Changing the podcasting guard

Every now and then I’ll come across a new podcast that I’m very much interested in listening to the back catalogue. And, as I like to download podcasts to my iPhone for listening when 3G/4G/5G may not be available, “Download all” is a nice feature to have.

My podcast app of choice until this week has been Overcast. I’ve used it for many years. It works well and has a nice little feature of cutting out quiet moments in a podcast to speed it up a bit when listening. “Download all” is does not have.

So, after coming across You’re Dead to Me recently, I wanted to start from the start. And that has led me to Pocket Casts. I like it. There are all the features of Overcast plus a few differences that are important.

  • I can “Download all”
  • I can push a podcast episode to the top of the queue
  • The Apple Watch app appears to work better. Overcast wouldn’t pop up on on the watch by default, whereas Pocket Casts does
  • I can group podcasts in folders (paid version)
  • I can manage podcasts from my MacBook (paid version)

I don’t change apps lightly, especially when the predecessor has served me well in the past.

Success – process flipped

Yesterday’s attempt at Flipping the process worked as expected and I was easily able to bring the post written at WordPress into my digital garden using the obsidian-rss plugin by Johannes Theiner.

I want my digital garden to hold all my blogging, journalling, household management, literature notes and more so anything that removes friction in writing whilst allowing me to keep all my words in a single platform is a blessing.

I was expecting the plug-in to bring across the categories/tags as tags but that didn’t happen. No biggie. I can easily add tags using Obsidian after I’ve imported the post from the RSS feed. I will also need to do a bit to reconnect images to the originals as the import brings across a URL and that’s not ideal if I ever need to recreate the blog or re-use an image somewhere else.

This is my input template:

published: {{published}}
url: {{link}}
author: {{author}}
#state/evergreen #output/blog {{#tags: }}
# {{title}}

The magic hour

I have a lot of projects in my personal life which are so time-hungry it’s not possible to sit down and complete them in any one evening, weekend, or week on holiday. They are:

  • Cataloging my home photos in IMatch
  • Keeping up with organsing the knowledge in my personal knowledge management system, let alone using it to create new insights and knowledge
  • Completing a cross-stitch I purchased in April 2000

The idea of applying an hour of my time each day first came when considering my data in Obsidian. Simply getting my existing store of typed information organised is a lot of work and I can only do so much before it becomes tiresome. Nevermind linking and creating knowledge or writing new content.

One hour per day equates to 365 hours per year. For my 38-hour work week, that’s 9.6 weeks of effort.

From working for 30 years I have a strong internal sense of what 9.6 weeks, full time on a project would produce. The impact on my personal knowledge management system would be uncalculable.

All for an hour a day.

Interrupting the flow of work has a tax

Nobody likes interruptions (unless they are good news) but regardless, each interruption that occurs takes not only the time of the interruption itself but a little longer as you strive to get back to where you were beforehand.

If you are in a flow state, this can take a long time and there is a risk you may not regain your previous level of thinking.

Reducing the cost of interruption tax

There are a few steps you can take to reduce the cost of an interruption tax.

  1. Limit the change of being interrupted. This can be anything from finding somewhere quite to work, to closing the door, to putting your phone on Do Not Disturb or making effective requests of those around you to keep away for a time.
  2. The previous step is even better if you can find a time where interruptions are less likely. his could be why many of us have been more productive working from home than in an office.
  3. Develop the habit of pausing for a moment when the interruption first occurs to take a quick note on whatever it was you were thinking of so that you can pick it up later. Then when you return to your task, refresh your memory.
  4. Ask briefly for a moment to complete what you are doing. Most will accomodate and it has the added benefit of improving your listening to the concerns of others because they have your full attention.

Committing to tasks without dates

Some time ago I wrote that Adding a due date to your tasks is a mistake and promptly failed to take my own advice!

Earlier this week I completed all the tasks on my GTD next actions list for that day, apart from three. I realised a couple of things.

  1. Once I’ve done the tasks for the day, I tend to consider myself done and forget I have another list of 50+ next actions I can work on.
  2. I’d finished but there were still 3 tasks there.

My due dates were “want to do” tasks, not “must do tasks”. I can be sure of that because I added the 🏆 task indicator beside the date for the tasks that were “must do tasks” on the day. Without realising it I had the tasks I had to do and the tasks I had to do.

So, as part of my weekly GTD Review on Friday I removed all dates from my next actions list apart from those very few that absolutely had to happen on a specific date. I’m quite comfortable with that. Will see how it goes across the week. I expect I’ll get more done.

Backlinks are important

Backlinks are links on a web page/note that list other web pages/notes which refer to it. Within my digital garden, backlinks are critical in making connections between ideas. They are important because content does not always flow in one direction and knowing what links to a particular page can create a more informative context or open up new avenues of learning.

