Choosing Comparison Quenches Creativity

You have something important to create, but if you compare yourself to others, you are choosing to stifle your own creativity. Consider this quote from my writing credo:

The success of others does not inherently label failure upon myself, unless I let it.

The key phrase here is, "unless I let it", because comparison is a choice.

It's easy to see the artists, writers, or creators you admire and think, "Holy crap, I can't do that." Guess what: you're right. You can't do what they do, even if you tried.

You were born to make what only you can make.

That doesn't mean you can't create with the same level of excellence, passion, or polish of those excelling around you. It simply means that when you do get there, it's going to look nothing like anyone else. It's going to look just like you.

So stop trying to emulate the success around you. Burn your comparison thinking and use it as fuel for your own fire. If someone creates something that blows you away, learn to celebrate with them, without that tinge of jealousy.

Make those you admire into a target you aim for, instead of the gun that shoots you down.

Implementation Without Support

Josh Ginter, writer of The Newsprint, wrote an interesting piece entitled "Analog's Stranglehold of the Classroom." Here is a quote:

"Classroom teachers, professors and instructors generally hate digital devices in the classroom. I can’t remember a time when pulling out my iPhone or iPad in class wasn’t met with a questionable look from an instructor or classmates."

Josh argues that students should be allowed to learn the way they learn best, whether it be using an iPad, Mac, or a notebook. As a former student, I heartily agree with him on every point.

However, I gained a new perspective on this subject while working on my Masters in Education.

The Teacher's Perspective

I started working on my Masters with dreams of using technology in new, innovative ways — I wanted to use my techie-ness 1 to help students learn in a way consistent with the real world. I believed that if kids started using devices in the classroom, their engagement and participation would go through the roof 2.

However, during my student teaching in middle and high schools, I heard an overwhelming cry of help from almost every teacher I encountered — veteran and inexperienced alike.

The moment I revealed my passion for technology, teachers came to me for help. I enjoyed helping them, and would support them in any way I could, but I usually didn't have the time they needed because of my other responsibilities.

One of the great things I learned during my time as a Genius was how to give technical support in a simple and understandable way 3. The teachers' response to this kind of support was similar to giving water to someone stranded in a desert. After doing everything I was able to do, I would then suggest they go to their IT person for more help.

Many times, my suggestion was met with a look of despair.

No Support

It was then I discovered that the IT staff, at some schools, were extremely difficult to work with, acting like every support call was a huge inconvenience. They offered hasty solutions, gave them a fraction of the time needed to truly help, and either didn't explain what they did to fix it, or explained it in a way that made them feel stupid. They descended upon a problem, deus-ex-machina style, and retreated to their ivory castle as quickly as they appeared. Poorer school systems have a handful of support technicians for an entire county holding dozens of schools, sometimes taking weeks to get a response.

Sadly, I have the feeling this happens in more school systems than I'd like to imagine. The IT support team is stretched beyond thin and can barely keep up with the needs of the schools. These stressful circumstances can cause great technicians to communicate in a way that is not received well.

If only every school had a Bradley Chambers or a Frasier Spiers, two guys who are blazing the trail for iPad rollouts into schools 4. Unfortunately, schools are embracing the technology without investing in the technical support.

Drowning While Kids Play Flappy Bird

So on top of everything we ask teachers to do already for their meager salary — teach students, deal with parents, grade papers, fill out paperwork, attend meetings, coach sports, and lead after-school extra-curricular activities — many schools are providing iPads, with no support, and saying, "You must use these. Figure it out. Oh, you say you have a question about it? Sorry, we'll get to you next week."

Teachers are drowning in an ocean of expectations, and we are throwing iPads at them instead of life jackets.

On top of that, students love to take advantage of teachers. During lessons I personally taught and observed, I repeatedly saw kids abusing the privilege. I tried to use devices in my lessons as much as humanly possible, and without fail, kids would be playing Flappy Bird instead of working. Some students even chose to take the hit on their grade, pretending to work the whole time and turning in garbage at the end of class. Just so they could check their Instagram.

After this happened enough times, it became easy for me to see why some teachers would hate devices and prefer the analog: a notebook can't check Facebook.

What's Best for the Kids

Think about it — we are asking veteran teachers to give up ten, twenty, or thirty years of bread-and-butter, tried-and-true, "analog" methods for something that is unproven, untested, and unsupported.

Administrators are spending inordinate sums of money on hardware and software under the pressure to adapt to the 21st century, without investing in a support structure. They then pressure teachers to use the new systems so that their money isn't wasted.

Some great teachers are rejecting devices in the classroom because they care more about their students than they do about whatever the latest trend is 5. They are unwilling to let their students not learn for even a single day trying to get the dang iPads or computers to work.

I'm not saying I have all the answers, but I do feel that I've heard the heartbeat of today's teachers — give them a solution that benefits students, is easy to use, is not easily abused, and supports them at the same time, and they will embrace it without hesitation.

Heck, they'll even be your biggest champions and cheerleaders.

Students: What To Do Until Then

So until that day comes, try to empathize with the judging glance that comes your way as you pull your iPad out of your bag. Know that they have probably been taken advantage of countless times, and have seen dozens of bright students do poorly because of it.

Prove them wrong by staying focused, paying attention, and making the grade. Show them the amazing things the iPad and Mac are capable of in your projects or presentations. Make yourself stand out from the others by going above and beyond what they expect from the average student, using your technology whenever possible to demonstrate what you learned.

Teachers: Stay Hopeful

If you are in a situation where you do not feel supported, my heart goes out to you. My hope is that this article will encourage change, and possibly lead to getting you the support you need.

Don't allow the lack of tech support to keep you from experimenting with new technology. Know that your kids have grown up with technology, and that it may be the only way some of them connect. Don't let the misuse of a few students take away the benefit from the rest — kids can get just as distracted doodling on a notepad as they can on an iPad.

Don't be afraid to ask for technical support, and don't let a stressed-out, overworked IT guy discourage you from asking again.

Until you get the help you need, know that you are not alone.

Here are a couple of resources that may help you immediately:

  1. Lynda.com — For $25 a month, get unlimited access to all of their training videos. They have 80 courses focused on Education, containing almost 4,000 videos.
  2. Out of School Podcast — This free podcast is for those "at the intersection of technology and education." Their Deploy 2014 series is a must for any educator using iPads at their school.

