How I Use TextExpander

One of my favorite Mac apps is TextExpander, a toolthat saves you time by enabling you to create shortcuts for things you type frequently.

For example, here are the shortcuts I use on a regular basis:

  • Typing mm@ expands to my email address, matthew.h.mazur@gmail.com.

  • Typing vcc expands to my Visa credit card number.

  • Typing stcc expands to a Stripe test credit card number, 4242424242424242.

  • Typing jscc expands into a JSDoc template:

/**
 * Description
 *
 * @param {Object} var - Description
 * @returns {Boolean} Description
 */
  • Typing wpcc expands into a PHPDoc template:
/**
 * Description
 * 
 * @param int|string $var Description
 * @return bool Description
 */
  • And last but not least, ---> expands into because using ASCII arrows makes you look like a badass hacker, obviously.

Give it a shot if you’re not already using it. There’s a free trial and you can purchase the full version for $44.95.

If you have any recommendations for other useful productivity tools like TextExpander, I’d love to check them out. Thanks!

My iPhone Homescreen

homescreen.png

In order:

  • Messages
  • Clock
  • Workflowy – for taking and referencing notes
  • Camera+ – for taking fancy photos
  • Photos
  • Google Calendar – for managing my calendar
  • HackerNews – I use this one by Dharmesh Patel mainly because it supports collapsing nested comments
  • Pandora – for music
  • Google Maps – for not getting lost
  • iReddit – for wasting time
  • Facebook
  • Instagram – for sharing photos of random things
  • Settings
  • 1Password – for managing passwords
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Feedly – for catching up on blogs that I follow
  • Overcast – for listening to The Tim Ferriss Podcast
  • Orangetheory – for scheduling classes at my gym
  • Product Hunt – for learning about new product launches
  • Coach.me – I’ll probably move this off soon because despite repeated attempts to stick to it, I never do. (It’s a service that lets you build and track daily habits.)
  • Phone
  • GMail
  • Safari
  • Music

If you have any recommendations for better alternatives to any of these please drop me a note.

How to track your site’s search engine rankings

One thing I’d highly recommend to anyone with a website is to track your site’s search engine rankings for its key search terms. For sites that rely heavily on search traffic you’ll often find that the amount of traffic your site receives is directly related to where it ranks for its top search terms. It will also give you a sense of what terms you should optimize for which can play a major role in your site’s long term growth roadmap.

In this post I’ll show how I track rankings and combine that with data about how much traffic each term drives to determine which terms are important for my sites.

Tracking keyword rankings

I previously used SEOmoz (now just called Moz) to help track keyword rankings, but found that I was only using it for that and none of its other features. At $99/month for their cheapest plan, that was a bit much for my bootstrapper ways.

I did a little research and discovered SERPfox, a lightweight search engine rank tracker. (SERP stands for Search Engine Result Page.) At $10/month for 50 keywords, it’s hard to beat.

Here’s what I track for Lean Domain Search:

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 9.12.02 AM.png

You can also view a chart showing its position for each keyword over time:

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 9.30.30 AM.png

Not all of the terms I track drive a lot of traffic, but it’s interesting to me to know where it ranks for terms like zonefile just for my awareness.

On that note, the time to start tracking keywords is ideally before you launchIt should be on your pre-launch checklist to set up keyword tracking because it’s most valuable when you can see the long term trends.

One other benefit to tracking rankings is that if your site’s traffic suddenly spikes or takes a nose dive, you can check your rankings to see if Google recently tweaked their algorithms and caused a major change in your rankings.

Adding volume into the mix

I’ve never had any issues with SERPfox’s reported rankings (searching Google in incognito mode always matches SERPfox’s reported rankings), but the volume they report doesn’t seem right. For example, it reports that domain name search has a monthly search volume of 40,500 and domain search 480, but Google Keyword Planner tells a different story:

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 9.24.45 AM.png

Google Webmaster Tools provides additional data for your consideration as well. It has Lean Domain Search’s top clicked keyword as domain name generator (1,702 clicks in the last 30 days), domain search is the tenth most clicked (112 clicks), and domain name search is the 38th most clicked (19 clicks). Piecing these together it kind of makes sense:

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 9.42.20 AM.png

domain name generator gets fewer searches, but Lean Domain Search ranks well for it so it drives a lot of clicks. domain name search gets the most searches, but Lean Domain Search is on the second page of results so it doesn’t get many clicks. domain search also gets a lot of searches, but because Lean Domain Search is #7 not as many people wind up clicking on it.

I’m coming for you, Instant Domain Search 😄 (currently #1 for both domain search and domain name search).

If you have any recommendations for other tools that piece all of this together, I’d love to check them out – let me know. Thanks!

The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 2.05.37 PM.png
One of my favorite things to read is The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes by Clifton Fadiman. The book contains over 4,000 anecdotes by more than 2,000 famous people.

Here are a few examples:

A devotee of cigars, Mark Twain was temptuous of those who made a great to-do about giving up smoking. He always claimed that it was easy to quit: “I’ve done it a hundred times!”

Henry Ford was once asked why he made a habit of visiting his executives when problems arose rather than calling them to his own office. “I go them to save time,” explained Ford. “I’ve found that I can leave the other fellow’s office a lot quicker than I can get him to leave mine.”

On arrival at a Chicago hotel, Thomas Du Pont found that a lady who had previously occupied his room had left behind a frilly nightgown. He summoned the manager, handed him the garmet, and instructed, “Fill it and bring it back.”

