This is almost certainly not novel, but the idea came up when I was talking with my friend James the other day and I figured I’d write it up in case it helps someone somewhere.
The idea is this: you set up a new email address (or use filters with your existing email, whatever works for you) and then make a shortcut on your phone so you can easily add to your journal by emailing that address. A private email blog, basically.
It’s low effort in that you don’t have to open, say, a Google Doc and find the right spot to start to write. The corresponding disadvantage is that you can’t see what you’ve already written that day. (That said, this method would also work fairly well as a lightweight way to take notes during the day, to be written up into a full journal entry later somewhere else and then archived.)
I made a sample shortcut for doing this in iOS (and I’m sure there’s a way to do something similar in Android):
From left: the shortcut (using the Text and Send Email blocks), the running shortcut, and the resulting email. The shortcut can be saved to the home screen or used on an Apple Watch or put in a widget.
With this setup, I’d recommend regularly downloading your mail to your computer, through a local mail app or something like offlineimap, so that you have your own copy you can use for exporting or printing or whatever.
Note that I don’t use this myself because I already have a homegrown journaling solution (with Gate and Vinci), but I’m planning to use a variant of this shortcut for emailing notes to myself from my watch.
Anyway, if you try this out, or if you have an interesting system for journaling, let me know and I may do a followup post.
No, not the headphones. Or plotting. Less exciting than either, it’s a new productivity technique I’ve been using lately and oh my goodness it works well (for me).
Let’s rewind. My problem has been that I work on projects in several different areas (writing, art, coding, design, etc.) and would like to make progress across all of them, but in my mortal frailty I instead tend to spend most of my available project time on whatever is easiest.
A while back I read Andy Matuschak’s reflections on 2020. The “Executing alone” section talks about the costs of context switching, which gave me the idea to spend a week at a time working in any one area (or track, as I called them). A week on writing, a week on art, etc. Advantage: much less context switching than I’m used to. But it also meant long stretches of time between tracks (depending on how I rotated through the tracks), which wasn’t so great.
Next attempt: slicing time into days instead of weeks. I created a new calendar in Google Calendar to track my daily track assignments — one day for art, the next for writing, the next for working on tooling, etc. I also opted to give myself some flexibility to work on a track for more than one day in a row if I was on a roll. Better, definitely. But it didn’t stick. I don’t know why.
Finally, at long last, I found the right thing for me: the beat. The way I’m using it, it’s a flexible unit of time ranging from a minute or two up to however long is needed (so far ten or fifteen minutes). Even with a busy schedule, I almost always have a handful of free beats scattered throughout the day where I could get something small done — a next action, usually.
That’s all well and good, but the part that changed things for me was this: when I have an available beat, rather than having to decide in that moment what to work on, instead I just press a button. It’s a random decision. And it’s amazing (for me).
To get this working, I set up a list (in the iOS Shortcuts app) that has each thing I want to work on. The projects or tracks I want to work on more often are duplicated, so it ends up looking something like this (heavily redacted, ha):
Writing — project 1
Writing — project 1
Writing — project 1
Writing — project 2
Writing — project 2
Writing — project 3
The shortcut then uses a Get Random Item from List action followed by Show alert: Item from List. Super simple, took about thirty seconds to put together. I have it set up as a widget on my phone and as a complication on my watch, and I find that I use the latter the most by far.
I’m not sure why this works so well for my brain, but moving the choice out of my present and into my past (where I can prioritize better) has worked wonders — most notably for me, I’ve gotten unstuck on several projects I’d been avoiding for months.
Anyway, I have no idea whether it would work for other people, so if you try it out, let me know how it goes.
I was excited to see this: with Xcode 7, Apple now allows people to run their custom apps on their own devices without having to pay the $99/year membership fee:
Now everyone can get their app on their Apple device.
Xcode 7 and Swift now make it easier for everyone to build apps and run them directly on their Apple devices. Simply sign in with your Apple ID, and turn your idea into an app that you can touch on your iPad, iPhone, or Apple Watch. Download Xcode 7 beta and try it yourself today. Program membership is not required. (link)
This is perfect for me. I’ve long wanted to write apps for my own use, but because I don’t have any interest in selling them, the $99/year felt like a superfluous cost. (I also have a strong aversion to monthly subscriptions.)
The app works (it’s fully functional). The dictionary’s there (although there’s still a bit of work to be done cleaning up the imported definitions — mostly errors from the digitization as far as I can tell), some of the texts are there (and I wrote a script that made it super easy to import the rest), and the project was going quite well.
So why am I not going to release it?
Mostly because I wanted it to be a free app. Apple requires developers to pay $100/year (and that’s a totally legitimate cost, considering what you get in return for it — I’m not complaining about the fee), and since I won’t be writing commercial apps anytime soon, I can’t justify spending $100/year on it. Especially not with a baby on the way.
Maybe someday I’ll write a web-based mobile version, but in the meantime, here’s what Hwaet looked like: