How Martine Ellis uses WorkFlowy to Stay on Cue with her Podcasting

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I recently had a chat with Martine Ellis from (martineellis.com) about how she puts WorkFlowy to work behind the scenes with her podcasting. To follow, there’s also a link to a podcast interview she did with me a couple of days ago.  Continue reading “How Martine Ellis uses WorkFlowy to Stay on Cue with her Podcasting”

An Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author, Michael Hyatt, on How he Uses WorkFlowy in the Making of his Massively Successful Courses.

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Today I’m joined by Michael Hyatt, New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World and co-author of Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want. Michael blogs, podcasts and develops online courses on leadership, productivity and getting your product offerings heard above all the noise. He and his team, Michael Hyatt & Company, serve a readership of nearly a million every month. We’re going to take an inside look at how he uses WorkFlowy in the behind-the-scenes ideation, organization and collaboration of his hugely successful products.

Continue reading “An Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author, Michael Hyatt, on How he Uses WorkFlowy in the Making of his Massively Successful Courses.”

The “Clip to WorkFlowy” Extension and “The Lowly URL as The Irreducible Atom of Work Management”

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I recently touched base with “rawbytz” a programmer and prolific WorkFlowy hacker – who pointed out that top of his wishlist, he wanted a slackline for Christmas. I had previously installed his “Clip to WorkFlowy” Chrome extension and all 3 of his amazing WorkFlowy Stylish styles. I have since gotten the scoop from rawbytz on half a dozen WorkFlowy hacks that he has either completed or are in the pipeline. He will be sharing all of those in good time here on the WorkFlowy blog. Today we’ll be taking a look at his Clip to WorkFlowy extension – but first, a wee bit of background, cobbled together from a couple of our conversations:

FRANK: Could you tell me a little about how you got into creating your own hacks for WorkFlowy? What sort of tech skills does one need to put something like that together?

RAWBYTZ: I’m an engineer – spent a good part of my career in technical sales. I’d find myself in a hotel room, with crappy internet speeds and the need to upload/download data with big, ugly corporate databases. I taught myself AutoHotKey, a scripting language for Windows. I’d fire up my laptop and launch a script. Then I’d take off and enjoy a nice dinner, leaving the script to curse at the crappy speeds and ugly databases. Later on when I started tweaking bookmarklets, I realized many concepts I learned in AHK applied to JavaScript… I just needed to learn some new words and syntax. It’s an ongoing process.

FRANK: How did your WorkFlowy journey kick off? Did you get what you could really do in WorkFlowy right off the bat? Continue reading “The “Clip to WorkFlowy” Extension and “The Lowly URL as The Irreducible Atom of Work Management””

An Interview with Dee Jay Doc who Takes us on a Behind-the-Scenes of his Hip-Hop Projects with WorkFlowy

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I recently touched base with Doc Harrill, AKA, Dee Jay Doc, a raving WorkFlowy fan and founder of Fresh Camp, “A youth leadership institute cultivating youth voice and neighborhood health through community-focused hip-hop-in-action projects.” If that sounds like a mouthful, wait until you see what they’re producing and serving up. Pun intended. We’ve had a bit of a chat about the life-transforming projects he’s involved in… and how WorkFlowy fits in behind the scenes.

You’ve absolutely got to watch this award-winning 12-minute film to see first-hand how Fresh Camp is transforming neighborhoods through fresh, upbeat hip-hop performances and hands-on projects that bring about real lifestyle changes:

FRANK: Doc, the RE {FRESH} video is incredibly inspiring (I mean, how could it not be!?) And you get to be a part of that real-life change – right there in the thick of things. Could you tell us about how you came up with the whole vision? And who would have thought hip-hop and growing your own veggies would be such a brilliant fit?

