Tag: tech

  • Designing an ideal week calendar

    I’ve heard many people discuss the benefit of creating an “ideal week” template to help guide your planning. While many of us can’t direct our schedules to achieve our ideal week calendars, it provides a useful reference that we can turn to and guide our planning. In the past, I’ve used a google spreadsheet, but this week I created a new ideal week calendar using iCal.

    Table of Contents

      What is an ideal week calendar?

      An ideal week calendar maps how you wish your week was. If you were in complete control and could set the time you wanted/need for each task, then your calendar would look like the ideal week calendar.
      I’ve created an ideal week schedule (a static doc) before but I’ve only had a calendar for the last couple of weeks and found it helps em feel on track.

      Now when you say ideal…

      You could either approach this in one of two ways.

      1. What you would choose without any external influence. (Ideal = utopia)
      2. How you would allocate your time if everything went according to plan (Ideal = intended).

      While the first is a useful exercise as it helps to highlight the activities we enjoy and dread, providing a guide to help increase and decrease activities accordingly; the second is more practical for day to day planning.

      Why an ideal week calendar helps

      You should review different aspects of your work, life and preferences as you plan your ideal week (prompts below). This review process is valuable on its own. You’ll no doubt notice some tensions between activities you dislike but are valuable or appointments when you do your best work. You might also noticed how well (or not) your current time consumption matches your desires.

      The real value of the ideal week calendar is that it provides a guide for what activities you should and shouldn’t do now. This is a framework to guide what activities you should do now.
      If you are in complete control of your schedule, you can aim to stick to it rigidly; but if your manager has a magic lamp to sum you to any zoom call, you can use ideal week calendar as a guideline to adjust.

      Why you should make an ideal week calendar not a doc

      I first came across the ideal week concept from Michael Hyatt where he advocated using a google spreadsheet to create a doc for your ideal week. That’s a perfectly acceptable option and it’s better for some people to make a doc than a calendar.

      • those who time block and plan every day
      • those who find notifications distracting.
      • For creating your true “ideal” week that you can’t possibly stick to (at least yet).

      But I was taken by the idea of making a calendar I could reference as…

      • I could access this anytime, anywhere
      • I have to adapt on the fly to my manager and co-workers activities but I want a guideline for activities for each day.
      • There are certain infrequent, important but never urgent tasks that can easily get neglected, using this method sets a time each week and provides a prompt to do them.

      How to create your own ideal week calendar

      Below is the five step process I used to create my ideal week calendar. While you don’t have to follow these steps and can probably work it out for yourself, you can use my process for yourself.
      (The review prompts in step on and the final, sixth step are certainly worth considering).

      1. Reflect

      To start, we need to work out what we want to do and when is best to do it. You might want to consider the questions below to help clarify your thoughts.

      • When you are the most and least productive?
      • What activities can you only (or are easiest to) complete at certain times or locations? (i.e. the Gym is half way between work and home so it’s easiest to go before or after work)
      • What activities are the most crucial for you (both for work and personal life.)
      • How much time do you ideally want to dedicate to each area or core task?
      • How little time do you want to set aside for distracting activities (i.e. only 1hr of twitter a week)
      • When should you do your most valuable tasks? (guided by previous points)
      • When should you do your least valuable tasks?
      • What non-moveable appointments do you have?

      2. Create a calendar

      The first step is to create a calendar that you will fill.
      As a Mac and Apple user, I went for an iCal calendar with my iCloud account. If you use Google calendar or a different tool then go for that.
      Using a separate calendar allows you to turn it on and off rather than having “conflicts” with events.

      3. Add the “big rocks”

      With the calendar in place, add the most important task and the non-moveable items. Match your most productive times with your most valuable tasks.
      These should be recurring events not one time events, i.e. a weekly meeting with friends or taking your child to their after-school club, not “taking my kid to camp”. One time events go in your regular calendar.

