Greg Morris

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My Life In My Calendar

I read a recent post by Matt Birchler talking about his experiment with going back to Apple’s stock calendar. It sparked in me thoughts about my recent switch (well a few months ago) and I thought I would share my experiences. Not that my lowly blog needs to lend credence to the amazing Matt Birchler, but it is often helpful to see more than one person pointing to the same things.

With that said, Matt and I have very similar jobs. One full of meetings, team catch-ups and projects to complete. I am sure he also has a fair share of family things to keep up with too, and I have all sorts of appointments and meeting for my daughter to contend with. So the benefits felt by perhaps one side of life for some people very much bleed into every part of mine.

For me, my calendar is my entire life and has been for some time. When people turn their noses up at a subscription for “just a calendar app” I do understand. However, I get so much value from Fantastical, it is money I gladly hand over. You see, I could (and have) get by with the stock app, but I’m much better off with Fantastical. You might ask why, and that’s why you’re reading this post, so let me try to break it down for you without being too repetitive.

Meetings And Integrations

The pandemic accelerated my already increasing number of virtual meetings. Something I don’t really mind because I’d rather be working from home than traveling all over the place. For some reason, every company seems to use a different method for these, so I have to meet with SEO experts on Google meet, internal conversations on Teams and then move to chatting with event organisers on Zoom. Fantastical makes this a breeze. I don’t need to install loads of apps all over the place, just sign in with all of my accounts and click the join meeting button in my calendar.

Fantastical also integrates with my task manager of choice, Todoist, as well as my Office 365 work calendar, my shared iCloud calendar with my wife and even Meet Up for some sudo socialising! By having everything in one place, I can see all of my tasks scattered across the various platforms all in one full list. Not many apps allow numerous services to be integrated and work together as if they were all in the same place. This works on mobile too by selecting tasks in the top left menu.

Time Boxing

Which leads me to my next major feeling point for Fantastical, time boxing is life changing. I first noticed this with Josh Ginter writing about this for Sweet Set Up, and it was the thing that inspired me to go all in on a better calendar app. As you can see from my screenshots, I block out time in my calendar to complete certain types of tasks all at once. Placing DND into areas that I don’t want to be disturbed – but I can do that in any calendar app Greg, I hear you say. Indeed, you can, but the customised colours and templates you can set up make this easy to set up and understand with a glance.

This is where two things come into play and make time boxing effortless for me when using Fantastical. I can look at the upcoming weeks calendar and already all tasks with due dates are present. I can then begin to plan around them, blocking out my day to make sure I know how much spare time I have and what kind of tasks will dominate those days. Pressing CMD + R brings up a list of all the tasks I have outstanding, and I can simply drag these into the places that I have blocked out. For example, above are periods where I have blocked out designing time, and in this 4–5 hours I can get several design focused tasks completed.

Granted, I understand that these things might not make a difference to you. To be honest, there was a long time when I thought they didn’t for me, and now I couldn’t be without it. Fantastical saves me more than the cost of the subscription in time and effort, but I understand it is not for everyone.

It’s Not For Me

I love to try new things. To push the limits of where I am settled and see if new technology can help me out. This usually revolves around phones and for a long time I was, a phrase I coined, a phonehobo. I just moved around all over the place and never had a home. The constant release of Android phones in the early 2010s meant that there was no shortage of new things to try and the constant promise of the new one being the best.

Now I am settled into using iOS devices, I know that the Workflows I have built up and the apps I enjoy using are right for me. That doesn’t, however, stop me trying things out even so often, and if you’ve followed me for more than five minutes you will have seen my occasional dalliance with Android phones. Most of these dalliances are to make sure I don’t fall into the trap of being a fanboy, and can appreciate that different, and at times better, things exist.

Each time I decide to try one, I have the same ideas in my head. That the device will offer me a bit more than my trusty iPhone, and a return of the excited feeling I got every time I unboxed a new Nexus or Galaxy device in the distant past. Yet, a day or so into using them, I rediscover that Android is just not for me.

I like Android. I think it’s a great OS, and each update that Google release makes me wish I could use it. There are no issues with the hardware either, bar the camera, many of the handsets I try match Apple build quality and some are even better. There’s not one big reason why I always go back, there are just lots of little paper cuts that make the decision for me. Small things that I can’t get used to or just don’t work the way I want them to, and no amount of me forcing the issue will change that.

There are numerous things in life that are not for me. Mechanical keyboards. Red wine sauce. Anime movies. I just need to accept that Android is another one of those things. There is a comfort in being comfortable with yourself, maybe I should give that a try!

Micro Posts

I like FineWoven and I don’t care who knows it

It doesn’t seem that many of the people who hate it have actually used it. And, if they have, many of the people have made a decision based on potentially one day of usage and, a lot of the time, that usage being to purposely try and destroy this material for the sake of YouTube clicks or social media engagement.

