Managing Task Management

My workflow has been in flux. Until recently, I relied on Apple’s Notes and Reminders apps to track my thoughts and tasks; now I’m migrating (cautiously) to Microsoft’s OneNote and To Do apps (I briefly tried Todoist as well). When you add, “Try a new to-do app” to your to-do list, which to-do app should you put it on, your current one or the new one(s) you’re trying? It’s a most meta question, I guess, for getting things done #GTD.

In researching the whole idea of task management, I’ve found there are various methods; it partly depends on your own mind’s natural way of thinking. While I think there’s no single “correct” way to manage tasks, there is a best way that works for each individual, and there are generally a few over-arching approaches.

One well-known method is to use the Eisenhower Matrix (see here, here, or here) to determine priority status of certain tasks and thus how to handle them. Each task falls somewhere on a scale of importance and/or urgency. In other words, some tasks are more about want-to-do than need-to-do, and they’re also either dated or not, like a project that has a specific deadline versus a task that can be procrastinated forever.

Finding the right to-do app is, of course, a task unto itself; I think it’s important but not urgent. You likely already have a task manager app; everyone’s needs and styles differ. Basically, all task apps are similar, as they feature checklists of tasks that can be organized in a number of ways, and they each have a particular way of handling dates and reminders. After finding your ideal to-do app, you then must consider how you’ll use it.

You could put all your tasks in a to-do app, including sub-tasks as well. This means your task app will have a huge number of things-to-do. That high number may be daunting to you. To counter such overwhelm, you could instead only add high-level tasks, noting only the big picture; any sub-tasks or details can be then placed into a note-taking app for further management. This is somewhat disparate though and thus has its own drawbacks. It’s up to each person to decide how they like to do to-dos.

How do you like to do to-dos?

I was trying a new-to-me thing in which I kept only my urgent to-dos (tasks that have dates or reminders attached to them) in my to-do app, and all my non-urgent to-dos in my notes app in organized checklists. I see a large number of tasks in my notes and a very small number of tasks in my to-do app. But this approach for me started to break down because once a task becomes urgent or otherwise planned (eventually), it must move to a new app (manually). The cross-app work is too much for my three-pound brain; task duplication becomes a problem. In short, I may move all my tasks into my to-do app and get them organized there.

That said, I also like to keep project checklists with my project notes…hmmm. The only good solution I know of that effectively combines both Notes and Tasks is Evernote, but it costs money. It might be worth it… If you have any advice here, please leave a comment below.

We all manage tasks in some way, and while some folks take an intuitive hands-off approach, others seek the perfect task management system and mastery thereof. Most people are somewhere along that spectrum. I hope my example is somewhat informative and that maybe you can improve your own way of doing all the to-dos.

Now I can check off, “Blog this post.”

Share how you’re getting things done.

A Note On Notes On Apple Watch

Digital note taking might be pedestrian, but it’s essential to the workflow of many; I’m certainly no exception. I love notes apps and have used several over the years. One of them, Apple Notes, has served me very well. Inexplicably, though, the app is nowhere to be found on Apple Watch, which is a, uh, noteworthy omission.

With Apple Notes missing from the Watch, I simply did not expect what happened today. I noticed Microsoft’s OneNote on my Apple Watch; it’s purple icon stood out like amethyst in a geode. What was that doing there?

Surprise! With OneNote, I now have my notes on my Watch.

How can this be? Microsoft has enabled note viewing and taking on Apple’s Watch, but Apple hasn’t. Curious.

OneNote on Apple Watch shows your most recent notes in a list like it does in the mobile app. The list displays:

  1. The section color the note is in.
  2. The section title the note is in.
  3. The date the note was taken.

At the top of the list is a simple “+” button, which lets you add a new note by either finger drawing or dictation. Where does that new note go? It is automatically added to the designated “Quick Notes” section in the mobile app (you choose the section in settings).

This is both a surprise and a delight to me. I can finally take notes on my watch or simply review them. There are only two feature wishes I have:

  1. Ability to add a Complication to take a new note (by dictation).
  2. Ability to take a new note via Siri command (e.g., “Hey, Siri, take a note…”).

I checked into this and found there are a few other note-taking apps that include a Watch app. It’s probably only a matter of time until Apple finally adds Apple Notes to its Watch, but with it being seven series’ old, why has it already taken so long? This omission is more glaring since third-party developers already offer notes on the Watch.

