ChatGPT is Exposing Our Broken Education System

I was at a talk about generative AI over the weekend, and someone asked about what it meant for students and homework assignments.

The speaker said something I can’t stop thinking about: that if ChatGPT can regurgitate information as well as a student, and the teacher has no idea, what’s really the problem?

Something I’m trying to teach my children, even at their young ages, is critical thinking. I don’t want them to memorize something. I want them to think about a problem, analyze it, and come to a solution.

I want them to question rules that don’t make sense. And I want them to force people in authority positions to explain themselves.

Our education system in the United States doesn’t teach those skills, and the fear of what ChatGPT means for homework grossly exposes that.

Who cares if ChatGPT can write a paper about the Battle of Gettysburg at a 5th grade level?

If my kid successfully leverages tools like ChatGPT to do their homework and save them time, they’ve gained a much more useful skill than memorizing the Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the American Civil War, lasting from July 1 to July 3, 1863, with the Union Army defeating the Confederate Army led by General Robert E. Lee1.

We’re still in a culture where students are taught to obey arbitrary rules, learn enough to pass standardized tests, and then promptly forget what they’ve memorized.

And it’s so very broken. It’s why 98% of 5 year olds are considered “genius level creative,” and by age 15, that number is down to 12%.

The good teachers will celebrate generative AI. They’ll teach their students how to leverage it to do proper research in a fraction of the time.

  1. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. ?
| |

How to Add a Google Doc in a Specific Folder with Your Stream Deck

I’ve greatly improved my process for creating social media content in a centralized place.

The basic workflow is this:

  1. Create a Google Doc in a folder called “Social Posts”
  2. Kick off a Make automation that watches that folder, and adds a new entry to my “Social Media content” base in Airtable. A schedule date is also determined.

Then my VA goes in and reviews the documents, creating images as needed, and posting them on the scheduled dates.

Building the Google Doc URL

To make this even easier, I wanted to create a Stream Deck button to open a new document in that Google Drive folder1. Turns out, you can create a new file in a specific folder via a URL.

Here’s the URL Format:[FOLDER-ID].

And here’s where you get the FOLDER-ID:

Creating the Stream Deck Button

With that in hand, I have my URL. And I can easily launch this with my Stream Deck thanks to the “Website” action:

Now, whenever inspiration strikes, I push that button and start writing.

But I know what you’re thinking. “What about when you’re not at your Stream Deck?”

Sadly, because the Google Docs team apparently hates iOS, there is no native shortcut for Docs, and when you open that URL on mobile, it throws an error.

Instead what I do is dictate a new document using Drafts. Then Drafts has an action to save to Google Drive. It’s not perfect, but it works for now.

  1. The subtext here being I have this sort of automation for all things I want to quickly capture — ideas, notes, journal thoughts. ?
| |

Switching to Make

Formerly Integromat

One thing I like to do in December is review my expenses, switch things from yearly to monthly, and see what I can change.

This year I decided to switch Zapier from yearly to monthly and learned they charge an obnoxious 33% more because of it.

Combine that with a recent episode of the Automators podcast that covers Make, and I’ve decided to try switching completely to Make from Zapier.

Evaluation and Plan

I did a quick evaluation last week and saw it supports most of the apps I use in Zapier, and there are other alternatives for the ones I don’t use.

I tested the waters over the weekend by converting one of my most crucial Zaps to a Make Scenario, and it worked.

So throughout January, I’m going to see just how much of my operation I can move to Make. If all goes well, my last day with Zapier (at least as my primary automation platform) will be January 31st.

Want a Deeper Look at the Transition?

Members of How I Built It Pro will get behind the scenes looks at how the transition is going, as well as my thoughts on Make as a platform, and some basic tutorials. You can join here for $5/mo.


How I Keep my Email at Inbox Zero

One of the tenants of the No Spend Month my wife and I are doing is decluttering. We’re going through all of our stuff and donating what we don’t need. We’ve already gotten rid of bags of clothes, hundreds of DVDs, lots of books, and toys.

