Using Zapier to Setup Omnifocus Projects from AirTable Entries

As you may know, I produce about a dozen different podcasts, most of them weekly, and keeping track of all the tasks of pre-production, recording, editing, distributing, and promoting them is challenging for a one-man operation like myself. Some shows I host, while others have their own hosts. Some shows I edit, while some have their own editors. It’s a lot of moving parts and if I don’t track every step, it could quickly fall apart.

I use Omnifocus, a Mac-based application, as my project management tool of choice and that’s where I keep all of the individual tasks that need to be checked off. Meanwhile, I use AirTable, a web-based database, to keep track of the shows, their episodes, who’s involved, and what stage of production they’re at, among other things. Since the steps to produce an episode of each podcast is pretty much the same every time, that means this process is ripe for automation. What was missing was a way to connect the AirTable and Omnifocus parts of the process because I was finding that I’d enter an upcoming episode of a show in AirTable and forget to setup the Omnifocus project. I needed some way to trigger the project creation from the first step of a new episode. Enter Zapier. Read More and Comment

My Pocket Go-Bag

A couple of years ago, I did a post about what I carried in my pockets on a day-to-day basis and mentioned that I no longer carry a bulky wallet, but instead have downsized to a minimalist wallet. However, I was still carrying pockets full of other stuff that would weigh me down and make my pockets all saggy and baggy.

That’s when I decided to go with a pocket go-bag. A regular go-bag is bag you have packed somewhere in your house or your car that contains emergency essentials that you would need if you had to “go” on a moment’s notice.1 A pocket version, however, is not so much for emergencies, but contains you may not always need with you, but would all go together: If you need one, you should probably have them all.

It’s a bit of something in the middle between a regular wallet and a larger day bag or messenger bag or backpack.

So for my pocket go-bag, I needed a handful of items that I would need when going out for the day or longer, but not if I’m puttering around or running an errand. Here’s what’s in mine.

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Tip: Use your charcoal ash to reduce trash odor and kill pests

Have you ever had one of those strokes of brilliance that happened entirely by accident? One of the longstanding problems I’ve had as a homeowner has been the disgusting nature of our outdoor garbage barrels.

We get trash pickup every two weeks, a 96-gallon trash barrel and two recycling barrels of the same size. We also don’t have a garage, so the barrels sit in the sun on the side of the house. You can imagine what it’s like after two weeks in the hot, summer sun. It’s disgusting. Not only does it smell, but the barrels are literally crawling with maggots. It’s so veery disgusting. (I hate maggots.) After every pickup, I used to have to hose down the trash barrel to clean it out.

Another fact about our home: When we grill, we grill exclusively on charcoal, not propane. I love the taste and smell of charcoal on grilled food and charcoal grilling is something I’ve become very good at. I also grill a lot in the summer, as often as the weather and other factors allow. This means I go through a lot of charcoal and create a lot of ashes. I used to dump them in an out of the way place in the backyard, but that got messy after a while so I just began dumping it straight into the trash barrel. It turns I should have been doing that all along.

Ever since I began dumping the ashes in the barrel, the problems of smell and pests have dramatically lessened. I never see maggots any more before or after pickup and while you can smell the trash right next to the barrel and when you lift the lid, it doesn’t waft over the whole side of the house and down the driveway like before.

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Daily Carry 2017: What’s In My Pocketses?

I’m fascinated and inspired by looking at how other people organize their days and their lives, including what they carry around with them on their persons or in their bags. There’s a whole genre of blog posts and even web sites dedicated to the concept. I like them because it sometimes gives me ideas of useful tools or gadgets that can help me more productive or just ready for what comes my way.

So here’s what I’m carrying about on my person1 in 20172.

Keychain

I prefer a carabiner as my keychain because of the ease of getting keys on and off but I had one too many cheap carabiners come apart over the years. So I decided to go with something sturdy, which is in fact an actual climbing carabiner. This is the Black Diamond Screwgate Carabiner ($11). What makes this better is the locking gate that screws up tight and doesn’t unscrew on its own, even being jostled in your pocket. It’s a bit bulky, but not too much and its size allows me to put plenty of keys on it without crowding. And, bonus, if you need to belay off a building unexpectedly, you have a carabiner.

In addition to my keys, I carry on my keychain a Verbatim TUFF ’N’ TINY 32GB USB Flash Drive ($13). I’ve carried for almost four years now in my pocket every day. It’s built to withstand dust, water, static electricity, and the constant jostle of your keyring. You never know when you will need to transfer important files from one computer to another or someone will need to give you a large file that’s too big to email. If you’re a little geeky, you could set up an encrypted disk image on it and keep a password-protected backup of your most important data, like all your passwords. Because it’s encrypted, even if you lose the drive, you’re not at risk. If I were buying today, I might look at a newer product that’s similar, the Verbatim 32GB Store ’n’ Go Micro Plus Flash Drive ($16), which has a rubberized to provide additional protection.

Also on the keychain is the True Utility TU246 TelePen ($10). This has proven itself over and over again. I’ve been in many situations where I need to sign something or write a note and there’s no pen around. Not any more. This great little pen is always handy, writes very well, and is comfortable in the hand. It has saved the day many times for me in the year I’ve owned it. You can also impress others with your preparedness when you pull it off your keychain and hand it over.

Battery and cable

Given all the gadgets we walk around with these days, staying charged can be a challenge. However, I do find that my iPhone 7 Plus keeps a pretty good charge all day for me in normal use, since I often plug it in when I’m in the car or at my desk. However, sometimes I’m out all day or we’re on vacation or I’m with someone whose phone battery is running low. That’s when having a backup battery comes in handy.
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Christmas Gift Idea: Survival Kit in a Stocking

My mother-in-law got me a survival kit in a stocking for my birthday this year. Weirder sentences than that have been written, I’m sure. In reality, though, this was a rather cool gift.

