I’m a big fan of the “home screen” posts I see on other Mac blogs, so I thought it was about time I made one myself! I currently keep 3 pages of apps on my phone, and it’s been working well for me for quite some time. The 1st page includes all the apps that work with items in my house. This includes everything from my Sonos system to the various pieces of home automation I have. It comes in handy to have the multitude of apps that make my house function all in one place. The 2nd page is my “main” page. It has all my favorite apps that I use at least once a day. And lastly, my 3rd page is just a bunch of folders of all the rest of the apps on my phone, broken down into categories. I organize the folders with my most used apps first and head to that page anytime I need to play most games or scan something with page scanning app. It’s my “main” page, though, which will be what the rest of this post focuses on. Removing all the native Apple apps on my main screen, below are all the third-party apps why I need them there.
This app really doesn’t even need to be explained…does it? If you are a Mac or iOS user, you absolutely need to be using 1Password. My Wife and I have the 1Password Families subscription and keep everything we need between our individual vaults and a central, shared vault. It works great and they are really stepping up their mobile app game and making it easier than ever to create new logins when needed.
My Twitter usage kind of happens in spurts. Right now I would say I’m in a bit of a lull. I check it regularly and post occasionally. I follow a below average number of people and keep it lean so I can really enjoy the posts of everyone I follow. I used to be a “Twitter completionist” but stopped that a good number of months ago when I just wasn’t reading the tweets quick enough.
This apps seems to be getting itself into deeper and deeper hot water lately, but I still find it pretty irreplaceable. All my friends are there. I manage pages for clients there. And I’m a moderator of a ketogenic diet group full of some amazing people. Some people get annoyed with Facebook, but I just hide the feeds of people that tick me off. You have been warned.
Fantastical is my calendar app of choice. I don’t add new appointments on my phone all that much, but I like the design of the app when viewing my upcoming appointments. I have the Mac app as well and it’s pretty indispensable during my work day keeping me on track of my upcoming appointments.
I. Love. Podcasts. Don’t you? My commute isn’t as long as it used to be, but I still try to get in all my favorites like ATP, 2 Keto Dudes, The Obesity Code Podcast and of course the Getting Things Done podcast. Overcast is fantastic. I subscribe to more podcasts than I can really keep up with, but it’s easy to pick and choose the episodes I want to listen to.
Following a long run using nvALT and plain text files, I moved to Bear in October ‘17 and have really enjoyed it! I use it at work to take notes on projects. It’s just so beautiful I find myself looking for excuses to use it more. Searching and tagging are awesome and the Markdown support is amazing. I throw everything I can into this app.
I’ve really gotten into journalling, or at least “logging my day” lately. I found a TextExpander script that outputs all my completed items from OmniFocus into a new entry called “What I Accomplished Today”. I set daily and weekly goals for myself as well as journal my thoughts when I can. It’s another beautiful app I love using more and more.
There was a LONG hiatus on updates before Paprika version 3 dropped. I almost thought they had abandoned the product, but in November 2017 they finally released the new update. My recipes inside the app have been a mess recently, but a month ago I totally overhauled it and now it’s in tip-top shape. Since going keto, I removed most of the bad recipes I no longer would be eating and I now have the categories and ratings dialed in where it works really well for my Wife and me.
If there is one app my Wife and I use the most together, it’s Anylist. From connecting it to Alexa and having her add items to our shopping list to having our whole house “someday/maybe” list in there, AnyList is an amazing list manager. They have desktop, web, and mobile apps and they all just work seamlessly together. One of the best apps in my arsenal.
I have a love-hate relationship with Pocket, only because I struggle with saving too much stuff to it I eventually get frustrated and have to purge it out periodically. I love how I can save both articles and videos and I have a daily ritual to read or watch at least 1 item to keep the items manageable.
Out of all these apps in this list, YNAB is the one I love the most. This app has allowed my Wife and I to get out of debt, save for the down payment on our house AND move in without putting a single dime on a credit card. We set our budget at the beginning a month and review it weekly to make sure we’re on track. If needed, we make adjustments and “roll with the punches” where we need to. If you struggle with money then you absolutely need a budget, and you need to let YNAB help you get there.
