• Working Tools – 2. Software

    Working Tools – 2. Software

    I wrote last in this series about the digital hardware that I use. It makes sense to now cover what software I am in most often.

    I prefer, whenever possible, to use apps that work consistently on all my platforms.

    Shopify. Nero’s Notes runs on Shopify. It’s a strong platform that eases many of the difficulties and challenges of running an online shopping site.

    Xero. Accounts for the businesses are produced here. I cannot recommend these guys highly enough. I can reconcile sales to the bank account on the couch.

    Bank Apps. I’m migrating from ‘big banks’ to challenger banks, both for business and personal. Banking should be easy, so a good app is an absolute must for me now.

    Microsoft Office. Given the choice, I would not have any of these apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc) on any of my devices. They are huge, endlessly updating, monsters. Thing is, everyone else uses them, particularly corporate clients. iWork is compatible with Office, but it’s clunky.

    Mail. I use Apple’s stock app. It’s not brilliant, but it’s ok. Using the stock app means it syncs well, and links with other apps and share sheets.

    Fantastical. The best calendar app. Natural language input is such a winner. I have multiple calendars shared with different people.

    Creating

    Ulysses. My writing tool of choice. I love the simplicity of the interface, and the focus that it brings. I will publish this article directly to the website from Ulysses.

    Ulysses Logo

    A Flutter-bye!

    Audacity. I record my end of the podcast on Audacity, and then send it to TJ. He works the magic in the edit.

    iMovie. On the rare occasion I upload to YouTube, I try to tidy things up on iMovie first. A lot still to learn.

    Consuming

    Unread / Feedly. Unread is where I read blog posts. It’s a reader, and needs a feed. I use Feedly to subscribe to blogs, but I never read in it. I just prefer Unread.

    Overcast. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I would rather use Apple’s own podcast app, for the same reason that I use Mail, but Overcast is just that much better. It’s a great app.

    Netflix and Apple Music. I subscribe to both. So, particularly when travelling, this is where downtime happens.

    Communicating

    Slack. I belong to several Slack groups and administer one or two. I barely understand it, and I’m sure I don’t use a tenth of its capability, but in a world of tense, tetchy open forums, it is nice to inhabit some safe spaces.

    ‘The Socials.’ Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Not places that I love. However, I run an online business. I need to utilise these channels. I’ll promote this post through them. Whenever I can, I use Buffer to schedule posts. This is more efficient, and means that I don’t get sucked into endless scrolling.

    Messaging. iMessage. What’s App, Messenger, SMS. Different contacts seem to use different formats.

    The Message Bubbles

    iMessage by Apple

    Talking.

    Cellular, Skype, FaceTime, What’s App, Messenger – again there is no consistency across my range of contacts, so I have lots.

    My favoured apps are constantly evolving. In creakingly, I look for ones that I find simple and not distracting. Huge monster apps with masses of functionality that I don’t need distract me. They become an end of themselves.

    Next, in #workingtools –  OSX v IOS.

  • Y is for Years

    SnakeOil

    ‘Last month, I wrote a book, one hundred and twenty four blog posts and made six hundred and eighteen thousand dollars.’

    Well done! It is always nice to see a fellow writer do well.

    There are a few claims like the above out there. Gurus who have cracked the secrets of making gazillions from writing ‘by following these few simple steps’.

    One of the few simple steps is, of course, to wire some money to the guru.

    I am an open-minded sort of guy and have read a few of these ‘written-in-a-month’ books. My overriding feeling on finishing is always ‘what did you do with the other twenty nine days?’

    I’m sure that there are writers out there who write fast, edit quickly and publish in a heartbeat. I’m sure that they have produced brilliance. I just haven’t found any yet.

    I can tell you from experience that there are definitely writers out there who write fast, edit quickly and publish in a heartbeat. They produce crap.

    Books that have moved me contain years of work. Years of thought, years of experience, years of work. The drafting might not take years, but the process as a whole does. At least that is my perception.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • P is for Procrastination

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    Of late, writing for me has been 1% production and 99% procrastination.