The Future

The Internet gives everyone access to infinite amounts of knowledge at the touch of a finger. I truly believe that teaching students how to harness this knowledge is the way of the future. But we must move forward, heeding the words of Spiderman's uncle 6. We must go into the digital future without trampling the ones fighting for the future of our kids, every day — our teachers.

Show a teacher something that is genuinely better for their kids, and I'll show you a teacher that will "get with the times" at whatever cost. All they want is a safe place to ask questions, get help, and feel supported along the way.

And for their kids to stop playing Flappy Bird. 7

  1. I like to make up words occasionally, like this one.
  2. I still believe, that if done correctly, this is true.
  3. Most of these teachers had umpteen degrees and were brilliant people. They could make me feel stupid in just about any other area if they wanted to.

    Just because you know more about technology than another person does not imply that you are more intelligent.

    In fact, I believe the alternative to be true: If you think you are more intelligent because you know more about technology, you most definitely are not.

  4. Bradley and Frasier have a fantastic podcast called Out of School. If you are standing in the gap of tech and education, you must listen to this podcast. Yesterday.
  5. Education is infamous for changing for the sake of change, going from one fad to the next, and circling right back where they started.
  6. "With great power comes great responsibility."
  7. ;)

Overwhelmed

I have been overwhelmed with the amount of traffic I've gotten to the site lately for my article "The Ultimate Guide to Solve iOS Battery Drain." Before a few days ago I was averaging double digits per day.

In the past 72 hours, I've been linked by the following sites (plus a few more), generating tens of thousands of hits per hour: 1

The ball started rolling when The Loop linked me (who heard about it through Rafiq Sarlie) on Sunday, April 6th. The views started rolling in steadily until the next day when several others linked me. Then traffic exploded.

The past three days have been a wild ride. I've been giddy like a young schoolboy 2 most of the time, bouncing around all day and unable to sit still. I know I should turn off my Tweetbot notifications, but it's too fun right now.

I wanted to say thanks to every person who shared my article over the past few days. It may seem small to you to retweet, share, or like my article, but you truly have changed my life. Thank you for all of your emails, texts, and tweets. I read every single one of them, and many of them were very positive, helpful, and meaningful to me.

What Now?

Several of my friends have asked me, "How are you going to follow up after that post? You better write something epic." I've felt that pressure myself. However, I think the worst thing I could try to do is "replicate" some "formula" to get more hits.

If I tried to make every post I write go "viral" 3, I wouldn't want to read my own blog. There are a lot of disgusting, pageview-grubbing publications that settle for cheap tricks 4, trendy titles 5, and borderline plagiarism 6 to grab the eyeballs. I never really payed attention to slimy publications before, but the past few days I've been forced to — several of them contacted me asking for the "privilege" to have my posts "syndicated" on their site — a way for them to get my article for free (i.e. Not paying me for it) for the great "opportunity of exposure". Don't worry, I turned them down.

Special thanks to Shawn Blanc, Marco Arment, and Rick Stawarz for steering me in the right direction. I admit it was tempting at first, because it seems like such a big opportunity and I didn't understand what giving my material to them would do — drive traffic to their site and very little to mine.

In that same vein, however, you may have noticed the ad at the top of the page. Don't worry, I'm not going to add fifty flashing, blinking banners for dating services or online poker sites — that's the only ad I will ever add to this site. I'm happy to be a new member of the Fusion Ad Network. They approached me during the craziness and have been fantastic to work with.

Also, I want to give a huge thanks to Sid O'Neill over at Crate of Penguins for helping me implement my Fusion ad. I messaged him in a panic and he took a significant amount of his own time to get in and fix it for me. He wouldn't let me pay him for the help, so instead I'm asking you to go read his site, and if you like his stuff, consider supporting his work.

Ok, so one of my posts got popular, but what now? That is what has been burning on my mind during all this is — how do I continue from here?

Long Term

I started this blog because I like to write things that help others.

In my mind, my blog was going to be a small landing page where I could reference some helpful ideas that may benefit my friends and family, as well as a place for me to build my writing skills and get some words out of my head.

But now, a significant number of people have jumped on board. Will they all fit on my rickety dinghy of a blog? How do I steer this thing? Will it hold water?

My plan for Overthought.org is to keep doing what I was doing before: write about things that I care about, are interesting to me, and will possibly help others. In reality, one blog post getting enormous traffic doesn't change anything for me.

Yes, I got linked by some big sites, but that doesn't somehow make me a better writer — I'm still the same exact person I was before all of this happened. And I'm not going to let this change me. 7

Short Term

It makes me so incredibly happy that the world is reading my iOS Battery Life Guide because it is something I am very passionate about. The fact that I could write something to help and benefit so many people is very fulfilling.

My immediate focus right now is getting the article translated into as many languages as possible: I really believe that everyone with an iOS device should read, or at least be able to read, my article. There are so many terrible misconceptions about iOS battery life that I am intent on dismantling.

So far I have Italian, Russian, German, Spanish, Catalan, and others in the works, and I've already posted the Korean and French versions. Some amazing people have been volunteering to translate for free — I am blown away by their generosity. Thanks to everyone who has stepped up to help with the translation process.

Support

Multiple readers have emailed me with their own specific situations of poor battery life, asking for my help trying to figure it out. I am torn — the technician in me wants to help every single person, but there just isn't enough time in the day.

So, if you are still having battery life issues after reading my article, I graciously refer you to your nearest Apple Store. My article covers roughly 95% of the most common issues, but your issue could be the 5% of an individual edge case that needs to be looked at by a good technician 8. If you are not near an Apple Store, Apple has a site that lists Apple Authorized Service Providers in your area.

If you live in Birmingham, Alabama (or soon to be in the Minneapolis area), you could also book an appointment with the Macinstructor, an Apple training and support business started by my good friend, Rick Stawarz. The Birmingham division is currently being run by Jeff Mann, while Rick is moving and setting up shop in Minneapolis soon. They are both ex-Apple employees, and are the best at what they do.

If you check all of those resources and you still can't find anyone to help you, have no fear — I am the process of coming up with a solution for you. Hang tight. I'm working to get you some help.

Catching Up

Since a lot of people are new to the site, I also wanted to introduce all of you to a few articles I've written over the past year in case you missed them. All of these are available in my Archive or my Featured page.

