Talk to your phone and have it whisper back one task at a time

I was going to point this Harvard Business Review article out to you because it’s about using your phone to capture all those stray thoughts you have. I do this constantly. Especially when driving, I will now many, many, many times per drive say aloud “Hey, Siri, remind me to…”. Sometimes I’ll tell it to remind me at a certain time or a certain place. And I knew I wasn’t alone in this but I wanted you to hear someone else saying it, hence:

Throughout the day, I tell my phone to “remind me to follow up with Sarah about the Warren account next Tuesday morning,” “remind me to pack my phone charger when I get home,” or even “remind me to buy gum tonight at 9.” Yes, I come in for a certain amount of mockery (as when a friend overheard me dictating that gum reminder), but I’d rather be mocked for my voice dictation than for my tendency to forget commitments.

Conquer Your To-Do List with Your Phone – Alexandra Samuel, Harvard Business Review (1 December 2014)

However, Samuel makes a hell of a good point that I had not thought of.

Creating reminders on your phone also means that you’ll be triggered to act on the tasks you’ve captured at a certain time, wherever you are. I’ve never been diligent about reviewing to-do lists, largely because they quickly get so daunting that I can’t bear to look at them. Instead, I now rely on reminders that feed me one thing at a time – instead of facing the long list of everything I have on my plate.

She’s right, isn’t she? Read the full piece.

“Why I Left iCloud Reminders for Todoist”

I’m just after telling you that Things is briefly free now on iOS and I was thinking of saying it’s the second-best To Do app on Apple gear. But there is this: Todoist. I’ve used it and haven’t in fact got one single pixel of a memory of what I thought about it. But MacStories writer Federico Viticci is a fan and a compellingly persuasive one.

In a three-biscuit long article, he talks about how Apple’s Reminders turned out to be much better than he’d expected yet eventually he had to move on:

Reminders isn’t built to scale for people who manage dozens of projects and collaborate with others to assign tasks and keep track of due dates. It’s not Apple’s fault – it’s right there in the name: Reminders. It’s not called “Projects” or “Todo Pro”: Reminders is a lightweight list system with support for dates, alerts, and lists shared with others.

I guess it was naive of me to think that, with a growing business and changes to my personal life, I wouldn’t face an increased amount of responsibilities. Reminders couldn’t keep track of the new complexities and people in my life. I started forgetting about things I needed to do; sometimes I forgot to mark tasks as done so other people wouldn’t know what my status was; and, other times Reminders wasn’t working for them but I was forcing them to use it because “iCloud never had issues for me”. Both the Reminders app for Mac and Fantastical for iOS were overflowing with assignements and notes that were hard to find and that just kept piling on each other day after day.

Why I Left iCloud Reminders for Todoist – Federico Viticci, MacStories (19 November 2014)

Read the full piece.

Google revamping Gmail

I know this is just me, but Gmail is confusing. And sometimes even announcements about Gmail confuse me. Such as this one. I read Google’s news about a new email solution called Inbox and it felt like I was swimming in a little ocean of very gorgeously photographed images but not an awful lot of information. I did get that Inbox by Google wants you to include your To Do list in your email and that’s just a bag of spanners waiting to fall on you.

But a lot of smarter people who do like Gmail have been reading that same information and understanding it. Here’s one:

Today, Google unveiled a new email solution called Inbox, which looks like a marriage between Gmail and Google Now. Currently available by invitation only, this new app takes bits from your email like purchase invoices and bank statements and groups them together for fast access. Like Google Now, Inbox adapts to the way you operate, highlighting key pieces of emails like flight plans, photos, documents and upcoming event information.

Google’s new Inbox app is a marriage between Gmail and Google Now (update) | 9to5Mac (22 October 2014)

Read the full piece and let me know what it means.

Video: using Apple’s Reminders app

It’s not the most powerful To Do task manager around but it is free and it did introduce the whole idea of location reminders. Oh, how I love those: “Remind me to go to the supermarket when I leave here”. Wonderful.

But I use that feature via OmniFocus, which ties in to it, rather than in Reminders itself. So I’m not a big Reminders user but here’s someone who is:

Tutorial- Reminders App from cmarcotte on Vimeo.

Use location reminders for work you don’t like

It’s not that I don’t like invoicing. It’s that I don’t do it. I’m far more interested in doing the work. Today, for example, I am infinitely more interested in the fact that I’m working with a group of young writers as we create a play. Infinitely.

But it is an unfortunate fact that if one does’t get paid, one stops being able to eat and that stops one being able to do this work. I really want to survive to the play’s performance, so I have to get paid. And being freelance, that means I have to invoice.

I am full of good intentions to do with everything financial. Fortunately, I don’t have to be. I’ve set a location reminder.

I’m working in a library today. When I leave that library, my iPhone will bleep with a reminder that I need to invoice for this work.