    In fairness, I believe that a large % of most endeavours is spent on activities that have little, or at best, only a tangential bearing on the aim of the endeavour.

    Take E-mail for example. Those of us who have worked as office employees at some point in the last twenty years have spent inordinate amounts of time on e-mail.

    I have spent a lot of time thinking about this. (Procrastinating perhaps?)

    With hindsight, I believe that all e-mail is procrastination. Not some of it, not even most of it, all of it.

    You may not believe me, and I am sure that you are right. I am often wrong about these things.

    As you are believer in e-mail – please sign up to this site – and I’ll send you the odd e-mail to keep you in the loop.

    Forgive me, I have digressed. I am a champion procrastinator. I have multiple methods.

    Self-Improvement is one. (Books, Apps, Courses.) Applications. Ways of automating processes that I don’t even do, is another. To-do lists. Facebook. Buying stationery, changing wallets, oh I could go on for ever.

    As I write this post, I am in a new daily routine. Essentially, I remain digital-free until after lunch. So far, it has been a huge success. But then it is only day 2.

    How do you procrastinate?

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • Taking Time Back

    This post is going out in the middle of the A to Z Challenge – and is not a part of that exercise.

    I wrote an earlier post on reaching saturation point with technology.

    Much though I love my ‘I-everythings’, I was finding that technology was directing my time rather than help me make the most of it. So, I have stepped back a little.

    Once I started limiting my ‘online’ time – I began experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Really.

    I wanted to keep looking at my phone.

    So, I changed phone. I bought a dumb phone. It can do calls and messages. That’s it.

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    I bought a diary. I have customised the layout to suit the way that I want to work.

    In the diary, I block off time. So, at 1230, I will log onto my webmail and have a look at emails. Then I log off email and go for lunch.

    I log back on before shutting down for the night. That’s it for email. Twice a day. I am planning to get to the point that I log off the computer before dinner.

    Mornings – I do my level best to ignore e-mail and social media. I walk the dog, have some breakfast and a shower. I sit at my desk and get working. I schedule creative tasks for the morning, I find it easier then than at any other time.

    If I am disciplined – those morning hours are great productive time. The key is not to let myself get sidetracked by Facebook, Twitter, E-mail and all the other usual suspects.

    Rather than ramble on for hours, I will leave you with two observations.

    1. I am finding it difficult to ‘cut down’. That tells me that there is a bit of an addiction element to this technology stuff.
    2. Not checking my email every ninety seconds has had absolutely no downsides. None.
  • Digital Overload

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    It’s all got too much.

    I have scaled the peaks of the digital life and reached the zenith. From here on, it’s downhill.

    I have a Mac, a MacBook and an iPhone. I recently sold my iPad. This combination of very cool bits of kit mean that I am never more than seconds away from my Twitter feeds, (I have three) my Facebook profile, my Linkedin, my Pinterest, my Instagram. I am almost perpetually at Inbox zero. An email arrives and like a digital ninja, I am on it. Either it is responded to, archived, or deleted. I have resolved to read more – so I keep my kindle close to hand, and just in case, I have kindle apps on all of my other devices.

    Should you need to get in touch, you can comment on this blog, drop me an email on one of several addresses, send me a text, message me on one of several apps and each of my machines will ding, vibrate or beep. You may rest assured that I will be aware of your communication in seconds.

    I may of course, not respond instantly. I may be tied up. I may be updating my blog, scheduling my social media to tell you that I have updated my blog or even reading your blog. I may be checking that my feeds on feedly, medium, bloglovin and others that I have undoubtedly forgotten, are up to date. It is possible that I am resolving sync problems between my fitbit and my iPhone. How on earth can I lose weight if my phone is not correctly reporting daily steps? It may be that I am searching Myfitnesspal for the correct calorific value of 40g of porridge oats. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, right?

