This month I’ve been thinking a lot about the tooling I’m using to get through the day, learn things, and manage things. I felt the tools could be simplified, changed, improved, or consolidated. I started with a nuclear approach and tried to see if I could do:
- Task management
- Reading stashes
- Note Taking
- Project management
…all in 1 app: Notion. It was a fun exercise and I found some real powerful features there, but I also discovered I valued UX a lot. Sure, you can do it all there, but man some of the UX (especially mobile) is clunky. And worse yet, it quickly descended into some programming-esque challenge of “can I get notion to do X…” instead of just using the product and going about my day. Over the course of a couple weeks, I slowly, started breaking those functions out into separate dedicated apps. Some I’ve been using for years, others are new. Below is just some quick thoughts on some of the ones I’m using today.
Getting Stuff Done
I use to be a macOS/iOS guy. I fell in love with Things at the time. But alas, I eventually went back to Windows and Android. I eventually fell out of the habit of being mindful of the things I was doing day-to-day and planning and reflecting on a daily basis to get through the week. I would just grind through the day and evening until I was tired, sleep, and then do it again. Recently I’ve rediscovered that importance, especially for the ability to turn your brain off. When my todo list was completed for the day, it was a signal to kick back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the day. I was missing that signal to myself that it was “time to recharge”, so it’s nice to have it back. I haven’t quiet found a replacement for Things. But these days, I’m all for simplicity and as little nonsense as possible. I kind of went on a whirlwind tour of todo/GTD apps and hilariously came back to the one I had settled on years ago: Microsoft To Do. When I had started using it, it was then called Wunderlist IIRC. Funny how the things you need are sometimes already under your nose.
I’m making a concerted effort to read more this year. My reading dropped off a cliff circa 2020, and it’s been a struggle to get back on that train ever since. I recently ran across Reader. I’m liking the format. I recently read a book and did highlights in it. It also revived my RSS feed use. I’ve also been making a concerted effort on controlling where and how I consume media. Endless scrolling and letting an algrothim decide for me is fun on the weekends when I want to kill some time, but doing that automatically everytime I open my phone/laptop/etc I found hasn’t been good for my soul. It’s also served as a nice way to stay focused. See a link a friend just shared? Just stash it away for later after work via Reader. I like that the app makes me feel in control again on what I’m reading. The fact that it can sync my reading notes to Obsidian is a huge value add to me.
I got turned onto Obsidian by a buddy of mine from work for originally trying out a different note taking approach a couple years ago. I tried it, but it never stuck. But I loved Obsidian as an app. Local-first, extremely snappy note taking, with easy cross linking. Did I mention snappy? It’s everything I loved about a note taking app without all the cruft. The only drawback was there was no sync…yet. 99% of the time I’m using my desktop for note taking so it didn’t bug me much. But I’ve had enough occassions out and about where I wanted to jot something down and couldn’t without reaching for something else and then hoping against all hopes I would remember to move it to my Obsidian vault later. They’ve since added sync a while ago as a service, and I’ve decided to take it for a swing finally this year. I was hesistant since it seemed a bit pricy for what it was technically, and Dropbox covered my PC/laptop use-case. So it felt a bit frustrating to pay for it just for mobile sync. But so far so good.
Linear. Can’t say enough good things about this app. It’s a joy to use. Responsive. And let’s me stay in my flow as a I work since they have a fully supported keyboard-centric UI. Hats off to the UI/UX designers over there. I’ve been using it for the better part of a year. It was the one app I didn’t put into notion experimentally because I refused to give it up.
Very boring, but I recently discovered Window’s Clock app had a focus mode. It’s basically the time app I’ve been searching for, but has been hidden in windows for probably forever. It silences all notifications on your desktop and even has a feature for small breaks.