Well that quite a take you have there. Written for clicks and engagement…

I Enjoy Being Slow

I take loads of notes. Like a serious amount, that at some points it seems a bit unhealthy. I enjoy writing everything down for later use, and over the years it has proven invaluable numerous times. I like the process of doing it, I like to remember things, so I read them back, and I use them in personal and work related projects on a daily basis. This isn’t a post to polish my ego or anything. ”oh look at me, the perfect little notetaker” – it just sets the scene so to speak.

There are a few times that this habit has sucked the joy out of activities. It ruined podcasts for a little while, for instance, but I soon worked out my workflow and what I wanted to achieve. As I wrote about in my linked post above, there is a tendency in the modern world to want to hack everything. To squeeze and shape all the things in your life to get the most out of it. There’s a time to be efficient and proactive, but not with the things you enjoy. Those things are to slow down and enjoy the most.

There’s a benefit to subscribing to services like Blinkest and cramming in all the information you can get your hands on. There is also. Time to slow down, flip through the pages of a good back and enjoy the moment. Some people get immense benefit from listening to audiobooks or podcasts at 2x speed, and then there are other that enjoy the pauses and the silence, and want to dwell on the words.

I am in the camp of slowness. Of savouring what you enjoy, or benefiting from the things you do the most. I write things down in a notebook, with a pencil! I don’t need to hack my brain with a Personal Knowledge Management system because I just write things down, and I read them. Likewise, I go over some of the things that I read and listen to (not all of them) for nothing more than to enjoy them again and remember the things they say.

I value the people that rush around and hack all the things, but this not me, and I am totally at peace with that. One is not better than the other, they are just two sides of the same story that is modern life.

Everything Is Portrait Now

You know that horrible experience when you first buy a car, and then you see loads of the same one coming in the opposite direction all the time. It’s a known human cognitive bias, the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon, I know it’s false, but I am experiencing it with vertical things at the minute and I can’t work out where it is going.

It started on Saturday when I was running (donate to London For Lucie by the way!) and listening to The Vergecast. In which they were talking about all video apps being the same, just consuming each other’s ideas and increasing the length of vertical video viewable in apps. Which is interesting considering, as they point out, a service like Quibi, despite it terrible name, might not have been the worst idea ever. An idea explored in episode 1 of The Big Flop. Smartphone users really like vertical videos, and it feels much more natural.

This started a flash back to weird marketing events I have been to where people have discussed vertical video and very much switched off (I hate those type of events). I began to wonder just how much do people prefer watching vertical videos because it does make a lot of sense for many situations, but everything bar the smartphone sticks to horizontal. Of course, you can find stats all over the place, but turns out – it’s a lot.

Still seems odd to me outside of quick scrolling social media, but I’m not one to argue with the stats and considering how old I am, my opinions could just be the old guy shouting at the clouds again. It just made me think back to a few years ago when any person filming vertical video would have been chastised. Now it is not only the norm, but it is expected. This also got me questioning many things.

There’s new TV’s with vertical modes, floor stands to make yours do it, and all sorts of products pushing vertical monitors. It seems absurd at first, but when you stop and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. I’m a bit stuck with a reason on actual TVs, but websites, apps and almost any user interface I come across has the majority of its elements in a vertical stack. This got me thinking about my work, mainly being in web UI and Print design (which is nearly all vertical). I had side eyed the oddly shaped LG DualUp when it was first launched, thinking it made sense at the time – so I bought one.

It was relatively cheap in the world on monitors, and comes with a really nice ergonomic arm, so I feel like I got a good deal. However, as soon as I placed it down on my desk (well, clamped it to it) I felt conflicted. As much as the size and orientation makes sense, it just feels strange. That all went away when using it, though. The build quality, screen resolution and portrait set up means I am over the moon with it. Why on earth I didn’t pull the rigger before I will never know, maybe I have been indoctrinated by the previous landscape based world. However, now I am free!

Users Like Algorithmic Feeds

Charles Chen discussing he’s outlook that Mastodon is Rewinding the Clock on Social Media:

On the consume side, that means that your home feed has no Algorithm (big-A “Algorithm”). This can be disorienting at first when coming from X and FB. Practically, it means that you see only what you want to see and only see it linearly. You never wonder, “why am I seeing this and how do I make it go away?”.

I am completely convinced that users both want algorithmic timelines, but they need one. There is some research to back this up from Meta, but others found the opposite, so take from that what you will. However, in my opinion, it is only tech nerds that shout the loudest because we feel as if we need to complete our timeline as if it is a video game. When, in fact, users want to follow loads of people but only be shown the good stuff from their circles.

The biggest reason users complain is when companies don’t get it right, and not many companies have managed that. No one wants a chronological feed on TikTok or Netflix, and that’s because the algorithm is complete seamless. Using your consumption data to get the right things in your face at the right time.

Granted, you could argue this is because they are not ad networks and are not bothered about showing you them. They do, however, need to keep you engaged, and watching things. So they ensure their suggestions are as good as they possibly can be. We’ve all had the odd bad experience on these platforms, but there’s no scrambling for a long list of the latest things launched.

Could you imagine if both of these platforms got it as wrong as Twitter does?