Building your Toolbox

Automating important tasks and building Writer's Bloc

Hey there. These are my weekly musings on life, career, and writing.

Thank you so much for reading.


Thinking Loud

How much time do you waste each day?

And no, not the time one might spend blowing off obligations. The time that silently creeps away throughout the day.

A friend gave me some advice on this subject: Write down most, if not all of your tasks during a given week and review it regularly.

For best results, repeat this in perpetuity. You will begin to see trends. You’ll see these tasks that you complete day in and day out, that with a concerted effort, could be reduced immensely.

Before proceeding, I want to preface one thing. For some of you not as comfortable with technology, you might quickly think “well, that stuff is too complicated for someone like me.” I assure you, this stuff is pretty easy. And if after trying a bunch, you get stuck, I would be happy to help if you reached out. But understand, it seems more technical than it is. You got this.

How much time do you spend on back and forth scheduling something with someone? What if you had all of your availability on a calendar, and could send someone a link right away? I’ve done exactly what with Calendly, and now also have a shortcut to send a nice message (long or short depending on the relationship)

Using the application Alfred, it expands my text. There is some nuance on why I’m using Alfred, but it’s worth mentioning MacOS has a built in Text Expander.

With something like Alfred, you can inject Python scripts and do all sorts of other automations. To be more specific, you can do something as zany automatically opening up Twitter when you press F10. There’s an entire library of Alfred Workflows already built to save you time.

I listen to music all day while I’m working. I’m constantly fumbling for the Spotify app and deciding what to listen to. Then I’m getting distracted by the album art, etc.

Now, I can press one key and have access to my full library.

I know, this stuff sounds really small. But I promise it’s not. It’s the micro actions that we take each day that actually carry a lot of weight. It’s the ability to free our brain from unnecessary cognitive load so we can focus on other tasks at hand.

These are just two very small examples that will shave off minutes of frustration each day. But I also use these types of tools to automate my morning notes, organize my desktop, and more.

I gave you some good stuff to think about, but I think it’s important that you also begin to research and think on your own, too. Here are some tools to look at:

  • Zapier (I’ve used this professionally in most of my careers

  • Alfred (I’ve used this for quite some year now, but primarily for text expansion. It was only until recently that I actually opened myself up to the rest of it.)

  • Textexpander / alternatives (if you don’t want something quite like Alfred)

  • IFTTT (Similar to Zapier, lot of options)

If any of this seems overwhelming, start here:

  1. Write down what you spend your time on each day, for 7 days.

  2. Find the simple, brainless tasks (such as sending an invoice to a client, or a welcome email to a new customer)

  3. Google “How to perform [task] automatically”

  4. ??? Profit

Something Thoughtful

This past week, I read this story and was blown away. It’s a published article about a girl that fought off violent muggers to protect her phone. Not because she is addicted to her phone, but because it was the only way for her to show up for school each day. Had she not had her phone, there would have been no studying, no notes, and definitely no school.

Many of us take our technology for granted. Please let this serve a reminder for you as it did for me: appreciate what you have because others are quite literally fighting for it.

Weekend Adventures

Had a friend in again this weekend and had a total blast roaming around Colorado. Actually witnessed an incident after a protest involving riot police. Here are some pictures from the weekend.


Building Writer’s Bloc

The community is growing faster than I think we imagined originally. Which is incredibly exciting. After the formal Bloc we had last week, we all met this week to talk about the fear of publishing.

I’ve also finished our first round of Python bots, which are just Python scripts I have been working with a developer on over the past few weeks. I think they will bring a really fun, automated element to the community.

I’m going to say it again. I’m going to say it so many times that people might start to think it’s all that I believe. Community is the future of education and learning. I know this not only through the positive affirmation from the group, but I feel it in my own self development as well. I approach my writing entirely different than I did even just months ago.

Our community is profitable, but more importantly: I’m better because of it.

Cullin