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Learning GTD: Starting From Scratch

  • October 26, 2018
  • Blog

When I started reading Getting Things Done, I was in a spinning world of chaos. I had many different plates spinning at the same time and no way of making sure that nothing fell through the cracks. I needed a system.

So, as a challenge to both my co-host of A Slab of Glass, Christopher Lawley, and myself I set out to read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen cover to cover to see just if GTD was something that would work for me. After chapter one I was all in.

I wanted to use this methodology immediately. I did brain dumps, set up a task manager, and started making boat loads of contexts and tags and folders. I thought I was finally getting to where I wanted with a system that worked for me. The reality was that I was on a high setting up all these productivity things, and I was no closer to getting my work done.

If I am being honest, I was even further from getting the big things in my life done. I did all the things I thought I needed to do to get my life in order and start Getting Things Done, but in reality I just took the foundation of the methodology and ran with it, without thinking on a much higher level.

I was worried about having a task manager that handled everything I threw at it, without actually throwing anything at it. I put the cart before the horse, and that is where I think a lot of people end up when starting a brand new productivity system. This all stops now for me.

I have decided that over the next several weeks I will be starting from scratch in Getting Things Done, and do what David Sparks suggested when he was on A Slab of Glass episode 19:

Do not try to create an entire system in a day. I think what you should do is you should make a list of things you want to improve. What are the key elements of a task management system? There’s capture, how do you capture tasks? How do you process tasks? How do you complete tasks? How do you review projects? Those are the big 4 steps. And pick one of those and say, “How am I going to get better at this?” And do that for two weeks, or a month, or two months, or whatever it takes to just internalize that and say, “Okay, I am just crushing it on capture, now how am I going to process tasks?” If you try to do it all at once it’s just overwhelming and nothing sticks. It’s just like learning keyboard shortcuts or anything you do. Bite off small pieces and fully digest them. And then take another piece, but don’t try to eat the whole elephant in one bite, you’re going to have a problem.

So the first thing I am going to work on is capturing. I need to figure out a system that will work for me and what will allow me to make capturing thoughts, ideas, projects, tasks, and anything else that comes to mind. I need to make it second nature to take those ideas in my mind and put them somewhere I will go back to later to process them.

All of this will be part of an ongoing series on Tablet Habit I like to call “Learning GTD.” Capturing will be part one of this new series, and I can’t wait to share this journey with all of you as I try to make my life more organized and less chaotic.

Pro Apps on the iPad

  • October 16, 2018
  • Blog

Adobe recently announced that Photoshop is coming to the iPad, and with that comes talk of how the iPad is once again on the precipice of gaining the ability to be a “Mac replacement.”

For me, this seems a bit trite and something that isn’t a matter of if or when, the iPad is a Mac replacement if I ever saw one. In fact, I have been using my iPad as a main computer once again since the release of iOS 12. I haven’t picked up my Mac for more than a few minutes a handful of times.

I do still use my Mac, don’t get me wrong, and I think it is an amazing machine. With that said, it isn’t necessary for my workflow of writing, reading RSS feeds, designing minimal graphics, and managing the backend of my websites. All of this can be done on my iPad with ease.

So why did I decide to crack open my Mac? Because when I needed to do something quick, it was easier for me to use a Mac app that I was already familiar with than to try and find a solution on my iPad that would have made this quick thing I had to do an entire project. If I really wanted to go iPad only, those quick and easy things I do on my Mac would become projects and learning sessions on my iPad. It isn’t impossible, but it isn’t something that I can make time for right now.

With all this said, there are times where I will make a conscious effort to make the switch from an app on the Mac to something on my iPad. A recent example of this is going from Adobe Photoshop on my Mac for graphic design to Affinity Designer on the iPad.

The reason for this is two-fold. The first being that I wanted to make more logos and designs with an app that is actually meant for designing rather than using a photo editing tool as a means to making logos. Adobe Illustrator came to mind, but I have had issues with RAM on my Mac when using that app on my Mac. So, I decided to look into other alternatives and Affinity Designer was one that I felt was an obvious leader for the iPad. It had all the features I would want a Pro app to have, tutorials to make my life easier when learning this new system, and an affordable price tag to $19.99.

After downloading the app, I spent an hour or so watching tutorials and just playing around with the application to get a grip on what all this system can use and what things I could look into for my own work. The UI is brilliantly placed and allowed for a busy and cramped space to look like it was crafted specifically for the iPad instead of cramming a desktop version of an app into a smaller screen haphazardly.

