Jacob Evans

Jacob Evans

31 posts

Leader Fables: 'You Need a Hobby'

Leader Fables is back!

This time, Casey and I delve into the world of hobbies and their crucial role in preventing burnout. We share our personal hobbies, from stargazing to Lego, and discuss how these activities rejuvenate us and make us more interesting individuals.

We also explore the connection between hobbies and life balance. Tune in to hear more about our adventures and tips in finding fun hobbies that make us better leaders.

Leader Fables: 'Baking Ideas Pt. 2'

As expected, Casey and I are back with part two of making ideas happen. But before we dive into the nitty-gritty of project execution, we couldn't resist recapping the importance of seizing inspiration (because let's face it, those lightbulb moments can be as fleeting as a sneeze).

Casey and I also found ourselves tangled in an impromptu showdown about what truly constitutes a minimum viable product (MVP). Trust me, it's like watching two nerds duke it out over the best flavor of ice cream—but with much higher stakes.

Amidst the laughter and friendly banter, we share a variety of tips for executing projects like pros. We cover everything from persuasion tactics, to handling those moments when your grand plan suddenly takes a nosedive into the fiery pits of chaos.

If you're up for a dallop of wisdom, wit, and a touch of nerdiness, tune in to the latest episode of Leader Fables.

Leader Fables: 'Baking Ideas Pt. 1'

Get ready for another exciting episode of Leader Fables where we outline how we make ideas happen.

Casey and I discuss effective brainstorming strategies, share our experiences on the art of persuasion, and provide practical tips for getting projects underway. The episode is chuck-full of actionable insights, personal anecdotes, and a dose of our favorite recommendations.

This episode is packed with tools and tips to help you turn your ideas into reality.

Leader Fables: 'Help Your Family Love Your Job'

I'll be the first to admit that there have been times when my wife hated my job. In our latest episode of Leader Fables, Casey Clark gives us some great advice on how to love our work and our families. He also outlines a litmus test to determine what our families thing about our work. If you cherish both your career and your loved ones, try his test.

I invite you to join me on a journey towards creating a fulfilling life where work and family thrive together. I'm just getting started 💙

Leader Fables: 'Don't Drink the Water'

Looks like we've got a classic case of delayed gratification, folks! This week's episode took a detour thanks to the ultimate culprit: travel.

But don't worry, we're not here to complain (well, not too much anyway.) Join me and Casey on a journey through the wild world of business travel. We share our tips and tricks for surviving the airport shuffle, and maybe even inspire you to try something new on your next trip.

And if that's not enough to entice you, I also unleash some fiery hot takes on everyone's favorite office annoyance: email auto-responders.

Leader Fables: 'Stop Reading Business Books'

After a five-month hiatus, Casey and I are back behind the mic to discuss all things leadership.

One of the professional maxims I try to live by is: the better I get, the better I better get. In this week's fortnightly episode, we attempt to unpack that truth by discussing the importance of professional development.

To improve as a leader, I've learned that I need to seek ways to inspire and challenge me. Neglecting professional development is a recipe for obsolescence. And who wants to be obsolete? I certainly don't.

Leader Fables: 'Powerful Presentations'

Happy New Year, friends! Casey Clark and I have great plans for Leader Fables this year, and we can't wait to share our plans with you soon. Until then, we're releasing a handful of episodes on topics we're passionate about, and this week's episode on presentations is no exception. So join us as we discuss the elements that make for a powerful presentation.

If you're a veteran presenter or new to giving presentations, this episode has a tip for you.

Leader Fables: 'Marvelous Meetings'

Meetings can either energize or bore. I've learned the hard way how to orchestrate meetings that are memorable, impactful, and fun. In this week's fortnightly episode of Leader Fables, Casey and I discuss how to host team meetings that are energizing, inviting, informative, and celebratory.

For those of us that struggle to make meetings effective or could use some advice to make an impending team meeting more inspirational, this episode will not dissapoint.

