Cognitive Productivity with macOS - Luc Beaudoin

To manage, process, evaluate and master knowledge.
help you thrive in the sea of knowledge.

This entire book can be read as a modernization of the mental aspect of the late Steven Covey’s seventh habit of highly effective people.
Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book remains one of the most popular and helpful books to teach adults how to read better.

Principle 1: Lead Yourself with Knowledge

Nothing has served me better in my long life than continuous learning. I went through life constantly practicing (because if you don’t practice it, you lose it) the multi-disciplinary approach and I can’t tell you what that’s done for me.

-- Charlie Munger

to lead yourself down the path to excellence by diligently selecting great information, and great technology (starting with macOS itself), while knowing yourself and knowing the person you wish to become (your values).

Covey 7 habits

You Are an Information Processor

Effective knowledge workers = curators.

using knowledge to create products, solve problems, and transform ourselves. Knowledge workers then are not merely consumers, curators and do-ers. We need a more modern, scientific model of who we are.

Expertise requires, or is at least facilitated by, deliberate practice. But few people have time to practice.
You also need to reflectively apply the information in solving problems and creating products. (Apply knowlege)

Types of Information you Process

We’re information processors.

Software that helps:

Information-processing vocabulary

To consume information, or to process (more active).
Different depths of processing: to surf, to delve.

You are a Value Maker

To paraphrase Aristotle: Virtue lies in a mean between a vice of defect and a vice of excess.
Ensure that information processing reflects your values.

Invaluable Wake Up Calls

Sooner or later, most adults experience a crisis in response to which they ought to reexamine their values.
We value health, our intimate relationships, our families, finance, etc.
To avoid these wake up calls, or to hear and respond to them properly (with knowledge) when they are sounded, we need to know, to live by, and to own our values.

the End of Your Life

Covey suggests forming a personal mission statement that includes:

Your funeral: What do you want people to say about you?
Watch TED talk by "Matthew O’Reilly"

Let Your Dreams Influence You

Kelly’s book, The Dream Manager. This approach encourages people to identify major dreams in each of the following categories.

  1. Physical
  2. emotional
  3. intellectual
  4. spiritual
  5. psychological
  6. material
  7. professional
  8. financial
  9. creative

Dreams as general aspirations within the realm of one’s values.
A good life is one in which one knows one’s dreams and one attempts to pursue them. Furthermore, our dreams should be inspired by our knowledge. And they should drive our reasoning.

we choose our dreams and goals, we do not control the outcomes of our attempts to realize them.

Leading Values

We should orient our lives towards our values.

It's better to be rich and healthy, than poor and sick.
But beyond a certain amount money doesn’t tend to contribute much to overall wellbeing.
People tend to want to accumulate it, to their detriment.

The point of exploring your values is to ask yourself whether the things you are treating as

to ensure you are leading yourself in accordance with the right values.

Values are Motivators

A motivator is information that drives your assessments, and can lead you to form goals, which can in turn guide your behavior.
anything that has some value, that you treat as important.


We adopt them.
rules that we believe ought or should be true.
“Be honest”, “Be on time for meetings”, and “don’t let your friends down”.
Source of shame or guilt when we break them.


Appealing or unappealing?
Our tastes, preferences.
One might like steak, but it's not a goal. He might even believe it's better not to eat meat.
One might have a predilection to brunettes while being married to a blond-haired woman.
Unlike standards and goals, attitudes don’t normally require justification.
They are also typically much harder to change than standards and goals.


We are willing to work to achieve them.
Goals are typically arranged in complex networks of means and ends.
“top level”, and subgoals.

you might want to interact with someone in order to conduct business, but then find you are attached to them and wish to interact with them for pleasure.

Without projects, it is not possible to generate value. In turn, our projects acquire value, and should motivate us, by virtue of their serving our values.

Free Resources

"Happiness Trap" Harris website.

In this way, you will select knowledge deliberately in order to develop yourself, create new knowledge, solve problems and serve the world.

