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Welcome back to day two of the Automation Challenge. Yesterday’s challenge was pretty simple, right? We hope that the video inspired and motivated you on what automation can do for you.

In today’s challenge, we’re going to implement something really simple from the video.

Every day, you deal with files, folders, and documents. Sometimes it can be frustrating to find what you need on your computer and waste time digging through folders before you find what you’re looking for (or saving a file in the right location).

Let’s fix that with a simple trick.

Challenge of Day 2

Today you’re going to implement a “Quick Access” sidebar. As you’ve seen in the video in yesterday’s challenge, having easy access to folders and files you use frequently can be convenient. That’s what you’ll do today. Here’s the video again for your convenience.

Mac users: start at [0:55] (Mac Automation)
Windows users: start at [12:48] (Windows Automation)

Watch that segment again and implement it today. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes (4 minutes to watch the video segment and one minute to implement it.)

Challenge for Mac users:

  1. Drag one folder to your Finder’s sidebar so you now have quick access to it.
  2. Create a new “Smart Folder” for PDF files (can be any) and add it to your Finder’s sidebar.
  3. Comment below that you did it!

Challenge for Windows users:

  1. Drag one folder to your File Explorer sidebar so you now have quick access to it.
  2. Create a new “Saved Search” for something you frequently need to find and access, i.e. PDF files.
  3. Comment below that you did it!

If you use both operating systems, just pick one.

Let us know in the comments that you’ve done it! It’s important to do this to be eligible to win one of the prizes (Oura Ring, AirPods and Atomic Habits). See you tomorrow!

Update: Day 3 is now live.


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  1. Put my 3 most-used folders in my sidebar: 2 different jobs I work on regularly and a folder called ‘Productivity’ that has a LOT of content in it. I’ve often thought about doing this, but never took the time to just get it done. Thanks for the push.

  2. I’m not sure why I didn’t do this before!

    I’ve added a number of folders that I use on a daily basis for current work projects. These folders are across various databases (DropBox, QRISCloud, etc), so creating shortcuts on the sidebar for those folders makes SO much sense and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before!!

    I can’t think of a current need for smart folders right now, but if I do think of one, I’ll be sure to set one up!

  3. I use quick access sidebar and saved searches all the time
    I tend to hoard years of files – I find smart folders very useful for grouping docs by categories types or dates (e.g. by year or if I’m looking for something from a particular timeframe…

  4. This was a really good tip. I have a temporary files that I keep in a directory each year. So these are things that I don’t think I’ll need in a week or two or maybe 1 month. I create files in what I call my deletable file 2019. Any file that doesn’t seem I’ll need in the future I file it there. I use it often and always had to click 3 times before I get to it. Now just once. Awesome.
    The search feature was not as interesting. I don’t do a lot of searches, but I did try it just to know how it was done.
    This is my first time doing a challenge online and it really motivates you to try one thing a day.

  5. I heavily use the quick access but not saved searches. I’m excited for for the timing of this 5 day challenge. I start a new position on Tuesday. Prior to me leaving my previous position, I scheduled time on all my co-workers computers to implement many tools which are covered here. My quick access folders, many outlook rules and quick steps. Hopefully I helped them with the transition while I move into another role. I actually didn’t know how much I was already doing.

  6. I created favorite folders for several of my work folders and personal folders so I could get to them easily. Then I made a smart folder so I could get to all work receipts (pdfs) easily.

  7. I’ve got some frequently used folders on the sidebar, but as a keyboard junkie, I usually just type folder names into Alfred and rarely click on folders. I also tried a smart folder that I think I’ll get more usage out of, probably once a quarter.

  8. I’m just catching up after a long week, but I got a kick out of learning what smart folders actually DO after what seems like a (mac) lifetime of never realizing that they were really saved searches. I made two sidebar folders for current writing and research projects, and I created a smart search folder for keyword for which I constantly search. Yay!

    Sadly (long story), I don’t yet have Quick Actions (as software I use all the time isn’t compatible with Mojave (upward), so I can’t practice that yet, but it’s good to know.

  9. Made a sidebar window for blog artwork that I regularly need to check. Made a smart folder for all pdfs! On my way to getting organized without the slog.

