My Tools: Evernote for iOS

It’s that time which sometimes happens in our house when we need a few things from the shops. I’m the designated shopper for this trip. We only need a couple so I don’t bother to write down a list. Then a member of the family adds something extra to the list, three things, my brain can cope with that. Oh, but while you are there could you also look for another thing. I’ve now got to four things to remember and I don’t know about you, but four is about my limit. It’s time to make a list.

My daughter’s car is in the garage for some work and she wants me to phone up to see what the progress is. I’m asked to do this because I supposedly know more about what they are about to say, that’s debatable. I know I’ll need the car registration but there’s something about the registration number of this car that means that I can’t remember it consistently.

These are just a couple of examples where I use Evernote for iOS on my iPhone. Back in 2012 I described how I used Evernote as one of my daily productivity tools which it still is (It’s interesting to read how my writing style has changed a bit since then). Evernote has all sorts of information in it having those that information on my iPhone makes them significantly more mobile.

Now is a good time to talk about Evernote for iOS because it’s recently gone through a significant interface overhaul which I must say I approve of. For one thing, making ad-hoc notes like a quick shopping list is much simpler. It’s also much cleaner and easier to read.

This is my All Notes screen from this morning:

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Creating a new note is as simple as clicking the plus sign at the bottom.

The integrated scanning has also removed the need for Scannable simplifying the workflow of scanning things into Evernote.

I’m not sure there’s much more to say than that:

My Tools: Moment – how much do I use my phone?

Most of us are inseparable from our smartphones and spend much of our life gazing into screens small and large. I’ve often wondered how much time I spend looking into my iPhone screen and now I know – a lot.

Moment is an iOS application that tracks how much time I am spending on my iPhone and how many times I pick it up.

If you had asked me before running Moment I would have told you that I probably used my iPhone for about an hour a day. You can see from the image below that I use it more than that, especially at a weekend. Much of this time is spent multi-screening when I’m also watching the television, but it’s still a lot of time, particularly as I didn’t think that I watched that much television.

I tend not to wear a watch so I was interested by how many times I pick up my iPhone. The answer appears to be somewhere between 30 and 50 times which is a few times an hour for the waking day (assuming I don’t pick it up in my sleep) which doesn’t seem too unreasonable.

What these image don’t tell you is that I also have an iPhone I use for work, so this isn’t all of my iPhone screen time. I also run Moment on that phone and was surprised by how little I use that phone in a normal working day.

There’s an axiom that says that you have to be able to measure things to manage them. Having measured my iPhone usage I think it’s time to manage it down to a more sensible number. An extra hour a day is a lot of time to recover that could be invested in more useful activities.

You need to leave the application running for it to take measurements, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. The impact on battery life seems to be minimal also.

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My Tools: Wunderlist

Managing my tasks my way with a bit of help from technology

Benjamin Franklin once said:

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

There’s another things that’s quite certain and that’s lists and in particular to-do lists.

The lists always exist, it’s our choice how we manage them. There are many-many choices for methods of managing to-do lists and a correspondingly long list of applications that support the methods. My personal choice of application for the management of to-do lists is Wunderlist.

I’ve used Wunderlist for a while now and initially chose it because I liked the user interface on my iPhone. Some people are very particular about their to-do lists and adhere to them strictly throughout each day, I’m not very particular. There are two reason for a to-do list as far as I am concerned:

  • To remind me of things I’m likely to forget.
  • To get things out of my head so that I can think about other things.

This means that my to-do list regime is not highly structured.

I have a number of lists and items are placed on those lists as I remember them. The lists are structured around various areas of my life:

  • Work
  • Family and Home
  • Blogging

The items within each list are then prioritised in a very simple structure with the important ones being starred and the time critical ones having a due date defined. The ones with a due date assigned normally also have a reminder defined depending upon how long I need to get the item completed.

Wunderlist allows me to live within this structure and prioritisation regime very easily and that’s why I like it.

As well as the list views Wunderlist gives a number of useful views:

  • Starred – which shows all the starred items separated by the list titles.
  • Today – which shows all the items with a due-date of today (or earlier)

My primary usage of Wunderlist is still on my iPhone because that tends to be the device that I’m using when I’m thinking about my activities. I also use the Chrome application. I sometimes use the Chrome extension to quickly add a web page to a to-do, but that doesn’t happy very often.

I only use Wunderlist as my personal to-do list manager, so there are a number of features that I don’t use. I’ve never used shared to-do and hence never used chat or had anyone put a task in my inbox. I don’t normally add files to tasks, rarely use sub-tasks within an item, nor changed the background so never had a need to upgrade to Pro. I haven’t used folders either because that’s a layer of complexity in the structure that I don’t need.

The biggest challenge, I find, with to-do lists is not managing the list it’s doing what’s on them. This isn’t an application issue, this is a Graham issue and I don’t see any application ever being able to do that for me.

(Off now to click the task in my blogging list titled My Tools: Wunderlist)

My Tools: Buffer

In my post How I process information (2015 update) one of the changes I highlighted was that I’d started using Buffer.

What Buffer does is relatively simple, but no less useful for its simplicity, and it’s elegantly done.