That’s all. I may not do it right there and then, but I have a train ride after it so I probably will. I think I may come across as very mercenary, invoicing within ten minutes of finishing a job, but if I don’t do that, I don’t invoice at all, so.

If you have an iPhone, you have location reminders. They are in – and they were introduced to the world in – Apple’s free Reminders app. Every good To Do app since then has taken that idea and so I use the one in my beloved OmniFocus.

New: Clear To Do app adds Reminders

This just in from Realmac:

…we’ve just launched a big (and much-requested) feature in Clear for Mac and iOS: reminders. With this great new feature, you’ll never forget a to-do – and as Clear syncs your tasks and reminders via iCloud you’ll be notified on all your Apple devices.

We’ve also got some new sound packs in Clear so you can customise the sounds as you complete tasks.

Clear with Reminders is of course a free update, and available on the App Store and Mac App Store.

Clear has always looked great yet not been powerful enough for me and in part that’s been because of the lack of reminders. Take a look at Realmac’s Clear website for a video of how this latest version works.

Three calendars, no waiting

Thanks. I was thinking about how we use calendars and how I have been working to use mine more but there was one exasperating thing. Yet just working out how I would describe it to you may have solved it for me. May.

It’s Fantastical 2. I bought this for my iPad and it sits there right alongside OmniFocus so I can and do work all my tasks and times together. It’s working so well that I’ve been using my ancient copy of Fantastical 1 for iPhone too and this week just bloody well caved in and bought the update to Fantastical 2 for iPhone. Still can’t tell you what the functional difference is but I like the look of it and I like paying for something I am using a lot.

Only, I have had to keep Apple’s Calendar app around too. On both iPad and iPhone, I’ve needed that because event invitations have come in via it. I’ve got notifications of event invitations and had to open Apple’s Calendar to see what they were and to say yes or no. Then I’ve closed Calendar and by the time I’ve opened Fantastical, the accepted event is in place.

That’s just a chore, though. Clearly I would prefer event invitations to come up in Fantastical and save me that trip out to another app and back. But before I said that to you here, I fact-checked like a proper old-fashioned journalist and it appears I’m wrong. It appears that Fantastical accepts invitations and that you can say yeay or nay right there. I cannot see how and I cannot see why it hasn’t happened before. Could you send me an invitation so that I can try it out? But  I am now convinced it’s true because there’s evidence on the internet. (That never goes wrong.) Evidence including screen grabs of it in action.

Mind you, the reason there are screen grabs of Fantastical showing event invitations is because people have been asking why it doesn’t or how the hell it does. So I’m not alone and if I am not yet fully imbued with the knowledge of how to do it, the next time I get a calendar invitation I will take a little time and figure it out.

If that happens, I don’t need Apple’s Calendar any more. Not on my iPhone and iPad. It’s still the calendar I use on my Mac: currently Fantastical for Mac is a menu drop down and I think I heard it may become a more fully-fledged app so while I continue getting used to it, I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

You can’t get rid of Apple’s Calendar on iPhone or iPad, it cannot be deleted. But you can bung it in a Apple folder alongside the weather and stock apps that you never use.

But Calendar and Fantasical. That’s two calendar apps.

And I did say I use three.

I’m using Mynd on my iPhone. No matter what, I would have to use something else on my iPad because Mynd is iPhone-only for now. But as I’ve mentioned before, I did not appreciate that it is actually a full calendar app. It’s just so useful for telling me the very next thing happening and a slew of rather spookily great extra features to help each meeting or appointment go well. But it is a full calendar, you can do everything you do on Calendar or Fantastical. (I don’t know about event invitations. That’s another thing I’ll need to try. Could you hurry up with that invitation? Is that too much to ask?) 

So not only do I have three calendars on my iPhone, two of them are on my front page, the home screen.

It feels wrong, it feels like a waste of space on that screen and it feels like an unnecessary division of mental effort. But I don’t think to use Mynd unless I’m going to a meeting and want all its extra gorgeousness for that one particular event.

Similarly, Fantastical 2 has a lot of features for running your To Do list and I so much, so completely fail to think of Fantastical for tasks that I even tried to switch that off. You can deny Fantastical permission to access your Apple Reminders list but if you do, I found it also wouldn’t let me enter any events. So with reluctance, chagrin and some annoyance, I allowed Reminders and just choose to never use them.

Why would you use Apple’s Reminders either directly or via Fantastical when you have OmniFocus?

Funny: OmniFocus has a calendar in it. Yet I use that. I use it to glance at the day and see how much is going on.

I should get a Venn diagram going here of how these four apps (Calendar, Fantastical, Mynd, OmniFocus) overlap and what I do and don’t use in them.

Or I could just get a life and accept that where I used to eschew all calendar apps, I now have three.