  10. I’d never used the Quick Access. In some way, it had a permanence (??) I’ve fought through that and put this week’s projects there; knowing they’ll be down shortly.

    Love it.

    -mjs

  11. 1. I’ve dragged my top 5 folders to my File Explorer sidebar.
    2. I’ve created a new “Saved Search” for topics I frequently need to find

  12. The smart folders in Windows prompted me to clean up my desktop. Search didn’t seem to work as expected, perhaps due to restrictions on my work computer, need to work on this tomorrow again. Tasks are locked out at work

  13. About the “Quick Access” feature
    I actually did this yesterday, upon realizing how helpful it could be. Pinned the top four folders I regularly access:
    Desktop
    Downloads
    Local Inbox
    This PC

    After doing that, I started tinkering with the Quick Access–I sought to disable the “Recently Viewed Folders” feature, which I didn’t like. Googled the instructions and proceeded to disable the option.

    Neato!

  14. I moved a folder to Quick Access.
    I then created a Saved Search, AND saved it. However, I have no “Searches” folder, and after spending 45 minutes trying to retrieve my saved search, I’m giving up.

  15. Have been a Mac user for 7 years…learned some great stuff TODAY–didn’t realize I could do Smart Folders in the sidebar and that simply rocks. Thanks!

  16. Done with my smart folders :-)
    I created smart folders for PDFs, for files accessed TODAY, and THIS WEEK. I also dragged my most frequently used folders in the side bar. Awesome! Thank you :)

  17. This helped me think through my quick access feature as a work process rather than just a ‘fyi’ feature. I like the task feature too, but wanted to add a reminder and found that anything other than ‘start a program’ has been deprecated so couldn’t do that

  18. I use Dropbox heavily and I especially use it to help me manage pictures I take and the ones I save from the internet.

    So I have Dropbox in Quick Access, and I just saved a search for all picture files. Today I learned that you can use the syntax “kind:=picture” in your Windows search to search images without needing to specify filetypes.

  19. Also took this as a primer for a rethinking of my PathFinder sidebar. It actually includes a series of preloaded smart searches that are grouped and can be collapsed.

  20. completed. kept my smart folder search relatively simple for receipt/tax related items but can see the power of more sophisticated searches for future folders.

  21. I put folders for sets of apps in the dock instead. I have one for running my biz (excel, word quickbooks), one for graphics tools, one for seo tools. That way I don’t have to scroll through the applications folder.

  22. Great tips and good to do and not only listen to them.
    One question. The smartfolder seems not to look into my dropbox or NAS. Is that possible to configure?

  23. All done. Created a Split PDF quick action. Also created a Recent Apps (opened) smart folder. And dragged into the sidebar a folder I access a lot. And lastly created a Smart folder for family PDF files. Latter two in my sidebar now. Got plans for other folders that I have on the desktop right now and will have accessed in future on one link in the sidebar, with folders moved to storage somewhere else on my HD (and off the desktop). Juices flowing here and ideas coming. Thanks very much for this encouragement.

  24. Added the PDF smart folder. Also played to make a selection in a smart folder of images by select some tags as reference but this is still difficult as you need to have discipline to tag your images.
    Also added the DND shortcut in IOS. Shortcuts opens a whole new world of automate your workflow.

    Looking forward to day 3.

  25. These simple assignments opened my eyes for the possibilities. I have spent way to much time searching for files. I will pay close attention if I can automate the searching and win a lot of time.

  26. I did it!

    First part was easy, second part not quite so much. The actual search was slow (yay Windows), but then finding where the saved search results went, that was work. However, mission accomplished!

  27. Done. I already use sidebar folders on my mac. Added a saved search for pdf’s. Interestingly it found the pdf’s I have added to Apple Book’s but did not find the ones stored in my DevonThink database.

  28. What a great way to get organize the files I seem to be always hunting for. I’m really enjoying this series. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

  29. On my MAC mini I was able to create a smart folder but it actually added some files that were outside the search parameters

  30. Thank you added folders to my quick access . Super helpful thank you.
    also added shortcuts for outlook and google chrome that I am using already.
    I’m guessing I’m off somewhere because I watched this yesterday and I thought it was Day one. I’ll have to go back and look for day one or two whichever one I’ve missed.