In fact, per this article, OneNote has been available on Apple Watch since 2015:

We recently released OneNote for the Apple Watch to access your content when you’re on the go. We designed OneNote for Apple Watch with a strong focus on lightweight interactions and placed a premium on convenience. A core principle of our design was ensuring that you could quickly and easily reference the information you are looking for. If you pinned a note on OneNote for iPhone, we’ll surface it right at the top of your Apple Watch app, so you don’t need to hunt for it. This is perfect for when you’re frequently checking your to-do list.

Additionally, OneNote for Apple Watch presents a unique opportunity to capture any quick idea, to-do, or thought you have while you’re on the go. All you need to do is speak what’s on your mind, and we’ll save it to OneNote immediately so you don’t forget it. Just tap the large + button and start dictating–it’s really is that simple.

Greg Akselrod and Avneesh Kohli, program managers on the OneNote team

In any case, the functionality of notes on Apple Watch exists. If you are missing it like I was, you don’t have to anymore. Noted.

When The Computing Ideal Isn’t Practical

Happy Holidays, y’all. Blogging from one of my computers, I don’t know if it’s my primary or secondary. In a recent post, Tales of Computeria, I mentioned some computer fluidity, and since then my workflow has shifted a bit more. I drafted this post on my gaming laptop instead of my iPad this round. Wait, what? Yeah, I used a non-Apple device.

The iPad is great, and I’d say it’s still my main “computer,” but it’s no longer my only one. I’m putting the gaming notebook to more use because it’s so capable. Simply put, I had to use it for a few key things that my iPad can’t do, and when it comes to multi-windowing and multi-tasking, a traditional PC still outperforms a tablet by a good amount. In other words, for certain, uh, more productive tasks, the laptop is better and nicer to use than my iPad. Best tool for the job, ya know? (Conversely, when I just want to kick back and read some web articles in Pocket or watch some videos on YouTube, I grab my tablet.)

I realized something recently: no matter how much one prefers to go all-in with a single ecosystem – be it Google’s, Apple’s, or Microsoft’s – the hard fact is that, for many people, computing on only one platform is impractical. Yes, sure, living a mono-platform life – nothing but an iPhone and iPad – is ideal, yet it’s unreal…istic. At least for my needs, it was a good idea that, in execution, didn’t work so well.

Between myself, my job, my wife and sons, and many others in my community, we are all over the place in the metaverse (bonus point for using a buzzword). I don’t know anyone who exclusively uses only one ecosystem, referring to either hardware or software. Some people use Google Docs and some use MS Word (it seems even many Apple users ignore Apple’s Pages). Some folks use Chromebooks, yet many use either Windows PCs or Macs. When last I checked, about half of US consumers use Android phones and the other half uses iPhones. In my own household, this tech diversity is certainly the norm. Google, Apple, Microsoft: we use them all.

Last year, I ditched my iPhone and iPad and went all-in with Google on an Android phone and a Chromebook exclusively. It worked well enough, except my wife and kids didn’t migrate with me…which was one reason why I returned to an iPhone and an iPad. Everyone’s use-case for computing can be different; I couldn’t stay away from the great Windows 11 machine I’m now blogging with, despite the magic of my iDevices.

I was happy and comfortable working on just my iPad for a while and wasn’t looking to switch up my workflow. While it’s true that a geek-nerd like me tends to gravitate to a novel computing setup like a flavor of the month, I’m still human and am averse to change in general. I subtly or subconsciously resisted the fact that I would be using my Windows laptop, but such stubbornness became futile; the gaming got me.

After installing Steam, GOG, and the Epic game stores along with a new game, a demo, and RPGMaker MZ (and also wish-listing many other games), I found my Windows 11 device quite nice and powerful. I also must use it a lot as the administrator account for my five (5) sons’ accounts. For my writing work, many basic interface elements just work better on the “real” computer than on my small iPad. Split-View and Slide-Over are cool and useful, but snapping three side-by-side windows on the big laptop display or even just overlapping many floating ones is a multi-tasking delight. Windows 11 also retains the handy task overview feature that, with a single click, lets me see all my app windows laid out in a grid for easy switching.

