What workflows or automations have stuck/paid off for you?

I have a workflow habit.

Similar to CRIMPing and dovetailed with yak-shaving, I tend to get excited about finding new ways of working, especially when it involves automation. At current count, I have 321 Keyboard Maestro macros, 386 Shortcuts, 148 items in my “Workfllows” scripts folder, and countless other little artifacts burrowed away. I probably use about 5% of these. In many of these cases, the time I spent thinking about a better way to do something probably should have been used to just do the thing. (Although, see Dr. Drang’s thinking on “Why we automate” for a more optimistic view.)

As we know, I am hardly unique. Making fun of ourselves for this kind of tendency is a common theme here.

This thread is not for that! I want to hear the (long-term) success stories.

What has stuck for you? What little workflows did you build months or years ago that has continued to be a key part of your way of working? What process innovations have had huge payoffs?

I can start.

A few months ago I adapted HEY email’s concept of email screening. I accomplish this by adding contacts to contact groups and using Fastmail filters to automatically slot new messages into one of four places: my inbox (for actual messages from real people), Info (order confirmations, delivery notices, etc.), Reads (newsletters and such), and New (never-before-seen senders).

It took effort to set it all up. I had to set up and start paying for Fastmail. Making it easy to add new senders to the contact groups was a huge pain. Not all email apps make it easy to navigate to these subfolders.

However, for the first time in years, I’ve been consistently getting back to people quickly and keeping my inbox clean. Granted, every few weeks, I’ll get busy and things will build up, but even then, busting those clots is far easier than it had ever been. “Email anxiety” has basically been zero.

(I think this worked because it dropped the cognitive effort required to evaluate each message in each category to near-nothing. I know that 90% of the messages in my Inbox require a reply and/or an action. 90% of the messages in Info and Reads can be immediately archived.)

To celebrate this a little, frankly, this kind of benefit justifies all of the “wasted” time with other non-sticky workflows. This set up required a bunch of skills I developed playing with Shortcuts and Applescript and trialling different email apps and services. Email has historically been a major source of pain and failure for me. Getting past that is huge!

I look forward to hearing your success stories. :slight_smile:

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Cleaning my desks and office are the biggest productivity boosters for me.

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Plus getting enough sleep!

Tech-wise, actually switching to Hey in 2020 has worked out great. :innocent: Screening permanently removes a bunch of little cognitive annoyances, as you’ve described. So does sending most non-human email to paper trail (all email there is auto-read so you just scan the subject lines.) I’ve also settled into a good routine of clearing out my reply later stack (you can reply to all emails in one view) every other day or so.

Forward to OmniFocus has been going strong for a dozen years or so. It’s hardly a workflow since I am just remembering to type “Omn” to autocomplete the contact I set up ages ago.

A couple recent changes are here to stay. I bounce between several code projects, or aspects of this projects. I set up a StreamDeck with buttons that take me to each of those projects or views. I’d be sorry to give that up. Every time I see a colleague navigate between projects on a screen share I’m reminded of that.

Unfortunately, any time saved is undone by lists of missing persons on Wikipedia.

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Love your e-mail idea of using contacts/groups. I have Fastmail and currently use filters/rules to weed out newsletters, receipts etc but might be easier to just add new contacts to a group instead of writing new one each time. Only issue is the syncing all those contacts to my phone, will have to see if there is a way to only sync primary contacts!

I use ios Mail to access, and I have the mail widget on my main screen showing the Newsletter folder and it’s like having an RSS reader right in front of you.

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two:
years ago set keyboard maestro automations that work on computer start. over the years have upgraded monitors, later computer and still work

and using default apple apps for tasks

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From newest to oldest:

Hazel rules that use the OCR function to rename my most frequently downloaded files. I derive almost child-like pleasure from this each and every time it executes successfully.

Keyboard Maestro macros to move and resize windows. I have one uniform window size and position that I use. With only a few deliberate exceptions, if I can see more than one window on a monitor while I’m working, I’m failing.

AppleScripts that move sports schedules from CSV files to appointments on my calendar. This is especially useful every March, when I enter a full 162-game baseball schedule.

F3 as my OmniFocus quick entry shortcut. I’ve used that for as long as it has existed in OmniFocus, not just for tasks but also for just about any note to myself.

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@ryanjamurphy would you share how you have implement Hey.com’s features using fastmail and automations? - I am sure that would be extremely useful not just for me.

