Apple Reminders – GTD App Worth Using

ioS-6-Reminders-600x450As a big fan of the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology I make a lot of lists.  Lists are a simple way to get things out of your head and off your mind so you can focus on what needs to be done now.

In the past I’ve always used the Tasks feature in Outlook and synced it with whatever smart phone I was using at the time.  Now that I’m 99% Apple (I still run windows on the Mac using Parallels for certain Windows only apps I need for work) I’ve switched to using the Reminders application available on iOS and OSX.

Reminders is a simple to-do application that wirelessly syncs across all of my devices using iCloud.  Those of you with an iPhone have probably used the app in one form or another & are saying to yourself “yeah, so what?”…

So… Have you used Location based reminders yet?  This single feature got me to dump Outlook tasks and immediately switch to the Reminders App.

Most people have a few different types of reminders (tasks) they’re keeping track of.  Some with due dates and some without.  Once the due date/time hits you get an alert and you either do it, snooze it or ignore it.  How would you like to get an alert any time you arrive or depart a particular location even if the reminder has a date/time alert or not?

This is the one feature that made the switch worth it.  Here an example.  The trash at my house is picked up every Thursday morning.  I like to have a alert on Wednesday evening to remind me to set the bins out.  In the past I would set a weekly reminder for 7pm every Wednesday night.  That’s great if I’m home but if I’m not I’d probably just dismiss the alert & forget about it by the time I got home.  Or I’d get home, park in the garage, go inside, & then remember.  Having to back the car out to get the bins out…

With location based reminders I get an alert as soon as I pull into my driveway every Wednesday!  It’s not based on a time, it’s based on a day & location (the date is optional).  This works well for a lot of things.  If I need to talk to someone as soon as I get to the office I’ll get a reminder when I pull into the parking lot, no matter what day of the week or time it is.

While this is a great feature there are a few quirks that keep the application from being perfect.  Options for recurring tasks are somewhat limited and it’s not integrated with Outlook (Mac or Windows version).  There’s no snooze option on iOS but there is on OSX…

That being said, it’s a lightweight application that syncs almost instantly between my Mac & iPad.  Entering multiple items is a easy as pressing Enter to separate each reminder.  You can create unlimited contexts (categories) to group your reminders.  Finally, you can share your reminders and lists with other iOS users.  This is great for team tasks or sharing within a household.

All in all this is great app for those of us that like to make GTD lists and need a place to keep them organized and accessible among several devices.

If you’re interested in learning how to use Siri to create reminders check out the video below from TeachMeiOS.com

Working From Home Is Like Saying No to Drugs

workingfromhomeI could not agree more…

Frankly, I don’t really care if I am less productive working from home than in the office. Productivity is only one variable in a complex equation. Another very important variable is personal happiness. I want to be productive, but I also want to be happy, and sometimes those goals conflict and I have to sacrifice one for the other. Working from home is where I am potentially sacrificing productivity for happiness. Now, to be clear, I’m not conceding that working from home makes me less productive, but instead I’m saying that I really don’t care. It’s a moot point in the argument.” [MORE]

Can I Make The Switch?

Let me start off by saying I’m a BlackBerry fan(boy). I also like Apple. But I use a BlackBerry for my day-to-day tasks at work and personal stuff.  It’s been a great platform which has proven itself reliable, secure and fast.

Recently though with the latest software update I’ve had a lot of problems with my BlackBerry 9930. Frequent lockups, long reboots (15 minutes!), and poor battery life have led me to look for an alternative.

Earlier this week I received an iPhone 4s to try and so far it’s pretty interesting. Having used an iPod touch for years I’m very familiar with the Apple operating system. In fact an iPhone is just touch with a phone. (or so I thought).

I know there’s a bit more to it like processing power, battery life, screen resolution, and Siri, but other than that they’re very similar (ha).

The first thing I noticed when using the iPhone is its much faster than my fourth generation iPod touch. I mean it’s really fast!  It makes the applications that I’m used to much more enjoyable. They seem to launch faster, respond faster, and all-around give a better user experience.

I’m giving the iPhone two weeks to see if it can win me over. If not, I’m going to have to (shutter) look at an Android or go back to a Windows-based phone…  I surely hope the ghost of Steve will prevent that from happening.

The Digital Pen That Delivers

I was in a meeting a few months ago and one of the vendors had an unusual looking pen. I quickly did a Google search and discovered the pen was called a “LiveScribe” pen and it has quite a loyal following.  The pen digitizes your handwriting, records meeting audio and a whole lot more.  After some online research and the discovery of a great deal on eBay I had one to try for myself.

The first thing I noticed once I unpacked the pen is its size.  I’m used to full sized pens with the daily use of my Dunhill Sidecar but this one was just a little bit chunkier (and all plastic).  The weight is well balanced and it’s pretty easy to get used to the feel of the pen.

