Happy New Year to everyone, wherever you are in the world!

Let 2024 be a great one to you all. 🎉🙏🏻

I created a Watch List page on my website under my About page. I need to populate it with some content. So far, I have added things I want to watch on Apple TV+.

codemaclife.com/watch-lis…

Using Apple Reminders to organise my blog posts

I have been using Apple Reminders to organise and plan out my blog posts during the month of December.

Each task title links to my blog post in Apple Notes. It gives me quick access to where I have saved the draft blog post. Using Apple Notes to collect my thoughts on a post is a great approach for me. Some posts take longer than others because I sometimes suffer from a bit of writer’s block. If I can chip away at the post, I will eventfully get there. Each small step counts. With Apple Notes, I will add things to each note when I have an idea or article to link. Apple’s integrations make it all easier to process. I can send the idea or link to a specific note.

I am able to use Safari’s share feature by selecting a piece of text, right-clicking and selecting Apple Notes. From there, I can choose the right draft to attach the information to.

Once I am ready to finalise the post, I will drop it into Ulysses for proofreading and publish to Micro.blog and Medium. I am not confident with my writing to post directly from Notes to Micro.Blog just yet. Maybe in the future I will cut the middle man out altogether.

In Apple Reminders, I will replace the Apple Notes link with the link from my website, drag the reminder to Published and hit completed.

I hope you have found the process easy enough to understand. I think I will create an in-depth version of the process if I manage to find the right process that works consistently.

As 2023 comes to an end, I’ve had to add /24 to my bullet journal. Switching to an A5 BuJo was a great idea.

Tomorrow is a busy day. I’m sure it will be a productive one. There’s plenty to celebrate about this year and I am sure there will be next year.

My Field Notes is for work-related stuff. 📝

My website now has Tinylytics because I want to track what is being viewed. I love the ✌️emoji at the bottom of each post.

People can knock Apple Notes all they like. I find the app to be a great note-taking tool for my reading notes.

I can even add related articles, PDFs, images, sketches and link to other notes.

📚 Essentialism by Gregory McKeown is an interesting book.

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to think clearly about their chooses.

Think: ‘I choose to’, not ‘I have to’.

Photo of Essentialism on the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. Image of the book Essentialism by Gregory McKeown.

My favourite place

Life at the beach is priceless. Every time.

A place to escape with my family

There are moments in life when I feel most grateful. As 2023 ends, I reflect on the most important adventures and people. My family stands out above all the rest.

One adventure, where I get to relax and disconnect from the world, is my time I spend on the beach with my wife and son. Nothing beats the feeling of complete relaxation with the people you care the most about.

My memories at the beach are priceless. I can’t think of a better place to be. The smells, sounds, and beauty are all too vivid. Here lies my true Nirvana.

It is a time to put my phone away, remove my watch and get caught up in fun activities on the beach. Time stands still.

I will intentionally leave my Apple Watch at home and put my phone in the place we stay in (these photos were taken by my wife, who doesn’t disconnect like I do). Disconnection through my digital detoxes helps me relax more. Even a post this year by Outer Banks Vacations listed a few benefits of spending time on the beach. I agree with it all. Ideas for my creative thinking go into overdrive. My mental health feels restored. Moreover, I could do with a bit of vitamin D.

Life is better at the beach.

In 2024, I plan to take a few trips to the beach with my family. We are even lucky enough to explore Cancun, Mexico, later in the year. I am excited about that experience because Mexico is a country I have wanted to visit for a long time. I’ll make sure I upload some images from the trip, courtesy of my wife’s camera.

Life is, indeed, better at the beach.

As always, take care and thank you for reading my post.

Mark @ CodeMacLife

Email me at connect@codemaclife.net

I bought a MacBook Air M1 in June 2023. It was the best decision I made this year. I have found a new love for tech and it has encouraged me to write more. I find I am using my iPhone less because I can access most of my apps from my Macbook. In turn, I am not glued to my phone all day.