The apps Affinity has put together allow for it to be a seamless and simple solutions for people looking for a pro application to edit photos and design works of art, but they aren’t the only ones.

Apps like Lumafusion and Ferrite also allow those working with video and audio to be iPad only as well. They not only are great solutions for using an iPad for videos and podcasts, it can be your main way of editing. The Mac isn’t necessary anymore to make that YouTube Video or create the podcast you always wanted to. It wasn’t that long ago when you needed a high-end iMac or Mac Pro to edit videos to meet the expectations of critics and film reviewers, and most importantly ourselves. You go on YouTube now and look at videos made entirely on the iPad and they are some of the most creative and impressive pieces of art I have seen online in the past 18–24 months. One I highly recommend is that of Serenity Caldwell’s iPad Review.

There are a lot of premium apps with premium prices on the iPad, but not nearly enough for everyone to see that the iPad is a “Mac replacement.” Personally, I think it would be better to see apps like Logic Pro X and Final Cut X get full versions of the apps on iOS. Having Apple tout that the iPad is a great alternative to the Mac and Windows Tablets but not have the premium apps to back it seems counterintuitive to me and I think for people to look at the iPad more than a Facebook and Netflix machine, they hav to put their money where their mouths are.

Despite my criticism on Apple not providing apps that are pro apps, I will say that there is no tablet in the Android, Chromebook, and probably the Windows ecosystem, that is as beautifully designed and well thought out as those on the iOS ecosystem, especially the iPad. If I were to look for something like Affinity Designer and Lumafusion in a Tablet form I sincerely doubt I would find anything that is as close to the intersection of beauty and function like those available on the iPad.

If ever there were a time to think about replacing that old MacBook Air with an iPad, I would say that time is now. With Adobe releasing more iPad apps in 2019 and almost certainly new iPads coming in the next month or two, I think right now is the perfect time to think about what you can do with the iPad and really consider if it can be a replacement for you in your day to day work and life. For me, it absolutely is. I may crack open my Mac once in a while but it by no means is because I need it, it is just that I don’t have the time to learn how to work around those specific things I use my Mac for still. One day I think I will, and probably have an easier time with it thanks to iOS apps like Drafts 5 and Siri Shortcuts to make things as easy as one singular tap.

Pro apps on the iPad are here to stay, and I think having Adobe coming into the game to bring full-featured versions of their apps is a great thing for iOS and the iPad.

Old App Versions with Siri Shortcuts

  • September 20, 2018
  • Blog

When Siri Shortcuts came out I was extactic to get my hands on it and see what it can do, but I ran into a problem that I think needs to be addressed by Apple and the Siri Shortcuts team. The problem is that some applications that have since moved on to a new version are not working properly in Siri Shortcuts.

For example, I had a Ulysses Workflow that was imported into Siri Shortcuts after updating the app but when I opened it up I saw this:

I thought it was odd seeing this as I had the latest version of Ulysses installed on my device. After some troubleshooting and testing I have found a temporary solution.

For Ulysses, and possibly other apps, you need to install the older version of the application—in this case Ulysses Classic—and once you do that the error of the application not being installed will go away. In fact when you run the Shortcut it opens the new version of Ulysses, not the older version.

From there you have both the current version of Ulysses and Ulysses Classic installed, which is not ideal. I found that you can actually uninstall Ulysses Classic once you run a Shortcut with Ulysses in it. Once you have tested a shortcut after installing the older version, you can then uninstall the older version and see if adding actions for that application still works. For Ulysses it worked fine for me, but not so much for Tweetbot.

Tweetbot has gone through 4 version of the application and each new version has their own application, which was done to allow the developers over at Tapbots to continue to gain revenue as they add more and more features and support to their app. The problem with this when it comes to Siri Shortcuts is that for some reason the version it is trying to use is Tweetbot 3, not Tweetbot 4, the latest version of the application.

So, I did some testing and found out that installing Tweetbot 3 made the shortcut work and it indeed did open Tweetbot 4 instead of 3 when running the action. However, when I tried it uninstall version 3 the shortcuts I built and new ones I tried to build all came back with the error of the application not being installed.

In this case the solution isn’t a simple install and uninstall of the older version of the app. Instead you need to keep the older version of the application to allow the shortcut to work properly. My suggestion is just put it in the back of a folder on your home screen so it isn’t taking up precious real estate on your screen built still allows you to run shortcuts for Tweetbot.

Why I Think This is Happening

The reasoning for this error saying the application is not installed, I think, has to do with Siri Shortcuts requiring a specific app be installed, in this case older versions of the app when Workflow was in its heyday.

