Recovery Day

One of the oldest (and best) pieces of productivity advice is to always plan on a recovery day after a trip. It is such an obvious idea that I hesitate to even post about it. Nevertheless, it is advice that I seldom followed … until now.

The problem for me wasn’t that I didn’t acknowledge the importance of having time after a trip to catch up. Indeed, I so often crash in terms of my workload after trips that it seems like a running bit on the Focused podcast.

The problem is that I never thought about recovery day early enough. It always seemed to slip my mind right up until the night I’d return home from a conference or vacation and realize that my calendar for the next day was an impossible concoction of items that cropped up in my absence mixed in with a full schedule of meetings and other deadlines I’d scheduled before I left. Past Sparky screwed over present Sparky ... yet again.

The hallelujah moment for me came with this most recent trip where I, for the first time in my life, scheduled an honest to goodness recovery day. Indeed, I spent all day yesterday with no appointments and no scheduled meetings or calls. Instead, I just caught up with the backlog and brush fires that cropped up over the last few days as I have been traveling and making a little time to spend with my wife.

The trick, for me, was to schedule the recovery day months ago. I have a checklist when I’m planning a trip. It has lots of things like” buy airplane tickets” and” reserve a hotel room”. After my most recent post-trip scheduling debacle, I added a new entry, “schedule recovery day”. 

So several months ago when I was making my initial pass at the list for the Relay 5th anniversary trip, I scheduled August 26, 2019, as my recovery day following that trip. It was a full-day event, and with it sitting there, squatting on my precious calendar real estate, I was constantly reminded of it in the weeks leading up to the trip. When folks would ask me to schedule some time for a meeting or take on a new commitment, past Sparky actually started looking out for future Sparky. Unlike virtually every other trip in my life, I treated yesterday, the day after, as untouchable. Of course, it worked. Without any commitments or unnecessary deadlines, I was able to catch up with those items that generally plague me for days (and sometimes weeks) after a trip.

Today normal programming resumes and I’m back to deadlines and meetings, but I’m doing it without the emotional baggage of feeling behind from the trip. My little experiment about the recovery day worked exactly as well as anybody who’s ever tried a recovery day could (and did) tell me it would… brilliantly.

If all goes according to plan, I have only one trip left this year, which is, thankfully, vacation. Nevertheless, I have already scheduled my recovery day for when I return.

Mac Power Users 497: Spotlight, Alfred, and LaunchBar

macOS's Spotlight feature has made serious strides in recent years, but many power users still turn to Alfred and LaunchBar for app launching, file searching, and executing workflows. Join us for this week’s episode of Mac Power Users to listen to Stephen and I compare these tools and talk about our favorite features of each.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • SaneBox: Stop drowning in email!

  • TextExpander from Smile: Get 20% off with this link and type more with less effort! Expand short abbreviations into longer bits of text, even fill-ins, with TextExpander from Smile.

  • Hover: Make a name for yourself. Get 10% off any domain name.

Get Some Automation with Text Expander (Sponsor)

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Often people ask me how to get started with some simple automation to make their lives easier. The answer to that question is this week’s sponsor, TextExpander. Copy and paste is an inefficient way to keep track of the things you type again and again. TextExpander makes you more productive by taking care of all those words and phrases for you. TextExpander works in all your apps so you can use it everywhere, like Microsoft Word and Excel, Adobe Illustrator and InDesign, and Apple’s Pages.

TextExpander does way more than that. With TextExpander you’ll see your snippets everywhere. It syncs between your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Windows PC instantly.

They’ve got free snippet groups for all sorts of folks including job recruiters, freelancers, airport codes, brand names, and more at the TextExpander website (or you can download some of mine).

TextExpander even lets you run AppleScripts. For example, I use TextExpander to auto address emails with Apple Mail.

