Troy D Patterson
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Fri 28 Aug 2020
1:00 PM

Simplify the System

I’ve got a problem. I need to constantly change my system, change my apps and crank widgets. I can’t seem to help it and I know it’s worse than just trying to just do the work from memory. I’ve tried GTD, Zen, PARA and so many more. I’ve used Reminders, Todoist, Things and Omnifocus. I’ve put my notes in Evernote, Bear, Apple Notes and so many others.

Today I’m putting a flag in the ground and making a commitment to stick with one system and my current apps for at least the rest of 2020. That means sticking with a simple Collect, Organize and Do system using Things, Apple Notes and Apple Calendar. Any files will be saved to Files in iCloud, but those are few and limited in number.

Without a true hobby and feeling bored I once again this year have slipped into Productivity porn and tried several new systems and apps. I’ve spent hours moving my tasks to the new system because of the design, cross platform or because the shiny new iOS 14 beta only has widgets for Apple apps.

Once I’m in these new apps I remember functions, designs or something that then makes me regret the switch. So I spend a few days not using either system because I’m not happy with the one I’m using. Then I finally throw in the towel and go back.

I need to commit to getting tasks done and not just setting up a new app as the task. I’ve also started something I really enjoy lately which is woodworking. I’ve refinished a kitchen table and created three new wood desktops for my kids as they start the fall in remote school. This has made me really want to keep making things.

So often I start something like guitar lessons, story writing or learning a new language and even though the interest fades I try to force the hobby” into a habit”. I’m getting no joy from them but still pushing to do them. This quickly fades and I fall back to having only gaming to mostly fill my free time.

Having a hobby should be very big along with my increased reading lately as well. This summer has been tough as so much time was spent training for a marathon and with a wacky work from home schedule. I finally feel like I have something that might fill more of that free” time that I will limit my mindless productivity reading and might help me stay with the systems I have.




Wed 29 Jul 2020
10:52 AM

Needing a Detox

I think it’s time for another digital detox and Marie Kondo style clean out. I’m in love with the updates in iOS 14 so far and really liking using stock apps on my phone. I feel like using then has caused me to realize how much I’ve been using my phone lately including getting sucked into social media (mainly twitter) and getting distracted. I’ve been trying to read the book Happy by Derren Brown lately and just getting side tracked so often.

With everything happening so quickly I’ll get sucked down the rabbit hole of following news like the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Marlins team, what is going on with school’s this fall and so much more. I need to delete these apps first. I don’t need to fully block them as using safari for social media is to much of a chore and I don’t really use them.

I also need to delete YouTube on my phone. I’d like a way to save videos for later, but having the easy way to watch on my phone leads to distraction. I feel like I need to go stock as much as possible and remove most of these apps. The main entertainment” apps that remain should be Spotify, Overcast and maybe something like Audible. (I have a book unfinished on there). I also need to go through and delete some podcasts I follow. I to often skip that book in Audible to try and get through my podcast list which seems never ending.

I know what I need to do, but just need to actually do the review and then do it. Perhaps when I’m done I’ll post a review here. I’m also debating changing back to Reminders to use the iOS 14 widget, but I really want to hold out and see what Things has in store for a widget. I prefer paper and pen for tasks, but use my Task Manager for recurring tasks so I could live with Reminders, but the sync is not always as good as Things, so holding out for now.




Wed 8 Jul 2020
8:38 AM

Quarantine Continues

I’ve really lost count of the days, but it seems like the never ending cycle here. I do have a job that I have to go in twice a week for a few hours, but to a lab with no one else there and then come straight home. Top that with 3-4 work meetings a week and it’s work, but it’s not really the same. I don’t have a job that can get me 9-5 type work if we aren’t in the office and it’s starting to drag.

The weekends just feel like another day and the kids are even ready for school at this point. That said it seems highly unlikely we see anything like school, 40 hour work weeks or anything of the type this fall or maybe even by spring.

I live in one of the areas that is doing really good right now in flattening the curve, but even if the summer stays good I can’t believe especially with lightening restrictions we won’t see another wave of COVID-19 in the fall. As I saw a tweet this week made the statement If Harvard can’t afford to protect students and come back for live classes then how can any of our schools do it?”

I guess I’m a bit down on where this is headed in terms of getting to some normal”, but we are clearly on the road to 150K deaths in the US by the end of the summer and yesterday was the highest total deaths nationwide in over a month.

I’m mostly an introvert, but my wife will tell you that’s not completely true. I love to be around people and have them over our place. I’ve always been used to my best friends and family being at a distance, but I always try to have activities that involve those that live near by.

I’ve now relied more on the people farther away and I can clearly see as this has gone on how it’s starting to drain everyone. I can only imagine what another 12 months or so of this might be like for us all.

After depressing everyone here are my suggestions to stay sane in quarantine:

1. Get out and exercise” outside -

Run, bike or simply walk at least once a day. Get as much sun as you can and don’t sit to much

2. Eat as normal for you as you can -

Avoid to much snacking unless you can get yourself to eat healthy like fruit or nuts.

