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The New Workflow

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!

I Made a Mistake

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.

The Future of Tablet Habit (Part 2)

So by now you should have heard about the changes I have made to the change to use a MacBook Pro as my main device. I could go into the reasons why, but I want to talk more about what this means for Tablet Habit. In a recent episode of A Slab of Glass I talked about the possibility of moving the website away from Tablet Habit and into something a little less specific.

Thankfully, Mike Rapin and Christopher Lawley talked me off this branding ledge.If you haven’t listened to this episode I really recommend you do! We dive deep into my issue, but also talk more broadly about things like imposter syndrome and the importance of consistency; which brings me to my next announcement.

I plan to write on Tablet Habit daily every Monday through Friday starting this upcoming Monday July 9th. This has been something I have been wanting to do for a while and when I saw that I have been writing on here for over 6 months (it will be a year in October) I knew I wanted to step up my writing and make more consistent content. This venture wasn’t something I thought I would love so much, I mainly did it to take a break from podcasting, but this has been a lot of fun and very exciting to do for the better part of a year. Blogging is something that I think is in my DNA.

I love to share content and write about the things I am passionate about, but seeing people read my work and go out of their way to reach out to me on Twitter has been humbling and exhilarating.

The future of Tablet Habit may not be just about iPads, but it really never was. It was a place for me to share my thoughts on Apple, iOS, productivity, and now macOS as well. These are things I am passionate about and something that I see myself doing regularly for a long time. So while Tablet Habit isn’t an iPad only blog like I intended when I started, I think this change in the narrative is something that is not only going to bring more value to you, but also something that is more fulfilling for me.

I thank you for reading and I hope this change is something that you are as excited about as me. If you have anything you want to talk to me about feel free to leave a comment below, find me on Twitter, or shoot me an email. Until then, I will see you all Monday!

The Future of Tablet Habit (Part 1)

I have been going through a bit of a crisis with Tablet Habit lately.

This all started with me wondering what the Mac would be like for me a few months ago. I did an experiment using the Mac exclusively for a week, and I didn’t hate it. In fact I found that a lot of the things I was doing on the iPad could be done in either less time or less hassle than on an Mac. It was a surprising twist, but I decided to stick with the iPad to stay “on brand.”

This was a mistake.

I put the device first and the work second. I wanted to be an iPad only person so bad that I sacrificed some productivity and efficiency to stay “on brand.” I felt like this was only an iPad blog and if I went away from that I would be doing everyone a disservice. Except now that I knew the Mac was something that I could use to get work done there was this voice in my head telling me to go back to it for some things.

I began to feel like a fraud, a trickster, and a liar to the people who decided to read my blog regularly as an iPad user. But I knew that the Mac was something that I wanted to have in my life. It made me happy when working on the things that mattered to me.

So I made a purchase.

 

So, I bought a new MacBook Pro. I know that some people may think that I made a bad decision not waiting until September to see if new Macs come out, but I am happy with my purchase and I feel that this Mac will get me by the next several years without issue.

I loved this computer the minute I took it out of the plastic and cracked it open. The keyboard is actually really enjoyable, the Space Gray color is beautiful, and the power this computer has is incredible. I love my Mac, and I know that I made the right decision getting one.

My co-host to Getting Caught Up, Mike Rapin, chimed in on my purchase. To you give you some background, I am notorious for starting new projects or jumping the gun on things and this was something I mentioned to Mike earlier in that week. I knew I was going to be getting this computer I just didn’t tell him.

Christopher Lawley, my co-host for A Slab of Glass, also knows of my woes with the iPad and me wanting to do more on my Mac. In the conversations we had I also expressed my interest in changing the name of the blog to something other than Tablet Habit, but clearly they felt that that was a bad idea.

The two of them, who I call my friends, wanted to make sure that I didn’t do anything stupid like changing the name of my website again. They knew that I felt like an imposter using a Mac and writing on a website called Tablet Habit. It was like having a Star Trek blog and writing about how Star Wars is a great series as well. But it wasn’t just those two who felt that I shouldn’t change the name.

But when your friends are persistent on making sure you don’t do something silly they make it known.

 

So we sat down and spent almost an hour recording a special episode together where both Christopher and Mike tell me why they feel so strongly on me maintaining the name of Tablet Habit and what I should do next.

So, to avoid spoiling it for you, I will refrain from posting the second part of this journey until after it is posted on Thursday.

I will say Tablet Habit isn’t about the tools I use. It used to be, but it isn’t anymore. It is about something much bigger than what tools I use to get my work done. It is about the work itself.

