Category: Blog (page 1 of 7)

David’s Hyper Scheduling Workflow

David Sparks has been experimenting with Hyper-Scheduling for quite some time now, it started on his podcast Free Agents and trickled into the new podcast he has with Rose Orchard called Automators. It’s no surprise he has now made it into a Workflow.

If you aren’t sure what Hyper-Scheduling is, it’s blocking out time in a calendar as a means to plan out your day. Instead of making a task list and working around that, you instead block out time for the important projects on that list and stick to a plan. The difference is that the when is in tandem with the what.

How it Works

David created a very nice video tutorial on how the Workflow is made, explaining all the different things you can put in each event, and so on.

You can download the Workflow here if you don’t want to make one yourself.

I am going to start giving Hyper-Scheduling a shot as I think it may help me keep on task more often and make things a little more structured. This Workflow is a good jumping off point for me, and I think it may be for you too if you have been wanting to try out Hyper-Scheduling yourself.

If you have any tweaks or changes you would make in this Workflow let me know on Twitter.

The Power of iOS Keyboard Shortcuts

Using keyboard shortcuts on iOS allows you to fly through the tedious tasks of editing, formatting, and moving items to where you want them to be.

Since I use the Smart Keyboard with my iPad a vast majority of the time I am working on it, keyboard shortcuts have been my bread and butter. To not use them means I have to tap on the screen to modify what it is I am working on. It adds friction to my work. Not being able to use the most efficient way of doing things on my devices can drive me up a wall, and I know I am not alone in this.

Which is why keyboard shortcuts can be so useful. Shortcuts isn’t a word that is arbitrary on this scenario, it really is a literal shortcut to get to your destination faster, and who doesn’t want that? But not all apps are created equal when it comes to shortcuts.

Who Does Keyboard Shortcuts Right

Before I start to go over the things that needs work, I have to give credit where credit is due. That credit goes to the 3rd party developers that embrace those that are using a keyboard with their iPads and making it a staple in their workflows. I have two specific apps in mind, but they are by no means the only ones doing great work for the keyboard users on iOS.

Ferrite

The quintessential example of getting keyboard shortcuts right on iOS is that of Ferrite which I adore. Not only can do everything from a keyboard, but you can even assign each action to the key binding of your choosing.

In fact, Ferrite offers a lot of great presets for popular digital audio workstations (DAWs) for those that are familiar with them. For me, I have a custom key binding as I use an app that does not have presets built into Ferrite called Hindenburg.

Things 3

Cultured Code came out with Things 3 a while back, and I wasn’t happy with the space keyboard shortcuts when it shipped, but that all changed when they released version 3.6 in May. That update offered what they consider “Desktop-Class Productivity”. Nearly everything can be on with just the keyboard on the iPad app of Things.

This was when I finally felt like Things 3 was now ready to ship, and I began to use it as my task manager of choice from there on. One thing I want to note though is that Things only shows the keyboard actions you can do in the current situation you are in so you won’t see the plethora of keyboard shortcuts in the pop up box when you hold the Command key. If you want to see all of the shortcuts available Cultured Code has a great list on their blog.

Problems With iOS Keyboard Shortcuts

Some apps provide a vast array of commands and shortcuts to allow iPad users to use their keyboard 100% of the time. Others though, they don’t think much of the keyboard users. Which brings me to the first speed bump in iOS for keyboard users: you are at the mercy of developers to provide the shortcuts you need.

Developers Have to Do All The Heavy Lifting

This is not to condemn developers for this problem, many developers often have plans to integrate shortcuts in their apps in the future. The only problem is time and resources. Many of my favorite apps. like Drafts 5 for example, are developed solely by one person and they can’t always get to secondary things like shortcuts immediately after launch. They have other things to worry about like making sure the app doesn’t crash regularly and the features that people want the most is what goes to the topi of the to-do list. Which makes things like keyboard shortcuts fall lower and lower on the list of priorities.

But this isn’t just a developer issue, this is also an issue that Apple can help in with their iOS operating system as a whole.

Lack of Apple Subtleties

For instance, it can be hard to tell which app is currently connected to the keyboard.

When you work in split view it can be hard to tell which app has the keyboard connected to it, there is no kind of indication outside of a blinking cursor if you are using a text editor that supports that.

One thing I have noticed that helps is if you quickly tap on the app you want to use the keyboard with. This isn’t ideal, but it is the best option I have found that works with iOS 11 as of now (and the iOS 12 beta as well).

