Why you should use Apple Reminders

I’m moving between task managers a lot more than usual with my new budgeting measures and after a week with Reminders I’m starting to understand the benefits of using the built in app over paying for a third party.

Sync

Data sync between my iPhone and MacBook has been rock solid. It’s even at the point that if I tick something off my iPhone I see the badge count on my macOS dock disappear without me doing anything. I did have issues in the past and I don’t know what’s changed but sync has been one of it’s strong points

Accessibility

My eyes are a lot older now and I’m bumping up the system font to Max. You’d be amazed how many top rated to do apps don’t adhere to the system setting and therefore aren’t accessible (Things 3 is particularly bad here). No matter what size system font I’m using Reminders adapts to it, therefore making it useable for me.

Privacy first

This has been an Apple mantra for a while but using Reminders lets me worry less about where and how my data is being used.

Tight integration

This is obvious really but if you’re in the Apple ecosystem then it’s tight integration with SIRI, all the devices and HomePod is a big plus.

It’s free

This means a lot to me right now, another monthly payment not to worry about.

It’s actually quite a decent app

I’m impressed with the updates from iOS 13, it’s a very usable app. There are a few more taps you need to go through to set a deadline etc but I like that you can add links and images to a Reminder. Projects and sub-projects are there and you can set items to be due with or without a time. It doesn’t have tags, but then I didn’t use them anyway. It’s well laid out and easy to understand. I’d say it’s also a better app on iOS than macOS.

It has iOS 14 widgets

A pretty basic one but does the job and sits on my home screen. Tells me the number of items and shows me the first 3.

In summary

I’m nit-picky about my apps but being made to accept their flaws based on how much I’m paying has helped me accept Reminders. It’s not perfect for me but no app is, it does the job and has been working for me over the last week. If you’re on iOS, macOS or both then I’d definitely use Reminders as your starting point.

Are Apple laptops good value for money?

I haven’t bought a new Mac since 2016 and it got me thinking about a point I’ve been saying to friends over the years that Apple laptops are good value for money. Yes, the initial outlay is a bit more but they’ll outlast a PC bought the same year.

I still use a 2016 MacBook and it’s on the latest macOS version and is handling all of my job searching and video calls fine. I can even do music recording in Logic Pro and video editing in iMovie.

It’s true it won’t game well, but not many a Mac will unless you go top end. If you’re after gaming get a gaming PC but for 90% of the work you’re doing a Mac is going to last you years. I think 7-9 years on a Mac is easily doable.

Make sure you hit your full budget to get 16GB Ram if you can at the beginning of your purchase but other than that you’re good.

What’s your oldest Mac in use? Mine is a 2015 5K iMac.

Where technology is better than pen and paper

I’ve been rethinking how I’m running my life over the last few weeks and switched my to do system to a physical notebook. This hasn’t worked out as I thought and I’ve discovered where technology really beats pen and paper (for me).

A reminder of things

I’ve been trying my best to change some bad habits and had previously been using Streaks to do this. I moved my habits into a simple grid on paper but there’s a problem, I forgot what I was trying to improve. Having a reminder on my iPhone I.e. a widget on my Home Screen that I saw every time I unlocked my iPhone was helping me. Since pen and paper I’ve taken a step back. I’ll be moving back to streaks to track these.

Notifications

I used pen and paper as my daily list and whilst it worked when I had my day job (I was at my desk with my notebook) it doesn’t work at home. My notebook isn’t always with me and it won’t ping me to tell me to do something. Having a notification across my devices is the extra push I needed to remember things most important.

Back to an app

I think I’ll stick to paper for gratitude journaling but switch back to an app for the rest. This’ll be one for habits (streaks) and a simple app for my to do (?).

Having taken this step back it’s been good to have that reminder of why I use a to do app. If you’re struggling too on this try the same method and let me know where you end up.

I’m still using the iPad Mini 5

And I’m still enjoying it. Bigger screen than my iPhone, TouchID, portable, great for reading, two handed typing and more. I genuinely think that if you’re in the market for a tablet or want an ebook reader that does other stuff the Mini is the way to go. I see no downsides to using one as my only iPad right now. I’d recommend the Logitech crayon too if you think you’ll want to write or draw with it. Just a small post to show my continued appreciation for this form factor.

