Bollocks to New Year’s Resolutions

Look, it’s your choice: say bollocks to them now or say bollocks to them in a few days, weeks or maybe if you’re very strong, months. The start of a new year comes with more engineering strain than it should, given that the whole thing is an artificial construct and – wait, that does sound like engineering.

I mean this in the same way that you see when we change our clocks, putting them forward or back an hour. Every single time I can guarantee I will end up in a conversation where it’s 8pm, say, and someone tells me that: “Of course, it’s really only 7pm”.

No, it isn’t.

It isn’t 7pm, it isn’t 8pm, the very most you can say about it is that it’s now. (I have a watch that just says ‘Now’ instead of having any hands or digits at all. It is by far the most accurate watch I’ve ever had though I think it’s lost some time lately. That’s my excuse for buying an Apple Watch and I’m sticking to that.)

Anyway, we just collectively agree to call now 7pm or 8pm or whatever it is. There’s a rich source of drama in this – Alan Plater did two terrific radio and then stage plays about when the UK adopted one single time zone and it’s the only time I’ve resented him for finding the drama before me – but now, right now, the clock and the calendar are the same. They are artificial constructs, things we created and that we choose to agree on.

Which all makes sense and is in all ways sensible, practical and – yep – productive. What isn’t is all this stuff we hang on to certain days like pegs. Our birthdays. Shouldn’t it be our mothers getting presents? Anniversary of some seriously painful stuff there. And New Year’s Day. If you didn’t make any resolutions, you at least thought about how you’re not making resolutions.

And if you did then you also know that the New Year’s Resolution Effect lasts but a very short time. Come a rotten wet Tuesday in February, the resolution field is at best membrane-thin.

Which means at some point you go from feeling you must and/or should make resolutions to feeling bad that you failed at them. Come next New Year’s Eve and the next cycle, you go through the same thing but now you have last year’s failure weighing on you. You have every year’s failure weighing on you. If there were ever a resolution that you might actually succeed at, you kill your own chance by the certain and correct knowledge that you have failed every single time before.

Seriously, then. Bollocks to it all.

Don’t make a resolution for the New Year, don’t plan to change something for your life, do something to change today. Do something different or better or new or worse or stupid or anything today. Then tomorrow you have a success on your hands. Possibly a regret too, but we need a few of those.

We want so much and we can do so much. But we can do it one pixel at a time.

Listen, I am by nature a pessimist and I fight it chiefly by racing to do the next thing before the current one dies. Christmas and New Year is sometimes tough for me because I can’t do so much racing. But I used to believe – and I used to think I was clever in believing – that the walk of a thousand miles ends with but 10,997 steps.

(I worked it out.)

This is true. It is also true that the usual form of that saying, about beginning such a walk, is trite and cliché.

But it has a point.

I just think we need to add one more point to it.

Work on something you enjoy doing now and get the enjoyment out of it now. Whether it becomes something bigger, whether you finish the novel or get the TV commission, there is pleasure and satisfication and accomplishment and art in the journey. So enjoy the journey.

Lighten up about the new year and bollocks to new year’s resolutions.

Best productivity deals now on

So you’re stuffed and sleepy and you’re watching Strictly Come Dancing’s Christmas Special. Before Doctor Who begins, go grab some of the very best deals there are for productivity tools and advice.

Email and Paperless Field Guides
All of David Sparks’ Field Guide books are half price. That includes his excellent one on Presentations plus a title I’ve not read 60 Mac Tips and a title I’m not interested in, Markdown. However, by far the best and most useful to you right now are his books on Email and a very wide-ranging one called Paperless.

Read that and you’ll transform your working life. Read his Email one and you’ll make so much more use of your email that you will enjoy it.

David Sparks’ Field Guides are all iBooks that cost now cost around £3 or $5. I actually can’t confirm the UK price because I’ve bought most of these already so the iBook Store doesn’t tell me the price anymore. Get them on the iBooks Store or check them out on Sparks’ official site.

The Blank Screen
My own book is half off too: it costs you £4.11 and after it you’ll be creative and productive. I may have mentioned this book before but this is the first the Kindle version has ever been on sale. Grab a copy now.