I messed up with my domain account. Is it easy to switch my micro.blog account to another domain name? I can’t access my current domain with Google.

Five days of NOTHING!

Why the five days after Christmas are my favourite time of year.

Why the five days after Christmas are my favourite time of year.

I know people who can quickly tell me what their favourite time of year is. They can tell me why and make the connections to something significant in their lives. I have never had that time of year to appreciate.

That was until I started reviewing previous journal entires, both handwritten and digital, spanning over the past three years.

There is a common theme. There is a moment of the year I feel more relaxed, motivated, grounded, and happier than any other time of the year. From Boxing Day to New Year’s Eve, I am at peak happiness (26th — 31st December).

Why?

Why, I hear you ask. Well, it’s simple.

For a start, I’m with my family and at not at work. This is not saying work is bad. I love spending time with my immediate family — my wife and son. We are all relaxing and enjoying the time together as well as the gifts we received. Moreover, I look forward to the annual Boxing Day lunch at my in-laws. This year it was lasagne, which is one of my favourite meals.

Lasagne and salad - the best!

Secondly, I go through the process of reviewing the year and what I have achieved as well as the things I did not achieve. Through the reflective process, I find I am grateful for plenty of things that have happened over the year. Even the adversity brings new and significant opportunities.

Finally, there’s nothing to do. Truthfully, there are plenty of things I could do, but I don’t, intentionally. It is my time to relax, procrastinate and follow any hobbies I have neglected over the past twelve months. For example, I spent two hours this morning colouring in a Zen mindfulness book. I only stopped because my hand was hurting. An hour later, I was writing this post without a care in the world.

A bit of Zen colouring from the morning

Reflection

I had time this morning to complete the Embrace the Year collection journal in Stoic App. It was an opportunity to truly reflect on 2023 and plan ahead for 2024. I believe the year will be great. I made a list of things I wanted to achieve in 2024, but I won’t touch any of it until 1st January 2024. What I have wrote in my list of things to achieve will take a lot of work. I’m not ready to start on them until I have enough physical and mental energy to challenge myself properly.

Getting ready for 2024 in Stoic App.

The next five days are all about guilt-free ‘free time’ where I can do what I want and not worry about optimising my productivity outflow or whatever nonsense these productivity gurus spew out. You know the people. The ones that have to optimise everything to be more productive or more hardcore!

I’ve been alive for 41 years and worked in several industries. I’ve found the key to productivity — happiness. No-one will be their best if they don’t love what they do. One aspect of building that happiness is switching off from the grind and resting. Your body will thank you for it. Your mental and physical self are connected.

These five days will be focused on resting to let my body recover from a busy term I had working in a school.

Thereafter, I will have one week to review and draw out actionable plans for the year ahead. Until then, it is time to relax and enjoy my favourite time of the year.

I wish you all the very best for 2024. Aim towards your goals, but please don’t burn yourself out in the process. I’ve been there. It’s not pretty.

As always, take care and thank you for reading my post.

Mark @ CodeMacLife

Follow me on Mastodon (AllThingsTech)

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Email me at connect@codemaclife.net

Time for a bit of web development learning. CSS has always been the sticking point for me. It puts me off when I have to remember all the sectors and when to use them.

What would the ideal note planner app look like for me? (Part One)

The perfect app does not exist, but I can dream of its existence…offline.

Sorry. You’re offline.

This question is something I regularly ask myself. I have used a lot of note-taking apps, daily planners, to-do list managers, productivity all-in-ones, and even Microsoft Notepad.

Often, they don’t stick, or I use them half-heartedly because I worry my full investment would make it harder to switch if I found something that caused a bump in the road.

Full access. Everywhere.

Part one of my series will look at offline and online accessibility. As I start to migrate to a digital workspace, I am coming up against brick walls that stop me from leaving the trusted pen and paper approach. Still, to this date, I use a physical daily planner at work and for most of my family endeavours. I know I will have access to it at all times.

