Google Productivity Pad: May 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review: BYU App

While the app I review here is specific to BYU and is most useful to BYU students and faculty, it would also be very useful to a visitor to BYU for a camp or conference.

Name: BYU
Price: Free
Stars: 4
Type: Education, Information

Probably the best thing BYU's IT department has done over the course of my time at school has been to develop this app. The BYU website has always been cumbersome and annoying, the app is more than just a "go to website" type of app, but it does make many of the features of the website a lot more accessible.

This app does so much, and it is always having new features added. It was getting to the point that it had almost to much and you could not find what you wanted, but now they have added the feature to just choose what items you want to appear on your list when you open the app.

It does a lot so I will just go over the ones I have saved to my list here:

  • Library - this one gives younth option to search the library for books or materials, but more important than that it gives you instant access to study room reservations, before this it was a huge hassle to get to a study room reserved now it is relatively simple.
  •  Map My Classes - does exactly what it says, using your BYU ID it will find the location of all of your classes and show them to you on map. Great for the first day of the semester.
  • Campus Cameras - while a little creep, this app gives you access to BYU's time lapsed cameras in places you might want to check out lines, like the testing center, the bookstore, and Brigham's Square.
  • Calendars -- lets you access all of the university calendars you use to have to navigate through the website to do. This can let you see who is coming to speak at devotional, when the basketball team is playing, and what is playing at the HFAC.
  • Vending -- if you have ever showed up at the vending machine and been disappointed all the Fat Boy sandwiches were gone then this is for you, it lets you see where the vending machines are on campus, what they have in stock and how much they cost. Freshman dream come true.
  • My ID card -- I don't lose or forget my ID card, but I keep this option on my list just incase, the app can produce a digital version of your ID card that will allow you to enter the testing center, use your meal plan, and other ID relate activities.
  • GPA Calculator -- one of my absolute favorites, this function use to buried on BYU's website behind like a thousand pages, now it is right here on the app and I can "what if" to my heart's content.
Well I have barely scratched the surface of what is offered in this app. There are a lot more features to use depending on your campus needs. I highly recommend this app to anyone attending or visiting BYU.

If you find this post helpful you can  or if you know people at or coming to BYU you can  it or use one of the buttons below to share.
Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to connect a bluetooth keyboard to an iPad

If you decide you want to go all iPad either completely or just for your mobile needs, there are many reasons you might need to use a bluetooth keyboard. Here are a few:

  • You may not like the lack of tactile feedback you get from the onscreen keyboard.
  • You may have too much typing to do to be comfortably handled by the onscreen keyboard.
  • You may want to be able to view the whole screen instead of having half of it covered up by the onscreen keyboard.
  • You may want to make use of arrow keys, media controls, number pad, or other key options not offered by the onscreen keyboard.
  • You may prefer to type in the dvorak lay out, an option only offered on the iPad via bluetooth keyboards. 
What ever your reason you may have encountered some trouble setting up your bluetooth keyboard because the instructions that come with them are often cryptic at best. Fortunately the process is actually quite simple.

1.Turn bluetooth on on your iPad from the settings page (red arrow)

2. Turn bluetooth on on your keyboard, generally you do this by switching on the power and then pressing a button with the bluetooth symbol on it.
3.The keyboard should start blinking an LED if it has one and then appear in the list of devices on your on your iPad screen. Simply tap it (orange arrow)

4. You will then receive a notification box on your iPad telling you to enter a pairing code on the keyboard. (yellow arrow) simply enter this via the number keys and press enter.

5. You are now paired if it says "Connected" next to the keyboard in the device list (green box)
There you have it your keyboard is now connected and ready to use.

Quick Tip: did you know you can also connect a bluetooth keyboard to your iPhone or iPod Touch? The process is the same as for an iPad.

If you find this post helpful you can  or if you think it can help others you can  it or use one of the buttons below to share.
Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Stop liking your bad self, and live better

I'd like to talk about something that is really important: IDENTITY. Each of us has an identity that is made up of every little bit about us, like strands of twine that make a rope. Just look at your ID(entity) card, preferably a driver's license like this one.