I think I’m finally seeing why the “kids” these days are on YouTube so much. It began when I built my 3D printer and I found the channel “Jimmy Shaw’s Tidbits”. He had the same printer I did and started making videos. I just found them super helpful and entertaining. My love of YouTube further developed when my Wife and I went keto. We always look forward to the next High Falutin’ Low Carb or Keto Connect video, and there are a good number of other great keto YouTubers with awesome recipes. It’s one of the few apps I use that is both a source of entertainment AND education.
My Wife got me playing this fun trivia game where you get to win cash! It’s a fun quick diversion, and hey, you learn new things! I don’t think I’ll be retiring on HQ money anytime soon, but it’s still fun to play.
Spark is my mail app of choice at the moment. I’ve used both Mail.app as well as Airmail pretty extensively, and I occasionally switch back and give them a try, but Spark has been working well and fairly bug-free for me for the last 5 or 6 months. I really enjoy the design of the app, the ability to favorite folders as well as its move folder suggestions. My biggest complaint though is you can’t easily add folders from the favorited folders, but its a solid e-mail app nonetheless.
And that brings us to last but definitely not least, OmniFocus. It’s the Rolls Royce of task managers, and it’s how I stay sane in my personal life. I live by David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”, and OmniFocus is one of the best ways to practice it. While Bear is more of my daily inbox of new things, I quickly move anything personal into one of the many projects inside the app. I love checking my tasks off on my Apple Watch, and it feels great to save all my completed items each day to Day One so I can see how much I’ve accomplished. I can’t wait to get my invite to the OmniFocus 3 beta, but until then I’ll keep rockin’ the next actions and doing my weekly review in version 2!
Slack gets a mention because my Wife and I just started using a few days ago. We’ve setup channels for different areas like meals, fun, tonight, and nursery, to seperate out our communication. We’re only a few days in but its been working really well. It needs to survive at least a couple weeks to make it to my home screen…that’s “sacred” territory!
So that about wraps it up. I like to leave a little space at the bottom of my main screen for occasionally temporary downloads and so it doesn’t feel so cluttered. Are there any apps you think should really be on my home screen? Tweet me at @cyberbobcity and tell me about it!
Last week, I stumbled onto the Time Tracking Challenge from Laura Vanderkam. I had recently enjoyed her wonderful TED talk on “How to gain control of your free time”, so I started following her on Twitter. Of course I’m always willing to try a new habit, especially on a Monday morning when I have all the positivity and promise of the week ahead. I signed up and immediately started tracking what I was doing, in 15-minute increments, for the 7 days.
Laura provided an Excel file you could use to start tracking. Being a Mac and iOS guy, I opened it up in Numbers and saved it to iCloud so I could update the file from either my Mac or my iPhone. It actually worked quite well, though I ended up a couple times with conflicts and had to figure out which file I wanted to keep.
As I got started, I found it was actually easier than I thought it would be. I was already used to tracking during my work day for billable reasons, so really the only thing new was tracking my off hours. I first downloaded an app that could do repeatable 15-minute timers so I could just get a notification on my Apple Watch to remind me to document my time, but I downloaded a trial that would only repeat 4 or 5 times. I stopped using it within a couple hours because I was doing fine remembering without it. I never really went any long stretches without updating my file. At most, maybe 2.5 hours or so passed while doing one or two tasks, and then I would update it with everything I did during that time.
I did notice some interesting things during the week. Similar to how tracking your food intake makes you more accountable for what you put in your mouth, often times I was more motivated to do something productive just because I wanted to write down that I was productive on my timesheet.
I think I also felt less guilty during my leisure times. My wife and I actually took the Tuesday off when Apple announced its latest products, and I felt at ease relaxing and watching the event as well as researching and exploring the new products because I knew I had been pretty productive earlier in the morning and was planning to get back to my to-do list later in the afternoon. It was easy because what I did was written down and viewable from a distance and I could reflect on it.
Laura instructed her participants to organize their time into some general categories. To do this I made a quick legend using colored boxes and decided on 6 categories:
I then went through my spreadsheet and assigned one of those 6 categories to every 15-minute block by color coding the cell. I then figured out the breakdown of just how I utilized my time by percentage as well as how many hours during that week I spent on that task.
