all mail programs now have robust search tools that will save you time when you need to find that message.

Archive sent messages

Keep all your sent messages. Usually any relevant information is quoted below what you wrote. An archive of sent messages can tell you the last time you reminded that gallery about the money they owe you, and how many times you asked about it.

Write short emails

Make your messages short and to the point. Email is not letter writing (thankfully). People don’t write emails like they do letters and people don’t read emails like they do letters. (A moment of silence for the state of letter writing). Or think of it this way, if you can be more efficient with email, you might have time to write some real letters. Work at writing three sentence emails (or two or four or five) instead of working at writing long emails.

Use Rules

Rules manage your email for you. You can have your email program automatically sort your mail based on rules. For example, if I were on a list called [email protected] I could filter all incoming messages from that domain into a folder called “noisy-list”. I would never see it in my inbox, so my inbox would include more relevant messages.

  • use spam filters
  • create a rule that filters out all messages with the term “unsubscribe” into a folder called bulkmail. You can check the folder as often as you like and your inbox will only include more messages written specifically to you.
  • filter high volume email lists you are on into separate folders.
  • create a filter for other email you don’t want to be distracted by in your inbox.

Send Later

  • Manage Expectations. Don’t respond too quickly.
  • Use a Mail Program that allows you to schedule emails. Some options:
    • the free and open source Thunderbird with the plugin Send Later
    • If you use Gmail, use Boomerang

Third Party Services

  • UnRollMe goes through your gmail inbox and finds subscriptions, organizes them, and allows your to set your preferences, unsubscribe to any you choose, and will give you a summary email from lists you remain on.
  • AwayFind – super filtering! When you receive a timely message, AwayFind will notify you on your mobile device with an SMS, Voice call or even our iPhone & Android apps. Gmail only.
  • Other Inbox – makes several tools
    • Organizer effortlessly and securely organizes your email. Receipts, newsletters and more are instantly sorted into folders, saving your inbox for what’s important to you. Every day, you’ll receive the Daily Digest summarizing what’s been organized for you recently.
    • Unsubscriber is the simplest way to stop emails you don’t want. Just move unwanted messages to the Unsubscribe folder and Unsubscriber takes care of the rest. It’s a satisfying way to simplify your inbox.
    • Message Finder makes it easy to find an email on your iPhone. It’s the email you want, when you want it.
  • Boxbe is a service to help manage your inbox

2. Quick Keys

Whatever applications you work in and actions you’re performing on a regular basis, you owe it to yourself to take a moment and learn quick keys that can make you more fluent in those programs. Quick Keys or Shortcut Keys can be very helpful, speed up your work, and make it easier to work as fast as you think.

* CheatSheet.app shows you available quick keys whenever you hold down the ⌘ key.

3. Automation

  • IFTT creates tasks that fit this simple structure: if this then that. Think of all the things you could do if you were able to define any task as: when something happens (this) then do something else (that).
  • One Password, Passpack – saves your passwords, automatically adds them to everything you log into, can create strong, unique passwords for you.

Quicksilver (Mac)

“Quicksilver is a light, fast and free Mac application that gives you the power to control your Mac with keystrokes alone.”

Photoshop Actions

Let me google it for you

Automator (Mac)

Automates repetitive or tedious actions through easy to write scripts

Typing Automation tools

These save you countless keystrokes with customized abbreviations for your frequently-used text strings and images.




4. Minimize Distractions

Simple writing tools

  • Byword – simple, full screen writing application. With a related iPhone app. ~$10
  • OmmWriter blocks out other windows, plays pleasant background music, and gives you a nice background to work with.
  • Writeroom free for 30 days, then $25. A text editor that blocks out everything else on your screen. (Compare with Byword)
  • Scrivener Mac and Windows compatible. $45 w/ a 30-day free trial. Content-generation tool for writers.

Focusing tools

  • Spirited Away: A mac program that hides programs when they are not in use.
  • SelfControl is Steve Lambert‘s tool for blocking you out of distracting sites.
  • Vitamin-R claims to “structure your work into short bursts of distraction-free, highly focused activity alternating with opportunities for renewal, reflection and intuition.” Which it actually does a pretty good job at. Keeps you focused on the tasks you commit to. $20-$40
  • Concentrate elaborate focusing tool for mac. Free for the first 60 hours. $29

Other resources

Ad Blocking

  • AdBlock Plus for Firefox
  • Safari AdBlock for Safari
  • Add-Art [User/SteveLambert]’s add-on for Firefox that replaces ads with art. (as of April 15, 2012 it’s being rewritten and will reappear soon.)

5. Keeping Track of Notes & Files

Give your files a name so that you don’t have to open them to know what it is. “artist statement from April 15 2102.doc” is a good name. “Final Draft.doc” and “untitled.doc” are terrible names.

When your files have good names you can find anything using a search.

Organizing notes and research

Keeping tons of “stickies” on your desktop or scattered .doc files with a few notes in them all over your computer is a waste of time. These tools can help:

  • Notational Velocity – free and open source – “NOTATIONAL VELOCITY is an application that stores and retrieves notes. It is an attempt to loosen the mental blockages to recording information and to scrape away the tartar of convention that handicaps its retrieval.” It can be synced with DropBox
  • simplenote – “is an easy way to keep notes, lists, ideas, and more”
  • Evernote – online service

6. Task Management Software

Or “to-do list managers” Both OmniFocus and Things offer iPhone apps as well.

For use with multiple people, try Project Management Software like

7. Mobile Phone related

  • Read It Later mark articles you want to read, then sync them to your phone for reading offline.
  • Instapaper also does this
  • Pocket does the same thing

8. Online Video

  • Handbrake Free Open Source video compressor. Make your videos smaller for faster uploading and downloading.

9. More Great Resources

Great books