Backlinks are not hierarchical

If TopicA links to TopicB, it may not be obvious that there is a connection when looking at TopicB particularly as content in a digital garden is almost always non-hierarchical. Instead of:

we have:

It’s a lot of work to create and maintain all these backlinks and secondly, by simply writing and linking pages, the list of backlinks can highlight connections between pages in unexpected ways which generate new ideas and relationships.

To be useful backlinks must be automatically generated

Creating backlinks by hand gets old, very quickly. There two primary reasons for this are:

  1. Interrupting the flow of work has a tax and the mechanical act of linking pulls you out of your thinking. That disjoint and shift of focus means it takes a moment to get back into the groove.
  2. If you change the name of a note you have to find all the backlinks from other pages and rename them. This makes it hard to be productively lazy.

I use Obsidian to manage my content and it automatically creates the backlinks for each page. It also shows my potential backlinks ie., pages which refer to the name of a page but which have not been explicitly linked yet.

Adding a due date to your tasks is a mistake


The Getting Things Done methodology would have us not date tasks at all and instead work through contexts that help us make decisions on what do to based on the resources available to us. If something must happen on a day, use a calendar instead.

My dated tasks had become a calendar in another form.

Typically I will add dates when when:

  • The task is tracking something I’m waiting for. There will be a date for when the request is made and a date for when I require a response. Having said that, fewer waiting for tasks are getting a response date. I’ll catch that in my weekly review.
  • In my role I have quite a number of task that recur weekly, fortnighly or monthly. As my calendar is for blocked time I don’t want to store these tasks there. Instead I have them as tasks with dates and I roll the dates over each time. These include reports I have to run, bank transfers I need to make, backups that have to occur etc. In total these tasks wouldn’t take more than 30 minutes in a day and it doesn’t matter when on that day they get done. This approach gets them out of my mind and into my trusted system.

I still find myself falling into the habit of adding due dates. It’s easier than remembering to look at the task list eah morning and trust myself.

How to enter dates quickly

I find myself entering dates all the time. In filenames, for tasks and in documents. As I’m Productively Lazy I use a text expander to save me time.

Read through to the bottom of the post for a link to download the text expansions I use daily.

Date formats

I use 2 date formats. YYYY-MM-DD and d MMMM YYYY. For today these are 2022-06-09 and 9 June 2022. To create these I use PhraseExpress with the following keystrokes. All are set to run immediately upon keying in.

All calculations are smart enough to wrap over month and year boundaries.

Standard day text, used anywhere

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
d==Today as YYYY-MM-DD2022-06-09
d++Tomorrow as YYYY-MM-DD2022-06-10
d–Yesterday as YYYY-MM-DD2022-06-08
dd=Today as d MMMM YYYY9 June 2022
dd+Tomorrow as d MMMM YYYY10 June 2022
dd-Yesterday as d MMMM YYYY8 June 2022
d2w2 weeks from today23 June 2022

Getting Things Done

Within Obsidian I use the Dataview plugin‘s features to help me manage tasks. The way I work, I only need created and due dates. All are in YYYY-MM-DD format and is prefixed with a “| ” to help split dates on a row eg “| 📆2022-06-09”.

The “Next” abbreviations are smart enough to know that if today is Thursday, you mean Thursday next week, but Saturday this week.

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
#==Due today| 📆2022-06-09
#++Due tomorrow| 📆2022-06-10
#1wDue 1 week from today| 📆2022-06-16
#2wDue 2 weeks from today| 📆2022-06-23
#3wDue 3 weeks from today| 📆2022-06-30
#4wDue 4 weeks from today| 📆2022-07-07
#–Due yesterday| 📆2022-06-08
#monNext Monday| 📆2022-06-13
#tueNext Tuesday| 📆2022-06-14
#wedNext Wednesday| 📆2022-06-15
#thuNext Thursday| 📆2022-06-16
#friNext Friday| 📆2022-06-17
#satNext Saturday| 📆2022-06-19
#sunNext Sunday| 📆2022-06-19

I use !!! and a the Dataview plugin to filter out the must do today items.

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
!!!Important| 🏆
!==Imporant today| 🏆 | 📆2022-06-09
!++Important tomorrow| 🏆 | 📆2022-06-10

Whenver I have a “@waiting for” task, I put in the date I started waiting using:

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
+==Started waiting today➕2022-06-09
+–Started waiting yesterday➕2022-06-08

Download my abbreviations

You can download a file containing my abbreviations for import into PhraseExpress. Expand the .zip file and the import. They will all work on Windows. The day based Getting Things Done abbreviations (Mon-Sun) may not work so well on a Mac.