  31. I have been using the Quick Access since Win 10 came out (it’s awesome, and I use it a million times a day!) but the saved search is great! I knew I could save a search, but I didn’t realize I could filter by size, kind, etc. I never noticed those options!

  32. I did it at work, but now I’m home and I need to continue working on the project but of course the file is not on my home computer. Unless there’s something that I don’t know about, it seems that I will have to move the file back into Dropbox so I can access it wherever I am. Too bad, because I like the idea of Quick Access.

    Also, what do you mean by “Your Website?” I assume this is just as it reads–for those who have their own websites?

  33. Have a couple of folders pinned, I didn’t save a search as I honestly can’t remember the last time I did a search in Windows for a file. I have most of the documents that I refer to saved in Evernote, so I just search within that app.

  34. Done, I already use the quick access folders. The saved search though was new. Makes it easy to keep my similar files together even if they have to be saved in different locations.

  35. Like many others, done and done! Adding a folder to the sidebar was easy and will be so useful down the road. I’m sure you all will cover more of the Smart Folder piece in the Dojo course, but it seems like there are so many different ways you could take this. It’s almost overwhelming, so I’m thankful for a slower season at work where I can do a little playing around with a couple of different scenarios. I can’t wait for tomorrows challenge.

  36. So simple.

    I created a smart folder that list the mind maps that I opened in the last 30 days, its hard to keep it up when you have a ton of mind maps.

  37. Done. I had random folders already quick pinned but not the ones I use most often, so I cleaned it up and started using it at work today. Instant improvement!

    I also tried to do the shortcut for a few apps, but my work laptop wont let me do it (have to be an administrator) I’m disappointed because I have several tasks I do every day that require 3 clicks.

  38. I’ve already had the sidebar folders alphabetized, sorted and configured to my convenience for a while now, but I did take this opportunity to scrutinize the “Quick Access” settings more thoroughly. Namely, I left my manually pinned folders as-is, but I enabled both the frequently used folders as well as recently used files features in options. At first glance, the frequent folders setting seems to populate my sidebar with duplicate entries, so perhaps I’ll disable this particular setting if the suggestions don’t get smarter over time and usage. On the other hand, discovering the recent files setting is definitely going to be helpful right away. This makes Quick Access more of a useful hub to view from time to time rather than just a redundant “folder” which used to only display the exact same folders I had pinned to the sidebar.

    I technically already had “pseudo-saved” searches in the form of text expander snippets for file extensions I’d commonly use, but once again, I took this opportunity to refine my approach to this a little bit. So now I have an actual MS Windows “saved search” that consolidates several individual text expander snippets I used to employ all into one overarching search pattern I’ve named “Compressed/Archived” that scours my PC for files with extensions like *.zip or *.rar or *.apk or *.bin or *.cab and so on. I also created one called “MS Word” which gathers all *.doc (legacy Word document) + *.docx (modern Word document) + *.docm (macro enabled Word document; same as .docx but may contain scripts) + *.dot (legacy Word template) + *.dotx (modern Word templates) + *.dotm (macro enabled Word template) file extensions into one convenient view.

  39. Had never used saved searches before. Created one to search for all PDFs. I use the Quick Access all the time. Thanks for the tips!

  40. Done! Pinning to the Sidebar was easy, as I do that with new folders every 10-12 weeks and this was the perfect time to do it again. The Smart Folder was a bit trickier to come up with a use case, but I found a great idea. Every new school term I create a ton of files and append the term name/date (e.g. F19) to the end of every file. Needless to say, creating a Smart Folder with that term works like magic to see everything all in one place.

  41. Done! Very cool; didn’t know that you could save “smart” searches in Windows. I’ve used the similar feature in Outlook which definitely saves time for recurring search activities. Thanks for this tip.

  42. Done – smart folder is a look at any documents I’ve edited over the last 7 days on cloud drive I share with work. That will be handy.

  43. Frankly, I feel a little silly for not taking literally less than a minute before now to set up smart folders and optimizing my side bar. Thanks for the prompt!

  44. Wow, loved these easy to follow tips! I never knew about any of these capabilities. I will be sharing with my family and friends. Thank you!

