This week’s home screen features Michael McGuinness, a podcaster and geek who loves his iPhone. Michael's show, the Mikez N Brodz Podcast, ranges from technology to productivity. So, Mike, show us your home screen.
What are some of your favourite apps?
I really like the Headspace meditation app. I heard about this on the Focused podcast (#65) and have been doing it 90 days straight (just got a badge!). I also use the AutoSleep and AutoWake apps by Tantsissa. AutoWake allows me to set a wake alarm and be gently woken based on my sleep cycle. AutoSleep has a great sleep tracker, even if I forget to wear my watch (monitors iPhone movement). I would have to say that, overall, Fantastical would be my most used app as it works on all of my Apple devices. I can easily add new events (adding reminders is so easy), and I print off the daily view to allow me to plan my day really easily.
Since macOS Mojave introduced Dark Mode, I have been using Apple Notes as my default app for any text. Sure, it’s not the most feature rich, but for me, it is just so easy to start writing. And as I have to capture lots of conversations in my job, I need something that I can quickly launch and sync everywhere with limited fuss. I do have to say that in writing this Q & A, I have started using Ulysses for more focused writing. It really is a step up.
What app is your guilty pleasure?
This would have to be my sports app: NRL (National Rugby League). On a recent Focused podcast, I heard how Shahid Kamal Ahmad removed all of his “infinity pools”. For me, this was email. I kept my NRL app but don't use it as an infinity pool. I remember saying to myself, “I am going to do more than just listen this time. I am going to take action.” So I removed all traces of email from my phone and have not looked back. If I really need to, I can get to them easily enough.
I use Overcast for all of my podcasts, I had set up different playlists, but I mostly use the "All Episodes" playlist to just view and look for the ones I want to listen to. I used to be a big fan of Mac Power Users, though I have reduced this a bit now as I did find it was making me feel that sometimes I needed the latest Apple gear to take advantage of the advice given.
I listen to personal development podcasts like Focused, The Life Coach School Podcast and BookWorm. I always have a place for the Automators podcast, though. I got the referral via the newsletter from Career Tools when the podcast launched late last year.
What app makes you most productive?
For macOS, my number one app has to be Alfred. I really can’t live without this, and it's the first thing I install on a new Mac. (Yes, I still do a clean install for every new major release of macOS. Call me crazy, but I just love a clean install and the feeling nothing has been carried across from the past). I have scripts that I can fire with keywords, and I use it to launch the Fantastical parser to add reminders as I mentioned above. The snippets feature suits my needs really well. I have been tempted to go to something like TextExpander, but for the cost, I just can’t justify it.
The Headspace meditation app is something I use each morning in the car before I walk into the office. It helps me clear my mind and get ready for the day. I also use Focus@Will on my Mac at work (using a 30-minute timer mimicking the Pomodoro Technique), and then just counting the amount of these I get done in a day. My most productive app is to actually not use an app at all—that's right, close them. Quit email (only view three times per day: morning, lunch, and before leaving for the day). Close any social media. Put my phone on Do Not Disturb. (There are some great Siri shortcuts for this). And remove anything that might distract me. This is all in my 30 minutes focused time. If I do get distracted, perhaps a thought, I write it down to action later.
What app do you know you're underutilizing?
Firstly, in regards to hardware, due to the fact I've only got an iPad mini 1, there are many apps that I can no longer run or access. I have heard a lot about the latest iPad Pros and how good they can be. In my current job, I drive to and from work, but if I needed to use public transportation, I think this would be a purchase I would make very quickly.
I was using the Togge app for a while. I really liked how it allowed me to track my actual time spent on tasks, instead of just planning what I would do. I found keeping it up to date was harder than I expected, and I haven’t used for a while.
I also really enjoy working on automation. I have some things set up in IFTTT and Zapier, but I really could use this a lot more to do things that would bring more value, like posting the episodes for the Mikez N Brodz Podcast.
How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?
Mostly for podcasts when in my car and general texting. I really don’t use social media on it. After listening to a few other podcasts around the danger of phones getting in between families, I am actively trying really hard to reduce my phone usage, especially when at home with my family. If I am in a place where I just want to use my phone to pass the time while waiting, I use the Kindle app to read or undertake some writing in something like Drafts (just loving the speech-to-text feature).