DOC: It is such an honor to be a part of young people’s lives in my own neighborhood using my art form to cultivate their voice, health and leadership. The mentoring process is life changing for me as well as the students. They challenge and inspire me weekly. My vision is to create a process whereby inner city youth and young adults in our community can grow their ideas to fruition, gaining skills and character along the way. At our first summer camp (in 2011), we went for a neighborhood walk. I asked the students to write down all of the FRESH things they noticed in our community. This important word, FRESH = unique, inspiring, growing, healthy and/or being rejuvenated. Several students pointed out the brand new community gardens built by neighbors and Famicos Foundation (our neighborhood’s community development corporation). Some students rapped about the gardens set-up in abandoned land and how it helped our neighborhood become safer and healthier. The next summer, we decided to plant our own food at one of these gardens. After that we built our own. Many hip-hop songs have been written to document our learning and new found message of FRESH food and the process of coming together to make our neighborhood better. “Come Together” by Fresh Camp students:


Hip-hop is the language of our youth. I give them opportunities to raise their voice and become the change they want to see.

FRANK: One of the most impacting things for me that I got out of the video was where you said, “I don’t operate off of what I believe something can be 20 years in the future. I just put a seed out there now… I didn’t know what it would be at the beginning when I planted it – but as we’re tending it we’re excited to see all the fruit that’s coming from it.”You’re talking both literally and metaphorically… and best of all you’re not just talking about it, you’re doing a whole lot. Could you run us though the practicalities of what gets done on the fly and what takes some figuring out in terms of pen-to-paper?

DOC: Wow, great question! This all starts with small seeds of faith, which must contain the logical action and obedience represented by them. It’s being responsible with the relational garden I’ve been given. I must reach out to the students I meet on my street. I know they have tremendous potential. I must use my art form of hip-hop to inspire, challenge and move us toward health.

More than a program, I’ve created a process. It’s a process of empowering youth to interpret their experience through a lense that focuses them on becoming the change they hope to see. We tap into their struggles and nurture their ideas for a better tomorrow. We help them develop a strong message. Then we empower them to take real action. This requires a tight system. To prepare, we must write grants, fundraise, develop creative community-driven projects, purchase equipment, and create programs where a safe environment can nurture students in a way that creativity and productivity can thrive. I guess you can see why Workflowy is so important for me. I have TONS of projects and details to track. I need quick access to all of it!

Once the funding, the equipment, our team and our process is in place, we give the students a fully professional song writing, beat composition, studio recording and performance experience that is accessible for beginners but challenging for the advanced. Our whole aim is not just to make music, but to make music that will serve our community. The prize is when the students perform around Cleveland and inspire the young and the old. I see them growing creativity, confidence and character. And that’s what is REALLY  FRESH!!!

FRANK: I’m going to jump right in here now with a couple of big WorkFlowy questions for our readers: What aspects of your projects get hashed out in WorkFlowy? Would you mind showing us a few of your WorkFlowy outlines which house lyrics, CD recording projects and lesson-plan content?

DOC: Here’s just a few. . .

LYRIC WRITING AND TEACHING LITERARY DEVICES TO MY STUDENTS

I love writing lyrics in WorkFlowy because you can free flow a bunch of lines, then easily re-order them later. This helps to create song order and track measures. Plus, I can get rid of lines I didn’t like by completing them or moving them to their own node. I can still access them later if I need to go back to previous ideas.

Another cool thing is that I can tag literary devices for use in teaching. As I challenge my students to use more #alliteration, #allusion, #hyperbole, #imagery, #metaphor or #simile in their rhymes, I can go straight to them to use as examples. The funny thing is that this helps me remember to add more literary devices myself which improves my writing:

Here’s the shared WorkFlowy list of the above outline.

Here’s the actual sound file, “Garbage in the Trash”:

LESSON PLANS

For our summer camps, after-school programs and in-school residencies, I need to overview the whole program/project as well as plan out each class or work session we’ll have each day.

Here’s an example from a residency I did last Fall:

MC Residency Pic 1 Overview
In this outline you’ll see that I write the title, artistic output, goals and other details about the overall program.

MC Residency Pic 2 Teachers and Students
I keep track of teacher’s names and contact info as well as what my unique goals are with them to help engage students in learning each subject.
There are a lot of students to remember. I can keep notes that will help me know how to uniquely engage certain students that I see who have special talents or special challenges.