Here you go:

Informative Posts

Deeper Thoughts

  • Sleaze Brain — An article about the opposite of the "Lizard Brain", a term famously coined by Merlin Mann.
  • The Outsider and the Creed — This, in my mind, was the turning point for me as a writer: it's where I wrote down and declared who I want to be as a writer. It was published six days ago, two days before my post got linked.

Thanks Again

Thanks again to everyone who has stopped by the site. I'm extremely grateful for your amazing words, feedback, and just general awesomeness. I want you to know that I see you as more than just a pair of "eyeballs". I look forward to building a relationship together as Overthought.org grows.

If you have benefited from any of my work, and you want to show some love, here are some things you can do:

  1. Share my articles.
  2. Follow me, personally, on Twitter @scottyloveless or App.net @scottyloveless.
  3. Follow the blog account on Twitter @overthoughtorg.
  4. Like the new Facebook group.
  5. Sign up for my email newsletter in the form at the bottom of the page to receive free updates directly to your inbox.
  6. Donate a few bucks or become a patron. My dream is to write full-time, but I need the equivalent of a full-time income to do that. Every little bit helps :)

Footnotes

  1. Kudos to Squarespace, my host, for not crashing at all (that I know of).
  2. ;)
  3. Does that word even have value anymore?
  4. "Cat Interrupts Robbery — What Happens Next Will Surprise You..."
  5. 82 Reasons Cats Are More Hipster Than Dogs
  6. Big publications ripping off other people.
  7. Or give me what I call "Sleaze Brain"
  8. Good technicians don't always work for Apple, I'm sorry to say. Many of them will tell you to quit your apps and turn everything off. Sigh. Baby steps, people.

How to Stop Your iPhone from Vibrating Randomly

Does your iPhone ever vibrate randomly, but when you check it, there is no notification anywhere to be found? This is not a phantom vibration, and you are not imagining things. 

The reason this is happening is usually because of Mail notifications. You may say, "I've turned off all my mail notifications, what do you mean?!" Well, there is one sneaky setting you might have missed — the vibration setting.

Turn off Vibration for Mail Notifications

  1. Head over to Settings > Sounds > New Mail
  2. Tap on 'Vibration'
  3. Set it to 'None'

With this setting on, even if you turn off all Mail sounds and notifications, your phone will vibrate every time it receives a new email.

There is one more place we need to check. iOS 7 added another place to manage Mail notifications.

Another Place to Check Mail Notifications

  1. Go to Settings > Notification Center > Mail
  2. Tap on the Account(s) you use for email
  3. Tap on Alerts
  4. Make sure the Alert Tone and Vibration are set to 'None'
  5. Repeat for any other email accounts on your device

An alternate solution to the problem is to turn on notifications for VIPs or for an entire account. The latter option is not ideal for most people because that means you will be alerted for every email that comes in, including the spam. 1

VIPs are just that: very important people you designate in iOS 7 2 or Mac OS X Mavericks 3. Designating someone as a VIP in either iOS or Mac OS X will allow you to set a different set of notification preferences.

For example, if you designate your spouse, boss, and good friends as VIPs, you can customize your notifications to vibrate, ding, show a banner, or show up on the lock screen for just your VIPs and not the rest of the annoying spam you get throughout the day.

Here's how you do it.

Customize Notifications for VIPs

  1. Settings > Notification Center > Mail
  2. Tap on VIP 4
  3. Customize the Notification style to your preferences

If you have done all of these steps and your phone is still vibrating randomly, be sure to check the notifications for your apps. The way that iOS 7 handles notifications is very confusing, and it's difficult to disable notifications completely for apps. It's possible you have an app set up for Sound notifications but have the Badge, Alert Style, and Notification Center settings switched off.

To check the notification settings for your apps, go to Settings > Notification Center. You should see a list of all of the apps on your device that support Notifications. Under the name of each app, you will see four possible words: Badges, Sounds, Banners, or Alerts. Scroll down the list and make sure there aren't any apps with just 'Sounds' enabled. You may think you've turned off notifications for an app, but accidentally left 'Sounds' on. The resulting behavior is a sound or vibration without a visual indicator of where it is coming from.

I hope this article stops the random vibrations and allows you to get back to life and work instead of trying to figure out why your iOS device is vibrating all the time. If you are still feeling random vibrations after this, you may have phantom vibration syndrome and need to see a shrink. 5

  1. Now you'll be notified every time a Nigerian prince wants to transfer funds to your account!
  2. Also works in iOS 6.
  3. Also works in 10.8 Mountain Lion.
  4. Or tap on Account if you want to receive notifications for an entire account. Just to be clear, if you turn these on for an entire account, you will receive a notification for every single email that comes to that account. You've been warned :)
  5. ;)

The Outsider and the Creed

Josh Ginter wrote a very inspiring piece called, "Hey, It's Me, The Little Guy" over at The Newsprint. His basic idea is that Twitter has become a great equalizing factor in the world, allowing unprecedented access to the great minds of our time. I agree 100% with every word of this article. I encourage you to read it.

While I do agree with Josh, I wanted to highlight something I've encountered that comes along with this direct access to those more 'successful' 1 than yourself: the feeling of being an outsider. I'll use the example of a podcast to begin explaining what I mean.

I've listened to ATP 2 since episode 1 3, and I genuinely love listening to the show. My favorite thing about ATP, and podcasts in general, is that the hosts are simply a couple of awesome geeks hanging out and talking about what they are passionate about. ATP is about technology, but you can find a niche podcast about almost anything these days.

I consider myself a very opinionated and talkative person, so when I hear John, Marco, and Casey 4 talking about something I love or care about, I have an intense urge to join in the conversation.

But I can't. Not really. Or if I did, I would feel like some random guy interrupting a conversation between actual friends. After the dozens of hours I've hung out with the ATP guys listening to their podcast, I feel as if I know them, that they are my friends, and that if I saw them I would want to rush up and talk to them like we were buddies. But the reality is, they don't know me from a hole in the ground.

I follow a lot of tech writers on Twitter because what they have to say interests me. However, jumping in to add something to one of their conversations on Twitter feels just as awkward as if I did this in real life. I am a stranger to them, so why would they want to hear what I have to say?

