New Workflows from 2016: 2Do

Hi everyone!  I’m finally on Christmas break for the year, so I’ve got some more free time, and I wanted to get back to the blog and do some writing.  A lot has changed in the way I use my tech in the past year.  I’ve discovered several new apps that have really changed the way I use my devices to get things done.  That being said, I wanted to share a few of them over the next couple of weeks.

One app I’ve just started using is 2Do.  I’d been using the stock iOS reminders app for almost 4 years now, and it’s never worked away I wanted.  2Do, on the other hand, meshes with the way I use reminders perfectly, and I really enjoy using it.  This post isn’t meant to be an app review, it’s more just a commentary on the way I use 2Do to get things done.


The way I used the reminders app was weird.  I had all notifications except the app badge turned off, and all reminders set for the morning (the default time of 9am).  That way, everything was technically “overdue,” and the app badge just showed my total number of tasks for the day (side note: I know some people hate app badges but I love them and think they’re incredibly helpful and useful).  That worked OK, because most of my tasks aren’t time specific.  But that meant I couldn’t make a reminder that went off at a certain time (or location) if I wanted to, since notifications were off.  This system had once worked for me, but more and more now it felt like I was fighting it (and don’t get me started on fighting the Reminders app itself).

I know there’s lots of great to do list apps out there, but I refuse to use one that doesn’t at least sync with iOS reminders: I simply can’t give up setting reminders with Siri.  I had initially overlooked 2Do because I didn’t think it supported iOS reminders – it doesn’t ask to access your reminders the way it would photos or contacts.  However, 2Do supports syncing with iCloud reminders as a CalDAV server.  This seems odd to me, but it does work, so no complaints I guess (and I’m sure there’s a good reason for this that I don’t understand).

One of the most important features 2Do has is separate due dates and alarm times.  This means I can have most of my reminders due on a certain day, without that 9am alarm, and yet still have notifications on for other alerts.  I ended up turning off notifications for 2Do and letting the stock reminders app handle them, just in case I add a reminder with Siri that goes off before 2Do gets a chance to sync.  More on the way I implemented Siri later.

Before that I want to talk about the app itself.  It runs so much better than the stock reminders app, which is always crashing for me.  And it has so many more features, like due dates and tags and projects with subtasks.  Some of these advanced items are a little wonky when they sync over to the reminders app, which I still use on the Mac (because 2Do for Mac is $50), but it’s not a big deal.  I realized that I’d really outgrown the Reminders app; I really need the extra power of 2Do.

Speaking of power, the last thing I want to talk about in 2Do is smart lists.  2Do has unbelievable search and filter tools, with lots of keywords and AND/OR/! logic operator support.  My first smart list is my “Today and Location” smart list, which uses the search: !hide type: nodue OR overdue OR duetoday.  This list shows everything due today (or that I missed prior), and the “nodue” keyword includes location-based reminders (which don’t have a due date).  This list also excludes anything with the “hide” tag.

My other smart list is my “Inbox” for tasks I’ve set with Siri.  Trying to implement Siri was a conundrum.  I wanted alerts if I told Siri to “remind me in two hours” or “remind me when I get home,” but I didn’t want that default 9am reminder for something I set for next week.  So first I went to the reminders app and created a new default list named “Siri.”  Any new reminders created with Siri go on this list, but 2Do’s default list is still my standard “Reminders” list.  All this mess brings me to my smart list: !hide Siri type: alarms AND !duetoday OR nodue AND nolocation.  This shows all reminders: #1 On my Siri list, #2 That still have an alarm, and #3 That aren’t set “in two hours” or “when I get home.”  I then just keep an eye on this list and remove the alarms on any task that show up here (and then they disappear from the Inbox because they no longer match #2).

