The daily review is one of those tasks that I’ve never liked to do. The day is almost over and I’m tired. The last thing I want to do is to go through my shutdown process and run through my checklists so that I’m ready for tomorrow. I decided to use the automation tool, Keyboard Maestro, to speed up my end-of-the day review. I often skip steps to speed up the review process but I usually regret it the next day when I miss a critical time-sensitive issue.
The seed of this article started here:
As a recap, I end the day with a short review of the day. I check the following:
- Clear the OmniFocus Inbox and put new tasks into the proper project or checklist.
- Visit the Review perspective to review any projects that pop up here.
- Check my Menu, or list of available tasks, and flag tasks as a higher priority item.
- Check my Agenda perspective to create follow-up tasks based on any agenda items or talking points with other people.
I grouped a list of my end-of-day perspectives in OmniFocus. It is also sometimes called the shutdown ritual or the daily review. It worked because I arranged these perspectives together inside OmniFocus.
I explored using a spreadsheet or an OmniOutliner document to create a checklist using URL schemes to open an app:
With URL schemes, I couldn’t find a way to do multi-step processes such as opening Day One and automatically create a new journal entry with a series of questions about how my day went. That’s when I tried my hand using Keyboard Maestro to automate the process.
I wanted to create a virtual assistant that would guide me through my end-of-day review. URL schemes were a good start but I was limited to one action for each link. I could learn AppleScript and figure out how to get an app to perform multiple steps to work some Automator magic. Or I could figure out how to do it with my trusty app, Keyboard Maestro. I started experimenting with Keyboard Maestro and OmniFocus by grouping perspectives into checklist palettes:
I explored switching between different perspectives in OmniFocus. This time, I wanted to go beyond OmniFocus perspectives and start stringing together a series of actions into action groups.
This is what my new End-Of-Day review checklist looks like now:
I start with the top-left step (clear gMail Inbox) and work my way down the first column and then go down the second column. I’ll start by identifying my action groups.
Defining My Action Groups
The first thing I needed to do was to define the various action groups I wanted. I broke my action groups into three areas:
- Clearing the Inbox items into File Reference, Task Manager, or Trash
- Identify my task manager lists, views, or smart searches for the end-of-day review
- Preparing for Tomorrow
Clearing the Inbox items into File Reference, Task Manager, or Trash
I have a daily stream of tasks, projects, and responsibilities coming at me from all directions. I started to identify some Areas of Responsibilities where I get requests or inquiries:
- Facebook Pages Manager
- Discourse forums
- Slack channels
- WhatsApp groups
- Download folder
- Dropbox folder
- Physical in-tray
- My messenger bag
- My wallet
For brevity, I shortened my inbox list for this post. We have an endless list of inboxes that come into our daily lives.
Identify my task manager lists, views, or smart searches for the end-of-day review
I want to look at a list of views in my task manager and update the projects and tasks to reflect my current state of reality at the end of the day. To do that, I created a series of custom perspectives or smart search lists in your task manager to help with an end-of-day review. Here’s a sample of what I go through during my end-of-day review.
- Forecast calendar – Do I have an appointment in the near future that will require a new task?
- Agenda – Are there any waiting-for items or agenda items that will require a new task?
- Completed tasks – Do I need to create a followup task for a completed item?
- Big Rock projects – How are my Big Rock projects doing? Do I need to change a next action or flag an item to focus on?
- Menu – Review my list of currently available next actions. Do I need to delete, defer, or delegate? Do I need to flag a task to the Dashboard?
- Today view (Dashboard) – Review my due and flagged tasks. These are the tasks I want to work on tomorrow.
This group of views will change over time because our needs will change. Determine what you need to review and how you review them. Create the views that make sense to you.
Move all inbox items into the task manager, file reference, or trash bin
Now that I’ve identified all my inboxes, I need to start clearing them out. The final destination for all inbox items are:
- File reference – Put any useful notes, articles, or items of interest into a storage system for future use.
- Task manager – Many inbox items will require a followup action. I create tasks in my task manager for any actions required for incoming email, Slack conversations, or other incoming matters into the task manager.
- Trash bin – The perfect outbox for items that I won’t need to save. Junk emails, FYIs, advertisements, and outdated materials go here.
My end-of-the-day review tries to clear up the various inboxes. I don’t have to clear everything. If I have a huge backlog, I chip away at it and clear a handful of inbox items each day. I repeat the end-of-day review daily and eventually clear out my inboxes. Eventually, I’ll be able to catch up to my inbox and not worry about outdated inbox items that have expired. There’s nothing worse than inboxes full of stuff waiting for me to sort out.
Creating the Keyboard Maestro Macro Group Palette
The first series of macros in this group includes my various inbox items. In my screenshot, I have gMail, DevonThink, and Ulysses. Each macro opens up the app or a web site for me to review. Clear the inbox from each one. Move an inbox item into file reference, my task manager, or the trash bin. The last inbox should be my task manager’s inbox. Clear out the task manager inbox by moving an inbox item to a project or checklist.