I've come to realize that this outcast mentality is really insecurity. You don't feel secure around the people around you. The people you are the most secure around are your best friends or family, who bring about a sense of inclusion. You are accepted as a part of the group. Reflecting on my past, there are many reasons I feel the way I do.

Counting Your Popularity

Looking back on my childhood and my middle school/high school years, these feelings of being an outsider, feeling left out, and not being a part of the crowd are a consistent, dark thread that can be easily traced. It's affected my relationships, friendships, and social life in more ways than I want to think about. But it has gotten weaker the more I grow in confidence in who I am and learn to honestly not care what people think about me. 99% of my insecurities are not real to anyone else — they exist only in my head and are real only to me. That doesn't mean they don't feel real, because our perceptions of reality are our reality.

Back in my day 5, popularity was all unspoken and amorphous. It was judged on who your friends were, how "good looking" you were, or by your actions and accomplishments. But now, there is an exact number every person can equate with their popularity. Not only that, but you can directly compare that number to your peers. Let me explain this a little more.

One day during my student teaching 6, I overheard two 7th graders having a conversation: "Aw, my picture on Instagram only has 67 likes, I may just delete it." I couldn't help but ask why they would delete their picture because of this. The answer shook me.

"All the really popular kids get at least 200 likes on their photos. If I don't get enough likes, I just delete my picture because it's embarrassing." 7

My heart broke. What a terrible reality, albeit virtual, we have created for our kids and for ourselves.

Any teenager with a smartphone can come to conclusions like, "That person is 10 times more popular than me, because they have 10 times the likes (or followers)" or "I'm twice as popular as her." You get the idea. Just thinking about the possibilities makes me sad.

The saddest part is that it made me realize that I sometimes do the same thing. Up to this point in my life, I never really cared about how many Facebook friends I had, how many likes I got on my posts, or how many Twitter followers I had.

Until I Started A Blog

Nothing has stirred up insecurity in me more than having my own blog because it's so easy to get into the popularity game with site analytics and social networks. How many likes did I get? How many visitors came to my site today? How many hits did my post get today?

Then the comparison-demon kicks in, comparing the number of likes, followers, and web traffic of my site to everyone else's site, further destroying my confidence. When I started blogging at Overthought, I began looking at the statistics as my primary method of feedback: a metric of success. I mean, heck, I've never done this before — how am I supposed to know if I'm doing a good job? I could feel really great about an article, knowing that I did my absolute best, but it could still only get a handful of hits.

My self-confidence was the one taking all the hits my post didn't get. My old insecurities rose their ugly head, biting with a venomous bite and lingering like a poison in my mind. Numerous times I've thought about giving up out of self-loathing or fear. Heck, I've even shuttered the site for weeks at a time.

For some reason, the insecurity was heightened because it was about my creation, not just myself, as it was in grade school. It was about my baby, the posts I worked really hard on. And if my creation got rejected or neglected, I somehow felt rejected on a deeper level because it was so difficult to push through my fear and publish it.

I know that I can't measure success by how many followers, friends, or likes I receive for the creative work I put out into the world. But knowing it in your head and believing it in your heart are two very different things.

Some creatives derive comfort and solace through meditation, a higher power, or mental exercise. Many will accept their mental torment as the reality of being an artist, and embrace it as part of the creative process, hence the "tortured artist" cliché. The vast majority of people who desire to create will give up on their craft altogether, becoming content with simply consuming and appreciating the work of others 8.

The Creative Creed

In order to combat the oppressive insecurity, I was inspired to write down a few statements that, starting now, I will aspire to live and create by. I see them as a new measuring stick for myself besides numbers and statistics. It is a creed of sorts. Call it whatever you want to, it doesn't matter. I'm calling it the Creative Creed.

It is in no way comprehensive, and I will probably add more to it as I go. I wanted to open source it to you guys in the hopes that it will benefit you in some small way.

Here is what I came up with:

 

"From here on out, I am choosing to reject the idea that pain, suffering, and insecurity always have to be a part of my creative process. I choose to create from a place of peace, letting my passions and interests drive my writing instead of my pain. I'm not saying I will be ignorant of my own pain, but I will not let the pain of creating sit in the driver's seat of my creative process.

I will learn to separate my creation from myself, learning to not take it personally if it fails, by any form of measurement. I will outlast these feelings of self-doubt until they go away, and I will actively work to prevent their existence, no matter how long it takes.

I will not compare my creation to that of anyone else, because I can create something no one else can. Some are ahead of me, some behind, for we are all travelers on different legs of the same journey. I will learn to celebrate those ahead of me, encouraging them to keep going, and help those that are behind me, encouraging them to stay strong. The success of others does not inherently label failure upon myself, unless I let it. The popularity of another does not imbue unpopularity upon me.

I will seek feedback about my creations with an open mind, not taking any corrections or suggestions personally. I will find others who are creating in the same field and build relationships with them, because I can't succeed alone. I will find truth in the negative feedback I receive, learning to extract the truth from even the harshest words, and use it to get better. I will create something better today than I did yesterday, seeking to only best myself."

 

These words have helped me tremendously by giving me something to aim for besides Pageviews, RSS subscribers, and Twitter followers. It has helped me deal with the nagging insecurities and fears I have when sitting down and writing.

If you have given up on your craft, or have felt discouraged lately, to you I say:

Life is not a popularity contest. Stop comparing yourself to others and feeling like the outsider. Your voice is important. You have the ability to create something no one else does. The world is incomplete without your voice. Don't let your fear and insecurity keep you from creating, for our sake as much as yours

  1. However you define 'success'.
  2. The Accidental Tech Podcast. A great show if you're into development, technology, or other nerdy miscellany. You should listen to it if you already haven't.
  3. They are now on episode 58.
  4. The hosts of ATP.
  5. I graduated high school in 2006, so not that long ago.
  6. Basically, an unpaid semester of teaching seen as an internship. I just finished my Masters in Education in December 2013 for Middle/High School English Education, and part of that degree is one semester student teaching.
  7. I've asked other middle and high school students, and the "popular" number varies based on the size of the school. At a large high school, the popular kids might get 1000+ likes per post.
  8. There is nothing wrong with consuming the excellent work of others, unless you have given up on your own ability to create. I've noticed that people who give up on their craft are much more sad than those who face the challenges and difficulties of creating.