Leader Fables: Season 2

I'm delighted to announce that Leader Fables has been renewed for a second season! And by "renewed," I mean that Casey and I loved making season one of the show so much that we decided to do another one about a favorite topic of ours: intentional productivity. During this season, we're dedicating an episode to each of the Five Altitudes of Planning, including:

  1. Weekly preparation
  2. Daily planning
  3. Quarterly reviews
  4. Live planning & Annual reviews
  5. Putting It All Together
  6. Managing Margin (bonus episode)

We kick off the season with an overview episode packed with tips and strategies to help us prepare to plan our weeks.

Finally, this season, we're starting a show newsletter. Signup for the newsletter to receive exclusive content, and enter to win a free copy of two books: Free to Focus and Deep Work.

Leader Fables: 'Interview with Mary Jane Isaacs'

One of my favorite people, Mary Jane Isaacs, joined us on Leader Fables Fables this week.

Mary Jane is a phenomenal leader who shares inspiring stories about navigating difficult seasons. She also delivers excellent tips on conducting effective one-on-ones and adding a little whimsy to team celebrations. Give this week's episode a listen; it's not one to miss.

Leader Fables: 'The Summit'

The most difficult but most rewarding activity I do every week is a retrospective. Taking 30 minutes to reflect on the prior week and make minor course corrections has made me a more effective leader, father, and husband. In this week's episode of Leader Fables, Casey and I demonstrate and discuss how to conduct effective after action reviews.

Book recommend: Getting Things Done by David Allen

Leader Fables: 'Interview with Margaret Simonis'

In this week's episode of Leader Fables, we break from our usual format to interview a long time colleague of Casey's: Margaret Simonis. Margaret is an experienced and exceptional middle manager who shares some practical advice on how to conduct effective 1-on-1s, stay organized, establish routines for recharging, and team collaboration.

This episode is packed with great advice from an experienced middle manager for middle managers. Please give it a listen.

Leader Fables: 'Rallying Cry'

Establishing weekly planning and reflection routines has, by far, enabled me to maintain better focus. And sustaining focus throughout the week has allowed me to do my best work and lead more effectively. This week's episode of Leader Fables is packed with tips on performing weekly planning, establishing rhythms for reflection, setting weekly goals, and maintaining focus.

For teams who are striving to do their best work but could pick up a little more speed, this week's episode is for you 💜

Book recommend: Deep Work by Cal Newport

Leader Fables: 'The Map'

Launching products is complex. But proper strategic planning helps sustain execution and ensures successful outcomes. What is strategic planning, and how does it relate to the middle manager's role? Listen to this week's episode of Leader Fables to find out.

Also, there's some can't-miss talk of a slingshot to space.

Book recommend: Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt

Leader Fables: 'The Code'

Most of us love hearing a captivating quitting story. I hate to admit it, but, at times, I've fantasized about rage quitting, too. While I have yet rage quit, I've experienced a few spectacular resignations as a middle manager. I talk about one of them at the beginning of this week's episode of Leader Fables.

Consider reducing the rage by collaboratively establishing team norms. What are team norms? Listen to this week's episode to find out.

Book recommend: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Launching Leader Fables

I'm super excited to announce a podcast that's been in the making for quite some time. It's called Leader Fables, and we think you'll like it. My cohost, Casey Clark, and I use the power of storytelling to examine leadership strategies and tactics. You will enjoy the stories and may even enjoy our commentary.

In the first six episodes, we discuss leadership topics through the lens of middle management, including:

  1. Strategies for new leaders
  2. Tips for building and inheriting teams
  3. Developing team norms and rhythms
  4. Strategic planning
  5. Maintaining focus amid chaos
  6. Team celebration

The first two episodes are available now, where all fine podcasts are found. Please give them a listen and let me know what you think. New episodes drop every Tuesday at 10 AM MT.

The Great Safari Tab Fiasco is Over

Today is a good day. As predicted, Safari's tab UI has been restored to its former glory in version 15.1 for Big Sur and Catalina (yes, I'm still running both OSes).

I'm pleased to write that one Mac nerd's nightmare is finally over.

What’s in Your Day Bag?

Over the last couple of years when traveling internationally, I have packed a separate “day bag” to use when out-and-about and I thought others might find the contents of my day bag of some interest. Usually the trips I take involve frequent multi-hour bus rides and I have found it invaluable to pack a small bag that includes travel necessities as well as some of the tools I use to get work done when away from my desk.

