2017 Update: I've created a "living document" version of these hacks so you can share your pro-tips, too. Head on over here to see the latest!
Three years ago, I wrote a blog post on being hyper-efficient on a computer -- or to put it another way, being so good on a computer that you play it like a virtuoso on a musical instrument. So much has changed in my daily workflow that I realized it was time for me to update that post.
The first order of business is that you can't improve what you can't measure. So if you're serious about being able to use a computer with the speed and zeal of Dash outrunning a flying saucer, first you need to find out how fast (or slow) you are today. Go over and take my GeekSpeed challenge. See if you can break the 1 minute mark.
If you can't, then here are some of the things to focus on to make the 8+ hours per day you spend in front of your computer much, much more productive:
Honorable Mentions: Here are som other tools I love: PDF Pen, a way better pdf manipulation tool, Highrise and Basecamp by 37 Signals, Pivotal Tracker for life project management, 1Password for password management, WhatSize for freeing space up on a computer, JoinMe for screen sharing & support, and Carbon Copy Cloner to make exact clones of your hard drive, which are bootable. Even if you back up using TimeMachine or similar, I'd still highly recommend cloning your drive once a month as a failsafe (and then use something like CrashPlan for cloud-based backups).
Whew! Hope that helps. What do you use to enable you to play your computer like an instrument? I'd love to know in the comments below.
HelloSign looks great! DocuSign is another good alternative that a lot of bigger companies use, but the UI isn't nearly as good.
IFTTT is pretty good, but Zapier is incredible for doing anything related to business. You do have to pay for it to get the most functionality (fast updates, more 'zaps', etc), but the free version works pretty well also. I use it mainly to sync all of the different apps I use together, and it's been a lifesaver on more than one occasion.
My best lifesavers have always been apps that take potential distractions away. I use iA Writer to do all my writing on iOS or my Macbook and a combination of Self Control and RescueTime to keep myself on track and focused.
Also if you're trying to learn something, I highly recommend using spaced-repetition flashcards. Anki (ankisrs.net) is a good cross-platform solution.
Oh yeah, and also #GiveMeSETT
Henry, Zapier looks AWESOME. I'll definitely check that out.
It looks like Anki is an interval-based flashcard system? Is that right? I read a WIRED article awhile back about Piotr Wozniak's SuperMemo learning philosophy and I've been really curious about it ever since. It's hard to tell from Anki's website if it's along those lines. What deal can you provide?
SETT invite sent!
As I was saying on IM earlier, I bet you know all of these already ;)
Wow this is a great and very comprehensive list! The gmail shortcuts are a LIVESAVER; I don't know how anyone can use Gmail w/o them. And the Mac shortcuts are good; there's an add-on called Witch for Mac that helps you go between open windows in the same program; I use that all the time. And Alfred is great too for launching programs.
How many of these shortcuts do YOU use? :)
I also highly recommend EverContact to automatically update your address book based on people's sig lines (it used to be called WriteThatName).
Julia over at Hackpad just asked me:
"Can I ask what software you use to create these videos? They're quite impressive!"
Yep! I use iShowU to take them. (There's also an HD version of iShowU but I like this one better; it's simpler to use). Then, I just upload the videos to Vimeo.
Hackpad is a new tool that I'm absolutely loving. Here's a blog post I wrote about it: http://go.DanielOdio.com/hackpad
Seconding Cinch, Xtrafinder, Alfred, and Textexpander
Four apps to add to the list here:
Vitamin R, a very powerful task and time tracking tool. Helps me focus and eliminate distractions, log my progress on projects, and provide audio and visual cues to stay on task. Great for those days where you need someone looking over your shoulder.
JiTouch, create trackpad gestures and assign them functions. I currently use it for basic things like tab switching and text selection, but it can do more advanced things like run applescripts as well.
Clipmenu, another clipboard manager. I prefer it because it is relatively simple, can be called up with a kb shortcut, and shows previews of copied images in the queue.
Flexiglass, similar to Cinch is a more powerful resizing tool. It can snap windows to certain parts of the screen (top left quarter, bottom half, etc) and sets kb shortcuts for each "layout".
These are great, man. I totally buy into this text on the Vitamin R page:
"How can you work effectively if you are not sure what you are trying to achieve?