MC Residency Pic 3 Chinese
The class tags (#math, #chinese, #history, and #english) help me when I’m speaking with one teacher. I can focus only on what I need to speak with them about.

My @mc2 tag (Pic 3) lets this task show up in my master task management system to remember to do this on Monday when I’m at the school. Or I can use any of my personal tags like, @home to remember what to do when I’m at home. Or @officemax to remember to pick up supplies when I’m at Office Max.

MC Residency Pic 4 Next
The #next tag helps me quickly go to the next class plan.
This is the view I use during class as I teach. This is one day’s simple class plan. I love WorkFlowy because life doesn’t alway go as planned. It’s so easy to adjust the next class session’s plan based on how this day went. I like to write a journal and keep it there for reference later or next year. The #journal tag lets me go back and just read through my journal quickly.
Sometimes I must export the class plans if I need to turn them in to the school or for a grant report.

Here is the album created by the students.

FRANK: If you would indulge us here for a bit… would I be pushing my luck if I were to ask you to write and/ or perform a few WorkFlowy bars?

DOC: Easy. . . .

In the very next post, Dee Jay Doc will be answering the following question I put to him:

“Do you have any of your own home-grown tips and tricks which you wangle out of WorkFlowy – anything that you’ve been dying to shout out aloud? Because now’s the time to do it!”

In fact, I’m already sitting on that answer – which deserves a whole post of its own. He’s done a bang-up job of laying out what he calls his “Action Flow” for us… but it’s a wrap for today.


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An Interview with Dr. Andus on how WorkFlowy Stacks Up Against other Organizational Apps

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Today’s interview gives us a peek into, Dr. Andus’s WorkFlowy modus operandi and why it’s such an essential, baked-in part of his life. Dr. Andus, a PhD social science academic, is based in the UK, conducting qualitative research… and has a kick-butt blog, “Dr Andus’s Toolbox” where he dissects and gives us his take on a range of research, outlining, writing and productivity tools. If you’re an academic, his “writing-process” page is an absolute must-see.

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

FRANK: Dr. Andus, I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now. You’re an insanely prolific tinkerer. Could you tell us how you stumbled upon WorkFlowy and what your initial impression was?

DR. ANDUS: You are too kind to associate my obsessive tinkering with insanity. It probably has just as much to do with procrastination as it does the joy of playing with my toys (tinkering with the tools of my trade has also become my hobby). I wouldn’t want to suggest that software tools are necessarily a panacea for all our productivity headaches or that I am a paragon of productivity just because I play with a lot of software tools.

As for WorkFlowy, the first time I heard about it was in September 2012 on the Outliner Software forum (which is where I learnt about most of my writing, outlining and productivity software). I didn’t get the significance of WorkFlowy the first time ’round. However, when six months later I read, again, on the Outliner Software forum that WorkFlowy had just launched an iOS app, it suddenly clicked for me: WorkFlowy might just be that cross-platform solution to my task management and note-taking problems that I had been waiting for all these years! Shortly thereafter I consolidated all my todo lists scattered across a variety of apps and media, and I never looked back… Well, until right now, that is.

FRANK: You’re a social science academic as I read on your blog… and I guess it’s to that end that you’re fixated on “software tools that can help with researching, outlining, writing, and improving personal productivity.” How does WorkFlowy fare in bringing one or more of those things together for you?

DR. ANDUS: Interestingly, WorkFlowy is probably the one tool that I have a purely utilitarian relationship with. This is not to say that I don’t derive enjoyment from using WorkFlowy: but the enjoyment results from it being so darn useful and minimalistic, rather than from playing with its features because they are cool.

But to answer your question: indeed, one of the key strengths of WorkFlowy is that it allows one to “bring things together.” As I mentioned already, the first thing I did with WorkFlowy was to consolidate my many todo lists. For whatever strange reason, I just had real difficulty with developing the discipline of keeping all my todo’s in one place before that. Actually I think the reason was partly due to the individual limitations of all those other tools (besides my own).

