Get more out of that expensive computer of yours

I’m not saying you and I should spend more time in front of our computers. I’m saying that while you’re there, you can make these things work harder for you.

Seriously, how much did that thing cost you? And you’re just switching it on to write in Word, check out Facebook and send the odd email?

Take a minute to just look into it a bit more. You spend a lot of time writing, for one thing: start there. Start with how no matter what word processor you use, I know that it is replete with shortcuts. You know how much, much, much faster it is to open a document by pressing Control-O on PCs or Command-O on Macs? There’s more. Google the name of your word processor and the phrase “keyboard shortcuts”. You will recoil at how many there are, but learn a couple of them now and they will become muscle memory.

This isn’t about teaching yourself something, not really, and it’s not even exactly about getting faster at the repetitive things you have to do on your computer. It’s about removing obstacles. Someone asked me recently about the whole Blank Screen thing and why I prattle on in workshops, books and online. Among many reasons – you know me, I can’t be concise – I remembered that I’d shown someone how to speed up a thing on her website.

I created a button for her which meant to write something on her site, she pressed that instead of schlepping through the most tortuous series of steps to get into where she could right. The result is that, yes, it’s quicker for her, but the real result and the reason I talk to you so much, is that because it’s quicker, she does it.

She does it more. She does it a lot. It is great to see her dusty old blog become this active, sparkling new thing.

My book goes as far into this as you usefully can while keeping you awake and more specific issues have cropped up in most mentoring sessions I do. I wouldn’t want to force you to become as technology dependent as I am – but you already are, you already have that computer, get more out of it.

I wanted to say this to you now because it’s on my mind and it’s part of a project I’m working on for later in the year. But you say something and then you realise it: do take a look at my Blank Screen mentoring service as this is just one thing you’ll find it good for.

How to use OmniFocus when you have to use Windows

If the To Do app OmniFocus ran on Windows and Android as well as Macs and iOS, I’d just wear an OmniFocus teeshirt and point at my chest when asked how to be more productive. But it doesn’t and, besides, I like talking. So instead I ask you what computer and phone you’re on and if it’s the right answer, I tell you about this gorgeous and transformative software. And if it isn’t, I used to go um. Now I go: take a look at this post on the excellent Asian Efficiency.

Well…you actually have a lot of options. Some workarounds are limited while others can make your workflow seamless. It really depends on the IT restrictions at work (firewall, forbidden web services, policies, etc) and how flexible you are.

None of these solutions are close to ideal (the best solution is to use a Mac at work) but some come pretty close. Some fixes only allow you to send stuff to OmniFocus (which is good enough for some people) whereas others want to use OmniFocus as their preferred task manager.

Just pick and choose the option that works for you. With that said, here are seven options available to you.

How to Integrate OmniFocus When You Have to Use Windows at Work – Thanh Pham, Asian Efficiency (27 June 2013)

Read the full piece for the seven answers. As they say, none are miracles but together a couple of them might be just right for you.

Windows PCs: 1Password updated to firm’s “1Passwordiest”

I have to say, 1Password 4 for Windows has been our 1Passwordiest yet. You’ve given us a ton of great feedback, so we’re back with our first big, free update.

To put it simply, you get more control over some of 1Password’s little details that make a big difference…

1Password 4.1 for Windows puts more control at your fingertips – David Chartier, Agile Blog (23 October 2014)

Read the full piece and links to get 1Password for Windows.

What to do when your computer slows down during a job

Buy a Mac. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Whatever type of computer you have, there comes a moment when you need to quickly do this particular thing or other and it is taking ages. I don’t know what happens now with Windows, but with a Mac it’s when you get that spinning beach ball.

Given that I keep saying you shouldn’t multitask, am I really going to say you should stay looking at that beach ball instead of going off to do something else?

A little bit.

Partly because, yes, multitasking is that bad for you. The time it takes you to switch over to a different task, mentally, is equal to the time it takes you to switch back and both times are huge. Much worse than you imagine.

So I would stare at the beach ball for a fair while before I’d be better off doing something else.