  45. Done! It was actually really helpful to put a folder that I access all the time in the sidebar, and the fact that the PDF smart folders automatically update is a really nice feature!

  46. 1. I’ve dragged one folder to my File Explorer sidebar.
    2. I’ve created a new “Saved Search” for a file I frequently need to find and access

  47. Done, added a few most frequented folders. Surely this will save me some time and improve my computer task performance. Thanks!

  48. Done. Created a smart search folder for PDFs saved in the last 7 days. Now I just need to make sure that I process or read them!

  49. I saved a search which was great so I could follow where it was saved to go back to it. Then I saved a subfolder to quick access which will really help because although I have my main folders in quick access, for some reason I hadn’t thought of saving a sub folder … duh…

  50. Quick access and smart folders are a great time saver. Already have a couple of “quick access” folders for projects and even one with AE information. And a smart folder for PDF’s.

  51. I dragged a folder to my File Explorer Quick access sidebar.

    I created a saved search of all Word Documents. In Windows, I excluded my Dropbox folder because I only wanted to see Word Docs on my laptop. The search string to do so is:

    type:docx -folder:”C:\Users\phershkowitz\Dropbox (eksobionics)\*”
    (The * at the end to excludes subfolders.)

    You cannot pin a saved search to the Quick access sidebar, but you can pin it to the Windows start menu. Right-click on the search and click “Pin to Start.”

  52. Thank you!
    I have shortcuts in my sidebar.
    But, i didnt have any shortcut searches, now i do! And know how to do it!!
    I am using OS 10 so I dont have the quick actions. :( couldnt do the camera share either :(
    I also made a shortcut for my scansnap settings window!
    Thank you!

  53. Nice. I was already using Quick Access but had never before considered saving a search – even though some queries are indeed necessary again and again.

  54. Did it! The save search option I didn’t know. SAdly I’m not allowed to use the schedular….. but the startup function Will work for things I use every day.

  55. Created a saved search for software releases from our build system and added to quick access. Will see how it works over time

  56. Thanks for setting up this challenge this could not have come at a better time. I am about to change jobs and wanted to get some good habits in place before I started so that this time I can actually succeed in my goal to be ‘Asian Efficient’ on a consistent basis at work. I use Windows at work so having options in both arenas is going to make life so much easier.
    I am a Mac user at home and had been consistently wishing there was a way to find something quickly without having to open loads of folders to locate it. Both of the short cuts mentioned have already saved me time and reduced my stress levels.

  57. I did both of these things yesterday after watching the video AND I saved my saved searches to my quick access side bar.

  58. Created a Smart Folder (Mac) to show me all PDFs available on my mac … for easier access and to go through them and delete old ones.

  59. BOTH done — BUT…. Well, I had quite the adventure. Long story — short. The HP laptop I watch video on is Windows 7 [it refused to update to Windows 10]!!! So, when I could not match the video to make ‘add’ to the Quick Access … that dawned on me. So, I got out my travel Dell and p;ay the video on the HP and completed both the Folder (my promotional materials for marketing) to Quick Access; and did the Saved Search (my promo photos and logo). Fantastic Day 2!!

  60. The ‘Quick access’ I already used but the ‘Saved search’ was new. I pinned the search to the File Explorer icon in the taskbar for faster access…

  61. Challenge accepted and done. MacOS here.
    1) Put my ADHD folder into the sidebar.
    2) Saved, from my downloads folders, a search for:
    *.pptx
    *.docx
    *.xlsx
    *.PDF

  62. Done! Also deleted some old project folders from the side bar that were still there and improved the order of the items in the sidebar.

  63. Did it! Put a shortcut to a folder containing some translations I’m working on to the Sidebar, and created a smart folder called “Recent PDFs” for PDFs I’ve looked at in the past month.

  64. Did quick access and search. Then pinned search folder to quick access :). Wish I could pin my new search to quick access instead of entire folder.

  65. I added a folder that I currently weekly to my Quick Access view. I actually forgot this feature existed! I also created a saved search for a set of files that start with the same naming convention that I search for frequently.

  66. I’ve been putting folders in the sidebar for years. I have not found any use for smart folders: as a writer my searches tend to be one off.