      4. Fill in the gaps

      With the key tasks in place, you should have some gaps left. These will probably be at times when you aren’t productive or have no clear purpose. The tasks will be part of two groups: those you forget and distractions. For distractions, make sure you set clear limits. For neglected tasks, be careful when you place them.
      If a task is one you often neglect them, there’s a chance that you need more willpower to complete them (but you don’t have it when you normally turn to them).

      5. Review

      At this point, it’s good to review everything. You may have lost the big picture in the details, causing you to not give enough time to certain tasks, or create a schedule that won’t really work.
      Look at the zoomed out view and make some adjustments.

      6. Have the calendar at hand

      The final step is to keep your calendar accessible so you can use it to guide you.
      I have it appear on my Apple Watch in the central complication, showing whatever I want to be doing right now.
      I also keep it in the calendar app on my Mac so I can look at that during the day.

      Have you created an ideal week calendar?

      Do you use an ideal week template or calendar? How has it helped you?

    1. My Favourite iPhone Apps 2021

      After sharing my favourite Mac apps of 2021, I thought I’d continue and share my favourite iPhone apps from this year. In truth, they’re quite similar to my favourite apps for the last five years or so.

      I haven’t included iPad apps and while some would repeat, there would definitely be some differences.

      Similar to last time, and again stolen from Ali Abdaal, I’m using the categories create, consume, connect, coordinate.

      Create

      These are the apps I use to make things, whether that is text, images, or physical activities.

      Drafts

      drafts app icon hand drawn

      Drafts is the marmite app of Apple nerds. Either you love it and it’s essential or you just don’t get it.
      For me, drafts is a text scratch pad; a place where I can put something down without worrying where it will go. OR, where I can write something with more control than trying to type in a tiny website text input box.

      The features of drafts that suit this are.

      Drafts opens in a fresh note

      I set a couple of minutes as my refresh time so I can go back and forth to webpages without losing a note, but when inspiration strikes as I walk, it’s a blank canvas.

      Drafts actions help me get text where it needs to go.

      The actions in drafts make it easy to transform text into todo actions, emails, references notes practically anything. This has become more important for me as the Obsidian mobile app still isn’t out so I rely on drafts to capture an idea and save it.

      iA Writer

      iA Writer

      a hand drawn version of the ia writer icon

      iA Writer is my long form writing application and is also connected to my Obsidian vault. So I can draft and outline for an article while commuting or write a whole piece if I really want.
      As I don’t have Obsidian on the phone yet, iA Writer also lets me find, edit and update notes in my “second brain” or whatever you want to call it.

      Camera

      a hand drawn camera icon

      The camera is one of my most used apps. Whether it’s a quick photo or a little video of my family doing something cute, the camera app is easy to use, always there and does a good enough job 90% of the time.

      Filmic pro

      a hand drawn version of the filmic pro app icon

      I started making videos using just my iPhone and iPad (In fact, my whole 30 days of sketch noting course used those two devices). Filmic pro really helped raise the quality of videos that I could create with these devices.
      Recently, it added support for the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 which has been great for me as an owner.
      Admittedly, I shoot less with filmic pro since I got my Nikon z50 but it’s good to have as an option.

      Pushfit

      This is a stupid little press-up counter (I know, press-ups in create? But it doesn’t fit any other categories). I love it because it just counts and tracks the number of pushups you do. While this isn’t the worlds greatest exercise routine, it’s such a small activity that It’s the perfect break during the work day.

      Oh and you can get it for free.

      Consume

      This selection of apps are for taking in content, from audio, video, and text. There is one bonus item that is almost a connector.

      Pocket casts

      a hand drawn version of the pocket casts icon

      Podcasts means pockets casts to me.
      I’ve tried other apps like overcast but I’ve used pocket casts since I was an android user many years ago.
      The desktop app is a real bonus.

      YouTube

      I don’t often use the YouTube app on my phone and when I do, I usually what the screen off but listen to a video lecture (thank you YouTube premium).

