How the new Things 3 app is literally changing my life (along with DayOne)

I admit how much I love planning, technology, apps and the like. I consider the difference between planning methods (digital or paper? Mac app or web app? A combination of both?) as carefully as I timed having a family.  I might only be kidding a little. Or not kidding at all. Anyway, I have found a combination of apps that are changing my life right now.

I am a Mac user in general, but in my work, PC is the law of the land. I am also aware of all the research regarding how writing things down helps you cement them in your mind. However, I also travel light being a public transportation commuter, and it’s not as if I want or need to recall my calendar perfectly. That’s what reminders and the prompting from my apple watch are for! Right now for me, a combination of apps has really helped me get focused.

I was recently encouraged to try Things 3, the newly released app on Mac, iPad and iPhone by Cultured Code, from a  thread on the Asian Efficiency Dojo website. I am really glad I did! My method is adapted from one of the users, Tor Rogn. I have a Daily project that recurs and keeps me accountable with my daily rituals. It also reminds me of what my current next steps are for goals, and what I’m working on that week. Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 3.04.07 PM

Each morning, I get up early, and start my morning ritual, which I’ve made a screen shot of the checklist from the daily project above:

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I meditate using the Insight Timer that I blogged about a few weeks ago, and I write a five minute journal entry to help me remember what my priorities are and what I am grateful for. I do this via the DayOne app and a text expander- in this case, Typeit4me.

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Throughout the day, I use the daily checklist to help me guide my day. At night, I complete the 5 minute journal. On Sunday, I have a weekly review project that automatically comes up in Things (in two screen shots, since it’s longer than my screen). This helps me ensure that I have collected all the data for the week, and get ready for the week ahead with a minimum of trauma.

The task prompts me to review my goals, and work out what makes the most difference in DayOne- again, using a prompt from a text expander. I was using the Focus journal from Michael Hyatt, and I’ve used his weekly review in my electronic version (I have the journal, but don’t want to lug it around).

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What are you doing for your organization and weekly reviews? Let me know below how you’re staying on top of things!

Insight Timer: a meditation app worth a second look

A long time ago, I downloaded Insight Timer, an app that to the best of my recollection, did the one thing it was for in an attractive way. In other words, it timed my meditation and had a nice mindfulness bell at the beginning and end. At the time, that is all it did. You could change the timer, the way that it counted down meditation, and the sound it made to signal completion, but that was basically it. At the time, that didn’t seem like enough to earn it’s keep on my iPhone and I deleted it.

However, I recently joined an online group where the moderator had started an Insight Timer group to meditate together. An Insight Timer group? I decided to review the app again. To my surprise, the app has become so much more than I recalled- in fact, it has become my primary meditation app. I even cancelled my headspace subscription!

The original Insight Timer app is still there, under the Timer tab at the bottom of the app. You can still choose what starting and ending bell you prefer (there are more choices for a small fee of $2.99). You can choose a background noise, like a sound bath, which may amplify the effects of meditation ( see this article). Again, there are different options for a small fee- this time, $1.99.

The part of the app which has really stood out for me, and is free, are the new guided meditations and music. The guided meditations are from different teachers of different spiritualities and points of view- some are specifically aimed at a type of spirituality or religion, and some are more aimed at general mindfulness and health. I was impressed to see Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach, all for free! I’ve been using the guided meditation, “Morning Meditation with Music” by Jonathan Lehmann most mornings, and really like it. There is also a music section that has binaural beats, which in studies, have been shown to help with anxiety (you need headphones for these). I’ve been listening to “Whispering Notes” by Pablo Arellano at night. I can’t tell you specifically what it sounds like past the first fifteen minutes because I  have been completely asleep by then…every. Single. Night.

There are also groups of different meditators, who opt to meditate at the same time, or just offer support on a basic wall dedicated to that group. I haven’t explored these much yet. You can add friends as well and communicate via the app. I haven’t decided exactly what I think of that-you can opt to turn off this feature, and had I started off again today, I might have chosen to turn this feature off. I have had a few people sending me odd, intrusive questions that I chose to ignore in general.

Overall, if you’re planning to start a meditation practice, I can’t recommend this app enough. Recent updates show that the company is working towards organizing the guided meditation and music in a way that enhances the experience for the user.

What meditation app are you using? I would love to hear via your comments below!0E70ADC7-E63F-4BBF-A47E-3399C6C85484

Airmail: helping me get to inbox zero!


I don’t know about you, but one of my most neglected daily tasks is email processing. I am really terrible at letting email pile up. However, I have found an app that really helps me stay on top of the email monster. I’m currently using Airmail 3 ( on my MacBook air and on my iPhone and iPad, and love the program. I’ve been using it for about 4 months now, and I don’t think I’ll change, which is REALLY saying something since searching for new apps is some kind of compulsion for me. The apps are $9.99 for the mac, and $4.99 for iOS. I think that the cost is worth it.

