Productivity for writers and normal people too. The Blank Screen newsletter is sent weekly on Fridays by William Gallagher
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I want to show you something. This week I've been talking with many people who've been very lovely about The Blank Screen and there was one thing in particular that kept coming up. One piece of advice out of the entire book and the hundreds of website posts. I reckon I could now either tease you about this, drop great big hints and give you links to the book – like this, for example: buy The Blank Screen (UK edition, US edition) – or I could just show you.

I'll just show you. 

So there's a new section in the newsletter called Productivity Tip of the Week and this first one comes with many recommendations. I really think that it will help you and I really think that I'm starting to tease. It's time for productivity stories, videos, news and chocolate.

Yes. Chocolate.

News from The Blank Screen for April 25, 2014
Productivity tip of the week

Write your To Do tasks as if someone else is going to do them for you. Seriously. If you now write lists like "Call Anne", "Book venue", "Get spanner", do this instead: write out each one in full. "Phone Anne to get that Purchase Order number". It takes you longer to write today but tomorrow, you'll read that and just run to do it –  without having to stop to wonder why you were ringing Anne. Or which Anne was it again? Or is she calling me?

Write tasks as if someone else is going to do them because, truly, someone else is: the relaxed you strolling through these tasks tomorrow is not the same person as the you dashing down a To Do today.

Official – chocolate may boost work productivity

Alternatively, eat chocolate. The newsreader's shrug at the end tells you a lot but I don't care. It doesn't matter who researched this, what their proof was, nothing. Nothing. I am entirely convinced and I am ready to do my part. 

You want to share that now, don't you? Let's work together on this. There's a slew of sharing buttons at the foot of this newsletter: if you share the whole thing, you can pretend it's about the terribly important productivity tips and news. And we can all know that we're really talking about chocolate. 

What's so great about OmniFocus

New series of articles on The Blank Screen website: a kind of put up or shut up. I keep talking about OmniFocus – unless you're on Windows or Android when I instead keep telling you I'm sure there must be something as good as OmniFocus but I can't seem to find one for you – and now this To Do software is getting an overhaul. With the new iPhone version out and the new Mac version in beta, here's exactly how it works and why I am addicted to it. Addicted? Betrothed.

Make some tea, grab a biscuit. Start with Part 1 about how you get your tasks into OmniFocus wherever you are and then grab a biscuit or three as you read Part 2's detail about handling everything.

New App Matches You with Others in Vicinity Who Wasted $2.99 on Same App

The Onion uncovers Squandr, the new social discovery app: "It's just a fun, no-risk way to meet new people and talk about how we all blew a few bucks on this app". Full report.
Best technology news of the week
Just launched on Kickstarter: a device called Snap that lets you connect things to your phone – or your phone to things. Keep your credit card wallet snapped to the back of your phone; snap your phone on to the back of a passenger seat headrest to watch films on it.

It's a neat idea but I also just like the wry, make-you-smile approach that the makers have taken to their video about it. Take a look at that and commit some cash to kickstarting the product here.

Find new iOS productivity apps (or any apps, really)
There's something seriously wrong with Apple's App Store when you search for an app by name and you don't find it. Instead you find a hundred cash-in clones. A new service called Applr hopes to get you better results using what people are recommending the most. It's free but you do have to sign up and you should give the service your iTunes Store password to get the best results: it's safer than that sounds, honest.

Applr doesn't get your password per se, it gets the ability to look at your account and see what apps you've already got. This is how it crowdsources recommendations: by firstly seeing what people actually bought and then by asking you about them.

I've only schlepped through a dozen or so of my apps saying whether I like them but I did immediately do those ones I live by: OmniFocus, for shocking instance. I suspect that's common: so far I'm seeing recommendations for apps that people are listing as their absolute favourites. Doesn't mean they're right for me, but it does help. Have a look with or without signing up at

Their AIM was true
You know Facebook just bought Whatsapp for eleventy-billion pounds. Whatsapp, iMessages, Google Hangouts and all the rest arguably started with AIM, the AOL Instant Messenger. But AOL killed it and the reasons why tell a tale of how sticking to what you know best is like shooting yourself in the foot and being pleased at your target practice. See what went so very badly wrong.

Get more productivity and technology news daily on The Blank Screen website
Join me and The Blank Screen at the Musicians' Guild in London
If you're a member of the Writers' Guild, the Musician's Union, the NUJ or Equity, come for a day's workshop training on staying creative yet becoming massively productive. The Federation of Entertainment Unions presents The Blank Screen on Thursday 22 May from 10:30am to 4:30pm at the Musicians' Union offices.

It's free to members but you have to apply online by 12 May. More details and a big button to click here on the FEU website.
Buy of the week
Stop reading and run to get this right now: it is on sale up to the end of this weekend only. If you didn't read this in time, well, buy it anyway because the full price is still a bargain. But go now.

This is what 1Password does for you: it means you have all these great, strong, fantastic passwords that everybody says you must – and you don't have to think them up, you don't have to remember any of them. At least five times a day I tap on a website name in 1Password on my Mac, iPhone or iPad (Android and Windows versions are available too) and it takes me to the site, pops in my username and password, then even hits Return. I just think of the site I want to go and I'm in it immediately. I've never been so secure online yet I've never spent less time thinking about it.

There are many versions and many prices. I use the Mac version of 1Password which is on sale for £17.49 UK, $24.99 US (usual prices £34.99 UK and $49.99 US – see what I mean about the bargain?). And I use a universal version that works on both iPhone and iPad: that's currently just £5.99 UK or $8.99 US (regular price: £12.99 UK, $17.99 US).

There are also Windows, Android versions, family pack discounts and bundles too. Go take a look at the 1Password store for them all. And watch this free video from the independent Screencasts Online about how to use it. Screencasts Online put that video out for free because of how hugely 1Password helps since the Heartbleed bug.
What I'm reading...
What, you think I'm already done with last week's 1,000-page The Time Traveller's Almanac? Yeah, pretty much. This week I have been mostly reading:
These are the Voyages
An exhaustive and often enough exhausting account of the making of the original Star Trek. I'm less interested in the show, more in the tales of talented and sometimes not so talented people working under health-endangering pressures. You probably have to like Star Trek a little but if you're looking for how to creatively piss people off – and how that comes back to bite you – then it's all here.

The book's not the best-designed volume in the world so I don't recommend the costly paperback. Actually, the Kindle has bugs in it – I'm not selling this well, am I? – but the text is engrossing.

Amazon UK: £6.18 Kindle, £20.24 paperback
Amazon US: $10.38 Kindle, $26.96 paperback
What I'm writing...
Truly, I regret telling you what I'm working on. I know: money where my mouth is. I say you can be productive, I ought to be myself. But you've got that face: I can't lie to you and pretend I've been busier than I have.

This week has been chiefly spent writing proposals and attending meetings. Lots of work producing a trio of events. A lot of juggling to make a new project feasible. And about 7,000 words of fiction.

Plus Self Distract, my personal blog about writing. Specifically about what we write and what we write with, when we get around to writing. For this week's 305th edition, I've written about our suspension of disbelief and in particular about how drama series put their characters in danger when we know they must be fine or the show's over. You can tell what I've been absorbing lately: this week's Self Distract post is called He's Not Dead, Jim.
Buy The Blank Screen book
"Love this book, it is clever and witty and genuinely grapples with making an extra hour (or two) in the day. Inspiring and liberating. A real Can-Do manual. No creative should be without it."
– Barbara Machin, creator of Waking the Dead

UK paperback and Kindle
US paperback and Kindle
Read Later
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