• Bending Spoons purchased Evernote

    Evernote announced they had been acquired by Bending Spoons, a developer of mobile apps. Bending Spoons is known for (or not known for) its mobile apps, including, Splice, Remini, and 30 Day Fitness.

    Like many, my first thoughts were, “this doesn’t make sense. Evernote is doomed!”. However, Bending Spoons must have the funds and technology to take Evernote to the next level. In a way, this is kind of exciting. Let’s hope they don’t blow it.

    What does this purchase mean for Evernote? It’s hard to say without knowing more about Bending Spoons. Looking through their website, it appears they’re heavily invested in AI (who isn’t these days). Adding some AI to Evernote could be pretty exciting. Evernote is already great (if not the best) at capturing and storing information. Adding AI to help connect notes, write text, update media, etc., could be a welcome addition. It’s also possible Bending Spoons does absolutely nothing with Evernote, and it’s business as usual.

    I’ve been an Evernote user for over a decade and have accumulated nearly 7 thousand notes. Like many, Evernote has become a dumping ground where everything gets added to a massive black hole, never to be seen again. Don’t get me wrong, Evernote search is excellent, and with OCR, notebooks, and tags, users who like to use Evernote for their daily workflow have many options.

    I keep jumping into the Evernote app to see what’s new and occasionally to grab an old note. I just haven’t been able to stick with it lately because of the bloat. There are many other simple and sleeker tools out there today.

    I must admit that Evernote has come a long way in the past year or two after its massive rewrite. The app is pretty fast and responsive on all platforms. If it had better export and the ability to hide the features I don’t want to use, it would be tempting to use it full-time again. At this point, I’ll wait to see how this acquisition turns out before jumping back in.

  • Interstitial Journaling

    A productivity technique created by Tony Stubblebine, Interstitial Journaling combines note-taking with time tracking. 1

    To implement Interstitial Journaling, you simply write down the current time and what you’re doing or thinking at that time. Try to write in this log after completing tasks, meetings, etc.

    This technique has become very popular with modern apps like Roam Research, LogSeq, and Tana, where you have a Daily Page where you dump everything into. The advantage of doing this in a digital tool is that you can easily link to other notes in your system (if your app supports it).

    The Bullet Journal is a popular analog note-taking, essentially Interstitial Journaling. The difference is Bullet Journal doesn’t recommend using the current time before each of your notes. Otherwise, it’s the same system—you write brief tasks and notes throughout the day.

    An example:

    • 9:15 AM - Code review for XYZ app.
    • 10:27 AM - Starting the estimate for ABC Corp.
    • 11:32 AM - Wrapped up the estimate for ABC Corp. I think parts of this can be reused. These are always easier to do than I anticipated. I should create an archive for estimates somehow.
    • 12:00 PM - Lunch
    • 12:27 PM - Writing about Interstitial journaling.

    1. Interstitial Journaling ↩︎

  • 4 things I love about Feedbin

    I use a feed reader to pull in all the articles I’m interested in (using RSS), YouTube channels I subscribe to, social network lists, and even email newsletters. This allows me to avoid endless feeds, algorithms, and unwanted ads. When I read something, it is marked as read, and I don’t need to see it again.

    I’ve tried several feed readers over the years since Google Reader was killed. The list includes Feedly, Inoreader, NetNewsWire, News Explorer, Reader, and others. Some of them have great features that I like. I especially liked the ability to take highlights and notes in Feedly pro, and they would sync automatically into my Readwise account.

    However, the feed reader I’ve stuck with the longest is Feedbin. Why? I think there are a few reasons.

    1) Feedbin is Simple

    Feedbin doesn’t try to do too much. It has a simple and clean UI. You can use other Feed Readers with Feedbin, like Reeder, Unread, and many others. I find the Feedbin iOS apps are great and get the job done.

    2) Feedbin supports newsletters

    As I said, I now send all of my newsletters directly to Feedbin. This helps keep my email clean. I like the way Feedbin handles email newsletters. Rather than parsing the text, like it would most web articles, it gives me the option to show the newsletter in its original format, which I find better.

    Here is an example newsletter from Ness Labs.

    Example Ness Labs newsletter shown in Feedbin

    3) Feedbin handles Tweets and Micro.blog posts well

    Feedbin lets you subscribe to Twitter users and lists, which is excellent in itself, but I love that I can click the little chat icon and see the entire thread directly in Feedbin.

    Example Tweet Thread in Feedbin

    This also works with Micro.blog. If you add the Discover feed or follow individual users, you click on the small Micro.blog icon to see the entire thread without leaving Feedbin.

    You still need to leave Feedbin and open the original post to reply. :(

    4) Feedbin lets me share directly to Micro.blog and others

    If I see something interesting while reading in Feedbin, I can easily share using the native Share Sheet or even share the link and my comments directly to my blog.

    Example share with Micro.blog from Feedbin

    Feedbin is not perfect. It costs $50 per year (which I gladly pay), and it doesn’t have a native Mac app.

  • Our assumptions may limit our creativity

    What we learn during life feeds our assumptions on how things should or should not work. Even when we’re not an expert on something, we can make assumptions based on our limited knowledge.

    We think of these “rules” as the way things are. These assumptions are often limiting our creativity.

    When trying to solve a problem, try to throw out your assumptions. They’re not always correct (except when they are).

  • 📚 Stolen Focus by Johann Hari

    I finished reading: Stolen Focus by Johann Hari 📚

    Stolen Focus does not provide a personal step-by-step guide to remove distractions from our lives. Instead, it is about how this “Attention Crisis” impacts society.

    Here are some of my notes about the author’s points in this book.

    What impact is this Attention Crisis having on our lives?

    • We’re finding it harder to find “Flow,” during which we become engrossed in an activity without disruptions.
    • With all the tiny bits of information continuously flowing into our lives, it becomes less likely that we’ll read books.
    • It’s harder to think because we don’t allow our minds to wonder as much as we should. Mind wandering is a critical stage in which our brain has insights, makes connections, and plans for the future.
    • Technology is becoming better at keeping us distracted. The more we look at their service, the more money the company makes, so they manipulate us to keep us engaged.

    What is contributing to this Attention Crisis?

    • We’re bombarded with chemicals that harm our health and, ultimately, our attention.
    • Failing to explore ADHD. More people than ever are diagnosed with ADHD, yet we’ve prescribed medications rather than solving the causes.
    • Our children are not allowed to explore and play like in the past. They’re no longer playing in the streets and wandering the neighborhood. They’re told precisely what to do in school and what the outcome should be rather than allowing creative learning.
    • We’re not getting enough sleep due to artificial light and consumer capitalism. We’re spending too much time flipping through Tick-Tock videos rather than going to bed at a decent time and allowing our brains to recover and make connections during sleep.

    How do we recover?

    • Fewer work hours to allow us more time to rest and recover.
    • Allow our children more time to play and explore, especially at school.
    • Change our technology to be less disruptive to our lives. Yet, the companies building it do not have an incentive to do so unless regulations are established, which is an entirely different issue.
    • Take it upon ourselves to control what we consume, get more sleep and exercise, and spend quality time reading and just being bored. It’s good for us!

    Get Stolen Focus on Amazon.

  • My struggles with writing

    Writing what’s on my mind is something I struggle with. I think the issue is not the writing itself; it’s the distractions and mind wandering. I have difficulty focusing for a long enough period to produce something worth reading.

    Even when I get on track and start writing something, I lose focus and never finish what I started, or more often, I wrap it up early and hit publish. “Good enough.”. Maybe that’s why I enjoy Micro.blog so much since it quickly makes it easy to post something without giving it much thought.

    I also get distracted by tools and apps. Changing my system will always fix the problem, right?

    I enjoy writing and think it helps me clear my mind. It is one of the few things I do that forces me to focus. So, I don’t want to stop.

    To help improve my writing, I will try a few obvious things.

    1. Block distractions as much as possible.
    2. Dedicate the same time every day to writing.
    3. Continue to post short thoughts (like this) on my blog.
    4. I’m tempted to create a new blog (maybe on Substack?) where I post long-form essays. The kind that requires a lot of time and research. This would be more of an exercise to create a routine and dedicate time to something I enjoy.
  • 📚 What I’m Reading

    I’ve been jumping between 3 books this week.

    The first is Fairy Tale, by Stephen King. I’m about 3/4 of the way through and have to say it’s excellent. I highly recommend the audiobook.

    The next is Stolen Focus by Johann Hari. Another book is about how the distractions from today’s technology are harming us.

    The last is Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson. This book discusses how our mind makes connections that form ideas. This book may interest you if you’re interested in PKM and all the new apps like Roam Research, Obsidian, Tana, Scrintal, Napkin, etc.

  • The benefits of mind wandering

    Reading Stolen Focus by Johann Hari 📚, the author discusses the “Disruption of Mind Wandering” in Chapter 5 and how we tend to consider mind wandering negative. Yet, the author explains, it’s part of how we learn and create.

    “Creativity is not where you create some new thing that’s emerged from your brain.” “It’s a new association between two things that were already there.” Mind-wandering allows “more extended trains of thought to unfold, which allows for more associations to be made.” - Stolen Focus p96

    While this is nothing new, it caught my attention because I am a daydreamer. Ever since I was a kid, I would get in trouble for not paying attention. I suppose my excuse now is, “I’m creating something!”.

    Mind wandering is a necessary part of how our brains work. For example, as we read, we focus on the words. Our mind tries to make connections to the ideas we’re reading about. We may think of past experiences, related reading, or even contradictions. This is precisely what we should be doing. This part of reading helps us learn and make sense of things.

    Of course, we can easily take our minds wandering too far when we’re trying to read but keep thinking about checking Twitter or what’s for dinner. In these cases, we’re getting into distraction territory.

  • 📱 Airshow Podcast App

    I discovered a new podcast app for iOS called Airshow. It is from the same creators of Feedbin, the popular RSS service. What’s interesting is that Airshow actually uses Feedbin to sync podcasts between devices. This makes sense since it’s all RSS.

    What I like about Airshow is its simplicity. It’s a beautiful app. There are no bells and whistles. You can add podcasts as a Subscription or Bookmark. Subscriptions are automatically downloaded and added to your queue. Bookmarks give you quick access to podcasts you are interested in but don’t listen to regularly.

    Your queue is a simple list of podcast episodes. You can reorder them and edit them as you like. The queue is synced to your Feedbin account so you can also view the podcasts from Feedbin.

    The Airshow Play Screen

    Airshow Subscription Screen

  • I’m trying the Agenda app

    I’ve been experimenting with task management and note applications for a while now. I wouldn’t say I like organizing into folders or even using tags. I’ve gone down that road and spent too much time trying to stay organized.

