Tag Archives: Shawn Blanc

Agreeing With The Essence While Disagreeing With The Details

It’s a difficult thing when someone you respect speaks out against something you’ve been seriously considering.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out two things: how to move forward with the work I’ve been doing online and what to do about the work I’ve already created. Just when I finally felt like I figured things out, Shawn Blanc had to go and make some truly excellent points about attempting to evolve your future work by eliminating your current project.

As he puts it:

Recently I was talking with a friend who was considering deleting his weblog and starting all over. Tossing his archives into the trash, changing the domain, and re-focusing on the sort of writing that he most wants to do.

His premise was that a new domain and new “brand” would help set the tone for the new voice he wants to write with. And that by trashing his archives of the work he’s written so far, there will be nothing on his new site which he’s embarrassed about. Nothing juvenile or off topic.

I told him he was being silly and then linked him to this article by Zeldman where he writes: “If your old work doesn’t shame you, you’re not growing.”

Now this is a damn fine point and one that gave me pause. While embarrassment isn’t really the issue here, there are plenty of parallels between what Shawn describes and my current situation. Essentially I’ve been planning to move on from a current project in order to focus on a similar one. Before reading this, I was not only ready, but actively preparing to completely shutter a multi-year project in order to focus on something new. But what do I do now that someone whose advice and instincts I trust has suggested the exact opposite?

Consider What Others Are Saying, But Don’t Always Follow The Exact Advice

All too often, we read blogs, listen to podcasts, and seek out books and advice to find answers. We’re not sure what to do and we hope that someone we respect will know what’s best. There’s nothing wrong with this, but occasionally we let our respect for others (and our own fears) replace, rather than inform, our own opinions and instincts. This is never the writer’s intent; it’s just a common reaction to a well thought-out point. There’s no harm in seeking inspiration, but it can be dangerous to take the advice of others as gospel.

Here’s an alternative approach that I’ve always found useful. Use advice that contradicts your current course of action or line of thinking to first challenge and then strengthen your own thoughts. There’s a temptation to either embrace everything they’ve said or dismiss it. Don’t. Take a step back, think about what they’ve said and then consider if they are right. If you still feel like they aren’t, don’t just move on. Try to figure out what gave you pause and what they may be right about or hinting at that caused you to question your current approach.

Ignore the details that do not fit, but question how the essence might help improve your own thinking.

In my case, I’ve created a situation where I have two sites—A Better Mess and Workflowing—yet have come to the realization that I only have the bandwidth to effectively create for one. Shawn’s advice and conventional wisdom would probably lead me to keep A Better Mess, a site I’ve spent years building, while backing down from the newer project. Upon reading his thoughts, I found it easy to build a case to refine what’s already working rather than reinventing it. But even as I found myself agreeing with what Shawn was saying, I still felt that the better course of action would be to shelve something I’ve spent years creating to focus on a project that I believe is a better fit for my future.

As much as I agreed with much of what he said, the advice wasn’t an exact fit (it wasn’t aimed at my exact situation, after all). Embarrassment isn’t what’s causing me to want to make this move. Don’t get me wrong, A Better Mess has plenty of pieces I’m embarrassed by, but it’s also a project I love, and I am extremely proud of the work as a whole. But it has come to feel limiting. It was a project I created to help myself. I wanted to capture my struggle to get things done and chronicle my attempt to improve. It’s a very real struggle and one I continue to face, but it’s not the site I want to be writing right now.

As it says on the site:

A Better Mess serves as a journal or record of one ADHD-addled mess (that’s me!) to find the best way to do the best possible work.

As I’ve grown, my interest in the the way we work has moved beyond my own difficulties, and my focus has shifted away from the first part of that previous mission. Today I’m far more focused on finding the best way to do the best possible work.

Now could I evolve this site to meet that mission? You bet. But everything in me tells me I’m better off doing that on a platform that is better suited to the mission. One that wasn’t created to achieve a similar, yet different goal.