Drafts 4
This app for iPhone and iPad looks like a very simple notebook kind of thing. It is. Tap that icon and start typing. If you never do anything else with it, it’s still good because it’s somehow just a pleasure to write in. I can’t define that, can’t quantify it but also can’t deny it. I just like writing in this notetaking app and in fact I am doing so right now.

What happens after you write a note, though, is what makes this special. I’ll send this text straight to The Blank Screen website. But I could choose instead – or as well – pop it onto the end of note in Evernote. Chuck it over to my To Do app OmniFocus. (Which reminds me, OmniFocus for iPad is not on sale but it’ll still be the best money you spend on apps ever.)

Equally I could write a note in Drafts 4 and send it to you as a text message. Or an email. I don’t know that it’s actually got endless options but it must be close. And that combination of so very, very quickly getting to start writing down a thought and then being able to send your text on to anywhere makes this a front-screen app for me.

It’s down to £2.99 from £6.99 on the iOS App Store.

TextExpander 3 + custom keyboard
When I want to write out my email address I just type the letters ‘xem’ and TextExpander changes that to the full address. Similarly, I write reviews for a US website called MacNN now and each one needs certain elements like the body text, an image list, links, tags and so on in a certain order. I open a new, blank document, type the letters ‘xmacnn’ and first it asks me what I’m reviewing and then it fills out the document with every detail you can think of.

The short thing to say next is that this is via TextExpander and that it is on iOS for a cut price of just £1.99 instead of £2.99. So just get it.

Got yet yet? Okay, there’s one more thing to tell you. TextExpander began on Mac OS X and it is still best there. The iOS version wasn’t really much use until iOS 8 when Apple allowed companies to make their own keyboards. Suddenly you could switch to the TextExpander keyboard whatever you were doing or whatever you’re writing on your iPhone or iPad. That meant you could expand these texts anywhere. Fantastic. Except the TextExpander keyboard is somehow less accurate and harder to use than Apple’s.

So what you gained with the text-expanding features, you lost a bit with everything else you typed.

Except many other apps work with TextExpander. Apple’s ones don’t but Drafts 4, for instance, recognises those ‘xem’ or ‘xmacnn’ things and works with them. So buy TextExpander 3 for iOS in order to get these things set up and working. It’s a bonus if you like the new keyboard.

Get TextExpander 3 + custom keyboard.

Hang on, Strictly’s nearly over. These are my favourite deals on productivity books and apps available right now but remember that they won’t stay on sale for long. If you’re only surfacing from Christmas and reading this in February, ignore the prices and just focus on the recommendations. None of these are here just because they’re cheap, it is that they are superb and the sale is a great bonus.

In case Christmas dinner makes you very sleepy…

Virgin Media has teamed with a couple of schoolboy inventors to come up with KipstR wristband, a 3D-printed device that will automatically set a Virgin Media TiVo box to record when the wearer falls asleep.

Designed as part of Virgin Media’s Switched on Futures initiative by 15-year-old Ryan Oliver and 14-year-old Jonathan Kingsley from Manchester, the KipstR uses a pulse sensor to tell when the user has fallen asleep. It then sends a signal to the TiVo box to pause or record a show automatically.

If the wearer wakes up, it can also tell the box to resume the programme from its paused state

Don’t worry if you nod off during Doctor Who Christmas special, this wristband will record it for you – Rik Henderson, Pocket-lint (19 December 2014)

Read the full piece.


Beaten to it: the Christmas productivity gift guide

Well, it’s really the techie or geeky Christmas gift guide. And there’s much in it that I wouldn’t have thought of, let alone picked. But if they only picked the things I would, there’d be no point telling you about them.

And them is Katie Floyd and David Sparks of MacPowerUsers. The latest edition of the podcast is their annual gift guide. They have a thing about not repeating gift recommendations from previous years and I see the point but I don’t see the point: if it’s still the best thing to buy, it’s still the best thing to buy.

Still, here are the best things to buy for Christmas according to MacPowerUsers.