A simple indication of what app is currently active could solve this problem easily, and I think iOS needs this in their software.

Final Thoughts

The keyboard for iOS isn’t perfect, but if you implement more keyboard shortcuts it can help you do your work even a little bit better. One thing I tell all of the people I know who are using an iPad with a keyboard is to press and hold the Command key in the apps they use, because it will show all of the keyboard shortcuts you can do.

In the future I would love Apple to really make it clear that you can do all of the things you want from a MacBook in an iPad, including keyboard shortcuts. If Apple embraces the fact that this touch device is also a true laptop replacement, they need to start with they keyboard and the software behind it.

In a perfect world Apple would make everything possible on an iPad also an option on the keyboard. Until then though, I will just have to contact the developers, who work so hard on these apps, and ask them politely to embrace the keyboard like so many of us have.

If you are looking for other keyboard shortcuts, check out Apple’s documentation online and see some of the things you can do on iOS with a keyboard.

Our Favorite Workflows – ASoG 12

Christopher and I decided to talk about some of the things we love about Workflow (soon to be Siri Shortcuts), and what automation could mean for iOS users down the road. This was one of my favorite topics to date and I can’t wait to share what else we have coming on the podcast with automation.

Listen Here

The Future of Tablet Habit (Part 2)

So by now you should have heard about the changes I have made to the change to use a MacBook Pro as my main device. I could go into the reasons why, but I want to talk more about what this means for Tablet Habit. In a recent episode of A Slab of Glass I talked about the possibility of moving the website away from Tablet Habit and into something a little less specific.

Thankfully, Mike Rapin and Christopher Lawley talked me off this branding ledge.If you haven’t listened to this episode I really recommend you do! We dive deep into my issue, but also talk more broadly about things like imposter syndrome and the importance of consistency; which brings me to my next announcement.

I plan to write on Tablet Habit daily every Monday through Friday starting this upcoming Monday July 9th. This has been something I have been wanting to do for a while and when I saw that I have been writing on here for over 6 months (it will be a year in October) I knew I wanted to step up my writing and make more consistent content. This venture wasn’t something I thought I would love so much, I mainly did it to take a break from podcasting, but this has been a lot of fun and very exciting to do for the better part of a year. Blogging is something that I think is in my DNA.

I love to share content and write about the things I am passionate about, but seeing people read my work and go out of their way to reach out to me on Twitter has been humbling and exhilarating.

The future of Tablet Habit may not be just about iPads, but it really never was. It was a place for me to share my thoughts on Apple, iOS, productivity, and now macOS as well. These are things I am passionate about and something that I see myself doing regularly for a long time. So while Tablet Habit isn’t an iPad only blog like I intended when I started, I think this change in the narrative is something that is not only going to bring more value to you, but also something that is more fulfilling for me.

I thank you for reading and I hope this change is something that you are as excited about as me. If you have anything you want to talk to me about feel free to leave a comment below, find me on Twitter, or shoot me an email. Until then, I will see you all Monday!

A Very Special Episode

After buying a new MacBook Pro, Mike Rapin and Christopher Lawley decided to have an “intervention” for me.

We recorded a podcast and this is what came from it. We dive deep into consistency and dealing with imposter syndrome. It gets real. I really hope you enjoy this podcast because it was a lot of fun making this one!

Listen here

The Future of Tablet Habit (Part 1)

I have been going through a bit of a crisis with Tablet Habit lately.

This all started with me wondering what the Mac would be like for me a few months ago. I did an experiment using the Mac exclusively for a week, and I didn’t hate it. In fact I found that a lot of the things I was doing on the iPad could be done in either less time or less hassle than on an Mac. It was a surprising twist, but I decided to stick with the iPad to stay “on brand.”

This was a mistake.

I put the device first and the work second. I wanted to be an iPad only person so bad that I sacrificed some productivity and efficiency to stay “on brand.” I felt like this was only an iPad blog and if I went away from that I would be doing everyone a disservice. Except now that I knew the Mac was something that I could use to get work done there was this voice in my head telling me to go back to it for some things.

I began to feel like a fraud, a trickster, and a liar to the people who decided to read my blog regularly as an iPad user. But I knew that the Mac was something that I wanted to have in my life. It made me happy when working on the things that mattered to me.

So I made a purchase.

 

So, I bought a new MacBook Pro. I know that some people may think that I made a bad decision not waiting until September to see if new Macs come out, but I am happy with my purchase and I feel that this Mac will get me by the next several years without issue.