Is this a little convoluted and maybe even absurd?  Sure.  Does it fit the way my brain gets things done and help me accomplish more?  Oh yes.  ••

 

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I Can’t Live Without Widgets

Hands-down my favorite iOS 8 feature is Notification Center widgets.  Android has had widgets on the home screen for a long time.  Before iOS 8, I had thought about widgets on the iPhone, but they hadn’t really made sense to me.  I didn’t like the idea of putting a widget on the home screen, it seemed to mess up the simplicity of just having apps there.  However, as soon as I saw widgets in the Today View of Notification Center, it made perfect sense.  In iOS 7, the today view was cool; it provided a good way to see information on weather, calendars, and reminders.  It made sense to split that off from the rest of Notification Center, but it never quite felt like it was enough information to fully justify a separate screen.  Now that we have third party widgets, the separate makes complete sense.  I love widgets and use them all the time.  So, without further ado, here are the widgets I have active in my Notification Center right now.


Reminders
The very first widget is reminders.  I, quite literally, plan my life around my iPhone’s reminders, and I wouldn’t accomplish anything without them.  I really don’t like how iOS 8 doesn’t show all your reminders in Notification Center (it limits them to four or five), but I still love being able to see (and check off) reminders from the lock screen.

myHomework
This is an app that I just started using this semester, and it works really well.  It’s a good way to keep track of assignments, quizzes, and questions I have for professors.  Yes, I could just use the Reminders app for this, but myHomework allows a little more granular control that’s designed specifically for homework assignments.  Best of all, it shows me everything I have due today right there in Notification Center.

Calendar
Simple and straightforward, the stock Calendar app in iOS does everything I need it to.  I don’t have the Today Summary activated in Notification Center, because it only shows your first event (not very helpful).

Yahoo Weather
I also don’t like the weather report in the Today Summary.  It’s too concise and doesn’t give much information.  The Yahoo Weather widget gives the current temperature, as well as today and tomorrow’s highs and lows.  I only wish they would remove the nice little picture and halve the widget’s size to save space.

WordPress
Another simple one, the WordPress widget shows how many hits and visitors I’ve gotten on this site each day.  The only problem is that after a few days, it doesn’t seem to refresh correctly, getting stuck on a certain number of hits.

Writing Aid
I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but the Writing Aid widget shows a new word and definition each day.  Nice for (telling myself that I’m) learning new vocabulary words.

Bible
The YouVersion Bible app is pretty much the gold standard; you can get almost any translation of the Bible absolutely free.  The Today View widget conveniently shows you the app’s verse of the day.  There are two buttons to launch the app: one goes to the verse of the day and the other to wherever you were last reading.

Evernote
I recently switched all my memos over to Evernote, and the widget is a really nice part of the Evernote app.  It has buttons to create a new text note and a new note from the camera, as well as a few other things.  It also shows your three most recently viewed notes (and not, importantly, your most recently edited notes).

Clips
Clips is a great clipboard management app.  Put something on your iOS clipboard, and you can swipe into Notification Center to add it to your list of clips.  Add multiple items, then just tap one again to put in back on the iOS clipboard, or paste it anywhere using the Clips keyboard (another great iOS 8 feature).

PCalc
Another must have, PCalc allows you to make quick calculations from right within Notification Center.  There’s even copy and paste buttons so it fits into your existing workflow.  You might think that it’s just as easy to launch the stock calculator app via control center, but you would be wrong.  PCalc quickly becomes an essential part of your device.

Tomorrow Summary
I mentioned that I don’t like the Today Summary, but the Tomorrow Summary is definitely helpful.  It’s pretty straightforward, it just tells you how many events you have for the next day, as well as telling you what time your alarm is set for.  I just wish it would also include the number of reminders scheduled for the next day.

I’ve arranged my widgets in a very specific order.  First are the apps that I look at constantly: Reminders and myHomework.  Next are the apps that I look at several times throughout the day: Calendar, Yahoo Weather, and WordPress.  After that come the apps that I look at once a day: Writing Aid and Bible.  The last group contains utility apps, the ones that offer functions (read: buttons) instead of just information: Evernote, Clips, and PCalc.  The groups I use most often are the first and last.  Why don’t I just put the utility widgets second?  I like being able to swipe rapidly to the top or bottom to get to what I need.  It feels to me like this is actually faster swiping to the top, then down just a bit.  These widgets make my day easier and allow me to get things done faster.  Have I missed anything?  Let me know your essential widgets in the comments or on Twitter @NickFoster56.  ••