Saturday, 29 January 2011

10 Favorite Productivity Tips

I'm a productivity freak. I always liked to achieve more and better. It's a long learning process and basically you have to personalize everything. Let me share my favorite productivity tips and tools. (I'm using a mac so more of the tools are OS-X apps.)

Alfred provides you a quick interface to search. Either on your machine or on the internet. With a shortcut you have a searchbox and you can start typing. What is really really cool is that you have a lot of predefined services, like "maps Chicago" will open google maps and looks for the location. Almost every major service on the net has a service. Moreover you also can define your own searches. Some examples that I made: "d cck" will look for the cck module on "php strstr" will look for the strstr function on Now you can imagine how cool is that. With the extended version (called Powerpack) probably you can earn tons of other awesome features.

- Terminal scripts
I'm not a linux haxor nor a hacker. But it's really not necessarry if you want to do some shell script magic. An action you do in your system that contains more than one step, or you have to type a lot worth to replace with a script. If you don't know about the shell, let's just say it can do anything. Some example from my collection:
A script install a Drupal site (downloads the source, extracting, move to the web root, setting the db ... opening in a browser). Multistep DB actions, like: applying a dump, registering users, doing backups, etc. Empty browser cache. Download latest pictures of my favorite comics. I let the rest to your imagination.
Also don't forget about aliases. I have an alias for all the commands that is more than 2 characters.
For learning more I suggest reading the Mac OS X for Unix Geeks book.

- Put your work in front of you
It's not really a tool, but a very efficient techinque to get things done. It's like when you're in the bed and you need a drink but you're just too lazy to get up. (Being lazy is not productive, though.) What does it mean in real life? Put the most used apps onto the tray or desktop. Create shortcuts to start them. Put the mostly visited sites in your bookmark toolbar. (With Chrome app icons it's even more cool in the content area.) Take the important books, letters and papers onto your desk. Put your favorite mobile apps on the first page. The basic principle is when you can do things easier and access them faster you'll probably use them more. And faster.

Well, there is a simple reason why I'm using Chrome: it's faster. If you haven't checked the extension library, it is the right time. My favorite ones: url shortener - it helps me quickly shorten urls and copy to pasteboard.
Delicious - my favorite bookmarking service. I hope they will survive.
Live css editor - for development it allows me to live edit the style.
Sent with gmail - helps me to send sites to friends easier.

- Know your limits - or get rid of the scary 1000+
I'm using Google Reader, and to tell the honest, that's the most productivity thing since automobile, but it's just too obvious. And I also like podcasts. But a couple of month ago I realized I was too greedy. My eyes were bigger than my stomach and I ended with the famous 1000+ in reader and >50 unwatched podcasts constantly. If you want to be productive and learn the most you can, you have to know your limits. It's more likely to read 20 articles a day when you have 100 unread and not 1000+. It's just makes me fustrated and frightened. It's still better to unsubscribe some feeds than having and not reading them. Same with podcasts.

- Better touch tool
With BetterTouchTool you can enhance your touch capabilities. You can define extra touch gestures up to 4 fingers. And you can bind them to a lot of actions. Window actions, application actions, spaces and dashboard. It's quite awesome. And interesting extra feature of BTT is that it can resize windows when you drag it. To the edges (full screen, half sreen...). Pretty useful.

- Find best tools
It's again not an application, but a good practice to improve your prodictivity. I'm always trying new techniques when there is something new. I've tried several pomodoro apps, rss reades applications, scripts, etc. Maybe the best example is the todo lists. There are tons of applications with thousands of features to track your todod items. I've tried several. Remember the milk, Things, Freemind, Mindmeister, Epic win and probably the rest is already forgotten. And the interesting thing is I'm using a plain test file for a while and for me it's the best. I can use any format I want (list or large text), I can structure it, remove old items very easily. It sits on my dock so I can access it any time. I know that Cali Lewis uses paper and pen insead of apps. So, what's your way to do todo lists?

- Dropbox
Dropbox can store files remotely and you can access to them on any computer or smartphone. I often want to share things with my friends. Files, music, video or images. It's fast, very easy to use and simply it makes it the best sharing tool. And this week I discovered a new cool feature of Dropbox. I'll let you know in my next blogpost:)

- Kindle
Kindle has a huge bloom recently. I've got mine coupe of weeks ago and I have to say It's way better than I thought. The best thing in it that it's an ebook reader and nothing more. You can't do much else than reading, and it makes you focusing better on what you're reading. The display is gorgeous, sharp and really looks great on sunlight. You can buy books from a lot of services, like Amazon or O'Reilly. And you also can read PDF files. By deafult it's quite ugly (PDF is fixed, so you can't break the lines and it makes the fonts so small), but with Briss you can crop them.
Also another cook service for Kindle is Instapaper. With a bookmarklet you can send sites to the service and it'll collect them to you. Then you can download it (or ask Instapaper to send it directly to your Kindle via email) and read just like a newspaper. Very great service.

- Growl
Growl is a notification tool for your OS. The good thing with Growl is you don't have to check the application every time when something happens. Skype has a new chat message, twitter client has a new tweet or you have a new mail, iTunes plays an unknown track ... lot's of things you usually check and it's a waste of time. With Growl the popup shows you the necessarry information so you don't have to change application, or more importantly, you don't have to break the focus. Even more cool fact about Growl that you can access it in the shell. I added some notification for my scripts, so I always know when they terminated.

I'm really interested, what are your favorite productivity tips or lifehacks? Please, tell me about them.


Updates - your apps of choice:


  1. Nice article!
    There is an amazing Chrome extension for Gmail: Minimalist Gmail. It declutters Gmail's interface, very useful.
    I'm using LiteSwitch X ( to exclude applications from app switching with cmd+tab. My general idea is that I use cmd+tab for work (text editor, browsers etc.), and exposé for the other things (Adium, Colloquy, iTunes).
    Try Fever ( instead of Google Reader, maybe it helps you focus on "important" content.

    I have tried all of the task management applications out there. Omnifocus, Things, RTM... Finally a simple text file works better for me too. And I have found Taskpaper ( So I use simple text files for my todos, but it helps me organize things. And Simpletext ( do the synchronization with my iPhone, but you can use Dropbox as well.

    I think Growl is a great tool, but it's dangerious. You should consider which apps let use Growl. It can be very annoying.
    My recent favorite app is Quickcursor (, so I am writing this comment in WriteRoom. :)

  2. Hi Balint,

    Thanks for your comments. It's really interesting. I checked all of them and Taskpaper was a love at first sights. That's really awesome. Still a text file but with some very useful feature. I quickly migrated my current todo list.
    QuickCursor looks also very interesting but I', not sure paying for it.
    About Growl - I agree with you at some point. The GTD principle says you have to eliminate every kind of distraction. But somehow I'm used to Growl. Without it I'd have the constant feeling that I didn't check something. It's kinda personal craziness, I know. So I found my peace with notifications. Thanks for the great apps!

  3. Sometimes I read about productivity tips for Mac, even though I don't have one yet. I stumbled into 2 very interesting articles!

    For Mac switchers:

    Dropbox tips/tricks:

    Hope you find them useful!

  4. Wow, thanks. Great links. I've found some cool new tricks on the Dropbox site. Tx again!