Working Tools 28. Analogue v Digital 1. Calendars

I am afflicted with infatuations both for the analogue world of stationery and the digital applications for Apple hardware. Mix those in with a desire to be as productive as possible, and a large degree of experimentation is inevitable.

Over the next few #Working Tools posts (alternate Fridays), I’ll talk you through the bare-knuckle fights, one by one.

Calendars

In the red, (analogue) corner, The Economist Diary 2020 by Collins Debden, weighing in at super heavy.

In the blue, (digital) corner, ical, google calendar, the calendar app and Timepage by Moleskine, weighing in at well, nothing.

Red Corner

The Economist Diary is a tome. A big, heavy book. Mine is the signature red, week to two pages view, in a leatherette cover. It sits handsomely on my desk, telling me, and everyone else, that I’m a proper, serious business person. I write in it with a broad-nibbed fountain pen. Including only the most weighty and important of appointments.

Blue Corner

I have 18 calendars, split across iCal and Google. Some are mine, and some are shared. I have a core set always on, and others just a click away. My dog’s worming schedule is in here, alongside a meditation calendar. Eclectic.

The fight

My Personal Assistant copies all of my appointments from the Economist Diary into my electronic calendars. She is permanently at my side with her iPhone, lest I need to check Spice’s worming schedule. This allows me to flick through the diary attaining useful statistics, when not writing in flowery script. Did you know that in 2010, the Department of Work and Pensions employed 133,500 people?

The trouble is, I don’t have a Personal Assistant.

So, the diary exists as a very expensive sledgehammer to crack the nut of time blocking my week.

The electronic calendars are THE truth, particularly for Margaret and I, who keep abreast of each other through them.

Killer punch

The “shareability” of electronic calendars is unbeatable. I can access them at my desk, on my couch, in the car, heck, even on my wrist.

That said, the diary will remain on my desk, and does get used every week – even if only lightly.

By the way, did you know that the National Income per person in Chad, in $, in 2018, was 654? I bet that’s not in your calendar, is it?

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Working Tools 27. Apps-tastic

Apps

The trouble with stock applications not working is that I look for other applications. While looking at an app for one thing, I inevitably find numerous apps for all sorts of other things.

Oh, the first world problems that plague me.

I started with Notes, and then fell down the rabbit-hole.

Productivity

I always pursue productivity, a chase that invariably circles back to task management. I bullet journal, albeit in a simplified way. It’s a struggle to make the system work for project management and segmented lists. I decided to revisit some old friends, namely Things 3, Time Page and Actions by Moleskine. I also had an idea that I wanted to look at habit tracking.

Now, the thing about Things (if you’ll excuse the pun) is that the more you put in there, the more it does for you. Cue a stream of consciousness brain dump into the app. Everything goes into “Inbox”, until I sort it somewhere else. Happy hours ensued setting up areas of responsibility and projects. The greatest irony of productivity systems is the amount of time that you have to put into them.

Moleskine

The Moleskine apps are beautiful, particularly the calendar one. I enjoy that I can customise the views, and the simple aesthetic of the display. Actions integrates beautifully, but lacks features compared to Things, so for the time-being at least, Actions will not get used. I bought an annual subscription to both Timepage and Actions which expires in a few months, so I’ll keep experimenting with them until then, when a further decision will be required.

Habits

In my journal, I have a habit tracker. One that is becoming increasingly complex to manage. Would that work better electronically? Turns out, I had already thought that at some point in the past, and had purchased “Productive”, an app for habit tracking. So – I’m back in that too.

Food Journaling

I have been reading about food journaling. Mostly because I am in danger of being awarded my own postcode unless I start getting smaller rather than bigger. In the past, I calorie-tracked through “My Fitness Pal”. It’s great, but it does require a level of input that I’m not prepared to give any more. I am interested in the psychology of recording what I eat and drink, without necessarily comparing the calorie count between an apple and a pear.

Could I use Day One? I have had this App since 2013, dipping in and out. Now – I am photographing my food, and noting how eating it has made me feel.

Is this going to replace all my analogue tools? I don’t think so. It may change the way that I journal, but I think it unlikely to replace it entirely.

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Working Tools -15. Tripit

Tripit is another digital tool. Last week, I wrote about analogue tools, so this week, something truly digital. I travel a bit, and Tripit is now my goto tool for travel plans.

Camino de Santiago

The best way to demonstrate why I like it, is to provide an example. I am walking the Camino de Santiago, following the Via Francés, which runs from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, five hundred miles away. I am doing it in stages, a week a year, for five years. This year will be the fourth. We are starting in Léon and finishing in Triacastela, one hundred and ten tiring miles later.

There are many ways to walk the Camino, and my walking-buddy Stuart, (I know, it confuses everybody) and I have settled into a routine where we pre-book our overnights. We’re both creeping up on fifty years old and after our first camino decided that dormitories have had their day for us. We share a room in a cheap hotel. Now, we walk at an easier pace, and often enjoy a leisurely lunch, secure in the knowledge that we can roll into our chosen village at six pm, our bed secured.

Camino by Tripit!

The Process.

I sit down with the guide book to plan our next stage. First criterion is that both Stuart and I are very lucky in that our wives put up with us disappearing for a week each year to go walking, and we don’t want to push our luck. We stipulate that we will go for no more than eight days. Two days travel and six days walking.

Task 1.

International. Stuart starts from Dublin and this year, I start from Cyprus. We need to get to Léon to carry on from where we finished last year. I use RometoRio and Skyscanner to work this out. This year, we will be landing in Madrid, and taking a bus to Léon. Leaving, we will be getting a bus from our finish point to the town of Sarria, overnighting there, before getting a train to Santiago de Compostela, and a bus to the airport there. That worked out, I book my flights, and Stuart books his.

Task 2.

Stages. We are pretty comfortable at around eighteen miles a day. Less than fifteen feels too little and twenty plus feels a slog. Using the guidebook, I identify likely stop points, and then search accommodation options online. I tend to use booking.com. Twin beds, private bathroom and access to a laundry service or washing machine is essential. We carry everything that we need for the week on our backs, so the ability to wash and dry clothes is non-negotiable.

Task 3.

Finally, we get to Tripit. I go to my email, which is now full of booking confirmations from airlines and hotels. I forward all of these to Tripit. This is where the magic happens. In moments, all of the bookings are collated into an itinerary that is available to me online or on an app in my phone. Each booking is summarised on a master view, and I have the ability to drill into the detail. The reservation number, the cancellation terms, the payment status, everything. For example, in one of the bookings, this is listed under Notes:
“Notes. This room features views of the Santa Mariña Church. It comes with 2 single beds and a private bathroom.”

Advantages

Everything that I need is stored in the app and online. I can share the trip plans, so that everyone is in the picture. I am able to add notes and pictures to any item in the itinerary.  We are not pre-booking bus tickets, we will buy them on the ground, but I am able to save the schedules in the itinerary, both the buses that we plan to take and the fallback options, because, well, life happens. Stuart and I are both now looking at the route, reading blogs, seeking out sites to visit, churches to see, even restaurants, (we take lunch very seriously). All of this can be added to Tripit.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year, which will, this year, include my debut novel. Become a member.