So, What Happens Next?

This will be the last post on A Better Mess.

Over the next few days, I will be rolling over the site’s feed to Workflowing. If you like what I’ve written here, you’ll like what I write there. If not, it’s very easy to unsubscribe. Unlike A Better Mess, Workflowing will look to share and create work that looks to help others to do better, not just me.

Even though I will be moving on, Shawn’s right. I shouldn’t dismiss my old work by destroying what I’ve built here. There’s nothing to be embarrassed of, even the embarrassing stuff. I need to figure out what I’ll do with this site and the work I’ve created for it (even if that is just leaving it up and leaving it alone), but it will live on in some way, warts and all.

That said, I still plan to focus on Workflowing. I want to give my future work what I believe to be the best possible chance for success. A Better Mess means the world to me, but from a personal standpoint, it’s also run its course. In the same way that attempting to erase previous “embarrassing” work will hold you back, so will clinging to the work you’ve outgrown.

I cannot thank those of you enough who have been kind enough to spend your time and attention here. I also hope you’ll follow along or at least stick around to see what comes next.

Essential OmniFocus Scripts and Workflows

Who is this for? New or beginner OmniFocus users looking for best practices and basic tricks.

Note: This post is a running list and will continue to be updated with new options. There will also be another list for geeky workflows coming soon.

OmniFocus Walkthrough Videos — MacSparky

This video series from David Sparks is the single best place to get started with OmniFocus, even though it clocks in at four hours (spread across three videos) it is well worth the time and gets you started on the right the right foot. If you don’t think it’s worth the time to watch these videos, you probably don’t need OmniFocus.

OopsieFocus Script — Shawn Blanc

A task manager is only as good as it is reliable. If you close OmniFocus, it won’t react when you use the quick entry or clipper. Thankfully Shawn Blanc solved this problem with a single script. Once installed, OmniFocus will respond every single time you call it.

Templates.scpt — pxldot

There have been a few ways to create templates for frequently created projects in OmniFocus, but this is by far the best and most robust option.

How to get all of your crap into OmniFocus

This post and screencast from yours truly will give you an overview of just how easy it is to create tasks from text, websites, files, emails and Evernote notes.

My OmniFocus Setup

An in-depth look at how I use OmniFocus to get things done. There are several ways to make the most out of this application, this is mine.

OmniFocus Premium Posts by Asian Efficiency

This premium product is a great option for those looking for hand holding while getting started with OmniFocus. It’s ideal for those who want a better way to manage their tasks and projects, but perhaps aren’t entirely married to David Allen’s GTD.

Using OmniFocus by Kourosh Dini

Those who prefer the GTD framework would be better served by Kourosh Dini’s Creating Flow with OmniFocus. It’s well written, very in-depth and there’s also an audiobook option.

The OmniFocus Setup

There are several great videos from The OmniFocus setup that took place during Macworld. If you only plan to watch a few, start with Sven Fechner’s “A Fresh Take on Contexts” and David Sparks’ “Do Stuff!”.

Download OmniFocus for Mac, iPhone or iPad.

Great Resources

This Year

This year, more than any other, I found mentors. I sought out people who represent qualities I admire, strive for and struggle to achieve.

This year, I set my sights on learning everything I could from them.

This year, I learned more from the people around me.

People like Myke Hurley, who works so hard to hone his craft.

Aaron Mahnke who has cultivated so many skills and talents.

Brett Terpstra who creates and ships in the face of distractibility.

Patrick Rhone who is just so damn thoughtful.

David Sparks who makes doing it all seem possible.

Stephen Hackett who shares difficult things with grace and ease.

Shawn Blanc who shows that, with intent, you can find success on your own terms.

Matt Alexander who doesn’t shy from his opinions, no matter how controversial.

Brett Kelly who is just so frigging good at being himself.

Andrew Carroll who makes success not only seem simple, but doable.