I loved this computer the minute I took it out of the plastic and cracked it open. The keyboard is actually really enjoyable, the Space Gray color is beautiful, and the power this computer has is incredible. I love my Mac, and I know that I made the right decision getting one.

My co-host to Getting Caught Up, Mike Rapin, chimed in on my purchase. To you give you some background, I am notorious for starting new projects or jumping the gun on things and this was something I mentioned to Mike earlier in that week. I knew I was going to be getting this computer I just didn’t tell him.

Christopher Lawley, my co-host for A Slab of Glass, also knows of my woes with the iPad and me wanting to do more on my Mac. In the conversations we had I also expressed my interest in changing the name of the blog to something other than Tablet Habit, but clearly they felt that that was a bad idea.

The two of them, who I call my friends, wanted to make sure that I didn’t do anything stupid like changing the name of my website again. They knew that I felt like an imposter using a Mac and writing on a website called Tablet Habit. It was like having a Star Trek blog and writing about how Star Wars is a great series as well. But it wasn’t just those two who felt that I shouldn’t change the name.

But when your friends are persistent on making sure you don’t do something silly they make it known.

 

So we sat down and spent almost an hour recording a special episode together where both Christopher and Mike tell me why they feel so strongly on me maintaining the name of Tablet Habit and what I should do next.

So, to avoid spoiling it for you, I will refrain from posting the second part of this journey until after it is posted on Thursday.

I will say Tablet Habit isn’t about the tools I use. It used to be, but it isn’t anymore. It is about something much bigger than what tools I use to get my work done. It is about the work itself.

You see, blogging has always been a narrative format to me, and this is just part of my narrative. Tablet Habit was originally meant to be about the iPad, how I use it and how others can use it as their main device, but that changed over time. It became less about the devices and more about what you can do on those devices. It was less about tools, and more about results.

Until then, I can’t wait to show you what we have in store for you all. I am so excited to share this podcast with you all in a couple of days!

Bear Notes and Things 3 Collaboration – Workflow Wednesday

Bear Tools Built by the Community:

If you use the excellent Things 3 to organize your tasks, and Bear to organize notes, a clever workflow can turn them into the proverbial peanut butter and chocolate.

(they go really well together)

Created by Craig Eley, this workflow will:

  • Create a new Bear note
  • Ask you for a note title
  • Create a new task in Things using that title
  • Add a link to the related Bear note

It’s a powerful, quick way to use both apps to tackle your projects, thoughts, and just about anything else.

This seemed a bit redundant when I looked at this the first time. Then I got to thinking about all my tasks that have a long list of sub tasks, like my grocery list. So with that I decided to give this workflow a whirl because I have been wanting to make Bear a more useful app for me.

This workflow is incredibly simple, but it works for me to get a task in Things as quickly as possible and then use that x-callback-URL to then get into Bear to expand on my new note/list.

How it Works

After running the workflow and making a title for the note, it creates a Bear note with the given input I wrote down in Workflow. Afterwards I am presented with the new task in Things 3 and I can open the note directly thanks to the automated link created in the task’s note. From there I am ready to start listing all of my needed groceries.

So now, instead of a list of every single thing I need at the grocery store clogging up my task manager, I now only have a link of the Bear note where I can switch modes in my brain and start to focus on the task at hand, rather than the tasks I need to handle.

I plan to play around with this a bit more and see if there is anything I can do to make this workflow even more powerful for things like blog posts and podcast show notes.

If you want to see some other amazing automation tools you can use to make Bear an even more powerful notes app you can do so on Bear’s blog.

The Outpost Show 16: ‘A Slab of Keyboards’

I had the opportunity to be on Daryl Baxter‘s podcast The Outpost Show. We talked about my setup, what the future of the iPads will be with iOS 12 and Project Marzipan, and we spent time talking about my favorite topic: keyboards.

Daryl’s show reminds me a lot of The Talk Show with John Gruber, it has a general topic but it also isn’t afraid to expand on things off the agenda. It was a ton of fun to be on this show. If you want to listen to my episode, you can do so here. Honestly though I just want more people to listen to The Outpost Show in general.

Drafts 5 Workflow – Workflow Wednesday

I found this Workflow late last night and it’s golden. With this you can now send text into Drafts 5 with Workflow. Rosemary Orchard really nails it with this Workflow and you all should read more of her!