Link: A Writing Guide

"Go out there and have a good time, because if you're not having a good time, it's going to show in your writing."

If you have any interest in writing on the internet, or your dream is to do something creative full-time, you really need to listen to the episode of The Weekly Briefly"A Writing Guide," by Shaun Blanc and featuring Patrick Rhone.

This is one of the most impactful, encouraging, and practical messages I've heard on the topic. You owe it to yourself and your craft to listen to it.

Weekender: A Review of Myself Trying to Use Field Notes

Some people use small notebooks where they keep their GTD 1 task lists. The idea of always carrying a thought and task capture system is appealing to me because I am ADD 2.

If I don't capture the incoming stream of tiny tasks I need to accomplish, they don't last long inside my ADD brain. I have an iPhone that I always carry with me and have used for this in the past, but I wanted to give the analog pen-and-paper method the old college try.

Enter Field Notes

I bought some Field Notes at the recommendation of Sid O'Neill over at Crate of Penguins, hoping to enter a world of GTD bliss — capturing all of my tasks immediately, no longer letting my ultra-creative thoughts fall to the wayside 3. Maybe, just maybe, my mind would become laser focused and intentional at every moment.

I learned the famous Dash/Plus system invented by Patrick Rhone, an ingenious way to keep a running task list using a system of malleable dashes and plusses. So I slapped my brand new Field Notes in my back pocket and charged into the world ready to dash and plus my world into submission.

And then I lost my pants.

Well, I didn't lose them, lose them. I just put them in the laundry hamper with my Field Notes imprisoned in the back pocket. And I forgot about them.

Two days later I realized my error and liberated the Field Notes from the clutches of the dirty laundry. I re-equipped my Field Notes with the same precision and gumption that Batman has when he straps on his Bat Utility Belt and sailed into the rough seas of my daily thoughts.

Aha! An epiphany! I finally had a great idea and the first chance to use my new tool!

No pen.


2/10

Overall, I would rate myself a 2/10 on my ability to use an always-with-me paper method of capture and task management. Other days since these first few tries have gone similarly poor or worse. The Field Notes, as a product, are simply the best notebook to use for this type of thing — if it works for you. The Dash/Plus system is absolutely brilliant, and I desperately desired for it to be effective in my routine.

The times I was diligent about writing down items, I would forget what page I wrote them down on. I don't have great handwriting so it would sometimes be hard for me to read what I had already written. With my iPhone, even if I can't pinpoint the exact note, I can search for what I'm looking for.

I think for now I'm going to stick to my iPhone. I'm using Vesper for creativity and inspiration, Evernote for documentation and research, and Apple Notes for quick and dirty mind dumps or for those moments when I need to briefly retain small tidbits of information. Things is my go-to task manager.

But what about when I don't have my iPhone and I can't jot ideas down? I've been trying out a nifty trick with some success for the rare time I do have a good idea in the shower — singing.

I will sing my idea over and over until I either can't forget about it or I'm now at my iPhone. It sounds silly, but it works for me.

I am horribly far from reaching GTD, inbox-zero, completely-caught-up-with-my-life heaven, but now I know that using pen and paper, for me, is a disaster.

You should buy Feld Notes and give the Dash/Plus system a try — together, they form a gorgeous system — if you're not ADD or bad with paper.

  1. "Getting Things Done", a book and task management system by David Allen. Check it out. It's amazing.
  2. Not the hyper kind of ADD (ADHD), the mind-drifting, stare-off-into-space kind.
  3. I don't have these light-bulb moments as much as I want to, others seem to, or perhaps I should.

The Ultimate Guide to Solving iOS Battery Drain

Updated April 7, 2014: added Step 8 to the list.

Added Korean Translation (provided by Yoon Jiman)
Added French Translation (provided by Guillaume Haben)
Added Chinese Translation (provided by Jamie Sa)
Added Spanish Translation (provided by Eduardo Gutierrez)
Added Russian Translation (provided by Vitaly Barilo)


I worked on the Genius Bar for almost two years, and the most difficult issue to solve was short battery life. It was extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why someone's battery was draining.

I made it my mission to discover the specific reasons for iOS battery drainage. This article is a product of my years of research and anecdotal evidence I gathered in the hundreds of Genius Bar appointments I took during my time as a Genius and iOS technician, as well as testing on my personal devices and the devices of my friends.

iOS 7.1 came out recently and brought with it a bevy of design tweaks and performance enhancements. However, some users are reporting poor battery life since the update, and many blogs are reporting it as fact.1

This is not one of those "Turn off every useful feature of iOS" posts that grinds my gears. My goal is to deliver practical steps to truly solve your iOS battery woes.

One quick thing before we start — 99.9% of the time it is not actually iOS that is causing your battery to drain quickly. I guarantee you that if you erased your phone and there were no apps or email on it, it would last for ages. But, no one uses their device like that, nor should they. Hopefully with these steps you will be living in iOS battery bliss while still using all the apps and features you love.

But first, we need to test and see if you even have a problem to begin with.

How to Test Your iOS Battery Drain

There is a quick and easy battery life test built into your device, if you do a little bit of math — the Usage and Standby times2. Head on over to Settings > General > Usage and check out your times.

Your Usage time is how long you have actually used your device, and the Standby time is how long your device has been dormant in-between the times you've used it plus your Usage time. A better name for Standby time would be "Total Time since unplugged." The key to look for is that your Usage time should be significantly lower than your Standby time, unless you have been using your device every single second you've had it unplugged. If this is not the case and your Usage time is exactly equal to your Standby time, you have a severe problem. The bottom line is that your Usage time should be accurate to how much you've used it since you took it off the charger.

So here's the test: write down your usage and standby time, press the sleep/wake button (or lock button, as some call it) to put the device to sleep, and set the device down for five minutes. When you come back, take note of the change in time. If your device is sleeping properly, then the Standby time should have increased by five minutes and your Usage time by <1 minute 3. If your Usage time rises by more than one minute, you have a drain problem. Something is keeping your device from sleeping properly, significantly shortening the time it will last.

If you do not have a battery drain issue, then great! You don't even need the steps listed in this article. But if you or someone you know is constantly complaining about how short their battery lasts, read onward or send this post to them.

Here are the main causes of iOS battery drain I've found, and how to resolve them.

