Our resident producer Dan Atchison is all about increased productivity. And he likes to spread the love, too. So he cooked up a three-part series on his favorite productivity apps to help you accomplish more in your work day. Here’s Part 1.
If you work in an office or in the creative sphere where your tools are primarily technology-driven, you too should learn how to maximize your resources. Just as a master woodworker knows how to transform raw, dead wood into works of art when most of us would be fumbling around a carpenter’s table.
I’m always surprised when I see people who spend most of their day on a computer struggling to simply navigate between windows or find “that attachment.” Most people are stuck in a shop full of power tools but still relying on the handsaw.
Honestly, organization and systems don’t come naturally for me, but I do it in the hopes of working faster and focusing on the things that matter the most. Hopefully this little primer will help you work smarter and faster and make your life a little easier.
TextExpander is basically shorthand for your Mac.
“Snippets” auto-expand when you type an abbreviation. You’re probably familiar with the concept from typing things like “lmk” on your iPhone and it expands to “let me know”. It’s that for your Mac…only on steroids.
Using a unique naming convention, you can store bits of information or other frequently used items. I use this app 50-60 times a day (it keeps track of my stats) and don’t even think about it. You can set it up however you want but here are some examples of how I use it.
You’re coming for a visit. I could type the office address but instead I’ll just type “!bbig” and up pops:
2121 Second Avenue North
Birmingham, AL 35203
All of my physical address snippets begin with “!”. I have snippets for home, client addresses, vendors, frequently visited restaurants and coffee shops. Any physical place I know I’ll revisit and possibly have to send to someone else.
This one is pretty obvious. “#bbig” expands to 205.322.5646 and so on.
Say you’ve booked a flight for this co-worker before and have all their info someplace. It’s probably in an email. So, you switch from the airline website into Mail and search a few keywords. You scan and scroll trying to find the email they sent six months ago. But, you can’t find it. So you message them and ask for it again. You wait. After lunch, they finally hit you back. Sound familiar?
There’s another option: To simply type “+ddeltabilly” which auto-expands to “2379651537” because last time you spent the extra 15 seconds to punch it into TextExpander. You used your naming convention where all account numbers start with +, include the vendor name, and then the person. And you didn’t even have to bug Billy.
That’s just one example for one person and one airline. Multiply this across different people and different vendors and you’ve saved yourself (and others) a ton of time. I use this for loyalty programs, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, etc.
By now you are getting the picture of how to use TextExpander for the most basic things. But, when I said it was on steroids, I meant it.
Say you’re scheduling a conference call. You’ll probably do what you did above with the frequent flyer number. You’ll find an old email you sent, copy and paste, and then edit. Or…you can type “ccallagenda” and TextExpander opens a popup window:
Fill in the boxes and you’re done. As you can see, it also supports drop-down menus, and in this case, I can choose duration and the specific conference line. That’s much easier than finding an old email and editing it.
A cool (and really useful) feature is how TextExpander handles dates and times. The most basic would be:
“sdate” = 10/05/2016
“ldate” = Wednesday, October 5, 2016
That’s “short date” and “long date”. But it can also calculate days into the future. This is very helpful to your co-workers when you want to be clear about scheduling meetings. For most of my snippets, I start with a double-letter and this is no different.
“mmon” = this Monday (November 7)
“ttue” = this Tuesday (November 8)
…and so on. I also have it set to calculate for next week.
“nnweds” = Wednesday next week (November 9)
“nnthurs” = Thursday next week (November 10)
And, because TextExpander can run Applescript, I found a script online that automatically finds the day of the week for any date in the future. I just type “mmad” (for Make-a-Date), enter the date, it finds the corresponding day of the week auto-expands to “Sunday, Dec 25th”. See, I just learned Christmas is on a Sunday this year without having to look at a calendar.
Frequently Used Words and Salutations
Sometimes when I really get lazy, I’ll create a snippet for a word I use all the time like Birmingham. Well, I didn’t really just type that. I actually typed “bbhm” and it auto-expanded. Others I use frequently are:
“ggood” = Good morning…
“hhe” = Hello everyone,
“llmk” = Please let me know if you have any questions.
“bbig” – Big Communications
I also have a folder in TextExpander called “Temp” and I’ll create snippets for campaign names, cities, clients, etc. that I use but won’t keep forever. For example, I was producing a job in Siberia in a town called Novokuznetsk and I got tired of looking through emails so I could copy and paste the correct spelling. Instead, I created a snippet so that typing “nnov” would expand to “Novokuznetsk”. Problem solved.
By now you get the picture. Now ask yourself the question, “If I have to type this more than 2-3x, how can I automate it?” The possibilities are endless and the time saved is enormous.