This card identifies you by physical description. And chances are you also build part of you personal identity on your physical description. For example I weave part of my identity out of being: a white person, a short person, a blue eyed person, a skinny person, a left-handed person, a male person, all based on my physical identity.

You probably also build your identity based on other common factors like religion, social/economic status, hometown, profession, family background and structure, etc. All those things you are asked on every survey you have ever taken. But you also base it on what you think about yourself and what others have identified about you.

The problem is that often something that is negative about us will be repeated over and over until we take that in and make it part of our identity, even though it really is not. And as soon as you make that little negative thread part of you identity cord you start to like it, even if you say you don't. So you say something like this: "Well I hate it, but I'm just a lazy person, that's just the way I am."

NO! That is not JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. But be honest, you like it, cuz you think it is part of you. If you are ever going to become better you have to get rid of this notion, whatever it is, that negative aspects are part of you. It is really hard to do this, because if you choose to give one up, especially one that you have believed is a part of you for a long time, it will hurt, it will hurt a lot. Like the man in The Great Divorce who rips the lizard off his shoulder it will feel as though a part of you has died, but the truth is a parasite eating off your soul has died, not you.

See, the problem with negative threads is that they disintegrate, because they are not part of you, when things get difficult they disappear and you are left with a frayed and nearly broken cord of identity that cannot support you.

So stop liking your bad self. If it is something that is holding you back than it is not really part of you.  Just like the dross was never part of the gold, but the gold thought it was. Believe me, when you come out on the other side you will still be you, just a better and purer form of you, and that is a good thing.

If you find this post helpful you can  or if you think it can help others you can  it or use one of the buttons below to share.
Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Goal Apps: Accomplishing

The entire point of goals is to accomplish them, obviously, that's why you set them. Just as the iPad and iPhone could be useful in writing down, tracking, and communicating goals, it can also be helpful in the accomplishment of some goals.

The goals it can help with are many, the reason is that there is app for almost everything.

Lets just take a look at a few of the things I'm working on. One of my goals has to do with writing this blog, and what do you know the iPad helps me accomplish this goal with several apps:

And there are others as well. All of these apps help me accomplish my goals with the blog.

Now, blogging is something of an extreme example, of course it is a goal that is aided by the iPad. But other goals not so directly related to the internet can be as well. For example I have a goal of in the physical aspect of my life to work out everyday. This goal is tied specifically to the Gorilla workout app. The app gives me a new workout to do everyday, that helps me to accomplish my goal. I have done a full review of the app here.

Another area where a lot of people, including me, have goals is finances. In this case the goals are called a budget. This is an area where the portability of the iPad or iPhone can really be helpful. You can track your expenses as soon as they happen. There are a lot of budget apps out there, the one I use is called ExpenSense. It is fairly simple a straight forward for tracking budgets and accounts. There are a lot of other options for financial goals including apps from most investment firms and banks to track your accounts through their website.

An important area to set goals in is knowledge. We should constantly be learning. One of the best ways to do that is to read. One of my part time jobs is as a digital reading specialist, so I have a real interest in this type of goal on an iPad. The iPad can be very helpful in this regard because it is with you a lot of the time so you can take advantage of short moments to read a little of an ebook.

Here are some reading apps worth looking into:

  • iBooks (Apples own ebook reader)
  • Kindle (great if you also read on kindle, your books will sync across)
  • Adobe Reader (my full review here)

Another aspect of reading can be spiritual, if you are religious chances are there are a plethora of apps for your religion. I am a Mormon and these are a few of the apps that help me with my spiritual goals:

  • Gospel Library (allows you to download all the scriptures and Sunday School manuals)
  • Bible Gateway (Lets you read from hundreds of bible translations and do side-by-side comparison)
  • Ensign (The LDS church's official magazine)
  • LDS Memory (Helps you memorize key scripture passages)

The possibilities for apps that could help you with your goals a endless. If you have a goal chances are that there is app that can help you in some way. And you really should have a goal, several in fact.

