Creating Folders for macOS Dock (my minimalist setup)

One of the constant battles in my life is between the side of me that wants to be structured, focused, and lead a minimalist life and the ADHD that I try to control, much like Flash Thompson controls the Venom symbiote.

Between my main job, side gigs, and passion projects, I use various tools to manage everything. Unfortunately, that has led to my dock becoming larger and larger, which means more distractions throughout the day. Just seeing an icon for email, my to-do list, calendars, etc., can be distracting.

Idea #1: Avoid native apps and use web interfaces. 

Result: FAIL. This resulted in being in my browser more, which offers even more tempting distractions. 

Idea #2: Hide the dock.

Result: FAIL. When I do need to access the dock, the temptations are still there. 

Idea #3: Remove everything from the dock and remember which programs you need to use, and use Finder to open them.

Result: This one didn’t even make it out of the gate. There are some apps that I frequently use that I don’t remember their names. I rely on their icons, so this would have been a mistake.

Idea #4: Create folders on my dock based on a theme.

Result: WINNER! I thought about creating folders based on which company or project is most likely to use it, but that would have led to one folder being huge (for my main job). The other folders would end up being so small that it wouldn’t make sense to have the others’ folders.

How to create folders for your dock:

1. Open Finder and go to the Applications folder.

2. Create a new folder on your desktop (I named mine “Communication & Planning”).

3. Open the newly created folder next to your Applications folder.

4. In the Applications folder, find the app you wish to add to the new folder and “right-click” to bring up the options.

5. Select “Make Alias.”

6. Drag and drop the newly created Alias to the new folder. You may need to rename the Alias in the new folder and/or delete the Alias from the Applications folder once you’ve added it to the new folder.

7. Continue steps 4-6 for all apps you wish to add to your new folder.

8. Drag and drop the new folder into your Applications folder.

9. Drag and drop the new folder from your Applications folder to your dock.


Inexpensive Alert System w/ Philips Hue Lights

Cost: $180 (1 Hue Hub/Bridge, 1 Smart Button, 3 A19 Color Bulbs)
On the cheap: $70 (1 Hue Hub/Bridge, 2 A19 White Bulbs)

Time: 2-4 hours
Skills Required: NodeJS familiarity
Other Tools Required: A local machine to run the scripts (Raspberry Pi works great)
Fun Level: 4 out of 5 stars

The Problem: The scheduling tool within our manufacturing system required far too much manual work and didn’t work the way our company did. We developed our own schedule tool that integrated with the manufacturing system, so long as our project managers entered the data exactly the same way in the manufacturing system as they had on within our scheduling tool.

In short, it was human error. Specifically it was a copy/paste problem, a costly and frustrating one.

The Solution: Typically the Philips Hue system is used for lighting at home. However, we were in need of a system that would alert the manager and our COO when the copy/paste issue occurred. We tried email notifications, but you never know when the appropriate person would check their email (and you don’t want people using email as an instant messaging tool).

We needed something that would immediately identify when the issue occurred and alert people even if their email wasn’t open. That’s when I had the lightbulb moment (pun intended). At $180, using the Philips Hue system was worth the shot.

With a Raspberry Pi running Ubuntu Server already active, we were able to get the system up and running within 4 hours.

The Details: Connecting the Philips Hue Hub/Bridge with our system turned out to be fairly easy.

  1. Install Philips Hue lightbulbs where the team’s manager and our COO would see them.
  2. Connect Philips Hue Hub/Bridge
  3. Install Philips Hue app on my iPhone & follow instructions
  4. Install huejay via npm on the Raspberry Pi device
  5. Grab Hue Hub/Bridge ID from the Philips Hue app
  6. Create a script to check for discrepancies and trigger lights
  1. Install Philips Hue lightbulbs where the team’s manager and our COO would see them.
    I had 2 bulbs, so this was very easy. Both already had a floor lamp in their offices, so I simply replaced their old bulbs with the new Hue bulbs.
  2. Connect Philips Hue Hub/Bridge
    Just follow the instructions that come with the Hue Hub. I used the 2nd generation one, so the instructions may have changed. Should be as simple as connecting power and ethernet to the Hub.
  3. Install Philips Hue app on iPhone (or Android) and follow instructions
    Again, just follow the instructions. They make it very easy to setup.
  4. Install huejay via npm on a machine (I used a Raspberry Pi running Ubuntu Server)
    You can learn more about huejay here. I’ll include my code snippets in the following steps for reference as well.
  5. Grab Hue Hub/Bridge ID from the Philips Hue app
    1. Open the app and press “Settings”
    2. Select “Hue Bridges”
    3. Press the info icon
    4. Find the “ID” (you’ll need this for using the API via huejay)
  6. Create a script to check for discrepancies and trigger lights
    Now we get to the fun stuff. Below is some basic code I wrote for this a few years ago. You may want to clean this up a bit.