Step 1: Disable Location and Background App Refresh for Facebook

This first step may seem extremely specific, but that's because it is extremely common and extremely effective. It has also been well tested and confirmed on many devices.

I just got the iPhone 5s about two weeks ago, and thought my battery was draining a little too quickly. Being the nerd that I am, I decided to run the app Instruments from Xcode, Apple's developer tool, in order to see what the problem was. Basically, Instruments acts as an Activity Monitor for your iPhone, allowing developers (or nerds like me) to see every process currently running and how much memory and processing power each app is using in real-time.

During this testing, Facebook kept jumping up on the process list even though I wasn't using it. So I tried disabling Location Services 4 and Background App Refresh 5 for Facebook, and you'll never guess what happened: my battery percentage increased. It jumped from 12% to 17%. Crazy. I've never seen that happen before on an iPhone. The iPod touch exhibits this behavior, to my memory, although I haven't tested it in a while. For the iPhone, the battery percentage is usually pretty consistent.6

I have confirmed this behavior on multiple iPhones with the same result: percentage points actually increase after disabling these background functions of Facebook.

Bad, Facebook, bad.

Step 2: Disable Background App Refresh for Apps You Don't Care About

My recent post explains the benefits of Background App Refresh. BAR 7 is an awesome feature added in iOS 7, but you don't necessarily need it running for every app that supports it. Disable Background App Refresh for Facebook or other apps you don't absolutely need to stay up-to-date all the time.

If there are apps you check regularly, and you trust the quality of the app and developer, then enable Background App Refresh with confidence and enjoy your apps being updated intelligently so they're ready for your enjoyment at a moment's notice. Background App Refresh is great if you need it, but you really don't need it for every single app on your iOS device.

Step 3: Stop Quitting Your Apps in Multitasking

iOS 7 made it super fun to close your apps: all you have to do is double-click the home button and swipe up on the app preview to blast it into a digital black hole.

What most people tell you is that closing your apps will save your battery life because it keeps the apps from running in the background.

Wrong.

Yes, it does shut down the app, but what you don't know is that you are actually making your battery life worse if you do this on a regular basis. Let me tell you why.

By closing the app, you take the app out of the phone's RAM 8. While you think this may be what you want to do, it's not. When you open that same app again the next time you need it, your device has to load it back into memory all over again. All of that loading and unloading puts more stress on your device than just leaving it alone. Plus, iOS closes apps automatically as it needs more memory, so you're doing something your device is already doing for you. You are meant to be the user of your device, not the janitor.

The truth is, those apps in your multitasking menu are not running in the background at all: iOS freezes them where you last left the app so that it's ready to go if you go back. Unless you have enabled Background App Refresh, your apps are not allowed to run in the background unless they are playing music, using location services, recording audio, or the sneakiest of them all: checking for incoming VOIP calls 9, like Skype. All of these exceptions, besides the latter, will put an icon next to your battery icon to alert you it is running in the background. 10

Step 4: Disable Push Email Temporarily

If steps 1 through 3 did not solve your problem, try disabling Push email temporarily to see if it helps 11. Push email allows your device to receive instant notifications every time you get an email. It is great if you need to know when every single email comes in, but does impact battery if configured incorrectly.

I've seen many devices where Push is the primary cause of battery drain, but I've also seen plenty of devices have great battery life with Push enabled. It is really specific to your email and server settings. Try changing the setting to Fetch every hour, thirty minutes, or fifteen minutes and see if the drain stops. If that doesn't help, turn it back on. You could also trying disabling Push on individual accounts if you have multiple. Just keep referring to the test at the beginning of the article to see if that resolved your issue.

Unbelievably often, especially with Exchange push email, it's as if the phone gets stuck in a loop checking for email constantly. When this happens, the phone will usually die within six hours of being off the charger, and the Standby and Usage times in Settings > General > Usage will be exactly the same. These times are not the same because the "firmware 12 is bad or corrupted", it's because push email is keeping the phone from sleeping properly.

Step 5: Disable Push Notifications for Apps That Annoy You

Does that annoying game your child downloaded keep sending you push notifications to keep buying more digital sheep for the virtual farm? If so, every time you get one of those notifications, your phone wakes from sleep for a few seconds to light up your screen and wait for your potential action upon each notification.

Push notifications do not cause excess battery drain by default, so please don't hear me say you need to turn them all off. However, every message wakes your device for 5 to 10 seconds, so it can add up. If you receive 50 notifications during the day and never act on them, that will add 4 to 8 minutes to your Usage time, meaning you now have that much less time to do things you actually want to do on your device. 13

Turn off those annoying Push notifications for apps you don't need notifications from. It might be a small difference, but it can add up.

Step 6: Turn Off Battery Percentage

That's right, you heard me.

Turn off that battery percentage meter and stop worrying about your battery drain. You can find this setting in Settings > General > Usage, right above where your battery times are listed.

One thing I found in my Genius Bar experience is that people that are anxious about their iOS device battery life are constantly checking it to see the percentage and how much it has dropped from the last time they checked it. So if you check your device twice as much, simply to check on the battery life, you are essentially halving the time your device will last.

Stop freaking out and enjoy your life. There are more important things to worry about than your device's battery life. The control freak inside you might freak out the first few days you do this, but you'll get used to it. 14

Step 7: Go to an Apple Retail Store

Update: I was informed after posting this that the Apple battery test only runs on the iPhone 5 and up.

I know, you hate making a Genius Bar appointment because it's loud and crazy in there, but I have a good reason to add this to the list.

According to my sources, Apple has rolled out a new 'Extended Battery Life Test' for all iOS technicians that allows them to see a detailed report of battery usage on your device. It takes only a few minutes to run and, from what I've heard, is comprehensive. I have not had a chance to see this test for myself, but my friends tell me it rocks.

The other rare possibility is that your physical battery is defective, and the technicians can replace it for free if your iOS device is under warranty, or very cheaply if it's not.

Step 8: Enable Airplane Mode in Areas of Poor Cellular Service

One major reason your battery could be draining too quickly is poor cellular service. When the iPhone detects that you are in a place of low signal, it will increase the power to the antenna in order to stay connected enough to receive calls (primarily) and maintain a data connection.