I have been into Siri Shortcuts. I have a few solid ones now that I use everyday, like when I leave work, it sends a message to my wife, based on GPS, the estimated time to get home. Though other than these core ones I use, I don’t do much more. However, iOS13 will dramatically change this.
I must be getting better. I notice that each week, screen time alerts are showing that my phone usage is going down. I’m really proud of myself for reducing this and spending that time on things that matter, such as connecting to my family and getting other important stuff done.
Overall, for anything that is shiny and new, this can become a time sucker. I have found writing down what I want to achieve and then just focusing on those tasks works much better than just blindly going through the app and looking for things to do.
What Today View widgets are you using and why?
I really just use Siri Shortcuts. It's the most efficient place to run them from. While I do have a lot of other apps on my Today View, I have just never connected with any of the apps this way. It could also be because my iPhone 6 Plus can be quite slow to load these.
What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?
I think the best feature is that for really anything you can think of, there is an app for that. Having music on the go makes a big difference, and I have to say being able to listen to podcasts in my car on the way to work is a life changer, so much that it was one of the inspirations to start the co-hosting of the Mikez N Brodz Podcast. The one thing that makes me recommend an iPhone/iPad to others is they are really just so easy to pick up and start using. Sure, they are more expensive than other phones, but you do get what you pay for.
In my experience, they also hold their value really well. When it comes time to sell, I always get a fair price. Another good thing is that while Apple continues to roll out updates for old devices, there is not much of a need to replace them until they stop or get really slow (aka why I still have my iPhone 6 Plus). This means the total life span out of a device is really about four to five years. I think is a wonderful return on investment.
If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?
For me, while I like Apple a lot, I think that their competitors are doing a better job moving products at the local electronics store. When I see their catalogues, they are full of everyone else's stuff with maybe one page of Apple products, if at all. I have also heard of issues with stock not being available and then buyers getting frustrated and just getting another company's product.
While I know Apple produces quality products and they hold their resale value, the cost to entry for the average person is just too high. I have a lot of Apple devices that I need to replace, but when I look at the prices for a like-for-like replacement, I just can’t justify it (that’s why second hand can be so attractive). I am aware they are trying to do this with entry level iPads and iPhones, but for me to replace my MacBook is over four thousand dollars (AUD), which is a lot of coin. My employer has also now stopped allowing us to buy Macs due to this, so I am not the only one questioning the price (which means I know I have to hold onto my 13″MacBook Retina until it dies).
Do you have an Apple Watch? Show us your watch face tell us about it.
Yes, I have a Series 1, and I love it. My main uses are Apple Pay, Activity Tracking and Sleep Tracking. I use the Modular watch face as with AutoWake app in the bottom left, which does require the complication to be on the active watch face. CARROT Weather in the middle and extra alarms along with the activity rings.
I have tried the Siri watch face, but it doesn’t really give me the info I need. See what happens in watchOS6. It looks like my watch will get the update—feeling very fortunate.
I wear my watch all day, put it on charge when I have my shower in the early evening, and then back on just before bed. Works well and gets me through the day easily.
I am still surprised how excited some people get at the bar when I use my watch to pay. “Did you see that he used his watch to pay," says random person waiting at the bar.
What's your wallpaper and why?
I have a nice black background that looks like a leather couch (direct link to image). I use it because it has a nice clean dark look that I really find great on the eyes, and it's just simple. I find this much better than a picture. Can’t wait for iOS13 dark mode though.
Anything else you'd like to share?
I just wanted to give a shoutout to David for the opportunity to write my Q & A. I actually had to go through a bit of a journey in writing it. It was one of those things I wanted to get to, but it always fell down the list of my priorities. Today I set a new intent to just work on personal tasks first thing, and I was able to finish this. Even using my stand up desk, which is one of those things I have but don’t use enough.
At the start of 2019, I created the Mikez N Brodz Podcast, which covers technology, personal development, and career advice. This is all with my good friend and co-host, Brodie Greig. It’s been a great journey so far, and we are coming up on our 10th episode, which is a big milestone for us. Overall, this is just two friends catching up, talking about areas that interest them, and it happens to have some structure to it while being recorded.
– – –