The Bag

I usually take two bags with me when I travel: a day bag and a larger backpack that accompanies me on the long plane rides. The key difference between the two bags is the larger one carries my laptop, which will not fit in the smaller day bag (nor would I want it to). When flying, I fold up the day bag and store it in my carry-on rollberboard luggage as I only ever need one of the two bags with me at any given time.

Put simply: my day bag contains a subset of the items packed in my backpack.

After trying a few different bags to serve as my day bag, I settled on an all-canvas brown messenger-style bag by Gearonic. It’s light, has plenty of pockets and ample storage. It’s easy to sling around one shoulder and is comfortable to walk with. Without question, it’s one of my favorite bags and the most inexpensive one I own.

Productivity Tools

I have strived to pack the minimum amount of technology in my day bag with the goal of keeping the bag relatively light and minimal. For example, I have deliberately chosen not to pack a power brick or an external battery to charge my iPad and iPhone as the tablet gets all-day battery life and in a pinch can be used to charge my iPhone using a USB-C to lightning cable.

There are two key pieces of technology I carry with me, they are the 2018 11” iPad Pro with Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard, and the Amazon Kindle Oasis.

Over the last three years or so, the iPad has become a trusted productivity tool for me instead of just a media consumption device. While there is some work I can only perform productively on my Mac, I can do most things on the iPad, such as writing prose and status reports, reading and annotating PDFs, performing desktop-class web browsing, and processing email and Slack messages. Honestly, if I had to pick between owning an iPad or iPhone, I’d pick the iPad every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

My iPad is also equipped with a cellular radio. Fortunately, Google Fi includes international roaming at no attitional charge so I often have connectivity to the internet whereever I happen to be in the world.

Since getting my first Kindle back in 2008, my reading habits have changed dramatically. Being able to read in a comfortable position and have control over line spacing and font size on a screen that doesn’t strain my eyes has turned reading from a chore into joy. I couldn't imagine going back to reading voluminous paper books or performing marathon reading sessions on my iPad. I read over a 1,000 printed pages a month all on my Kindle Oasis.

In addition to packing an iPad and Kindle, I also pack a USB-C charging dock for my Apple Watch as well as my AirPods Pro. While my Apple Watch doesn’t often run out of battery in the middle of the day, it’s the one device for which I haven’t determined the best time to charge as I often use it as a my morning alarm. There have been moments when my watch has died mid-day—having a charger on hand for these rare occasions is nice. I also use my AirPods quite a bit, either paired with my iPad or iPhone, to listen to podcasts and infrequently music.

Lastly, I often carry the Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter and the USB-C to to 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter as there are times when I need to transfer files to a friend’s USB dive or plug my iPad into a projector for a presentation. Admittedly, these times are pretty rare, however the adapters are light and easy to pack,

The Bare Necessities

A day bag wouldn’t be complete without packing necessities to get you through the day. I have found the following items to be very useful and often invaluable:

  • Field Notes notebook. Whenever I need to jot down a note, or a thought, I’ll whip out my field notes notepad and jot it down. I’ll review the notebook later process any pertinent into my trusted systems for note taking or task management.
  • Pens and a highlighter. Having a fine-point everyday pen that you like to write with is a must and you never know when you might feel the need to highlight a note in your field notes or a travel itinerary you received on a bus ride.
  • Travel tissues and hand sanitizer. You never know when we’ll need a tissue and hand sanitizer is a must when in developing countries. I usually sanitize my hands before eating food and always after using an outhouse.
  • Travel Tylenol and Carmex. I’ll admit, I don’t always drink enough water when traveling and therefore sometimes I get mild headaches. Having some Tylenol on hand during these moments is a god-send as is having chapstick to rub on sun-parched lips.
  • Lens wipes. Anyone who wears glasses should carry a couple lens wipes to wipe sweat and gunk off glasses. They’re also useful for cleaning screens.
  • Snacks. My snack of choice to pack in my day bag is fruit leather. You can usually find all-natural varieties that taste good and don’t dry out your mouth and, more importantly, give you a boost of energy or help you stave off hunger.