Best of all, with TextExpander you don’t have to work alone: TextExpander for Teams lets you manage and share snippets with your coworkers or the entire company. Use this link to get 20% off

Charging Cables that can Hack Your Phone

Good grief! Researchers have now made a USB charging cable that has a chip embedded to hack your phone. I’m still having trouble convincing non-tech folks not to plug strange dongles into their devices. Cables now too?

It’s been years since I’ve used a cable that wasn’t mine. I’ve bought several Anker chargers from Amazon along with some of their cables. It’s probably not a bad idea for you to start carrying your own batteries and cables going forward. Good luck convincing Uncle Jimmy.

Focused 80: The Power of "No"

This week on Focused, Mike and I take on the challenges (and rewards) that come with saying "no."

For those who didn't catch it, at the beginning of the year the Free Agents podcast transitioned to the new format to talk about how to stay focused in an increasingly distracting world. I feel like the show is really hitting its stride now, and if you haven't subscribed, I'd ask that you consider doing so. I'm really proud of the work Mike and I have been doing over there.

This episode of Focused is sponsored by:

  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code FOCUSED at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

  • Blinkist: Read 3,000+ books in 15 minutes or less. Start your 7-day free trial.

Mac Power Users 496: Keyboard Hacking with Brett Terpstra

Brett Terpstra joins us on the latest episode of Mac Power Users to talk about his keyboard hacks, planning workflows, some of his favorite apps, and the looming arrival of his new app, nvUltra.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

  • ButcherBox: Thoughtfully sourced meat delivered directly to your door. Get 2lbs ground beef + 2 packs of bacon plus $20 off your first box.

  • 1Password: Have you ever forgotten a password? You don't have to worry about that anymore.

  • The Omni Group: We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad.

Automators 30: Some Favorite Automations

The latest episode of Automators is now available for download. In it, Rose and I share some of our most beloved recently created automations. 

Rosemary has an automation to help to deal with her garbage email address, and I have an email-related automation dealing with Basecamp. Rosemary built a magic album player using Shortcuts, and I used Shortcuts to help deal with meetings. Finally, Rose got a new Mac mini, and she's adding all sorts of automation to it.

This is a great episode with lots of exciting ideas. We've got several blog posts and sample videos linked to explain what we've done and there something in there for everyone. If you haven't subscribed to Automators yet, you should.

This episode of Automators was sponsored by Creative Next: The new podcast future-proofing creatives.

Diagramming and Planning with inShort (Sponsor)

This week MacSparky is sponsored by inShort for macOS.

inShort is an advanced diagramming and planning tool that lets you specify processes, resources, and how they all fit together. All of this is built around a unique interface that enables you to drill down into the details of a project or move back up to the overview and see the project in its entirety. The interface is brilliant.

inShort is an opinionated application that makes planning and workflow easier. It gets regular development and recently they’ve added layers (for pro subscribers), which add a new dimension to your diagrams, successfully combining related schemes in a common space.

If your project works in cycles, there’s new logic available in the application that lets you take into account several schedules for one object. It even addresses failed tasks, letting you map out what happens if the task fails in your project planning. This lets you log and analyze how what happens if things break, and it even updates the Gantt chart to display the failure.

If you haven’t checked out inShort, you should. Check out inShort.

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Mac Power Users 495: Manning the Battle Bridge with Artist Thom Zahler

Comic book artist Thom Zahler uses his Macs and iPads to create some incredible artwork and manage his indie business. On this week’s episode of Mac Power Users, Thom shares his apps and workflows. 

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • 1Password: Have you ever forgotten a password? You don't have to worry about that anymore.

  • TextExpander from Smile: Get 20% off with this link and type more with less effort! Expand short abbreviations into longer bits of text, even fill-ins, with TextExpander from Smile.

  • Linode: High performance SSD Linux servers for all of your infrastructure needs. Get a $20 credit.

  • Pingdom: Start monitoring your website performance and availability today, and get instant alerts when an outage occurs or a site transaction fails. Use offer code MPU to get 30% off.