    I try to move frequently used files and folders to the top of the sidebar.

    In Libre Office I tend to keep recent files in the splash tray that appears on opening.

    TAgging is not much use: Again as a writer I need so many tags I would have to have a way to search my tags :( I tend to put keywords in front of the file name.

  67. Awesome. I put my financial folder, and 2 temp project folders into sidebar (I also put my new AE notes folder there 🙂). I did saved searches for the 2 newsletters I write, and templates for my thank you letters to donors, and my email templates.
    Thank you so much for this.

  68. I was already using folders in the sidebar, and just reorganized some of them. The smart folder is cool, just added one of those too. Love it!

  69. Done! After I created my Saved Search, I had a hard time finding my Searches folder. After I found it, I added it to my sidebar for quick access!

  70. Done! I have put the folders of current projects in the sidebar, it is really useful! It will definitely save me a lot of time!
    I also created a smart folder for all my certificates in PDF. I very frequently apply for several different things, work related, and have to send my CVs and copies of my certificates. It is always very painful to find them, because they are in several different folders (and I never remenber where), now I have all in the sidebar.

  71. Done! I have a question, if you see this. What is your advice on saving documents to Finder (Mac) vs. saving them in Evernote? Pros and cons of each?

  72. Done. Not sure if I’ll really use a PDF folder as most of my things are already divided into specific Documents folders. But Quick Access (Win10)now has links for 5 items I use the most. I’ll be using it for client in-process folders from now on. Plus now that I know about saved searches I’ll be using that more often. Great Ideas!

  73. Wow – this was incredibly useful! I’m a Windows user. I’ve always had Quick Access folders turned on, and use it all the time. But now, I can set File Explorer to open when I hit CTRL+SHFT+E. I’ve also set a bunch of other keyboard shortcuts.

    I can’t think of a standard search that I would save each time, so I didn’t set that up yet. I’ll do that if I find myself searching for the same thing over and over. However, the Quick Access folders seems to reduce the need to search for files frequently.

  74. Done for Mac — dragged current year expenses folders to sidebar and created a smart folder for web payments and receipts

  75. I felt like such a winner because I was already using the quick access! I did review it today and updated it. And then I created a save search. Thank you!

  76. Hi 👋🏻 productivity folks!
    Even with all the restriction on my Windows PC due to IT dot security blocks on my laptop (still running Windows 7! 🥺) i made it! I was able to set some server folders (deep at least 3 to 5 mouse clicks) that I reference everyday on my favorites taskbar and I set a specific search of xls sales report files that i need for my weekly report specifying the target folder, the keyword on the file name and the file extension.

  77. I use the search function all time, did not realize that you can save the search. Saved searches get buried in the user directory, but once found and pinned to quick search seems to be a good tool.

  78. Great! I dragged my “work” folder in the sidebar, and created a smart folder to get all my omniplan files in one place (even if each files belong to its specific project folder).

  79. Finished. Last week I was wishing there was an easier way to access a folder I use all the time but is buried 5 levels deep. I did not know about Sidebar Folders, thanks!

  80. Create a smart folder for applications that I haven’t used in the last 3 months, another one to identify files larger than 1GB.
    had already added shortcuts to key projects I’m working on.

  81. Done, although I think I chose too big of a topic to search for – 4800 items! But until I have the best use for this function, it was good practice.

  82. I did it. Or have done it, I guess.

    I have been using quick links on the sidebar for years. Saved searches in the filesystem are less useful for me since I tend to keep things I need to find in this way in either Evernote or OneNote.

    I did create a search that lets me look for all PowerShell scripts in the src directory that don’t have certain common names included in NuGet packages:

    type:windows powershell script NOT name:install.ps1 NOT name:uninstall.ps1 NOT name:common.ps1

  83. Done!

    I saved a subfolder of my documents to the Quick Access because it saves me two more clicks several times per day. Additionally, I saved a frequent search of that subfolder for a phrase and type:document. Funny how something I did regularly and didn’t really think about is just that much faster now!

  84. Done – a nice simple task that took minutes to complete, but I hope it will be nutritious food for thought as to how I can make use of Smart Folders long-term and spend less time clicking my way to where I want to be!