See, those who knew me growing up might be shocked by this, but I hate clutter. If I have a lot of stuff around me I can’t focus. The same thing goes for my digital space. Too many notifications, badges, and messages gives be agita; so I try to keep my devices clean. I have no badges turn on except missed calls and overdue tasks. Very few apps have notifications. I have a focus mode where only my wife can send notifications to my phone.

And I keep my email at near inbox zero at all times. Here’s how.

It’s All About Having a Process

Back in December I wrote a post about managing the deluge of email you get over the holidays. Ultimately, keeping your inbox at inbox zero will be about you and the process you have in place. These are simply the tools that work best for me, and the process I have in place.

My Email App of Choice: Spark

I, like most people, have gone on a long sojourn to find the right email app, and they all pretty much stink. The good ones get killed off and cannibalized. So I tried Apple Mail for a while because of the support for Apple Script. With Apple Script, I could use some pretty cool Text Expander snippets to grab the recipient’s first name and more.

But ultimately I keep finding my way back to Spark. It’s pretty, it works super well (especially with Google email services), and it’s cross platform. I’ve created some custom smart folders that show me what I want when I want, and each address is color coded, making it easy to know what’s work and what’s personal.

It also has snooze, reminder, and send later features.

But an app is only part of the battle.

SaneBox is Clutch

I’ve written about SaneBox in the past, but I can’t stress enough how important this is to my workflow.

SaneBox automatically sorts my email so only the most important messages hit my inbox. It learns based on my usage, and I can create my own folders. For example, I have one called @SaneMoney for all online orders and one called @SaneCalendar for all calendar invites.

SaneBox also allows for reminders. You forward email to So for example if I wanted an email to come back to my inbox in 5 weeks, I’d forward it to

Finally, you can completely pause your inbox, meaning SaneBox will make sure you don’t see any email for the determined about of time.

Feedbin for Newsletters

Part of keeping my inbox tidy is making sure the newsletters don’t clutter it up. SaneBox can handle this, and usually does out of the box with the @SaneNews folder.

But I wanted my newsletters to be someplace where I’d actually read them. Enter: Feedbin.

Feedbin is an RSS service for $5/mo. But the real reason I signed up for it is the custom feed email address you get. Now when I subscribe to newsletters, I use the Feedbin address — that means every newsletter I sign up for goes right to my RSS reader and never touches my inbox.

Todoist for Tasks

Another reason I keep going to Spark is the great integration with other apps, including a wide range of task managers. This was true when I was using Omnifocus, and remains true since I switched to Todoist.

In Spark, I can swipe to the right to have email added to my task list. This can either be the full text of the email, or a smart link to the email in Spark. SO good!

This allows me to process even emails that need my response, and puts them in one of the few places where I allow notifications (more on that in a second).

Fast Processing

Another key to a tidy inbox is being able to process it quickly. With the tools above, I’ve done everything I can to make sure only emails I need to respond to hit my inbox. From there, I can process it quickly in a 2 ways:

  1. Spark supports customizable swiping actions, so I have archive, reply, snooze, and add to Todoist
  2. Text Expander snippets, which are excellent. My most common replies can be fully typed with just a few keystrokes

Smart Folders and NO Email Notifications

The last thing I want to mention is that I have no email notifications turn on with any of my devices. While that prevents interrupting me in real time, I still have a small compulsion to check my email every so often. That’s a different habit I need to break, but in the mean time I have a smart folder in Spark called “Unread.” It shows me only unread emails from specific folders, and I hide everything else besides my inbox.

That means I see only the emails I want to see.

How are You Managing Your Inbox?

So there you have it –everything I’m doing to manage my inbox. As I write this, I’m at inbox zero, and have been for most of the day.

While that’s not necessarily a badge of honor for people (and it shouldn’t have to be), it’s proof that my process works…which is the important part.

How are you managing your inbox? Any tips you want to share? Let me know in the comments!

| |

How to Manage Your Email for a Sane Holiday Season

Do you feel like you got way too many emails over the Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend? I know lots of people who do. I also know lots of business owners who held back sending their own sequence of emails because they hate getting emails. And while that’s a different conversation1, you can draw a similar conclusion: when people get a lot of email, they feel it’s overwhelming.

