2020 has been a hard year for everyone. But I have been very
fortunate. I was already working from home, my company does well in
good and bad economic times, my D&D group was online already, and
my daughter is not in school yet. So I know I have had it a whole lot
easier than most people. In all honesty, I feel like 2020 has been one
of my better years. If it wasn’t for the stress of building a house
during a pandemic and living with my in-laws, I would feel pretty
great right now. Not having to go to places like church or work events
has reduced my base-level of anxiety quite a bit.
My theme for 20202 was the year of groundwork. I wanted to do things
that would help me open doors in the future. A couple things I had in
mind were release an iOS app and start freelancing a bit.
I think I did well in both of those areas. Though, at times I did feel
like I was overextending myself at times.
My plan had been to release Focuses and then start doing some
freelance work. Focuses took more of my energy than I was expecting.
But in the late Summer, I set up an LLC as a first step. Right after I
did that, a former coworker called me up and asked if I was interested
in taking over some side-work of his. I was very lucky.
Started some ongoing freelance work in September.
Have made enough money to do things like max out my HSA to help pay
for a new baby next year.
is probably my biggest personal success of 2020. It made me stretch
and I learned a lot doing it. I'm proud of it. I feel like it was
worth the effort I put into it, which was a lot—nearly 200 hours in
Released in March 2020.
Released 11 additional updates throughout the year. Only a couple
were to fix pretty egregious oversights of a previous release 😃.
It made some money. Not much at all, but enough to pay for my
developer account and domain name.
It was written about on a couple websites.
In addition to freelancing and Focuses, I also did a decent job of
waking up early to work on side-projects, I read a lot of books (for
me), and I exercised a few times a week. So in 2021, I’d like to keep
going on the good habits I developed during 2020. But honestly, I
don’t feel like I have much gas left in the tank. I need to be careful
in 2021 to not completely burn myself out.
Using my phone less has been on my mind for quite a while now. For no
good reason, I’m 100% addicted to Twitter. I always have my phone on
me, just in case there’s a text I need to reply to immediately, or
some fact needs to be Googled, or to waste time when I'm bored. I
enjoyed Deep Work by Cal Newport, so I thought I would give
Digital Minimalism a shot.
My summary is this: make it easier for yourself to make deliberate
choices about how and when to use your phone and other technology. So
much of my current phone use is just a reflex, and I want to change
I don’t think there is anything revolutionary in this book. But it was
full of good, timeless advice and ideas, sort of like talking to your
friend who listens to a lot of podcasts. It made me think and reflect.
Who knew books could do that.
My Digital Minimalism Strategy
I didn’t feel like going through the 30 day purge like Newport
suggests. But I took some time to evaluate what I could do anyway.
Here’s what I came up with:
I deleted Twitter, Reddit, and Hulu from my phone. These are my
biggest time-wasters. I also blocked Twitter through Screen Time on
iOS. I still have these on my iPad so that I can use them when I
make a deliberate decision to.
I only watch whatever I’m binging at the moment while I’m riding the
I removed high volume RSS feeds like The Verge. Now I don’t feel the
need to open my RSS reader often to check the latest news.
I cut down the number of podcasts I’m subscribed to—admittedly, I
have more work to do here since I’m still subscribed to 25…
When I move into my new house, I would like to have a local
Switch to the iPhone 12 Mini. I was planning on upgrading to the
Max, but I thought that maybe having a smaller screen would make me
less likely to use my phone for things like watching videos and
reading. I’m not certain this is actually the case, but I
do love the size of the Mini.
I’m also experimenting with a pocket notebook. So far I’ve been using
it to plan my weeks and sometimes days. I also use it to record ideas
and other thoughts. I’m still figuring out how exactly I want to use
this, but it has already reduced my dependence on my phone.
There are two main things that cause me to pickup my phone
often—podcasts and time tracking. I suppose I could use the Toggl
website instead of using
the Timery widget just makes it so easy. I've also experimented with
listening to podcasts on my Apple Watch. I actually like using my
watch quite a bit—I don’t need to pick up my phone when I go somewhere
else in the house. But it is not always reliable. The podcast I want
to listen to is not always on my watch when I want to listen, so I
often still use my phone. I use
Overcast—because of it’s superior Smart Speed® and Voice Boost®—but maybe I
should look into other options.
Anyway, I feel like all this is making a difference. I don’t feel the
need to always have my phone on me. I feel more engaged when I’m just
hanging out with the family. Overall, I’m on board with the idea of
using your phone less. I’ll take another look in a couple months and
see what I need to adjust and tweak, maybe to do the whole 30 day
purge that he suggests. Perhaps, Phase 2 will be when I switch to a
rotary landline for all communication—buttons would make it too easy
to call people.