Rose Orchard at Rosemary Orchard:

Workflow has built in support for Drafts 4 – but no actions for Drafts 5. This workflow is intended to replace some of that functionality. You can share text to it, get text from the clipboard, type text in, or modify the text on the keyboard to start.

If you want to have more info on how to use this find her article in the link above for a more step-by-step walkthrough.

You can get the workflow here: Drafts 5

How I Handle Stress and Overwhelm

A friend of mine recently took a new job, and in a message to me said that they were worried about not liking the new position. Their reasoning wasn’t something that I would consider “normal” like the management sucks, the pay isn’t great, or their coworkers sucked. This was something more personal.

The reason they gave was because they were stressed and felt overwhelmed every single day at their new job. This got me thinking about those two words. “Stress” and “Overwhelm” are two very different words if you ask me.

To me, being stressed is the pressure you feel when you have a lot on your plate, it is when you are in the “busy season” of your annual work year. Being overwhelmed is when you have that kind of stress and then can’t find a way to make it all work.

I know that the idea of stress being anything other than negative sounds odd, but for me it is a means to push myself. My experience with stress and overwhelm isn’t something new. I have been working in television since I was in high school in some form, and if you ask me that is one of the more stressful jobs you can have. Every single job I have had in television, whether it was in high school, college (both unpaid and volunteered), or professionally, I have encountered these feelings. I felt this waterfall of stress wash over me like a hurricane. I worried it was too much for me to handle.

For those of you who don’t work in a high-stress environments like TV news, it can be a hellstorm that never ends. Deadlines need to be hit, things need to be working properly (there are a ton of technical pieces between recording the video on a camera and then broadcasting it over the air), and you have to know what to do before it even happens. Broadcasting isn’t for everyone, but I know these kinds of environments is where I thrive. I have known it for the better part of a decade.

High-stress, time-sensitive environments makes me feel at home. It is something that I not only thrive in, but is normal for me. Which can be a gift and a curse at the same time. Working in environments where at the end of each day you can’t believe you managed to get things to go as well as they did, the mundane can be agonizing. My fiancé, who has been with me for over 6 years, knows the naked fact that I don’t know how to relax.

I don’t know what came first, my love for high-stress working environments, or my inability to deal with downtime. For instance, when I am spending time with her, or just with our friends in general, she know the gears in my head are always turning.

“What could I be doing for my work that I am not doing right now?”

“Should I start this new project?”

“What about that thing I got in my email? I really need to get back to the guy who emailed me about that one thing.”

This has zero to do with the company I am with, I love all my friends and family, and I want to be present with them. But that isn’t always possible with me. It feels as if my wiring is a bit off because I prefer to be working on things alone in a room with a keyboard and iPad over relaxing and putting my feet up after my full-time job. Even if there is a little bit of gas left in me, I have to keep going until I hit empty.

I am what some people call a “workaholic”. Now, I know that I need to work on this, but I also know that I love all the projects and work I do outside of my full-time job. I love having two podcasts, a blog, a weekly email newsletter, and a slack channel that people can connect with me on 24/7. All of these things make me happy, and the culmination of them all gives me that sense of high-stress I thrive in.

But this is all about stress, not overwhelm. I rarely felt overwhelm in the multitude of tasks and projects I had to do at work and on the side. The bottom never fell out from under me when I was handling all these things.

I wasn’t always like this though, in fact I was a person that was very hard to motivate to do anything. I was always creative, but I never sought to pursue my creative ideas into something tangible. I was overwhelmed.

Instead of working on things that I could do, I would sit around and make lists of dreams I had, goals I wanted to accomplish, and ideas for creative projects. I was just creating this long list of things I either couldn’t, or didn’t want to pursue. I couldn’t because I either didn’t have people willing to work with me on it, or I didn’t want to because that involved a lot of work. Work I didn’t know was possible from me. The list grew as if it had Giantism. This list haunted me for quite some time as a quiet nagging thought that always itched, but could never be scratched. Eventually that list became the size of a short novel.

With all these dreams and goals I had, I eventually began to realize all the small things I could be doing but that I’m not doing. This list of things I am not doing became my true source of overwhelm. It was a list hanging over me like a boulder 20 stories above me wrapped in twine, ready to break any second. I had the grandiose ideas to make films, write a book, finish a movie script, and create something beloved by all. If only I was good enough. If only I had what it takes. I shouldn’t even bother trying, I will only hate it. This was my feedback loop, and it was the source of my overwhelm and stress simultaneously.

