My Personal Reading Workflow

Having recently joined a book club, my personal reading habit has started returning back to normal levels.  Having recently wrote about how I read for grad school, I thought it might be interesting to detail how I go about reading for fun too.

First things first, I almost always pick the Kindle version when possible. They’re delivered instantly, don’t take up any space, and I honestly prefer the reading experience more than I do with physical books. I get most through my local library’s website, but occasionally I will buy them through Amazon or check them out through the Kindle Lending Library. Since Kindle Lending Library books have to be read on a Kindle (not just the app) this is usually last resort, but it’s nice for books that aren’t available from my library that I don’t want to buy.

Once I’ve picked a book to read (and I’m usually reading a few at a time), I set up a project in Omnifocus. I have a template saved in Keyboard Maestro. Triggering it prompts me for the book’s title and author, and then generates a project with corresponding tasks for progressing in the book in 10% increments, along with one final task which I’ll get to in a second. I also add the book to my currently reading list on GoodReads just for good measure.

For the actually reading, I use either the Kindle app for Mac or my Kindle Paperwhite. Even several years old, the Paperwhite is still one of my favorite devices and my preferred way to read. As I’m reading, I take notes on or highlight anything that seems worth remembering using the Kindle app or Paperwhite.

Once I’ve finished a book, my final task before marking my book project complete is to export my highlights and notes. To do this I use a bookmarklet called Bookcision, which exports your notes and highlights in plain text. From there, I copy them into a repository. Any sort of destination will do. I’m currently using Evernote, but have used Day One in the past. I do this so that I can search across all my highlights and notes, which not only helps with recalling what I’ve read but helps to establish connections between books I might not have otherwise seen.

I hope this has been helpful. Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping track of and remembering what you read? If so, I’d love to hear them!


Using Workflow with Day One

This blog got a huge traffic boost last week after Day One shared my last post, How I’m Using Day One 2. People really liked my Review journal for capturing my thoughts on everything from food and drink to movies and books. My process is straight forward. Each entry contains a photo of what I’m reviewing (if I remembered), what it’s called, who makes it, a rating between ★-★★★★★ and a tag describing the type of item. Day One automatically adds the location and time information. The result is a collection of journal entries I can narrow results by search or filter by tags (e.g. only show me books). I can also see my reviews on both a map or calendar showing me where I’ve been and when.

My process involved some combination of Text Expander snippets and Launch Center Pro actions, and a lot of people wanted to know more. With the update to Day One 2, I started having trouble with Launch Center Pro reliably sending my text to Day One, so I went back to just using Text Expander for a while. More often than not, I just typed out the 1 line of text on my own though. I wanted something better.

Queue Workflow

Workflow is one of those apps power users seem to love talking about. However it seems like most of the talk I’ve seen centers around figuring out what in the world to actually do with it in the first place. I’m no exception. Workflow was an “insta-buy” for me when it hit the App Store mainly because I was convinced it would be taken down and wanted a chance to try it. Miraculously, Apple has allowed it to stay in the App Store and even promotes it. Try as I might though, I could never find a use for it. Periodically, I would reinstall it in hopes of a new idea, but it always ended the same way – uninstalling it from my phone – at least until my Day One post came out.

Workflow for a Gratitude Journal

I have to give a lot of credit to reader Todd, who shared a workflow for a Gratitude Journal made by Ashley Theiss in the comments of my previous post. As far as Gratitude Journals go, this is a pretty darn thorough one. I still prefer the simplicity of capturing 3 things I’m grateful for each night. (Day One shows all three things in every entry without having to open up the entry allowing me to see everything I’m grateful for right away.)

I may have passed on using the workflow, but what was useful was seeing how it worked. Anyone who’s ever learned to code, knows that a big part of it is looking at code that’s already written and learning how it works. Understanding Workflow is a lot like that. Seeing how it worked, I was quickly able to modify the workflow to make a template for my own Gratitude Journal, and now I can launch it from my Today screen each night. You can find it here.

Workflow for Reviews

Tweaking the Gratitude Journal template got my wheels spinning, and I started thinking I could use it for my food and drink templates for my Review Journal. How hard could it be, right? Surprisingly, not too hard at all. After a bit of trial and error, I ended up with a Workflow that replicated my beer template, asked me to take a picture, and passed it all along to Day One tagged correctly.

