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Finding Your Power Apps

Michael Schechter recently asked Are Power Apps Like Omnifocus and Scrivener For You?. Watching tutorial videos for “power apps” has helped him decide when it is worth investing his time, attention, and money to learning a new application. He proposes that:

If you aren’t willing to take the time [to watch a video], you probably aren’t really all that ready for whatever app you are considering. And once you do jump in, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for and probably have a few power user tricks that you are anxious to try out.

He closed with a question that got me thinking about how I choose the software that helps me do the work I do.

What’s your process? How do you go about gauging if an app is worth your time and effort?

My process is probably among the worst out there. I can admit to being a perpetually lazy serial procrastinator. It’s easy for something shiny to lead me on a chase for a while, largely because there is nothing to fail at there. Nothing, that is, except the obvious failure to accomplish anything worthwhile.
I’ve spent more money than I care to think about over the years on apps that rarely saw any action. I should probably let you know I’m a recovering app bundle junkie. I still get cravings when I see $5,937 worth of apps for a few bucks, but I’ve gotten better at shaking off the shakes. I’ve wasted a lot of time, a lot, trying to find a use for many of those bundled apps. Even if it was a bargain bin purchase, I paid for it, right? I should learn to use them.
Nah, not really. Usually, my main reason for making a bundle purchase was to get at one of them. This is how I first saw the light with 1Password (and haven’t looked back). Get it. Get it now. Even you Windows users out there. All of you need it. Thank me later.

My Process

Back to Schechter’s questions. My process is to avoid new apps. Like I said, my tendency to chase the shiny has waned, but I do respect the opinion of people I follow online. See also, Twitter. Watch smart people in your field of interest. They have probably had more apps thrown at them than you have time to study on your own, and they have decided what works and what doesn’t.
There is room for personality though, especially in the writing space and most especially on iOS. There has been an avalanche of high quality writing tools for iPhone and iPad. I’ve weeded the garden and found what works for me (Writing Kit if you’re interested).
As a writer, the best advice I’ve found in the past 20 years is to axe word processors and stick to plain text. I only drop into a word processor to open files other people send me or to print a heavily formatted document. Plain text and Markdown are all I need (MultiMarkdown if I need tables). The only hypocrasy in my stable of writing apps is Scrivener, but it’s so amazing every writer should use it. Yes, even writers who use Windows (in fact, you can pick Scrivener for Windows at a discount through Nov. 7).

Hidden Wisdom

I hope you found the hidden wisdom in my failures. No? Let me spell it out for you.

  • Find good tools, learn to use them, and stick with them.
  • Take notice if someone you respect says an app changed their world.
  • Don’t look for new apps to do the work you already do. Great apps will find you.
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Everyone gets 24 hours

We all have plans, goals, things to do, and many of us whine the same shallow complaint.

“But… But… I just don’t have time.

Let’s look at that clock again. All clocks dutifully report the same 24 hours of time in each day. It doesn’t matter if the timepiece is on your wrist, my iPhone, or hanging on someone’s wall.
Join me on a little guilt trip down Tick Tock Lane. I promise not to steal much of your time.

  • Albert Einstein had 24 hours in a day. He was a professor of physics at Princeton University who published more than 300 scientific papers, more than 150 non-scientific articles, and revolutionized physics when he discovered the theory of general relativity.
  • Inventor Thomas Edison had 24 hours in a day. Among the 1,093 patents he held were inventions including the light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera.
  • Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had 24 hours in a day. He wrote more than 600 known musical compositions for symphony, piano, opera, chamber music, and chorus before he died just before turning 36.
  • Author Stephen King has 24 hours in a day. He has written at least 49 books that have been purchased by more than 350 million fans. He continues to write every day.
  • Actor/director/producer Robert DeNiro has 24 hours in a day. He has acted in more than 60 films and helped to produce more than 30 films. He has been nominated for an Academy Award six times and won twice. He also established the Tribecca Film Festival, owns a hotel and a several restaurants.

These are just a few people from vastly different fields and eras who had the same amount of time as you and me. The list could be virtually endless.
Seriously, consider the schedule of the president of the United States. Think about all of the prolific actors/writers/composers you love. What if they stayed on the couch eating the last of the potato chips and whining about not having enough time instead of getting up and catching their dreams?
How do you use your 24 hours?