      YouTube music

      a hand drawn version of the YouTube music icon

      YouTube premium means I get YouTube music too. While not the best music service, it is good enough. And if you like jazz, the live performances and covers are actually a positive thing.

      Scribd

      hand drawn scribd icon

      Scribd is like Netflix for books (and audiobooks). I love this app and it’s helped me read 3x more books last year.
      Use my referral code to get a 60 day trial (instead of the usual 30 days) and give me some free days too.

      Kindle

      hand drawn kindle icon

      Not every book is on scribd but there is kindle. I know the iBooks app might be better, but I’m in the kindle ecosystem after buying ebooks years ago for it (plus my Apple account is set to Poland and that is…tricky).

      Instapaper

      hand drawn Instapaper icon

      Saving articles to Instapaper is a core part of my effective online reading strategy. While there are many options, Instapaper works well for me and has some nice design choices.

      Readwise

      hand drawn readwise icon

      Readwise turns my highlights (from kindle, Instapaper and other sources) into a reviewable and sharable stream. I love the daily review, graphics it create and it saves all my highlights into Evernote to review later.

      (p.s. the link below gives us both a free month)

      Logos

      hand drawn logos icon

      Logos is a premium Bible app and Christian resource centre. You can access dictionaries, commentaries, devotionals, maps, courses, as well as create notes.
      Really it’s part of the whole logos ecosystem which is what makes it so powerful. It’s great for both reading a morning scripture and preparing sermons.

      Connect

      The iPhone was primarily designed as a communications device and so it’s no surprise there are a good number of apps to contact people.

      Messeges and FaceTime

      FaceTime icon hand drawn

      Living abroad means video calls are a big deal for us. For the people who have it, messages and FaceTime are the best way to connect.

      I also use WhatsApp and Facebook messenger but I don’t really like using either.

      Basecamp

      a hand drawn base camp icon

      Chad Moore and I use Basecamp for side project sprints. I don’t tend to use the iPhone app but I do sometimes. The main feature I find useful with the phone app is sending some causal messages back and forth as well as occasionally ticking off a task.

      Slack

      a censored slack icon

      I’m part of a few fun slacks. Again, I don’t tend to use it on my phone but it’s a nice option especially for sharing pictures of Sketchnotes to the sketchnote army slack.

      Microblog + Sunlit

      hand drawn microblog icon

      Microblog was in my list of favourite Mac apps too and for good reason. The easy publishing and social network are fantastic for personal blogging. Sunlit provides a photo focused option for browsing and publishing images.

      Twitter

      I should hate Twitter, but I love it (while having moments of hate). I’ve left before but then come back for some reason and find myself sinking time in.
      Although I’m sure I ought to like an app like tweetbot, the official app caught me with its support for polls and threads.

      Coordinate

      The key criteria in my first smart phone was a digital calendar. I wanted to address my natural poor organisation and so it’s no surprise that this category is still crucial to me.

      Streaks

      hand drawn streaks icon

      I track a string of habits in streaks, currently;

      1. Reading the Bible
      2. Walking 10,000 a day
      3. Reading for at least 10 mins
      4. Journal
      5. Brushing my teeth for 3 mins twice a day
      6. Doing at least 10 press-ups

      I occasionally add a new habit to try and make it stick and start with the lowest activation energy I need.
      I love the new widget.

      Todoist

      hand drawn todoist icon

      I don’t really like Todoist, but I’m happy enough with it and it works everywhere. This was a bigger deal when I was using a PC for work but since moving back to a Mac, I’m looking at moving all over to OmniFocus again.
      Still, Todoist keeps me organised and the karma aspect is a great little gamification. While it may not be perfect, it hits a good simplexity balance for me, where I can make it more or less complex depending on my needs.

      (If you sign up with the link below, I get two months of pro for free)

      Trello

      I’ve really come to rely on Trello recently. I manage my works content calendar in Trello and being able to respond to comments on the go can be really handy in our flexi-work situation.