You can't. Obviously.
Why then do we waste so much of our time working towards vague goals and deadlines in the distant future?
Getting things done begins with setting immediate, specific andactionable objectives.
Keeping these objectives reachable ensures optimal performance and high motivation."
Breaking big projects up into small slices is critical. So that's super cool I'll give it a shot.
RE: ClipMenu -- have you ever tried iCopy? I'd be curious to know how they compare. The thing I love about iCopy is that I have a shortcut key assigned to it, CMD+J, which brings up a running list of all my past 100+ copy & paste items, and then I can use the arrow keys to pick the one I want. When I press enter, that one gets copied to my clipboard and I can then paste it in. So totally mouse-free, which I love.
Thanks for the great tips -- keep 'em coming!
Yep, Vitamin R is great - basically sits in the background and keeps you in the mindset of setting objectives, dedicating chunks of time, and then looking back to see how effective you were. I need a digital babysitter sometimes.
Re: iCopy, I haven't tried it but imagine it's as effective if not more effective than clipmenu, which is free. Because we're putting together a lot of pitch decks and using the mouse a lot, I have the copy/paste board mapped to a certain mouse click (check out the MX revolution from Logitech - great device) which is an amazing time saver.
I've had lots of people asking me about TextExpander recently. Here's an example of how I use it effectively:
I recently attended a tech retreat, and I want to email some of the people I met there. TextExpander pops in block of text based on trigger words you type. Since I'll be sending a very similar email to a bunch of people individually, it's a great opportunity for me to use TextExpander.
The first thing I do is compose the email I'm going to use as a template. For example, here's what it looks like:
Next, I fire up TextExpander and cut the email up into two pieces. The first is a subject line:
And I do the same for the body:
Now I'm ready to rock & roll. I can send a bunch of emails quickly by typing my two short codes -- one into the subj line of the email, and the next into the body, like this:
I enter the name "Jeremy" and hit "enter" and I get this:
I do the same thing for the body by typing ".mpb"
Bam, easy peasy to send a bunch of emails out with relevant text. This is a great tool for anyone who has to send out substantially-similar emails to people on a regular basis.
CloudApp, here I come! I've used a lot of the apps recommended on this page and I must agree, all of them improve efficiency tremendously.
I've only used Echosign and Docusign (no HelloSign) but both have helped expedite getting legal docs signed off and saved my butt a few times as a sales rep. Nothing worse than having a PO sit out there and not faxed back because there is no scanner available!
Here's a great pro-tip on how to use TextExpander-like shortcuts on an iPhone: http://danielodio.com/community/is-there-a-textexpander-for-iphone
Great post. I hadn't heard of or used HelloSign. I can definitely use this right away at work. I have to sign PDF quotes regularly and this would save me a good amount of time. I currently have to print it out, sign it, scan it back in and then attach and send to the vendors. You just gave me at least 15 min back in my day. Thanks!
Have you ever heard of IFTTT.com? I've started using them lately to help increase my productivity. I heard about them at CES this year. It basically allows you to automate tasks by creating recipes. Its pretty cool because there is a big repository of already created recipes and a pretty good social sharing system on the site so even though its brand new there are a bunch of recipes. Highly suggest you check it out.
Most everyone uses a computer. But a few of us, well, we play a computer like an instrument.
If you're on a computer for 10+ hours per day, this blog is for you.
By "instrument" I mean we know the in's & out's of the device. We know how to eek out maximum performance from it. We're the people who others just look at in wonder when our keys fly across the keyboard.
If you've ever found it excruciatingly painful watching others use a computer because of how slow the person is, then you know what I'm talking about.
These are just my tips, but really, I'm writing this because I want to know about your tips. I want to know what saves you time and makes you more productive. So please post comments below.
First of all, I'm finally over 1000 readers on Feedburner. That's in addition to the 500-700 readers that just check the site every day.
The "missing area" is when I stopped using Feedburner for around a year. I didn't really have a complete grasp on how RSS worked back then. The second tiny gap was when I made some changes to the site (linking words in my bio and putting summaries on the front page). I forgot to put the Feedburner stuff back on for a few days, but notice how after that the slope increased? Pretty cool.