These items are placed the the front-most outer pockets of the bag for ease of access.

I love to travel and having a day bag with just the right things and no more has really helped me enjoy my time away from the confines of a hotel. It’s even helped me be a little more productive during down time without having to lug around all of my technology tools. My day bag is one of my favorite travel necessities and I couldn’t imagine going on another trip without it.

Escapod Teardrop Trailer Mini-review

My wife and I recently took a camping trip where instead of pitching a tent we rented an Escapod teardrop trailer.

Long story short? We really liked it. Read on to find out why.


The Escapod has a roomy queen-sized bed interior—the pictures don’t really do it justice. Once you’ve settled in, there’s plenty of room for two people to sleep comfortably.  There is also ample storage for clothing and other personal items. The interior wood finishes retain a relatively pleasant smell that no doubt masked the campfire odor emanating from our clothing.

The cabin’s interior is illuminated by dimmable soft LED lighting, which was perfect for bedtime reading after the sun went down. There’s also 12V USB power available to charge phones and tablets.

It wasn’t until our second night that we figured out how to keep the cabin well ventilated. The sleeping compartment is air-tight, so in order to bring in fresh air, you need to open one of the two side windows and engage the motorized fan in the air vent on the roof. Also, by opening a window, the fan became noticeably quieter as it doesn't need to work as hard to push air through the cabin.


The exterior kitchen is well conceived and sports enough counter space to prepare food. It also makes clever use of the removable hatches that covert into a table and cutting board. We had no trouble lighting the gas-powered stove and the Yeti cooler could probably hold a week’s worth of food.

The trailer sports a large water tank and gas-powered water heater. Having potable water was really great as we camped at a relatively primitive campground that did not have running water. Unfortunately, we ran out of water mid-trip and I suspect the rental did not have a full tank when we took possession of it.

In summary, we’ll definitely be renting an Escapod for future camping trips. The only gripe I had was figuring out how to back it up straight, which is clearly my problem, not the trailer’s.

Rethinking My Task List with Beck Tench

I recently watched Beck Tench's walkthrough of her OmniFocus setup and I was struck by how she's made her tasks more inviting by constructing them as inspirational or aspirational notes to her future self. Her task list reads more like a cupboard stocked with good food instead of a list of harsh imperatives that must be done.

Over the last month or so, my responsibilities have changed significantly, so I took the opportunity to reimagine and redraft my project and task lists to use more energizing language. For example, instead of saying "Get photos from my wife of our East Canyon camping trip", I redrafted the task to read "So that I can write a mini review of the Escapod, get photos from my wife of our East Canyon camping trip". While the change is subtle, I'm hopeful that by adding "whys" and a little more explanation to my tasks I'll avoid less and do more.

Paste a URL That's Open in Safari Without Switching to Safari

During the course of my workday, I paste dozens of web links into emails, Slack messages, iMessages, and my personal notes. I hate having to ⌘+Tab to Safari, hunt for the tab I need, click on the address bar, highlight & copy the tab’s URL, and then ⌘+Tab back to the app I was using and paste the link. This sort of context switching often interrupts my writing flow and train of thought.

To make this workflow a little bit easier, I devised a simple, but effective, TextExpander AppleScript snippet to grab and type the URL of the active tab in the front-most Safari window. Here it is:

tell application "Safari" to get URL of front document

This is useful most of the time, however there are instances when I’d like to get a list of all my open Safari tabs and pick the one I’d like to paste. With a little bit of AppleScript and Keyboard Maestro magic, this is pretty easy to accomplish.

Here’s the AppleScript I authored to display a pick list of open Safari tabs, devided by Window. Once a tab is chosen, it outputs the tab's URL:

-- Get a list of tabs in Safari
tell application "Safari"
  set _tabNames to {}
  set _tabURLs to {}
  set _frontTabName to name of front document
  -- Create a list of URLs separated by window
  set _windows to every window whose visible is true
  repeat with _window in _windows
    set end of _tabNames to "----------"
    set end of _tabURLs to ""
    repeat with _tab in _window's tabs
      set end of _tabNames to name of _tab
      set end of _tabURLs to URL of _tab
    end repeat
  end repeat
  set end of _tabNames to "----------"
  set end of _tabURLs to ""
end tell

