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.

iPhone Interactive Widgets Hide In Plain Sight

Redesigned Widgets came to iOS 14, but for all their benefits, they still lack perhaps the best part about a widget – interactive functionality. Currently, Widgets provide glanceable information, which is nice, but it would be better if a few basic functions were available directly on a Widget. Such utility is already proven as interactive “widgets” do, in fact, exist currently on iPhone.

The best example for an interactive widget would be the Music app using playback buttons. Coincidentally, the app already has 3 different sizes of interactive ”widgets” in iOS; they’re just not part of the widget library. All three “widgets” have basic playback buttons and are, actually, Controls.

The first example is the Now Playing Control ”widget” in Control Center. While using the Music app, it features an interactive play/pause button and forward and backward buttons, which change to seconds-skip buttons when using the Podcasts app. A fourth button reveals an audio output button.

The small Now Playing Control in Control Center on iOS resembles a 2×2 widget.
The Batteries and Music Widget bear striking resemblance to the Radios and Now Playing Controls.

The small Now Playing Control next to the Radios Control resembles a 2×2 Widget, which is clearly evident when compared with the 2×2 Music Widget next to the Batteries Widget.

The 2×2 Music Widget can obviously incorporate playback controls. Of course with a bigger widget, more controls could be utilized. A simple example of this is, again, the Now Playing Control in Control Center. Tap and Hold the Control to reveal a larger 4×6 Control with interactive sliders and buttons.

The 4×6 Now Playing Control looks very nice – love those interactive buttons.

A good example of an interactive 4×4 Music Widget is the 4×4 Now Playing Control found on the Notification Panel.

The 4×4 Now Playing Control in the Notification Panel has tappable buttons – very useful!

These interactive controls easily demonstrate how Apple could implement useful buttons on the next versions of Widgets, and I hope they do. Not only is adding controls to widgets feasible, their current implementation suggests that Apple may intend to eventually tailor these features for future Widget iterations.

Bringing controls to Widgets, on both iPhone and iPad, will make Apple’s future mobile devices more functional and more friendly. I encourage Apple to make it happen.

Day One Journal Has A New Owner

Last month, I caught the news that award winning Day One journal app was acquired by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress. My reaction was, “Whoa, really?!” Then I realized the two have something great in common: the regular writing of words. Blogging and journaling are similar, which should be no surprise on this site.

My current journaling home, outside of Jason Journals, is the simple Apple Notes app. For my needs, Apple’s elegant solution is enough. I’ve benefited over the years from journaling, both the private and public types. And in my endeavors to record my introspective thoughts and fluctuating feels, I’ve tried a few other journaling apps, including Day One. The recent news of Day One being bought caused me to give it another look, so I downloaded it to my iPhone.

After installing it, I confirmed what I had recalled from previous times when I had tried the app. It’s elegant and easy to use. It also has a feature or two that I wish Apple Notes had. But for me, Day One is overkill because it has a lot of extra capabilities via buttons front and center, which appear like clutter to my mind. This hinders me from journaling because of increased friction. The app is robust with features, yet I find it’s too much. I just need a blank sheet, a cursor, and a minimal amount of text formatting (and also, of course, passcode locking).

I intend to keep journaling in my comfort zone of Apple notes. But I do have some questions and concerns about WordPress’ acquisition of Day One:

  1. Will the premium subscription plan of Day One somehow be included or bundled in a WordPress subscription?
  2. Will Day One remain end to end encrypted?
  3. Will Day One suffer from feature bloat with the addition of integration options for publishing journal entries directly to WordPress?
  4. Will the WordPress app for iOS include new options for Day One?

Depending on the answers, I may grow interested in using Day One. Its rich feature set, though a bit much for me, could become more useful in ways that suit my needs. And I’m sure I could acclimate to the app. Also, I don’t know how Tumblr has done, another acquisition of the WordPress company, but I trust Automattic will be a good steward of Day One.

For now, the purchase of the Day One journal is noted, and I’ll keep using the Notes app to journal.