This will destroy your battery life if you are constantly in a location with 1 bar or no service at all. The unfortunate thing is that this can happen in more places than you expect — any building with metal studs in the walls, aluminum buildings, buildings with dense concrete walls, heavily populated city areas, and downtown areas with with lots of tall buildings.

Often times you may get a strong signal on the top floor of a building, but simply moving to a lower floor, such as the basement, will immediately cause your iPhone to hang on to signal for dear life at the expense of your battery. Note that this severe drain will happen even if you have a strong Wi-Fi connection, because your phone still needs the cellular connection for calls and SMS messages (the green-colored texts in the Messages app).

If you are in an area with poor cell coverage, and you still need to receive calls, I've got bad news — there is really nothing you can do. But if your service is so poor that you can't receive calls anyway, I recommend turning on Airplane mode by swiping up from the bottom of your device to access Control Center and tapping the Airplane icon.

One thing you may not know about Airplane mode: you can actually turn Wi-fi back on after enabling Airplane mode. Just tap the Wi-Fi button in Control Center (the icon directly to the right of the Airplane). This is perfect for places, like an airplane, where you have zero cellular coverage but a strong Wi-Fi signal.

If you have Wi-Fi and want to be really fancy, you can disable just the cellular data portion of your signal, e.g. EDGE, 3G, 4G, or LTE. Most people don't know that your phone is actually receiving two signals simultaneously: one for calls and SMS, and one for data.

The signal strength meter on the iPhone only shows the signal strength for the non-data connection, which means theoretically your iPhone could show 2-3 bars (or dots on iOS7) for your 1x connection but in reality you could be getting 1 bar of LTE/4G/3G connection, causing the phone to go into heavy search mode. To disable just the Data connection of your iPhone, head over to Settings > Cellular Data and switch Cellular Data off. Again, doing this will allow you to receive phone calls (if you still have a signal) while maintaining a data connection through Wi-Fi.

Conclusion

I guarantee you that if you follow these steps, you will be getting the best battery life possible out of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

If your device is still not lasting you a full day, and you can't stomach heading into one of the stainless steel noise chambers I lovingly refer to as your nearest Apple Retail Store, don't worry. There is still hope for you.

The reason your device isn't lasting all day might simply be because you are a heavy user, and your iOS device is acting completely normal under the grueling pace with which you use it. That is not a fault of the device, or you, for that matter. You are simply pushing it beyond it's capabilities. My advice for you is to buy a car charger, a second charger for travel/work, or a battery case to extend your battery life 15.

I hope this article empowers you to stop stressing about your battery life, and frees you up to enjoy the great device in your hands. There are more important things in life that deserve our attention, so the more we minimize the trivial stressors, like bad battery life, the more time we can spend on people and problems that really matter.

Footnotes

  1. Users will report poor battery life after every iOS update. Always. For eternity. This is not newsworthy.
  2. This only works on the iPhone and iPod touch. Sorry iPad users, for some reason these times are not viewable. **Update** Reader Timothy Fultz emailed in to let me know that iPads on iOS 7 do have these Standby and Usage times. Thanks Timothy!
  3. Sometimes the Usage time will go up by one minute, but really it was only a few seconds. The minute was close to changing, and those few seconds pushed it over the edge to the next minute.
  4. Settings - Privacy - Location Services
  5. Settings - General - Background App Refresh
  6. Note about battery percentage: it is an estimate of how long your device will last looking at the amount of charge left in the physical battery and comparing that to the current processes draining that bank of electrical charge.

    A good thing to compare the way iOS calculates battery percentage is ETA (estimated time of arrival) in modern GPS and navigation. Most devices look at the miles left to travel and compare that to the speed limits of all of the roads you are going to travel on your current route. If you drive faster than the speed limit, you will get there faster than the estimated time, so it's not 100% accurate.

    Battery percentage estimates work the same way, looking at the amount of juice left (miles) versus how fast you're draining it (miles per hour). That explains why disabling Facebook made the percentage go up, much like how if you stop on a road trip, your ETA climbs significantly.

  7. short for Background App Refresh, not the awesome Browning Automatic Rifle used in World War II and by Steve McQueen in the final scene of "The Sand Pebbles".
  8. Temporary, short-term memory.
  9. Internet phone calls.
  10. Apps that can make or receive calls, like Skype, Viber, Tango, Whatsapp, and Facebook are able to check for incoming calls without notifying you. I believe these types of apps sometimes abuse this exception and could have possibly influenced Apple to add Background App Refresh as the sanctioned method for this type of behavior.

    I think this is why disabling Facebook's background services is so influential on battery life: I speculate they are abusing the fact that they have VOIP call features to run in the background more than they should. It would provide a better experience for people using Facebook, sure, but people would never know Facebook was the cause of their battery life issues, and would definitely blame the device or iOS itself.

  11. Settings - Mail, Contacts, and Calendars - Fetch New Data
  12. The foundational software connecting hardware and software.
  13. That number may seem small, but over a year (x365) that number turns into 1,460 minutes (about a day) to 2,960 minutes (about two days) less battery life.
  14. I really wish Apple had a "No battery percentage meter except under 20%" setting, so bad. That would be my ideal configuration.
  15. Or buy a second iPhone as your night phone ;)

Background App Refresh Explained in Layman's Terms

I absolutely hate blogs that tell people to disable Background App Refresh. Most of these "How to Fix Battery Drain" articles are designed to get clicks and are not very concerned with accuracy. Well I'm here to set the record straight about Background App Refresh.

Background App Refresh, or BAR (as coined by friend and founder of the MacInstructor, Rick Stawarz) is actually a great new feature of iOS 7 that allows apps to refresh with the latest information in a way that efficiently uses the horsepower of your device without affecting the way you use your device.

BAR does not give any app a blank check to run whenever it wants. It actually adds a layer of intelligence to the way your phone handles apps in the background. I believe that in some cases, it could actually increase energy efficiency of your iOS device.

To get a better understanding of what Background App Refresh adds to the iOS experience, here is Apple's definition from their "iOS: Understanding Multitasking" article:

...Apps can continue to run for a short period of time and are then set to a suspended state so they are not actively in use, open, or taking up system resources. They will instantly launch when you return to them.

Certain tasks or services can continue to run in the background. To lessen the effect on battery life, normal app background refreshing is scheduled for efficient times, such as when your device is connected to Wi-Fi, plugged into a power source, or being actively used.