Now, as far as why it is opening the newer version of the apps when both are installed, I think, has to do with the newer version having the same x-callback-url and those newer version of the app taking priority whenever those urls are opened.

So, if you see this problem with certain apps and you know that you have the older versions in your purchase history try and install it and see if that fixes your problem.

As for a permanent fix, I think Apple is aware of this problem as they have seemed to be working with some of the developers on this and are making server-some changes to the application to prevent this issue going forward.

If you notice any apps doing this and want to spread the work let me know on Twitter or feel free to email me.

The New Workflow

  • September 19, 2018
  • Blog

When I first started using the iPad full time the automation app Workflow was an up and coming app that allowed power users of iOS make some serious changes in how they did their work. Creating and finding Workflows to meet my needs were worth their weight in gold, and sometimes allowed you to make using your iPad more favorable than the Mac.

I, for one, felt that Workflow was so good at bringing together apps that don’t normally talk to each other. Seamlessly moving items from one app to another all while maintaining the integrity of the file was a game changer. Workflow was the singular app that made me want to pull out my iPad over my Mac. That is until Apple acquired it.

When Apple announced the acquisition of Workflow my heart immediately sank, I felt that Apple was trying to squash Workflow and other automation applications for iOS. Instead, a new iteration of Workflow was created with some advanced features that control first party applications and settings.

Honestly, this news still hasn’t sunk in that an app that is a unicorn in the iOS platform has gained so much capability. While I only have been using is for a few days, it is clear that Siri Shortcuts has revitalized my excitement and delight in working with iOS.

Siri Shortcuts hasn’t changed much from its Workflow origins as far as how the app works and the things you can do with it, but something about this makes me more excited than ever to automate and simplify the complex things I do with my iPhone and iPad. Working in this app has allowed me to see the true potential of the iPad again and has made me leave my Mac unopened on my desk. I believe the reason I am so infatuated with this app is because the worry I had when Workflow was acquired has subsided. Between the announcement of the acquisition and the announcement of Siri Shortcuts I felt I was in between a rock and a hard place where I wanted to use Workflow’s powerful tool but I also didn’t want to sink time into an app that seemingly had a likely demise. I didn’t want to use Workflow as a crutch to do my work on iOS because if Apple decided it would “sunset” Workflow my entire computing workflow would be null.

As we now know that was far from the case, and having that subconscious mental block leave me I have been using Siri Shortcuts every moment I can to build and play with the things that it can do. It reminded me of when I started Tablet Habit a year ago and had delight and excitement every time I would open my iPad, I finally felt that again with the iPad thanks to the revitalization of using powerful automation tools to make the tedious work on an iOS device as simple as a single tap.

I plan to share a lot of the Siri Shortcuts I have built over time, and if you have any questions or requests from me feel free to contact me on Twitter or email me and send any and all questions my way!

The Trail Mix of iOS Keyboards

  • August 22, 2018
  • Blog

With my iPad only lifestyle, there has been a pain point that’s been present with a lot of iPad Pro users: keyboards.

There never seems to be a perfect keyboard for the iPad that is agreed upon with everyone. In fact there are a number of choices that seem to have some sort of drawback no matter how you look at it.

I like to to think of iOS keyboards like that of trail mix. By that I mean there are lots of options, but you are never satisfied with what you get.

The Peanut

The Magic Keyboard is the peanut, simple yet reliable and gets you where you are going. However, it is missing the sweetness and delight that you want. With no backlighting and a Bluetooth only connection, you often have to wake it from its all too frequent sleep mode just to get the keys to work with the iPad. Sure you can simply tap an arrow key when you want to use it, but when it is such a prevalent and repetitive thing to do it becomes tedious and tiring.

The Sunflower Seed

The Smart Keyboard is the sunflower seed. Small and plentiful, but doesn’t provide enough sustenance in its own. The Smart Keyboard is the most frequently recommended keyboard for an iPad Pro, but it doesn’t check all the boxes. Again, with no backlighting working on the keyboard in a dark room just doesn’t work. Now as a step up from the Magic Keyboard it does have a Smart Connector, but with that comes sacrifice in keyboard size. Especially in the 10.5 iPad. The key size is small, space between keys takes some getting used to, and even some less used keys are squished to fit the footprint necessary to be used as a Smart Cover.