-- Pick from the list of open tabs and output the choset tab's URL
set _currApp to (path to frontmost application as Unicode text)
tell application _currApp
  choose from list _tabNames with title "Safari Tabs" default items _frontTabName
  if result is not false then
    set _tabChoice to item 1 of result
  end if
  repeat with _i from 1 to the count of _tabNames
    if item _i of _tabNames is _tabChoice then return item _i of _tabURLs
  end repeat
end tell

Keyboard Maestro makes it easy to (1) run this script when a bit of text is typed (in my case .turl) and (2) paste the URL of the selected tab. For reference, here’s a screenshot of the macro I built in Keyboard Maestro:

Keyboard Maestro "Get URL for Safari Tab" Macro

Note: The "Execute AppleScript" action needs to be set to “Type Results” upon successful execution.

Hopefully these two shortcuts, designed to quickly grab a link from Safari, will help you as they have helped me stay in the flow and save a little bit of time in the process.

The Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine is the AirPort Extreme’s Rightful Successor

Over the last year or so, I've been working to replace the network equipment in my home with Ubiquity products, and last night I decommissioned my 6th generation Apple AirPort Extreme and replaced it with the UniFi Dream Machine (the non-pro model).

Setting up the Dream Machine is very similar to setting up a new HomePod. All you've got to do is plug it in and download and open the UniFi Network app. Ubiquiti has done a good job of obstracting a lot of the complexitities for non-network nerds. However, should you want to delve deeper into monitoring and managing your UniFi network, the web-based management interface is exceptionally executed and comprehensive.

While the verdict is still out, initial indicators are very good. My wifi speeds have almost doubled, allowing me to take better advantage of the fastest pipes in the west. For those looking for a whole-home, integrated, wifi and router solution, the UniFi Dream Machine is hard to beat.

Update: Apparently, Apple has started selling the Eero mesh wifi system. Ostensibly, and this probably goes without sasying, they're backing the wrong horse.

Update 2: 9to5Mac has a great write-up extolling the Dream Machine's many great features.

How to Add a Little Inspiration to Your Email Signature

Speaking of email, I’ve been wanting to jazz up my email signature for some time because, ya know, email signatures are boring and very predictable. Until today, my default signature, outputted using a TextExpander snippet, contained a valedictory and just one other word: my first name. I thought it might be fun to add an inspirational quote at random to the bottom of my signature line, which now looks like this:

Example email with signature containing a random quote.

Here’s how I did it.

I recently created a spreadsheet of quotes for another project, and I thought it would be neat if I could create a script to consult the spreadsheet and output a formatted quote at random. Turns out, it wasn’t very hard to do just that with a little bit of AppleScript and TextExpander magic. Here’s the AppleScript:

property _quotes : missing value

  Get the list of quotes from a selected Apple Numbers file and cache
  the list of quotes in a property that will be used for subsiquent
  executions of this script.
  The list of quotes should be in a table on the first sheet of a 
  Numbers document with the quote in column "A" and the quote's author
  in column "B". The first sheet should only contain this one table.
if _quotes is equal to missing value then
  -- Get a reference to the current app that will be activated
  -- after the Numbers document is selected and it's content read.
  set _currApp to (path to frontmost application as Unicode text)
  tell application "Numbers"
    set _quotesDocPath to POSIX path of (choose file with prompt ¬
      "Quotes Spreadsheet Location:" default location ¬
      	(path to home folder))
    set _doc to open _quotesDocPath
    tell front document to tell active sheet
      tell (first table whose selection range's class is range) to ¬
        set _quotes to rows's cells's value
    end tell
    close _doc
  end tell
  tell application _currApp to activate
end if

-- Pick a quote from the list at random
set _quote to item (random number from 2 to count of _quotes) of _quotes

-- Format the quote and output the author's name in uppercase.
return "\"" & item 1 of _quote & "\" —" & (do shell script "echo " & (item 2 of _quote) & " | tr [:lower:] [:upper:]")

All I needed to do next was create a TextExpander snippet to run the script. Then add the newly created script snippet to the bottom of snippet responsible for outputting my signature. Here's screenshot depicting one of my signature snippets that includes the random quote snippet:

Example of my email signature snippet as it appears in TextExpander

Note: the first time the script runs, it prompts for the location of the Numbers spreadsheet containing the quotes to use. TextExpander may also need to be granted permission to read files located in the home folder.

