The Truth About Force-Quitting iPhone Apps

Force-quitting is usually not the thing to do.

If you’re an iPhone user, you may have been told you can save battery life by force-quitting apps that you aren’t using. And it seems logical, because “cleaning things up” is normally a good thing, but in this case it simply isn’t true; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. This topic has been making the rounds on the Internet for a while now, but I think it’s been overcomplicated, so here’s just what you need to know.



6 Ways The Apple Watch Can Make You More Productive

Little Things That Make a Huge Difference

I’ve been wearing an Apple Watch for almost 10 months now. I chose the 38mm Stainless Steel with Black Classic Buckle. I went as cheap as possible because I’m not a watch wearer by nature, and version 1 of any Apple product is usually not a keeper.  So I wanted to keep the financial damage low, and, I was skeptical about the value – would it really be useful?

My Apple Watch

Why You Should Care About Data Rot

When we back up our business or personal data files, we often think our job is done if our backup utility didn’t inform of us any problems. All is well with that part of our world, we think. But is it really?

Pumpkin - The only bunny of his kind

Data rot may not be a term you’re familiar with, but if most of your family photos are in digital format, you will want to become very familiar very quickly.

3 Steps to Keeping Your iPhone Organized

Downloading apps is big part of making your iPhone into a powerful, personalized productivity tool. But can you quickly find the app you’re looking when you’re in a hurry? How about even when you’re not in a hurry?

Here is a simple 3-step method to keep your iPhone organized for maximum productivity.

  1. Limit your home screen to 12 apps. No more, no less. This does not count the Springboard at the bottom of the screen. Put your 4 most used apps on the Springboard, and then pick 12 more of your most important “go-to” apps for the rest of the screen. Organize them in a way that makes sense, and then make yourself a promise to keep them in that order. Your brain will soon lock them into memory, and you’ll be able to find any of them lightning fast. Here’s how mine looks.  I’ve highlighted Springboard for clarity:
Just 12 plus the Springboard

Just 12 plus the Springboard

  1. Put everything else into groups. 12 or 16 groups per screen. I like 12 for consistency with the home screen. To put apps into groups, tap and hold on an app until it begins to wiggle, then drag it on top of another app to create a group. You can name the group however you like, and rename it as often as you wish. To delete a group, just drag all of the apps out of it, and it will simply disappear. Groups are limited to 12 items, but you can have multiple groups with the same name. As you can see below, I have multiple “Utilities” groups. I also create “Dust Pile” groups for apps I end up not liking or using very often. When it comes time to clean up the phone, those are the first victims to go.

App Group

A group for my reference apps

12 Groups of 12 Apps

12 Groups of 12 Apps

Dust Piles aren't just for bunnies!

Dust Piles aren’t just for bunnies!

  1. Use the Search Bar. Swiping right from the home screen brings up the Search Bar. Within just a few keystrokes (usually just 2 or 3 for me) you can find most any app on your iPhone in just a second or two.
Use the Search, Luke!

Use the Search, Luke!

Using this method also reduces the number of screens you need to page through when not using the Search Bar, since you can get up to 192 apps per screen (16 groups * 12 apps per group).

If you’ve been struggling to keep your iPhone organized, or would just like to find apps more quickly, I encourage you to give this method a try.

What other ways do you organize your iPhone?

You Can Achieve Inbox Zero

Earlier this week I listened to Michael Hyatt’s podcast on “How to Take Control of Your E-mail Inbox”.  What he talks about is often referred to as Inbox Zero, which is code for how to keep email from controlling your life. If you’ve got the time, and you have 100+ emails in your inbox, I’d recommend grabbing the podcast – it’s concise, very well done, and very effective. If you’d rather read then listen, my own approach is closely based on the one Michael described several years ago, and I’ll lay it out for you here.

The ultimate goal of Inbox Zero is pretty simple – empty your inbox every day. Sounds impossible. I realize the notion of an empty inbox borders on heresy for the email packrats among us, but don’t bail out just yet. Email, left unmanaged, becomes a stumbling block to your productivity. It is an insidious way for others to inject their priorities in front of yours. As a test, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • How often did you check your email today (include smartphone access during visits to the restroom.
  • Did you handle it (or try to) right away? What important things on your to-do list will not get done today because you did?

Somewhat ironically, email can easily become a productivity killer, but it doesn’t have to be. Unfortunately, our competence is often judged by how quickly we respond to email, so being responsive is important. The key to staying sane and productive is having a system that helps you decide what’s worthy of your attention Right Now and what isn’t. Try the following process for at least 30 days and see what happens.

