I'm re-discovering this universe of Plain Text and Markdown enthusiasts. It's fascinating!
I discovered Write.as in 2018 and that was the first time I saw Markdown. I used to have my blog on Medium at that time because I loved the writing experience there (I used Tumblr before that). Then I moved all my writing to Write.as. I love the minimalist interface and distraction-free environment.
I used Write.as for about a year and something happened in my life that made me look for complex solutions. Go figure... Or maybe I just wanted to try WordPress to see what it was all about.
WordPress was... overwhelming! Bloated with stuff I didn't need or wanted...
And then they changed to this new editor. I didn't want to write there anymore. It was cumbersome! So I started using Evernote, Word, OneNote to write. Then I would copy-paste into WordPress. What a mess! I made lots of experimentation. None of them pleased me. Formatting issues were endlessly annoying!
And now I'm back at Write.as 💜.
Re-learning Markdown, and loving it!
I'm bummed about note taking apps now. I've been thinking that they've become much more than “note taking” tools.
I've always been a “files/folders” person. I like to own my files, and move them around, and copy them for back-ups. So, I have my main reference system on my hard drive, but also synced to the cloud. I now have the Office 365 subscription, so all my files are synced in OneDrive. At one point I had Google Drive, then I tried Dropbox and ended up with Microsoft because of the Office suite included.
When note taking apps became a thing, I wanted to try it. I started using Evernote in 2010 (oh, geez, 10 years !?) and I've been on and off it many times. It's always been confusing to me what belonged to Evernote and what belonged to my OneDrive.
Since the pandemic started, I got into the habit of going for a walk every day. Sometimes I walk, sometimes it’s a combination of running and walking. I used to be a gym person. With the gyms closed during the first lockdown restrictions, going for a walk outside at the end of day kept me sane after spending the whole day inside. I used to think it was a waste of time to go out and spend one hour just walking! And now the habit stuck. It's relaxing, it's good for my mind and body.
I’ve had ups and downs regarding my spinal health this year. The pandemic totally changed my exercise routine, and I had a few months of intermittent back/sciatica pain. Yoga became inaccessible to my body, running was out the question, body weight was challenging, so I just walked during the worst of it.
I’m better. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor regularly, I’m back to yoga a few times a week, I learned a few strengthening body weight exercises that I do in the morning every day to remain pain free.
🍁 This fall season inspired me to try hiking. I have hiked a few times in the last couple of years. Now I felt ready to explore nearby trails every week. My husband was my intrepid companion on all these adventures. We focused on easy trails around the Ottawa-Gatineau area.
Below is a compilation of wonderful images from the trails we explored from the end of September to early November 2020 😎.
Mer Bleu – Ottawa, ON
Mud Lake Trail – Ottawa, ON
King Mountain Trail – Gatineau Park – Gatineau, QC
Chapman Mills Conservation Area – Ottawa, ON
Old Quarry Trail – Ottawa, ON
P4 Trail Stony Swamp Sector – Ottawa, ON
Beaver Trail, Chipmunk Trail, Lime Kiln Trail – Ottawa, ON
I was excited about the Nirvana app as you can read here. I still think it’s the best out-of-the-box implementation of GTD on a multi-platform web-based app. A few things discouraged me to continue relying on the app. Nirvana’s development is slow and I got a little bit upset about an update released back in July with a few bugs. Those bugs were addressed in a later update, but that week dealing with the app’s hiccups got me thinking about other apps for my GTD tasks system.
So, as any good-old productivity nerd, I looked back at some apps.
My initial thoughts were:
Facile Things: it’s strictly GTD-based, but for me it has a clunky interface and too little flexibility.
Nozbe: it’s good, but expensive. I like the way it organizes and filters by context, but the interface was not my favorite.
Todoist: I’m already used to it. One of my all-time favourites for task management. Latest updates changed the project's behavior, but Calendar integration and total flexibility is its highlight.
After a week testing these apps I tried to understand why Nirvana was not cutting it for me anymore. It all has to do with friction. How easy it is to add something to my Inbox? Am I getting a trusted list of my next actions? Are there things falling through the cracks? How can I track them? Is it easy to coordinate my next actions and my calendar events? Do I like to see my lists? Am I avoiding my lists out of fear?
I have been listening to a lot more music recently.
I usually have my own playlists and rarely rely on AI generated lists based on my “taste”. I mostly listen to rock music, going from 60's/70's rock classics, heavy metal, a little bit of progressive and symphonic/melodic metal.
I saw a playlist on my music streaming service called “Swords & Sorcery” and gave it a try. I ended up discovering cool metal bands and songs and immediately created my own “Epic Metal” curated playlist. For some reason this playlist is now my “work mode” soundtrack: I listen to it when I need to do deep work and it puts me in the zone!
I've been following the GTD (Getting Things Done) method to organize my life since 2013. GTD is a method of organization and personal productivity created by David Allen (this is the book). The main objective is to “empty our minds” and have a trusted system to store and manage our actions, projects, events, goals, objectives and even life purpose.
I've just spent around year in the following cycle: trying Nirvana, loving it, using it for a while, then looking at other productivity apps, switching to Trello then Todoist, moving back and forth, then deciding I would stick with Nirvana.
Nirvana is a cloud-based task manager that can be accessed online on any platform and has Windows, iOS and Android apps as well. There is a basic version with some limitations (like the number of projects), a complete Pro version or a Lifetime subscription (you can check their pricing here). Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with the company in any way. It's just an app that I love!
Nirvana is made by a small independent team in Canada. So don't expect constant updates. The team is very deliberate on improvements and that makes the app extremely reliable. It brings together he GTD concepts beautifully. The developers attended the GTD Summit in 2019.
I liked XMind the most. It’s not web-based but I loved the clean and minimalist space and the fact that I can brainstorm using the keyboard 99% of the time, no extra mouse clicking needed. I also tested Mindmeister, which is all on the web but it felt clunkier to add nodes and do everything using the keyboard. I want a mind mapping software to be easier to brainstorm than if I was doing it by hand (or as close as possible).
XMind seems to be the one for me. Super easy, simple, clean interface. But, again, it’s a desktop app, which lately has not been a disadvantage for me.
I have been noticing that I don’t like to use the web for everything. It’s distracting!
“Deactivating Facebook freed up 60 minutes per day for the average person in our Treatment group.”
I deactivated my Facebook account last year and I don't miss it. Not having the urge to open Facebook and get lost in its endless timeline and roller-coaster of “likes” gave me more time and mental space. Time to read more books, time to reflect on what I read, time to meditate, time to do Yoga, time to do... nothing.
After doing this little experiment myself I'm sure social media, as it is available today, really hijacks our minds and changes our behaviours. It creates a weird feedback loop in which we click, click, click, get small amounts of dopamine due to its intermittent novelty and the return of our time investment is not proportional to the effort.
After I stayed away from social media for a while I realized I don't enjoy snippets of information anymore. And by that I mean: I deactivated Facebook, I drastically reduced the number of accounts I follow on Twitter and I deleted my accounts on Instagram and Pinterest. So even the short science/educational videos on You Tube started to annoy me. I prefer now to watch a full length documentary about a topic instead of watching 4-5 short videos about cool and interesting science facts.
I'm changing the way I consume content. It takes time because all around us everybody is still on this fast-paced mode of paying attention to quick snippets of information. And the way this information is presented to us is addictive. That's why I'm changing.