September 19, 2020

Quick Thoughts on iOS 14

 I installed the new Apple mobile OS’s on my iPhone, iPad, and watch yesterday. I thought I would share some quick thoughts on some of the new features. 

The reason I decided to go ahead and pull the trigger before the .1 update came out was home screen widgets. I’ve thought that would be a really compelling feature for a long time. So far I really like having a smart stack at the bottom of my home screen. It is the perfect thing for a weather and calendar app. I can get nearly all the information I will ever need from the widget, and only need to go into the app if I am looking for something specific. 

I haven’t gotten too crazy with the widgets yet, but I plan to add a couple more to my home screen and further pare back the app icons. A lot of my favorite apps still need to make widgets available. You can't tell via the screenshot, but I have 5 widgets in a stack that I can quickly flip through. 

I am hoping to embrace the App Library concept. So far I don’t know how I feel about it. In the past I had 2 screens of apps and then a bunch of folders. It was how I’ve interacted with my phone for several years. I basically have that same concept, but everything feels really cluttered now. I plan to clean out all the folders on my second page and rely more on the app library concept. I’m sure I will be messing around with app placement for weeks before I finally get something workable. 

While interacting with my phone the last couple of days the other major feature changes haven’t been that noticeable. There hasn’t been anything that sticks out with iPad OS 14. I really with you had more flexibility to put widgets on the home screen of the iPad. Hopefully that will come in the near future.  

I do think my battery life is slightly worse on both of my devices. 

The updates to Messages are nice, but don’t significantly change the way I use the app. 

The new watch faces are fine. I am testing out one of the “stripes” faces as well as a tachometer face. The rainbow numbered “California” face is also a nice clean look. 

I’ve just started playing around with Shortcuts. I’ve automated the changing of my watch face during work hours. I use an information dense one during the day and switch to a simple analog view after work. That is a nicety that I didn’t know I wanted, but will probably go down the rabbit hole on setting up these little automations. 

One annoyance that I've always had with iOS is that you cannot remove the name of the app that is always shown beneath the icon. I know all of my apps by now, I don't need the name always to be shown. It creates unnecessary visual clutter. Now with the widgets it drives me absolutely insane that they have the name of the app printed below the widget. For some reason this is unacceptable to me. I hope they consider changing this or adding an options. 

Overall it isn't that exciting of an update, but I haven't dug into all of the features that it offers. 

September 14, 2020

Notes Are Personal

 Even though I haven’t posted lately, I have continued to think about my note-taking system and how I might further refine my process. This has led me to think about what principles have been important to me developing the system I have. I’m also thinking about the things that are most important to me that will help guide my way forward. 

I have decided to turn these principles into a series of posts. This first item is central to how I got to where I am right now. It is also something I keep in mind as I continue to learn how other people work. 

When I think back to when I was getting started I was so quick to adopt systems from other people. It let me on a wild goose chase. I would run into frustration almost everywhere I turned. I got to the point where it no longer became helpful to see how other people worked because I didn’t have a foundation for myself to build from.

It wasn’t until I created my own simple workflows that I was able to start improving. I had something that I had created that worked for me, and now I was ready to start building onto that using ideas from others. 

Your productivity workflow has to be something personal to you. For notes to be effective you have to be able to engage with those notes in a productive way. If you are using a system that doesn’t fit you there will always be friction. You will have a ton of trouble trying to stay engaged and excited about your note-taking system. You will stop using it. You will be back at square one. 

I have an extremely analytical personality. I like structure. I have to create discipline and consistency in my routines. Those things give me a sense that what I am doing is working for me. My entire productivity and note taking systems are geared around those personality traits. I have started to understand what worked for me and now I am able to try new things and push my comfort zone in a way that is useful and expands how I think. 

Earlier in my productivity journey I did not understand exactly what I needed and what types of workflows connected with my brain. It can feel like you are blowing in the wind trying everything you see but never finding a system that completely works for you. 

My guidance would be to create something from scratch. What is the simplest thing you could think to do that is better than what you do now. Does that work? Build on it. 

What I am writing on this blog is something that I would find beneficial in my current productivity journey. The whole point of me writing all of these things down is to further teach myself what worked for me, and continue to push myself forward. I don’t want to lead anybody astray that hasn’t figured out what works for them yet. 

So what am I really saying here... you already have to know what works for you in order to create something that works *better* for you? That seems silly. 

I’m saying that you have to explore options and be aware of when a system creates friction for yourself. In order for any of this to work you have to want to do it. I don’t think anybody is going to force a personal productivity system onto you. You have to know what you want to get out of it, and you have to identify when you find something where the juice is worth the squeeze. 

I was lost in the wilderness for a long time before I ever felt like any of this was worthwhile. I still question it from time to time. There will be days/weeks when I disengage for some reason. Then there are times when I don’t do something I have put in place for myself and it causes me to completely fail. I’m getting better at catching myself and getting back on track. Those are the times that keep me trying. My desire to be better at all aspects of my work pushes me to follow my own rules and keep up with my own expectations. To make it work you have to want it. 

This post doesn’t have anything you can tangibly do to get better. It is warning you to be aware. Try new things, but don’t be too hard on yourself if they don’t work. You have to try new things and figure out what connects with you. Don’t feel like you need to wholesale adopt a system. What do you need to do to get to a point where you can build upon a foundation and continually improve?