    I also decided to have this ran via cronjob in conjunction with for quick and lazy notifications if it didn’t run for some reason.

That’s it! Let me know if you come up with clever uses for the Hue system at the office.

Q&A: What should a new hire do during the first 90 days to put themself on the fast track to advancement?

  1. Make sure you’ve developed strong business relationships with leadership and key employees across all departments.
  2. Understand the company’s products, the problems they’re really solving, and your key clients.
  3. Identify a process or opportunity that the company isn’t capitalizing on and start trying to attack it on the side.
  4. Ask for feedback from your supervisor and those you work with.

The combination of being teachable, observant, and hardworking will make sure you’re on the radar.

Q&A: Does a workplace fitness challenge improve the office community? Does it risk being exclusionary?

This is a really interesting question and one I hadn’t thought about before. I can certainly see how, if executed poorly, a workplace fitness challenge could become exclusionary. With a few areas of focus I believe you can have a successful program that improves the office community.

  1. Don’t make it feel mandatory. You can accomplish this by having someone who is not in management take the lead on the program. Preferably someone who has a good rapport with people across multiple teams. This person is likely the “fun person” with whom people enjoy spending moments with. This person isn’t going to be bothered in the slightest if someone declines to join and will make the challenge fun.
  2. Make sure the program is focused on something other than pure weight loss. Pure weight loss challenges can encourage unhealthy habits as well as be intimidating for many people who do not feel comfortable sharing their weight with others.
  3. Create opportunities for non-participants to participate. This means that if you occasionally provide lunch or other treats that you provide healthier options alongside what you’d normally offer. By still providing your normal options you’re reinforcing that it’s not mandatory and it also provides opportunities for non-participants to actually participate. You may hear things like “Ok Joe Bob, I’m passing on the donuts for you.” from a non-participant to a participant.

    Combined with point #4 you could set a goal the combines the success of all of the participants. If the combined efforts result in hitting a specific target, the entire office gets a reward. Then those who were too nervous to join can be more supportive and may even unofficially participate.
  4. Celebrate the winners. Notice that’s plural. Having a winner take all doesn’t have as much of a community feedback as having multiple winners. By having multiple winners (say the top 3 or so) you’re providing yourself the opportunity to recognize people on different teams and from different backgrounds.

I’ve been fortunate to work for multiple organizations that have tried various forms of fitness challenges and I’ve not seen one cause any negative issues to arise. They’ve all either formed or strengthened communities within the organization. If you do it right this can be a real win for the entire company.

Good luck!

Q&A: What is the correct way to overcome a manager who exercised micromanagement in every single tasks a staff is going to perform?

There are a few approaches one can take when working for a micromanager. Which one you pick depends on your personality, relationship with the micromanager, ability to endure difficult conversations, and your performance level.