3. Do something where you can just chat with someone -

Video games, board games, movie watching apps and zooms are great, but make sure it’s not just about the activity. To often I’ve noticed while playing a competitive activity we only talk about what’s happening in the game. Make sure you talk about the weather, family, work, health, etc. This is the one I think I’m working on most and not taking things so seriously.




Tue 7 Jul 2020
12:55 PM

Learning to do things simply

I’ve tried every type of task manager, calendar and app or analogue system to get what needs doing. Some days it’s a reminder to just do the things simply that sounds the best.

Use a 3x5 card




Tue 9 Jun 2020
10:38 PM

Why I Won’t be Able to Leave iOS

I’ve discussed a few times when I gave up on Mac that I might even be considering going to Android for my next phone. I even placed the Pixel 4a at the top of my list of upcoming releases to keep an eye on, after the One Plus 8 released and was not what I had in mind. Since then I’ve been doing some work on my iPad and I’ve come to the realization that it would be nearly impossible to move to PC and Android exclusively. I’ll break down why in a few segments.

Apps

There is just something about a well made app and for many reasons the apps made exclusively for iOS just work and look so much better than those made for Android. I actually like the material design of Android but the independent designed apps made for Android fall so far below those on iOS.

At the same time the apps made for cross platform fall down by trying to be usable in a similar way on all apps. This means apps fail to have even simple functions work on iOS like the swipe to go back function. If you make me reach to the very top left to go back I’m about 10X more likely to delete your app. I see this all the time in apps like Starbucks and Spotify when simple functions and gestures either are not included or fail to work due to poor implementation.

Developers

Perhaps I just know the iOS world better, but I spent a few weeks trying to find Android blogs, podcasts, etc to tell me what was going on in that space. I listened to a few like Material and Android Police. What I found was so often they were discussing Apple news or just device releases and not anything specific to Android or what was new on the development side.

I feel like this is a trend in Android for a long time. Devices and flashy hardware are the central draw to Android. Having the best processor or newest camera trio is what the following basis their interest in. I understand how hard this must be for a developer and why there didn’t seem to be the same environment in Android as I have enjoyed in iOS. I can’t imagine having to develop an app that runs on so many different devices and always looks good and runs well.

There are smaller developers doing apps like podcast and task managers that run on both, but I now more than often see the shortcomings of that then the benefits. An app like Overcast would likely be made worse by being developed for Android. The same goes for Things and Drafts. Nothing can be gained by expanding the system uses and it appears a lot can be lost.

Multi-Device

For awhile I was only using an iPhone and had lent my iPad Pro to my daughter to finish her school year after Chromebook broke. She bought a new MacBook this summer so I took back my iPad Pro to use as my writing device and remembered how well iOS devices work together and makes getting things done on them so easy. I can work in so many devices and move between them with so little effort and have everything be there ready to go.

Handoff, Airdrop and iCloud sync just work and get me my information in the apps I use and ready to keep going. There are some other great apps that have amazing sync, but even today it seems more the exception that the rule. I’ve had so many apps that when I switch devices require me to fiddle with them and open and close to get them through. That said iOS sync of photos is still a dumpster fire and can take much longer than it ever should.

Conclusions

It seems like while I am looking at new devices a bit in 2020 it’s highly unlikely to be Android for another year. I enjoy to many of the features that don’t necessarily even have to do with Apple and more with the community around apple devices. I’m still glad I went PC for my computer to, as games like Destiny 2 on PC are worth the investment alone, but for most of my non-gaming needs I’ll be turning to iOS and iPad on the regular.




Sun 31 May 2020
11:31 AM

Boston Marathon 2020

It’s now official that the Boston Marathon will not happen this year. This was to be my first time running this dream race and it seems I’ll have to wait at least another year till 2021. Here are some thoughts on the cancellation I’ve had since they announced this week.

Better Sooner

I mean we all knew it was highly likely that the B.A.A. would cancel but my concern was that I would train all summer for the possibility it would happen and then cancel in August or even worse in September during my taper and excitement. So now I know that I can at least back off lightly on my training and run as I want and not push through any pain or possible injuries. This was likely the best decision at the right time to help everyone be better suited for this year.

That said it’s still tough to believe I’ve been in some level of training for the same race for almost a year now and will have to continue if it’s possible we run the race in 2021. I’m a charity runner for Dana Farber so I’ll have to weight the fund raising costs in an economy with so many people struggling to pay bills, but I’d like to give it another shot.

Refunds

The B.A.A. has offered full refunds to all runners for the year. Not all races are this friendly and many are sticking to the contract for registration and offering no refund, partial refunds, deferrals or other options. Boston did not have to offer the refund, but they’ve done good here and it’s a good outcome for everyone. People will be back at the races they offer as soon as possible and they shouldn’t struggle financially because the refunded the full amount for 2020

I on the other hand will have to contact my company who has been helping with my fundraising and has also funded my registration fees and see if I have to return these funds to them when we get them. So at this point I’m not setting my sites on getting this money given to me, but we’ll see what happens.

