Aiming high in 2013: V-Day resolution review


Last February, I was significantly inspired by David Seah. David creates “Ground Hog Day Resolutions,” which are a set of goals that he revisits monthly. The goals and the monthly check-ins are meant to provide a tangible means of fostering success throughout the year. 1 I came across this practice on Valentine’s Day, so my list of Valentine’s Day resolutions (VDR) was born.

Defining a VDR

A Valentine’s Day resolution is a monthly goal. I’m working on professional resolutions, not personal (like lose 20 lbs.). To be considered, a goal must meet certain criteria. Specifically, a VDR must (again, I borrowed this list from Seah, as it’s perfect):

  1. Make me more visible.
  2. Build a product inventory.
  3. Create a reason for people to visit the site.
  4. Build a new habit.
  5. Build excellence (practice makes perfect).

Valentine’s Day Resolution Review Days

A goal that meets all five criteria will be considered. Once a goal is set, it requires a monthly check-in, so that progress/success/failure can be determined. To make things easy, I’ve made the check-in date for each month equal to that month’s number on the calendar. For example, in April, my VDR review day (VDRR) is on the 4th. In May, the 5th and so on. Therefore, my schedule looks like this:

March 3 — VDRR #1
April 4 — VDRR #2
May 5 — VDRR #3
June 6  — VDRR #4
July 7  — VDRR #5
August 8  — VDRR #6
September 9  — VDRR #7
October 10  — VDRR #8
November 11  — VDRR #9
December 12  — VDRR #10

There are no goals set for January, as the beginning of the new year is set aside for reflection and relaxation.

March Resolution Review

In March, I resolved to write one tip per day for 31 days. It was a good idea that satisfied all of my criteria: it increased visibility, built a product inventory, created a reason for you to visit the site, built a new habit for me and built excellence on my part. How did it go?

Success was moderate. After a few weeks, I found it hard to come up with new tips. So I fell short of my goal.

Lessons learned

First, I learned that I need to realistically address my ability to complete a task before agreeing to it. I have this habit of saying, “Yeah, I’ll do that!” and then walking away thinking, “I hope I can figure out how to do that.” Over promise and under deliver is not a good business plan.

Second, I have an Olympic-class case of self-sabotage. I don’t know why, but my system wants to reject success like a mismatched kidney. It’s a real problem and one I’m not sure how to address. One part of me says I’m not qualified to do X, Y and Z, while another puts obstacles in the way, just incase I should stumble upon the answer.

Which leads me to lesson number three: It’s OK not to have every answer. When you present yourself as knowledgeable in a certain area or even an expert in a field, I feel you should have all the answers, all the time. That is, I should have all the answers. Well, no one does, and I guess it’s OK to 1.) admit that publicly and 2.) lean on others for help. When asked, “How does [X] work?”, I should change my internal dialog from “I’m about to be exposed as a fraud for not knowing the answer” to something like, “Admit you don’t know and offer to research the answer and get back when you’re done.”

I also learned about my writing process, and this was the most helpful lesson of all. Because I have the attention span of a tsetse fly, 2 I often put off writing a tip until 10:00 PM or so. Wait, did I say writing? I should have said considering. This resulted in much stress, frustration and a real temptation to say, “Screw it.”

However, breaking the process down to very small steps over several days was helpful. Day one, simply brainstorm ideas on paper. That’s it. That’s all that needs to be done. Day two, draw an outline. Day three, write a rough first draft. After that, re-write and publish.

I’ve adopted this process for my larger projects, too, like my weekly posts on Unclutterer. It’s time-consuming and I’ll bet much slower than many writers work, but it’s working for me. No more late-nice stress tests.

April Resolution

April’s resolution is two-fold. The first is to publish great photos with almost every post. I’ll admit I’ve been inspired by the gorgeous photography on iMore. I can’t compete on that scale, as I’m not a pro, but I also think it’s time to move beyond screenshots and Photoshop hack jobs. So, I will use a nice, custom photo with most posts on 52 Tiger throughout April.

Also, I’ve created a magazine in Flipboard. 52 Weekly will be a round-up of the best posts from 52 Tiger during the previous week. I’ll update it each Friday. The nice photos should also serve to make 52 Weekly even more appealing. Go and subscribe (I’ll have a more detailed post about it up tomorrow).

So here we go! I’m aiming high in 2013. By December I should have accomplished 10 awesome monthly goals and moved my dream of running 52T full-time that much closer.