C.J. Chilvers who trusts in his beliefs, but can hear the alternative.

Gabe Weatherhead who cares deeply about the right things, and is damn funny.

Yuvi Zalkow who pushes through self-doubt and makes something beautiful out of it.

Nick Wynja who is just annoyingly impressive.

Justin Lancy who doesn’t fear the change needed to accomplish his goals.

Gini Dietrich who gives and sacrifices greatly to do great things.

Jason Rehmus who shows that it’s not always the loudest of us that have the strongest point of view.

Randy Murray who does the work and pushes us all to do the same.

And, much as I hate to admit it, Mike Vardy who takes risks, but makes smart choices (and puts up with me, which is no easy feat).

This year, I didn’t try to learn from afar. I worked hard to get up close. I attempted (often in vain) to play at their level. To be their peer and, in many cases, to be their friend.

This year, I didn’t just spend time on the Internet, I invested in the people who work there and attempted to work along side them.

This year, I’m proud of what I created and what I learned. I’m proud of what I did and who I continue to become. I’m proud of the mistakes I made and the lessons I learned. And most of all, I’m thankful to those that helped me along the way, on the web, at work and most of all, at home.

This year was a great one. And next year, well, next year I’m going to keep doing everything in my power to make it even better.

How was this year for you? What did you do that you’re proud of and more importantly, what are you going to do to ensure that next year is even better?

The Three Things #13

The Three Things, is a weekly series where Gini Dietrich from Spin Sucks, Howie Goldfarb and myself share the one thing that captured our attention and that we believe to be worthy of yours.

Inbox Intentions — Shawn Blanc

Michael on Scaling Back: I’m yet to write this up, but one of the best things I’ve done this month (and likely this year) is assess and adjust my digital usage. I’ve been scaling back and realigning the way I use tools such as email and social media to better fit my life. While I plan to talk more about my approach and where I ended, all I can tell you is that the process has helped me remember what I love most about both. For those who may want to take a moment at the end of the year to determine where things such as email might fit into your own life, Shawn Blanc has assembled the thoughts of several great thinkers while adding a few of his own. Recommended reading for anyone who’s starting to feel the weight of an overloaded inbox and a bloated digital presence.

Anonymous Hacks the Westboro Baptist Church

Howie on Internet Power: I find it fascinating groups such as WikiLeaks and Anonymous exist. That the Internet allows the average person or hacker to form groups to balance the power of governments. It is the media’s fault hate groups such as Westboro Baptist are known in the world. They don’t shoot or steal. They just picket. They have freedom of speech. We all know that for every Westboro or Rush Limbaugh there are 1,000 hate groups or racists. It is great to see people power coming together using the Internet as forces of good (my opinion) who fight for transparency or fairness. Otherwise we are at the mercy of forces beyond us as individuals to do anything to fight the good fight.

Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me with Martha Stewart

Gini on Comebacks: No matter how you feel about Martha Stewart, you have to respect the fact that she built an empire around crafts and recipes and homemaker-y things, went to jail for insider trading, and came back to build even more net worth. This is one of the best interviews I’ve ever heard and it’s on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me so you know it’s really good (and funny). When she talks about how to get pomegranate seeds out of a pomegranate, you will laugh out loud.

Be sure to subscribe for free by Email or RSS to automatically receive future editions of The Three Things series and more from A Better Mess.

Look Next To You, Not Up

Aaron Mahnke is damn smart. I don’t say this just because I like him, I say it because I respect what he’s built. And no, I’m not talking about Frictionless, or his Capture Cards, or his design work, or his books (all of which force me to look at exactly how productive I’m not). I’m talking about Read and Trust, one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen anyone build. It’s something we should all learn from.

While many of us are busy trying desperately to get the attention of those above us, Aaron did exactly what the rest of us never do. He looked beside himself rather than looking above. Instead of trying to get the attention of his heroes (well, who knows, he may have done that as well…), he looked to his colleagues and put his energy into making something amazing with them.