The app is very fast- faster than the native client. There is also an apple watch app, that is useful, allowing you to delete mail from your watch. Where the app changes things for me is in the integration with other apps. For instance, I use Todoist for my tasks. With this app, you can send an email as a task to Todoist with a click. The same goes for Evernote if you’d like to save an email. Several other services, including Trello, Fantastical, Deliveries (track all those packages you get with a click!), Dropbox, Dayone are all included, and there are many, many more. I deal with the email right away by sending it to whatever app or folder it needs to go to, then archive the original email.

You can also mark an email as spam with a click, create a PDF from the email, add contacts, mute, block, add senders to VIP, make a memo with the email, “snooze” the email until later…You can also unsubscribe to an email mailing list with a click, but this has variable levels of success, I’ve noticed.

The actions are available as a drop down menu, or with a swipe from the inbox list of emails- it makes dealing with email almost as fast from the iPhone than it is with a Mac. It can manage multiple email accounts, and was very easy to set up. The interface is clean, easy to read, and pleasing. This has become one of my favorite, and most used apps, and a definite step up from the Apple Mail that is built into your phone and Mac.

How do you keep up with your email? Have you found an app that you like?

Be an involved citizen with personal technology!


One of the great responsibilities and privileges of a democracy is that each citizen must participate in the government and election of those officials who we allow to run our government. Even if you do not vote, you are making a choice for the status quo, one way or another. We are all lucky to have the choice to decide whether we want to vote or not, and who we want to vote for. Whatever your political viewpoint, citizens are more galvanized to make a difference now than ever. Although technology is NOT a substitute for calling your elected official to voice your opinion, going to a town hall meeting, starting a petition, or participating in a march, technology CAN help you do these things more easily. The first step is to know who your representatives are, and you can find them at

To keep up with the issues, you can read most of your favorite newspapers and magazines on your iPad or iPhone. I try to read a few different sources to get different viewpoints, all from my iPad: the New York Times, The Economist, the Atlantic,  and I read through the PBS app as well. I also skim the Washington Post. Your favorite resources may differ depending on what your political opinions are, but I urge you to learn as much as you can from reputable resources, no matter what your political leanings.

There are a number of apps designed to help you keep track of legislation. I’m currently using Countable (, free), which is available on both iPad and iPhone. I’ve been pleased with it- the app gives you news related to executive orders and political issues, as well as legislation currently passing. You have the ability to “vote” and comment on the issue, and the website reports that they deliver your vote, comments and address to your representative so they can get back to you. I have no idea if they do or not- it seems unlikely that they would be able to respond to that volume. To me, the main benefit is being aware in real time what the bills are which are being voted on, and what the results were. The site seeks to be non-partisan, and can also tell you who your representatives are. Clicking on your representatives’ photo in the app leads to a page that shows you how they have voted on issues. Clicking on the icons below their name can take you to their home page with contact information, Facebook page, twitter account and you tube accounts. I do feel like the one liner that Countable gives you for why you should or should not support a bill, while meant to be brief for clarity, is not enough information in many cases to decide- which is why I suggest reading broadly.

Another app similar to Countable is iCitizen (, free). The ratings on the iTunes are lower, partly because of the perception that the app skews right. I am not sure if this is true or not, because I found it difficult to find anything of real substance in terms of legislation- it seemed like polls such as “Do you have a favorable opinion of Obama and Trump?” I do not think that these sorts of polls really help us be more engaged with our government, or for that matter, engage in any genuine way with each other. Perhaps there is more information on the site about bills, but about 10 minutes of reviewing the site did not reveal this, so I feel the layout could probably be improved!

The app Trackbill (, free, upgrades super pricey) is another app designed to follow legislation. I think this would be excellent for someone like a journalist covering legislation or a staffer even. I do not need to have the level of detail that this app has- but I can imagine someone might. For instance, on an upcoming bill, it gives the date, location and committee for the hearing, a list of the actions taken on the bill, etc. It could also be helpful if you are really interested in one particular bill, so you can see EVERYTHING that has happened with that bill. Also, there are upgrades to track unlimited bills, committees, legislators, keywords, etc, and that comes with an extreme cost: nearly $1000 per year!

A lesser considered opportunity to get involved with your democracy- volunteer work! I like the site, where you can sign up for volunteer work based on your interests and your location. For example, if animal rights are your interest, there are 94 opportunities to get involved in the San Francisco area as of this writing! If education and literacy are important to you, consider one of the nearly 500 volunteer positions open!

I hope you were inspired to get involved with your community and your country. Do you have other ways to stay involved? Please let me know in the comments below!

