Learning GTD: Starting From Scratch

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.

Apple's Radical Approach to News: Humans Over Machines - New York Times

Jack Nicas writing for New York Times:

In a quiet corner of the third floor, Apple is building a newsroom of sorts. About a dozen former journalists have filled a few nondescript offices to do what many other tech companies have for years left to software: selecting the news that tens of millions of people will read. One morning in late August, Apple News’s editor in chief, Lauren Kern, huddled with a deputy to discuss the five stories to feature atop the company’s three-year-old news app, which comes preinstalled on every iPhone in the United States, Britain and Australia. National news sites were leading that day with stories that the Justice Department had backed an affirmative-action lawsuit against Harvard University — a good proxy that the story mattered, said Ms. Kern’s deputy, a former editor for The New York Times whom Apple requested not be named for privacy reasons. He and Ms. Kern quickly agreed that it was the day’s top news, and after reading through a few versions, selected The Washington Post’s report because, they said, it provided the most context and explanation on why the news mattered.

[…]

“We put so much care and thought into our curation,” said Ms. Kern, 43, a former executive editor of New York Magazine. “It’s seen by a lot of people and we take that responsibility really seriously.” Apple has waded into the messy world of news with a service that is read regularly by roughly 90 million people. But while Google, Facebook and Twitter have come under intense scrutiny for their disproportionate — and sometimes harmful — influence over the spread of information, Apple has so far avoided controversy. One big reason is that while its Silicon Valley peers rely on machines and algorithms to pick headlines, Apple uses humans like Ms. Kern. The former journalist has quietly become one of the most powerful figures in English-language media. The stories she and her deputies select for Apple News regularly receive more than a million visits each.

[…]

Apple’s executives grandly proclaim that they want to help save journalism. “There is this deep understanding that a thriving free press is critical for an informed public, and an informed public is critical for a functioning democracy, and that Apple News can play a part in that,” Ms. Kern said.

For me, I will always choose human over machine when it comes to getting news, and Kern seems to be the perfect person to lead the way for the Apple News team.

Podcast Show Notes - Workflow Wednesday

One of the biggest things I do when I make podcasts is write show notes. I do this on both my podcasts A Slab of Glass and Getting Caught Up. Writing show notes can be a tedious affair and difficult to search through the backlog of episodes, but with this shortcut it allows me to be able to search and find every single episode’s show notes in seconds.

What this Shortcut does is take a specific formatting I use when writing my show notes and makes those top 3 lines the name of a file, with some text formatting.

[caption id=“attachment_1619” align=“alignnone” width=“2224”]Format Used for Show notes in Drafts 5 Format Used for Show Notes in Drafts 5[/caption]

After I have my show notes written in Markdown format, my format of choice when writing, it is time to make the magic happen. It first gets the line count of the text I have shared to Siri Shortcuts. From there it saves it as a variable for the count.

Once done, the shortcut grabs the first line of text from the input, in this case it is the podcast name. From there, it saves the first line as a variable called “Podcast”. Now it is on to the next line, the episode number.

For me I like to write it as “Episode ##” so that it is clear for me to read, but I don’t want the word “Episode” in the name of the file when saving it. So to remove it I use a Find and Replace Text action to find “Episode ” and replace it with nothing, effectively deleting everything but the literal episode number.

Finally, it takes the 3rd line, which is the episode date. I format my dates the way I am most comfortable with (MM-dd-yyyy). However, I am using hyphens as a means to break up the three different areas of information, so to avoid using hyphens in the naming process of the date I find and replace hyphens to make them underscores. Now the formatting of the date is MM_dd_yyyy.

Now, with all these lines saved as variables, the shortcut takes the original input of the text (all show notes, including the top lines), and sets the name for it to be the three variables I have saved, all with hyphens between them. Which makes it look something like “A Slab of Glass-19-10_19_2018.” When equates to A Slab of Glass, Episode 19, released October 19th, 2018. From here I save the text as a .txt document in Dropbox for safe keeping and search-ability if I ever need it.

Once saved, if you open the .txt file you will see it has everything as it was when I wrote it, just with a name that is now searchable and easy to distinguish among other files when needed.

You can find the workflow here and try it yourself. If you make some improvements or changes feel free to let me know on Twitter.

This shortcut is just something that shows the power of Siri Shortcuts when it comes to editing text and making it your friend in the world of automation.

I plan to add more to this later on. Things like saving the file in the podcast’s respective show notes folder in Dropbox, and adding the podcast episode title in it as well. For now though, this is something that allows me to be organized and never have to think about where I left those show notes again.

Getting Caught Up 21: One Good Thing, One Bad Thing

This episode of Getting Caught Up is all about one good thing in our lives and one bad thing.However, before we get into the main topic we spent way too long trying to figure out if a hot dog is a taco or not. Mike blows my mind, and we both talk about dealing with stressors in their lives.

A Slab of Glass 20: iPad Event Predictions

With the new Apple Event coming October 30th, Chris and I wanted to talk about our predictions and hopes for the iPad event. So we decided to spring a surprise mini-episode of A Slab of Glass on you all! Chris blows my mind with one of his predictions, and I really want a tweet to be true. This is short and sweet and I can’t wait for you to listen to it!

Themes in Tweetbot 5 — The Untitled Site

🔗Chris Lawley writing for The Untitled Site:

With some major design changes it feels like a whole new app. There's some hidden easter eggs as well that I’ve noticed people may have missed. If you go into setting, tap Support Tweetbot, and give them a tip you can unlock different themes. After that go into display and you can now change your themes. My personal favorite is Pumpkin.

This was something I hadn’t noticed until Chris told me about it. I’m currently using the Manhattan theme.

A Slab of Glass 19: Using Your Teeth with David Sparks

After sharing their thoughts on GTD, Chris and Jeff talk with David Sparks, a man who needs no introduction with GTD. The three of them talk about their task managers of choice, dealing with overwhelm in their GTD lives, and David shares a wealth of insight in getting started with getting your tasks in order. You can listen to this episode on your podcast player of choice, or just head to the A Slab of Glass website.

Pro Apps on the iPad

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.

Consistency Club

From Consistency Club:

We're building a high-touch service that helps people track habits and achieve their goals. Our methodology is built around a belief in the power of external commitment - in other words, you're more likely to stick to something you've shared with another human being than something you've punched into an app.

I signed up for this via a Twitter ad (first time for everything I guess). I am very interested to see how this works. If you have $20 and need someone to keep you on track I would say give this a shot.

7 Sources for Ready-Made iOS Shortcuts - 40Tech

Evan Kline at 40Tech did a great job listing some great places for where you can find Siri Shortcuts. I hope to have my Workflow Wednesday section on this list once I get things back up and running October 17th.