Baseline #4 – Tools for 2022
Tools aren’t everything, but they can help!
Hello again! 👋 This newsletter is a little longer than my previous ones, but it's also about a topic that always makes me happy: tools! I'd love to share all of the software and some of the hardware I use throughout the day to help keep me organized and stay focused. Have any favorites that you use? I'd love to know!
The things I use
If you’ve ever searched for productivity tools of any kind, there’s a good chance that you may have come across this one. It’s a surprisingly simple yet powerful and well-designed app that can scale with how much you’d like to put into it and take from it. I’ve been using Things 3 for nearly four years now to help me track all of my reminders and todos, and I now feel like my life would be a mess without this app. Ever since reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done, I’ve tried to find the fastest way I can to get all of those tasks floating around in my head into a space where I can save, organize, and complete later, all to help make more room for the present moment. Things 3 was largely built upon this idea, and because it supports Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch and has great support for Siri and Shortcuts, I always feel like I can quickly note down anything and get back to it when I need to.
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time now, this one probably shouldn’t be much of a surprise! Figma is my design tool of choice, and I’m not sure there’s another tool out there that’s changed my life as much as this one has. I’m forever thankful for how it’s allowed me to grow in my career as a product designer and for the community, who all truly make this piece of software feel so special.
One recent addition to my workflow in Figma has been using automator.design to help me speed up all of those previously tedious and repetitive tasks. Automator is a plugin created by Jordan Singer that allows anyone to create automations, such as swapping between light and dark color styles or generating a style guide for a design system, all through an intuitive no-code interface. Thanks to Jordan for building the idea I was dreaming of.
Alfred is a powerful Spotlight replacement app for the Mac that I’ve been using for several years now, to the point where using a Mac without it feels... strange. There are way more powerful apps out there, Raycast being one of them, but I keep coming back to Alfred because it does everything I need while keeping the experience so lightweight. Many of the top actions I use are system actions, such as starting the screensaver, searching my Mac, or emptying the trash, which are all so simple but so helpful, too!
Mimestream is a relatively new and native email client for macOS that works best with Gmail. I used to rely on Apple Mail for the longest time, but it’s just felt kind of heavy and sluggish in recent years. Mimestream seems to have taken the very best from Apple Mail and optimized the experience for Gmail, making it a quick and enjoyable app to use.
Notion is one of my favorite tools, and at this point, it's become a bit like the operating system to my life, given just how many things I use it for. Notion has helped me organize plans for my fiancée and I's upcoming wedding, manage Baseline, store endless amounts of notes, and even write these newsletters. (If you were ever on the fence about using Notion for notes, the text editor was just recently rebuilt to make the experience of writing so much nicer!)
For anyone curious to learn more, back in 2020, I wrote a longer post that focused on how I was using Notion to track all sorts of things, such as daily journals, workouts, people I met with, or for planning the year ahead.
(For full disclosure, I'm a Notion Partner, so if you sign up with my link, you also help support me!)
BYODKM: Bring Your Own Display, Keyboard, and Mouse
For just over a year now, I've been using Apple's M1 Mac mini as my daily personal computer, and I've absolutely loved every minute with this machine. You wouldn't know there's a fan inside, and although the silicon is now only the M1, as opposed to the newest M1 Pro or M1 Max, I'm amazed at how much power and speed this computer has.
As Steve Jobs said at the Mac mini's announcement, you have to BYODKM (bring your own display, keyboard, and mouse) for this computer, and I've been really happy with the options I chose. I'm using the Razer DeathAdder V2 for my mouse (I didn’t pick this one up for its name). I prefer to use a wired mouse these days, never worrying about battery life or intermittent Bluetooth issues, which were frequent with macOS Big Sur. It's been super comfortable with its decent ergonomics and tracks well on the desk pad I use, too. I'm using a custom WASD Keyboard for my keyboard and borrowed both the template and colors from Sam Soffes. I'm heading into my fourth year of using this one, and what I like most about it is how it's traveled with me with the various jobs I've had (very sorry to my previous coworkers for the loud typing) and through the work I've done.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a variety of decent options for displays right now. When I first set up my at-home space, I purchased Dell's 34" Ultrawide display, and while its size was great, the lower resolution wasn't always ideal. After months of going back and forth on it, I recently decided to buy the Apple Pro Display XDR. Although incredibly expensive and frankly now overpriced, I viewed the purchase as an investment in myself and my career, and I definitely plan to keep and use this display for many years to come.
Loom is by far the best way I've found to reduce the number of meetings needed. I'll admit, it's a little scary to record yourself talking and to share that out at first. Still, after giving Loom a try, it's tough for me to ever want to go back to writing long Slack messages or asking someone for thirty minutes of their time to meet when a quick recording can help achieve the same outcome. I always love the chance to virtually meet and talk with another coworker, but given the world that we're in today, being mindful of others' available time (and energy) is something that I always want to put first.
Other apps and utilities
Hand Mirror: one-click access to your camera, accessible right from the menu bar.
Magnet: the best window manager I’ve found for the Mac.
Pocket Casts: a beautiful and intuitive podcast client for iOS, Android, and web. I'm almost always listening to a podcast!
CleanShot X: a full-featured replacement for Apple’s native screenshot utility.
Cron: I’ve only been using this one for a few weeks now, but it’s already proven to be a very well-designed and delightful calendar app.
Apple Music: of all the streaming services, Apple Music is the one that’s come closest to offering the terrific experience that Rdio once provided. 💔
If you're using one of Apple's latest MacBook Pros, I have to recommend trying out any of Basic Apple Guy's gorgeous and detailed schematic wallpapers. For anyone with an iPhone 13 Pro, BAG created similar schematic wallpapers for those devices, as well!
I always love hearing from people, and if you enjoyed this, please reach out! You can find me on Twitter @joeyabanks.