The Raisin

The Logitech Keyboard is the raisin of the bunch where some people like and is “healthy” competition in theory. In reality it sucks and nearly everyone hates them. Honestly the bulky keyboard ironically named Slim Combo seems to be a slap in the  face to the people who decided to buy it. It has a Microsoft Surface knockoff okickstand in the case making the footprint of this keyboard when in use take up more space than any other keyboard I have used. It does have backlighting, but the keys are even more cramped than that of the Smart Keyboard. This is the one keyboard I tell almost everyone to steer clear from because the cons outweighs the pros ten to one.

The M&M

Finally, the Brydge Keyboard is a lot like the cheap M&M knockoff in trail mix. It seems like the best option but it still tastes awful once you bite into it. I had high hopes for the Brydge Keyboard when it was first announced. It’s only issue for me was that it had a Bluetooth connection, but I was willing to let that go for what it offered. The backlit keyboards and comfortable keyboard layout alongside a detachable clamshell design looks both functional and beautiful. Sadly, much like trail mix, the execution was lacking and it ended with a hunk of aluminum that barely worked properly. The keys were mushy and unresponsive in all 3 models I received when I order this keyboard. I have heard from people that you need to expect to send your keyboard back a few times before getting one that works properly, but to me that isn’t acceptable in this ecosystem where a product that costs over $100 needs to be checked for quality and most likely sent back several times before a customer is satisfied. With that said, if you are willing to deal with that kind of hassle the Brydge Keyboard is worth a shot, the support team there is very nice and responsive, but you have been warned.

My Pick

I am not sure what the answer to this is, but as of right now I am sticking with the Smart Keyboard because portability and connectivity are my two biggest needs in a keyboard for my iPad and nothing compares to the Smart Keyboard in these areas. I also am a fan of the butterfly key switches in the Smart Keyboard as I have gotten akin to the MacBrook Pro keyboard when I was using it. I am able to write without much incidents of mistakes and I have zero latency and missed keys when writing on it. So for now this is what I am using.

With that said if a new keyboard came into play for my 10.5″ iPad that executed on these areas and other things like a backlit keyboard and a better key layout I would happily spend my money on it. Sadly, I am not sure we will see anything new come to these iPads with the shadow of new iPads on the horizon, so I won’t be holding my breath.

I Made a Mistake

  • August 21, 2018
  • Blog

Yesterday I made the decision to post something without really thinking about it first. I have since removed the post and am replacing it with this one. Long story short I said I am a Mac person and that my iPad hasn’t gotten much love since that purchase.

This was a mistake.

Honestly I am still having a bit of trouble choosing the iPad or the Mac as my main device.

I love the iPad and I love writing and I feel that I am thinking too much about whether the device matters or if the content matters.

Obviously the content is more important than the device, but when I made my writing about a specific device the idea of stepping away from it can seem like I am turning my back to what got me started in the first place. This is where my crossroads are and I’m still unsure which way I will end up.

Right now the Mac still seems to have what I want in a device but working on my iPad right now as I write this just feels good. I am focused on the task at hand without distraction, something that is easy to neglect when on the Mac. I am sure many people reading this think I am making a bold claim, but when I am using an iPad I am deciding on an application to take over the entirety of my screen. If I decide to move on to another app it feels like I am going to an entire different workflow.

I am sure I could do the same thing on the Mac with the Desktop Spaces feature, but even that is a quick swipe away from going to YouTube or browsing my RSS subscriptions. The ease of bouncing between multiple things on the Mac feels more fluid and attainable than on the iPad.

This isn’t to say the iPad can’t multitask, I often have two apps in split screen when I am working on something, but even that is a deliberate action that takes a clear and concise decision. Doing it on the Mac is just second nature to me, which breaks a lot of the attention and focus I need when writing. That said, it isn’t just the distraction-free environment that I like about the iPad, it is also the software.

I have said before that the software on a Mac is one of the big reasons I chose to make the switch, but even now I am not so sure that statement is true. I don’t need MarsEdit, I am using a calendar more than anything else when it comes to deciding what to do day-to-day. If I do need a task manager Things 3 is a wonderful app for iOS as it is one of the few apps that is just perfect for those who use a keyboard with their iPad.

My point is this: I haven’t used the iPad full time since I got my Mac and I think that is a mistake. I can’t know what is better until I really give both options a run for their money. It is like choosing my favorite ice cream before trying all the options.

So, I plan to work solely from my iPad from now until the beginning of September. Which gives me 10 days to come to a conclusion of whether to use the Mac or the iPad as my main device, and if I am actually going to use the other device at all.

I plan to write about some things during my time with the iPad again over the next week and a half to share my thoughts and to help me figure out what is important to me in a device.

Until then though I am off to re-learn how to work on the iPad only.

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