    I want to capture notes from an idea or meeting and keep them front and center until anything actionable from that note is complete. This gives me all the context I need for that task or project. For example, if I’m working on a development issue, I create a note where I write down anything I need during the troubleshooting process and, in the end, what solved the problem. The note for that issue will stay on my list of active notes until it is complete.

    I also want to create the occasional reminder or block-off time on my calendar. Also, associating meeting notes with calendar events is a bonus.

    After experimenting with dozens, if not hundreds, of apps, I came across Agenda. I’ve only been using it for a couple of days. So far, it fits my workflow.

    I will use Agenda this week for all my notes and tasks and see if I have any problems.

  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

    I have started to tackle Meditations. I usually don’t read this book, but I thought I would try it. I am taking notes as I go. I just write down what comes to mind as I read each part, even if my interpretation is completely off.

    Introduction

    His real name is Marcus Annius Verus.- Born in A.D. 121.- “Meditations” was not intended to be published. Marcus was writing to himself.- Marcus does not mention Stoicism.

    Book 1 Debts and Lessons

    Marcus shows gratitude for the various people in his life.

    Book 2 On the river gran, among the quadi

    People can be cruel, ungrateful, arrogant, etc., but this does not affect me.

    1. Stop being persuaded by impulses. Your mind and body and simple and don’t need extravagance.
    2. Nature will always change to do what is best for nature. You are part of nature. Trust the change.
    3. You have limited time in this world. Don’t spend it procrastinating on things of importance.
    4. Focus on things as if it was the last thing you will do in life.
    5. You have one life, and it’s almost over.
    6. Take the time to learn things for yourself and less for others.
    7. Listen to your heart, and find your happiness.
    8. No one can prevent you from being in harmony with nature.
    9. Sinning out of desire is worse than doing so out of anger. Passion comes from within, and anger is caused by something external.
    10. Death happens to both good and bad people; therefore, how could it be a bad thing? How could death be a punishment for people who are good all their lives?
    11. Objects are temporary and meaningless.
    12. People deserve our affection because they are like us people.
    13. You cannot lose the future or the past, only the present.
    14. “Everything is just an impression” - Monimus the Cynic
    15. The soul degrades when it becomes upset with things that happen, you turn your back on another when you experience too much pleasure or pain, when you act false, and when your actions are without purpose.
    16. Be true to yourself without depending on others. You can’t control nature, perception, the nature of the body, and the soul.
  • I Didn't Do The Thing Today

    While over the past decade, “Productivity” books try to teach you how to be productive and get things done, “I Didn’t Do The Thing Today” jumps on the recent “Anti-productivity” bandwagon and reminds us that to be genuinely productive, we need to relax, rest, and embrace the unexpected.

    I Didn’t Do The Thing Today by Madeleine Dore

    Key Ideas

    • We can’t compare how productive we are to others because we all have unique circumstances and objectives.
    • The unexpected and unplanned are often the best part of our days, yet we consider it a “bad day” when things don’t go as planned. Our routines and schedules should guide us but not induce guilt when they are broken.
    • Preparation, Incubation, Illumination, and Verification are the 4 stages of creativity.
    • If we determine the things we “could” do and be more flexible with when we do them, perhaps the most important things to use will surface and become part of our day without being forced.

    Action Items

    • Create a plan for the day to act as a guide.
    • Keep a list of things I “can” do based on my current time and energy.
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

    Finished reading: Project Hail Mary: A Novel by Andy Weir 📚.

    Project Hail Mary is a story by the same author of The Martian, Andy Weir. While The Martian’s story is grounded in the science we understand today, Project Hail Mary goes beyond that and adds more sci-fi but does so without breaking the rules of science.

    The other difference between The Martian and Project Hail Mary is the scope. In The Martian, Mark Watney is stranded on Mars and needs to figure out how to get home. In Project Hail Mary, the Sun is being destroyed by a phenomenon, and Ryland Grace must travel to a distant star to figure out how to save Earth.

    The protagonist, Ryland Grace, is a science teacher who ends up as the sole survivor of the Hail Mary as it travels to its destination, where we hope to figure out how to save Earth. Ryland wakes from a coma with no memory of how he got there or even who he is. Fortunately, his memory comes back over time.

    As Ryland is solving one problem after another aboard the Hail Mary, his memories slowly return. We see the planning of the Project Hail Mary mission on Earth and how Ryland was “chosen” for the mission. We also see the sacrifices that are made to make the mission happen.

    The writing is engaging and fun. While there is a lot of math involved, you can get the point without understanding it. It all makes sense. This is one of the special things about Andy Weir’s writing style. You can tell he loves this stuff. He spent a lot of time researching and discussing “what if” scenarios with real scientists and astronauts. After the success of The Martian, he likely has a pool of resources available to him.

    This story is not your typical sci-fi. I felt like this could actually happen. Ryland’s problems were science-based and felt realistic, opposed to forced plot twists just to make the story exciting. There were many times in this book where I imagined all of the things that could have been done if this were an action sci-fi story that we would typically see. Instead, we get a great story about a guy working out extraordinary problems.

    I really enjoyed this book.

    “Working the problem” - NASA

    By the way, a Project Hail Mary movie is being made, starring Ryan Gosling.

  • Take care of your eyes with the 20-20-20 Rule

    As we all know, staring at a screen causes eye strain. When you do this too long and too often, your eyes may not be able to recover. This eye strain is often called computer vision syndrome (CVS) and can cause headaches, fatigue, dry eyes, and long-term damage.

