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Simplifying your Mac to Increase Productivity

by Kerry Dawson

When you first get your Mac you start out with a relatively straight forward device with a set of really nice applications to start you out. Your Mac will run fast and easily using just the resources it needs.

However, over time you’ll start to discover apps that, in some cases are extremely useful and in others they’re not. As you accumulate apps you’ll notice that you’ll start building up what are called startups which are small startup programs that add functionality to the program you’ve installed. If you accumulate a lot of programs you’ll find your simple Mac might get overly complicated for more than one reason and work against instead of help with your productivity.

Great Power, Great Confusion

The beauty of a computer or your idevices is the apps that you can use on the device to enhance function and that they do. However, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of having more than one app to do the same or a similar thing. Further, it’s easy to end up with too many apps that do a variety of things but you’ve got to know how everything works.

Apps can easily be powerful tools. As a simple example, a Word Processor can aid tremendously with the processing of text in a form required by business or just about anybody. However, one word processor might not do all that you need. You might require a Markdown editor to write text for the web and just a plain simple text editor to write rudimentary code.

As you can see, what starts out as the simple providing great functionality, can multiply into the complex. There might be no way around the above and the three programs might be required to handle the different functions.

However, what often happens is people begin trying out different apps to do the same function. Not only can you end up very confused as to which to use but the learning curve around having all these apps starts becoming steep. Finally, the Mac you started with which was a clean, zippy machine is resource ladden with startup apps and apps slowing the system down greatly.

Identifying that which is Essential

What is critically important to avoid possibly chaos or a machine that simply doesn’t work well is to identify that which you absolutely have to have. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to begin thoughtfully deleting the programs you don’t use.

Clean up your system and concentrate on the programs that are really essential to getting your work done. Learn these programs well. As you learn these programs well and carry out what you need to do you’ll find that you’ll start feeling very productive.

The other benefit is the machine’s resources will not be overly ladden with unnecessary programs. The machine will start faster and run both faster and smoother.

App Creep is Normal but …

The creep of applications is all too common. You find an app that sounds like it will solve a problem better than what you have. Maybe it will. But as app creep accumulates it definitely won’t. There are only so many things we can handle well and if there are too many apps to carry out various functions we simply will have trouble functioning.

Too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing. It’s the too much that will kill your productivity and probably enjoyment of your Mac. It’s fun to test out new and different programs. However, what’s not fun is when you go to use a program and can’t decide which one to use and then do decide and can’t remember how to use it.

Thus, beware of app creep. If it’s happening, take constant stock of the apps you‘re using and determine the apps that are essential. Do away with that which you don’t need. In essence, work towards what almost sounds cliche but a lean, mean fighting machine.

The Art of Simplification

Simplifying is not as easy as it sounds. However, if you can simplify so that what you use is what you need the payoff is fairly rapid. You’ll be able to concentrate and learn the key apps well thus enhancing your productivity. Not only can you become faster and quicker with the use of your programs but you’ll find aspects of the program that will prove valuable. That is, you’ll be able to learn the program better. As long as you’re distracted between different programs you’ll neither get as quick with a program nor discover its nuisances. Further, you’ll avoid what can become chaos.

As you keep adding programs you’re Mac’s resources will slowly be chewed up. Chaos is not just the outcome of confused and unintentional app use but it can result from an overloaded machine that is exhibiting strange behaviors. Either which way, the art of simplification is the only answer to getting back to happier, more productive times. Giving up programs you think you need is not easy but it is essential if you really don’t need them and they’re only duplicating function that already exists or hindering function in what exists from being revealed.

To provide one simple but obvious example is that of the text expander. Take a look at your machine and count the number of text expanders you actually have. You might have one or two dedicated text expanders, Launchbar and Alfred which have text expanders and Keyboard Maestro which has a text expander. Look further and you might find that in a program that I use as a writing aid Grammarian it too has a text expander. Of the above I have to have Launchbar and Keyboard Maestro. Then that begs the question do I need a dedicated text expander if I’m just expanding simple text snippets. No. So I can litterally get rid of Typinator, Text Expander and Alfred and just ensure I either just use one of the three Text Expanders that remain. The art of simplification is not easy because of these three which one do I like the most. It’s a complete toss up so I just choose Launchbar which is no criticism of the other two as they are all powerful. However, one has to choose or at a minimum confusion will slip in.

Let it not be even misconstrued that this is easy as it isn’t. Yet, the payoff is too great to ignore. The machine is less loaded and you the user are less loaded trying to manage a variety of things. Choose to simplify but not to become unproductive and you will simplify and become more productive. Active choice then is really just the art of simplification.

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