I like routines and planning. Routines is one of my ways of managing
anxiety and stress. I like to feel like I know what’s going on and
what’s coming up. But I have a 4 year-old. So I have to be somewhat
flexible, and I’m always tinkering with my routines.
Over the last year and a half or so, I’ve been able to take advantage
of my mornings more. Minus getting-ready-in-the-morning-time, I
typically have between an hour and an hour and a half to myself while
no one else is awake. I have loved this time. It’s when I’ve worked on
and other side projects. Sometimes I take that time to read in the
mornings or play a game. It’s when I’m writing this. It’s just some
great quiet time that I get all to myself.
I’m not naturally a morning person. I’m more productive in the
evenings. But mornings still work better for me. I work full-time and
I also do some part-time contract work. After a full day of work, I’m
dead and don’t feel like doing anything besides relaxing with my
family. It never seems to work out well the occasional times that I
trick myself into playing with a side project in the evening. I’m
pretty obsessive, so often, programming gets my mind whirring and I
can’t sleep, so I stay up far too late working on something. With a
child in the house who consistently wakes up early, and my needing 8
hours of sleep to feel barely functional, staying up late is not a
So that’s why I’ve landed on mornings. And it was great.
Yup. Was. Well, maybe I'm being a little premature. My wife
and I are expecting another baby in a couple months. We are, of
course, incredibly excited, and it brings a smile to my face just to
write it. But a new baby is going to change everything. If this baby
is anything like our first, I won’t consistently have my mornings
again for about 2 years. But that’s fine. Sure, I’m going to miss the
regularity of have the mornings to myself, but sharing early mornings
with a baby is much better.
I won’t get as much side-project type stuff done. That’s a given. And
I’ll have to give up my oh-so-comforting routines in favor of the
beckoning cry of a newborn. It will be a fun puzzle each day fitting
in the baby’s needs and my wants.
So thanks, mornings. You’ve been great. And we still have a couple
months, so let’s get some updates to Focuses out or something while we
Overall, I liked this book. I give it a thumbs up 👍🏻.
I can't remember when I really became aware of Steve Jobs. I was aware
of Apple growing up, and was envious of friends who had iPod Minis in
iPod Socks. But Steve Jobs was never really on my radar. I didn't grow
up idolizing him. Years later, I have learned more about him and grown
to respect him and the company he built. Reading
Steve Jobs gave me a much better understanding of who he was.
I'm a software developer. I write code. Some days, I like to pretend
that I'm a designer too. I value well thought out details in the
products I use and strive to put the same care into detail into what I
build. I wish I had the time a resources available to get things just
right every time, but that's just not realistic. The whole point of
design is working within constraints. And eventually you have to ship.
One story that really resonated with me was how distraught Jobs was
when he discovered the CD drive in the new iMac was a tray and not a
slot. So close to release, there was nothing to be done expect to
delay the release. Those around him convinced him that it wasn't worth
delaying the release over. My wife and I are building a house right
now. It seems like every day the builders do something that in my mind
is incorrect, but it is too late or too expensive to change. It drives
me crazy, and I know years from now I'll look back and think "I
could've gotten this right." But ultimately, I would rather have
a finished house than a perpetually incomplete house that will never
meet my standards.
I doubt anyone else could've done what Steve Jobs did. But, of course,
he didn't do it alone. He surrounded himself with people who could
execute his vision. No one gets everything right the first time every
time, not even Jobs. Hopefully we get a chance to try again and
I had to cut myself off on adding new features to Focuses pretty early
on. If I let myself keep going, I probably never would've released.
Here's a few things on my roadmap that I would like to work on.
Better iPad support. This might be my biggest priority. Current iPad
support is basic at best. I wanted to launch with multiple device
support using CloudKit. I had never used CloudKit before, so I'm
glad I went ahead, because I quickly found I did things wrong. A lot
of people's data would not have synced if I added it later. Anyway,
my focus was on getting Focuses onto iPad, not making a good iPad
app. There's a lot about making good iPad apps that I just don't
know, so I'm excited to learn.
Data import/export. I think it would be nice to be able to export
all the data as a CSV or something. Importing will be a little
tricky because I will have to think about how to handle existing
data. I could always start with just export.
Shortcuts support. There's a few shortcuts that I think might be
Watch app. I've never built a watch app before, so that would be
kind of fun.
Graphs and trends. Some beta testers said that having graphs might
be nice. While I think the calendar view does a pretty good job, I'm
going to explore this. Perhaps a way to view week by week or month
by month instead of day by day. Or a way to see at a glance if
you're doing better or worse on a particular focus.
Widget. I've also never made a widget, so again, lots to figure out.
Smarter and richer notifications. Right now, notifications are
pretty basic, once a day at the same time, regardless of if you've
entered scores or not. There's a lot of opportunity here to do more.
There's more on my list, but these are probably the biggest. If you
have any ideas, or your favorite feature is missing, let me know on
Twitter, or use the