I’ve been taking things back to basics a little with my productivity. I’ve installed Fantastical (mainly to use it’s widgets) and Things 3. I’m trying not to overthink and spend any time messing with productivity apps.
I’m not even creating projects anymore to categorise by type I.e. home, finances etc. Things like paying bills and putting bins out just go into the inbox and show up when they are ready in ‘today’.
Coming into 2022 I’ll be creating projects in Things for actual projects like this blog or other creative outlets, the plan is to keep it simple.
I’m not overthinking my productivity apps this year. I’m going to just use the basic to remember to do stuff.
Since I’ve moved away from Todoist it got me thinking about why I pick certain apps and how the developer reacts to your concerns (BTW this is one of the areas that has me second guessing my use of Things).
For Notes I just use Apple Notes and accept it does most of what I want but take on board it’s only really updated once a year.
For calendar I’ve moved to Fantastical. It’s in active development and I mainly use it for the widget. I’m happy it’s an app where feedback is taken on board and it gets updates.
For mail I stick to Apple Mail, I’m only a basic user of mail and whilst it hasn’t been updated for years it does the job.
For todo I’m currently using Things 3 but am concerned at the developers apparent lack of taking on feedback. I’ve been asking for more accessibility for years and whilst it’s acknowledged, it’s never developed. For now I’m using it to calm down my overwhelm I’ll most likely switch when the eye strain kicks in.
Do you take active development and attention to feedback into your app choices?
I’ve felt overwhelmed with my todo setup using Todoist lately and at the end of the year I’ve stopped even checking it. I’ve decided to not worry about my personal projects and just get the basics (things like remembering to pay a bill or put the bins out). Whilst I don’t enjoy how small the font is on Things 3, I do like it’s simplicity. I’m also trying to ignore how it displays repeating reminders and just get on with using it.
I’ve started by creating 3 areas that I want to track – family, me and creative projects I’ll be working on this year.
At the moment I’m entering either a reminder about a project or just time sensitive items I need to remember like putting the bins out every Thursday. I’m not even looking at my other task manager, I’m adding to Things as I think of them.
I’m sure I’m going to forget some stuff early on but by taking it back to zero and building up slowly I’m hoping it’ll calm down the overwhelm.
Sometimes you go looking for that perfect app and you end up back to the iOS apps that came with your iPhone. That’s what often happens for me with notes. I try apps like Notion, Obsidian and Craft and whilst I appreciate their use case I end up getting overwhelmed and come back to Apple Notes.
Figuring outwhatyouwant from a Notes app
The first thing for me at least is to figure out what I want
Quick note taking
Privacy at the core
Ability to add images
Good support through iOS for share sheet integration
What third party options didn’t work out for me?
Why Apple Notes sticks for me
In my daily use I don’t keep a massive knowledge base. I use Notes for thoughts on appointments I have, quick save of recipes, saving reference materials like a warranty and general quick thoughts. In my testing Apple notes fits my requirements detailed above. It’s quick to take a note, sync is good, I can use tables, embed files and organise with folders.
It’s been well developed over the years and now stands there with the best of them. It’s one of the few apps that actually feels like it has a team that has some allocation over a week to work on it, unlike Reminders or Mail. I don’t want Notes to go down the new trend of apps like Notion in turning it into a knowledge base (almost wiki like) and ends up complicating things. I just need a reliable, as basic as it can get Notes app and Apple Notes is perfect for this job.
I’ve been wondering what’s been off about my recent use of Glass since the introduction of likes (or appreciation as they call it) and Andy nailed it.
Since this move I’ve had zero comments on my photography. It’s really changed the way that I’ve experienced the app and I’m now thinking I’ll just leave the service and get on with my life. For me comments are a much better mechanism for feedback, showing appreciation is nice but doesn’t really help me improve as a photographer.
I still feel it was a bad slope to start down by adding appreciation and I’ve cancelled my subscription. I’ll be using it on and off I’d imagine whilst I still have my subscription but I don’t see why I should invest my time in it right now.