If you decide to buy it I recommend the Kindle edition simply because the paperback edition is massive. I also recommend not trying to read it straight through; I enjoy flipping it open to a random page and to just start reading regardless of whether I’ve heard of the person or not because it exposes me to a lot of history that I probably would never learn about otherwise.

As one of the Amazon reviewers commentedI envy you if you are discovering this for the first time. Check it out.

My Favorite Blog

If I had to choose a single blog to follow and ditch all the rest, it would be WaitButWhy by Tim Urban and Andrew Finn.

Tim takes complex topics, researches the hell out of them, and then teaches his readers on WaitButWhy what he learned.

Here’s how he explains his approach to learning:

I’ve heard people compare knowledge of a topic to a tree. If you don’t fully get it, it’s like a tree in your head with no trunk—and without a trunk, when you learn something new about the topic—a new branch or leaf of the tree—there’s nothing for it to hang onto, so it just falls away. By clearing out fog all the way to the bottom, I build a tree trunk in my head, and from then on, all new information can hold on, which makes that topic forever more interesting and productive to learn about. And what I usually find is that so many of the topics I’ve pegged as “boring” in my head are actually just foggy to me—like watching episode 17 of a great show, which would be boring if you didn’t have the tree trunk of the back story and characters in place.

The posts tend to be long but don’t let that disuade you; they’re entertaining and packed with knowledge that will reshape the way you see the world. My favorites include his posts about the Fermi Paradox, AI, and Elon Musk and his companies:

Also, whether you’re a long time reader or just discovering WaitButWhy, consider donating via their Patreon page so that Tim and Andrew can continue publishing WaitButWhy for many years to come.

Gravity Pilot Review

A friend of mine, Adam Weeks, just released his first iOS game called Gravity Pilot. It’s an simple yet highly addictive game that keeps you coming back for more.

gravitypilot

When you start the game the red block immediately drops from the top of the screen and quickly begins falling toward the bottom. Your goal is to change its direction by tapping at just the right moment so that it graces one of the blue bars without falling off the screen. Each time the red block touches a blue bar, you get a point. If it falls off the screen, you start over.

The game is deceptively hard; I’ve been playing it a lot and my high score is “only” 12 (good luck beating that).

Adam really wanted to add a few more features before launching, but a few of us encouraged him to launch a Minimum Viable Product and get feedback as quickly as possible.

If you’re interested in checking it out you can download it here and if you have any suggestions or ideas you can shoot Adam at a note at @AdamWeeks.

Workflowy Organization v2

A few months ago I wrote How Workflowy Has Changed the Way I Work detailing how I use the Workflowy web and iPhone app to stay organized and get things done. I continue to use Workflowy more than any other app and have made a few changes to how I use it since I wrote the original post. A few of you mentioned that you found the original write-up helpful so I thought I’d share a list (naturally) of what’s changed since then.

If you’re new to Workflowy or haven’t read my original post on it, I encourage you to check it out for context about these changes.

The template

As with the template in the original write-up, black items are fixed and gray items are placeholders for content that you create. The blue circles correspond to the changes in the list below.

workflowy_v2_v2

What’s new in this version

1. Appointments now go in Workflowy and only Workflowy

In the past, I kept appointments in both the iPhone Calendar app and in Workflowy because I liked having appointments in the calendar for quick reference, but also liked having them in Workflowy so that I could plan tasks around them.

As time went by, I found myself only referencing the Workflowy iPhone app while I was out because it represented my true schedule (appointments, deadlines, and tasks) much better than the calendar app alone did. These days I don’t even bother adding appointments to the calendar app; they go straight into Workflowy and that’s all that I reference.

Also, and this is a very minor change, I’ve grown fond of using the em dash (—) instead of a colon to separate the time of an appointment from its description.

2. Short term tasks now include the date

Because I now solely use Workflowy for appointments, having the day of the week and its corresponding date is much more important than before. For example, instead of a Short Term list item being just “Monday” it’s now “Monday, 21 Oct”.

3. Task list timeframes are more flexible

Previously I just included the upcoming seven days or so in the Short Term list and anything farther out than that went into the Medium Term or Long Term lists. These days I’m a bit more flexible with what goes where. Short term tasks, for example, are typically up to two weeks out and things taking place beyond that usually still go in the Medium Term or Long Term lists, but the boundaries are not set in stone.

4. No more focus areas

In the last version, I kept focus areas — things that weren’t tasks but that I wanted to pay attention to during the current week — as list items in the Overall list. I no longer include a focus area; everything in the Short Term, Medium Term, and Long Term lists are tasks that can be completed.

5. Month lists to group long term appointments

I found that as I had more and more upcoming deadlines and appointments several weeks or months out, the Medium Term and Long Term lists would get cluttered with lists of dates. To remedy this, I started creating groups based on the month the appointment or deadline is slated to take place (November, December, etc) and then I collapse it so that there is only one visible list item. As the month approaches, I ungroup the dates and move them into the Short Term list.

6. Projects are no longer divided into groups

This past summer I had an unusually large number of ongoing projects which is why I organized them into groups. I’ve scaled back since then and now only have a few ongoing projects and a few more in my “Potential Projects” list making it unnecessary to organize them into groups.

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It’s worth noting that this may be the second Workflowy system that I’ve written about, but this has evolved from a much simpler system that I started with in early 2012. If you’re just getting started with Workflowy, start small and improve it over time to see what works for you. Good luck and let me know how I can help.