When Background App Refresh is on, apps that take advantage of this feature can refresh themselves in the background. For example, an app can check if new content is available and download the updates, or retrieve the updated content in the background when it receives a push notification, so the new content is ready for viewing when you launch the app. Apps can also schedule background refreshing based on your location. If you force an app to quit by dragging it up from the multitasking display, it won't be able to do its background activities, such as tracking location or responding to VoIP calls, until you relaunch the app. 

iOS learns patterns based on your use of the device and tries to predict when an app should be updated in the background. It also learns when the device is typically inactive, such as during the night, to reduce update frequency when the device is not in use.

To summarize Apple's definition, BAR adds a layer of intelligence and efficiency to the way your apps act when you are not using them. It allows apps to temporarily open in the background, receive an update, and then freeze again so it cannot use system resources or drain your battery. The cool thing is that it will plan these little update pow-wows around times you are already using your device, in good Wi-Fi, or in a location you normally check those apps, which can make your iOS experience much smoother. Instead of opening an app you use constantly and waiting for a few seconds for it to update, you open the app and it's already ready for your eyes to feast upon.

Now you have to answer two questions when enabling or disabling Background App Refresh:

  1. Do I check this app enough/is it critical for me to have this app up-to-date?
  2. (optional) Do I trust the developer of this app to implement it correctly and not abuse it?

Question 1 is pretty straightforward. Do you absolutely need or want an app to always stay refreshed with current information? If you answer yes, then enable BAR for that app.

Question 2 is a little harder to determine unless you follow the current tech blogs and trends. If you have absolutely no idea how to answer question 2, forget about it. Stick with the first question.

For me, question 2 eliminated any Facebook- and Google-related app I have installed on my phone. I simply do not trust Facebook or Google to have my best interest in mind because I am not their customer. Both companies see me as a set of "eyeballs" to show me ads, and because our interests don't align, I'm disabling BAR for any app written by them. Simple as that. 

A good example of an app that meets both criterion is Tweetbot. I trust the developers at Tapbots, Paul Haddad and Mark Jardine, because of their track record of making fantastic apps, and I check it often enough that I would like for it to be up-to-date when I check it. I have BAR enabled for Tweetbot, and it is usually ready to go when I open it. Perfect

Background App Refresh is a great feature of iOS 7, and I hate that fear and misinformation have caused so many people to disable it. It adds a level of efficiency that other devices or operating systems do not possess. These types of thoughtful features is what makes me love my iPhone, and Background App Refresh is a great addition to the iOS feature set.

How to Deal With Church Burns: What to Do When Christians or Those in Ministry Hurt You

Here is a repost from my previous Wordpress blog. I realized this post got lost in the transition because I had it labeled in a different category.

Almost everyone has been burned by the church to some degree. It's not so much a question of if this will happen as much as when.

In the past year and a half I have gone through some of the toughest times of my life because I was hurt very badly by people I loved that were in leadership at my church. It sent me into a tailspin spiritually and kept me from darkening the door of a church for almost a year. The situation made me not want to be a believer anymore and made me doubt my faith to the very core. I didn't want to be a believer anymore.

However, recently I have begun to move in a positive direction, out of the depression and doubts that have kept me paralyzed for too long. I know many people go through similar things and I was inspired to write about some practical steps I have been taking that have helped me tremendously. This article is not just for people who claim to be Christians, and I am not here to defend the church. I am writing this for hurting people, whether you claim to be a believer or not, to get some relief from the torment you are living in.

Step 1: Focus your hurt on the specific people that hurt you, not the ENTIRE church.

When it comes down to it, usually one person or several people associated with the church hurt you. Sometimes the way our minds work, however, is to make gigantic generalizations like, "ALL churches are like this," or "I'm never going to ANY church ever again." These types of generalizations are made in times of astounding pain, and tend to stick for a long time afterwards.

Try to identify any of these types of statements so you can dismantle them. Try to think of the situation differently: "This one particular person hurt me, they don't represent the whole church".

Step 2: Write a letter to those that hurt you.

Don't worry: The point of this letter is not to actually send it. It's for you to get out the emotions and pain on paper. Emotions are funny things, and usually it helps to vent them. It's easier to process something on a piece of paper than to keep them boiling in your heart.

So spill your guts. Curse. You might actually need to. (I believe God would rather you curse and vent emotions than die on the inside for the next 2 years). Word-vomit everything you've held inside. If you aren't much of the writing type, do this verbally. Lock yourself in your closet/car/bathroom and scream, cry, punch something (not someone or your dog). If you don't speak or write well, write a song, paint something, draw something, etc.

The point of this is to feel all the feels from what happened to you in order to let them go. You are not saying that what they did was okay, right, or fair. What you are saying is that you are not going to let it hurt you anymore.

The best quote I've heard on holding on to past pain is this: "It's like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die." (not sure who said this). The only person it is killing is you.

Step 3: But, Why?

Why is the first and most powerful question you are probably asking yourself like a record on repeat. Why did this happen to me? Why, God, would you let this happen to me? Over. and over. and over. Trust me, I get it.

Here is an incomplete answer: there is a bigger picture than what you can see right now. Parts of the church are broken and are hurting people. Hurt, angry, and imperfect people (in leadership, some not) end up hurting others. Trying to do the right thing is not easy. You are dissapointed with the church, and dissapointed with God.

Here is one important thing to note about God: He never promised anyone that everything would be roses if they followed Him. He promised He would be with them through it. Some people like to preach that the Christian walk is one of unending bliss and joyful circumstances, but these people are wrong. He promised He would be with them, and give them joy in the midst of trials (read: horrible things happening to you).

Pain and suffering is part of the package deal of Christianity. If you sign up to be a believer you are actually signing up for more of it. But there is also something more. Jesus wants to meet you, only if you want to, in your place of pain. He wants to enable you with His emotions towards you: actual real feelings of love and peace. I know this is true not just because His Word says so, but because I have met and spoken with Him myself.

Conclusion

I sincerely hope that this helps even one person deal with the pain and agony that comes along with church-burns. Truly, I would not wish it upon my worst enemy. You have every right to be as hurt as you are about whatever has hurt you, and it is not okay that it happened to you. God doesn't think it's okay.

All I know is that He wants you to be okay.