      And my personal status board in Trello helps me stay on top of work and life.
      The mobile app is really fantastic and Trello does a great job of making it simple to move cards around even on the phone.

      Fantastical

      a hand drawn fantastical icon

      Fantastical is one of the first apps I bought due to its natural language input and great display. I’ve not paid for the subscription but have lock in to some of the premium features due to past payments.
      I really like how it looks and the controls it offers.

      Apps I don’t like, but have to use

      At some point during writing I started to include apps that I use a lot and then realised I don’t like them! So I created a new section.

      Skype

      We use Skype a lot for work.
      I do not like Skype.
      Although the iOS app is better than the desktop one.

      Facebook (& business suite)

      My church uses Facebook a lot, so I use Facebook. That’s basically it. The business app is great for sharing updates or sending a message to a potential visitor.

      Notable absences

      Both apps that I don’t have, or don’t really use.

      No mail

      I frequently delete email apps from my phone to avoid the curse of the pings and temptation to dive into them. I’ve done the same with social networking sites, using the web versions when necessary.
      I just checked and technically I do have mail on my phone, but it’s with an email account that gets no email but lets me send stuff IF I need.

      Instagram

      I still have instagram but…meh, it’s there. Sometimes I find myself scrolling through it but it’s really not my social network.

      What are your favourite iPhone apps?

      I’d love to know any iPhone apps that you are crazy about which aren’t on my list.

    2. My Favourite Mac Apps 2021

      I recently got hold of a new MacBook Air with M1 chip. It’s been a fantastic purchase and eliminated my daily frustrations with my work issued PC as well as provided a personal device for creating on. While setting my new computer up, I decided to review some of the tools I use and investigate some of the great apps I hadn’t had time to try. I thought I’d share my favourite Mac apps for 2021 that have made their way to my new M1 MacBook Air.

      I’m stealing the structure of Ali Abdaal with categories for Create, connect, consume, and coordinate.

      Table of Contents

        Create

        Safari + Firefox

        Most of my work takes place in a web browser. Whether that is writing on this site, coordinating over Google docs or some other web app. Web apps are increasingly the main tools for much creation and it’s good to acknowledge that.

        I use two web browsers so I have a clear division between day job work and personal use of the computer. Both Firefox and Safari are memory friendly, unlike chrome, which I think is trying to destroy computers at all times.

        Obsidian

        My new favourite app. I tried a few of the modern note taking apps like Notion and Evernote, but Obsidian has been the one that stuck with me. I really like how it use plain text markdown files, works on any desktop, can sync using my iCloud storage (and works with dropbox et al) and has a flexible interface.

        It’s not as user-friendly as something like Craft, which seems like a less fiddly and more attractive alternative to Notion; Nor is it as customisable or power user focused as some other alternatives, but it hits the mark for me. And If I do choose to change, it will be easier thanks to the markdown support.

        iA Writer

        A second markdown editor!?! Yes.

        iA Writer is my app for writing, Obsidian is for notes and ideas. But both use the same files storage.

        iA Writer has a few extra features that make it a great choice for writing in

        • publishing tools
        • different preview options
        • syntax highlighting

        As someone who does a lot of writing in one form or another, these features are really useful.

        Final Cut Pro

        I’ve been making more videos recently, including some for an upcoming Sketchnote course. Final Cut Pro allows me to make better looking images and is fast. With the new M1 MacBook Air, video render times are a fraction compared to my old 2013 MacBook Pro (although I’m not sure they are as fast as my 2017 iPad Pro using lumafusion pro. They might be about equal. Which is a testament to both machines).

        Canva

        Writing online almost requires graphics, and Canva is one of the quickest ways to create custom graphics. It doesn’t have all the power features you might want but it is helps get a good result fast.

        Canva is free to use but the pro version gives you automatic resizing of graphics (i.e. make one design for a blog, then quickly create a Pinterest pin, twitter image and Facebook image). You may also pay for premium add ons.