So after tracking and analyzing 672 blocks of time spanning 168 hours, what exactly did I learn?
First of all, I was actually more productive than I felt I was in the moment! When you’re in the middle of a hectic week, it’s hard to really see exactly how you’re doing. Reflecting back, I had a higher percentage working on meaningful things than in leisure time, and I think that is a great place to start. This week included a day off of work, but during that day I actually spent a good amount of time on projects at home so it balanced itself out. I’d really need to track additional weeks to see what kind of trends I might see from week to week, but I feel I had a good balance. I got a lot of productive things done, but also had a lot of fun too.
I do feel I was more productive this week than a “normal” week just because I was tracking. If that’s the added bonus to tracking, it could be worth doing on a consistent basis. The following week I had some really unproductive days without tracking. Is it a coincidence? Is my gained productivity worth the expense and hassle of tracking my time? The answer could be yes, but I think I need more weeks under my belt to really decide on that answer.
Averaged out over the week, I really wasn’t stuck in email and organizational tasks that much. I like to keep a clean inbox, but sometimes I feel like it’s a never-ending battle that I just can’t win. Even though I spent more time earlier in the week on email to get it empty, I spent less time towards the end of the week keeping it up. Eight hours of dealing with email and organization tasks during a whole week I think is fairly acceptable.
Learning needs to take a more prominent space in my life. I consider myself a lifelong learner, but viewing this week’s snapshot, I only spent 2 hours learning. I’d like this number to be more like 10 to 15 hours per week. I have so many things I want to learn and do, I need to block off sections ahead of time to make these things happen. Laura advocates keeping a list of “100 Dreams”, which is pretty similar to David Allen’s “Someday/Maybe” list. I have no shortage of dreams I’d like to accomplish, I just need to schedule them in at specific times. Now that I’ve done this tracking for a week, I think it will help me plan ahead and create these windows of time to add in more learning.
I could stand to optimize my Day-to-Day time. I tend to be fairly lazy in the morning getting ready. If I tuned that a bit, I’d have more time to be productive or to do something that is actually fun instead of just browsing Facebook & Twitter. This also took into account time cooking and eating out. I’ve actually been fasting more lately which totally helps lower this section of time. It is nice on days when I’m fasting that I can just skip the trouble of cooking and cleaning and get onto things I really want to do that night. There are a few hours to be gained here, but not that many.
Next time I do this, I think I will break out social media into a separate category. All of us could stand to have less social media and more time playing some board games with friends and family. It was a great experiment that I’m probably going to do very soon, if not this coming week. I could probably use a better tracking system if I do this more often. I know there are some time tracking apps out there that get pretty good reviews, I’m not sure if they would be more or less of a hassle than a simple Excel spreadsheet. I could use what I’ve learned from this week and pre-plan in blocks of time for more of my someday/maybes. It will be easier now that I have experienced a week of it, and I have some baseline numbers to compare against. I think this exercise would be beneficial for anyone who is looking to get more meaningful things accomplished. Thank you to Laura Vanderkam for hosting it and I look forward to doing it again!
On January 1st of this year, my Wife and I brainstormed our goals for 2017. It included a decent number of items, one of the most important being to get healthy and lose weight. As any good productivity nut, my goal was specific: lose 80 pounds by December 31st. I’m a big guy, and losing that weight would be the absolute single biggest improvement I could make in my life. But as everyone knows, losing weight is hard. Really hard. Unfortunately, that is where the procrastinator in me kicked in, and pretty much no progress was made on this front for the first half of the year.
July came, and with my Wife listening to more and more audiobooks during her commute to work, she found a book that looked interesting called The Obesity Code, by Dr. Jason Fung. She started telling me about it and surprisingly I was instantly on board. It described an alternative idea to why we gain weight, and why it always seems to come back when we try to lose it. It was a radically different solution than anything we’ve ever been told. I started reading the book and doing research on the topic. As I learned more, it seemed like such simple common sense! It was like a light was switched on in our brains, and we started following the guidelines immediately. It was a complete lifestyle change and within a few weeks it became the new norm. The Ketogenic Diet, along with both intermittent and extending “fasting” became the solution I had been looking for.
