Building AWT: Finding a new workflow and the bumps along the way


It's been over a month since Apple World Today launched, and it has been a whirlwind experience. Everything came together so quickly for AWT that my head was spinning for those first few weeks. Part of the chaos came from the necessary change of doing things one way at TUAW and another at AWT. Even the same posts -- my Daily Deals and Today in the App Store posts -- required a whole new workflow. My colleagues have discussed their experiences; now it is time for me share my first month at AWT.

The biggest overhaul for me with AWT was all the changes I had to make to my daily routine. The tools I previously used and the way I used them, no longer worked at AWT. I had to drop a bomb on my old routine and completely forge a new one. I enjoy changes that require me to check out new apps, but it's always been a leisurely experience. This time, however, I had to adapt quickly and get up running with new tools as soon as possible.

Hardware Challenges

One of the challenges I faced was my aging MacBook Air, which I purchased in late 2013 with only 128GB of storage space and 4GB of RAM. It was a forced purchased as my MacBook Pro had died after coffee hit the keyboard and fried the motherboard. I purchased the base level MBA as I planned to use it as a holdover until the next generation MacBook Pro models with Broadwell processors debuted in mid-2014. Those Broadwell machines are still yet to arrive so I've kept my MBA for the long haul.

It's a great machine, but I am always hitting the wall with storage, installing too many apps and storing too many photos. For me to adopt new tools at AWT, I couldn't keep the old ones and just move forward, I had to erase everything and start over. The re-install of OS X didn't go so well, and I had to perform an Internet Recovery on my Mac. This moved me back to Mountain Lion, which was no longer supported by many of the productivity apps I needed to install. I upgraded to Yosemite, but it broke printing, so I had to downgrade to Mavericks. Bouncing between OS X versions sounds easy enough, but the download and install process can be tedious and time-consuming.

As part of the change to AWT, I also had to discover new tools to help me do my job better and faster than I did at TUAW. Instead of just a staff writer only concerned with the words I put on paper, I now had to be aware of the business aspect of running a website and now manage my communications in a more diligent way.

New Productivity Tools

As a result, I ditched the OS X default apps and began using Fantastical for calendaring and Mailbox for email, which was one of those apps that not compatible with Mountain Lion. I also picked up using Notes Tab Pro again as a scratch pad for app updates, product sales, and impulse ideas that I want to remember. It's a work in progress as I still find myself occasionally overwhelmed by the inflow into my brain from Twitter, RSS, and email.

Not Slacking on the go

On the communications front, I had to ditch TUAW's IRC channel and adopt Slack for team communication. Slack has been a wonderful discovery as it provides integration with other services and flexibility that is way beyond the scope of IRC. It's the next best thing to having a dedicated newsroom that allows you to assign and schedule posts.

Slack works equally well on the Mac and iOS, allowing me to communicate with my co-workers even when on the go. This has been a huge benefit as previous commitments in my schedule required me to go skiing or ice skating three of the five weekday afternoons. (I know, tough life being forced to enjoy the winter sports)

One tool I can't live without

For day-to-day work, TextExpander become significantly more important as I ditched my TUAW-focused snippets and replaced them with ones geared for AWT. In this process, I learned how to use fill-in snippets with popup options and multi-line support. Hands down, TextExpander is the best utility I own. I could never switch to any other platform as I can't imagine doing my daily work without the help of TextExpander. It's that useful to me.

Task Manager Void

Task management is the one area that is still lacking in my workflow. I have yet to find a tool that integrates with my email inbox and allows me to easily create tasks or reminders using an email message as the basis for a task. I would love to be able to take an app review embargo date and convert it into a scheduled task and a calendar entry with just one click. If anyone is using a productivity tool that merges email, reminders and possibly Google calendar into one package, I would love to know about it. I've only started looking at task managers and am a bit overwhelmed by all the options, so any suggestions are welcome.