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:

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 3.04.19 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 4.37.03 PM

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).

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 4.45.49 PM

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

Hit your goals!


In the first blog of this series, we talked about writing better resolutions, which are specific, measurable, timed, and have a “why.” You can find that blog here.

Now that you have a set of resolutions, how do we troubleshoot flagging resolutions? I think the more accountability, the better.

  • Review your goals DAILY. Another  way is to set up an accountability system. Post them where you can see them.
  • Another person can help keep you accountable- find a friend to workout with, for instance.
  • Similar to this would be to find a group to meet with, like Weight Watchers meetings if you’re trying to lose weight, or a book club if you’re trying to read more. Even a Facebook group can help, but you have to find some way to get yourself to post weekly, at least, in the group. Starting a smaller group with friends who will check in on each other might work well if you’re concerned about blowing off the check-in.
  • I set timers in todoist, which remind me to check into my fitness program, and check in with a group that I keep up with. The act of checking off the boxes is rewarding in itself for me, and this helps the habit become self-perpetuating.
  • Stickk ( is a different way to keep to your goals, and uses proven methods to help. You choose a goal, put up an agreed amount of money to be given to charity (and you can pick a cause you don’t agree with, so if you quit, you’re giving money to a group you really don’t like!), find a “referee” and start working on your goal! This would be a goal tracker and motivator all in one.

What apps are there for goal setting? A ton! The best one is the one you’ll stick with. Among the most popular:

  1. Strides ( Free app for basic, $4.99 for premium version. This is the one I use on my iPhone, and really like it. I think it is simple to set up, and simple to use. You set your goals, and then click “yes” or “no” daily. It tracks your progress, and can prompt you to keep up with your goal. There is also an apple watch app. I have the free version and have not needed the premium yet.
  2. Today ( free app, $4.99 for premium version. Beautiful to look at, similar to Strides but no apple watch app as of this writing.
  3. Streaks ( $3.99. Simple, chic layout. Same concept as the other two habit trackers above.
  4. Any task tracker: Do you need a habit tracker? I use one for ease and to see the consecutive days I have performed the habit, but really, I could use todoist if I were not interested in seeing consecutive days.

What task tracker do you use? What resolutions are you planning to make?

The New Year’s Resolution series


This is the first of a series on New Year’s Resolutions. My intention is to start with making more effective New Year’s Resolutions, troubleshoot why they might not have worked in the past, and how we can get better at tracking and achieving them. Then, I’m hoping to do blogs on common resolutions themselves (lose weight, run, get out of debt, etc), and the apps and techniques which could help.

Why write about New Year’s Resolutions? This is the time when everyone has a clean slate, and is thinking about making changes anyway. The best reason for me is that I believe in the power we all have to change our lives in a thoughtful way. As a psychiatrist, it is such an incredible privilege to help patients help themselves in changing their lives!

Let’s talk about what makes a good resolution.

  • A resolution is written down, and you review it frequently.
  • You have multiple important reasons for wanting to achieve these resolutions, and you’ve written those down as well.
  • The resolution is measurable and well-defined.
  • You have a way of monitoring the resolution.
  • You know the next step.
  • You don’t have too many resolutions you can’t really keep track of more than 2 or 3 at a time. That’s not to say you don’t have more, but you’re concentrating on only a few at the time.
  • How will you be accountable for your goal?

Here’s an example. Instead of “lose weight,” I will choose a target carefully. Here’s where the well-defined part comes in: do I really want to lose weight, or be more fit, or both? Might I better define this as “fit in my size eight Lucky Jeans” or some fitness goal? What is a healthy, obtainable weight, and does my goal align with this in the first place?

Starting resolution: I will lose weight.

Optimized resolution: I will lose 10 lbs by April 1, 2017.

1.   Why: because I want to look my best, demonstrate a healthy lifestyle for my kids, and         not get diabetes.

2.   Measure: Using the Lose It! app, weighing myself one time per week. I will participate in an online group for weight loss and post my progress weekly.

3.   How: Logging foods with a 500 kcal deficit daily, exercise three times per week, reducing junky carbs and eating 5 servings of vegetables daily.

4.   Next Step: Download Lose it! App.

You can see why this would be a more powerful resolution. For more resources for goal setting, I like Michael Hyatt’s website, the Asian Efficiency Website, and the 7 Habits for Highly Effective People  by Stephen Covey is very helpful!

Please join me next time for tips on troubleshooting goals, and what apps to use to track your new resolutions!