The “secret” to the LiveScribe system is a special Moleskine like notebook with micro-dot paper and a pen with a infra-red camera in the tip. Navigation “buttons” at the bottom of each page control various functions of the pen.

If you don’t want to use the Moleskine type notebooks you can print your own pages if you have access to a 600 dpi color printer.  Other notebooks are available in various form factors.

After you turn on the pen (important) and take notes, you plug the pen into your computer and the software downloads a copy of your notebook.  The mico-dots tell the application what notebook and page the notes were written on.  You can have up to 8 notebooks in the system (200 pages each) before you have to start archiving data.  It’s pretty impressive how well this all works.  Individual pages from multiple notebooks can be grouped together into a virtual notebook within the software.  All pages can be printed for more flexibility.  Being left handed I found the spiral bound started notebook to be a little difficult to use but the Moleskine type books are working great.

The latest software upgrade allows you to draw a double line anywhere on the page and write “email”, “Facebook”, or “Evernote” and once you sync the pen your notes will perform that pre-defined action, such as email a copy of your notes as a PDF.

A built-in audio recording function allows you to record meetings and directly tie the recording timeline to your notes.  After the meeting you can tap any word in your notes and the recording will start playing what was recording when you were writing that particular word.  I have played with this feature a few times but very few of the meetings I attend really need to be recorded.  I did use it for a 2-hour vendor seminar and it worked perfectly.  The 4GB model will record up to 400 hours of audio.

Livescribe offers various applications such as foreign language translations and games such as hangman.  One of the most used features, besides the pen, is the calculator.  Inside the notebook covers (front and back) are calculator “buttons” that you can tap on at any time to perform just about any calculation.  If you need to perform scientific calculations an optional app and calculator card can be purchased for around $6.

For those of you that use Evernote, all of your notes can be synchronized with the online service.  An optional OCR application can even turn your handwritten notes into editable text!

This pen has a lot of powerful functions built into a small package.  The development of applications is a little slow but the apps that are available are solid and work as advertised.

The biggest thing you have to get used to is turning the pen on each time you use it.  If you don’t turn it on the pen will not capture your notes electronically & it works just like a (dumb) pen.

The Livescribe system, which includes the pen and a starter notebook is priced as follows:

  • 4GB Model $149.99**
  • 8GB Model $199.99
  • Journals vary in price from $9.99-19.99

**I was able to find my 4GB model on eBay for about 1/2 price.

It remains to be seen if the Livescribe pen is a toy or a productivity tool.  For now I’ll have to say the concept is working quite well and I have been happy with the purchase.

Blogs I’m Following (Part 3) – Misc.

This is the third and final installment of my favorite Blogs and RSS reeds on the Internet.  This is a small sample of the other sites I follow.  Everything from comedy to crackpots to cigars.  I hope you find something new in the list.

FAIL Blog – If you like seeing people paying the price for stupid actions this is the site for you.  There’s usually some pretty good signage mistakes too.

The Oatmeal – I’m really not into modern-day cartoons and comics (Dilbert is lost on me & The Far Side no longer exists) but this guy hits my funny bone just about every time.  Fair warning, these are usually not kid friendly or safe for work.

David Allen Company – In my opinion Getting Things Done (GTD) is the best life management system ever created.  I started with the book, attended the seminar, and intently read every newsletter from the David Allen Company.  This guy is a former hippie (for lack of a better term) turned entrepreneur and productivity demigod.  If you are looking for an alternative to all of the other systems, give this one a try.  It’s been truly life changing for me.

The Art of Manliness – From shaving to shoe shining to being a better man, this site has it all.  Sometimes it’s a little “old fashioned” but the articles are well written and have a lot of good content.  This concept would make a great magazine.

ThinkGeek : What’s New – The premier geeky toy store in the internet.  It’s also one of the best sources for everything caffeine (and bacon) related.  Where else can you buy Caffeinated Marshmallows?

Cool Tools – Not as active as it once was but you can still learn about such things as the Bombproof laptop case and Dependable soldering irons.

No Agenda – This podcast stars former MTV VJ Adam Curry & and tech columnist John C. Dvorak.  It covers mainstream and not so mainstream media.  Always good for a laugh and exposure to a new conspiracy theory.

Daily dose of imagery – As a photo hobbyist I always enjoy seeing other peoples work.  More often than not I get inspiration from these images.

Every Day Carry – I always called it “Being Prepared” but there’s a cult following to the Boy Scout motto.  This site posts user submitted images of their EDC items.  From watches to knives to guns, it’s all there.  I’ve found a few neat tools on this site that I’ve added to my daily carry.

Cigar Aficionado – The website is a treasure trove of information to the cigar enthusiast.  Just about all of their back issue articles are online and the review database is a great resource.

So there you go, some of the more non-traditional items that pique my interest.  If you have read all three posts you can probably put together a more accurate picture if me and my lifestyle.  There’s a few things you probably don’t know about too.  Stick around and check the blog for future posts.

Part 1 & Part 2 of this series.