Virtual Marathon

My first thought on this topic was likely that I wouldn’t do it. I’ve been dealing with a case of plantar fasciitis and that the cancellation would be a good chance to heal up. Then I thought about all the running I’ve done, the lack of a run in April and that I would like to test what I can do. I last ran a marathon in 2006 and bonked at mile 13 and finished in just under 5 hours. I know I have the fitness to run a 4 hour marathon and I really just want to try now.

I then had an idea. My neighborhood is a small loop around the street of 0.58 miles. I could run that loop continuously and have my family and neighbors come out to cheer me on, supply water and keep track of my laps. We’ve already contacted a few and made plans to hold a Boston Marathon here on the nicest day of the eligible week (Sept 7-14). Apparently the BAA will be supplying some need items like a finish line, finish line crossing tape and other items. Plus if you can finish in under 6 hours and report your time you’ll get a shirt, medal and other finisher items.

Virtual Run FAQ

Conclusion

This is not what any of us signed up for, but Ive tried to be optimistic about what has happened and clearly with the pandemic around us this is the best outcome for all of us. So the running goes on and besides I already bought the Boston Marathon 2020 jacket. So looks like I’ll be training all summer still, but looks like I don’t have to get to concerned when I decide to sleep in on my long run morning either.




Fri 29 May 2020
5:04 PM

Using iPad Again

It’s 2020 and I’m back to using my iPad again and the big reason is how great iOS apps are at getting all the things done. I thought the PC would be a nice system to start writing with the nice clicks keyboard, but honestly PC is good for a minimum of things. PC only programs, gaming and storage. Honestly the PC is my gaming device for everything that doesn’t play on Nintendo Switch or XBox. Games like Civilization 6, Battletech and similar are just better on PC even if they are on XBox. So how am I using the iPad to start again?

Tasks - Things 3

First is I’m back to Things 3 as my task manager. There is not a prettier app on any device than Things, but not only is it pretty but it works so amazingly well. Plus on iPad the keyboard shortcuts are nothing short of best in class. I can do so much without having to touch the screen at all. I always wished Todoist would look half as good as Things, but it’s trying to be more than I need and although I could use Todoist on PC I found I never wanted to. So I’m using Things again and mainly entry by iPhone and iPad and then working to plan and schedule on the iPad each morning.

Systems - Smart Kayboard and mouse

Next up is the Smart Keyboard and mouse. I bought a Smart Keyboard as my 10.5″ iPad Pro does not work with the new Magic Keyboard and honestly the cost is pretty prohibitive for me. So I picked up a Smart Keyboard on sale for $100 and a $30 Logitech Bluetooth mouse and honestly feel like this is a totally new device. Yes I miss the function row of some of the Logitech keyboards, but this setup is exactly what I want. I still sometimes use my finger on the screen as the scroll of the mouse is a bit weird, but otherwise having this keyboard and mouse is like magic to me.

Heavy Lifter - Drafts 5

Finally I have the app that ties this all together and I’m using to write this post right now. That app is Drafts 5 from @agiletortoise. This app can be a bit overwhelming and why I’ve used it here and there, but often felt I needed something else. Now I’m all in and finding I might not be able to live without it. I’m not even using this as much as someone like Tim Nahumck, but I want to learn and build it out to fill my needs.

Currently everything I dump into my phone goes to Drafts; articles to read, ideas, musings, wishlist, groceries. These all end up in the inbox I’ve made and I try to clear them at least once a week. Some may go to Things or even to my Files app, but in the moment of saving I don’t need to think about it. I just place it and forget it for now.

The second use case is writing. Currently my morning pages, work notes and blogging are all occurring in Drafts. I have some workspaces created to silo these ideas and also have actions (I’ll possibly go into using actions in Drafts some day) for each of them. These ideas can then be found by workspace sorting or an amazing search.

As I said before I’ll try to write about actions in the future, but the ability of drafts is not only to be a dumping ground for notes, but a way to handle them as well. When I finish this post I have only to swipe left on the screen and tap Post to Blog” or Post to Draft”. Either of these will save a markdown file to Dropbox and place it in my draft folder or posts. I use a blogging service called Blot that just pulls any file saved to the posts folder and makes it the next post. So with one tap I’m done and my post is ready to go.

I tried doing something like this on PC and it just became a hassle. Everything was a github script, or a web based option (Dilliner is nice, but not a full time option for me) or doesn’t tie in well to Dropbox.

That is just one action. Drafts ties into so many apps for easy use; Messages, Things, Reminders, Notes, Google Docs, Spark, Mail.app and so many more. This app can be the place you keep notes, or just be where you type them. You can compose and publish tweets from here or even create calendar events using natural language.

So I’m back on iPad and now I hope that I can be back to blogging frequently in this time of staying home. Maybe I can even learn how to do some crazy integrations with other apps by using java…OK maybe I’ll just stick to the easy stuff. Either way I’m enjoying my time back on iPad.