  1. At least that’s my interpretation. Let me know if I’m wrong, David.
  2. Squirrel!

Daily Tip: Find draft emails quickly on iPhone

Here’s a trick I found quite by accident. You can jump directly to a list of your draft emails in Mail for iPhone by pressing and holding the compose button:


Jus hold your finger down and this list pops up. Tap any one to jump right to it. I just happend to press and hold the compose button and up popped the drafts list. Excellent.

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Daily tip: Mail photos to groups easily with Launch Center Pro

I picked up Launch Center Pro 1.1 this week (here’s my full review of Launch Center 1.0 at TUAW), and it’s a nice improvement over the original version. One feature I really like is the ability to mail a photo to a pre-defined group of recipients with a tap, all from within the app. This is so much easier than adding recipient addresses one after the other in Mail. To set it up, tap the pencil icon in the upper right-hand corner, tap a “+”, select Action and then follow these steps:

  1. The Action Composer appears. Tap System Actions.
  2. Tap In-App Email.
  3. Tap Email With Last Photo Taken.


The Options screen appears. There are a few variables here we’ll fill in. Note that there are several options for each, including a contact, a prompt for input or whatever is on your clipboard. Here’s how I’ve set it up.

  • Name. Pick something descriptive. I’m using “Last Pic to Family.”
  • Recipients. This is the good part. Add as many as you like. Mine sends an email to my mother, father, sisters and their husbands and various aunts and uncles.
  • Subject. I added “Check out this picture” so I don’t have to type a subject every time.
  • Body. I’ve left this blank, but again you can add what you like.


Now it gets great. Take a photo with the iPhone’s Camera then open Launch Center Pro and tap your new action. It composes an email with your list of recipients in the “To” field, subject intact and photo attached. Tap Send and it’s gone. It’s so much faster than adding addresses by hand. Have fun!

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Daily tip: Search notes with Siri

sirinotesLast year I explained how to create and edit notes with Siri on the iPhone. To create a new note, tell Siri, “Create a new note,” “Make a new note” or something similar. You can give a note a title at the same time, for instance, “Make a new note packing list” or “Create a new note places to visit.” That becomes the first line of the note. To update a note say, for example, “Update my note toothbrush, deodorant, book, tickets, camera.” If you’ve got more than one note, Siri will ask which note you’d like updated by providing a list.

That’s great, but you can also search notes just as easily. Here’s how.

1. Search by date. Activate Siri and say, “Find notes from March, 2013” or “Find notes from March 7, 2013.” You can also ask, “Find notes from yesterday.”
2. Search by keyword. You can have Siri search your notes for a specific word by saying, “Search notes for ‘x'”, where “x” is the term you’re looking for. Siri returns the results as a tap-able list.

You can also ask Siri to list all your notes. This is much faster than using Apple’s Notes app manually.

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Get your work down to cranking widgets

This week on Unclutterer, I describe how to get almost any job down to the simplicity of cranking widgets, and share a few mobile apps to help along the way:

“Today, I write and edit articles. I produce one podcast and participate in another. I’m working on a book. I’ve also got the responsibilities of a husband, father, brother, and son. In comparison, my job requires more attention than driving a van around town while listening to music and drinking a soda.

A good number of jobs can be overwhelming. The good news is that any job can be a widget-cranking job. The trick is identifying the widgets and getting them in front of yourself in a timely manner and on a friendly, non-intimidating list.”

I’ve also listed five simple t0-do management apps for iPhone and Android.

CARROT for iPhone makes productivity a game

carrot_sizedCARROT for iPhone ($0.99) will rub a lot of people the wrong way. If “gamification” makes you feel as uncomfortable as a virgin at a prison rodeo, this is not the app for you. Others who aren’t put off by a sense of fun will delight in CARROT’s jabs, goading and unstable personality. Part to-do list manager, part game and part unstable task master, CARROT offers a unique means to getting things done.

CARROT manages your to-do list. There’s no project management, tags or categories. Simply enter a list of tasks for the day and get to it. It makes good use of gestures. Swipe down to add an event, left to reveal the options menu and across an item to mark it as done. Almost every action has an accompanying sound effect, but you can switch those off.

As you work, CARROT offers either words of encouragement or discouragement, depending on its mood. You alter CARROT’s mood by working often, which cheers it up, or remaining idle for a long time, which ticks it off. To piss CARROT off real good, tap its “oculus” a few times. It really hates that.

As you complete tasks you level up, unlocking new features. Some are fun, like mini games, and others useful, the the ability to re-order or edit tasks. Again, that will annoy some people, while others will find it delightfully fun.