Just like the Christmas Carole story, I have revisited the past applications, looked at the present ones and analysed what I will use in the future. There are some features I deem essential for any app I use, yet my app stack currently in use does not meet the standards I require. Their awesomeness (subjective), lets them have a free pass. Finding workarounds makes the application work for me (kind of).

My list of requirements is longer than I could possibly write in one blog. However, I am going to attempt to list what I would deem the ‘perfect app’ below.

My context, within the education sector, makes my needs different from someone who works in business or the tech industry. It is not a Fisher-price ordeal. The education sector can be quite demanding when it comes to the technology to record, analyse and respond to student’s educational needs.

In addition, I have my personal life, blogging and keeping a family running with never-ending commitments. My soon-to-be teenage son has a busy social life to organise.

Prerequisites of a good note-taking planner

Here is a list of prerequisites I look for in an app for managing the daily tasks, ideas, events, and light journal entries.

  • First and foremost, offline access across operating systems (that includes Linux, too).
  • Security. Preferably end-to-end encryption.
  • Encryption for attachments
  • A quality extension for capture, including a Safari extension.
  • Sketching capabilities with OCR detection.
  • OCR across text, images, handwritten notes and scanned documents.
  • A daily note function.
  • Backlinks with a list of connected notes.
  • Share sheet functionality across the entire Apple ecosystem.
  • Calendar integration with Apple Calendars.
  • Apple Watch integration, including Siri input for when I am not near a computer.

The problem with the current landscape (for me)

Offline desktop access

I am not going to name names or single out specific apps here. The problem I am having is access to notes offline. All the apps I have tried, with an iPhone and iPad app, work exceptionally well and offer the convenience for my needs.

Unfortunately, they fall flat when I require offline desktop access. There are three times in the week when I go somewhere will little to no internet access to tether my phone to my MacBook Air. I have to resort to using Apple Notes, which is why Apple Notes is my primary note-taking application.

It is why I don’t properly commit to the said applications. I would rather not enter lots of information in an application to not have access to it when I am offline. It is becoming a real issue as I am writing more and using technology over my trusted pen and paper approach these days.

Please stop using Electron. It is a quick fix for deploying said ‘apps’ across multiple platforms, but native apps have better options for users as well as global shortcuts. I get that supporting multiple platforms takes time and a crazy amount of money to work effectively. I am willing to pay for this convenience.

Two services I will mention are Reflect Notes and Amplenote. They make use of PWAs (Progressive Web Applications) that operate through a web browser and your content is accessible offline. This is perfect for those who need access at work where applications are not allowed to be installed.

I would like to see software companies explore this approach because offline access on desktop is essential. Imagine having a great note-taking app that you can’t access when you are not online. It is becoming a real bugbear of mine at the moment.

Web access

It might appear to be an oxymoron, but I also require online web access, too. Like most businesses (and schools) out there. Installation of applications can be prohibited if they are not on the list of approved workplace folklore.

This part winds me up a little. Applications will E2EE can be considered unsecured, yet outdated Microsoft Office is allowed at work. Moreover, what is with all the telemetry, Microsoft?

I have some application services that work amazingly offline in their native apps. One of them, for example, is a note-taking application I use each day at home for referencing articles, storing coding snippets and learning content. However, I can’t access it at work because I am not allowed to install the app from the Microsoft Store.

Without web access, I can’t retrieve my information from the note-taking application. Is there such of an application that gives you full access, everywhere?

Again, I resort back to my little bullet journal to record an idea, task or thought. When I have time, I will input it into the relevant application when I have time to access it.

My issue at work is I am not always at a computer. I could possibly estimate I spend 60% of my time away from a computer. If, for some crazy reason, I forget my bullet journal or daily planner, I can use my Apple Watch to input through Siri or on their well-constructed complication on my watch’s home screen.

