It’s not zen at all to brag. It’s poor form. It’s borderline impolite. Self–centered and narcissistic. All of that, absolutely.
Okay, so here I go: I have just completed the first draft of my novel. It has taken me four years of planning and plot development and six months of intensive writing.
Have you ever noticed how the pilot episode of a sitcom is weaker than the first series? The acting is wooden and the dialogue shrill. Themes and conflicts are introduced so emphatically that the characters seem like caricatures. Series get better as the writers and actors find their groove.
All of this came to mind as I reread the opening scenes of my novel. They were my pilot episodes and they suffer from all the vices listed above. It is clear I will have to edit those scenes quite heavily. The good news is that I also notice that my craft has improved in the course of the writing process. Continue reading →
Scapple comes from good stock: it is produced by the folk at Literature and Latte, who brought us Scrivener, a writer’s best friend (after inspiration and momentum). Scapple is a free–form note–taking app. It allows you to type anywhere on the page, and notes can be connected by arrows.
Hm, a mind–mapping app, you say. Not quite, since you can use Scapple without relying on any central idea, linkages or hierarchies. It is more of a brainstorming, content development app. I use Scapple to develop scenes for my novel. Let me show you what I mean.
My big news over the past month is that I have attended Euan Mitchell’s Digital Makeover course organised by Writers Victoria at The Wheeler Centre. The 12–hour program was spread over four weeks and I found the course both comprehensive and stimulating. Euan gave us an overview of self–publishing and then taught us practical skills for formatting e–books and uploading them on Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle. It was a fantastic course, ranging from purchasing ISBNs to marketing your work. Do not despair if you’ve missed the course: Euan’s immense practice wisdom can be found in Your book publishing options (2014). A fantastic resource, especially for Australian authors. Check out Euan’s website for details.
Meanwhile I keep hammering away at my novel. I am up to 63,000 words now (~58% into my first draft). Joy. Bliss. And yes, I intend to put Euan’s teaching into practice. I am planning to publish two short stories later this month. Check back here for details or on my brand new author’s page on Facebook.
You haven’t heard from me for a long time. It can be good to take a break from reviewing productivity apps and to focus solely on Getting Things Done®. For me, that has meant a new landmark project: I am currently working on my debut novel, and I am well into my first draft. Let me tell you what that means to me.
I started writing when I was nine years old (poetry, short stories) and I have written—mainly in a professional capacity—ever since. Reports, manuals, school books, briefings, speeches, websites, literary criticism, e–learning modules—you name it.
Some task management apps seem inspired by steampunk: bells and whistles, lots of brass, faux leather, wood veneer and plenty of levers to throw. Others are light and fluid, almost zen–like in their barely there simplicity. Do not underestimate these ethereal apps, dear reader, for they may have a lot of potential bubbling away under the hood, ready for you to unleash.
Okay, that was fun. Down to business now: today I’ll be comparing two slender high flyers: Asana and Todoist.
The first principle of David Allen’s Getting Things Done™ (GTD™) approach to task and project management is that you should capture every task or project that comes into your head in what he calls a trusted system.
For me, Omnifocus has provided that trusted system since 2009 and the rollout of Omnifocus 2 for iMac in June 2014 has further strengthened what was already a powerful, versatile and reliable app. The two most compelling features of Omnifocus 2 for desktops are the review function and the Forecast view—both adapted from the groundbreaking iPad app.
The downside of following the great GTD™ guru’s advice to the letter is that you end up with a lot of ‘stuff’ in your trusted system. My Omnifocus file typically holds around 700 entries in some 60 projects. Not all of these are to–do items in the narrow sense: some ‘projects’ contain lists of books to read, movies to watch, places I’d like to travel to. Including these makes the file bigger, but also ramps up the fun factor: I do not just fire up Omnifocus when there’s another bill to be paid…
So read on if you are interested in the strategies that I have developed to manage a high volume of tasks in Omnifocus 2.
In October 2012 I first wrote about asana, praising the browser–based task management app for coming close to delivering on the developers’ vision of frictionless productivity. Since that first review, asana has gone from strength to strength, refining its user interface and adding tons of new functionality.
If you want a walkthrough of asana basics, you may want to read my earlier post first. If you are ready to explore what is new, just keep reading. Continue reading →
This is my second attempt at writing this post. The first time, in a quest for ‘objectivity’, I got bogged down in a treacly mix of scoring apps against criteria that were of my own choosing anyway. This time around I am opting for an unashamedly impressionistic approach: these are the task management apps I like best.
They are all compatible with David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology, capable of supporting basic to complex project management and with at least one mobile app (iPhone or iPad, ideally both). Despite meeting those criteria, Things, asana, FacileThings and several other pretty solid apps did not make the grade. Only ten apps will fit into a top–10 after all (I was reasonably good at maths at school).
My ranking is exactly that: a personal top ten, reflecting my preferences (I like a nice UI), my approach to productivity (David Allen’s GTD®), my hardware (I am a Mac user), my needs (as a sole operator I have no need for team collaboration features or enterprise–based software) and my experience (I have tested ~30 task management apps over the past two years).
Granted, my illustration is a bit of a spoiler, but please read on if you want to find out which other apps made it into my top ten. Continue reading →
Early in 2012 I reviewed Nozbe and Zendone, two browser–based task management apps that are steeped in David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology. Since that time, both apps have continued to improve. Nozbe has added new functionality and overhauled the user interface of its suite of apps. Just today they rolled out version 1.8. Zendone, which was still in beta at the time of my first review, has gone gold, produced apps for the iPhone and Android and added significant new functionality and polish to what was already an excellent tool.
Nozbe and Zendone are very similar. They are both developed by software developers with a clear commitment to GTD® and to ongoing quality improvement. They lead the field in terms of integration with Evernote. For what it is worth, I have tested 28 task management apps over the past two years and Nozbe and Zendone both figure in my virtual ‘top–five’. This is a gentle review therefore, a comparison of two very capable tools.