Principle 2: Manage Your Cognitive Life Mindfully


Outlines are excellent tools for creating “meta-docs”, notes about what you process.

Archiving your PDF files

Convert Web pages to PDF.

“how do you organize your PDFs?”
I initially found it extremely surprising to see, at one extreme, how some people can have extremely organized physical workspaces (and homes) and yet have completely disorganized virtual folders.


a digital filing cabinet, a research assistant, and a snippet collector:

Much easier to use than DEVONthink.
Moreover, unlike Evernote and DEVONthink, as noted above, it stores your data in folders, directly on the Finder.

Bibliography Managers

Bookends is a worthy alternative to Papers.

Quickly Accessing Local Sources

With Spotlight, Papers, LaunchBar, Alfred.


To create a world in which people would not merely “consume” linked information, but actively build and utilize their networks of knowledge.
It means enabling a world in which all kinds of information can be linked and utilized for cognitive productivity.
In this world, the type of resource or its location should not matter.

Manage your Attention (Your Information-Processing Time)

The key to cognitive productivity is to focus attention, for as much time as possible, on projects and tasks that generate outstanding value.
It is important to track your time so that you know how much of it you spend, every day, on projects and activities that generate value.

Timing App

Timing is a truly excellent app that automatically tracks how you spend your time on your Mac.
It logs which apps you use, which websites you visit, and which documents you edit.

Timeline feature: you can precisely reconstruct what you were doing at a given time.

Part 2: Productive Information Processing

Principle 3: Assess Analytically

It is essential to evaluate knowledge resources as soon as you start to process them. your consciousness.
The main questions to ask in evaluating a knowledge resource are:

  1. Is this resource sufficiently helpful to justify the effort required to get those benefits?
  2. For what purposes can I use this resource?
  3. What type(s) of information is (are) contained in the resource?
  4. What information in this resource is helpful?
  5. How will the information help? What specifically is helpful here?
  6. How and when should I process this resource (plan, schedule)?


  1. To select or reject knowledge resources for further processing.
  2. To plan and schedule your processing of a knowledge resource. To determine how much time a resource is worth.
  3. To understand the resource, to build knowledge, and to learn. In other words, assessment contributes to knowledge.
  4. To become better at assessing resources: to become a connoisseur, so that when you encounter something really helpful, you are better prepared to make use of it.

If you are careless about assessment, you will waste time on, and be duped by, poor quality information; you will also overlook knowledge gems that your competitors will be exploiting.

About this Chapter

Critical reading is taught (or should be taught) at every university.
whereas reading is essential, it doesn’t tend to change us very much or very quickly. The mind has “cognitive inertia”.

One needs to reflectively practice assessing in order to develop such monitors.
By regularly becoming conscious about evaluating one evaluates better and becomes better at evaluating in the future.

Helpfulness: A Pragmatic Concept to Drive Assessment

A resource might be of a very high quality but not useful to your projects.
Or it might be seriously flawed but still helpful.

CUPA: Caliber, Utility, Potency and Appeal

  1. Caliber is the objective quality of the document, according to standards, irrespective of your particular projects.
  2. Utility is how processing it might help or hinder you in the pursuit of your projects.
  3. Potency is how much the resource might affect you as a person. beliefs, attitude, goals, standards.
  4. Appeal is how much you would like or enjoy processing, or having processed, the resource.

Basic CRAAP Test:

  1. Currency. The timeliness of the information
  2. Relevance. For your needs
  3. Authority. Is the author an expert?
  4. Accuracy. Reliability.
  5. Purpose and Point of View. The reason the information exists

Assessing Arguments

Often, resources argue or assume that there is a problem, which they set out to characterize or solve.

Check out the poster "Your fallacy is inforgraphic" (,

Alarm Bell Clappers

General Epistemic Criteria

  1. Originality. Is this resource a historically creative contribution to knowledge?
  2. Impact. What impact has this resource had on the literature?