Final thoughts

I don’t think I am the only one with this issue. I would love to get people’s input on this matter. I’m under no illusion that the perfect app does not exist. There are some apps out there that have come close.

I know 2024 will be an interesting time to see what happens in the note-taking space. I have seen many applications come out with calendar, tasks, and notes all rolled up into one nice package.

My fingers are seriously crossed that one of them comes out with a service that offers offline and web access across all the platforms I use. Namely, macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, Windows and Linux (I know my demands are complicated).

Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read my post. Part two will be coming out in January 2024.

Mark @ CodeMacLife

Follow me on Mastodon (AllThingsTech)

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Email me at connect@codemaclife.net

A brief look at how I use priorities and tags in TickTick

##Simple but effective use of TickTick keeps me on task.

I have recently switched to TickTick from Apple Reminders due to accessibility issues on non-Apple devices and availability at work. All tasks added through Siri on my Apple Watch go into Apple Reminders and synchronise across to TickTick (a feature still missing in Todoist).

Luckily, TickTick has a nice import feature to transfer tasks and their attributes from Apple Reminders, including the location reminders and recurring settings.

The colours I use in TickTick for tags are the same colours I use across my folder system (Apple Finder / Windows Explorer). The same for my Twos app setup and book referencing system. I like the consistency because I understand what each colour represents.

  • Blue for personal endeavours.
  • Green for home, including family-related items.
  • Yellow for website/blogging.
  • Purple for work-related items.
  • Grey for side-hustle items like Medium.

There are some slight differences with my book referencing system, but the colours chosen for book referencing system correspond to what area they effect from the above list.

Anyway, I digress.

Priority flags

My priority system in TickTick.

I know from the priority flagging system in TickTick, I am not using it as intended for the Eisenhower Matrix to work properly. I don’t intend to use it this way. I use Carl Pullein’s Time Sector System, so my tasks are organised by time anyway.

Priorities are set up in a way that puts others at the forefront. Yes, I have my own important tasks. However, I like to make sure my actions do not impact others. I don’t believe it is fair on them. I must stress; however, I will not drop everything for others over my most significant tasks.

An example of a high priority happened this week. I had to get something written up for work and my son needed medicine for his chest infection. Traveling for the medicine was set to high (red) and the work task was set to medium (orange) priority. Both were highly significant. However, prioritising my son’s health was more important. By rearranging things around, I was able to write up my document for work later in the evening. I had to stay up later than I wanted to, but I managed to get both tasks completed.

Low-priority tasks are jobs I need to do within the week. Ideally, they need to be done on the days I have assigned them. If I have to move them to another day in the week, I will do so as long as the task is completed during the given week. Having this kind of flexibility is nice to have because I would have previously panicked when I had not completed a task on the same day. All of my weekly routine tasks have a blue flag assigned to them. This helps me distinguish my unique tasks from my routine tasks.

Tasks with no flag have their own importance, but they are not a priority. I will slip these in when I can. Occasionally, when I have low energy, I will start with one of these tasks because they are easy wins. The momentum will drive me to start on one of the harder tasks. I will have to be desperate to [Eat the Frog].

Tags

I use tags sparingly. At one point in the past, I did not use them at all. Now I use they to group my tasks into areas. In TickTick, I use the Time Sector System with the Kanban view for my Routines and This Week lists. Both lists are grouped into personal, work and side hustle. In theory, this should be enough for me to not have to use tags. The problem occurs when I look at the Today view where all of my calendar, habits, tasks, and routines appear in one place.

Tags used in Kanban view.

