Sep
12

During session breaks at BFlex yesterday I put together an OS X Automator workflow that works with the bit.ly URL shortener. I use bit.ly all the time and I wanted an easier way to create bit.ly shortened URLs in any application on OS X. Sure there are bit.ly tools available but none of them span the entirety of applications on my computer.

After whipping up my Automator workflow I can now shorten URLs by copying them to my clipboard, activating the workflow from the menu bar, and then pasting the contents of my clipboard into e-mail, Tweetie or any other app. The Automator workflow simply uses the contents of my clipboard to send a curl-based HTTP call to the bit.ly REST API, and replaces my clipboard contents with the returned API result.

Click the image below for a quick demo. It's pretty basic so far and some long URLs with unencoded URL parameters fail to create shortened results. I'd love your feedback and suggestions on the workflow, so feel free to download it and submit a comment on this post. You can be using it in less than a minute. NOTE: This requires a free bit.ly account.

In case you missed the download link above, click here to grab the script.

Aug
9

Image of Logitech Anywhere MX mouse and Flash Builder

Over the past few months I've found I use the heck out of the debug feature in Flash Builder 4. And when working on really complex Flex applications sometimes the only way to see whether my code is doing what I need is to run the application. Why? Because design view in Flash Builder 4 doesn't know how to work with popular Flex frameworks such as Swiz. At least, I've not been able to get it to work quite right for me.

Sometime last week I grew tired of pressing the debug button so I configured my Logitech Anywhere MX mouse so it initiates debugging sessions for me. It's pretty rocking. Click the image after the break to see a short video demonstration of how it works. If you want to learn more about the Anywhere MX mouse, I blogged my experience with it last year.

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Nov
23

Several years ago I read Understanding the Psychology of Programming by Bryan Dollery. The article was written in 2003 but you'd never know it unless you saw the date. It talks about how programming is a creative activity and how the environment of a programmer plays a large role in their creativity. I've referred to the article dozens of times over the last 6 years when conversing with other technical managers and today I want to share it with you. If you're a programmer or you are directly or indirectly responsible for the management of programmers you must read this article.

Understanding the Psychology of Programming

Contrary to popular belief, programmers more frequently resemble artists than scientists. If you want to maximize the creative potential on your development team, you've got to start thinking about the psychology of the programmer and be willing to back it up with management policy.

Read it here.

Oct
14

OmniFocus, GTD, and You!

Posted by Aaron West at 10:00 AM in Productivity, ColdFusion, OmniFocus, GTD

Perhaps you've been hearing about GTD for a while now. Maybe you've even read some of my posts on this topic. But for some reason you didn't do yourself the favor of picking up the book and changing your organizational habits. I certainly recommend you read Allen's book if you want to understand the full concept of GTD. I've even found reading the book two, three, or four times to be immensely helpful. However, there are things you can do to test the GTD waters without going through the book.

The Omni Group, makers of the popular OmniFocus software, have released a free PDF that serves as a crash course in the bare essentials of GTD and how GTD is applied in OmniFocus. It does have a very direct spin towards the use of OmniFocus on the Mac but it's a great read nonetheless. If you're struggling to find the time to read the entire Getting Things Done book, download the PDF and see if it's the jumpstart you need.

Jul
8

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Troy Malone, Chief Evangelist for Pelotonics, an online project management and collaboration tool. Troy and I discussed how the Dealerskins development team uses Pelotonics to manage projects, how we discovered Pelotonics and how it compares to similar tools like Basecamp. The interview lasted about half an hour but the Pelotonics crew have distilled it to 3 minutes of audio snippets of just my answers to Troy's questions. To listen to the interview press play in the embedded video at the bottom of this post.

If you are interested in what Pelotonics is and how one company (Dealerskins) finds it useful the interview is a good start. For more detail on the product and how you might benefit from using it check out the additional links below.

Why Pelotonics?
Pelotonics Tour
Pelotonics Info for Basecamp Users

An Interview with Aaron West from Troy Malone on Vimeo.

Jun
28

I've blogged about the OmniFocus task management application before and today I want to talk about a small but very useful feature: creating tasks via e-mail. As much as I dislike e-mail it is hard to exist or do business today without it. No matter where you are, at the office, home, or on the road e-mail is sure to follow. If you always looking at it wouldn't it be nice if you could create OmniFocus tasks from any e-mail client? After all, using this method would certainly fall under the category of getting things out of your head and into your trusted system.

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Apr
25

From time to time I've talked about productivity and Getting Things Done. It's an approach to work and life that has made a positive difference in me over the last 3 years and I evangelize GTD everywhere I go. If you've never read David Allen's book or you haven't read about the approach here's 10 questions asked of David that discuss what Getting Things Done is and what it's not.

An excerpt from gtdtimes.com:

GTD is simply how anything gets done, and the principles apply not just to any business but to any person in any aspect of their life. As soon as you have more than one thing to do, that you can't finish the moment you think of it, then you can apply the GTD methods to increase your ability to manage what you're doing well.

Click here to read the rest of David's answers.

Apr
11

Given how often I use Evernote for work and personal activities I'm quite surprised I've never blogged about it. I want to put an end to that right now and talk about one of Evernote's useful features, Web clipping.

I add notes into Evernote all the time. Whether I'm taking notes in meetings, doing research on what camera case to buy, or grabbing a quick screenshot of a map for use later on my iPhone, Evernote has become a critical component of my computer use. As I add or change content in Evernote on one computer, it is synced with my account on evernote.com, all my other Macs, and my iPhone!