It might not be your apps fault for you not being productive

I write this as I think about switching to a to do app that I have already paid for vs one that I need to justify monthly before putting food on the table. It hit me today that it might not be the tool that’s the problem…. Yes, I have a lot of worries going on right now that are distracting me from being productive but the problem for me seems to be more towards the person driving and not the tool I’m using to help me deal with my day.

I do find faults in everything (I hate this about myself) so I can nitpick an app pretty well but that leaves me with hating all of the apps I try to use. I’m finding little niggles that I turn into roadblocks for me to using an app rather than just using it and accepting it’s flaws – all apps have these unless you make it yourself.

I’ve actually found going back to good old pen and paper helps take the mental load of an app or using my device to get it done – I want to start to use my devices less, I rely too much on technology and I find that it’s getting in the way, worrying about sync etc are a thing of the past with a notebook, although I do think I’ll lose it one day.

So, before switching apps again ask yourself if you need to review your system completely. I recommend taking a nice notebook or at least A4 sized paper and just simply brain dumping onto it. Once you know what you are up against then it’s time to think about if you want to use technology at all for a productivity system. I won’t be moving off the family calendar but for my own stuff I think I’m done with apps for tracking habits and to do’s – they are just adding more stress to an already stressed person – at least for now. Every time I unlock my iPhone I’m reminded of how I’m struggling and failing to keep up with good habits.

I think you’ll probably get from this I’m not in a great place right now, this post was really just to share my thoughts as it hit me today, whilst I was reflecting on things – sort out how you want to organise first, then jump into a system, which doesn’t even need to be tech based.

Let me know how you feel about this, it was a bit of a brain dump to be honest and wanted to get others inputs.

Is the iPhone 12 Mini the new 5C?

I’ve been reading more and more reports of the iPhone 12 Mini not selling well compared to the other models and looking at availability this seems to be true but it doesn’t mean it’s a flop. Like one of my favourite ever iPhone models the 5c it seems that the fan base for it is there but it’s niche.

I loved my 5c, it was small and light and most importantly for me comfortable to hold. In fact if I had the 5c shell with modern internals I’d be over the moon. It’s also why I loved the jet black iPhone 7, it’s comfortable to hold. As someone that doesn’t use cases I always appreciate an iPhone that doesn’t need to be hidden away in plastic to be used.

So back to the Mini. I do think it’s about £50 more expensive than it needs to be and personally I’d have preferred Apple not to have included 5G and brought the price down by £100. You’d have seen a different story I’d imagine but I digress.

We don’t know what Apple wants from it sales wise but if production costs vs sales aren’t great then it’ll be dropped. My hunch is like the 5c the Mini is either only going to last one year or be adapted to become a new SE.

I’d like to see an iPhone Air

  • 12 Mini externals
  • TouchID in the sleep/wake switch like the iPad Air
  • £499 starting cost for 64GB
  • Same camera system as existing Mini
  • Some cool new colours

Then drop the existing SE model.

What do you think?

Tips for recruiters in 2021

As you know I’ve been searching for a new day job and there’s a few areas that I’m finding that let recruiters down, especially when so many are out of work.

Acknowledge I’ve applied

You’d be amazed at how many companies don’t even acknowledge an application. Some have what you’d expect, an automated email but others don’t even send that. Being out of work in 2021 is anxiety inducing enough and I know a lot of people are applying but for some these acknowledgements mean confirmation of a positive step forward. All companies should have a system to send an automatic email acknowledging receipt of an application.

Don’t fall back on systems

I’ve applied to a few places and had interviews only never to hear back. The way I’ve found out is logging into the job site portal, this isn’t acceptable. Again, acknowledge via email or text don’t leave someone hanging.

Give good feedback

If someone has interviewed please always leave feedback. There’s a lot of people out of work and looking and to get no feedback is pretty demoralising. Hiding behind a job site portal or email isn’t ideal but at least give some positive or room for improvement feedback. Simply saying something like “thanks for the interview, we have decided not to pursue your application but cannot provide specific feedback” isn’t acceptable and doesn’t make you want to apply to that company again.

