Removing friction

Last week’s post was about frictionless and structureless this week I wanted to share few thoughts about reducing the friction when using different tool. Such friction inevitably arises when you want transfer information between two or more services.
I use a fair number of application both webapps and desktop programs. Majority of programs and applications don’t talk to each other which makes leveraging different tools difficult. In most instances you need to resort to good old copy&past which is manual and time consuming and to put it simply is a great hassle. Fortunately there are ways to remove or rather reduce this friction in different aspects of your computer usage. Perhaps some of them will appear very lifehack-y but hey they work and let me save time and streamline different things that I do.

friction on the web – ifttt.com

I have recently moved from Instatpaper to Pocket as my repository of read later items mainly because of better integration with Firefox and Android phone. As consequence of that I’ve lost ability to automatically save interesting articles to Pinboard and to post to Twitter. Fortunately there is a webapp which allows you to connect different online services . It’s truly astonishig product and it’s even more surprising that it remains free -it’s called ifttt.com. There are dozens or more applications you can connect to and generate different actions for form email, sms, weather to Evernote, Dropbox, Instagram to name just a few.

Going back to my initial problem with replicating Instapaper functionality thanks to ifttt.com, I not only  managed to fully replicate it and even enhance it. Every time I mark an article as read it will be saved to Pinboard including the tags which saves me from doing it in Pinboard. As result I have two places which work as an archive of stuff I read. If I don’t want to save the article I simply delete it.

friction on the computer – Belvedere

Another way to improve your experience on computer is to automate file management. A program that will let you do that is called Belvedere. It’s a small application that runs in the background and observes folders and files for changes that match certain criteria like name, date modified ect. Once they are met Belvedere will move, delete, copy etc. How I take advantage of Belvedere?

Managing file is not my favourite thing and if you could see my downloads folder you will see why. I have dozens of pdfs, images, text files, videos all from months ago. They looked interesting once but now I rarely know why are they there. To tame this folder I have a little Belveder rule which deletes files after certain amount of time. I decided there is no point in letting this folder to grow and if I really need something again I can always find it.

Another way I leverage Belveder is to manage my writing. All blog posts I’m working on are in plain text in a Drobox folder. Once the post is done I add a “published[tip]” prefix to the name. When Belveder sees this file it moves it to my Archive folder. No manual filing navigating though folder etc.

One thing I’ve learned about the program is to run Belveder as administrator as this provides best results. At the moment I’m just scratching the surface with the possibilities that this program has to offer.

If you are looking for some more ideas about automating file management I suggest you listed to Mac Power Users podcast episode 79. David and Katie talk about Hazel a Mac’s more advanced alternative to Belveder. Well worth it of 1,5h of your time.

friction with typing – PhraseExpress

The final element of removing friction that I wanted to share in this post is text entry and specifically ways for automating repetitive writing. For that purpose I’m using a program called PhraseExpress which lets you save pieces of text and actions that can be executed after specific key combination or text typed. Here how it works, rather than type full email address or other piece of text I type two, three letters and PharesExpress automatically makes relevant entry.
Personally I use this program to remove friction in two places: First is to automate text entry, this includes predefined responses, inputting time, date, email addresses and certain keywords that I use in Evernote. Second place I use it for is to automate accessing files. I have a number of files that I want to open quickly so I created a few keyboard shortcuts and phrases that launch those files in an instant. One thing I had to be wary of conflicts as different applications and programs have different sets of shortcuts so it’s not that difficult to invoke a function you didn’t want.

Hope this post gave you a good overview on how to automate some of your workflows and remove unnecessary friction and clicking.

I would love to know what I your own ways of removing friction? Please share them in the comments.

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