In an announcement yesterday, Glass have added an appreciation option for photos. Initially I was against this and worried that it might be the start of a path to adding like counts and for me at least it’s one of the reasons I moved away from other social services and don’t check notifications on Twitter. In more of a look into it and reading more comments on it from friends I’m leaning towards being ok with it.
It’s effectively a quick way to show you like an image rather than typing a comment like “nice photo”.
It’s not public, it just shows in your notifications.
I think as long as it’s treated like a quick comment and not a popularity contest we’ll be ok. Let’s see where Glass take it next but I’ll be keeping a close eye on it’s next step.
I’ve been switching setups a lot over the last year but I’ve been having a think about some of my most used and liked apps that I have been using over the last year. As with my favourite gear these apps haven’t necessarily come out this year.
Glass: I love this app so much, it’s really helped me with improving my photography through the helpful and positive comments I have had on my photography. The UI is great and the development team are looking for feedback and making change. I have no problem paying for a network like this, one that puts the creator first and doesn’t rely on advertising or creepy algorithms.
Portal: As I wrote on my review this app gives me the opportunity to get some calm in my day. It also makes a great listening experience when you are working and just want to escape somewhere else.
Apple Notes: I’ve tried all of the notes apps out there but I always end up coming back to Apple Notes. I like using the table functionality and the sync seems solid across all of my devices.
Todoist: I’ve settled back on Todoist for a while now, it does the job very well. It’s quick to enter a task, I can see my day with the widget and the sync is rock solid.
Safari: This might be an odd choice but I’ve made a switch to Safari from DuckDuckGo on iOS for one reason – iCloud Private Relay. I don’t have a VPN enabled on my iOS device all of the time but given most of what I do is in Safari having my IP masked is a great incentive for me to use Safari with this feature. I’ve always used Safari on macOS so now using Reading Lists that sync between my devices is great.
I’ve been checking out Portal for the last couple of weeks, integrating it into my day and I have to say that it’s been helping me with with distractions and focussing in work.
The app is an interesting combination of features that are focussed on your wellbeing and letting you escape to different surroundings using an immersive soundscape.
What I’ve found is using the Focus mode, picking a portal (like Japan above) and listening to the environment lets me cut out background sounds and get to my task rather than being distracted by music. As much as I do love music, sometimes it’s just nice to sit in a calming environment when the pressure is on. It is also a good way to unwind after a rough or busy day, just close your eyes and relax. In total there are 44 portals in total so you should be able to find something that fits with your current mood.
The app is a breeze to use once you get used to each of the controls on screen and you can see that the UI is well laid out and a lot of thought has gone into the design. This also applies to the screen once you enter one of the portals, like in my screenshot above. You can choose to display the background with a time but I just like to have the beautiful wallpaper on my iPhone whilst I chill out. If I’m focussing I just ignore it and treat it like I’m listening to some background music.
Where this app really shines though is in its spatial audio support.
There are quite a few portals that have been created with spatial audio in mind and if you are using headphones capable of hearing it, it’s really an amazing experience. I found that after getting used to spatial audio soundscapes I didn’t want to go back to a static stereo one, they are that good.
The other area of that app that I have been using is the breathing exercises that are simple (non-guided) that for me as someone that hasn’t been able to stick to a daily practise are great when I just want to take a few minutes to calm down.
One area that I haven’t been able to test out however is the integration with smart lighting systems such as Hue, HomeKit and Nanoleaf. This looks a really good addition to the app and I imagine would go a long way to making you feel like you are there. If you have smart lighting then download and give it a go, I imagine it would be a great way to unwind (and let me know how you get on).
Portal is a wellbeing app with a difference in the way that it combines several methods of relaxing in one place, it’s created by a team that obviously cares about good app design, the environment around us and the wellbeing of its users.
The app is free with in app purchases ($9.99 a month or $49.99 a year).
After feeling overwhelmed using Reminders and testing out Things (still an accessibility nightmare) I’m starting from scratch with Todoist. I’ve decided to use Labels, Priorities and Projects to organise this time.
It’s still a starter for ten but just wanted to share an initial setup. I’m not even cross referencing my other apps I’m just doing it as I think of things. Pretty calming way to do it (so far…).