Summary

All of this is really down to good communication. I appreciate it’s hard to reply to everyone but when people are uncertain and anxious it’s reassuring to have some acknowledgment that they are moving in the right direction. I think with so many people out of work right now it’s easy for companies or agencies to forgot there are actual people at the end of each application. Please don’t be faceless and please do better.

Why I can’t recommend using Medium for your writing

I’ve been trying Medium for a day and I think I’m already done with it. I signed up for a free trial and wrote a few posts but I think it’s already giving me anxiety.

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way. The writing experience is very good, I like the clean editor and there’s no friction to publish.

Now onto the negatives…

Get rich quick

My timeline was full of “how I make $5,000 a day writing” or “3 ways that I’m better than you” posts – nothing good for my self esteem. In fact I could see no way to properly curate what you see in your timeline reading view. I simply can’t stand not being able to manage this, it’s one of reasons I never used the official Twitter app.

My writing isn’t suitable

The only articles that seem to get traction are like those above. The sorts of stuff I write isn’t going to be read. There’s so much content and you need to seem to be part of one of the publishing partners to “make it” on Medium. If you’re a small fry like me writing your daily thoughts then don’t bother, Medium isn’t for you.

Supporting creators

If you can afford it at £4.95 a month it seems a good idea to help support writers but only the top 5% probably get anything worthy out of it. If you want to support someone then support them directly via their own Patreon or Ko-Fi etc.

As a creator

If you’re a creator hoping to make money then it’ll be a long slog and remember you’ll be investing £4.95 a month too so that needs to offset what you’re making. Be prepared to spend £100’s to even get noticed. I’d rather put £10’s into my blog each year.

Wrap up

It takes a particular type of writing and personality to write on Medium I feel. Self improvement gurus and make money quick schemes are not what I’m about so it’s not for me – simple as that. I also want to calm the inputs in my technology life and Medium isn’t great at helping that. The app is more reader than writing and curating what you see seems pretty much impossible. If you’re like me on a traditional blog, writing a broad range of topics and thoughts as you get them don’t move to Medium.

My ultimate recommendation is stick to your own blog or start a new one, don’t start on Medium.

Is blogging in decline?

I still write here on my blog because I want to get things out of my head and into a form that I enjoy but I see a lot of others taking the move into video, podcasts or dropping their blog completely.

I’ve tried video back in 2008 and whilst I gained some small successes I ultimately found it wasn’t a platform I was comfortable with. I don’t like YouTube particularly and their algorithms I feel are responsible for some of where we are today.

I also found that I’m not comfortable being on video, know your weaknesses right? I hated reading the comments and unless you have the cash to make great content there’s likely 100’s of people who have already done a video on it.

Anyway, I digress, back to blogging.

Maybe blogging isn’t going away but the traditional days of having your own blog is going away in favour of something like Medium, a newsletter or social media.

For me I believe that you shouldn’t build your content completely on someone else’s platform. Having your own place on the internet is a good thing to do if you can afford to run it. I’m thankful I’ve have support to keep the lights on a little longer but I am looking long term and feeling a little concerned about its future.

After building up my little blog and ultimately not being able to turn it into something that helps me keep the lights on I have to admit I’m also looking to places like Medium to help fund me going forward. I’m actually going to cross post this to Medium as an experiment to see what happens.

I guess this is a bit of ramble to say I really have no idea where to go but I don’t think blogging is going away but it’s definitely evolving into something new.

12 apps

Looking at my setup I’ve realised that it’s only really 12 apps that I use on my iPhone these days. I’ve been sorting out my devices to help distract me less and I’m trying my best to only really check in on places like Twitter once or twice a week. I purged my iPhone of social apps and I’m slowing down on my consumption of podcasts including dropping most of my tech podcasts and listening to more around my other interests like Star Wars or space.

My Home Screen is just these 12 apps and the rest are in App Library. They are apps like settings and App Store but very little else.

My iPhone use has gone down (about 20% according to screen time) and I’m feeling a little better mental health wise so I’m hoping it’s as a result of these changes.

How many apps do you think you could get away with having on your iPhone?