It doesn’t have to be. Way back in 2010, I wrote about how you can easily manage subscriptions with GMail. Well, it’s been 10 years, and there are a lot more ways to control your inbox. Let’s take a look at some.

Understand the + Operator in GMail (and other email services)

I suspect most people are using GMail, and I outline the + operator (called “plus addressing”) in the above post. You add a plus sign after your gmail user name, then some key word (for example, Then you can use filters to do what you want with those emails. This works for any email address using Google’s email service, whether it’s an address, or your own domain.

And while lots people, businesses, and institutions use GMail or Google Workspace2, Google isn’t the only the only email service that supports this. Microsoft’s Outlook is another major player that allows plus addressing.

I suggest even if you’re not using Google or Microsoft, you see if your email service allows plus addressing.

Use Filters Generously

With or without plus addressing, you can still use filters generously. I use them to remove any emails from specific senders, or even key words. For example, if you get lots of emails from a noreply@ email address, you can set up a filter like this:


…and they move it into a “NoReply” folder or even the trash.

For a long time I used filters to manage large aspects of my inbox:

A good number of the filters I use in my personal GMail account.

But now, I use a MUCH better too: SaneBox

SaneBox is the solution we all need

Full Disclose: SaneBox is a previous sponsor of both my podcast and my newsletter. But it’s honestly a service I can’t live without.

I’ve written several times about Sanebox, but I think this post is a good introduction. The great thing about SaneBox is that it’s automatic and uses a form of machine learning to sort your email, no matter what service or email client you use.

That means you don’t need to mess with filters, and you can teach it to automatically sort any plus addresses you happen to use. It can also sort based on sender, key words, and other more technical aspects of email.

My favorite feature is the Sane Black Hole, which you can read about above. But they also have a fantastic feature called Do Not Disturb. When you enable it, you can have any email that would go to your inbox sent to a folder for a selected period of time. At the end of that period, the emails are restored to your inbox.

I think SaneBox is the best solution for most people.

Don’t Check Your Email When You’re Not at Your Desk

If I’m being honest, the catalyst for this post was a reply to a tweet I got about not wanting to be bothered on the holidays. And I totally get that.

A couple of books have come out in recent years that have rallied against email, either outside of work, or all together. One is Make Time and the other is Cal Newport’s A World Without Email. Both of these books offer insight into how you can cut the email cord.

And while it’s easy to say, “just don’t check email,” that trigger is a pretty strong one, especially if you find yourself on your phone with some downtime. With that in mind, there are a couple of more extreme options if you’re not a fan of folders and filters.

  1. Have a separate email address for all marketing emails. This could be an old address you don’t use any more, or one you’ve set up specifically for this purpose. Then you can get whatever you opted in for, and only check that inbox when you want to.
  2. Delete the app from your phone. Even if you can’t escape email when you’re at your desk, you can when you’re away from it. Delete the app from your phone if you really don’t want to be bothered.


Oh yeah…and you can always unsubscribe from those newsletters. If the businesses are anything like me, I’m happy to see unsubscribes. If people don’t want to hear from me, they shouldn’t have to.

Most email clients make it pretty easy to unsubscribe these days, even if the sender doesn’t.

Getting Emails may be the Problem, but There are Lots of Solutions

The fact of the matter is businesses will always send emails because they work. My 10 email sequence over the course of Cyber Week worked very well; I had more sales than unsubscribes. So I’ll be doing the same thing next year.

But I also have systems in place so that I only see those emails when I want to. Most marketing emails never make it to my inbox.

It can be the same way for you.

  1. One that’s coming soon ?
  2. …or whatever it’s called by the time you read this. ?

The Best Home Automation Device of 2021: Lutron Aurora Dimmer Switch

I love to automate everything. Sometimes it’s overkill. But it usually results in some cool things. With Shortcuts being available on the Mac now, for example, I can push a button on my Stream Deck, set the lighting in my office for recording, put my phone into the Recording Focus Mode, and set my “podcast recording”timer in Toggl.

