This week I’m featuring the home screen of my friend Chris Bailey. Chris is a best-selling author with books like The Productivity Project and Hyperfocus. Just this week Chris released his latest book, How To Calm Your Mind and it is his best yet. You may not know it, but Chris is also a Mac geek of the first order. So Chris, show us your home screen.
What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?
I’ve gone all-in on Focus modes. I just have four of them: Personal, Work, Sleep, and Do Not Disturb. But I’m always in one of these modes, regardless of what I’m doing. My philosophy is that technology exists to support what we intend to accomplish, and I find Focus modes a nice expression of this idea. I hope Apple keeps investing in the feature over time.
Another one of my favorite features with Focus modes is the ability to trigger automations by switching to them. I just have one of these: enabling grayscale mode on my iPhone when I switch to Work focus. This way the device is far less distracting—in grayscale mode I hardly want to use it at all!
Which app is your guilty pleasure?
This one’s easy: Uber Eats. It’s food! On demand! Whenever you want it! What’s better than that?
(Please send help. And Uber Eats gift cards..)
What is the app you are still missing?
TextEdit for iOS. I’ve been waiting for this text editor since it was first rumored, and have only grown to want it more over time.
Which apps makes you most productive?
My favorite apps for productivity are simple ones that let me get in and out quickly, that also have a lot of power when I need it.
- Fantastical: My calendar of choice. The natural language event entry feature saves me an inordinate amount of time every week entering events across multiple calendars.
- Timeular: My time-tracker of choice. I use this because of how physical it is: the product is an octahedron that you can flip to whatever activity you’re working on. The app then automatically tracks how long you spend on the activity that’s face up. I use this mostly on the Mac, but also use the iPhone app when not working out of the office.
- Simplenote: I use digital notetaking apps primarily to capture and then build on my thoughts. Simplenote is the best app I’ve found for this—and it’s incredibly simple, lightweight, and beautiful. The cross-platform syncing has also never let me down, unlike with every single other notes app I’ve tried.
- Things: My task manager of choice. (Though these days I’m managing my to-dos in a plain text file in Simplenote with a lot of success. If you can’t tell, I’m a plain text fanatic: it’s just me and my ideas.)
- Insight Timer: My meditation app of choice. I like to work a bunch of meditation breaks into my day to keep my focus sharp.
What’s your favorite app on iOS?
My favorite app on iOS is probably Locket. Locket is a homescreen widget that just displays a picture from someone you partner up with in the app (I use the app with my wife). Every day or so, we take a new photo that shows up on the other person’s homescreen widget (I have the widget on every homescreen page so I see it regardless of which focus mode I’m in).
I’m also a big fan of less techy apps that save me time in the analog world, like Instacart, Uber, and Find My.
What app do you know you’re underutilizing?
Shortcuts for Mac. I know I can use this app more, but I’m so familiar with Keyboard Maestro on the Mac that I haven’t pulled the trigger on switching over. (Plus, until recently, the Mac version of Shortcuts has been super buggy.) I should probably get reacquainted with David’s fantastic Shortcuts Field Guides for some inspiration.
If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?
I love this question (edit from future Chris: and loved how therapeutic it was to answer)! Here are a few ideas that come to mind:
- I’d completely overhaul Apple Music. I find Apple Music an organizational mess, the app often still feels like a web wrapper, and my recommendations are all skewed because I listen to so much instrumental music as I work. I also find it very difficult to discover new music. The app needs a rethink. The only thing keeping me on Apple Music is my play counts, which I don’t want to lose by switching to Spotify. I know I’d discover more music I love if I switched to Spotify.
- Siri on the HomePod. Our HomePod minis now answer around 70% of our queries correctly—and I promise that this is not an under or overestimation. Things seem to have gotten worse when we went from two HomePod minis to five.
- I’d also change the company’s communication strategy on current products. I totally get why the company doesn’t want to talk about future products. But a lot of my frustrations with the company come from that when something is wrong, the company doesn’t acknowledge it. It’d be nice to hear something—anything!—even if it’s just couched legalese—about real problems that their customers have faced, like Siri frustrations, butterfly keyboard complaints, original HomePods that would randomly brick, and so on.
All that said, luckily the delights of being in Apple’s ecosystem far outweigh annoyances like these!
Do you have an Apple Watch? Show us your watch face and tell us about it.
Here’s the face for my Personal focus mode on the watch! I’m a fan of the Metropolitan face (at least right now). The corner widgets, clockwise, are The Weather Network (which has the best Canadian weather data), Workouts, Activity, and Zero (an intermittent fasting app). It’s green because that’s the color of my watch band right now.
Thanks Chris, and congratulations on the new book.