With all that magnetic draw, I slowly realized being iPad-only was not pragmatic, it was more dogmatic (I’ve sort of been an Apple fanboy I guess). Now since I’ve started incorporating my Windows machine into my workflow, I’ve had to make practical decisions about a few core apps and services that needed to change. Apple software works well on Apple hardware but not on Asus hardware or in a Microsoft OS.

I needed cross-platform apps and services for my web bookmarks and history, cloud file storage, ubiquitous notes, journal entries, and maybe most important of all, login credentials. That is a lot of change! Here’s what I have switched so far:

  1. Web Browsing:
    • Safari -> Edge
  2. Cloud Syncing:
    • iCloud -> OneDrive
  3. Note Taking:
    • Apple Notes -> OneNote
  4. Journaling:
  5. Password Managing:
    • iCloud Keychain; Browser Password Managers; Pass-coded Notes -> Bitwarden

The first three of those items went from first-party Apple to first-party Microsoft solutions. While there are good things to be say about relying on third-party solutions (like Firefox and Evernote) since they’re more cross-platform, I think I made the most pragmatic choices.

Overall, I’m trying to compute in a way that makes the most sense now (I’m even editing this post on my Chromebook), and of course it’s nice to freshen things up a bit. I’ll point out that my core or basic utilities like email, contacts, reminders, and calendaring remain with Apple’s solutions since they work best with iPhone – it’s practical. Also, when so much communication and stuff (iMessage, FaceTime, Find My) is tied to my phone’s contacts, changing isn’t really an option.

Use the best tools for the job, keep things simple when possible, and stay practical. In reality, striving too much for the ideal sometimes proves less than ideal.

Eero 6 Overview

At last, my atrociously slow home internet finally gets some kind of boost, but not in speed. It got a quality of life update, if you will, with a new mesh wifi router. On sale, the little white module is already a huge smile-inducing device because it makes managing my household’s numerous devices far easier than before.

Between 7 family members, there’s a bunch of bandwidth-hogging gadgets in our home, all vying for what little speed there is overall. FTC defined “broadband?” — HA! — not out here in the rural country, at least not yet…someday. No, we have DSL, which is a good upgrade when you’re coming from dial-up internet in the late 90’s. But that was over 20 years ago…I might be bitter about it.

This is the eero 6 I got.

I work from home these days, which is tough with slow internet. To pull it off, my wife and kids typically tether their devices to their phones’ mobile hotspots. And if my work laptop slows to a crawl, I must hunt down someone’s device and turn off its wifi.

But with the eero 6 router, no more!

Behold the almighty Pause button.

Now I simply open an app on my phone where I can easily pause any devices — one at a time — or I can pause several devices at once through a profile (group), which for us is a person and any devices associated to them. So I can easily put the brakes on any devices I think might be sucking bandwidth – you can even set pausing to a schedule. It gets easier too; in the Activty tab, I can view all data usage of all connected devices in one handy list to see how much data each one is using in real-time (updated every 5 seconds), and the list is sorted by percentage; the device using the most bandwidth jumps to the top of the list, letting me quickly and easily know what gadget should be paused (or even blocked altogether).

Live data activity view.

The app sports other handy features too, to which more can be added via a subscription service, but I am more than happy with what’s included with the initial purchase.

The eero 6 wifi router I bought has the newest wifi 6 spec, which apparently makes my brand new gaming laptop very happy, as it now surfs the web more easily. The eero can handle 75 devices — great for a big family like mine. And it’s future proof for speed, so once we finally — someday — get fiber installed at our house, we will see all the speed we might pay for.

If you’ve been thinking about upgrading to a mesh network, I would recommend it, though because our house is so small, we only needed one router, so I can’t comment on how well the eero hands off devices between routers. From my research, though, if you need more than one eero, then you don’t want to buy the dual-band version like I did, you will want the tri-band version.

Wifi network management
at your fingertips.

With dual-band, the router automatically routes your devices to the best network frequency (2.4GHz or 5GHz). While some may need the ability to dedicate certain devices to a certain spectrum, I like that I don’t have to worry about anything and just let the eero do its smart stuff. But with tri-band, the eeros gain an additional frequency that, to my understanding, is dedicated for device hand-off between routers. Without this extra band, routing might get congested or confused. And of course, your milage may very.

I hope this brief overview of the eero 6 wifi router is helpful to you. Thanks for reading.