Once I had the basics down, I just copied the Workflow and changed the wording a bit until I had one that worked for food. It wasn’t long before my Today screen started growing out of control though. By the end of it I had 4 separate Workflows just to add various types of food and drink.

Being a minimalist, I want my Today screen as simple as possible. Each of my workflows was fairly similar, and I’d already figured out the Menu action, so I took it a step further, and added one more menu. The result is the workflow you’ll see below – a single “Log Food or Drink” workflow fully capable of setting the tag based on what you want to log. I’m really happy with the results. You can find the full workflow here.


How I’m Using Day One 2

I purchased Day One for both iOS and Mac years ago, but, admittedly, using it as a journal never really clicked no matter how hard I tried. I spent a lot of time perusing Day One’s Uses section, until at some point, I stumbled upon Giftttdy and decided I would use Day One as a lifelog. Fast forward a few months, and Day One had quickly turned into a jumbled mess of duplicated posts due to crossposting to various platforms and a long list of tags that made me cringe whenever I opened it. Don’t get me wrong, Giftttdy is a great idea. It just didn’t work out for me, and I eventually painstakingly deleted every auto-logged entry one by one. If only I had waited until Day One 2, which added the ability to edit multiple entries, came out, I could have saved myself a lot of time.

Nevertheless, it’s been about a month since Day One 2 was released, and despite my past troubles with journaling, both the Mac and iOS versions were “insta-buys” and also “insta-recommends”. Much to my surprise, the added features were exactly what I needed to fuel a new journaling habit. I was instantly trying to find new things to journal. Sadly, despite my countless searches, I’ve yet to find many people discussing how they’ve decided to take advantage of Day One 2’s features. I have, however, found quite a few people looking for exactly that that have also come up empty handed –> queue the rationale behind post.

Day One 2 now supports multiple journals (up to 10), and this may be the single most behavior-changing feature for me. As I mentioned before, I hated opening Day One to a jumbled mess. I had plenty of things I wanted to capture, but everything was lumped together. With Day One 2, thats no longer the case.

So without further ado, here is how I’m using Day One 2. I currently have 6 journals:

Journal list

  • Gratitude for logging 3 things I’m grateful for each night. This habit is something I continue to see recommended time and time again, and having done it off and on for a few years now, I can attest to its benefits. I don’t regularly review my entries, but on days I happen to see one, it’s nice to look back at what made me happy that day. I use a super simple Text Expander snippet for this that just puts “I’m grateful for…” followed by 3 bullets.
  • My second journal, Moments, is for recording any special moments I’d like to remember later. I tag them accordingly based on what type of moment they might be: conversations, dreams, something I feel the need to vent about. This journal gives me an outlet for my thoughts other than my boyfriend or best friend who I’m sure both appreciate the decrease in the number of rants I share.
  • I also have a Goals journal where I store my yearly list of goals I’d like to work towards. I used to keep text files for each year, but it’s nice to be able to look back at them in one place whenever I want.
  • Quotes is for, well, quotes. I’d always been envious of those people who kept a list of quotes. While I’ve highlighted or saved some over the years, I never really settled on a single place to keep them, so the majority disappeared, never to be seen again. Now whether I snap a picture of a quote I come across in a hardback book or copy and paste one I find digitally, they all can live in one place.
  • Reviews is probably my most favorite journal. Despite the picture below making it seem like I only eat at DuClaw, my boyfriend and I actually do enjoy trying new places to eat and drink, and this journal gives me a place to record what I love and, occasionally, what doesn’t love me back so that I know never to order it again. I also use it for books, movies, and music. It’s turned into my own personal combination of Yelp, Untappd, Goodreads, and Rotten Tomatoes. Plus it’s downright nice to look at. It takes 5 seconds to grab a photo and use Text Expander snippets to log what and by whom or where, along with a 1-5 star rating. Day One also tracks location and time so I can quickly see a map of where I’ve eaten and the calendar view provides a nice overview of when. I also tag these by type which allows me to filter the list based on type, location, date, or name.

Review List

  • My last journal is entitled TIL, “Today I Learned”. It’s the newest journal and came from a recommendation on Lifehacker which happened to feature Day One in the screenshot. I haven’t been noting something I learned each day like the recommendation, but it will be helpful for capturing tidbits of information that would be helpful to retain that don’t necessarily have a place to be stored (e.g. where to send that random support request that only comes in once every 2 years).