Runkeeper: this app will keeping you moving!


I’m not a natural runner. In high school, I slogged along, huffing and puffing, watching my friends in track sprint past me, getting through the long runs with a positive attitude, and happily discuss the “runner’s high.” Blech! I know running is an effective way to burn calories, and I can remember when it was a joy when I was a little kid. But as an adult, the enthusiasm I can muster is, “well, this sucks slightly less than it did 10 minutes ago.” On the other hand, I need to stay fit, and I have limited time, so running is a really efficient way to do so.

I’ve run with several apps, but Runkeeper ( is my favorite so far. I’ve run with it on and off for about a year, but more seriously over the last few months. One way of sticking with running, I read, is to sign up for a race in the future, and pay for it. I did this, but then I needed to decide how to prepare for that race. Since I already had Runkeeper, and liked it, I decided to stick with it. I’ve recently compared running apps in a different blog, which you can find HERE. Today, I want to write more in depth about Runkeeper, and how it has been a game changer for me.

Runkeeper is free for the basic functions, but for the coaching and advanced functions, the cost is $9.99/mo or $39.99 per year. If you might use the app for more than four months, it is a better deal to sign up for a year at a time. I think it is worth it. This is the longest I have stuck with running, and have noticed that my running times have significantly improved, just by getting out there three times a week.

Runkeeper can map your run, showing you where you were, how long it took, and what speed and average speed you were running. If you have the newer GPS version Apple Watch, you can leave your phone at home, and Runkeeper can manage your run from your watch. If you do not have the newest Apple Watch, you can still leave the phone at home, but it won’t be able to map your run. Allegedly it can still measure your distance- I imagine the way a FitBit does, which is perhaps a little less accurate in distance (which is what studies generally show about the Fitbit: better for steps, less so for distance). I always bring my phone, so I haven’t tested this out yet.

Runkeeper, like many other running apps, can also play music via the app- either the music from your iPhone, or Spotify, which is very nicely integrated into the app. Spotify and Runkeeper work together to measure your speed, and play music that matches your pace to encourage you. However, I have not been able to use this where I am running, because there is no cell service. Instead, I have been listening to podcasts (the Tim Ferris show!) which are NOT integrated into the app. To listen to podcasts, you download the podcast (unless you have sufficient cell service), then start the podcast, then start Runkeeper. Runkeeper doesn’t control the podcast, but it is easy enough to adjust the volume separately. I would love it if Runkeeper could integrate this into the app rather than having to use this hack to get it to work, but for now, it works fine my way.

I have been using the 5K coach plan- the plan is written by Jeff Galloway, a very well respected runner and running teacher. The plan starts off with walking and running two days a week, with a slightly longer weekend run. After each interval, a voice through my headphones instructs me what I should be doing -“One minute- walk!” The intervals are progressively getting longer for running and shorter for walking, until the end, when I assume I will be running the whole thing. The intervals started off easy enough that I wasn’t huffing and puffing, and they have moved towards running slowly enough that I feel like I can keep up. On the other hand, my running times have improved, and each step feels challenging as well. The app reminds me the night before when I have a run coming up the next day. For the first time in a REALLY long time, I am enjoying running. I like the chance to get out and run, burn off some calories, and catch up on podcasts. I can click on each run and see what my approximate speed was at any given time, how many calories I burned, etc. I have not used all the data that it gives me, but maybe when I get more advanced at running! Allegedly the app also works for biking, but I have not tried it.

I can also cheer on friends -live, if you have the paid version. After each run, it gives me the opportunity to comment on the run, and can post it to social media (though I don’t), and let my friends also on Runkeeper know that I have gone for a run. This has been a little bit like hearing a tree fall in the woods -does it make a noise- because no one I know is running right now!

A few other nice aspects of the app are that it integrates with many calorie trackers, as well as Apple’s own Health Data. There is an Apple Watch app, which mainly does everything that you might need while you are out running- tells you splits, how long you have been running, lets you pause the app, etc. I use the Apple Watch app every time. You can join challenges (I’ve signed up to do the “I am a Runner Challenge” and the “January 5K” challenges, which completing means I am entered into a drawing for free UnderArmour Gear. When I hit a new milestone, I’ve received an email congratulations, and a coupon for 20% off running gear, which is pretty fun.

I am planning to keep using this app. I’m really happy with my progress, and with the coaching plan. Is anyone else using Runkeeper?

Using an app to streamline meals at home


We cook nearly every day at home- it’s MUCH healthier, since restaurant meals are loaded with extra calories and sodium, and are much larger than the normal home cooked meal.  It is also much less expensive to eat at home, generally. However, we have a busy family with two adults who work full-time! How can technology help?

