TaskPaper: Next Actions search query

Last week, Matt Gemmell included six searches when he shared his OmniFocus-inspired TaskPaper theme. I noticed that the “Next Actions” search includes the first line of the project, even if it’s a note.

Next Actions @search(project *//((not @done\) and (not @search\)\)[0])

I usually have a line or two of notes in my projects in Things, so this wouldn’t work if I need to display the single next task for each project.1

The following change adds the desired item type, which means the next task (not note) will be displayed for all of your projects:

Next Actions (improved) @search(project *//((not @done\) and (not @search\) and (@type = task\)\)[0])

You can see more details on Formatting Queries in the TaskPaper User’s Guide.


  1. I’m migrating from Things to TaskPaper 3. More to come about that process in the next post. 

Considering TaskPaper 3

Since April 2012, I’ve been a fan of Things as my task manager.1 I haven’t pondered venturing away—until TaskPaper 3. Here’s where my rabbit hole began:

I imagine that navigating through plain text in TaskPaper will be much quicker than going through the menus in an app like Things.2

My goal: see how switching a major part of my GTD system to plain text files affects my productivity, and speeds up weekly reviews. I’m also extremely interested in the power of saved searches. Thirdly, Matt Gemmell shared a TaskPaper theme that, in his words, mimics the aesthetic of OmniFocus.3

Ooh.


  1.  I have eight posts tagged about Things
  2. Yes, there are keyboard shortcuts for Things—which I use heavily—and TaskPaper. 
  3.  I haven’t used OmniFocus, but I’m aware many use it as their task manager of choice. See also: Omnifocus Field Guide by MacSparky, and “My Perspectives in OmniFocus 2” by Brett Kelly

Merlin Mann discusses GTD on Back to Work

Why would you use a source of input as a way to decide how to spend your day?

Merlin discusses GTD with Dan Benjamin in their podcast, Back to Work: 261: The Illusion of Ease (starting at 1:23:00). I’ve listened to this several times. Super insightful, and perfect timing in combination with my earlier post, Keep todos out of Slack.

They also reference earlier episodes that were great, so here’s a search at 5by5 for podcasts referencing GTD.

P.S. If I don’t have weekly reviews, I’m not following GTD.

Keep your todos out of Slack

I read through a P2 thread at work discussing Slack and productivity, and figured I should share my thoughts and practices here.

These were some ideas mentioned for Slack messages:

  • Star if you need to take action.
  • Mark as unread until you respond.
  • Open the Slack archive page in a browser window.
  • Slackbot reminders.

I’ve done the first two, but these all blur the primary purpose of Slack: communication and collaboration.

Embrace your task manager and calendar. When used properly, these are your spam-free lists of time-specific events, todos, and projects. When I’m unsure what I should be doing next, I check these.

Embrace your inbox, and “empty” it often

A colleague asks for a favor that isn’t time-sensitive while you’re in the middle of something. What do I do?

Next, designate a few blocks of time daily to clarify the items in your Inbox3, which leads to organizing them out of your inbox. 😉

Now what?

When you need to settle down for deep work, communicate that with your team, then work from your calendar and task manager!


Also highly recommended: The five steps of GTD Methodology


  1. Reference — Quick Entry for: OmniFocus, Todoist, Wunderlist (called “Quick Add” 
  2. This could also be a prompt to gain clarification. For example, “Ask David for sanity check re: documentation update”. 
  3. See also: Battle To-Do Debt 

Workflow: Alfred and DMCA predefs at Automattic

In November 2014, my pal and colleague, Clicky Steve, posted at Transparency Report for Automattic, “Open Sourcing Our DMCA Process“:

[…] we are pleased to announce that today we are open sourcing our DMCA process docs on GitHub – under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

[…] there is also a comprehensive set of detailed ‘predefined replies’ that we use when corresponding with both users and complainants in specific situations.

For awhile, I had these saved as Snippets in Alfred, which meant I couldn’t easily share those with my team.

So, I made an Alfred workflow with the DMCA snippets I use most frequently:

screen shot a8c dmca predefs.png

When using the predefined reply To User → Processed Notice, we’re working with two browser tabs because we create a new ticket to the site owner.

After I confirm the notice is valid and process the takedown request, I do the following:

  1. Copy the text of the DMCA notice from the complainant, then press Control–Tab to switch to the new ticket in the other browser tab.
  2. Clicking in the body of the message, I summon Alfred ( ⌘–Spacebar ), enter the keyword dmca.b.proc, then press Enter.

How’d I save time?

  • Since I have the {clipboard} dynamic placeholder (Alfred) inserted where the complainant’s notice needs to be pasted, it saves me the motion of another copy-paste. Estimate: 5 seconds.
  • I don’t have to navigate through our ticket system snippets by trackpad. Estimate: 5 seconds.

Save ten seconds per notice — I’ll take it!

Assuming I don’t have any blockers for uploading the Alfred workflow to Automattic, I’ll work on sharing it in the near future. 🙂

Using a Productivity Journal

I listened to the following podcast a couple of times today, and it features Mike Vardy and Shawn Blanc:

The Fizzle Show, episode 99: 2 Experts Share Exactly How to Use a Productivity Journal (& Increase Productivity by 23%)

At the end of each workday, Mike writes a freeform journal entry in Day One. His intent is to describe what did or didn’t work, then describe whatever is next. Minimal friction.

This time investment gives him a head start for weekly reviews. I dig!


Initially, I set five reminders1 in Day One for iOS. Then, I moved three work-specific reminders to Day One on my Mac, and kept two other on my iPhone.

To simplify, I’ll try writing daily in the evening — tagged “Daily Review” — with the help of a scheduled todo in Apple’s Reminders app.2

My goals for developing this new habit are to help me:

  • Summarize what I’ve done for the week more quickly (versus reviewing my Logbook in Things and my calendars).
  • Make weekly/monthly/yearly reviews less daunting.

  1. Three reminders for work (beginning, middle, and end of each day), then two personal. That’s too much, even at five minutes a pop. 
  2. This should be a calendar entry. Since I could punt it for a few minutes/hours (when needed), I’d rather not see it on my calendar. I’ll experiment! 🙂