Let me know what you goal is and if you have an app that helps you or if you are looking for one.  or leave a comment below.

Here's the summarygram.

If you find this post helpful you can  or if you think it can help others you can  it to share.
That's it for the goal apps posts, I hope they've been helpful to you. Now go set some goals and remember, live better.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Goal Apps: Communication

This aspect is probably the simplest part of goal apps on the iPad, but one of the most difficult parts of goal achievement generally. The ending to President Monson's quote from my last post is this:

"when performance is measured and reported back the rate of improvement accelerates" 

This probably makes sense to you, you are much more likely to exercise if you know you are going to have to tell your friend how much you exercised. This is in fact one of the concepts that every 12 step program in the world is based on, and it has proved very successful for those who do it.

So here is where we are at in using iPads to set goals:
  1. Write down goals and details
  2. Track progress on goals
  3. Report that progress back
In order to do this you will need an accountability partner. There are three qualifications I think you should look for in an accountability partner:

  1. Someone you can help with their goals
  2. Someone you have great respect for their opinion
  3. Someone who loves you enough to be brutally honest
Number 1 is important because this is a partnership, you should both be in it together. You may have another person that you report back to like a mentor or a coach who is not sharing their goals with you. That is a good thing, but you should also have an accountability partner.

The nice thing about keep track of your goals on an iPad (or iPhone/iPod) is that you already have the communication right there. All you need to do is decided how best to communicate it. Some tracking apps of communication built directly into them through the share button (arrow). This is particularly useful if you want to share your progress with the world because it normally links you directly into Facebook and Twitter, for more private sharing it will also give you access to the mail and messages apps.

Essentially any communication app will do that lets you tell your accountability partner what you have accomplished: Here's a list of some useful ones:

Messages: this is just sending an iMessage to your accountability partner letting them know how you are doing. If they aren't using and iDevices you won't be able to use this option but there is a whole slew of other messaging apps (such as Facebook Messenger) that you could use.

Mail or another email app like Gmail or Mailbox can be very helpful in sending detailed information about your goal, this is especially useful if you can access it from the tracking or accomplishing app and send a report directly.

Facetime or Skype: at regular intervals you should have face to face contact with your accountability partner. This gives you both a chance to report to each other. If you can't actually get together a Facetime or Skype call will be helpful.

The important thing is that you regularly report your progress or lack there of. If you are doing goals on an iPad this does not really require anything beyond the stock apps that come with it, unless you want it to.

If you find this post helpful you can or if you think it can help others you can  it to share.

To give you a simple way to remember what happened in this blog I've created what I call a summarygram of it.

Please share your thoughts on communicating your goals in the comments below.

That's all for now, and remember, live better.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Goal Apps: Tracking

President Monson has said "When performance is measured performance improves."

I can say I truly believe that. There is something motivation about a graph or calendar or a journal you know you are going to have to face that encourages you to push harder. We've talked about why the iPad can help us with goals, and about apps for writing down goals, now its time to talk about tracking those goals.

Tracking is extremely important if you are setting good goals because you should have some kind of measurement attached to it, but if you are not tracking it, then you are not really measuring it, and you will have no idea when you have achieved it.

There are two types of apps in this field:

  1. generic tracking apps
  2. goal specific tracking apps 

First Generic tracking apps, I've been looking for a good one of these for a while now, so I've tried out several. I will highlight three here.

Simple Goals
This app is just what it says, it is a clean and simple goals app. You type in the name of your goal, and then every time you do it or don't do it you mark it down. The app lets you know how many times you have accomplished your goal activity this week and this month, so it gives you a nice time table to work in.
It is a really easy to use app and the full version is now free. This app also has the feature that if you shake your device it will give you an inspirational quote to give you an added push.