Evernote Is Ever Better

We live in a world of mobile apps. Many companies make different types; pick your favorite! As a nerd, I like trying out apps. And I’ve flip-flopped again. In search of the ‘perfect’ Notes app, I went from Evernote to Keep and…I’m back on Evernote!

Evernote_Lockup_Primary_RGB

Noteworthy Return

First of all, I had rediscovered Evernote last October with enthusiasm. Read about that here. Then I kept being drawn to Google Keep. Check it out.

But now I’ve been spurred to switch back to Evernote full-time. The catalyst was the company announcing its totally new app for iOS.

Naturally, this nerd took note.

Looking at Evernote again, I liked what I saw! There were some new-to-me things:

  1. The web interface looks and works better than ever. That’s not hyperbole.
  2. The Android app widgets are great.

Web App

Since refinding Evernote last year, I knew the company was updating the browser interface. Yet it had a few issues – growing pains – so I felt I couldn’t rely on it. That was a bummer. But now it looks like all those issues are fixed; the web-app experience on my Chromebook has been stable and consistent.

The refreshing layout is attractive: clean, elegant, and simple enough. And its features are great too. For example, it has basic text editing options that Google Keep lacks. Also, it has…folders! Of course, they’re called, “Notebooks.”

One of the biggest yet most basic reasons I’m back on Evernote is to utilize its folder system to store my notes. You know, because – a place for everything and everything in its place. The approach is simple: notes in notebooks (and notebooks in stacks if you like).

Also, there’s a tagging system, so besides organizing notes into broad notebooks, I can label notes with more detail. This lets me sort stuff into categories and sub-categories. And it comes in handy for filtering or searching, so I can find the notes I need.

Tags and Notebooks help me order my mixed thoughts; they’re a sweet combo!

In contrast, Google Keep has only a labeling system to sort notes – no folders at all. It’s less ordered and looks like a big spread-out pile of colored post-it notes. I get it, but it’s just not how my brain works. I like simple, but not oversimplified.

Widgets

On my Android smartphone, the Google Keep widget is practical but ugly. While appearance is subjective, I think there’s some objective fact to this. The translucency, tight text, and limited empty space all make it look like a phone book clipping (remember the Yellow Pages?)

On the other hand, the Evernote widget is pleasing to view. Not only does it look very nice, it’s highly customizable! You can tailor your Evernote widget in a number of ways.

For example, besides choosing what notebooks you want to see or save notes to, you can change the widget color, which action buttons appear, arrange their order, and show/hide images or tags.

Web Clipper

The Web App and Widgets are fantastic. And I’ll add one more thing – Web Clipper. It’s just awesome! Web surfin’ and note nerdin’ are super nice with this powerful and elegant capability. It’s easy to learn and use, giving you several options to capture content from a website and make a note of it.

Grab a whole site, grab only a windowed portion of it, or just grab the link to it. And you can add tags and remarks right in the clipper window. The clipper makes it easier to note things without jumping between two apps.

evernoteProduct-UI-Google-Pixel

#Everbetter

Evernote is a company dedicated to one thing – notes! It’s their singular focus, so they aim to excel and achieve success at it. All their eggs are in the notes basket; they don’t want to drop it.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft offer fine Notes apps, but note-taking is not their bread and butter. These big companies want to offer everything so they can be your one-stop provider, trapping you in their ecosystems – walled gardens. It works, but I think it’s easier to trust a company and service that’s purpose built to provide the thing you need.

Evernote’s popularity and utility have fluctuated over the years. But course correction began in January 2019. Ian Small, CEO, has led the company on a huge and sincere effort to fix things for the better. And for the future.

There’s even a dedicated behind-the-scenes video series on YouTube that shows what and how Evernote is improving; I enjoyed it!

Entrusting your personal thoughts to a notes app and service is as important as backing up your kids’ pictures to a photos app and service.

Evernote’s committed effort to earning my trust, and my notes, is noteworthy.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

The Mac Gets Mobile

Apple did their annual thing last week where they announced a bunch of cool new stuff. It’s aimed at developers – which I am not – but gives hints for consumers down the road. Having been an Apple consumer, and being a tech-geek in general, I checked out some of the new stuff from WWDC 2020. And do you know what? I think Apple is about to sell a lot more Macs.