    What is the 20-20-20 Rule?

    Every 20 minutes you spend using a screen, look away at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. 20 feet for 20 seconds is the optimal distance and time to allow your eyes to relax.

    How to do it

    • Set a timer for 20 minutes.
    • When the timer goes off, look away from your screen and at something for 20 seconds.
    • Repeat.

    What can we do for 20 seconds?

    20 seconds is not very long. But there are some healthy things we can do during this time.

    • Continue thinking about what you are working on without losing focus. I've found that stepping away for a few seconds can help me think through a problem.
    • Stretch your body.
    • Do some burpees or something to get the blood flowing.
    • Take a drink of water.
    • A time-check is helpful when you lose focus on a particular task. Are you spending too much time? Do you need to wrap things up?

    Additional Reading

  • The true purpose of a Zettelkasten

    A Zettelkasten is a German word that translates to “slip box.” The term became used to describe a particular workflow that Niklas Luhmann used to publish about 50 books and 550 articles over his career.

    Many great articles are out there describing Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten system. As well as a few books, so I won’t go into those details here. Instead, I want to focus on the key concepts I realized about a Zettelkasten over time.

    A Zettelkasten is a box of notes. Luhmann’s workflow to take and organize notes became synonymous with Zettelkasten. When we hear the word Zettelkasten today, we think of the workflow process, not necessarily a box of index cards.

    Sönke Ahrens helped make the Zettelkasten popular with his book How To Take Smart Notes. Sönke introduced the names of the various types of notes, Fleeting, Literature, Permanent, and Project, to describe the various phases of Luhmann's workflow. However, these names were never part of Luhmann’s vocabulary to describe his system (in fact, Luhmann rarely talked about his workflow).

    Digital tools try to mimic the Zettelkasten workflow that Luhmann used. However, digital tools have many advantages that make some parts of his analog workflow seem wasteful, such as numbering and limiting space to what fits on a 4x6 card. We can now easily connect notes using Wiki Links, see connections using Backlinks, see a graph of notes related to the current note, and even see a visual of the entire system to identify clusters of information. Not to mention full-text search and hyperlinks!

    While we can take advantage of these digital tools, we need to remember the fundamental purpose of the Zettelkasten. It’s not to make as many notes and connections as we can to grow an enormous graph that will somehow start answering all of our questions and do the writing for us.

    Luhmann’s Zettelkasten system worked because it forced him to slow down and think about each idea and how it relates to the other ideas. Numbering each card to connect it to another card was a painstaking process, which required him to spend more time organizing his notes than actually writing his publications. This gave him the time (in his head) to make real connections and insights. Digital tools can easily abstract this from us if we’re not careful.
    Another reason Luhmann created so much content is that throughout his process, he spent time creating output that would be used in his work. Rather than capturing and making quick notes, he spent the time writing out his interpretation in his own words. When writing his publications, his thinking was already done, and he could focus on creating a draft.

    Quotes

    “Of course, I do not think of all this on my own; it mostly happens in my file. ... In essence, the filing system explains my productivity. ... Filing takes more of my time than writing the books” - Niklas Luhmann
    "What Luhmann appeared to have done instead was to immediately write his own thoughts on whatever he read in a way that would be as close to being publishable as possible. That's what allowed him to be so productive, he was constantly creating output, rather than accumulating knowledge in a way that may lead to future output, which is what most of us do when taking notes." (level 1, Zettelkasten is NOT a note-taking system(?))
    "Write all your notes and quotes on separate three-by-five-inch cards. Then, when you get ready to organize your thinking, just spread them all out on the floor, see the natural structure that emerges, and figure out what’s missing." (David Allen, Getting Things Done)

    Additional Reading

  • App Spotlight: Raindrop.io

    Raindrop.io has become one of those apps that I use nearly every day. With so much content on the web, we need a place to save what we find helpful. Raindrop does just that. It is a bookmarking service that works on nearly any device and browser.

    • Save and recall interesting content.
    • Save articles and videos to read or watch later.
    • Read articles and make highlights and annotations. Sync highlights with Readwise.
    • Save inspirational images.
    • Share bookmarks with others.
    • Create an RSS feed of a collection that can be shared and consumed in other applications.

    Platforms

    • Browser Extension for Chrome, Edge, Safari, Firefox, Brave.
    • Mobile app for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
    • Desktop app for macOS, Windows, and Linux.

    Organization

    Raindrop allows you to create Collections (Folders) and Tags. With the Pro version, you can create nested collections. You can also create Groups to help organize your collections.

    I have been using the PARA method to provide a straightforward way to organize content. I like to keep it simple.

    • Unsorted: Things I want to read or watch later. They’ll often be deleted unless they’re worth keeping, then I’ll send them to another collection and add some tags.
    • Shared: I have a shared collection of Microsoft and Focustivity bookmarks.
    • Projects: I create a collection for each project where I gather links and web content. I don’t usually have many projects of this type.
    • Areas: A collection for each area of my life. I’ll store manuals, links to important sites, and other things here.
    • Resources: This is where most of my bookmarks go. I have a single Resources collection that I dump everything into. I add a couple of tags to make it easier to filter later.
    • Archive: Where I keep archived projects.

    Highlights

    One of my favorite features in Raindrop is the Highlights. Once installed with the browser extension, you can highlight text on a page and save the highlight directly to Raindrop. You can also use this feature now in Raindrop (like the image below). Select a webpage, highlight some text, and add annotations if you want.

