March 7, 20223 minutes to read — Tags: productivity

I love a good low-code productivity hack. Here are some of my favorite iOS shortcuts that make my life slightly easier.

Easy after-school pickups

At my daughter’s elementary after-school program, the pickup protocol is for the parent to send a text message to the program director, who then brings the kid to the front door.

I noticed a regular routine: I arrive in the school parking lot, take out my phone, find the program director in the Messages app, and copy+paste my previous message along the lines “Hello, I’m here to pick up [my child’s name].”

Let’s automate that!

I created a location-based iOS Shortcut: when I arrive at the school between 3-6pm on weekdays, send that text message to the program director. Now when I park at the school, I pull out my phone, and tap a shortcut notification on the lock screen, and the text is on it’s way!

This is inspired by Shawn Blanc’s gym pass shortcut.

Office music

I frequently listen to music on AirPlay speakers in my home office. But I don’t like the temptation of unlocking my phone and tapping around to find my playlist. It’s too tempting to start checking notifications and social media.

So to avoid unlocking my phone, I got these NFC stickers and stuck one on my desk.

Then I made an iOS shortcut: when I tap my phone to the NFC tag, set the playback destination to my office speakers, and play my favorite playlist or app. I change the playlist or app in the shortcut when the mood strikes. Recently Lofi Girl and Endel soundscapes are in heavy rotation.

Set Slack status messages the hard way

I have several shortcuts that change my slack status. When I start a walking workout, a shortcut automatically updates my slack status to “AFK for a walk”.

When I enable “Do Not Disturb” focus mode in iOS/macOS, another shortcut automatically sets my Slack status to “DND - writing”.

It took a lot of trial and error (and some yak shaving) to get the Slack API permissions configured correctly, so I’ll put the steps here.

  1. Create a new Slack app.
  2. In your app, set a required redirect URL. Note you can use any URL, say google.com. You’re the only one who will use it, and it doesn’t affect the functionality.
  3. In the “User Token Scopes” section, add the users.profile:write scope so the app can update your profile.
  4. Install the app to your workspace (or ask your workspace admin to do it for you).
  5. Now you should see a section in your app called “OAuth Tokens for Your Workspace”. Copy the User OAuth token that starts xoxp- for use in the shortcut.

With the token in hand, you can now use the Get contents of URL shortcut action to make the Slack API request to users.profile.set.

Here’s a screenshot of what a successful shortcut looks like. Note that the first 3 steps are to compute the expiration time as a unix timestamp (seconds since 1970)—i.e. ‘30 minutes from now’. And the Authorization header is Bearer xoxp-XXXX.

Slack status shortcut

Happy hacking! And please let me know on Twitter if you enjoy these shortcuts.


Aaron Suggs
Hi, I'm Aaron Suggs. 😀👋

Welcome to my personal blog. I'm a software engineer at Lattice, previously Glossier and Kickstarter. I live in Chapel Hill, NC. Find me on Twitter, GitHub, and LinkedIn.