Investing in Skills

I’m pretty comfortable on the command line. I can move about, issue commands, edit my profile, pipe things around, all that. However — and I’m probably supposed to admit this with a little shame — I’ve never really learned how to write shell scripts. Usually I’d write a Python script, a small command line app, or hack something together with Automator. It did the same job, but not being able to write a bash script from scratch felt like kind of a blind spot.

I decided to work on that.

In order to get from the can-competently-get-by level to the can-do-magic level I started reading a book on the topic, and set aside a few others I want to follow it up with. It’s been kind of a blast so far. I already knew how to program, and I can use command line tools well, so this has sort of been like taking two things I already knew and putting them together. made things a lot easier than if I were starting from zero. Even after just a couple days, I was able to put together little scripts to do useful things. It’s neat.

Recently I read the book So Good They Cant Ignore You by Cal Newport. If you haven’t read it: you should. It’s fantastic. The big idea is that “follow your passion” is actually terrible career advice. Most people don’t know what they’re passionate about before they start, and only find that passion later once they’ve developed skills in an area. According to the book, the better advice is to focus on doing the best work you can in a field with potential for growth, and the passion will come later.

Another thing he mentions in the book is how most people get good enough at whatever they’re doing, and then kind of stop learning. What that means though, is that if you you actually take even a little time to purposefully practice and improve your skills, you’ll blow past most people who don’t bother. Filling in some of the blanks in my developer skill set feels like a good investment.

The “Unsubscribe” Mailbox for Apple Mail

I don’t know how I’ve ended up on so many mailing lists for products I don’t care about, but I am. I created this “Smart Mailbox” for finding any emails I’m receiving that can be unsubscribed to that aren’t archived. It works pretty well.

  • Contains messages that match all of the following:
    • Entire Message — Contains — “Unsubscribe”
    • Message is not in Mailbox — “Archive”

Spreadsheets Are Cool

I’m not accountant, I don’t financially analyzing anything besides my personal budget, and I have almost no occasion in my work to ever use one, but I get excited about pretty much any time I can think of a use for a spreadsheet. There’s a lot of times where a spreadsheet can replace an app made to do the same thing. A lot of the time the spreadsheet will be even better, because it’ll be customized to just the fields you need. Plus Numbers/Google/Office all sync now — which isn’t at all a given with apps. And if something I’m tracking becomes cumbersome with a spreadsheet, it could turn into a great proof of concept for my next app.

Let me give some examples.

Sleep Journal

As I wrote about in my last post, I’m currently in the process of trying to fix my sleep schedule and become more of a morning person. The way I’m tracking that is with a Fitbit Flex I wear to bed and a spreadsheet that I keep in Numbers. Fitbit tracks most the data I need, but not everything (what time I put on my blue blocking glasses and misc notes). Also, leaving that data locked into Fitbit doesn’t help me if I want to analyze my habits overtime with charts, or if I want to share that data (in a future blog post, for example).

Commute Journal

To get from my apartment in the Sunset District (also known as Mars) to downtown San Francisco and back, there’s a few routes I can take, and I’d like to know which one is the best. What I’ve started doing is tracking my trips by using the iOS clock app and marking laps at points I want to track (when I get on/off public transit). This way I can track the average time each route took, how much time I spent walking versus public transit, and maybe if there’s a way to combine those segments differently to cut a few minutes off my travel time.

Car MPG & Maintenance

I don’t currently have a car, but I do have an RV. I track what kind of mileage I’m getting, and also when there’s maintenance done. When you’re driving around in a 27 year old vehicle, it’s best to stay on top of these things. If I see my gas mileage tank, I start to think there might be something up, and I take it in to get looked at before anything gets too bad. I used to use the app Gas Cubby for the same thing, but since it stopped being updated, Numbers has done the job just as well.

Kourosh Dini Talks GTD and OmniFocus on Mac Power Users

Kourosh Dini wrote the book everyone using OmniFocus should read called Creating Flow With OmniFocus. Seriously, I can’t recommend it enough. Another thing I recommend is listening to the most recent episode of Mac Power Users where they have Kourosh on. He talks about how he does GTD, and a little OmniFocus specific stuff too. I’ve kind of fallen off the wagon a bit lately, and this has made me decide to get back on and get my system in order. I should stick a task in my inbox to remind me to blog about that.