Trusted Systems

My body has a cute little tradition it likes to observe: I always get sick just in time to start at a new place. I’ve just finished the first week at my new job and I’m exhausted.

My week was made much more enjoyable, however, by these tools:


I can’t even begin to imagine how confused I would be at this point without the benefit of Omnifocus for Mac. Every single thing I had to do this week went straight into Omnifocus as soon as possible. So I didn’t spend Thursday scratching my head and wondering what exactly that task I’d been given on Tuesday was. I already knew exactly what it was, when it was due, and what needed to happen before I could do it. Not only that, but I had one-click access to any related emails or files.

I’ve put in so much time with Omnifocus that using it — and relying on it implicitly — has become second nature. It’s become the iron backbone of every project I attempt.

Field Notes

Email — a major source of a lot of tasks and information — is exceedingly easy to process into my “productivity system” using the Omnifocus Mail Clipper.1 Outside of that, there are still a lot of circumstances where I find it easier to get things down on paper before I process them into actions, projects, or reference material. You just can’t beat pen and paper for quickly getting things down.

When it comes to useful, attractive notebooks that you’ll want to use, you just can’t beat Field Notes. There’s so much to love about these that I feel a larger post coming on, but for now I’ll keep it to a few bullets:

  • They have just enough pages to be useful, but not enough to make them feel like some precious journal, so you’re not afraid to scribble on them, and you get through them fast enough that they’re mostly relevant. They are thin enough to really carry anywhere.

  • I use my own kind of specific notation system when writing in them which is somewhere between Patrick Rhone’s Dash/Plus system and the Bullet Journal system. Basically: bullets are information, boxes are tasks. I evolved this way of writing things down to specifically make it easy to move the information on to another system, whether it be Omnifocus or text notes in nvALT. However, either of the above systems are better documented and probably better thought out, so I’d recommend them both.

  • I use the Expedition edition notebooks which use a dot-grid. I’m nearly out, and I’ll almost certainly be buying a bunch more.

Fisher Space Pen

The best way I’ve found to always have a pen handy. They write like the dickens, especially on the Expedition notebooks. It’s the one pen that’s never failed me. I use a black Bullet Space Pen.

Tom Bihn Smart Alec

I’ve been using this bag for about a month now. It’s brilliant — the best bag I’ve ever owned. It’s incredibly flexible due to its modular nature. I’ll definitely be writing more about this bag. I mean, Ben Brooks still is, a couple of years later.

Smoothing the way

So what’s the point of listing all these things, awesome as they might be?

I suppose what I’m driving at is this: I’ve really been struck this week by the value of trusted systems and gear. If you put in the effort up front, it really can pay off.

It’s not about the things. If your life is about things you’re never going to be satisfied. But having useful tools that make your life easier or help you work better and smarter is the ideal. This week I was able to concentrate, learn more, use my energy more intelligently, and produce better results, because the tools I used smoothed out a lot of possible frictions.

  1. This allows you to set up a hotkey to quickly create actions from messages in