FRANK: You’ve really run the gamut of software tools – and you do a thorough job of giving each of them a run for their money. From your hands-on experience, what is it that WorkFlowy does that cannot be replicated in quite the same way in any of the other apps/ tools you’ve given a working over?

DR. ANDUS How is WorkFlowy different? Firstly, thanks to its minimalism, it is most efficient in displaying a list, without any distracting screen elements. Secondly, there is the ability to hierarchically organise the list. Thirdly, the possibility of zooming into an item or a branch is a very powerful way to shut out the noise of the rest of the list (and the world). And for all these reasons, WorkFlowy, as a blank slate (i.e. without much imposed structure), provides a lot of freedom for organising and processing your information. For me, depending on which section I’m looking at and working on, WorkFlowy can be a task manager, a project manager, an outliner, a note-taker, and so on, and often these functions even overlap.

FRANK: Do you think you’ve arrived? Do you think WorkFlowy might be the “chosen one”? Is that even possible? I mean, some people see or use WorkFlowy as a glorified list-maker (the gall!).

DR. ANDUS I am not a believer in the “one-tool-for-everything” approach when it comes to note-taking, outlining, writing, and productivity. I look at these types of tasks in the way a car mechanic might look at a particular engine problem and then choose the most suitable tools for each of the tasks that need to get done. Otherwise one might spend a lifetime searching for the Holy Grail or the perfect Swiss Army Knife of software, while being eternally dissatisfied with whatever tools one is using at the moment. But as far as my current software toolbox is concerned, I do think I have arrived, in the sense that I am happy with my present collection of tools, of which WorkFlowy is an essential part. For a whole range of purposes, WorkFlowy is the “chosen one,” and when it isn’t, it often holds the URL links to the tools I use it in conjunction with, such as Gingko, ConnectedText or Surfulater.

PLUMBING THE DEPTHS OF WORKFLOWY

Captain Nemo’s Nautilus – like WorkFlowy – a sum of its parts

FRANK: Could you give us an inside peek into any portion of your list? Maybe related to your academic research, the inner workings of your mind or any setup you’ve got going that could give WorkFlowy users a push in the right direction?

DR. ANDUS: The beauty of WorkFlowy is that, being a blank slate, it allows users to be as simplistic or as complicated as they wish. One doesn’t need to get a PhD in WorkFlowy Studies to be able to use it (though you, Frank, should definitely be awarded one for your book). I belong to the simplistic user category. I am no WorkFlowy power user, although I have been a daily user since March 2013. My method (or non-method) is the following: I imagine that the first (or topmost) line of WorkFlowy represents the surface of the ocean of the present. This is were the most important and most urgent tasks need to rise to in order to be seen, remembered, and acted upon. At the same time, new tasks or notes taken on the fly also start off on the surface, when they are first dropped into it. Then they are either rescued by the lifeguard (me) and get carried out (as tasks) right away, or Captain Nemo (also me) takes them in his submarine to an underwater hideaway (into the bowels of a hierarchical list), to be dealt with later; or they just sink to the bottom of the list eventually through sheer inertia, gravity, and the pressure of the water above.

What I’m trying to say is that my WorkFlowy list is a semi-structured heterogeneous mess—but there is a method to that particular madness. Some bullet points are just individual tasks, while others are de facto folders holding groups of tasks. Then there are others that denote contexts (Home, Work, and so on), while some others serve as Categories. Then I also have items that are remnants of past failed attempts to impose some structure (such as an Inbox with stuff that I haven’t looked at in months, so clearly they weren’t all that important). And I also have various meta branches that hold thoughts about how best to use WorkFlowy or how to motivate myself.

Once in a while I go through the top level branches and shuffle them around according to some new principle. But ultimately what matters is that important or urgent tasks and projects rise to the top of the sea, and that is something I work on every day. Still, it provides a degree of comfort to know that however unimportant a long-sunk task might have been, it’s still waiting for me down there somewhere under a rock at the bottom of the sea, if I ever need to revisit it again.