The Mac

The Mac is becoming more like the iPad in look and feel, getting iOS apps to run directly on it – this is big news!

The Mac was a pro computer back in the day, more niche than mainstream. But over time, it became popular with average consumers thanks to the iPhone’s halo effect.

Now this turn from OS X to OS 11 signals a more intentional push towards those same consumers. The Mac, as it was known, is fading away. Commence funeral for OS X.


The last Mac I owned was a 2009 MacBook running OS X Mountain Lion (bought used in 2012). I had longed for a Mac ever since I got my first iPod touch. But there was one thing in particular that struck me about Mountain Lion, which made me determined to get one: it gained iPad/iPhone apps!

At that time, I had a first-gen iPad. And the Mac was going to get Mac versions of iPad apps: Reminders, Notes, and iMessage! When I saw that, I knew I had to get a Mac.

Here we are 8 years later, and the Mac continues to gain iOS looks and features. But instead of Mac versions or emulated apps, OX 11 gets the actual iOS apps themselves, running natively. The more I think about this, the more game changing it seems. Initiate game-changing sequence.


Software Sells Hardware

All the apps you want to use are mobile apps on your phone. Now those same apps will be on the Mac. I believe that’s going to sell a lot more Macs!

The Apple brand is already aspirational, prestigious – a status symbol. Yet I think iPhone apps on the Mac will make it even more broadly appealing.

On top of that, I think developers are going to find new ways to leverage iPhone apps to run on both the iPhone and the Mac in such a way that the Mac instance will have extra features and an optimized interface. In other words, this is going to reinvigorate Mac development and thus the Mac itself. Queue Mac sales. 


Android Apps On Chrome OS

This has happened already on the Google side. A few years ago, Chromebooks, once thought to only run Chrome, gained the Google Play Store, full of Android apps. Suddenly, a Chromebook could run more than just web apps; it gained mobile apps.

Of course, how well the app amalgamation is executed is crucial. It took a couple years for the ChromeOS/Android mash-up to smooth out. It’s not perfect, but it works.

A Chromebook and Android phone are my everyday devices. The core ChromeOS experience is untarnished by the addition of the Google Play Store and Android apps. The way I see it, Android apps are simply a bonus to the system.

I opt for web apps in the browser first and foremost. If there’s something lacking, then I look for a solution in the Google Play Store. So 95% of what I use is web native, the other 5% is picked up by Android apps. The few Android apps on my Chromebook offer a better experience than their web counterparts. Having this option is nice! 


Mac With Mobile

Likewise, mobile apps will benefit the Mac. But I think iPhone apps will become more than just a bonus. Due to Apple’s tight integration of their hardware and software, the latest developer efforts make the Mac poised for more powerful and integral iPhone/Mac apps.

Looked at another way, a capable full-fledged Mac app will be a super-powered version of an iPhone app, and the iPhone version of that Mac app will be a simplified mobile instance with its core functionality.


The Big Picture

Apple’s stuff in general is very good. I was all-in before. Their ecosystem of integrated hardware and software sets the standard. I’ve used all of Apple’s native first-party apps on iPhone and iPad with iCloud as the backbone. I used their media services: Apple Music, Apple Books, Apple News, etc.

These days I’m all-in with Google. It’s a great ecosystem of web apps that run on ChromeOS and Android. As much as I like my Android phone apps being available on my Chromebook with a touch-screen, I see advantages to iPhone apps on a Mac.

WWDC 2020 has caused me to take another look outside my Google camp. When I survey the whole of Apple’s ecosystem, it is compelling. The way Apple software and hardware compliments each other across devices is impressive. But Apple is not without its flaws and costs.

Whether I ever switch back to Apple is anyone’s guess. And in any case, Apple’s future looks shiny with the advent of iOS apps on the Mac.

This new era of the Mac is one to keep an eye on.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!