        Drafts

        Drafts is the place where text starts. While I mostly make use of Drafts on my Phone, having access to it on my Mac means I can both make quick notes and easily access notes I took on my phone. Drafts is great as it’s easy to start a note and then you can decide what to do with the text later.

        A couple of common uses on the phone include

        • writing a message or input here instead of using a buggy website interface.
        • Starting a task/note, then working out what it is and where it should go
        • Writing a quick note which I expand later and save to obsidian.
        • Taking down details from a phone call and then working out what to do.

        This is basically my inbox before data get’s sent to where it’s needed. I could probably replace iA Writer or obsidian but drafts stores data in a strange way and I like having a different location for storage.

        So yes. I use three markdown editors…My list of six create apps includes three markdown editors. There’s nothing strange about this at all.

        Consume

        Pocketcasts desktop

        I’ve used a tone of different podcast apps and they all have advantages and downsides. For the longest time, pocket casts was the only app that had a desktop and mobile version (great for the office).
        Now, there is the overcast mobile app on the Mac thanks to catalyst. Still, I have long term loyalty to pocketcasts and have a lifetime Pocketcasts Plus account. I’m glad there are other options, but pocketcasts works for me.

        YouTube Music

        Because I pay for YouTube Premium (I hate those ads, but want people to get paid), I get YouTube music. While there are probably better music services, YT music is good enough for me. And if you like jazz, you can get some great alternative versions of songs.

        Connect

        Basecamp

        Chad Moore and I have been using Basecamp for side project sprints. It’s fantastic. I love how it encourages more asynchronous communication but also has chat facilities. It’s been the perfect solution for what we’re doing.

        Slack

        I’m still on a few slacks. Slack is the standard, but perhaps not the best anymore. Still, there’s nothing really wrong with it. In truth, it is the communities like the Sketchnote Army Slack which make it.

        MicroBlog

        MicroBlog is the friendliest place on the internet. It’s a great place to learn, communicate and share. I find that people generally start from a position of trust rather than suspicion which contributes to this attitude.

        Coordinate

        Todoist

        Todoist is a task management app. I’ve found myself on Todoist as it was one of the best cross platform tools. Now I can use a Mac for work, I might be able to switch to a task management app which I prefer like Omnifocus or things.

        Still, all my tasks are currently in Todoist and the literal cost of switching is holding me back. For now.

        Trello

        Trello is a great project management if you like the Kanban system. Luckily, I do.

        Trello let’s me generate ideas and keep track of what is done, waiting for others, in projects etc. Here is my project status board which I’ve just started using. It provides a high-level view of what I’m working on.

        While I could use Todoist for this, I use Trello mostly for collaborating with other people and it’s easier to do with Trello than Todoist.

        P.s. this link is a referral link so I can get Trello gold.

        Meetingbar

        Meetingbar puts zoom, google meet etc meeting links in your menu bar. As someone who has daily zoom meetings and is fed up with having to, open the calendar event, find the zoom link, and click on the zoom link (while getting messages asking if I’m joining), this is God send.

        And it’s free.

        Bartender

        Speaking of the Menubar, Bartender cleans up your Mac menu bar, allowing you to disable and hide items including showing active items. I haven’t really felt the need for it on my new Mac, but my old MacBook’s menu bar looked terrible, so I’m taking pre-emptive action.

        Alfred

        Alfred is a spotlight replacement. It let’s you type to find apps and files rather than click through the GUI. The reason I like Alfred is the clipboard manager. My use of windows for the last year and a half has shown me just how useful clipboard managers can be!

        More to come?

        I’m sure there are a few items missing from my list. I’m also sure that I’ll discover more great apps throughout the year — I’m even testing a couple right now that may make the list!

        So I’ll continue to update the article as I discover more magnificent mac apps.

        In the meantime, I’d love to know any recommendations you have.