Keyboard Maestro Script for Automating Contact Creation with Cardhop

Here’s a small Keyboard Maestro script that I use just about every day to create contacts on my Mac with Cardhop. The problem this is designed to solve is Basecamp project email addresses. Every new Basecamp project I create has a specialized (and nearly unreadable) email address attached. Any email I copy or forward to that address gets added to the project. Handy. Right?

But the process of creating a new contact card for each project is tedious, particularly with the Apple Contacts app that requires much clicking and typing. So I made this script that queries me for the project name and then grabs the magic email address from my clipboard to create a contact in the Basecamp Projects group in my contacts database. Cardhop’s quick entry system makes all the difference.

You can download the script here:

KM Script Download

And see the script in action in the below video. Note there is a discount code for the Keyboard Maestro Field Guide at the end of the video.

Also, here’s a screenshot of the script.

Apple Music Digital Masters

Yesterday Billboard wrote:

On Wednesday (August 7) Apple Music announced the launch of Apple Digital Masters, a new initiative by the streaming giant that combines all of its “Mastered for iTunes” offerings into one global catalog. This is the company’s first public acknowledgement of the initiative, which it has been quietly unveiling for some time.

Please let this include Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.

Please let this include Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.

Please let this include Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.

Checking In On The Shortcuts Update

I am still in the honeymoon phase with the iOS 13 updates to Shortcuts. As I explained in a recent newsletter, I am in the process of recording an entirely new Shortcuts Field Guide. I’ve already recorded over 50 videos, and I have quite a few left.

This update to Shortcuts is way more than I expected. There are new triggers, actions, and the overall programming paradigm has been simplified, making it easier than ever for anyone to create automation on their iPhone and iPad. The last few betas removed some of the more interesting automatic triggers, but I understand they will be coming back. Regardless, if you have any remote interest in automation on your iPad and iPhone, you’re in for a treat in September.

Today while working with the new Shortcuts, I was pondering the state of affairs a few years ago when Apple first bought the Workflow application. At the time I thought there were two possibilities: they’d bring it into iOS but remove it’s more powerful elements (like they did with Siri) or they would scrap it entirely and re-distribute the very talented team to other projects.

Honestly, it never occurred to me that they would incorporate Workflow into the operating system and vastly improve its capabilities. Even if the thought had occurred to me, I would have bet you a lot of money that they wouldn’t then double down a second year to make it even easier to use and more powerful.

I have always believed that automation is something everybody should be able to master and use. These improvements to Shortcuts are paving the way for just that. These devices we carry in our pocket do not need to be an interruption in our lives. With the kind of automation Apple is democratizing with Shortcuts, we can get our work done faster and get on to the more essential things of life, like making art (however you define that), playing with their children, and, of course, taking naps.

Focused 79: Reclaiming Margin, with Shawn Blanc

The Focus Course founder Shawn Blanc is back and on this week’s episode of Focused, he’s talking about the importance of margin, how it gave him the space he needed to work through a personal crisis, and life lessons learned from his orange 1984 Jeep CJ-7.

This episode of Focused is sponsored by:

  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code FOCUSED at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

  • Hover: Make a name for yourself. Get 10% off any domain name.

Mac Power Users 494: Our Home Offices

On this week’s episode of Mac Power Users, Stephen and I talk about our home offices: how they are setup, what equipment and furnishings are used, and, of course, what nerdy toys are around. Then, we discuss the pros and cons of working from home.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • 1Password: Have you ever forgotten a password? You don't have to worry about that anymore.

  • The Omni Group: We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad.

  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

  • Linode: High performance SSD Linux servers for all of your infrastructure needs. Get a $20 credit.

Automators 29: The Dark Dungeon with Adam Tow

On the latest episode of Automators, Rose and I talk to Adam Tow, creator of MsgFiler and writer of a few amazing Shortcuts automations. From having photos taken on his DLSR automatically shared to him via iMessage, to playing text adventure games with Shortcuts, there is plenty of automation fun to be had!

This episode of Automators is sponsored by: