Fall Productivity Tools: Capturing information

A new semester is dawning, and even if you’re not in school, Fall always seems like a time full of creative possibility. In order to maximize your efforts, you need systems. As promised, I’m going to write several posts on the productivity tools I’m currently using.

While there are some applications—Quicksilver and 1Passwd, for example—that remain as constants in my quest for productivity, I have filtered some others out of my workflow, and brought some in.

yojimbo logo

The application that I would say runs a close second to QS in terms of daily use is Yojimbo. It’s basically a virtual file cabinet for all of the loose pieces of information that float around you in a typical day. URLs for websites you want to remember, PDFs related to projects, serial numbers for software, and pretty much everything else can be neatly filed into whatever Yojimbo categories you create.

For instance, I have a category folder for this blog, and when I read an article online or have a moment of inspiration, but can’t create the post just then, I place the URL addresses (via drag-and-drop) or notes right into my 9GS Yojimbo folder. Similarly, if there’s a piece of information for any of the various projects I’m working on, they get placed into their respective Yojimbo folders.

What makes this efficient is that you don’t have to interrupt your workflow to get these ideas into Yojimbo. Rather, when inspiration hits, you can just drag the URL right from your browser to the side of your monitor where your Yojimbo folders sit, and plop it in the right one, and then get back to what you’re doing. Similarly, if you’re reading a document, you can hit the print function, and—in the same way you create a PDF—send the document to Yojimbo.

Ideas come and go so quickly that it’s imperative to capture them in a manner that both allows you to remember them, and doesn’t pull you away from what you’re working on at any given time.

I do hope that Yojimbo will add support for scanning documents directly into your Library—ala Yep. It would also be nice if you could pull in .png files, but these are relatively small complaints for an over-all very nice product.

Yojimbo is $39/$29 for individuals/educational.

igtd logol

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve been using iGTD for all of my GTD needs.

It’s an amazing app that really is about as full-featured as you could ask for. No matter how committed you are to GTD—full on contextualizing everything or just doing the 5-minute rule—iGTD will help you. It integrates nicely with QS, and—as with Yojimbo—allows you to quickly get your ideas/documents into a system without interrupting your workflow.

iGTD is free

omni logo

An app that many people are aware of, but may not be using as much as they should is OmniOutliner. This app comes bundled with most Macs, so you may already have it.

If you’re only using it occasionally (if at all) when you need to create an outline, I’d suggest you’re not using it enough.

It’s a GREAT note taking tool. Rather than fooling with the always wonky MS Word outline style, just try OmniOutliner out for a while. It’s far more intuitive than Word, and far more elegant in its approach. Like with so many things Microsoft, Word doesn’t get you quite where you need to be. And that gap between almost right and right is a huge productivity killer. OmniOutliner’s focus on doing one thing, and doing it well, makes it a joy to work with.

OmniOutliner is bundled free with some Macs. Versions run from $39 to $69.

hazel logo

One way to make sure information gets into its appropriate place is to set rules that force it to. Hazel is a very cool app that automatically files things away for you based on a set of rules. For instance, if you’re frequently downloading documents from a specific web site, you can instruct Hazel to take all the downloads from this specific URL and place them into a folder.

For students this is fantastic. They can make certain that everything they get from Blackboard, for example, goes into the right folder, rather than some random place on the desktop or amidst a thousand other files in your downloads folder.

That’s just one example of the types of rules you can create with Hazel to make certain that your information automatically finds its way to the right place. I’ve got about 50 rules set up to deal with everything from downloads to old documents to torrent files.

Hazel is $21.95

These applications save me an incredible amount of time every day. Equally importantly, they get stuff out of my brain/web ether and into a system. This not only allows me to act on them, but it also frees up space in my brain for new ideas to emerge.

I also sleep better.

I’ll post some thoughts on other productivity apps not related to idea/document capture soon.

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