Way Of Life
This app is more robust than Simple Goals. You put in your goal and then you tell the app is the item is good or bad for you. This allows you to effectively track goals about breaking bad habits as well as positive goals.
Way of Life also has the feature of graphing your goal progress for you in several different ways which can be really helpful in putting you goal in perspective over a long period of time.
You can also add notes your entries in case there is some particular reason you missed a goal or had to skip it and you want to remember. The app does allow you skip days of a goal, so that if, like me, you have a goal to play the piano three times a week, you won't be penalized for the four days you don't.
One of my favorite feature of this app is that it has an alarm you can set to remind you every day to track your goals. It can send you a notification which you can then just tap or swipe to send you right into the app.
I really like the way this app is set up and works. What I do not like about this app is that they give it to you for free and then when you want to set up more than three apps they want to charge you 5 dollars. I just think companies should be straight up with you if they are giving you a lite model.

Lumen Trails 
I mentioned Lumen Trails in my last post as well. This app can do a lot of things. One of the things it can do is track your goals. It is the most robust app I am mentioning today, as such it also has the highest learning curve.
You can set up a category in the app to do whatever you want. For goals you can have it be simple and track yes or no answers, or you can enter a number amount, which can be a simple number or an amount of time, or money. It even has a stop watch feature so you can record the amount of time spent on you goal right from the app (that would be for like an exercise goal or something).
Like Way of Life, Lumen Trails also lets you keep notes for individual entries and also allows you to see a graph of your progress.
By far the versatile goal app I have used it scales to your needs. My favorite part is that you can pick little icons for each category or goal you have.
Last I checked(the day I wrote this) the full version of Lumen Trails was 99cents, but it does seem that the price goes up and down. I've seen it as high as $9.99 and recently at $2.99 as well. I happened to get it the day it was free :) There is also a free Lite version which I definitely recommend checking out before you invest in the full one.

There are lots and lots of other apps that work similarly in the app store. Unfortunately this is not an app  space dominated by quality free apps so most of them involve some money.

Well that's it for today folks. I know tracking your goals will make you far, far more likely to achieve them. Let me know what apps you are using and goals you are tracking, use the comments below or just .

If you like this post or  it to help others find it, especially your friends who need to remember, to live better.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Goal Apps: Writing Them Down

Now that we have talked about how the iPad can help with goals I want to get into specific apps that can be used to do that. I'll deal with simply writing goals down and then in latter posts I'll talk about the three categories I discussed last time (communication, tracking, achieving) that we used before.

Writing Down your goals: This is the most important step in the goal process, nothing else happens in a consistent way if this does not happen. For an app to do this for you there are only two things needed:

  1. You can enter text (either typed or hand written)
  2. You will see it often
The second is obviously the hard one in this set. There is no shortage of apps that you can enter text into, but actually seeing that text so it is useful is something else. In order for that to happen you either need:

  • some kind of an alarm system in the app
  • or you need to have a built in habit to check your goals (like a daily/weekly review).

The good news is that you do not have to get any new apps to do this if you do not want to, your iPad or other iOS device already comes with the notes app, and the clock app

You can use the notes app to write down your goals, either in a single note or a separate one for each note depending on you level of organization and detail. Then use the clock app to set a recurring alarm to remind you to review your goals every so often. Because you can not stick a note made on your iPad to the fridge you have to have some way of remembering that you are working on goals.

There are literally thousands of apps that you could use to keep track of your goals, I am going to highlight three more because I have used them, not because they are necessarily better than others.

This is an app I have used for a long time, its a good solid way to make sticky notes on your iOS device. You can select different colors of notes and other options such as size. One of the nice things here is that you arrange all your sticky notes on a cork board and then you can save it as a photo to the camera roll, if you then set that photo as your lock screen it is the tech equivalent of the paper on the fridge.

There is the option to upgrade for .99 cents, and then you can give note specific alarms. So you could also use that as your reminder.