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this is fascinating, are you happy to share how this is set up? I want to mirror this

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likewise, I would be interested to copy this

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A bunch:

  1. Keyboard Maestro scripts to move windows (just left-half, right-half, top- and bottom-half, on a laptop screen)

  2. Hammerspoon to use a few keystrokes to quickly look up (or even just copy to the clipboard) information on companies using ticker symbols or company names (and similar via shortcuts on iOS when I’m on the go)

  3. KM and it’s conflict panels to quickly a witch to or launch commonly used apps with 2-3 keystrokes instead of madly alt-tabbing all over the place

  4. KM and NotePlan’s URL scheme to quickly add tasks or other entries to Noteplan

  5. Hyperkey to make keyboard commands easier for all of the above

Edit: Another I use several times a day: a keystroke to create a markdown link (using title and url) for the the web page I’m on, in any of four browsers, along with capturing any selected text as a markdown quote.

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I have an AppleScript automation that is essential to me on almost a daily basis. I create a Link + Backlink to a Curio figure asset (a project card in a Kanban lane) to an OmniFocus project by clicking an icon on the OF menubar.

I also have an AppleScript to toggle monitor and app settings between “lecture presentation mode” and “normal” mode. It closes down unneeded apps, opens the presentation recorder app, and hides menu bars and dock. To engage this, I click a menu option in a floating Keyboard Maestro palette, click a button on my Better Touch Tool Touch Bar menu, or run a menu script in the AppleScript menu.


JJW

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I’m not sure I can explain it. It takes a little bit of creative guessing to get the rule to find the info you need in the file’s text. In my case, most of the files are bills that I like to name using the billing date and the company name.

I wish I could point you to wherever I learned it. I thought I learned it from @macsparky’s Hazel Field Guide, but it turns out that I didn’t buy that one. Maybe I learned it from somebody else’s post here?

Noodlesoft has a pretty good manual that explains how to have a rule search a file’s text contents. See the section describing “Contents” on the Attribute Reference page. That would be the place to start.

great, thanks for the tip

Screenshots goes to Yoink drawer. I use a Hazel automation for this.

I screenshot daily for projects, the MacOD Catalina feature where screenshot linger on for a few seconds is great but I do more than one. It make sense to screenshot multiple times and have it consolidate in Yoink to be either drag on to a Keynote slide or Finder.

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keystroke to create a markdown link (using title and url) for the the web page I’m on, in any of four browsers, along with capturing any selected text as a markdown quote.

I need this. How do you do that, please?

@fuzzygel Further to @tonycraine, I also use Hazel to scan and file incoming. To help you get going, here is the Hazel rule for AMEX monthly statement.

I use Hazel for a lot of things.

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Without the slightest doubt the (semi-) automated workflow that is of greatest value to me is the one I use to export diary entries from Day One into DEVONthink—and then, in DEVONthink, update the Day One links (i.e., cross-references to other diary entries) to DEVONthink links and convert Day One hastags to YAML front matter.

That uses Hazel, shell script and then (once in DEVONthink) DEVONthink smart rules and extensive AppleScript (plus Keyboard Maestro for an incredibly useful conflict palette).

The reason the workflow is so valuable to me is that it gives me the ability to journal using the Day One interface combined with the ability to use the phenomenal DEVONthink search facilities (which put Day One’s search facility in the shade). I use DEVONthink search several times every day to search my 50+ years of diary entries.

Stephen

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Thanks a lot @rms , this is so cool !!

Glad to point you! In support of what @tonycraine says, you have to play detective a bit on the documents to notice and figure out what makes the incoming document “unique” and then use Hazel’s features to extract and use content from the documents as you wish. Another tip is to put all the incoming into one folder. I use “Scanner Input” for everything coming in to me (whether scanned, downloaded, or in emails). Then Hazel has to look only at that folder, using a list of rules.

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Automations that I use multiple times a day: inserting dates using TextExpander, arranging finder windows with moom, multiple Hazel automations to rename and move downloaded or scanned documents (what a pleasure!)

Automation that probably saves most time and helps to avoid inconsistencies (used approx once or twice weekly):

  • a rather long shortcuts shortcut that I use to automate everything around invitations for talks: it creates OmniFocus projects with 15 tasks (and associated deadlines etc), calendar entries, Craft documents, the correctly named folder with subfolders in the correct location.

Martin

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