I’m pleased to report this works quite well. The only catch is the TextExpander snippet needs to be changed slightly whenever the quotes spreadsheet is updated (for example, by adding a new line to the end of the script entry). This will cause it to reload and cache the updated quotes.

My Apple Numbers quotes spreadsheet can be downloaded from here.

Enjoy doling out little morsels of inspiration one email at a time!

Putting Email In Its Place

Email is a communication method that must be tamed. Left unchecked, many knowledge workers, and particularly managers, can spend the majority of their time reading and sending email—like a human communication router.

When I served as a technology executive at a fast growing, mid-sized, software company, there were entire days where an inordinate amount of my discretionary time was dedicated to managing email. Without question, this was a poor use of my working hours. And as a result, I have worked to develop a handful of methods to tame the beast we call email.

I’ll start by detailing two particularly effective methods I use to deal with what I call "bulk messages" followed by how I approach checking email and tuning notifications.


If you’re like me, you probably get a bunch of email from companies and organizations you like. You probably also get emails from people that somehow find you but you have no interest in doing business with them. More often than not, these are not urgent or important messages requiring your immediate attention and therefore should not hit your inbox.

Instead, these bulk communications can be filed away into another folder bypassing the inbox altogether. Fortunately, this can be achieved using a mail rule, allowing you to batch review these messages when you're low on energy and have some free time.

The mail rule I setup to file these types of messages away is pretty simple. It moves messages to a folder named "Bulk" that contain one or more words or phrases that are most likely to be found only in bulk emails. The words and phrases are as follows:

  • opt-out
  • unsubscribe
  • viewing the newsletter
  • edit your preferences
  • email notifications
  • update profile
  • manage your account
  • email preferences

If you use Gmail or G Suite as your email provider, here’s the “has the words” search string I used to create my bulk message filter:

"opt-out" OR unsubscribe OR "viewing the newsletter" OR "edit your preferences" OR "email notifications" OR "update profile" OR "manage your account" OR "email preferences"

I have found this rule to rarely file away a non-bulk message, but your milage may vary.

One nice ancillary benefit of corralling bulk messages into a single folder is that it gives you a punch list of all the newsletters you’re subscribed to. This makes it relatively easy to work through the list and unsubscribe to the ones that are no longer of interest.

Since setting up this simple rule, hundreds of messages a week that would have normally hit my inbox get filed away for later review.

Distribution Lists

If your company is anything like the ones I have worked with, chances are you get a lot of email via lists you’re a member of. Many of these distribution lists are used to send non-urgent, and often unimportant, company announcements that don’t need to be read right away or responded to immediately (or at all). For this reason, especially if you work in a company that sends a lot of non-urgent, for-your-information type of emails, you may benefit from having these messages skip your inbox by setting up a mail rule to file them away for later review.

Email Checking & Notifications

Once implemented, the two bulk email suggestions should reduce the number of email notifications you get by an order of magnitude. However, you may want to do what I’ve done and reduce the number of notifications and unread message counts further (and by "further" I mean "to alomost zero").

I determined some time ago to only process email a few times a day: once in the morning, once at mid-day and once when finishing up work. This has worked relatively well for me, however due to the nature of my work, I often need to send email messages outside of my processing windows. For this reason, I have all but turned off email notifications and unread badge counts. This allows me to leave my email app open without having to be reminded of how many unread messages I have waiting or getting pestered by notifications.

I do make use of the VIP contact feature on my Mac and iOS devices. For the few people that are on my VIP lists, mostly key leaders I work with on an irregular basis, I like to get notified immediately when they send me a message.

Since implementing these three simple strategies for taming my inbox, I can confidently say most email that does get through is more deserving of my time and attention. It effectively cuts out a lot of the “white noise” that would otherwise accumulate in my inbox, enabling me to deal with email on my own terms, to which my time and attention (and my delete key) are eternally grateful.