Tags haven’t really changed in Day One, but paired with multiple journals, they’ve become much more useful because they can be applied across journals. The minute this occurred to me, I was flooded with inspiration. Filtering by the tag “Book” pulls up entries for book quotes in the Quotes journal and book reviews in Reviews. Similarly, a search for the tag “work” might pull up entries in my Moments journal or TIL.

So that’s how I’m using Day One.

Update: See my latest post on how I’m using Workflow to automate logging food and drinks to my Review Journal

{January Topic: Journaling} My Journaling Routine

I’m not one to long form journal about my life. I tend to capture all the silly, sporadic events that happen each day through some combination of posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Most of these posts are pulled into Day One, my journalling app of choice, automatically with the use of Giftttdy. The things that aren’t automatically fed in are focused on personal reflection.

Each morning (or at least weekday mornings) I try to reflect on the morning went. With the help of TextExpander, I can quickly pull up Day One on my Mac, type my snippet (.morning) to fill in a template, and jot down some thoughts. The template includes questions things like what I hope to accomplish for the day, how I’m going to do it, more importantly why I’m doing it as well as things like how I slept, how I felt when I woke up, and whether or not something happened to throw my morning routine off. Occasionally, I’ll also jot down some random thoughts about what’s on my mind too. Reflecting on my morning is something new for me, so I’m still tweaking my actual format, but in general, it’s a nice way to start the day. It also forces me to not only see what I need to do for the day, but really determine why I’m doing it and how I’ll get it done.

Before bed, I usually open Day One on my phone, and thanks to another TextExpander snippet (.grateful), I get a nice little template for jotting down 3 things I’m grateful for, what I accomplished, one thing I could improve, and what I learned. Recording three things I’m grateful for each day has forced me to really appreciate everything in my life. Even on my worst days, I can still find something that made me smile.

So that’s all folks – why I journal, what I use (and have used in the past), and how I journal (today’s post).

I’d love to hear how you journal or any tips you might have to share.

Signature Update

{January Topic: Journaling} Journalling Tools

Today’s post is going to be about the tools I use to journal.

Last week, I briefly mentioned my OCD about paper journals. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for new notebooks. Put me in an office supply or stationary store and watch out. I just hate the feeling of ruining a perfect, new journal with my handwriting that seems to change by the minute. (Think I’m kidding? My handwriting changes so much, I actually got in trouble once because a teacher thought someone else was doing my homework.)

Momento (iOS, $2.99)

Given my inability to stick with paper journals, it should be no surprise I went digital, and I started that journey with Momento. The thing that drew me to Momento was that it automatically pulls my social media posts into the journal. I’ve found a few apps that do this, but none worked as well or looked as good as Momento. You can also, of course, add your own entries, and they even had a section to give a 1-5 star rating to the entry. I liked to use this to rate my days. Momento is lacking in a few areas though. First and foremost, it’s only on the iPhone. I don’t use my iPad for journaling so that wasn’t a big deal, but it’d be nice to see or add to my journal it on my Mac. Another feature it lacks was TextExpander support. (Tip: When I used Momento, I worked around this by using Launch Center Pro to add snippets into my entries.)

STEP Journal (iOS/Android, Free)

After Momento, I flirted briefly with an app called STEP Journal. Unlike what its name imply, this doesn’t track steps (it does, but it tracks more). Like Momento, it pulls in data from various social media sites, but also pulls in events from your calendar, photos on your phone, and even fitness information from Jawbone or Fitbit. Personally, I felt this app just wasn’t ready for prime time. I was spending more time making things pretty and consistent than entering anything worthwhile, and just like Momento, there was also no Text Expander support or Mac version either. It does look like they’re in the process of developing a web app though.

Day One (iOS $4.99, Mac, $9.99)

And this brings us to where I’m at now, my journal app of choice – Day One. When it comes to journaling on iOS or OSX, Day One is the top choice for most people I’ve come across. I actually ended up with both apps at some point, but because journalling was never really part of my day, I never used them. Aside from being gorgeous, Day One offers both native Text Expander support and a Mac client but it doesn’t automatically import social media posts. A few solutions have popped up including Brett Terpstra’s wonderful Slogger, but even the nerdiest side of me got overwhelmed with just reading how to set it up. Currently, I’m using Giftttdy which uses IFTTT and Dropbox to pull content in.