    If I am setting off for a meeting, preparations begin the night before. Laptop, iPhone, Fitbit all fully charged, chargers in bag too. (Just in case). Location of meeting entered onto device to ensure map available. Ensure that all recent communications with person that I am meeting are instantly available on all devices. I can revise on the train. Check out linked in profiles, Google +, Facebook. What music do I want? Playlists up to date? Which headphones? Noise-cancelling? Right – best check the battery levels.

    Then I need to update the calendar app – which in turn will update my wife’s calendar, so that she can be sure what train I’m on, where I’m going and what for. Obviously, her life won’t be complete unless she knows this. Once I get to London, I’ll take a quick snap and post some status updates. My friends in Ireland will undoubtedly be fascinated to know what the weather is like in London.

    It’s a wonder that I have any time at all for work or relationships or indeed life at all.

    At some point, the machines took over. The thousands of ways that technology was helping me, became the thousands of ways that it was oppressing me.

    I’m fighting back.

    I have ordered a diary. A big book made of paper and card. In it, I will plan my time. What an innovator I am. In this new-fangled thing, I will block off bits of time to check my e-mail, my social media and feeds. I’ll do these things at MY convenience.

    I have ordered a ‘dumb’ phone. It can make and receive phone calls. It can send and receive text messages, although only by using the numbers as a keyboard, so you should not expect too much. With only a dumb phone, I shall have to keep myself ‘connected’ only at scheduled times and at my keyboard. I fear that the world may stop turning – but I probably won’t notice without ‘notifications’.

    punkt_angled

    Calorie control, both input and burn. Well, I am going to eat less food. I am going to eat more ‘simple’ food and less ‘complex’ food – i.e. avoid the manufactured crap pushed at us from all sides. When I walk the dog, I’m going to count the flowers or the birds and not the steps. Maybe I’ll try to walk a little further. I’ll know its working if my clothes start getting a bit looser.

    I daresay that the iPhone with all of its apps and the fitbit will be waiting for me in the desk drawer, but I’m quite looking forward to unplugging. Although…what am I going to do in restaurants while everyone else checks their phones?

     

     

  • Writing Tools

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    Writing, at least for me, involves quite a lot of sitting around doing all manner of things that are not writing.

    At times, I can be a world-class procrastinator. Yes, I can do ‘the gazing at a blank page’ thing. I’m even getting better at the tortured artist look, although Margaret still regards me suspiciously and asks whether I am about to fart.

    However – in addition to these basic techniques, there are more advanced methods. My latest is a deep need to make sure that I have the right tools.

    I have always had a bit of a thing for stationery, my inner geek has always been lurking just below the surface.

    This geek has been encouraged into the open by my new writing buddy Amanda.

    We ‘met’ on Twitter (how hip am I?) at #writingchat.

    A writing buddy is an essential aid to the aspiring writer. More importantly, a writing buddy saves the friends and family of the aspiring writer an enormous amount of boredom. I can now ask “Do you think the three act structure will work here?” or “How do you feel about third person limited?” without being greeted by the electronic equivalent of tumbleweed.

    Amanda is on the cusp of releasing a book. In fact, you can pre-order the physical paperback version right now. Just click HEREFollow the instructions and you can even get a discount on the cover price. Go! Have a look right now. Go on. I’ll wait…

    Welcome back. I hope that you have ordered the book. If you are electronically inclined, you will be able to pick it up soon on Amazon, Kobo and all those good places.

    Amanda also keeps a very nice BLOG where you can find some proper writing. While you are there, sign up for updates. Come to think of it, while you are here – sign up for updates too. It really means a lot to us writer-types to know that people are reading.

    Recently, Amanda and I got chatting about pocket notebooks. I daresay that one day, I’ll tell you all about my notebooks – but to cut a long story short, Amanda took it upon herself to make me the notebook cover that features in the picture. It’s a beautiful soft leather.

    Isn’t it gorgeous?

  • Ugly Social Media

    Click on this if….

    No. Stop it.

    Gradually, I am overcoming the dramatic gastric impact of Spinning, which is a great relief to the dog and many local residents.