    These highlights can sync to Readwise (this feature was not announced at the time of this post).

    The search functionality is pretty solid, featuring Full-Text search meaning it will find content within your bookmarks and PDFs. You can use the filters to quickly select a tag, date, type, or other criteria.

    Pricing

    The pricing of Raindrop is reasonable. I think most people can get by with the free version, which includes unlimited bookmarks, collections, highlights, and most features.

    The pro version provides extra features like full-text search, nested collections, annotations, duplicate link finder, automatic backups, 10Gb files per month, and priority email support.

    Who is Raindrop for?

    Raindrop is not going to be a replacement for an academic research tool like Zotero, where you will need citations, PDF annotations, and integrations to note applications like Obsidian.

    For anyone who wants to save bookmarks, and does some light highlighting and annotations, then Raindrop is a great option.

  • Use NVM to manage Node versions

    NVM allows you to install multiple versions of Node.js onto your machine, allowing you to switch between Node.js versions without actually reinstalling quickly.

    Why do you need multiple versions of Node.js?

    If you work with different types of apps, you may have specific dependencies. For example, I had to pull code for an SPFx web part to package and deploy it. The application's dependencies required me to use a different version of Node.js than what I had installed.

    Get NVM

    Common Commands

    • nvm list available Get a list of available Node.js versions
    • nvm list Get a list of installed versions of Node.js
    • nvm install {version number} to install a new version
    • nvm uninstall {version number} to uninstall a version.
    • nvm use {version number} to switch to an installed version of Node.js

    References

    https://www.andrewconnell.com. 2017. "Andrew Connell - Better Node.Js Install Management with Node Version Manager." Andrew Connell. April 26, 2017. https://andrewconnellpreview.z13.web.core.windows.net/blog/better-node-js-install-management-with-node-version-manager/.

  • Tot Pocket

    I watched this video by Christopher Lawley, and he mentioned an app I had never heard of called Tot Pocket. All the app does is give you seven screens to write text.

    Are you blown away yet?

    Yeah, it sounds pretty simple. Then when you mention the $19.99 price tag, you will laugh.

    What this app does is extremely simple, yet it fits a need that I’ve been looking for. I wanted a standalone app that gives me a page of text I can write on throughout the day. I keep notes, tasks, links, clipboard text, and all kinds of things on this page. This page syncs across devices, including my phone, so I can quickly update it throughout the day.

    Using a “Working Memory” text file on your computer is nothing new. In his podcast, Cal Newport talks about it and has an article explaining his method.

    When using only Microsoft Windows, I would use Notepad all the time for this. Now that I’m on Mac, I tried using an Apple Note or a simple document that syncs across devices. I think the biggest problem I had with them is there were too many options. I did more formatting and playing around with the note than just using it.

    I only just started using Tot Pocket. So far, I like it. The sync is fast and reliable and has just enough features to allow me to jot down notes and tasks throughout the day without being distracted.

  • Use Apple Shortcuts to send notes on YouTube videos to Readwise

    I created an Apple Shortcut that takes a YouTube video URL, retrieves the Title of the video, prompts you for the Author and Notes you want to include, then adds it as a new highlight in Readwise.

    Why do I use Readwise?

    I have been using Readwise quite a bit lately as the place where I capture highlights and notes from books, articles, tweets, and podcasts. Not only do I use it for highlights, but in a way, it has become a way for me to bookmark ideas that I find across the internet.

    Why capture YouTube videos?

    The Readwise extension and apps do a great job of capturing from books, articles, and tweets. But I watch a lot of YouTube videos. I often want to capture brief notes about these videos to reference them later.

    I also capture interesting videos with a summary I can share in my newsletters.

    What you’ll need to get started.

    You’ll need a few things to get started.

    Create your Apple Shortcut

    Enable Share Sheet

    • Enable the Share Sheet in your Shortcut. The input will automatically be added to the top.
    • Change the action to receive URLs from the Share Sheet and Quick Actions.

    Get the Title of the Video

    You won’t get the video’s title if you only use the YouTube video URL. To get the title, we can call a YouTube API to return this for us.

    • Add a Get Contents of URL action.
    • Set the URL to https://www.youtube.com/oembed?url=Shortcut Input&format=json where the “Shortcut Input” is coming from the variable of the first action.

    Ask for Author and Notes

    • (Optional) Add an Ask for Input action. Set it to Text and set the Prompt to “Who is the Author?. “
    • Add an Ask for Input action. Set it to Text and the prompt to “What notes would you like to add?.”

    Call the Readwise API

    • Add another Get Contents of URL action.
    • Change the URL to https://readwise.io/api/v2/highlights/
    • Change the method to Post.
    • In the Headers, add a Key called Authorization. In the value, add Token {{Your Readwise API Token}}.
    • Ensure Request Body is set to JSON.
    • Add a Key called highlights. The type should be Array.
    • Click on the highlights key and then add another key of type Dictionary.
    • Within that dictionary key, you’ll add 4 text keys. Setting the value of each key to the appropriate variable from the actions we asked for earlier.

    Run and Test your Shortcut

    • Click on Run.
    • Since you’re not triggering this from the Share Menu, it will ask you for the URL. Enter a URL to a YouTube video.
    • It will next prompt you for the Author.
    • Next, you’ll be prompted for your notes. I usually take notes in an Apple Quick Note and then paste them into the shortcut when I’m done.
    • If successful, you’ll see some JSON at the end of the Shortcut containing your content.
    • If unsuccessful, you should see an error message.