FRANK: I’ve run into you before on OutlinerSoftware.com. That’s basically a forum for rabid outliner fanatics, right? Do you think WorkFlowy is getting a fair audience there?

DR. ANDUS: The Outliner Software forum is my Mecca, I visit it every day. I’m pretty sure that many of its members and lurkers are WorkFlowy users. How could they not be? WorkFlowy has answered many a prayer that has been uttered there.


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An Interview With Writer Halsted M. Bernard on Her Work, Using WorkFlowy for Fiction and Writing a Novel in a Month

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In today’s interview I pick the brains of one of my favorite bloggers, Halsted M. Bernard. You can find and follow her blog at cygnoir.net. Originally from Northwestern Pennsylvania and currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland, Halsted is heading back stateside in January – where she’ll be getting her bearings in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her fiction publications are listed here.

FRANK: Here’s your twitter bio:

What would it take on WorkFlowy’s part for you to ditch your nicest of pens? Or is that a habit that’s here to stay?

HALSTED: Great question! Recently I have wrestled with this very issue, because I used Workflowy as a daily planner for a while. A couple of months ago I made the switch back to a paper-and-pen system because I missed using my nice pens. The tactile experience of ticking items off a to-do list is simply too compelling for me. However, I use Workflowy for plenty of other important things!

FRANK: This tweet of yours caught my eye:

Do you have any skeletons in your WorkFlowy closet? I mean, do any of your private thoughts make it in? Also, I’m curious as to where your wormhole would take you.

HALSTED: Workflowy is a creative space for me, but only for fiction. I don’t use it as a journal because I am too in love with fountain pens and creamy paper to give those up. However, I think Workflowy could serve very well as a journal, especially for those of us who make lists of events or feelings we want to remember. And my wormhole would take me to New York City in 1776. (I’m reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton right now.)

FRANK: Here’s how you describe your early writing days: “When I was four years old, I wrote a story about a giant rabbit with no eyes or mouth that haunted my dreams. The rabbit went away, but I kept writing.” Could you tell us about any piece of your work out there in the wild, and how you’d characterize your writing style?

HALSTED: As a writer at the beginning of my career, I’m not sure I can characterise my writing style; I’m still figuring it out. Most of what I write is slipstream fiction, sliding between fantasy and science fiction, and I’m starting to write some interactive fiction as well. Here’s a post about an interactive fiction piece I wrote. I write stories that make me uncomfortable in some way, that prod and pry at the edges of understanding. Memory and forgetfulness play a large part in my writing because I’m so fascinated by what we remember and why we forget. Here is an (audio) excerpt of a story I wrote called “Leftovers” about a chef who can flavour her dishes with her own memories.

FRANK: At this time of year there are a lot of writing apps that join in the NaNoWriMo buzz on social media. I’ve also seen you getting hyped about it. What, basically, is NaNoWriMo… and are you considering using WorkFlowy to get the job done?

HALSTED: NaNoWriMo is this bizarre, wonderful, horrible, inspiring, demoralising, joyous challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. I found out about it over a decade ago and tried it. I failed spectacularly, only managing 1,329 words. I’ve tried it several times now but have never made it past 10,000 words. This year, though, I have a secret weapon: Workflowy. I admit to skipping ahead to the book-writing chapter in “Do Way, Way More in Workflowy” for exactly this reason. Recently I devised a Workflowy template to help me sort through some structural problems I am having with one of my stories. I’d like to share it with your readers in case anyone else finds it useful. Here’s the template – in a shared WorkFlowy list.

[Here’s a screenshot of just the collapsed (sibling) lists which Halsted has shared with us. It is an incredible resource (with additional references) that you absolutely have to take a look at. Go ahead and embed the list into your WorkFlowy document!]:

FRANK: Do you have any personal writing tips for those who are thinking about taking the plunge this year? Is it even possible to write 50,000 words in a month?