You see, blogging has always been a narrative format to me, and this is just part of my narrative. Tablet Habit was originally meant to be about the iPad, how I use it and how others can use it as their main device, but that changed over time. It became less about the devices and more about what you can do on those devices. It was less about tools, and more about results.

Until then, I can’t wait to show you what we have in store for you all. I am so excited to share this podcast with you all in a couple of days!

How I Handle Stress and Overwhelm

A friend of mine recently took a new job, and in a message to me said that they were worried about not liking the new position. Their reasoning wasn’t something that I would consider “normal” like the management sucks, the pay isn’t great, or their coworkers sucked. This was something more personal.

The reason they gave was because they were stressed and felt overwhelmed every single day at their new job. This got me thinking about those two words. “Stress” and “Overwhelm” are two very different words if you ask me.

To me, being stressed is the pressure you feel when you have a lot on your plate, it is when you are in the “busy season” of your annual work year. Being overwhelmed is when you have that kind of stress and then can’t find a way to make it all work.

I know that the idea of stress being anything other than negative sounds odd, but for me it is a means to push myself. My experience with stress and overwhelm isn’t something new. I have been working in television since I was in high school in some form, and if you ask me that is one of the more stressful jobs you can have. Every single job I have had in television, whether it was in high school, college (both unpaid and volunteered), or professionally, I have encountered these feelings. I felt this waterfall of stress wash over me like a hurricane. I worried it was too much for me to handle.

For those of you who don’t work in a high-stress environments like TV news, it can be a hellstorm that never ends. Deadlines need to be hit, things need to be working properly (there are a ton of technical pieces between recording the video on a camera and then broadcasting it over the air), and you have to know what to do before it even happens. Broadcasting isn’t for everyone, but I know these kinds of environments is where I thrive. I have known it for the better part of a decade.

High-stress, time-sensitive environments makes me feel at home. It is something that I not only thrive in, but is normal for me. Which can be a gift and a curse at the same time. Working in environments where at the end of each day you can’t believe you managed to get things to go as well as they did, the mundane can be agonizing. My fiancé, who has been with me for over 6 years, knows the naked fact that I don’t know how to relax.

I don’t know what came first, my love for high-stress working environments, or my inability to deal with downtime. For instance, when I am spending time with her, or just with our friends in general, she know the gears in my head are always turning.

“What could I be doing for my work that I am not doing right now?”

“Should I start this new project?”

“What about that thing I got in my email? I really need to get back to the guy who emailed me about that one thing.”

This has zero to do with the company I am with, I love all my friends and family, and I want to be present with them. But that isn’t always possible with me. It feels as if my wiring is a bit off because I prefer to be working on things alone in a room with a keyboard and iPad over relaxing and putting my feet up after my full-time job. Even if there is a little bit of gas left in me, I have to keep going until I hit empty.

I am what some people call a “workaholic”. Now, I know that I need to work on this, but I also know that I love all the projects and work I do outside of my full-time job. I love having two podcasts, a blog, a weekly email newsletter, and a slack channel that people can connect with me on 24/7. All of these things make me happy, and the culmination of them all gives me that sense of high-stress I thrive in.

But this is all about stress, not overwhelm. I rarely felt overwhelm in the multitude of tasks and projects I had to do at work and on the side. The bottom never fell out from under me when I was handling all these things.

I wasn’t always like this though, in fact I was a person that was very hard to motivate to do anything. I was always creative, but I never sought to pursue my creative ideas into something tangible. I was overwhelmed.

Instead of working on things that I could do, I would sit around and make lists of dreams I had, goals I wanted to accomplish, and ideas for creative projects. I was just creating this long list of things I either couldn’t, or didn’t want to pursue. I couldn’t because I either didn’t have people willing to work with me on it, or I didn’t want to because that involved a lot of work. Work I didn’t know was possible from me. The list grew as if it had Giantism. This list haunted me for quite some time as a quiet nagging thought that always itched, but could never be scratched. Eventually that list became the size of a short novel.

With all these dreams and goals I had, I eventually began to realize all the small things I could be doing but that I’m not doing. This list of things I am not doing became my true source of overwhelm. It was a list hanging over me like a boulder 20 stories above me wrapped in twine, ready to break any second. I had the grandiose ideas to make films, write a book, finish a movie script, and create something beloved by all. If only I was good enough. If only I had what it takes. I shouldn’t even bother trying, I will only hate it. This was my feedback loop, and it was the source of my overwhelm and stress simultaneously.