In Apple Reminders, I limited the number of tags to reduce the overwhelming options viewable to me. The plan is to keep the same setup in TickTick. I use the following tags:

  • Personal
    • As the name suggests, anything to do with me is set to personal. I use the blue that reminds me of the infamous blue bubble in iMessages. My personal tag can be accompanied by the finance or course tags.
  • Course
    • Anything to do with self-directed learning, college or work-related CPD will be given the course tag. I could rename it learning, but I am always learning, so being direct with the type of learning makes sense to me.
  • Finance
    • Anything that impacts me financially goes in here. House bills, utilities, car fuel, insurance, etc. I also assign this tag to routine check-ups of my bank and saving accounts. I have recently added planned purchases to the tag.
  • Home
    • Home is a mixture of home-related chores, specific family members and reminders of where the task needs to be completed (see GTD). I originally had individual tags for my wife, son, and other family members. As you can imagine, the tagging list got overwhelming. Now I make sure the person’s name is in the task title.
  • Side hustle (not real name)
    • Anything that is earning me money and is not related to my main work will be tagged with side hustle, including anything I sell, like clothing and books. I usually use this tag with another like personal or finance. Reminders to get something prepared, planned or an errand will receive this tag for my side hustle.
  • Blog
    • My blog tag relates to my blogging, admin and media creation. The finance and side hustle tag can accompany this tag when appropriate. An example of this is paying for subscriptions like my Ulysses or micro.blog access. However, most tasks with the blog tag have something to do with writing a blog post or researching a topic.
  • Work
    • I was in two minds whether to have subtags with the work tag. I wondered if I should have different areas of my job under this tag. Instead, I use brackets at the end of each work-related task to specify what area it relates to. I chose purple for the tag colour because my workplace colour is purple. This colour stands out against all the other colours because it is bright.

###Final thoughts

My recent switch to TickTick has made me realise how much I have learnt about productivity, prioritisation, and task management over the past year. I am now proud to say I have so little tasks to complete each day because I am removed a lot of mental and physical clutter from my life.

Apple Reminders is still a great application to use if you are in the Apple ecosystem.

I plan to utilise TickTick further in 2024, especially the use of the Pomo timer and stopwatch features. I want to track how long I am taking with certain tasks to make informed decisions for my future tasks and projects.

I hope someone finds this information useful. Furthermore, I will review my configuration and update my blog if anything changes.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

Mark @ [CodeMacLife] Follow me on [Mastodon (AllThingsTech)] Follow me on [Medium] Follow me on [Tumblr] Email me at [connect@codemaclife.net]

I managed to see the lunar halo around the moon this evening in Derbyshire, England. I thought people were joking when they said this was going to happen.

It wasn’t planned but I ended up putting up a few Christmas decorations after making a trip up into the loft today.

At least it is one less job to do next week.

I’ve managed to reach 30 days and 11 trophies with Stoic app.

Combining my journaling, meditation, breathing and stoics into one place has been the best decision for me.

** Less apps, more focus. **

Bullet journaling in 2023 is still going strong for me.

I am aware people on YouTube and other social media platforms say the bullet journaling craze is over. For me, it will never go away.

The approach to bullet journaling has changed my life for the better. I am consistent with my journaling. I didn’t want my bullet journal to be inundated with work commitments, so I decided to split my BuJo work responsibilities from my main journal. Only the information I think it important will be added to my main journal.

White Bujo by scribblesthatmatter.com

  • this is my main Bujo. It is a hardback A6 dotted with 216 pages of 120gsm paper. There are two strips of ribbon to use as bookmarks. The black ribbon stays in the monthly future log and the white ribbon jumps to each day.

Black Bujo by fieldnotesbrand.com

The Field notes memo book consists of 48-pages.

I don’t add any future logs in here. This Bujo sits in my back trouser pocket while I am at work or going on a walk. It is small and built with quality, so it sustains everything I throw at it.

My field notes Bujo mostly consists of events, tasks and notes that I need for the day. I will also transfer anything from this Bujo to my white Bujo if is needed. As each Field notes memo book holds 48-pages of dotted paper, I want to be mindful of anything I put in it.

_Each November, I reread the Bullet Journal method book to remind myself to why I use this approach, and also, to remind me of what I can add to the Bujo. _

#bullet journal #bujo #fieldnotes #journaling