    Check out your highlight in Readwise

    • Open the Readwise Latest page, which shows your latest highlights.
    • You should see your new highlight!

    Conclusion

    This shortcut is not perfect. It can be improved in some ways. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

    As I make improvements, I’ll continue to update this post.

  • Schedule time to work on projects rather than tasks

    We’re always told to break down our projects into next actions, which are the very next thing that must be done to move a project forward. The next actions are actionable (start with a verb). They take the guesswork out of what needs to be done.

    The challenge I’ve always had has always been scheduling the appropriate time to work on these next actions. For the longest time, I would schedule my next steps in my task management app and set a date for when I need to work on it.

    The problem with scheduling every task is that you constantly must go in and out of your project to see what the next action is and then set a start or due date for that task.

    In the end, my task app was overwhelming, full of overdue tasks.

    Plan your projects

    To make this work, you’ll need a list of your projects where you keep information about the project and all the known tasks for that project. Review the project as often as necessary; the Weekly Review is an excellent time for this, or even daily if the project is very active and changing.

    Each project should have at 1 next action and all the other known tasks that need to be completed. The reason to do this is when you are in “Execution” mode, you want to see what’s next and start working on it. You hope to avoid doing project planning every time you open your project. The fewer decisions you must make, the more likely you will complete the task.

    Your project list does not need to be anything fancy. It could be as simple as a list of subtasks in your task management app. I have a page in my notes app for each personal project that has some information about the project, some links, and then a list of tasks. My “work” projects are in the Azure DevOps Kanban board, where they are shared with my team.

    Schedule your projects

    If you're only using a task management app, you can set a date on your project rather than the individual tasks. They will show up in your Today list as any other task would; however, the actual tasks would be a list of subtasks or a link to your project in your other system.

    Time Blocking works great for scheduling projects.

    Block off time to work on a specific project. It serves the purpose of blocking your calendar, and gives you awareness to what you’ll be working on.

    When planning your week, look at your project list and for each project you need to move forward this week, block an appropriate amount of time on your calendar. Not only does this give you a more realistic idea of how much time you can spend through the week, but it also blocks the time, so others can’t schedule it for you.

    Exceptions

    There are exceptions to everything. Not every task belongs in a project, and some tasks have to be done on specific days or times.

    Go ahead and add dates and reminders to these tasks, so they show up at the appropriate time.

    By only setting dates on necessary tasks, your task list is now much less overwhelming. You’ll see a list of tasks you have to do today and a list of projects you plan to work on.

    A real-world example

    While my system is far from perfect and is always being tweaked (I can’t help myself), I’d like to share my approach and how it has helped me. You can use your preferred tools for this.

    For context, I’m a Software Architect at a consulting company, and I work with a team of developers and project managers on many active projects.

    The tools I use

    • My Calendar (Google calendar for personal and Outlook for work).
    • iOS Reminders App where I store reminders and personal projects.
    • Azure DevOps Kanban Board (It's similar to Trello), where I keep project tasks. They are shared with my team. In my role, I need a clear picture of everyone else’s task for a project as well.
    • Paper index cards (yes, it's analog).

    Weekly Planning

    • On Sundays, I’ll review my projects, calendar, Kanban Board, and reminders to see what needs to be done this next week.
    • I’ll make sure my Kanban board is up-to-date and prioritize my work.
    • Now that I have an idea of which projects must be worked on and how much time I require, I’ll block time on my calendar for each active project. I can see how much time I’ll have to work on projects. If It's not enough, I can let my project manager know, and we can reprioritize some things.
    • If there are any time specific tasks that need to be done, I add it to them, Reminders app.

    Daily Planning

    • Each day (I try to do this the night before), I’ll look at my calendar and reminders for the day and then write down on my index card the 3 most important things for me to do today. Since my day fluctuates constantly, I can still focus on those 3 things.
    • I’ll receive notifications from my calendar and Reminders app when it's time to switch to some other project, task, or meeting.
    • As things come up during the day, I’ll jot it down on my index card. I’ll even capture simple meeting notes there as well. I also jot down any ideas I have about something completely unrelated to what I’m working on.

    Daily Shutdown

    • At the end of each workday, I’ll review my Index card and transfer anything of importance into its appropriate home. For example, if I have a new project task, I’ll make sure to add it to Azure DevOps. If I need to schedule a call, I’ll go ahead and schedule it, or I’ll make a reminder to schedule it tomorrow.
    • Writing things on an index card not only lets me look away from my screen but helps prevent me from jumping in and out of my digital apps.

    Conclusion

    I hope this encourages you to think about better ways to manage your tasks and projects. I was frustrated over the years seeing overdue items in my task list. Scheduling time to work on projects has significantly reduced the clutter and reduced the number of decisions I need to make throughout the day.

    Helpful Tools

    Here are a few related tools that I hope you find helpful.

  • How these Hey features changed the way I think about email

    The Screener, The Feed, and Paper Trail have changed my personal email experience to focus on the important and not stress about the rest.

    I started using Hey last year and even wrote up my initial experiences with the unique email service. Now that it has been nearly a year of using it, I thought I would reflect on what I’m getting out of Hey that prevents me from going elsewhere.

    The three main features of Hey have changed how I think about email. The Screener, The Feed, and Paper Trail.

    I am not compensated in any way to write this. I pay for the Hey email service out of my pocket and use it as my daily email service.