The Ketogenic Diet, or Keto for short, is simply a diet with under 20 or so grams of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein, and enough fat to make your body enter a state called “ketosis”, in which it burns fat instead of sugar. The “low carb” approach may remind you of the Atkin’s Diet from the early 2000’s, and while the early stages of the Atkin’s diet might get you into ketosis, the diet starts to differ further from there on out.
There isn’t any big scheming company behind the ketogenic diet. There are no special bars to buy, expensive shakes to drink, or pills that have to be taken at every meal. It’s simply a low carb, high fat diet, and with everything I’ve learned, it’s a diet I think I can easily stick to. When you’re in ketosis, your body has no choice but to burn fat instead of carbs to get energy. Well, what exactly do you think my body is overloaded with right now? FAT! Now I can put to good use all that stored body fat to use as energy. It’s like I have a super power!!
To outsiders, going Keto seems like a fairly impossible and unsustainable task, and I can understand that. “I can’t drink soda? Eat candy? French fries? Pasta? Bread? BEER?”. The answer is no. Well, not really. All of these starches and processed foods just turn into sugar in your body, keeping your insulin sky high. Insulin is what makes your body store fat, feel hungry, and gives you cravings for more of the same junk. When you stop giving the body sugar to process, insulin then drops down and lets your body start using that excess fat for energy. Being hungry all the time and having to snack constantly is now a thing of the past. Most importantly, it’s stops the cravings for more sugar laden foods. You simply stop wanting them!! So far, this has been the hardest thing to explain to people that ask what I’m doing. When I got rid of the carbs and started eating fat to fuel my body, the weight just started coming off almost effortlessly. You also get to eat amazing flavorful food. Why? Because fat tastes good! Cheese, bacon, eggs, heavy cream, macadamia nuts, and avocados are all keto staples I’ve been eating, and they’re delicious!
Getting your body into ketosis and becoming “fat adapted” (basically a state where its “good” at burning fat) opens the doors to your “fasting” ability. Yes, you heard me right, fasting. Essentially not eating any food. People throughout history, of all races, of all religions, have been fasting for thousands of years. For some reason, whether it’s big business or just the ease at which people are able to acquire food now, fasting has gone by the wayside. When you’re in ketosis and you haven’t eaten for 16 hours, or 2 days, or 14 days, your body is easily able to burn “that Krispy Kreme you ate a decade ago”, a common phrase from one of my favorite podcasts called 2 Keto Dudes. Fasting also helps readjust your body’s set weight, so you aren’t fighting it as you try to drop some poundage. Keto and fasting go hand in hand, and it is the one-two punch to start getting your weight under control. I know it sounds terrible, but as I practice fasting more and more, I’m beginning to like it just as much as my feasting periods! It’s just a great balance.
I’ve been interested in productivity and have long followed the practices of David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done”, but I knew my weight and my state of being was hindering me. So often I was tired and unable to focus. I’d come home from work during the week, wanting to make progress on a project around the house, or learn something new, or practice guitar, and that motivation was shot as soon as my butt hit the couch after dinner, sinking into an evening of TV and Internet surfing. I’d set out on a Saturday morning ready to be extremely productive which usually ended in a nap from about 11am till 3pm.
Besides the lack of focus and energy, there was also the constant nagging at my psyche that I really should be doing something about this. With all the misinformation out there today, it was easy to convince myself not to get started because I didn’t really have a good solid plan on what to do. It always felt wrong to me that a healthy weight required having to give up so much delicious food. I’d go hardcore and get up everyday and work out, but then fizzle out two weeks in. I’d try to avoid the lure of breakfast and lunch that my company provided one day a week, but easily failed when it was one of my favorites or if I tried to limit myself to just one helping. I’ve tried lots of things in the past and I could only keep them up for a week or two. I had lost all trust in myself to really do anything, so I did nothing.
Now, I’m pretty much bursting with energy. I started standing for part of the day at work. I bought a cheap Ikea coffee table to put on top of my desk to convert it to a standing desk, and I stand now usually for about half the day. I actually WANT to do things like walk around the block, or to a nearby park on my lunch break to do a lap or two. I couldn’t wait to go canoeing at a local park, just so I could get in the water and paddle. This urge to move and exercise is only growing, and I haven’t had to force myself at all.