  1. Ask for Feedback – Ask for a 1:1 with the micromanager and ask them to give you some performance feedback. If they tell you you’re doing great, let them know you feel as though they’re micromanaging and it had you questioning your performance. Have specific examples ready and try to have them going back further than a month if you can. During this conversation ask for opportunities to work on your own in the future and see if you can agree on 1–3 opportunities to do so.
  2. Ask for Permission – When assigned a task tell the micromanager that you’d like an opportunity to perform the task on your own before presenting the final product to them. Then kick butt on the task and present it to them and ask for feedback. If the feedback is positive, tell them you really enjoyed the growth you felt from the experience and ask for more opportunities to work with minimal oversight. Make sure you’re picking tasks that are valuable, but not make or break critical, and you can excel at.
  3. Ask for Forgiveness – Identify an opportunity that your team isn’t tackling but could be very valuable for the organization. Then go kill it. Come back and present the opportunity, show how you tackled it, and the amazing result. Apologize if they were bothered by your approach and explain you just wanted to try something before trying to make it official. This will show that you’re proactive, looking for ways to help the organization, and are looking for professional growth. And make sure you don’t try to turn it into an ask for a raise or bonus immediately, or you’ll look selfish. If it goes well, keep finding opportunities and grow your role. Then get that raise!

I’ve used approach 3 throughout my career and it’s never been an issue, even with severe micromanagers. I’ve been told that they wished I hadn’t made the decision a few times but nothing that harmed my reviews or growth.

Good luck!

Posted in Q&A

Q&A: How do you deal with an insubordinate “employee” you want to keep?

The simple way to prevent this in the future is the hardest: have an honest conversation about their performance and attitude.

Often times people are not aware of the impact they are having on the organization because nobody has ever told them. They also aren’t fully aware of the boundaries and how they are violating them.

Sitting down and being direct but open-minded is the best approach. Tell them what you’re seeing and ask why they think this is happening. Then reset expectations. Then follow-up.

If that doesn’t fix the situation, then it’s time to part ways.

Q&A: What are the best ways to build an extremely strong company culture?

With “great” being a subjective term I’ll avoid being prescriptive in my answer in terms of “what” the culture should be but will be prescriptive in “how” you can do it. There are many effective formulas, but the one below is nice and easy.

  1. As with any initiative and goal you need to start with a clear vision in your mind of what this great company culture should look like. It needs to be so clear to you that you could practically paint a picture of it. The slightest mist in your mind becomes a choking fog in the mind of the rest of the organization.
  2. Identify behaviors that would take place in this ideal culture. Most people refer to these as Core Values, but you can call them whatever you’d like. Make sure these are the behaviors you really want to see. Think about not only the good side, but the bad side of these behaviors. For instance, if you want passionate people you need to remember that passion can lead to emotional disagreements. Are you willing to support people when the “negative” aspect of a core value comes out?
  3. Take these behaviors and rate your people on each one from a scale of 1–5 or 1–10 (or just have a yes/no rating). If you find that most of your people are demonstrating these behaviors, great! If you find the opposite being true, you may need to go back to step one. You hired these people but they don’t align with what you want. So either you need to replace them (and change your hiring process) or you need to change the vision.
  4. Once you have behaviors that you’re fully comfortable with you should immediately start recognizing people when they demonstrate the behaviors. A simple “Hey Maria, I really liked when you XXXX the other day” goes a long way, especially when you’re consistent about it.
  5. After being intentional for a month or so about giving positive feedback, you can make your “official” announcement about the behaviors if you’d like. Because you’ve been encouraging people already, they will see that the behaviors are real and something you’re already serious about. This is much preferred to the idea of making an “official” announcement and then becoming intentional.
  6. Continue step 4 from now until you die. When you have meetings or 1:1s with managers and people who report to you make sure you’re asking them for instances where they’re seeing their people demonstrate these behaviors. Ask them if they’ve recognized that person and, regardless of whether or not they have, make sure you do it.

The biggest stumbling block I’ve seen is being so focused on outcomes that a person or team can be discouraged because, although they demonstrated every behavior you’d want to see, the outcome was a “failure” and the leadership fails to acknowledge their efforts. You can mitigate this by asking “did our actions align with our desired behaviors?” If so make sure to still recognize the team and take the approach of “we did a great job of XXX but obviously the outcome isn’t what we were hoping for”.

The other big stumbling block is not being willing to fire someone when it’s clear they’re not aligned with your values because they’re “productive”. They may be producing good outcomes but you’re putting profits over culture. In this scenario you’re being inauthentic about what you want to see in your culture. This is the quickest way to lose credibility.

I hope this is helpful and would love to know what you decide on.