The bullet journal crowd knows: handwriting promotes clarity and retention. Yet we also comprehend the convenience of apps chosen with care. This article details the “why” underlying this attorney/writer’s top six iOS apps within the Utilities category. The common thread: each continues to impress and delight, months/years after purchase.
Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes
1️⃣ Just Press Record: capture (auto-transcribed!) thoughts
Ideas don’t discriminate, blossoming regardless of convenient capture niceties. Inconvenience breeds friction, the mortal enemy of note-taking.
- While standing at a gas pump, reaching back into the car to pull a bullet journal tends to live in the world of intentions, rather than the land of reality.
- If I’m stalking a bird at the local park with my ultra-zoom camera, putting the camera down to grab the journal and pen from my back pocket coaxes dicey note-taking odds.
- Thoughts flow like a faucet during my daily pre-dawn walk/run. My desire to maintain rhythm tends to overwhelm my commitment regarding diligent note-taking.
These scenarios and more schooled me: Pam, find another method for cementing thoughts to paper when out and about.
I’m blessed in many ways, including immediate access to both iOS and Android devices. I adore the Nexus 6P or more accurately, its Google powered less-then-$35-a-month Project Fi network. Add the IFTTT platform kissing Android devices, and a static business line morphs into a muscular helper. Missed calls and texts spark alerts on my iPhone and iPad, through the magic of IFTTT applets inducing automation. But when I crave an app to resolve an ongoing problem, I turn to the iOS App Store complimenting my iPhone 6+, the personal-line phone always within easy reach. Simple reason: much more frequently than not, that particular store holds my bingo.
The iOS-only Just Press Record app single-handedly validates my launch-day Apple Watch purchase, via the app’s March 2017 update. One tap on the watch face empowers recording. And, as I continue my walk or run or gas pumping or photo shoot, that app continues working with and for me. The March update added background goodness, nodding to the god of auto-transcription. Result: my verbal notes land on my iPhone and iPad, via iCloud, where speech-to-text does its magnificent job. The same app performs the same chores on both iPhone and iPad.
Once back home, I indulge a writing session with iPad’s Ulysses app. The app-captured thoughts flirt with my memory bank. To flesh out my hazy recall, I query Siri. She rifles throughout the iPad, using the system-wide Spotlight search mechanism. The plain text version of my notes greets me. Because Just Press Record embraces the system Share Sheet, 2 taps push the text version to Drafts (see next section), encouraging a simple copy and paste maneuver.
All of this, flowing from a tap on my wrist followed by my spoken words. Folks, few if any alternatives provide such a comprehensive solution to notetaking while on the go. If I had n Apple Watch, I’d use the iPhone and iPad versions in the same manner. Yeah, it’s THAT good@
Price of entry? One $5 bill for the universal iOS version which includes the Apple Watch version; and, another $5 for the Mac version. Money. Well. Spent.
2️⃣, 3️⃣, 4️⃣ Drafts + Bit.ly + TweetBot
Where a writer or attorney sits before a screen of any size, the need for data capture jumps to the forefront. Likewise, bloggers crave food to feed a blog; and, Twitter’s voracious appetite requires multiple daily feedings. Scheduling aides assist (e.g., WordPress’ scheduling mechanism, SocialOomph, and the Buffer app), but each assumes the existence of prepared data meals.
At least 98% of my surfing missions transpire on my iPad. My goal: conjure an easy procedure to save data. Yes, I tried—and dumped—the bloat monster known as EverNote. Ditto OneNote and others.
The simplest capturing process exploits the iOS Share Sheet. Let me place you on my shoulder, so you can peek at the mechanics of my workflow, step by step.
✧︎︎︎ Capturing an URL: Bitly + Drafts
A juicy web page fills my Safari screen, oozing with helpful info. I want to add it to my database of potential tweets:
- Tap the Share Sheet to select Bitly. I’ve already configured the free app by inserting my login credentials. Tapping Bitly’s “Shorten” button tosses the shortened URL to the clipboard.
- Tap the Share Sheet a second time, choosing Drafts. Paste the short URL underneath the Drafts-captured web page title. Click Append and choose the file to hold this data.
✧︎︎︎ Capturing a Tweet: TweetBot + Drafts
While reviewing my Twitter timeline, I notice a link of interest.
- Tap and hold the tweet, opening the Share Sheet. Choose “copy tweet.”
- Return to TweetBot, tap the Share Sheet icon, select Drafts, paste tweet. “Append” to Links file.
I could “like” the tweet, and review the Faves listing later. I refuse. Why? My bullet journal alerted me to my digital lunacy, in the form of 18 live digital inboxes. After effecting a cure, I’m down to 3 digital inboxes: Google Drive, PinBoard.in (bookmarks, with my notes in description field), and iCloud. How? By forcing any and everything into one of those three storage options.
- eMail with hidden tasks: converted to PDF → Google Drive, using app AirMail
- SMS/ voice mail: screenshots → PDF (via Mac’s Printopia app) → Google Drive (note: numerous image-to-PDF grace the iOS App Store)
- captured web page, meat only / no fluff: PrintFriendly bookmarklet/ PDF → Google Drive
- iCloud: when whichever app ignores gDrive, presenting iCloud as the only cloud option (hey, I’m not a,iCloud fan)
- PinBoard: when I want my notes to accompany the web page concerned
My weekly etc reviews mandate review of only those three digital storage centers, plus bullet journal, reducing the former multiple-days review time to a mere hour or two.