    However, I am increasingly annoyed by the tactics some organisations are using to garner positive social media statistics. You know the posts that I mean;

    “Like this page if you believe that a soldier who saved his platoon, sacrificing his life should be honoured while this malicious paedophile should not!”

    Seems a bit of a no-brainer.

    Then you look to see that the post originates from a page called “Lovely fluffy British folk”. Curious fellow that I am, I look at this page.

    It turns out that the page should more accurately be called;

    “Racist, xenophobic dimwits? You have found your online home.”

    Many of these ‘like-farm’ posts are using images of the military to lure people to anti-immigration or anti-muslim organisations. The implication being a polar relationship. “Military Good, Military fight Bad. Immigration Bad. Muslim Bad.”

    I thought I might take a moment to relate to you an anecdote.

    4-British-Army-Getty

    (Getty Image taken from the Independent website)

    I live adjacent to Salisbury Plain, home to Stonehenge and essentially an adventure playground for the British Army. I play golf (badly) at Tidworth Garrison Golf Club, which as the name might suggest, has strong military connections.

    Tidworth is a garrison town.

    On Tidworth high street, I went for a haircut in a busy barbers. Three barbers were working and four more customers were waiting. I’m fairly certain I was the only non-serving military man there. I was the only one not in camoflauge for a start.

    The standard cut seemed to be, “number 2 back and sides and short tidy on top please Kemal.”

    You see the barbers were all Muslim Turks. Really.

    Immigrants too. Good heavens.

    Please don’t associate images of the British military with stupidity, ignorance or prejudice. They’re way too good for that.

    Incidentally – best haircut I’ve had in ages.

  • Blogging From A to Z Challenge

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    That’s it.

    I have completed the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

    26 posts, a post for each week day and Saturday in April.

    I have visited in excess of 200 blogs. Some that I have enjoyed, some that have completely mystified me and one or two that have shocked me.

    I have got a little more comfortable with the ‘craft’ of blogging, how to post, how to make a post attractive to search engines and how to comment. I think that this will be useful.

    Annoyingly, I have also learned that I will need to change my theme (again). The one that I am using here is a free theme and thus a little limited.

    There are some blogs out there that are stunning to look at.

    Should you require highly unusual features, such as words not splitting over the end of a line, then you need to ‘add some code’ or purchase a theme that automatically does this. I concede that I find it difficult to believe that there is much of a blogging market that intentionally uses a theme incapable of justifying text, but perhaps I am old fashioned that way.

    Last time that I attempted a theme change – I bombarded my Facebook wall and twitter account with hundreds of automated messages.

    Brace yourselves.

    A lesson has been how easy it is to find myself doing a million and one things. In fact ANY thing that is NOT writing a novel.

    But that is for another post.

    Time for a lie down.

  • Q is for Quittrain.com

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    Quittrain.com

    If you smoke – go visit this site. Join the forum and interact with people.

    I smoked anything from 30 to 60 cigarettes a day for 30 years. I feel qualified on smoking. I had a lot of practice.

    If you smoke, you want to quit. I appreciate that you may not believe that you want to quit. But you do.

    Every smoker knows that you want to quit. I know that you want to quit. You know that you want to quit.

    Go the Quittrain.com and quit.

    It really is a whole lot easier that you might believe.

    The site is run by a quitter who goes by the name of Maryland Quitter. He is not selling anything. Nothing.

    The site is supported/supervised/protected by volunteers.

    There is no selling, no judging. Just quitters helping and supporting each other.

    The quittrain.com helped me to quit smoking, It has saved me a fortune and quite possibly my life.

    Equally Quittrain.com has restored my faith in the positive power of the internet.

    When a bunch of people with a common aim unite to support each other, extraordinary, humbling and powerful things can happen.

    Go along. You might even catch sight of a fat guy in a kilt.

    Have you found somewhere special on the internet?

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    After you have been to the Quittrain.com – go check out some great blogs here