Preparing for 2016 with Apps (and Naps)

I can comfortably admit that when it comes to my life, I'm a mid-level mess. I have that stereotypical right-brained (creative) disorganization that is enough to overwhelm me, but luckily not enough to ruin me. I know that I'd be a bajillion times more productive if I could finally just get my shit together. My husband often mumbles about me needing a life coach as he navigates my many piles. So I made it my mission in this final week of the year, as I sat at home soaking up a few staycation days, to prepare my life, primarily my digital life, for 2016. Well, I squeezed that in between some very important business (read: naps with my dog).

Because new goals always seem more fun when they're accompanied by new apps to play with, I added a few new ones to my repository so that if/when I fail, I can blame a faceless piece of technology and feel less guilty about my lack of commitment. 

Goal 1: Emptiness

I love stuff. Not just tangible stuff, although I really love that too, but even things like Kindle books, digital magazines, apps, Chrome extensions, etc. And occasionally I'll go through a little purge, but that really just takes me down from an obscene amount of stuff to a ton of stuff. A few months ago I decided to "konmari" my closet and drawers. Nine giant shopping bags of stuff to Goodwill later and I might be about half way done. It's a start. 

This week I decided it was time that my laptop got konmari'd too. I'm the type of person that has about 47% of my desktop covered by icons and an inbox hovering between 1873 and 2683. I've seen worse, for sure, but I knew it was an unnecessary cause of stress. So using Daisydisk for my files and Mailstrom for my inbox, I did a nice big purging. I even rewarded myself with a beautiful new desktop wallpaper

For me, purging is the easy part. I don't find myself awkwardly attached to the screenshots or weird gifs taking up space on my desktop. I'm a procrastinator. That means when an email pops into my inbox, it's in my nature to read it, ignore it, and forget it exists until it has thousands of little brothers and sisters keeping it company. 

I've always defaulted to Mac Mail on my desktop, despite trying Mailbox, Postbox, Airmail, Unibox, Nylas N1, and numerous other clients. But on my iPhone, I've been having some luck with Boxer. I'm forcing myself to attend to everything immediately, which, to be honest, is just a better practice as far as being a considerate colleague goes. 

Goal 2: Peace

When I lie down to go to sleep at night, it feels like there are 827 tabs of my brain open. I'm constantly thinking about the next things I have to do and the things that I forgot to do. I think part of the reason I love taking naps is because it finally gives me some quiet in my head. Of course, I'm not conscious to enjoy it. 

I've read so much about the benefits of meditation, but the idea of sitting for even 10 minutes in silence, with a clear mind, sounds nearly impossible. I had tried it a few times but eventually opted for those 10 extra minutes of sleep instead of taking care of my mental health. 

Well, I'm going to give it another shot. I downloaded Stop, Breathe & Think, and despite their lack of Oxford comma use, I'm willing to try it out. It's cute and quirky and has a bunch of guided meditations, ranging from 3 minutes to 20. If I can't commit to 3 minutes, then I have a problem an app will never be able to solve.

Goal 3: Clarity

I have tried every possible GTD method and app in existence. From going old school with a pen and a notebook to pomodoro timers to expensive project management systems, none of them have stuck. So what makes me think it'll be any different this time around? Nothing at all. My expectations are low. But I'm prioritizing simplicity in order to achieve some clarity. 

I’ve definitely missed events because I forgot to look at my calendar like a doofus, so I need to make it a habit to check it more regularly. I found this beautiful calendar app by Moleskine, Timepage. I like that it’s a long scrollable list so I can see all of my upcoming meetings and events in one swipe. It irks me when calendars are set up to display a traditional week at a time because that makes it pretty useless toward the end of the week. Timepage is intuitive and simple and nice to look at.

Typically, my tasks are strewn about in notes apps, previously used to-do list apps, Chrome extensions, and emails. For me, so many GTD apps are overly complicated. I refuse to use anything that emphasizes a due date because in my experience, self-imposed due dates are a curse, much like labeling a file name with the word "FINAL." I don't want to collaborate, I just want to make a bunch of lists of the things I have to do. So I'm giving the AnyDo Mac app a try. I love that it lets me plan immediately (today & tomorrow) and a non-committal timeframe in the future (upcoming & someday), satisfying both slightly crazy sides of my personality.

I find that I'm much better prepared when I take a lot of notes. Go figure, right? I've gone through phases with note-taking apps, mainly just using the Mac Notes app. But I'm a sucker for a great design. When Evernote (which I had used previously) came out with their updated web client, it was just what I wanted. Simple, clean, no distractions. Just a blank page for writing. But I wanted one less tab on my browser. I like having a separate app. Then I found Alternote. It's an alternative Evernote client, very similar to the Mac Notes app, but with all of the benefits of Evernote. I've been using this one for a few weeks now and I really enjoy it so far.

Goal 4: Reflection

The last item I want to focus on in 2016 is constant reflection. Am I doing the most I can to be happy? Am I living in a way that makes me proud? Am I managing my stress successfully? By constantly checking in with myself, I'll know when I need to make tweaks and adjustments to my life. 

One area I need to drastically improve is my spending. Remember how I mentioned my love of stuff earlier? Well it's evident to my coworkers who see the numerous packages delivered to our office. Look, I'm self-aware. I know that I shop to take my mind off of stress, or because I'm traumatized by my styleless and fashion-free childhood, or because getting a "present" in the mail gives this drug-free lady a semi-exhilarating high. No matter, I need to be more mindful of my spending. So I'm going to start making myself log my indulgent purchases in Expense. Not everything, just the really unnecessary ones. And maybe it'll be a good wake up call.

Something else I want to revive for myself is journaling. I used to blog a lot. I used to journal. Now I feel like my life moments are documented by the latte photos I Instagram and the cat videos I share on Facebook. But I'd like to do more than that. Not too much more because if it resembles a chore, I'll never stick with it. That's where Grid Diary comes in. I was able to set up a template of questions for myself to answer each day. I can answer one or all of them. There's a library of pre-baked questions but you can also write whatever suits you. So I picked a few questions that I feel will help me understand my day. What was good? What was tough? What did I accomplish? And any time I want, I can go back and read through my notes. It's actually pretty fun and I don't feel the pressure to be witty or creative because the prompts are so straightforward. 

So, that's my 2016 plan. I'm optimistic and motivated to be the best me I've ever been!