Stepping outside my comfort zone (e.g., attorney → full-time professional writer) presents a feast of Thanksgiving caliber to Poindexter, my inner critic. He lurks with manic glee, poised to pounce when I misstep. So much to learn; so many nuances to master. As a direct result, webinars frequent the day blocks of my calendar.
And, because authors need a platform, honing my presence on assorted social networks eases onto my todo lists. Tracking those activities manually with a bullet journal eats time. I instead enlist IFTTT to automate pushing copies of my postings and comments to iOS calendars (iOS.FaceBook, iOS.Reddit, iOS.Twitter, iOS.WordPress, etc). During my Weekly Review, I compare those entries with my 2fer TimeBlocking (the plan, and the reality). That process, in turn, beefs personal accountability, essential when you hangout in solo-work land.
The native iOS calendar … um … well, stinks. I refer to its paltry feature set, as compared with Google Calendar. I use the iOS version solely for IFTTT purposes.
The Google Calendar IFTTT channel allows setting only one calendar, into which every related applet will dump its data. Entries flowing from the Automatic dongle inmy car, nestled nest to hardlandscape due dates, irks. The iOS Calendar channel instead permits designating a calendar within each applet. Since individual calendars can be turned on or off with one tap, for visibility purposes, the iOS-IFTTTcombo lends itself to easier repeating maintenance chores.
My Google calendars handle all other date-related matters. Six sub-calendars nod to my work life, while an additional five relate to personal concerns. The first part of each calendar name attests to its work vs personal nature. Examples:
- dWS.HL ( ← HardLandscape/ e.g. Court filing deadlines)
During work hours, I adopt my D. Pamela Gaines formal persona. Hence, the “d” noted above; the “WS” references my social handle, WriteSquire. During “me” time, I return to my chill vibe, “pam”; hence, the “pg” designator for personal calendars. Calendar clients tend to present calendars in alphabetical order. This scheme ensures like cals will travel together.
Only a powerful calendar client addresses the need to hone in on a single calendar with one tap or review all calendars, AND maintain sanity during the process. CalenGoo shines as that desperately needed calendar client. Example: the templates feature → doubletap on the desired date, choose a template (created from a similar earlier entry), then fill in with the current details.
The excess-taps game remains a stranger to CalenGoo. The user interface responds as intuition suggests. Templates permit one-tap creation of a skeletal event, easy to massage with the flesh of details as dictated by circumstance. The app honors colors assigned per calendar, but allows fuss-free changes within the app, both Bally and individually. Succinctly, using this app day in and day out breeds stronger love as opposed to growing contempt.
I have yet to experience a need unaddressed by this app. It simply bends to my will. Bonus: a question emailed to the developer sparked a thoughtful detailed “bingo!” response, within a mere few hours. Nuff said!
6️⃣ Friendly Plus ($2/ iOS Universal & Android)
IGNORE THIS SECTION: A July update futzed the app. Back buttons yield blank pages, and ads pour through on both the iPhone and iPad. [7.12.2017]
When dreams include “published author,” marketing tasks populate the ToDo section. Marketing requires a presence where desired readers spend time. That translates into targeted Facebook groups. I loathe Facebook, a fact promoting multiple Facebook personas and their inevitable deletions in prior years. But dreams mandate actions, in this case, a final new Facebook membership, designed to permit the necessary homework study of certain Facebook groups.
Dealing with Facebook from mobile devices leaves one exposed to countless ads, suggestions, and recommendations—99.9% of which underscore the meaning of “time waster.” Facebook’s insistence on using a second app, Messenger, only escalates the annoyance factor.
The Friendly Plus app conquers these irritants, as well as just about every other FaceBook annoyance, for both iOS and Android users. All those ads populating the timeline → Bye Felicia! I bounced the Messenger app from all devices long ago, yet I retain the ability to handle Facebook messages thanks to this app.
I rush to add: this app and perfection reside in separate zip codes. The app sometimes freezes and refuses to recognize certain changes, such as deleting a group. But the benefits far exceed the grrs.
Yes, a free version awaits your selection. But the magic exudes only from the Plus version. Given the puny $2 price of entry (or $4 total if you’re rocking both Android and iOS), this little buddy gifts an Energizer-bunny style ROI (return on investment). Hey, get thee this gem!
Call to Action
While the bullet journal remains my BFF within the context of life-management schemes, digital remains a friend IF tamed. Following years of premium-level subscriptions to EverNote, ToDoist, and others, I’m here to tell you: kicking them all to the curb proved the gift that keeps on giving. I use digital tools in a more intelligent manner post-BuJo adoption, plucking the best while jettisoning the rest. The resulting time (and $$) savings still blow my mind.
Have you inventoried your eTools recently? Are you convinced each promotes, rather than hinders, genuine productivity? Are you satisfied with your premier thought-capturing tool? Is it always accessible? Does that tool spark friction or fidelity to braindumping?
You’ve got dreams. You’re determined to achieve each one. Please, be a friend to yourself and doublecheck your tools. The world loves to toss obstacles in your path. Just be sure none of those obstacles masquerade as helpful apps! To paraphrase Steve Harvey: everything by your side ain’t necessarily on your side.