The next group of macros goes into my task manager checklists. After clearing out my inboxes, I go through my task manager. A task manager’s greatest strength is the ability to filter your projects and tasks into logical groups that makes it easier to manage. In my example, I go through the following:
- OmniFocus Review perspective
- OmniFocus Forecast perspective
- Big Rocks
- Review Menu
- Review Dashboard
Add any further checklists that needs to be checked at the end of each day. Each perspective looks at certain parts of my projects lists. I could also have a perspective that looks at all Home project or all Work projects. The final list of smart lists is up to you.
The last action group closes out the day. After completing the task manager action group, I’ll finish the day and prepare for tomorrow.
- Plan Tomorrow – This is my personal preference of scheduling tomorrow. I’ll have a blog post about this very soon. TL;DR: I arrange OmniFocus to take up half of the screen and Fantastical occupying the other half. I drag and drop OmniFocus tasks to tomorrow’s schedule. If I don’t schedule a task, it usually won’t get done.
- Journaling – Compile my thoughts about the day. What did I do? How did I feel? Where there any victories today? Are there any activities that I could delete, delegate, defer, or automate?
- Organize my desk – Remind myself to clear off my desktop. Hide all windows except OmniFocus. This prepares my computer for tomorrow. When I return back to the office, my OmniFocus Today perspective (Dashboard) is the first thing I see. Now that I’ve described my end-of-day workflow, I’ll look at the different types of macros I use in Keyboard Maestro.
Three types of Keyboard Maestro Actions
This notification can remind me of what I need to do when I click on a Keyboard Maestro action. This macro displays a notification for a physical action that I need to take. A list of physical actions includes:
- Clear my wallet
- Empty all notes from my briefcase into the in-tray
- Collect all items in my office and put it by my desk side for further processing.
Open a URL (Callback URL or web site)
I can open a web site and mimic some actions to get to a particular screen. This is helpful when there is no MacOS app available. Examples include:
gMail.comand perform a series of gMail actions
- Visit Asana and go to my Asana Inbox.
Callback URLs are a popular way of scripting. This is an alternative to AppleScripting. Many apps offer a way to copy a URL link that will take you to different sections of an app. In the next screenshot, I have a link to my DevonThink Global Inbox.
Open an app and mimic user interactions
Build a Keyboard Maestro macro to mimic a commonly used routine. In this Ulysses screenshot, I mimic launching Ulysses and opening the Ulysses inbox. Keyboard Maestro has the ability to “record” your actions and save it as a macro. This is a great way to learn Keyboard Maestro and see how it constructs the recorded steps.
You can also use a combination of Keyboard Maestro actions and AppleScript to create complicated macros. You can have two different apps work with each other with minimal programming experience.
Build your end-of-day workflow slowly
Start with a small group of macros using Keyboard Maestro’s floating palettes. Build it up over time. If you start off with a lot of workflow steps, you’ll be tempted to just skip it. In my personal experiment, I started off with my task manager workflow that were simple. They just switched between my different custom perspectives. After a couple of weeks tweaking my task manager workflows, I added my inbox processing workflow. I finally added the closing actions to my workflow. Take time to discover what works for you. Consolidate where you can.
A simple notification reminder
I added an action at the end of each macro that displays a notification message. It describes the step I am set working on. Here are some sample notification messages I included with my macros:
Customize each Display Text message to describe the result desired when you click on a new macro. This becomes your virtual assistant prompting you to continue on to the next step. I’ve discovered that I would just blindly go through the end-of-day review without understanding what each step was for. Every time I click on a macro, I read the quick prompt and remember what I needed to do. This simple, final action in each Keyboard Maestro macro gives me a sense that what I’m doing has meaning and I won’t start skipping steps trying to shorten the review time. Otherwise, I’ll never go through the end-of-day review.
- Define your inboxes workflow
- Define your task manager workflow
- Slowly build up your Keyboard Maestro group based on your inbox workflow and task manager workflow
- Create Display Text messages that describes each action
Now that I’ve finished my end-of-day macro group, I’m already thinking of creating a macro group for my weekly review. It will include review workflows that I don’t use daily. I’ll be adding some more processing such as:
- Purging projects, folders, and groups in DevonThink and Ulysses. The end-of-day review cleared out my inboxes. This time, I want to delete any outdated documents in Ulysses, DevonThink, and Drafts. I also want to delete e-mails that are no longer relevant.
- Review my mind map. Get guidance from my mind map about higher level goals and dreams. Update the mind map when projects have been completed or dropped.
- Visit GoodReads.com to look for my next book to read.
- Check my weekly routines to see if I am up-to-date. Delete, delegate, or defer weekly routine tasks as needed.
I can create different Keyboard Maestro macro groups for different checklists. Reviewing is an essential part of a productivity workflow. The end-of-day review and weekly review are two of the most commonly used workflows. Using Keyboard Maestro can speed up this cumbersome process.
I’ve included a sample Keyboard Maestro macro file for download. Customize it to your workflow. Add your own Display Text messages. Share with us what you’ve created. I’d love to see what you come up with.
Download and unzip. Modify to fit your workflow.