This is what some call Imposter Syndrome, and it is a hell of a thing to deal with. You feel you are just at the cusp of being “found out,” that your talents are all lies, and no matter what people say they are just being nice and not actually meaning it. It is like having the ability to accomplish anything you want, but you quit before you even start. Imposter Syndrome is a term I use all too often, and something I constantly battle with, but when I finally get something past that gate it becomes the only thing I think about.

Inspiration comes to me from many places, much like you I assume. Whether it is a podcast, TV show, movie, or even something organic that comes to my head, if that something gets started in any minor way there’s nothing to get in my way.

I think this has a lot to do with the workaholic mentality I have, I get a project and I immediately begin working on it. I outline my goals, I write out my plans and I start working on some minor things. Next thing I know it has been 5 hours and I haven’t eaten anything all day. Rinse and repeat.

That is when my feedback loops come in:

“Geez, I have a lot on my plate with this new project, I think I should probably slow down.”

“But if I slow down I won’t get it done.”

“But if I don’t I am going to get burnt out, I really should stop.”

“Jeff, you’re so close to getting this part done, just get through this part and take a break.”

“Oh man, that part is awesome, I really see how this will incorporate with this other part I still need to work on.”

“Let’s just get this part done.”

“Man, I really need to slow down I have a lot on my plate.”

Rinse and repeat.

Eventually this gave me that stress I was talking about earlier. it becomes the drive I need to keep going, but this is a double-edged sword. The more stress I get the more work I want to get done, but the more work I have to do the more stressed I get. It was a balancing act to keep myself driven with high-stress environments but not too stressed to where I get overwhelmed and then give up. I needed that sweet spot.

I am like a dog that has a machine to throw the ball every time I put it in the bucket. I keep going and going until I am physically and mentally exhausted. It’s unhealthy, but I am yet to find something that is a good alternative for me.

Eventually I do get a moment of clarity and decide to take a break and make this work part of my routine rather than trying to sprint through an entire marathon. That is when I start planning out the rest of this project, bit by bit and line by line.

Every small task is added to the list, some get sub-tasks, and I eventually spit out a 100+ task list that I immediately get overwhelmed about. I am getting that waterfall of overwhelmedness again and I don’t think I can keep going with the project.

At this point, after everything I have done, I make a decision to either kill this project and do it another time (aka never) or I persevere and press onward because that is what I should do. What do I do to determine what projects to keep or kill? Whatever makes me excited even when I am not working on it. That is what I want in something I work on, consistent delight and excitement.

If there is something that I am working on that I feel has lost its luster, I always have the thought of killing the project to work on something new. This has burned me before, with constant changes every few months because I “lost interest.” With that, I always tell myself that one day I will find that thing that makes me feel like nothing is work, but I am coming to realize that isn’t something that happens often.

Even writing for Tablet Habit has felt like “work” in some instances, and I would be lying if I said that I haven’t thought about killing this blog to make time for something new. But when I have those thoughts, something that I rarely do with my other projects happens. I think about the things that I love about this and how many things I have gained from this. The pros outweighs the cons tenfold and that is what I need to light a fire under me and continue to make things worthwhile.

So, what does this mean for me going forward? I have learned how to make sure that I am working on things that I love, and kill the things I don’t, but not without a serious look at the pros and cons of the things I do in the projects I consider killing. If I didn’t do that I would just be a conveyor belt of projects that start with a a fiery flame but fizzle out spectacularly.

But I started talking about stress and overwhelm, so let me circle back on that in relation to the projects I work on. The projects I work on can be stressful at times, but as I said before I thrive in that kind of environment. I am able to make that stress something that pushes me to do bigger and better things than I have before.

However, when I no longer feel that delight, or excitement I look at all of these things causing me stress and no longer use it as a means to push myself. It flips on me and becomes a source of overwhelm. This is when the things that I am working on becomes “work” and no longer becomes fun.

For me, I can’t keep killing projects as soon at the going gets tough, I have done that for too long and, frankly, I am tired of it. So, when I think about ending something that I have invested a lot of my time and energy on I no longer hastily halt all operations. Instead, I plan to really look over the pros and cons of those projects and make my decision then.

Whether this will work or not is still to be decided but I will say that I feel that I am on a better foundation than I was before I started thinking about this after my friend came to me for advice. So if you feel stress, use it. If you feel overwhelm, look into what is the root of this is and use that to make a decision on what should happen about it.

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