I’m not using CARROT every day, but I will admit that it’s been amusing company as I work through my “honey-do” weekend list. No, it’s not a powerful project manager. But, CARROT is a fun way to knock tasks off your to-do list. Give it a try and have a good time. Just, you know, try to keep it happy.








The Home Work podcast series on Freelancing

Aaron Mahnke of Wet Frog Studios and I produce Home Work, a podcast for home workers. It’s on the 70 Decibels podcast network, and we’re pretty proud of it. Recently we wrapped up a series of episodes on freelancing. Here’s an archive of all of those episodes.

  • Episode 042 – Finding Clients. When things get busy, it’s important to change how we work in order to stay on top of everything. Dave and Aaron discuss how they adapt to crazy schedules and busy weeks.
  • Episode 043 – Educating Clients. In episode two in our series on freelancing, Aaron and Dave discuss clients even further, including how and why to educate them to your process.
  • Episode 044 – Rate Of Pay. This time, it’s setting your price. A big topic and the guys share some nice insights and tips.
  • Episode 045 – Project Management. This week our series on freelancing heads into the realm of project management, and with Dave out sick, professional copywriter and all-around star home-worker Jason Rehmus fills in. We talk about setting up projects, managing expectations, contracts and testimonials. It’s awesome.
  • Episode 046 – Contracts. This week Dave and Aaron discuss contracts. They talk about why you need one and identify the features that every contract should have.
  • Episode 047 – Invoicing. This week our series on freelancing continues as Dave and Aaron discuss invoicing, both tools and practices. Plus, they debut the brand-new listener mail theme! HUGE thanks to listener Kyle Evans who created it for us.
  • Episode 048 – Record Keeping and Overhead. This week our series on freelancing continues as Dave and Aaron discuss record keeping and overhead. No Downton Abbey this week.

Capture, process and automate with Drafts and Launch Center Pro

Drafts for iPhone and iPad is one of my favorite utilities. I love that it manages two sides of GTD – capture and processing – so well. Many solutions do one or the other. Drafts handles both on the one device.



To capture a thought or piece of information with Drafts, just tap it and start typing. There’s no new document to create, to tags or categories to fiddle with, nothing. It’s as easy as opening a notebook and grabbing a pen. I use it to collect tidbits all day. It’s very easy but the real power is in the processing.


When you’re processing an inbox, you must decide what each item is, what must be done (if anything) and then move that information into your system. When I’m processing a stack of index cards on my desk, I’ve got to have apps like OmniFocus and Evernote open on my computer. Drafts lets me send actions and reference material directly to those apps with a tap.

Automation options

Federico Viticci at MacStories recently wrote a great article about iOS workflow automation with Drafts. You should read it. In it, he mentions how powerful the combination of x-callback-urls, Drafts and Launch Center Pro can be. Briefly, you can create an action in Launch Center Pro that passes text to Drafts, which triggers an action of its own and then sends you right back to Launch Center Pro. It’s very convenient and super fast.

From Drafts to digital notebook in a snap

I wanted to use this idea to move notes from Drafts to nvALT, which is my digital notebook. I name notes in nvALT according to a convention described by Michael Schechter, who borrowed heavily from Merlin Mann. It makes things very easy to find. Fortunately, I’m now using Launch Center Pro and Drafts to create a note in Simplenote (and, as a result, nVALT on my Macs) that uses the naming convention with a bare minimum of effort. Here’s how.

Set up Drafts


First, create a URL action in Drafts that will pass the note to Simplenote. Mine looks like this:


The “[[draft]]” pulls the content of the note and the “[[time_short]]” appends the current date and time to the end of the title. Once that’s done, it’s time for Launch Center Pro.

Set up Launch Center Pro


In Launch Center Pro, we’ll create an action to pass text to Drafts and then jump right back. To begin, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the edit button (It looks like a pen) in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Tap a blank square to create a new action.
  3. A slip appears. Selection Action.
  4. The action edit screen appears. Enter a descriptive name (I chose Drafts>Simplenote).
  5. Add the URL. Here’s what mine looks like:


  1. Tap done.

This action will pop up a compose field (below), pass the text to Drafts which then triggers the Simplenote action we created earlier and finally, comes back to Launch Center Pro. The whole thing takes 2–3 seconds. Plus, I’ve got Simplenote set up to sync with nvALT on my Macs. The new note appears with my naming convention intact.


This has saved me a lot of time and I hope you like it, too. There’s much that can be down here, so start playing with Drafts and Launch Center Pro. Thanks to Federico and Mike for the inspiration.

Thanks for reading. You’ll find more tech-y “how-to’s” here.