This is the app I personally using for my goal setting write now, the flexibility of Evernote allows me to do pretty much whatever I want. I am to keep my goals accessible across all my devices. I am able to make a chart of the four areas of life (Physical, Mental, Spiritual, Sociemotional) and keep current goals in each of them. I also like the ability to put check boxes next to goals for when I have finished them. I gave a full review of Evernote here.

Lumen Trails is an app I will talk more about in the tracking section because that is what I am currently using it as. But it also has the capability for full notes synced across devices. It is an extremely robust app with a bit of a learning curve. As far as just notes go it is fairly simple though and can function like Evernote, you can set up a notebook for your goals and determine whether you want all your notes in one note or in separate notes. It uses iCloud to sync across all your devices

I only recommend using Lumen Trails for writing down your goals if you are also going to use it for tracking or accomplishing goals or some other function. This is because the price for the full version is 9.99, I was fortunate and got it on a free day. 

You might know of other apps you like for writing goals down, if so tweet them to

Now you may be wondering why this writing goals down is different than tracking, after all you will have to write down the goal wherever you are tracking it as well. I do not do them in the same place for several reasons:

  1. I want to put them in the box, as mentioned earlier
  2. I like to write down more information and have them all together (you may have heard of the S.M.A.R.T. goals concept) its hard to have this much information in a tracking program.
  3. I like to have future goals also written down in the same place so I can add them to my current goals when I am ready.
Thats it for writing down your goals on the iPad or iPhone. If you like this article or it to share it with others.

Thanks for reading, set some goals, next time we will learn how to track them.
And remember, live better.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How an iPad can help you achieve your goals

Setting goals is one of the most important steps in productivity. No matter what area in your life you want to be productive in you need to set goals to become more productive. However setting goals is not enough, you have to actually do them. That does not require an iPad or specific apps, but they can be helpful. In this blog I will cover how the iPad can help, in my next blog I'll cover some specific apps that can enhance it.

Many people think they are setting goals when they simply think in their head "I would like to read more" or "I want to be better at handling email." That, however, is NOT goal setting.  The old saying goes:

"A goal unwritten is merely a wish"

Just the act of writing or typing a goal will make it more real in you mind and more likely to be accomplished. It at least makes you accountable to yourself. Ideally that goal will be written down somewhere you will see it often. That's where you iPad can come in handy, if you happen to see your iPad often, and I'm guessing you do, it can provide an excellent place for keeping your goals.

At its most basic level the iPad is good for goal setting simply because things can be written in it, this in and of itself will move your goals out of the wish category. But I want to highlight several other reasons the iPad is a productive tool for goals:

  • Communication: The iPad is, of course, a connected device. Writing down you goal is one thing, sharing that goal is something else. You may want to share it with just one person, like an accountability partner, or all your friends via facebook, or the whole world via twitter. Sharing your goal is guaranteed to make it more likely to happen, and when you accomplish it or make progress you can share that too, yeah, that feels good.
  • Tracking: gone are the days when you had to use excel or numbers to set up your own goal tracking method, the iPad contains apps (which we will get to next time) that will track your progress. Tracking your progress will make you more likely to achieve your goal.
  • Accomplishing: lastly the iPad can actually be the means, or part of the means, to accomplishing certain goals. For example, one of my goals is to blog at least 2 times every week, the iPad helps me do this by making my blogging tools available everywhere I go, allowing me to take advantage of little moments that can help me towards my goal.
which of the three things you are using to iPad to help with, Communication, Tracking, or Accomplishing.

Of course, the most important thing the iPad can do for you goals is help you to remember to live better. The three items talked about above are really just a means to that end.

In the comments below tell me one goal related action you would like to be able to do with your iPad, we'll see if we can find an app for it. You can also tweet it at me

In the next post I will get more into specific apps I use for setting and accomplishing goals.

If you found this post helpful it, or share it however you like with the buttons below.