What I got was a Tactical Christmas Stocking with Survival Gear pack. Amazon has something similar, although the exact gear is slightly different. This is the one from the vendor, National Parks Depot, but they also show a slightly different loadout. What makes it “tactical”? I’m guessing it’s the nylon material and zippers and MOLLE straps.

Here is a photo of what was in my ice blue stocking.

tactical_christmas_stocking

A. whistle with compass and thermometer

B. reusable flint match

C. emergency blanket (a classic!)

D. steel wire saw

E. 20-in-1 multitool

F. paracord bracelet

G. EMT knife (this one)

H. LED flashlight

I. 11-in-1 multitool

Yes, that’s two different multitools. They say on their web site that the exact contents is subject to availability so the military-style compass was not available for mine, alas.

It’s actually a pretty good emergency kit. I’m particularly interested in the 20-in-1 multitool. This is the True Utility Fixr pocket multi-tool. It’s compact enough to fit in my pocket or on my key ring, although I’m a bit wary of the nail file on one side. I want to keep that away from my precious iPhone at all costs. When sold separately it comes in a little leather pouch, but mine did not.

The other multi-tool is cool too, and I originally thought to keep it in my wallet. I wasn’t sure what all the “tools” were, especially the “direction ancillary indication”, which is a notched hole with lines radiating out from it. It turns out that if you place it in water on something that floats1 the notch will align with north. That’s cool as a compass in a pinch, but it means the multi-tool is magnetized and I don’t want to carry that next to my credit cards.

The reusable flint match is especially neat. It consists of a square of flint covered by plastic with a metal rod screwed into it. The rod has a wick soaked in lighter fluid. You light it by scraping it along a groove in the flint and it works pretty well.

I’ve decided to keep the kit in my car for any eventuality. This is New England after all and we’ve been known to get blizzards that bury us. But while the stocking is fun packaging, it’s not exactly practical as a go-bag. For that, I’ve moved everything into a medium-size Eagle Creek Pack-It Sac, which works much better.2

eagle_creek_mesh_bag

If you’re looking for a fun stocking stuffer for someone who spends time outdoors or spends time in their car (maybe a college student with long drives back and forth to school?), the Tactical Christmas Stocking with survival gear kit isn’t a bad idea.3

  1. A small rock, perhaps? Or more likely a bit of styrofoam.
  2. The Eagle Creek bags are good for all sorts of things. I use them to keep cables and adapters organized in my computer bag, for instance.
  3. Be sure to get the one with the kit included. They also sell the empty stockings as well, for almost the same cost.

A Believer’s Travel Tips: 15 Ways to Get More Out of Your Next Trip

Travel Tips

My friend, Andreas Widmer, author of the book “The Pope and the CEO”, is a former Swiss Guard and a successful businessman, who has traveled all over the world for business and pleasure. In 2012, he published this blog post of 15 travel tips for believers on the companion web site for his book. The site is no longer online and so I received Andreas’ permission to re-publish his original post because I found the tips so valuable and helpful. Be sure to check out his book as well.

From years of traveling around the globe for business, I’ve acquired a sense of what it takes to travel well. Whether you’re out on mission or just traveling while doing His purpose in your life, a few tweaks to your travel routine will make you happier and more productive. Here are 15 travel tips that can make all the difference.

The Travel Tips

  1. Dress well when you travel. You’ll get treated very differently if you wear a tie and jacket, especially when you travel for business. This reduces your luggage (i.e. you wear your suit jacket rather than having to pack it) and if my experience is indicative, you’ll regularly get free upgrades and other perks.
  2. Wear compression travel socks. Blood clots due to sitting on airplanes are more common than you think – and this condition can happen at any age. A 30-year-old friend developed a clot in his leg on his way to Japan during a layover in Hawaii. He was lucky, because a flight attendant correctly diagnosed his symptoms and called the medics. The doctor who treated him said that wearing such socks prevents blood clots while flying; that was all I needed to hear. Never leave home without them. I also wear slip-on shoes – I only bring one pair to save space – that easily come off for the security screens.
  3. Plan your in-flight activities. Some of my most productive and creative work is done on airplanes. I prepare everything that I need to work on in advance and make sure it’s “bundled” so I can take it easily out of my carry-on when I board the plane. I use a cloth bag that contains what I need in flight. You don’t want to be the one who holds up the flow of passengers boarding, frantically scrimmaging though your luggage looking for that special pen before you take your seat. I also never put anything into the seat pockets on the plane – that’s one sure way to lose/forget it, believe me. For extra seating comfort, I drop my wallet into my shirt on the plane instead of having it in my back pocket.
  4. Pack some power bars in your luggage. The only predictable thing in traveling is that it’s unpredictable. I can’t tell you how often one of these power bars saved me from starving – or from having to choose some very bad menu options.
  5. Don’t check your luggage. I only do carry-on. How? Use a flexible, soft garment bag for your clothing (I use the WallyBags 757 Black Garment Bag) not just your suit and shirts, but everything – try it. It all fits on hangers. I have never yet had to check my soft garment bag. On top of that I use a rolling computer bag that has enough space to pack anything else I need for a stay of up to one week.
  6. Fight jet lag. Jet lag is a thing of the past since melatonin pills came on the market. These things work miracles. I also help my body adapt to the new time zone by making sure to go outside and be in the sun (or absence thereof) at my destination. 1 hour makes a huge difference in your body’s internal clock.
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