  • One obvious way is to use a service like Blue Apron, or similar, that delivers meal components that you then assemble at home. The cost of this can be much higher than what you would make on your own.
  • You can make a list and order your groceries on-line through a service like Peapod, then make your food at home. The cost of delivery can be $7 or more, which is still reasonable. However, we have been unhappy with the quality of the groceries, and sometimes have trouble anticipating when we will be home for the delivery.
  • You can make a list, grocery shop, bring the groceries home and make dinner. This is the cheapest, but also the most time consuming. For us, time is a premium.

Our family has found a very streamlined way to shop and cook with minimal expense. First of all, everyone who is an adult in the household has the app Paprika ($4.99, I love this app. There are several “recipe box” type apps, but I like Paprika because it can accept recipes from any website. I am always finding recipes online at different websites, but they all have their own proprietary “recipe box.” Paprika can merge these altogether.

  1. Each week, we make a menu plan, which is easy, because you can assign the meal to a specific day. You press the shopping cart button at the top of the recipe, and presto! The ingredients appear in your shopping cart, organized by the section of the store they would be found. By syncing, the shopping list and all other changes are pushed to every adults’ iOS device.
  2. Then, someone orders groceries online from the local supermarket. For us, at Harris Teeter, this is a $4.95 charge to collect all our groceries, bag them, and bring them to refrigerated cases in front of the store, which are locked. We choose a time to pick up the groceries, but this is quite flexible. We can choose meals based on what is on sale in our store. The store calls us if there are substitutions that need to be made, and I have noticed the quality seems to be better than the delivery services in our area.
  3. At the appointed time, one of us drives up to the front of the store, rings the bell, and someone loads the groceries into our car, while our payment is being processed.
  4. Whomever is home first starts the meal, which is pre-planned on Paprika now, with the recipe in the app. We use an old iPad as a dedicated “cookbook” for our kitchen.

That’s it! How do you make meals more efficient? Let me know in the comments below.

FitStar by FitBit: worth the cost?


I use the FitStar app on my iPhone to get a daily work out in, five days a week in the morning, and run three days a week in the evening. I was therefore, surprised when I started up FitStar one morning this week, and found an entirely new app.  A lot has changed in the app, both good and bad, in my opinion. It seems like FitBit has purchased the app, because it is now “FitStar by FitBit” and Fitbit is in the icon.

The most superficial part is that the icon has changed, from the red star on white background, to a black and blue icon.  The previous app guided you through workouts, based on your goals, age, and the results of your fitness test, with reassuring voiceovers by Tony Gonzales. Where is Tony Gonzalez now? I liked him. Anyway, with the new app, you choose one of two coaches, Lea or Adrian. I can’t tell if it makes much difference which coach you choose. My instinct was to choose the female coach, so I stretched my limits and picked the male coach.

The exercises are different now- I haven’t seen any of the “star skaters- it’s almost like an extreme version of the curtsy”  (you’ll laugh if you had been doing FitStar before the update!) but there are a lot of really challenging exercises. They are mostly well explained, though the design of the app has some kind of overlay on top of of the video that makes it occasionally hard to see. The exercises start immediately after the demonstration, mostly so fast that if you are new to the exercise, it is hard to get in position before they start. I usually miss the first exercise of the set, I’ve noticed, but I anticipate that this will improve as I become more familiar with the exercises.

I like that you can choose a more efficient or more challenging routine that day depending on your time and motivation- before, if you were in a program- “get lean” or “get strong” for instance, you were stuck doing exactly what the next routine in the series was. Some days, I feel like doing more, or have less time. I think this results in doing the routines more often, because if I have less time, I can do a shorter routine instead of skipping it altogether because I don’t have time for what the plan had intended for me.

The increased integration with FitBit now allows the app to adjust your workout depending on what you did with the Fitbit the day before- if it knows you pushed it on a long run, it might suggest something easier the next day. I don’t think this works if you’re not using a FitBit-I use an Apple Watch, for instance.

Speaking of Apple Watch, it has also dropped the apple watch app. Truth be told, I didn’t use the app that often, since it had limited functionality, but I did like how it could tell you how many of each exercise were supposed to be in the set. To make up for this, there’s a new option to add a “ticking” sound to each rep, so I just keep up with the sounds to get the right number of reps. This has the effect of making the routine more challenging as well, as I am doing the reps slower and using more muscle power on the negative, which is good.

I think the subscription cost has stayed the same- $7.99 per month. I think it’s a good value, especially right now, while I’m away from home for an extended period of time. When I get back home, where I can go to the gym before work, I’ll quit the subscription.

Overall, I think this has been a good change. It would be nice if it could give you the workout adjustment aspect if you’re not using a FitBit. It would also be nice if the Apple Watch app was reintroduced with more functionality, perhaps using it’s ability to measure heart rate. And give us Tony Gonzalez back!