  1. Pick two times of the day when you will empty your inbox. Only two times? More heresy. Process does not mean answer every email. Process also does not mean check. Clearly, you need to be on the lookout for email from your boss and clients throughout the day, but don’t get caught in the trap of answering all of it each time you check it. What process does mean is going through step 2 below. My processing times are 30 minutes before I leave for work and 30 minutes before I leave the office. That way I arrive at work ready to get started on my task list, instead of my email, and leave the office with a clean slate for the evening. I do sporadic checks throughout the day to stay responsive to my boss and time-sensitive business matters with clients.
  2. Keep moving and do not chase the rabbits. Many emails have a rabbit inside that wants to be chased Right Now. For each and every email, ask yourself, “Is the sender asking me to do something?” If the answer is yes, do one of the following:
    • Do It. If it looks like something you can do in 2 minutes or less, do it right now. You will appear responsive because…you are. And practice the Golden Rule of Email – if you can handle the response either in person, via phone call, or IM, do it that way. Don’t send another email and fill somebody else’s inbox, especially if the person is in the office right next to yours.
    • Delegate It. If you’re being asked to do something that can best be done by others, pass it on. Don’t feel as if you’re Passing the Buck, but rather that you’re making the best use of your time. Respond to the things where you alone can add value, and refer the rest to others.
    • Defer It. If you can’t do it in less two minutes, and can’t delegate it to someone else, add it to your to-do list with an appropriate priority. Resist the temptation to disrupt your schedule by working on it Right Now. Remember, no rabbit chasing!

    If the sender is not asking you to do something, then you can either:

    • Delete It. The “Delete” function in most email programs is often lonely. Ask yourself whether you really will ever need this again, and if the answer is no, simply delete it without hesitation. This is probably the hardest thing I am asking you to do, but remember, chances are good that if you ever would need it again, the sender or another recipient will still have it. Otherwise:
    • File It. Over the years I have tried using various folder schemes using dozens of folders to categorize email that I wanted to keep. I wish I had all of that time back. It never really paid any dividends because I always ended up using the email program’s search function to find what I needed. Today I use just one folder called “Processed”, where I file everything worth keeping. In fact, in Outlook I have a shortcut that moves an email to my Processed folder with one click. Outlook, Apple Mail, GMail, Thunderbird, and their brethren all have search functions that can easily find any email you might ever need to retrieve. One folder = no wasted effort.

  3. Use email rules for your opt-in emails. Besides the “Processed” folder, I keep a second folder for email newsletters, and any other communications I have signed up to receive. I then set up email rules to automatically move these from my inbox to this single folder where I can peruse them during my reading time. Apple Mail and Outlook make setting up rules extremely easy.  It doesn’t require a degree in Advanced Geekery, and is well worth your time to put into use. Rules could also be used to move any email you’ve only been copied on to a “CC” folder.” By definition (in theory anyway), CC’ed emails shouldn’t require your immediate attention, but it might be useful to single them out for review before filing or deleting.

It really is possible to keep up with your email. The small amount of effort required to put a strategy in place like the one above will ultimately save you time and make you more effective.  Not to mention the good feeling you’ll get from regularly seeing an empty inbox!

What other strategies do you use to control your email?

Fire and Motion Revisited

As I’ve been encouraging you to give serious consideration to a mobile software strategy for your business, I realized I may have unintentionally overwhelmed you. Taking on a new challenge outside of your core strengths may be the last thing you either need or want to do just now, but I recently ran across something that may help put things in perspective.

Ten years ago, well-known software business owner Joel Splosky wrote a great piece about productivity in his work life called “Fire and Motion“.  Says Joel:

When I was an Israeli paratrooper a general stopped by to give us a little speech about strategy. In infantry battles, he told us, there is only one strategy: Fire and Motion. You move towards the enemy while firing your weapon. The firing forces him to keep his head down so he can’t fire at you. (That’s what the soldiers mean when they shout “cover me.” It means, “fire at our enemy so he has to duck and can’t fire at me while I run across this street, here.” It works.)  The motion allows you to conquer territory and get closer to your enemy, where your shots are much more likely to hit their target. If you’re not moving, the enemy gets to decide what happens, which is not a good thing. If you’re not firing, the enemy will fire at you, pinning you down.

The message for us in the context of a mobile software strategy is two-fold:

  1. If you’re not moving, your competition gets to decide what happens. Mobile is the key technology trend affecting business for the foreseeable future. Deciding not to have an app strategy, or to simply ignore the move to mobile, is akin to “not firing” in Joel’s story. The competition will be firing at you sooner or later. Why not take the initiative and pin him down instead?
  2.  Building and executing any strategy takes time, but even just a little bit of intentional forward motion every day will get you there. To gain ground, you need to be regularly “firing at the problem” and moving forward rather than hunkering down in the tyranny of the day-to-day urgent. What one small thing can you do today to move your app strategy forward? Just taking an hour of solid thinking time and writing down your thoughts and some action items is a great start.

Last week saw Apple effectively using the Fire and Motion technique, as “The New iPad” became the latest round of fire thrown down at the would-be competitors in the media-tablet space. Apple continues to gain ground, while keeping the rest of the industry on its heels playing defense. This is a model of success we can emmulate in our own businesses by building a plan to innovate with software.

How are you planning to use mobile software in your business?  If you’d like some feedback on your ideas, please leave a comment, or  I’d be glad to chat with you.