But there is another reason. Very often, if our computer is slow saving a Word document, say, then we’ll nip over to Mail on it. And now that’s slow. So we just open that graphic that we need to tweak in Photoshop. And what do you know, dammit, now Photoshop is slow.

Whatever was causing the original slow down, we are compounding it by turning to different tasks on our computer. So if we’d just stood sitting there, we wouldn’t be distracted, we wouldn’t be slowing down our computer and we wouldn’t therefore be getting frustrated at how everything seems slow now.

I just don’t know how long to give that.

I do know that sometimes I should really restart the whole machine and that if I do, things will work better. Taking the time to restart is hard but it can be worth it, you can repay that time soon.

But in the meantime, here’s a shorter answer to the problem: try a little patience, it’s worth the effort.

Put – the – PC – down and let’s talk about this


Admit it: Sometimes you just want to punch your PC, or slap your smartphone, or knock your notebook.

We all get riled by technology once in a while, with all those feeble batteries, endless updates and spinning wheels of death.

But what if our devices could see it coming? What if they could pick up the tics and tells of our brewing anger — or, for that matter, any other emotion — and respond accordingly?

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. To hear experts tell it, this is where technology is going. Researchers and companies are already starting to employ sensors that try to read and respond to our feelings.

Devices that Know How We Really Fee – New York Times (May 4, 2014)


It’s a discussion that comes up a lot. I’ve even joked about it in my book, The Blank Screen (UK edition, US edition). Every time it happens, it’s started by someone who dislikes Apple and they always say:

Macs are overpriced

And I or probably anyone who likes Apple, tells a tale something like mine:

My previous Mac lasted me seven years. I still use it for some jobs. Over that same period, X or Y replaced their PCs three times. Tell me what’s the better value.

I’m not sure which disappoints me more: the ease with which I come out with all this stuff or the ease with which people say Macs are overpriced. It’s the word overpriced: if they’d said expensive or just straight out that they cost more than PCs, I’d be nodding along with them. Well, there’s the stuff about MacBook Air knockoffs, how they still aren’t cheaper. But generally, Macs are more expensive than PCs.

It’s just that word overpriced.

That really disappoints me.

You can get a word processor for free now. So people call ones that cost £6.99 overpriced. They mean it costs more, they think it’s expensive – seriously? £6.99 for something you’ll earn your living using? – but they say overpriced. The word is used because it sounds better than calling the cheaper one cheaper. It implies a professional judgement: all things have been considered and that one is overpriced.

Anyone who disagrees has been consumed by the cult of Apple whereas you, the one making this overpriced judgement, are the sole voice of sanity.



Macs are cheaper than PCs therefore Macs are overpriced

Shoes are cheaper than cars therefore cars are overpriced

Hey, they both get you where you’re going, don’t they? But you look at that second one, you think I’m a smartarse, and you know shoes can’t do the same job as a car. That’s actually what I think when I look at the first line: PCs can’t do the same job as a Mac. You can disagree and there is every chance you will, but it doesn’t matter: that’s how I see it when I’m spending the money. All that matters is what you, specifically you, need. You’re thinking money matters too and it surely does, but:

If you love PCs and Windows, you have oodles of choice and you’re going to get a very cheap computer. I can’t see a single thing wrong with that.

If you don’t love PCs and Windows, why would you buy one? When you don’t like them, then the sole reason is price and I can see only wrong things with that. You’re choosing, you are electing to buy a computer you know you won’t like. That’s not a saving over a Mac, it is a waste of money. It’s one of the worst wastes, I think, because you then have to live with it every day you’re working.

I’m sure I’ll buy another Mac some day but when I do, I will be pricing it against what I need it for and what it will do for me. I won’t be comparing it to a PC.

I do thoroughly believe that you need to get the computer that works best for you and if that’s a PC, that’s a PC. I think I’m in a fortunate position that I’ve worked extensively with both so I know what works for me.

Buy a Mac, buy a PC, it’s completely up to you. But can we skip the bollocks about overpriced vs cheap and just get back to work?