Organising my email

I’m not sure if it’s because my day job now is locked in job seeking so I’m at the Mac a lot more but I decided to clear down my email. I just normally let them come in and delete very rarely. I decided with so many job search emails coming in and appointments or follow ups I needed to organise a bit. Flagging and searching isn’t stellar on iOS or macOS so I decided to create folders like job seeking and reference and moving my emails into the correct place.

They went back to 2010 but I’ve done it. Most were deleted via iOS, which offers a much quicker way via multiselect and bin. I must have removed 3000 emails and now I know where things are in their appropriate place.

I’ll just need to keep on top of what’s coming in and delete as I go.

Splitting up calendar items and your task manager

I’d been of the mindset that seeing my calendar items within my task manager was a must have but now I’ve switched over to Todoist and this isn’t an option for my iCloud I’ve come to the conclusion it actually clutters things up.

Having a division of these two actually helps with overload to me. I use the Apple Calendar app widget to remind me what I have on but at the moment concentrating just on my task manager helps me get things done without worrying about the structure of the day.

I just work through my list and get to the items when I get to them.

Update on my Todoist setup

I posted last week about coming back to Todoist and I wanted to share with you how it’s been going this week.

As you can see I’ve kept it pretty basic with

  • A project per category I need to manage
  • A sub project if this needs breaking down E.g. Video within the Create project
  • The use of section headers to break down a project, like my learning one you can see in the screenshot

This has been working pretty well this week and between my devices (iPhone and MacBook, using Safari) I’ve been keeping on track ok. I am using the small widget on the home screen that shows me the number of items in the list today and the top few.

I’m adding items by firing up the app first but my next tasks is to look at how Todoist is working with automation and try to use Shortcuts a little more.

If you want to check out Todoist, please use my affiliate link here to help support my writing. (thanks in advance).

My Todoist setup

I’ve been switching apps again (you’re sick of posts like this right?) and with my kind of breaking and being overwhelmed with overdue Reminders UI I’ve gone back to old faithful – Todoist.

I know I’ve written up posts on not being able to justify a subscription but I need to invest in myself and job hunting so paid up for my monthly £3.99.

I just initially used my iPhone and dumped everything into their appropriate projects as you can see above. I don’t use labels and prefer to divide my tasks into logical places. You’ll see my divisions above. It’s a pretty basic setup at the moment and the folder names should show what tasks go where.

Along with the setup I have the small today widget on my main Home Screen. This allows me to see how much I’ve got left to do today at a glance.

I’ll share more as I refine this over time but for now here’s my Todoist setup.

The limits of Apple Reminders

I posted about how I thought I’d use Apple Reminders but a few days where I’m low energy and it’s overwhelming. I’ve missed items and they move to a red overdue area, it’s stressing me out seeing it that way. I’m chasing my tail a lot anyway but it’s making it worse.

So I’m seeing the limits of options to delay items and the way it’s being displayed I.e. shouting at me.

It’s got me thinking about app structure and there’s something about Todoist that I find fits with my brain. I’ve manually (via my iPhone) dumped from Reminders back to Todoist and I’ll continue on my journey with the app.

Even though I have a lot on (over 10 things today for example) I feel more in control with the way Todoist lays out the data.

How do you deal with overdue tasks in your app?

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.

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.

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.

iOS task managers

With a change in finances came a potential change in task manager. I looked at ones I’d already bought, free and subscriptions. Here’s the ones I tested and my views on how they worked or didn’t for me. Please bear in mind I’m very picky with my apps.

Apple Reminders

This was the most obvious option for free. I previously had sync issues but this seems to be sorted now. I started to use it and was immediately struck with how bad it is on the iPad if you use the trackpad. There isn’t any support for right click etc. Given I go between devices a lot this was enough for me to throw it away as an option.

Things 3

I had already paid for this so I gave it another go. Within 10 minutes I threw it in the bin. The lack of accessibility options in this app is inexcusable. It doesn’t adhere to the system font and as someone with older eyes that bumps up the font means I cannot use this app.

Sorted

This looks great and is 80% there. It’s a one off payment at a reasonable price, uses iCloud sync and is accessible. My main issue was around how long it took to get to a list. Swiping to the right to get to my lists is an unnecessary step for me, I use and swap between lists a lot. I decided this was a deal breaker for me.

GoodTask

A favourite amongst Apple users but it seems so fiddly to me. I’ve tried to use it numerous times but it requires a real investment in setting up to work for you. I gave it a good couple of days but didn’t stick, too complicated for me.

OmniFocus

Switching between macOS and iOS is the main reason I don’t use OmniFocus. The app on macOS looks ancient to me and even compared to the iOS version. I like the iOS version but I just find it too old school on macOS. It feels like using MS Word or something, almost like they are apps from two different companies. The other stumbling block is the fact you can’t set a task to be due today without setting a time.

Microsoft To Do

It’s a nice looking app if you loved Wunderlist (I did) but it doesn’t see enough updates. It also doesn’t have a widget, which is a deal breaker for me. It’s a shame but I think if we got a widget it would be a go to to do app on iOS for a lot of people.

Todoist

Where I’ve settled, even with a free account. I don’t get notifications but with the widget I can manage this. It’s quick to enter new items, I can quickly see and access projects, it supports accessibility, has rock solid sync, supports trackpad on iOS and has some of the best widgets in iOS.

Which app do you use?

The best free to do app on iPhone and iPad

I’ve been messing around with a lot of To Do apps over the last couple of months, trying to figure out which is the best app or service to use when managing a budget on what you can spend on a subscription or app. I tried built in system apps and apps that offered a free tier like Todoist.

What I’ve found is that with every free or built in app there are compromises and the question is, what ones can you live with?

For me I want

  • To be notified when items are due
  • Have a free today view where I can enter items without worrying about adding a specific time
  • Have the ability to add web links or notes
  • Adhere to the system font size settings
  • Good iPad support
  • An iOS 14 widget
  • Reliable sync

In my testing over this period I’ve found that APPLE REMINDERS is the best free app on iOS to manage your day.

The only place where Reminders lets itself down is with it’s iPad support from my list above. I use the Magic keyboard most of the time and it’s annoying (not a deal breaker given my £0 budget) that it doesn’t support the trackpad. You can’t right click to have options on items, it’s a slower process to enter and manage your items but if you can live with it then you’ll be good on Reminders.

It’s straight forward to use, sync across devices is the best I tested and the iOS 14 widget is really good.