Next week’s post will feature what I’m actually journalling about and how I do it.
Signature Update

What’s on My iPhone 6 (December 2014 Edition)

It’s been over a year since I posted my first “What’s on my iPhone?” post, and that means I’m due for an update.

I still use the same general organization – frequently used apps on the first page with the last row empty, folders on the second. Moving to an iPhone 6 also gave me an additional row for apps on each screen.

I’m actually shocked to say that many of my “frequently used” apps from last year have lost their spots on my home screen. Calendar, Yahoo Weather, Things, and Fitbit have all been retired for other alternatives. Clock, Calculator, Camera+, and Light have all been replaced by swiping up to reveal the Control Center introduced with iOS 7. My dock however has remained the same.

Onto my new (and improved) home screen.

As you can see, Calendar has been replaced with Fantastical. Although I prefer how Apple’s Calendar icon shows the date, I prefer Fantastical’s quick entry and Today widget. Yahoo Weather has been replaced by the default Weather app (having stock apps replace third party apps doesn’t happen too often). Things has been replaced by Omnifocus (No surprise there.), and Fitbit has been replaced by Jawbone (after switching from the recalled Fitbit Force to the Jawbone Up24). The apps in this row are are the main apps I check throughout the day to know how my day’s going.

The next row of apps is entirely new. Day One, a journal app, is a recent addition (I recently switched from Momento.) Habit List tracks my daily routines. Waterlogged tracks my water intake, and Mint tracks my spending. In a general sense, these are my “tracking” apps that keep me on track.

The next row of apps is media-related. Keeping their places on the home screen are Reeder and Pocket. Downcast, my podcast app of choice, and iTV Shows, for tracking my favorite shows earn the 3rd and 4th spots.

The third row of apps is sort of a grab bag of miscellaneous apps that includes the only game on my phone, Threes, an app I can’t live without, 1Password, my favorite GPS app, Waze, and a folder of remote apps (Nest, Smart Glass for the Xbox One, Wemo, and Screens, a VNC client.

The final row includes the phone app, the App Store, and Settings.


On the second page you’ll find a similar collection of folders before.

The Apple folder still exists but includes more apps now that Apple keeps forcing me to keep more of their apps on my phone. This is really just a folder to hide all their apps I don’t use.

The Files app contains a few different apps now, and truthfully Files isn’t much of a representative name anymore, but I haven’t found a better name. This folder holds Google Drive and Paprika (my absolutely favorite recipe manager), Blackboard Mobile Learn (for my classes). The other three apps, Scanbot (which I got for free), Momento, and Diptic, are likely on their way off my phone because I just don’t use them.

The health folder primarily contains guided meditation apps I’m trying out to help me fall asleep. If you have any suggestions, feel free to pass them along.

Media is a combination of my former Watch and Read folders and now contains Fliks for managing my Netflix DVD queue (Netflix if your listening, I’m still angry you removed that from your own app.), HBO Go, IMDb, Kindle, Netflix, SwagbucksTV for earning quick Swagbucks, SportsCenter for updates on my favorite teams, and WatchABC for streaming to my new Chromecast.

The next three folders could realistically be combined in some form, but I haven’t worked it out yet. My $ folder contains all my financial apps, and Save contains apps like Checkout51 and Ibotta. Shop contains Starbucks, Amazon, and cPro for Craigslist.

Social contains all my social media apps: Alien Blue for Reddit, ESPN’s Fantasy Football app, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, Paper by Facebook (this app lets me keep Messages and Facebook in one app rather than two), Tweetbot, and Yammer (for work notifications).

And last but not least, my Utilities folder which holds more miscellaneous apps: Deliveries (for tracking packages), Drafts, DUO Mobile (2-factor authentication), #Homescreen for posting to, IFTTT, Launch Center Pro, QRReader (on it’s way off my phone), Swype (a third party keyboard that makes up for how badly I type on my phone) and TextExpander.

I’m always curious about how people organize their home screens, and to my surprise I find a lot of people end up with similar set ups to mine – mainly the first page of actual apps with a second page of folders. Leaving an empty row at the bottom of the page is also common.

So how do you organize your home screen?

Signature Update