But this isn’t about any of that1. This is about a general home automation device. The best one I’ve seen all year: the Lutron Aurora Smart Bulb Dimmer Switch.

A Smart Home Device for People Who Don’t Like Smart Devices

One of my goals when we bought our house was to basically connect everything to the internet that could be. My only requirement is it works with both HomeKit and Alexa2. Phillips Hue lights fill that requirement nicely.

So I installed smart bulbs everywhere. And I quickly realized a problem that some great automators of our time have warned of: people will still use the switches and knobs to which the blubs are attached, rendering them useless. This could be kids, parents, or energy conscious visitors who don’t know you have a voice controlled home.

And let me tell you: messing around with electrical boxes to install smart switches is not my favorite thing.

That’s where the Lutron Aurora Smart Bulb Dimmer Switch comes in.


This small device connects to either a specific Phillips Hue bulb, room, or scene, and can control the lights by dimming them with the knob, or turning the lights off and on by pressing it.

Super Easy Installation

And the best part? SUPER simple installation. Put the mount on top of the switch, secure it with a couple twists of a screwdrivers, then snap the dimmer on top of it. It took me 2 minutes tops to install and connect the thing.

After trying it in my son’s room, I’m absolutely buying one for every room with smart lights.

If you are looking for a simple solution for your smart switch woes, I highly recommend the Lutron Aurora Smart Bulb Dimmer Switch.

  1. Don’t worry. Subscribe on YouTube and you’ll get a video soon. ?
  2. …and if it works with HomeKit, it almost definitely works with Alexa. ?

SavvyCal vs. Calendly

A few weeks ago In my newsletter, I talked about how I’m considering switching to SavvyCal over Calendly. There are a lot of great features to like about SavvyCal, including how calendar overlays work, one-off links, reusable hours, and recurring time blocks based on calendar events.

Plus with teams, you can do “round robin” scheduling, allowing you to easily combine multiple people’s availability – something that while SavvyCal requires a team account for, Calendly doesn’t offer at all. But I’m not quite ready to switch yet. Here’s why.

Read More “SavvyCal vs. Calendly”

Using Automation to Better Manage Client Work

Perhaps one of the more iconic scenes from Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) is the trash compactor scene. It’s the first real trouble our heroes are in together. The first time they need to work together (and wait for their robots to save them).

If you’re unfamiliar, Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewie fall into a trash compactor (garbage masher) and the walls are quickly closing in on them; despite their best efforts, nothing they do can stop the walls from closing in. OH and there’s a monster (a dianoga) that nearly eats Luke. They escape when R2-D2 (and the behest of C-3PO) turns it off and opens the door.

Getting a lot of client work can kind of feel that way – especially if you’re a small shop. You take on too much work, and now the walls are closing in on you. Luckily, we also have robots who can save us, through automation.

Read More “Using Automation to Better Manage Client Work”
| |

Launch Specific Parts of a Mac App with Stream Deck and Keyboard Maestro

Earlier this week in my Favorites of 2020 post, I bestowed the dubious honor of favorite gadget upon the Elgato Stream Deck. I love automation, and the flexibility of this bad boy to control not only aspects of my computer, but aspects of my home, is fantastic.

Well I recently picked up the Stream Deck XL and have a few extra buttons to play with now. One thing I thought would be interesting is to launch a specific note in Bear Notes. Turns out you can totally do that! Here’s how.

Read More “Launch Specific Parts of a Mac App with Stream Deck and Keyboard Maestro”

4 Ways to Make Podcasting Easier Through Automation

Podcasting is a time consuming effort, which is why many podcasts fall victim to the dreaded podfade1. It can sometimes feel like you need a herculean effort to get it all done. Come up with topics, find and book guests, coordinate schedules, do the tech checks, record, post production, then publishing and promoting. That’s why putting a process in place and moving things off of your plate is a must. Here are 4 tasks you can take off your plate thanks to automation.

Read More “4 Ways to Make Podcasting Easier Through Automation”