I’m able to easily focus on any task I attempt. With my current productivity skills already at hand, I finally feel like I’m now able to put them to good use and follow through. Instead of my Omnifocus going dormant for a week or two at a time, I’ve been able to make progress and check off a few items every day. It’s been my missing piece of GTD.
Food is now so much less important. Lunch used to be a big focus every day at work, and I’d be starving for it by 10am. Now I barely need anything till 2pm. The “addictive” cravings for a lot of the foods I loved are gone. I do get excited experimenting with new keto recipes with my Wife because everything is still fairly new. It’s been really enjoyable trying new things. We even just got the Joule sous vide machine and have made some delicious perfectly cooked steak!
While Keto is amazing, it’s no quick fix. Each week there is still ups and downs, but for the first time ever, I’m really enjoying the journey and I truly feel I can do this for the rest of my life. I have no reason to stop doing this. I get to eat really delicious food that we’ve been told for decades is just not good for you, and I get to feel amazing AND lose weight during the process! Like I said, I have a “super power”!
We celebrated my birthday around the first week of us starting this new lifestyle, and while my niece and nephew hilariously called the low carb flourless chocolate cake my Wife made “disgusting”, I thought it tasted great and was the perfect start to thirty seven. I’ll keep you posted on how I’m doing periodically, and I’m sure you’ll occasionally see some keto blog posts in the future. We’ve been doing this for about 7 weeks now and I’m 40 pounds down. My 80 pound goal is totally in reach, and I can’t wait to get there!
I am no doctor and I’m not giving out any medical advice, but if you have struggled with the same things I have, I highly recommend you check out the following resources and learn more about Keto:
It’s been ages since my last post here at Productivity Tomorrow. Last time you heard from me, I was on top of my game. Having been two weeks into establishing some very positive rituals in my life, I felt very much in control. I was touting the joys of going to bed on time, planning out my day, journaling and taking vitamins. Unfortunately, I was completely oblivious to how each habit would slowly come unhitched shortly thereafter.
I was about 4 or 5 weeks into my habits and I was still doing well. I’m not sure exactly the point in which I got derailed, but I believe it was missing a daily guitar practice or getting sick of my breakfast smoothies. Reviewing my journal notes, I also thought I would be more productive and feel so much better than I actually did. Instead of adjusting slightly, I let those small items completely ruin everything.
At the time, I was also tracking my food intake. My Wife and I saved pictures of everything we ate in an app so we could hold each other accountable. I didn’t consider it part of my ritual, but when we quit using it, it too added to the feeling that I was coming unraveled.
It’s actually kind of funny. As I review my journal entries, I was actually doing pretty good. Heck, I was at least still journalling and setting daily goals. My mind was convinced that I was failing, which brought about even more negative change. It took just over 6 weeks for me to stop doing all my habits. I’ve tried once or twice to get back on the horse, but I couldn’t get any momentum started. That is, until the promise of a new year.
I’ve felt hopeless letting it all slip away, but at some point you need to pick yourself up and try again. As 2017 approached, I knew it would be the perfect time to reboot those rituals. New Years Day was the time to do some goal planning, regrouping, and getting those habits instilled once again. I downloaded the Productive iOS habit tracker app and started adding my rituals back.
So what am I doing differently to avoid running into the same problems? I’m just not doing quite as many of them, at least not right off the bat. I’ve left the easy ones in there like drinking water when I wake up and putting my clothes out the night before. I’ve also kept my nightly journal entry and setting up my 3 goals for the next day as well. While the last two do take a good amount of willpower, they are the two most important. I haven’t added any food related habits or my guitar practice back yet either. So in a nutshell, I’m starting smaller and taking it one step at a time.
In the coming weeks, I plan to ramp up and add other habits back in slowly. I’ll let it sink in for at least two or three weeks and then add another. The possibility of losing momentum is extremely high right now. I need to stick with the things that are working. If I get off track, I need to realize I’m off track and make a slight course correction so I don’t crash and burn again. It’s a New Year, and I plan to make it one filled with growth and productivity.
Hello, I'm Bobby; a web developer, designer and serial procrastinator from the suburbs of Chicago, IL.