One day when feeling overwhelmed by my email I started searching for other resources to help me reach Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero nirvana and came across this this post on a Better Mess. Michael Schecter did a write up explaining all the things Merlin does. From that point on I have been a huge fan of A Better Mess.
The site name stuck with me because many times I have felt like a mess and wanted and needed a way to get better. A few months later I started listening to Mikes on Mics to learn that Michael was one of the hosts.
I contacted Michael through the site contact form and he was gracious enough to participate in our series.
1. Who are you? What type of business are you in?
2. Which model MacBook Air are you using?
I’m still going strong with my late–2010, [13“ Air]3 with the 2.13 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. I still get envious when I see the keys light up on my wife’s 11” Air, but even with the recent performance bumps, I haven’t felt the need to upgrade just yet.
3. Why did you select the MacBook Air over other Mac models?
At the time I had been working on a 15“ MacBook Pro and I really wanted to kill some weight in my briefcase. I had some real concerns about making the switch. I work on a 27” Mac at work and was very used to having the extra real estate on both of my machines. It was an adjustment at first, but time and the introduction of full screen mode in Lion have made my MacBook Air my favorite environment for getting lost in my work (although I will admit that it can be a pain when wanting to work with two browser windows side-by-side). I also have massive iTunes and iPhoto libraries. Considering I was running up against the 356GB constraints of my Pro at the time, the drop to 256GB required me to rethink the way I manage my data. Now, all iTunes and iPhoto apps are stored on an external 1TB Western Digital drive that’s about the size of a deck of playing cards and has given my MBA plenty of room to breathe.
4. How are you using your MacBook Air to run your business? Well, for the sake of this interview, let’s limit this to the site and podcast. As I mentioned the majority of my weekdays are spent on a 27" Mac. However both of these Macs are very much aligned so I can do work for either aspect of my life from either machine.
I tend to use a lot of apps, so let me try and break it down to my essentials:
OmniFocus - This app keeps me sane and serves as the central nervous system for my professional and personal life. It has an amazing task clipper that makes it possible to create a task from just about anything on my Mac.
Mailplane - I love Gmail for its keyboard shortcuts, I hate it for its need to live in the browser. Mailplane essentially wraps Gmail in an application. It also plays nicely with OmniFocus making it easy to create tasks from emails along with a link back to the relevant message.
Fantastical - I used to despise my calendar. Entering even a single task was an awful experience. Fantastical on the other hand makes entering and searching your calendar simple. It’s only ever a keyboard command away and the natural language features (I.e. by typing “Lunch with my brother at 2pm at The Diner” will automatically be parses into a new entry) are amazing.
nvALT - Anything I write (with the exception of some larger Scrivener projects) lives here. nvALT is my repository for just about anything written from personal notes to project outlines. I also store the database in Dropbox so I can work from either one of my Macs and my iPhone.
Byword - Whenever I’m writing more than just a few lines, I will open whatever text file I’m working on in Byword. It’s a great focused writing environment with excellent tools for formatting in Markdown (the syntax I use for nearly all my projects).
Evernote - Whereas nvALT is my repository for text, Evernote serves as my storage for just about everything else. It’s my cold store system. I also use it to eliminate just about every scrap of paper from my life with the help of my trusty Fujitsu Scansnap.
TextExpander and Keyboard Maestro - While these are two very different apps, I use them in tandem. Whenever I have a repetitive piece of my workflow I always look for ways to speed things up using these two essential applications. They are ideal for geeks such as myself who obsess over workflow, but who lack the hard core coding skills required to truly make your system your own.
Dropbox - I mentioned this earlier, but there is no better way to keep essential files and preferences for many applications synced across several devices.
1Password - I have far too many accounts and all of them used to have the exact same password. Now, thanks to 1Password, I don’t know the password to any of them, yet can quickly fill them in from all of my Macs and iOS devices.
Skitch and Acorn - Since I have the design skills of… who am I kidding, I don’t have any design skills… but for the few times I need visuals, Skitch is great for capture and Acorn makes it easy for even the most unskilled of web designers to make something passable.
CrashPlan - as a recent victim of a home burglary, I can attest to the need for offsite backups. I’m just getting started with CrashPlan, but their seeded upload made it easy to securely backup massive amounts of data to the cloud without having to leave my MacBook Air running non-stop for months on end in order to do so.
Safari - Last but not least, I’ve been thrilled since I gave up my overwrought-with-extensions-browser-of-choice Firefox in favor of Apple’s own offering. I use very few extensions and have only a few bookmarks that allow me to quickly trigger things like sending posts to Instapaper.
5. Which has been the biggest advantage about using your air to run your business? (why has the air made that special)
Interoperability. I know that many people are moving to iOS for a substantial amount of their everyday tasks, but the lack of seamless integration between many apps has made this a non-starter (although I do a significant amount of my writing, including this post, on my iPhone). For slightly more bulk than my iPad, it’s possible for me to have essentially the same workflow I get on my office computer. And as a big user of apps like TextExpander and Keyboard Maestro, all of my little tricks add up to serious time saved.