    The Screener

    The Screener is a unique feature in Hey that prompts you to allow or decline emails from someone before it lands in your inbox. This, in combination with other elements, ensures that when you see an email in your inbox, it is important enough to warrant your attention.

    I’ve used The Screener to allow emails that I want to receive (obviously) and unsubscribe to emails that I no longer want. My email is significantly cleaner because of it. Think of it as a door bouncer at a bar.

    The Feed

    The Feed is another unique feature of Hey email that provides a digest of all of the Newsletters, Marketing, and whatever else you want to include.

    The Feed is designed to skim through quickly, and if there is something you want to read, you can click “See More…” to expand it. You don’t mark things as read. You don’t move it to an archive. You read it or don’t, and all items in your feed are deleted automatically after 90 days.

    The Feed has changed the way I consume newsletters. This type of email is no longer a “Task” that I must complete; instead, they have become a feed of great content that I may want to consume when I have time.

    The Paper Trail

    The following unique feature of Hey email is The Paper Trail. You can mark emails from specific contacts to go directly to your Paper Trail. This is intended for your receipts, statements, invoices, confirmations, etc. It is the email that you need to receive but rarely reply to.

    I use the Paper Trail as intended. I skim through it when I have a few minutes. I can see from the email subject what it is, and 98% of the time, I have no action to take. I don’t need to interact with each email, marking it as read or archiving. I only interact with it if necessary.

    Take Action

    Do you need to use Hey email to get these features? Yes, and no. It’s a mindset change more than anything.

    • Set up filters to move newsletters and marketing to a specific folder or label.
    • Get into the habit of selecting all and marking them as read. Let your filter do this for you, or ignore them. Not every email needs to be processed!
    • Get into the habit of reviewing each incoming email and determine if you need it. Use the Unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email to unsubscribe appropriately.
  • Adding color to your tools can help you be more productive

    Use colors as a way to categorize things.

    We can use Colors in our Productivity System to help us quickly identify things. I find it especially useful to identify each area of my life with a specific color.

    Here are some of the colors I use to identify areas of my life.

    • Purple = Family
    • Red = Health
    • Brown = Home
    • Orange = Creative work
    • Green = Client work
    • Blue = Personal
    • Use colors in a variety of tools.
    • If you are an analog type, you can use different colored pens and highlighters.

    Many digital applications allow the use of colors in some form.

    • Calendar applications allow you to set the default color of each calendar. You can even change the color of specific events on your calendar. It is helpful to quickly scan your calendar to see if a client meeting is coming up versus a personal appointment.
    • Create colored labels in your email application.
    • Create colored labels in your task application.
    • Use colors to differentiate different types of notes.
    • Use different colored themes in each of your browser profiles.
      Be Consistent

    Try to be consistent with the colors you use everywhere. Once a color has a specific meaning to you, it makes sense to apply that meaning across your entire system.

  • New to Mac? Here are some tips to help be productive

    I recently switched my setup to a Mac. As a long-time Windows user, this is quite a jarring transition. There were some things I immediately missed from Windows and some things that I had to spend some time figuring out because they make no sense on a Mac.

    • Poor window management.
    • Closing an app doesn’t quit it.
    • Every app seems to have a menu icon that clutters the top menu.
    • Lacking alt-tab to switch windows.

    I will share some critical apps and tips I learned while setting up my Mac mini to be a lean, productive machine.

    Keyboard Shortcuts

    Since I’m already moving to a Mac, I may as well get better at using keyboard shortcuts and use the mouse less.

    Learning keyboard shortcuts is one of the best things you can do for productivity. It takes so much time to reach for the mouse and move it to click on something.

    Keyboard shortcuts allow you quickly search and execute tasks without removing your fingers from the keyboard.

    Learning these keyboard shortcuts can be daunting, and I still struggle with them, especially with various applications using different shortcuts for different purposes.

    Some critical keyboard shortcuts on Mac

    • CTRL-CMD-Q: Lock the desktop.
    • SHIFT-CMD-Q: Log out.
    • CMD-SPACE: To search for anything.
    • CMD-X: Cut the selected item to the clipboard.
    • CMD-C: Copy the selected item to the clipboard.
    • CMD-V: Paste the selected item from the clipboard.
    • CMD-W: Close the current window
    • CMD-Q: Quit the existing app

    Essential Utilities

    Several utilities help make the Mac faster and easier to get things done. Here are a few that I’ve discovered so far.

    SetApp

    Setapp is a service that consolidates hundreds of Mac and iOS apps into one subscription. Setapp can save you a ton of money, depending on your apps, and it’s worth checking SetApp before purchasing any apps on the Mac. Like I did, you may find it cheaper to get a SetApp subscription that includes the apps you want and hundreds of other apps and utilities.

    Raycast

    Mac OS has a built-in Spotlight search that triggers when you click CMD-Space. If you find Spotlight lacking, check out Raycast.

    Raycast is a fast and extendable application launcher that does so much more. You can search anything, open anything, manage windows, and perform various other tasks that I have yet to explore.

    Be sure to take the time to go through the provided walk-through. Once you realize the power of Raycast, the sky is the limit.

    Alternatives include Alfred.

    1Password

    When setting up any OS, I first install 1Password, where all my passwords and other information are securely stored.

    You could get by with Apple’s Keychain if you only use the Apple ecosystem. Other alternatives include LastPass and Dashlane.

    Bartender

    Nearly every app you install on your Mac creates a menu icon in the top-right that gives you quick access to some of the functionality. Eventually, you’ll end up with a menu bar that spans the width of your monitor, which is distracting.