This is what some call Imposter Syndrome, and it is a hell of a thing to deal with. You feel you are just at the cusp of being “found out,” that your talents are all lies, and no matter what people say they are just being nice and not actually meaning it. It is like having the ability to accomplish anything you want, but you quit before you even start. Imposter Syndrome is a term I use all too often, and something I constantly battle with, but when I finally get something past that gate it becomes the only thing I think about.

Inspiration comes to me from many places, much like you I assume. Whether it is a podcast, TV show, movie, or even something organic that comes to my head, if that something gets started in any minor way there’s nothing to get in my way.

I think this has a lot to do with the workaholic mentality I have, I get a project and I immediately begin working on it. I outline my goals, I write out my plans and I start working on some minor things. Next thing I know it has been 5 hours and I haven’t eaten anything all day. Rinse and repeat.

That is when my feedback loops come in:

“Geez, I have a lot on my plate with this new project, I think I should probably slow down.”

“But if I slow down I won’t get it done.”

“But if I don’t I am going to get burnt out, I really should stop.”

“Jeff, you’re so close to getting this part done, just get through this part and take a break.”

“Oh man, that part is awesome, I really see how this will incorporate with this other part I still need to work on.”

“Let’s just get this part done.”

“Man, I really need to slow down I have a lot on my plate.”

Rinse and repeat.

Eventually this gave me that stress I was talking about earlier. it becomes the drive I need to keep going, but this is a double-edged sword. The more stress I get the more work I want to get done, but the more work I have to do the more stressed I get. It was a balancing act to keep myself driven with high-stress environments but not too stressed to where I get overwhelmed and then give up. I needed that sweet spot.

I am like a dog that has a machine to throw the ball every time I put it in the bucket. I keep going and going until I am physically and mentally exhausted. It’s unhealthy, but I am yet to find something that is a good alternative for me.

Eventually I do get a moment of clarity and decide to take a break and make this work part of my routine rather than trying to sprint through an entire marathon. That is when I start planning out the rest of this project, bit by bit and line by line.

Every small task is added to the list, some get sub-tasks, and I eventually spit out a 100+ task list that I immediately get overwhelmed about. I am getting that waterfall of overwhelmedness again and I don’t think I can keep going with the project.

At this point, after everything I have done, I make a decision to either kill this project and do it another time (aka never) or I persevere and press onward because that is what I should do. What do I do to determine what projects to keep or kill? Whatever makes me excited even when I am not working on it. That is what I want in something I work on, consistent delight and excitement.

If there is something that I am working on that I feel has lost its luster, I always have the thought of killing the project to work on something new. This has burned me before, with constant changes every few months because I “lost interest.” With that, I always tell myself that one day I will find that thing that makes me feel like nothing is work, but I am coming to realize that isn’t something that happens often.

Even writing for Tablet Habit has felt like “work” in some instances, and I would be lying if I said that I haven’t thought about killing this blog to make time for something new. But when I have those thoughts, something that I rarely do with my other projects happens. I think about the things that I love about this and how many things I have gained from this. The pros outweighs the cons tenfold and that is what I need to light a fire under me and continue to make things worthwhile.

So, what does this mean for me going forward? I have learned how to make sure that I am working on things that I love, and kill the things I don’t, but not without a serious look at the pros and cons of the things I do in the projects I consider killing. If I didn’t do that I would just be a conveyor belt of projects that start with a a fiery flame but fizzle out spectacularly.

But I started talking about stress and overwhelm, so let me circle back on that in relation to the projects I work on. The projects I work on can be stressful at times, but as I said before I thrive in that kind of environment. I am able to make that stress something that pushes me to do bigger and better things than I have before.

However, when I no longer feel that delight, or excitement I look at all of these things causing me stress and no longer use it as a means to push myself. It flips on me and becomes a source of overwhelm. This is when the things that I am working on becomes “work” and no longer becomes fun.

For me, I can’t keep killing projects as soon at the going gets tough, I have done that for too long and, frankly, I am tired of it. So, when I think about ending something that I have invested a lot of my time and energy on I no longer hastily halt all operations. Instead, I plan to really look over the pros and cons of those projects and make my decision then.

Whether this will work or not is still to be decided but I will say that I feel that I am on a better foundation than I was before I started thinking about this after my friend came to me for advice. So if you feel stress, use it. If you feel overwhelm, look into what is the root of this is and use that to make a decision on what should happen about it.

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