So What Is Read and Trust?

At its core, Read and Trust is a monthly magazine (formally a weekly newsletter) that a hell of a lot more of you should be paying for, but it’s bigger than that. It’s a tight-knit network and a support system that lcontributed to the growth of a bunch of my favorite people writing on the internet. It was a rising tide that lifted all boats. And while I’m not on the inside of it, I’d imagine it was a group of writers who have pushed one another to get better.

Guys like Mahnke, Brett Kelly, Randy Murray, Dave Caolo, Stephen Hackett, Matt Alexander, Brett Terpstra, Shawn Blanc, David Sparks, Patrick Rhone and everyone on the Read and Trust roster inspire the hell out of me. I admire the crap out of them, but they’re a step up the ladder. They’ve been at it longer and they’ve worked damn hard to get where they are. I learn a lot from all of them, but if I’m being honest, I probably spend too much of my time trying to get their attention and not enough working closely with those who are exactly where I’m sitting and are anxious, just as I am, to get to the next level.

What Can You Build?

There’s power in knowing where you are on the food chain; there’s power to finding those who are sitting right there next to you. What can you build with them? How can you help them? What are you doing to get to know them better? I very well may be romanticizing Read and Trust, but I find myself thinking of what Aaron has built and believe that more of us need to be doing the same. The best possible way to get to the next level is to team up with those at your own level and make something amazing together.

Want To Be Inspired?

Speaking of something amazing, as I mentioned earlier, Aaron is relaunching what were once my beloved weekly Read and Trust newsletters as a monthly magazine. It’s a beautiful product, inside and out and I urge you to give it a shot. You can download a free issue with articles from Shawn Blanc, Brett Terpstra, David Sparks, Randy Murray and Adam King, purchase individual issues or, better yet, subscribe to receive monthly issues of the magazine and support something special.

Read and Trust Magazine Giveaway

So before you go checkout your first issue, let me ask you this… who’s standing next to you and what you can do together to start rising your own tides?

Note: This post includes affiliate links, but shameless as I am, I actually wrote this before I knew that there was an affiliate program…

Sending Multiple Safari Tabs to OmniFocus

From Shawn Blanc:

Sometimes the number of tabs I have open in Safari gets ahead of me, and I find myself with a few dozen sites waiting for my attention but I’m out of time. Or perhaps I’ve got several tabs open for a current project I’m working on but I need a break from working on that project. Or maybe I’ve got so many tabs open that Safari starts taking up more than its fair share of CPU resources.

Well, here’s a clever little AppleScript that grabs all the open tabs in Safari’s frontmost window and creates a new to-do item in your OmniFocus Inbox with the Title and URL of each tab listed out within the task’s note.

I’ve been looking for a way to do this and have already managed to put this trick to good use. I made a minor change so that my list of links opens in the Quick Entry box rather than automatically dropping the task into my OmniFocus Inbox. This lets me name the file and provide any additional information, thus avoiding the inevitable case where I find myself staring at my inbox having completely forgotten why I copied the links in the first place…

You can download my Keyboard Maestro macro here or checkout the original version over at ShawnBlanc.net.

Hat tip to Justin at Veritrope

The Apple Updates That Matter To Regular People

While all of us geeks dance and sing about USB 3, Retina displays and 0.71″, there are other humans… regular humans, who couldn’t humanly care less. While I’m ready to give up at least one, if not both of our kids for the MacBook Pro with Retina display for no other reason other than I really, really want one, it doesn’t change much for the everyday Apple user (read: normal people1).

Let’s look at everything Apple announced and what it might mean to everyday users:

MacBook Air and Pro Updates

This will make no difference to anyone other than us (and I’m not even sure that all that many of us are tempted). The biggest possible impact is the availability of larger SSD drives which might appeal to digital pack-rats. All of the updates are great; none of them change anything.