    Bartender allows you to configure this menu, only showing the icons you want to see and hiding the rest under a menu.

    CleanMyMac X

    I’m constantly installing and uninstalling applications, testing to see what they do and if they help me. Unfortunately, this leaves clutter on the MAC, including files and folders and other settings that get left behind even when you uninstall.

    CleanMyMac helps remove all of this unnecessary clutter from your Mac.

    BetterSnapTool

    I have a widescreen monitor, and the biggest thing I missed from Windows is the ability to snap my windows to various positions on the screen.

    BetterSnapTool does this on the Mac. You can easily position your apps and create custom areas for them to snap. Very handy!

    Some alternatives are Mosaic and Magnet. I’ve begun using Raycast to manage my windows using keyboard shortcuts, which I’m enjoying.

    CleanShot X

    CleanShot X provides some excellent screen-capture capabilities. Quickly take screenshots, annotate them, then share them.

    Great apps, exclusive to the Apple Ecosystem

    One of the biggest reasons I switched to a Mac for my setup is the great apps. It feels like apps on Windows are an afterthought and are usually only ported web applications anyway.

    Things 3

    Things 3 is probably one of the most elegant task management applications.

    Bear

    My favorite writing and note-taking application, Bear, is a straightforward markdown-based app that lets you focus on writing. You can organize your notes using tags.

    Craft

    Craft may arguably be the best all-purpose note-taking and documentation creation app. It is simple to use and has a beautiful design, and I use it to organize my life.

    Fantastical

    Fantastical is an excellent calendar app that goes beyond the out-of-the-box Apple calendar. Its most prominent feature may be the autocomplete functionality, and you can type an event or task in natural language, which will set all the details for you!

    I’ve only been using the Mac for a few weeks. I hope what I shared is useful. What are your favorite apps and tricks for the Mac? I’d love to learn more.

  • Using an index card to manage your daily tasks and notes

    Photo of my index card setup.

    Using a simple index card is a simple technique to help you focus during the day.

    The process is simple.

    • Each day, pull out a new card.
    • Write down the most important tasks you want to work on that day.
    • During the day, focus on those tasks.
    • Add other tasks as they come up. You don’t need to do these today, but you still want to jot them down.
    • Add brief notes on the backside.

    This technique would be used with whatever task management solution you currently use. Rather than jumping in and out of your task app all day, you can write down the most important tasks and jot down other to-dos and notes on your card throughout the day. Reconcile what's on your index card with your other apps at the end of each day.

    Writing down your daily tasks helps you plan and enables you to prioritize.

    I enjoy the index card for this rather than a paper notebook because it is much simpler and has limited space, and I can have it standing next to my monitor to see it all day.

    Option 1: Just an index card

    The simplest and cheapest option is to buy a pack of standard 3x5 index cards. They work fine; you can pull a card out daily and leave it on your desk as you work.

    Option 2: A nice index card and cardholder

    If you want a nice upgrade to the system, you can purchase some vertical To-Do index cards. The cards I’m using are higher quality than a standard index card, and the front has a place for your tasks and the back for other notes and doodles. You can find other cards on Amazon or an office supply store to your liking.

    Next, find yourself a nice business card holder, which will keep your cards upright, making a big difference. Your task list is now next to your monitor and is hard to miss.

    Option 3: Analog, by Ugmonk

    If you want to go all out, Analog, by Ugmonk, has a high-quality card system that you can purchase. The starter kit is $65, and the cards require a subscription for $10 per month. The Analog kit includes a walnut or maple card box with a magnetic lid to secure your other cards, and it also comes with Task cards for Today, Next, and Someday.

  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

    I have started to tackle Meditations. I usually don't read this kind of book, but I thought I would give it a try. I am taking notes as I go. I am just writing down what comes to mind as I read each part, even if my interpretation is completely off.

    Introduction

    Real name Marcus Annius Verus.- Born in A.D. 121.- "Meditations" was not intended to be published. Marcus was writing to himself.- Marcus does not mention Stoicism.

    Book 1 Debt and Lessons

    1. Marcus shows gratitude for the various people in his life.

    Book 2 On the river gran, among the quadi

    1. People can be cruel, ungrateful, arrogant, etc., but this does not affect me.
    2. Stop being persuaded by impulses. Your mind and body and simple and don't need extravagance.
    3. Nature will always change to do what is best for nature. You are part of nature. Trust the change.
    4. You have limited time in this world. Don't spend it procrastinating on things of importance.
    5. Focus on things as if it was the last thing you will do in life.
    6. You have one life, and it's almost over.
    7. Take the time to learn things for yourself and less for others.
    8. Listen to your heart, and find your happiness.
    9. No one can prevent you from being in harmony with nature.
    10. Sinning out of desire is worse than doing so out of anger. Passion comes from within, and anger is caused by something external.
    11. Death happens to both good and bad people; therefore, how could it be a bad thing? How could death be punishment for people who are good all of their lives?
    12. Objects are temporary and meaningless.
    13. People deserve our affection because they are like us, people.
    14. You cannot lose the future or the past, only the present.
    15. "Everything is just an impression" - Monimus the Cynic
    16. The soul degrades when it becomes upset with things that happen, you turn your back on another when you experience too much pleasure or pain, when you act false, and when your actions are without purpose.
    17. Be true to yourself without depending on others. You can't control nature, perception, the nature of the body, the soul.

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