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Mar
9

Here's a really useful trick I just learned from the latest episode of TWiT. Load Google's search page in your browser (or if you're a keyboard jockey like me, use LaunchBar to conduct the search) and type "current time." You'll be presented with information similar to the following screenshot though targeted to where you are. In all of Google's limitless knowledge they're able to tell you the current time (localized) as well the time in major metropolitan areas near you. Awesomeness.

Jan
5

Following my recent post about The Bank of Time, Matt Williams posted the comment:

Yea, but who has 30 minutes to watch a talk on time management?

While Matt was being sarcastic his comment has a lot of backstory that I want to explore for a few minutes. I used to be one of those folks who always struggled to find the time to do the things I needed to do. I'd make excuses. I'd carry a bad attitude about the many things that weren't getting done. I'd overcommit and struggle to deliver. You see, I lacked an element of focus in my life. I opened myself up to anyone and everyone who wanted or needed something from and me and I genuinely wanted to accommodate them all.

I wasn't taking the time, to take the time.

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Jan
2

The Bank of Time

Posted by Aaron West at 3:09 PM in Productivity, Personal

I was watching Merlin Mann's Time and Attention Google Tech Talk (March, 2008) earlier where he talks about reshaping the stuff that comes at you to optimize your time, attention, and ultimately your results. Listening to him talk about renegotiating yourself and to whom you give your time and attention as well as redefining the culture of your team reminded me of The Bank of Time. I first heard The Bank of Time in 1996 while in college and it's something that stuck with me and has resonated throughout my life since.

The Bank of Time If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,400, but carried over no balance from day to day, and allowed you to keep no cash in your account and every morning canceled whatever part of the amount you had failed to use during the day, what would you do? Draw out every cent, of course!

Well, you have just such a bank and its name is Time. Every morning it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off as a loss whatever of these you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries no balances. It allows no overdrafts. Each night it closes the record of the passing day. Each day it opens a new account with you. If you fail to use the day's deposit, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the morrow. You must live in the present - on today's deposit.

Invest it so you get the most in health, happiness, and success.

Are you drawing out every second of your day? What can you do to better manage your time and make the most of today? Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly. And if you want to learn a few tips to capitalize on your 86,400 seconds check out Mann's Time and Attention talk.

Dec
15

I posted earlier today about synchronizing an Entourage calendar to other macs and to my iPhone. Well, I've found what I believe is a better solution though not free. Spanning Sync is software made specifically for synchronizing your calendars and address books across multiple macs. What's nice about this solution is you only need Spanning Sync on your computers and nothing on your iPhone. This solution does assume you're already using MobileMe for calendar syncing. The problems I mentioned earlier, namely Calgoo Connect crashes and calendar changes not filtering back to Entourage, are not present with this setup.

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Dec
15

Let me set the stage. I have two Macbook Pros. One is used at the office and one is my personal machine. They're both laptops so they each see a fair amount of travel. And while one is primarily for work there is some overlap in what I do on the machines. For the most part though having two macs makes it easier for me to separate what I work on and how. Where this separation sucks is when you start looking at my calendar. I use Entourage 2008 on my work laptop (insert long, drawn out rant about Microsoft software. Yes there's OpenOffice and other MS-ish solutions but they all suck when you need serious collaboration with others using Microsoft products) for e-mail and calendaring. I use iCal on my personal laptop and on my iPhone. Up to this point I've somehow managed NOT being able to look at my work calendar unless I was sitting in front of my work laptop. This has halfway worked for a year but it's just not cutting it anymore. So this weekend I set out to do some research on calendar syncing solutions that would ultimately get my Entourage calendar from my work laptop to my personal laptop and iPhone.

The solution I'm laying out below doesn't cost a penny and for a lot of people that's incredibly important. However, there are caveats. In the near future I'll discuss a second option that isn't free but might provide more stability and features for those who need them. Stay tuned. The free solution involves the use of software from Calgoo and Nueva Sync. The first six steps below are done on the computer with Entourage. The rest are either done on an iPhone or other Mac computers.

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Jul
27

I've been into this productivity thing for quite some time now. Implementing GTD in all aspects of my life has increased not only my productivity but my sanity as well. Add to that my affinity for gadgets and the iPhone and it's easy to see why I was thrilled to learn the fine folks at OmniGroup were releasing OmniFocus for the iPhone. I bought OmniFocus for the mac well over a year ago and found it easy to drop $19.99 on the full-featured iPhone version. Yea it would've been nice to get a returning customer discount; you can blame Apple's AppStore for not building this functionality into the store.

I've had some time to take the OmniFocus iPhone application for a test drive and here are my favorite features.

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Jan
7

Those who follow my blog know I'm a bit of a productivity hound. Well, I want to bring you up to speed on a little secret. It's not so much a secret really but it's exciting nonetheless. The OmniGroup - a company whose software I cannot live without - is releasing their latest product, OmniFocus, in the next few hours. OmniFocus is professional grade task management software built around the popular book Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Allen's book has done wonders for me personally and professionally, and OmniFocus has complemented the book greatly. I've been using OmniFocus in pre-release form for a little over a week and I'm absolutely hooked! The features it provides are amazing and accessing those features is super simple and quick. That's what you need when you're goal is to get "stuff" out of your head and into a trusted task/project management system. But don't take my word for it. Cruise on over to the OmniFocus Web site or watch a video demo of all the things OmniFocus can do for you. If you give it a try, be sure and drop me a comment letting me know what you think. Now, get back to those tasks!