MacBook Pro with Retina display

Tempting, damn sexy but really, really, really expensive. As the price comes down and the screen quality comes to the MacBook Air, this will be a huge deal. Today, it will be a drool-worthy purchase for those whose wives are better than mine and are willing to sell off a child. As I shared yesterday, Devir Kahan makes the best possible argument, explaining:

This really seems like the first real professional-grade portable machine. This is the sort of thing that really makes me consider going laptop only (with a Cinema display for at home).

He is also right that long-term, this is the future of all laptops, but for right now this is every geek’s fantasy and an every-person’s unnecessary luxury.

OS X Mountain Lion

Shawn Blanc really got this right before the keynote went live. There are tons of tiny details that will make life better, but iCloud is the one that will make life different. Geeks have spent years stringing together synced notes, reminders, contacts, calendars and most importantly files (we do love our Dropbox). With Mountain Lion, Apple took all of the fear, confusion and most important of all, work out of this for everyone else with iCloud. We’ve been heading this way for a while, but with Mountain Lion, everyone, even technophobes just became a whole lot geekier without having to actually get geekier (you lucky bastards). I still have my concerns as to Apple’s competency when it comes to the cloud, but the ease of synchronization across all Apple devices will be a major temptation when Mountain Lion arrives next month.

If it is as easy and prevalent as it looks, Dictation on the Mac has the potential to be huge. It will all come down to execution here (e.g. how well it plays with long-form writing, how easy it is to activate and deactivate), but it seems like a no-brainer for quick bursts of text such as quick email responses, Tweets and Facebook status updates. And while we’re on the subject of Facebook, as much as the geeks will hate this, the rest of humanity will love these features, both on OS X and when they come to iOS 6.

iOS 6

Speaking of Apple’s mobile OS, I’m hoping that there will be a lot more to see here when the next iPhone is launched, as what we saw was a bit of a disappointment. Sure it has a lot of small touches (the Phone app updates look great, Passbook has monster potential and as I said, Facebook integration will please everyone but the geeks who hate Facebook), but there was little that was game-changing here. Many will disagree and hail the new maps and turn-by-turn directions as innovative, but anyone who has been dying for GPS probably already has one. FaceTime over cellular is interesting, but few use it even when on WiFi. I could be wrong, but I don’t think cellular access will do much to increase activity here. The new Siri features are nice, but limited, and Apple still didn’t address the biggest issue: it’s dependability (or more accurately, its lack thereof.)2. I’m hoping that the keynote will serve as more of a tease before we see the new phone later this year. That said, I have a feeling that we just saw the majority of what’s to come in iOS 6.

Geeky rant (’cause I just can’t help myself): While I would have loved to see updates to the homescreen and springboard, what I was really hoping to see here was better API’s for Siri (the ability to change which apps Siri uses for existing functions like reminders would have been a nice start) and deeper integration between 3rd party and Apple’s own applications (JUST LET ME USE TEXTEXPANDER WITH THE MAIL APP AND I’LL SHUT UP ALREADY). I figured that getting both of these would be a long shot, but was hoping we would see one or the other with iOS 6.

On the long-term front, the fact that Apple is unifying our cell number with our Apple ID is interesting to say the least (and if I was a phone carrier, I might just go as far to say concerning). The ability to take phone calls on our Mac and iPad diminishes the importance of the phone carriers and sets up some interesting possibilities for the future.

My geeky griping aside, Monday seemed like a great day for Apple users. It’s a continuation of steady, iterative improvements to their hardware and software as well as yet another step in the collision of their mobile and desktop platforms. While I don’t think it really changes much of anything, that’s ok, because it continues to make everything just a little bit better. Which is usually all that the average Mac user is really looking and hoping for.

What do you think about the latest updates and offerings from Apple?


  1. And no, I’m not insinuating that Windows users aren’t normal, I’m just limiting the scope of this particular post.  

  2. Not that they were likely to address this publicly.