And remember, live better.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review: Getting Things Done, by David Allen

Title: Getting Things Done
Author: David Allen
Stars: 4

If you start thinking about productivity at all you will, probably within a matter of a few google searches, blog posts, or podcasts begin to hear the term GTD and the name David Allen getting kicked around. This book and the method of productivity it describes is generally what it being referred to. Despite its importance in the productivity realm, I have been avoiding this book for a while, probably just because of some negative things I first heard about it.

I first started warming up to the whole thing when Erik Fisher had David Allen as a guest on Beyond the Todo List, one of my favorite podcasts. Hearing David talk about it himself really intrigued me. So the book made it onto my list of things to read and finally got a hold placed on it at my library (using the BookMyne app) when Merlin Mann was featured on Mac Power Users, by the time it came in I was anxious to read it.

So here is what I thought I about it: the book is great, the principles are true, the system is good, but its a little outdated. The book has been dated by the advent of the Smartphone and the Tablet, but since David teaches the system to be universally applied that does not really make much of a difference, although it is sometimes humorous. The workflow is still the good even if he neglects to explain some modern tools. Here is just a diagram from the book of the type of workflow it advocates.

I will say I felt a lot pressure reading this book because I realized all the pressure I was subconsciously under, so it definitely does not make you stress free from the get go. But it is probably like a splinter where in order to get rid of the constant dull pain you have to go through a sharp pain for a moment.

I'm not going to explain everything that is involved in the GTD system here, I'll leave that for your own reading. I do plan to implement parts of the system in little chunks over time. It would certainly be better if I could dive in full force right away, but that requires a lot of activation energy and time up front that I don't possess right now. I can however change little things about the way I work, especially since I am just starting a new job. I just need to remember to live better ;) in small ways everyday. Hopefully in a couple months I'll be doing pretty well and be able to make the full implementation.

Well I think that is it for today folks. Don't forget to or this post so  that others can read it as well. Leave a comment here telling me what your favorite productivity book is.

Have a fantastic day, and remember, live better.

You can purchase Getting Things Done here (affiliate link)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How to make app folders on an iPad

Note: This post was written using iOS 6, the look of some icons might have changed and few features may have been added or moved in iOS 7 but for the most part it is the same.

So I realized that I missed a crucial step in setting up an iPad: Setting up App Folders!

Now I know that for many of you this is basic knowledge, but I am always surprised by the people who don't know how to do this. If you already know how what folder categories you use.

For those who don't know, an App Folder is a way of grouping apps together on your homescreens so that similar apps are found in the same place, and there are less home screens to sort through. That is what is going on in the banner of this site, I have grouped some of my productivity apps together.

In the Pre-iOS 4 days this was not an option and it would take forever to scroll through all your apps to find the one you were looking for (especially if you download lots of apps like me). As we all know, more organized means more productive, because you can find what you are looking for when you need it.

Fortunately making folders is simple once you know how to do it. Since I am currently on the hunt for a better more effective way to manage contacts I will demonstrate by setting up a folder for Contacts apps.

  • Begin by holding down on an app icon for a few seconds until they all start to wiggle (this is also the way to rearrange apps or delete them. Little "x"s should appear by most of the icons (red arrows) .

  • Now drag one app on top of another app. Here I am dragging the new linkedin contacts app onto the Evernote Hello app. A grey box appears around them, that is the folder (orange circle). Tip: this can be a little tricky to do because apps try to jump out of the way of the app you are dragging, just be patient, it may take a couple tries.

  • Bingo, you now have two apps in one spot. iOS will automatically name the folder whatever thinks the best name is based on the two apps, in this case "business"(yellow arrow). I normally like to rename the folder by taping on the name field and typing in a new name. In this case I will call the folder "contacts" (green arrow)

  • There you have it, you are done making your folder. Drag any apps you want into your folder, make as many folders as you want!
If you find this helpful and want to remember it just   if you want to share it with others  it.

Tip: Did you know you can put a folder in your dock? This can give you easy access to a lot of important apps.

So go ahead and set up a folder, then comment on this post and tell me how it went.
Thanks for reading.