  85. Actually tweaked this exercise a little. I have been using the quick access sidebar, but I’ve put too many folders there! I cleaned up the one in my laptop. Still need to clean up the desktop sidebar when I get home!

  86. Created a saved search for excel files for a project I’m working on and added the git code directory to the quick access bar. Great tips.

  87. I totally stole the Recent Apps smart folder idea. I also added a sidebar folder that connects to a folder I have a number of Hazel automations running against, to automatically file whatever gets put into it.

  88. I created a smart folder to find recent CSV or Excel files. I use so many spreadsheets in a given day so this will help if I happen to misplace something.

  89. Done! So much easier to find these things now. I used another poster’s idea of pinning the search folder to the quick access as well. Much easier to find!

  90. All done, and super easy. Still embarrassed these tool were available at my fingertips and I didn’t take the time to use them before.

  91. Done! I was using the Quick Access panel but never used the saved search feature before. I saved a search for logos as I still haven’t gotten around to collecting the various logos into a single file though I had thought about doing that for some time. Now, I don’t have to. :)

  92. Done. I have been using the file structure for finding my documents. I think is will be leveraging the power of search in the future.

  93. Dropbox and 2 smart folders with files (one with research papers and another with article drafts) pertaining to a Most Important Task added to Finder.

  94. Watched the video and implemented the saved search feature yesterday it self. Comes in handy and I don’t think I’ve gotten completely into it yet, but I can see how it could be used creatively.

  95. I always use the favorites sidebar – it is a life saver.

    I have a question on the saved search. Every month I search a file for pictures created in the last 4-6 weeks.
    Is there a generic way to create this search.
    now I use *.jpg datecreated:7/15/19..8/15/19

    I want to replace .jpg with all image file types – bmp, png, jpeg…
    and replace the date range with the generic last 30 days

    For this exercise I picked earlier this year but that is kind of an overkill I just need 4-6 weeks.

    I also set up hotkeys for about 8 programs I use regularly and a couple files I use every day. I created a simple shortcut on my phone to ask Siri to enable my morning alarms I use most mornings. I use several in my morning routine to not only wake up but switch tasks within my morning routine. I know the phone can do this automatically but I prefer to set them the night before. And I was lacking imagination on whatelse to set up.
    Thanks!

  96. Woohoo! Did it. Thanks for the detailed information. It made things lots easier. Got a folder in the File Explorer. Saved so mane hassels.
    Save my searches on Smart Class as
    .doc
    .dox
    .pdf
    at one place.
    Made some time to write in my journal which I kept missing for almost a month now.
    Awesome.
    Thanks
    Deb

  97. I pinned a few folders to my quick access. I created a search for my federal tax returns.

    I will continue to develop the searches as I can see them useful for tying together records on my next side hustle project.

  98. Created the PDF smart folder, and have my projects folder added to my Mac’s Finder. Did this yesterday on my work PC with adding a couple of project folders that I would out of daily to the quick links bar.

  99. Done did do it
    Saved search for
    *.pptx
    *.docx
    *.xlsx
    *.PDF

    Plus threw the search folder in the quick access because I hadn’t realized that saved searches by themselves couldn’t end up there. I will be curious on whether it keeps these indexed or whether it will take minutes to load each time.

  100. I got started on this a day late because yesterday was a “Super Monday” at work. I’m amused because at my new job, I’d started using the smart folder concept without even realizing it was a productivity hack. I’ve done it in my email too to better track emails I simply cannot lose sight of for various reasons. Ready for day 3!!

  101. I needed this extra push. I added a favorite to my sidebar yesterday, but this morning I’ve now created a smart folder. It was easy! I’ll be considering more ways I can use this on a project I’m currently working on.

  102. Thank you, an elaboration on yesterday’s topic.
    The use of this is for me common sense and proven technology. I use more the smart folders (saved searches) to put specific project files together with general files that serve for every project together at “one click away”.
    These topics are great to put automation starting, a great step to build upon for the following days.

  103. Finished making the short cuts and found it very useful and refreshing.
    Even got some time to write in my journal which I was missing for the last month or so.
    Awesome.
    Thank you
    Deb

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