HALSTED: It is absolutely possible to write 50,000 words in a month. Someone I know wrote 50,000 words in a third of that time, although she does not recommend it and won’t be repeating that performance. The key to NaNoWriMo is quantity, not quality. I’m hoping that the breakneck pace will help to shut my inner editor up, as there is simply no time to worry about writing well. My only tip for NaNoWriMo is to write. Don’t listen to the voice in your head that says it is preposterous to attempt such a feat. It is preposterous, which is exactly why we should try. Writing should not be a safe enterprise.


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List Title Tags to Better Navigate WorkFlowy

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In a couple of days I’ll post the first of a series of interviews about WorkFlowy. I’ll be chatting to some notable WorkFlowy users who’ll be sharing how they squeeze what out of WorkFlowy. There are some interesting folk lined up – but at the end of the day, they’re just like you and I. We’re all about WorkFlowy.

Over the next weeks and months I’ll be rubbing shoulders with many more of you WorkFlowy fans. If you think you’ve got a unique WorkFlowy perspective or a story to tell, please drop me a line at frankman777@gmail.com

So as not to leave you empty-handed today, and since I’m the one writing this post, I guess I’ll have to go ahead and interview myself then:

FRANK 1: Hi Frank 2, thanks for allowing me to interview you.

FRANK 2: The pleasure is all mine. Hey… why do you get to be Frank 1?

FRANK 1: Moving on… I wanted to ask you – If there was any one dynamic that you could pull directly out of your book and shamelessly promote to all of us, what would it be? Would you mind if I shared it on the WorkFlowy blog?

FRANK 2: Sure. It’s definitely got to be what I call, “List Title Tags“. Although it’s not exactly a WorkFlowy breakthrough, without it, navigating my WorkFlowy document would be way slower:

List Title Tags – from A to B that much faster

At the time of writing I’ve been watching Star Trek: DS9. The space station, Deep Space Nine, is located near the mouth of a recently discovered Bajoran wormhole, which allows access to the distant Gamma Quadrant. This wormhole makes passage from the Alpha Quadrant to the Gamma Quadrant – a distance of 70,000 light years – almost instantaneous (whereas it would ordinarily take a Federation starship 67 years to go the distance). The Bajoran wormhole is the only known stable wormhole in the Milky Way Galaxy with a terminus (mouth) located in both quadrants.

This is a picture of what I call “List Title Tags”. I usually put a tag in a parent list “terminus” and another in a child list “terminus” buried a number of lists deep. This tag might either substitute the title of a list or add an “@” to a keyword in the list title to modify it. When one engages (clicks on) a tag in a parent list, it will connect you to a tag in a child list, no matter how deep in the hierarchy. Then one simply clicks on the bullet of the child list to zoom in. Just like the Bajoran wormhole, these tags are “stable” in the sense that I keep them as permanent “terminuses”.

Below you will see a portion of my task list for @TODAY, ordered by priority. By looking at the breadcrumb navigation bar at the top of the image, you’ll notice that it would have taken 4 clicks to get here by clicking on one list at a time starting from the home page:

Another instance of this tag is found on the home page – which actually substitutes the list title of my list where all my actionable items are tucked away. It represents one of the most frequently visited children lists therein:

When I click on the @TODAY tag (not the bullet point) on my home page, I get the following filtered search results:

You’ll see 3 @TODAY  List Title Tags which are 3 of the contexts/ lists I visit daily within this parent list:

  • My Kanban Calendar (for general task management)
  • My journal for “thinking about thinking”
  • A health log, containing a record of exercise routine, etc.

So it’s one click on my home page to get to the above search result… and from there, not only will it take just a second click to get to to my task list for today… but also I have a tailor-made menu to cherry-pick from.

I hope a light went on with this simplest of hacks. This focuses specifically on how tags help to navigate one’s established nested hierarchies of lists – the architecture you’ve set up for the broad categories: we know where our lists are, but we just want to get there effortlessly. These tags are permanent fixtures, until you decide to restructure things, that is.

FRANK 1: Ummm… OK. Thanks for that. I think that will be all for now.


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