When I read through information in a morning I find things that I’d like to share with other people, primarily on Twitter. As I come to these items I could just share each one as I go through them. The problem with this approach is that it would turn me into that annoying kid who is constantly saying “have you seen this”, “have you seen this”, “have you seen this”. What Buffer allows me to do is to spread these posts across the day in a way that’s, hopefully, less annoying.

The way Buffer works is that you define a standard set of time slots for your normal day. When you add something to the Buffer queue it picks the next slot and then sends the tweet (or updates Facebook) at that time slot. If you fill the slots for one day it will flow over into the next day.

Setting up the slots is easy. You tell Buffer how many time slots you want, it can then analyse your twitter statistics and propose a set of slots for you, which is what I did.

With time slots set up I use the Buffer integrations with TweetDeck, Feedly and Chrome (and on my iPhone) to add to the queue. The TweetDeck (and Twitter) integration is smart enough to use Quote Tweets, the other integrations create a tweet with the title of the item and a url with the option to update the text and to add a picture.

Most things only get posted to Twitter, but I can also post the same content directly to Facebook using the same integrations.

Once added to the queue items are posted as they reach the front of the queue. As a Brit there is something very satisfying about adding things to a queue. You can reorder the queue if you want to, but that feels very un-British.

My Tools: Instagram

As part of my normal routine I go for a walk in the morning. Most mornings I take a picture of something that I find interesting, some days I take a video. The pictures are taken on my iPhone and posted directly to Instagram.

The Instagram client on my iPhone has all sorts of features available for enhancing the picture before it’s posted – filter, brightness, warmth, saturation, fade, shadows, vignette, etc. I tend to post pictures without too many enhancements, but it’s fun to fiddle sometimes.

Instagram has a reputation for pictures of three things: pets, selfies and food. I don’t have any pets, I rarely post selfies, I sometimes post food pictures, or more normally coffee pictures.

Similar to Facebook and Twitter, Instagram has a concept of followers which allows you to create social interactions and to see what others have posted. The people who I follow tend not to post pictures of pets, selfies or food.

Like other social network platforms Instagram allows people to interact. In the case of Instagram interaction is via likes and comments. You can also post links to Facebook and Twitter which create other avenues for interaction.

While writing this post I’ve considered a question – why do I use Instagram? I started using Instagram because it did something unique, Twitter didn’t really handle pictures at the time you had to use third-party capabilities, Facebook always handled pictures, but it’s functionality is aimed at collections and albums of pictures. Twitter now supports pictures quite well, but I continue to use Instagram. Why continue as part of another social network? I tried to come up with a logical reason involving features and capabilities, but the answer is far simpler. I continue to use Instagram because I like it.

If you want to interact you can find me here: @grahamchastney

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My Tools: Hill Lists – Ticking or Bagging?

I’m in the process of trying to complete a set of hills described by Alfred Wainwright.

Some people call this ticking, others call this bagging. In Scotland people definitely bag Munro’s – there is less clarity as to what the climbing of a Wainwright is called – I prefer ticking.

I use two things to track my ticking; one is a map on the wall of my study which gives a clear visual representation; the other is an application called Hill Lists.

The first screen for Hill Lists is a set of available lists to be climbed, below is the standard starter list to which you can add extra lists. It wasn’t until I started using this app that a realised how many lists there are:

Hill Lists

Selecting a list shows the hills in the list alongside a number of statistics.

Selecting maps from the list shows a colour coded map of the hills within the list:

Hill Lists

From either the list itself, or the map you can select the details for a hill:

Hill Lists

Selecting the plus sign allows you to add a record of a climb for that hill. The map icon take you to external sites that give details of routes. The cloud icon take you to the Mountain Weather Information Service report for the hill area.

My Tools: OutDoors Great Britain

I’ve got a bit of an ambition in process, it involves climbing hill in the North West of England. I’m not going to say quite what the ambition is in public because I’m running a bit behind on the schedule at the moment and it’s still got a long way to go.

Walking in safety requires really good information and the best information comes from a map. While I’m out and about with my boots and my backpack I normally carry two maps.

The first map, that I always carry with me (and so should you) is a paper one (it’s not actually paper, it’s some kind of waterproof composite). These paper maps are accurate and never break down, but they aren’t the easiest to use and lack some information, particularly the most vital piece of information – “where exactly am I?” Map reading is a skill that everyone serious about walking should gain, I don’t want to diminish that in any way.

Having said that, I also carry around a second set of maps on my iPhone; the particular App I use is called OutDoors Great Britain. Within the UK the benchmark maps come from the Ordnance Survey (OS), being a government organisation they make their maps available to other organisations through a commercial framework. Whilst out and about in the countryside you don’t want to be reliant upon a network signal, they’re often not available. Thankfully the commercial framework with the OS allows applications to provide downloaded maps schematics and data, these are normally charged on a per area basis which is what OutDoors do.

You can also use free map sources which are quite good, but obviously rely on a level of network connectivity.

Integration of the App with the iPhone’s GPS and Compass capabilities gives a reassuring answer to that “where am I?” question. It doesn’t just answer that question though it also answers the, sometimes more important, question “which way am I looking?”

I tend to plan my routes on paper, but the App can also do that. I tend not to record my routes either, but again the App can do that.

OutDoors Great Britain – Launch Page

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OutDoors Great Britain – Map Page

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OutDoors Great Britain – Map Options

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