We don’t often realize how much time we spend clicking, searching, and performing redundant tasks on our Mac. But the more we develop time saving habits on our Mac, the more we can maximize the technology and make it work for us to get things done.

Mac Automation Tips is mainly about automating tasks on your Mac, but it’s about providing tips and strategies for managing your time and tasks while you work at your Mac.

The following ten suggestions are for those who want to leverage the power of their Mac and related software, and build a habit of finding powerful ways to avoid dragging the cursor to the menu bar, constantly clicking on buttons, and searching the Finder for files.

This set of suggestions is also a follow-up to ten other Mac productivity tips and features using Mac automation programs

Sidebar Folders 

If you haven’t already done so, make sure to use your Finder sidebar to park and access your frequently used folders. You can simply drag any folder into the Finder to the sidebar, and the folders can be arranged  in any order you want.

Sidebar folders

View By Date Added 

Most of the files you probably look for in the Finder are ones that were recently added to a folder. So get in the habit of viewing folder content by Date Added so that the most recently added files will appear at the top.

View by date

Reduce Mail Visits 

It’s difficult to avoid email, but try to reduce the number of times you visit your Inbox. I make use of smart folders and mail rules to filter my inbox messages.

I have one rule that filters message by previous recipients I have corresponded with.

Previous recipients

When I see emails from recipients I don’t want to appear in that folder, I remove their email address by going to Window > Previous Recipients.Remove previous recipients

I also use another mail rule that marks all my incoming mail as read, except for emails from senders in my contacts list, and senders who are previous recipients. This mail rule means that most subscription emails and newsletters get automatically read, so all I have to do is browse them in my inbox, and I don’t have to click to make sure they’re marked as read. I’m also exploring having these emails automatically archived after a certain date.

Mark as read

I also try to keep my most visited mail folders in the Favorites bar, so that I can quickly get to those messages.

And lastly, I recently started using Cannoball (Free), an iOS app that will unsubscribe or hide subscriptions I don’t want to show up in my mailbox.

The more you filter messages in your mailbox using smart folders and rules, the more productive you will be in that area.

Second Monitor 

I would imagine many Mac power users typically opt to get a second monitor for their Mac. If you work at your computer all day, definitely invest in a second monitor, because it allows you to type and perform other tasks while you view content on your second screen.

Second monitor

I typically use my second screen for viewing my iTunes library, notes in notes apps, opened screenshots I take using SnappyApp, and web pages I need to access while working on a project.

Desktop Calendar 

If you need to access your calendar throughout the day, consider adding a desktop calendar to your primary or second monitor. I use Blotter ($9.99), which syncs with Mac Calendar.

Blotter is well designed, and if it’s parked on a second monitor, it’s very  unobtrusive.

I also keep my current 90 Day goals listed under the “To Do” section in Blotter so it serves as a visible reminder of what larger projects I need to stay focused on.


Application Triggers

For existing or new users of Keyboard Maestro, always look for ways to use application triggers to reduce redundant steps.

For example, most of the time when I click on the desktop of my 27″ monitor, I typically need to view a Finder folder. If either the Downloads or Desktop windows don’t exist when the Finder window is activated, then Keyboard Maestro automatically opens a new folder on the desktop so I can access it. This reduces the need to use a keyboard shortcut or to drag my mouse to the menu bar to open a new window.

new folder macro

The most powerful automations in my view are when things happen without having to use keyboard shortcuts, the mouse, or even string triggers. For this reason, application triggers are the most useful automation feature that KM provides.

Keep Track of Your Time

If you feel as though you’re not as productive as you should be, start keeping track of what you’re doing at your computer throughout the day.

Alfred macro

I use the online service, iDoneThis, and an Alfred workflow triggered by Keyboard Maestro, which runs every two hours, three days a week. The purpose is see what tasks consume most of my work day. Far too often it’s easy to allow lots of mini tasks to distract from larger more important tasks and projects.

Use a Task Manager 

If you haven’t already started using a task manager, and are struggling to keep up with all the tasks you need to do, I highly recommend you start learning how to use a task manager application.

My tool of choice is 2Do, on both the Mac and iOS. I particularly like to use 2Do for recurring weekly, monthly and yearly tasks.

Recurring taskRecurring reminders are the best because once they’re set, they don’t need to be re-inputted into the program, and the only remaining  challenge is to follow through on the reminders.

Feature rich task manager programs like 2Do can be a challenge to learn, but they can be very helpful, and they can put your mind at ease about having to remember all things you need to get done.

Email Notes 

Another little useful reminder hack I use is the iOS Captio app. I use several note apps on my iPhone, but Captio enables me to quickly email myself notes when I’m out and about.

Using Captio is a two-tap process. The first tap launches the app, with an automatic new note file. After writing a note, the second tap is for tapping the Send button, which automatically sends the note to your pre-inputted email addresses. That’s it. Done.

captio app

Since I check email on a daily basis, I’ll definitely see the Captio note the next time I check mail. Captio archives all your notes. I also have all my Captio notes filtered to appear in a smart mailbox so that I can quickly access them in Mail. In addition, the Captio folder is  parked in the Favorites bar of Mail.

Learn Finger Gestures 

The last suggestion of this round of tips for being more productive on your Mac is to learn to use finger gestures on your trackpad or Magic Mouse, especially if you’re not too keen on using keyboard shortcuts.

OS X comes with over a dozen finger gestures that can help you navigate the Mac, but I highly recommend BetterTouchTool if you want to be a Mac power user.

BTT finger gestures for 2Do

BTT finger gestures for 2Do

I compare the BTT and Mac version finger gestures. Start with the latter and then move to BTT for powerful Mac navigation.

Though using finger gestures might feel awkward at first, the more you use them, the less clicking or keyboard shortcuts you have to use or remember.

Here’s a collection of articles I’ve written about BetterTouchTool. There’s much to learn, and as of this writing the application is still a free download.

Much to Learn 

What I describe above may feel daunting to those who are new to Mac automation tools and acts, but keep in mind that you don’t have to learn everything overnight. In fact, you can’t.

You learn as you go along, and you learn the tools based on your individual needs and workflow. The only mistake you can make is performing the same manual tasks over and over, and not leveraging Mac features and powerful software for minimizing redundant steps.

If you’re already using Mac automation tools, let me know which of the above strategies you use? And feel free to suggest your own tips.


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