Drop your apps, save time and become productive

As I have mentioned in other articles I am a really really good procrastinator. If there is a way for me to loose track of what I am supposed to do, I follow that way.

Or at least, I did. But since I started to work with time blocking I actually spend less time planning, pondering and checking out if there might possibly be ANOTHER app to try instead of the ones I already use, and instead focus on what I am supposed to do. I actually got the idea from among others a guy called Carl Pullein (you can find some of his texts here at medium.com ) and I adapted it to may own situation.

I also took a look at all the apps I tend to gather on my laptop, and which I jumped between without getting anything done. I tried out a lot of email apps, some task managers and I just recently decided to drop all other notes apps for Apple Notes. Because I am in an Apple-only environment so I do not need ant cross platform solutions.

And now I have stripped down my use of apps to a minimum. Instead of focusing on apps I am focusing on writing. Befor installing an app I now think: do I really need all the bells and whistles that comes with it? And then I think do I really, really, REALLY need all the bells and whistles? So far the final answer has always been NO to all but Things3, which I prefer instead of Apple Reminders.

And by being so barebones in my choise of apps, I don’t have to fiddle around with them, I just write-if that is what I am supposed to do. To start with I use Apple Mail for my email. How I use it you can read in the article linked above. It is easy, it works on my iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and my MacBook Pro. You might say “Oh, but there is no snooze function”. No, that is correct. Since I don’t need it. If you snooze an email you actually haven’t acted on it, you only postponed it. How I work with email you can also read in the article. But basically I just have a folder I call “read later” where I put the emails I don’t want to answer now but don’t want to throw away. I also use the different flags to mark emails and I use smart folders. Other than that I just use the inbox zero ideas that you can find just by an easy web search. But if you don’t have the time for a search, Carl Pullein has a PDF you can download for free. Next: my task manager: Yes, this one is NOT one of Apple’s own apps, it is Things 3 by CulturedCode. Why I landed on this is the fact that I like the simplicity of it, and yet it is more powerful than most. I explained in the article above. As for note taking I have dropped Evernote and gone all in on Apple Notes. This is a nowadays very competent app which I can use on my Mac, iPhone and iPad. Unfortunately it is not available on Apple watch, but then I never write notes on the watch anyway. The one thing that actually made me dare to leave Evernote for Apple Notes was a video on Youtube by a guy called Lucas Acosta at Foojee. You can watch it here.

Since my main time killing is spent writing articles, short stories, novels and standup comedy, I of course have tried a zillion of writing apps aswell. For a while I landed on writing everything in Scrivener, but even though it is a very competent writing app, it is just TOO complicated for some of my stuff. So I now use Scrivener for my novels, and for articles and short stories I use iA Writer. That is the app I use to write this text. Ulysses is a fairly good alternative, but since they went subscription and with the ridiculous pricing they now have, I see no point in using that. Finally for the ideas I get when I am out walking I mostly just open Drafts and jot something down. It is available on Apple Watch aswell as on Mac, iPhone and iPad. And from my Mac I can then easily move those text snippets to whatever app or document I want it in.

So that is my way of clearing up my workdays. Everything starts with my calendar, then my Task manager and my email. And I have a clear schedule for every day of what to do. No need to go anal about it. I too sometimes don’t do the things that are listed in my time blocking scheme. I too sometimes move things to another day since I want to be with my family or I feel I need an extra hour for my writing instead of paying bills. But now I have a clear view of my days at least. Since I started with this a few months ago I have written and posted nine articles here at Medium.com (except for this one), four chapters on an crime novel (about 200 pages), forty minutes of standup and also built one new website where I post all my Swedish texts. If I can do it, so can you.

/Tomas A

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Tomas Ahlbeck

Tomas Ahlbeck

Swedish Standup comedian, writer & diabetic. Published a few books, done a few gigs. ‘Sweden’s own dirty uncle, brilliant writing and some very dark humour.”