“Keeping Up with the Kardashians” on Your Mobile Device?

There is no rule that we must use tablets, smartphones, and laptops 24/7, everywhere. Citing safety concerns, some municipalities have enacted ‘distracted walking’ laws to prevent people from walking into cars while checking Facebook or texting. Our time and higher brain function were already under attack before these technologies dominated our lifestyles but today, the assault is relentless. Entertainment options are a minefield on your mobile device. Putting limits on when and where to use our devices is important but controlling further distractions through quality entertainment selections will also reclaim our time and attention span. If we practice the restraint I’m advocating, we will reap the additional benefit of becoming more enlightened consumers of the arts.


15 years ago, I couldn’t get enough of Anne Rice’s vampire novels and no 14-hour drive to Florida was going to interrupt my reading schedule, so using the audiobook versions, I completed two books while driving. 🙂 Today, audiobooks remain an expensive, but an effective option when reading becomes inconvenient. And since I don’t have Donald Trump type money, I make wiser book selections.

As a former radio talk show junkie, of course, I became a podcast junkie but I refuse to play them in Apple’s confusing podcast app. I use Pocket Casts. Pocket Casts can even sync between your iPad and iPhone so there will be no interruptions in listening. I started out listening to 50 podcasts but today, I have narrowed that list to 15 that really add value to my life.

Apple’s native music app is also a confused piece of junk. Although I don’t listen to a lot of music, there are better apps out there, like EQLRZR PRO and online alternatives such as Spotify and Pandora. EQLRZR PRO handles both music and podcasts but I haven’t had a lot of success using it in this way. My wish is that someday, Pocket Casts will handle video and audiobooks as well.

Not only do I use Voice Dream to review my blog posts. I use it to listen to long online articles. Just copy and paste into Voice Dream. Big time saver.

Back in the early days of television, you could watch “The Beverly Hillbillies,” or “The Ed Sullivan Show” without feeling that you were rotting your brain. There were 3 networks, a few hundred radio stations, and where I lived, it took 5 years for a big budget movie to even get to our local theater. Today, I’ve lost count keeping up with television and movies. Few deserve your time and attention. Apple’s native TV viewer does work and I find it easy to rent or buy only QUALITY television and movies. QUALITY is whatever works for you. I have the Netflix, HBO, and CBS apps on my mobile devices, but they remain in storage. I try to record programs for later viewing on the television.

Tell the truth, for some of us, this is the “elephant in the room.” A friend fixed this for me when looking at the amount of combat and flight simulators I had on my iPad. “Tolbert, the reason you are not writing and creating business opportunities, that you are clearly capable of, is that you are unfocused with too many $#%#&*@#!% games on that thing.” I couldn’t argue with the logic even though I hardly had the time to play with any of them. Their mere presence was a distraction. By the end of that day, I deleted all except the one that actually helps you learn about flying a plane!

When it comes to your mobile device and entertainment, ruthlessly limit or cut unnecessary activities and apps which distract from your projects, visions, goals or desired lifestyle. Forsaking “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” has enabled me to restructure this blog and now produce what is now the 60th blog post! 🙂 It’s Not That Complicated!

Minimalist Writing on the iPad



Thinking about starting a blog or sharpening up your social media posts? Due to information overload, we have developed simpler methods of communication. We read, write, even speak in abbreviated ways. Shorter, more concise language is now the rule. How effective you are in getting your message across is dependent on brevity. Text messaging is a prime example.

Here’s an example of the minimalist writing process I use, on the iPad, before I publish to this blog. Even if you don’t blog, you can be short, concise, and to the point in composing emails and social media posts.

(1) Most blog post ideas come at any time, day or night so I keep a supply of index cards in the car, house, office, and bag to get those ideas out of my brain and on paper. Any paper will do. Not to brag, but I’ve written magazine articles on restaurant napkins! 🙂

(2) Type paper notes into an event in my calendar or Evernote: a note-taking, organizing, and archiving app. The software syncs across most devices so it’s always accessible. The goal is to keep the post 300 words or less using plain English and less punctuation. Sometimes I paste the text into iA Writer for its’ clean, distraction-free interface. When I’ve developed something coherent, I’ll still continue to edit, edit, edit. Sometimes, I have to start all over again if it’s too complex.

(3) Copy the text to Hemingway Editor: I bought the stand-alone software for my laptop. They don’t have an app for the iPad but they do have a free website you can use in your browser. Hemingway Editor‘s entire purpose is to make you write more concise.

(4) Paste the text into Voice Dream: Once I’m sure about the post, I’ll review how it sounds. I can even edit within the app.

(5) Paste the text into my WordPress blogging website and format photographs, graphics, and schedule a posting.

The goal is to even shorten this process and I’m finding that the audio and text editing in Voice Dream may eliminate some of these apps in the very near future.

Remember, if you have another tablet brand or device, you can use the same or similar apps  for their operating system.

In the next post on simplifying life on one device, I’ll review social media. Might be the shortest post ever!

Life Organizing Apps

41FAEE61-3287-4A41-827C-D80954BC8FA7Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has an app so we fill up our devices with them because we can. Who doesn’t have three messaging apps or five food ordering apps or four mapping apps on their phones? I’m ashamed to admit that I have 96 apps in my iPad storage folders and if I took all of them out I would be instantly distracted.

Of all the apps on my iPad, these are the ones that are fundamental to organizing life. The remaining 96 will remain in their folders. 🙂

CALENDARS are the Swiss Army knife of organizing. Before computers, we used all types of paper-based calendars but today’s digital calendars are more flexible. For example, I centralize most everything in Google calendar. It’s web based and syncs across all devices so it accommodates my budget, day job schedules, personal appointments, birthdays, anniversaries and a to-do list. Even blog posts are stored as events on Google Calendar.

A few words of caution…don’t fill up your calendar with irrelevant items or it will appear confused and feel uninspiring to take action on. I also recommend using one calendar for both work and personal activities to prevent scheduling conflicts with both.

EMAIL is still king for the transmission of images and documents, despite the popularity of texting. I use Gmail, by Google. It’s web based; syncs across all devices and is simple to use.

ADDRESS BOOK/CONTACTS used to be stored in Rolodexes or small address books but digital address books are much more versatile. Apple Contacts is the default address book database and it works with many other apps. Again, simple to use and syncs across all Apple devices. Throw that Roledex away.

NOTEBOOKS have evolved to include many of the above-listed functions but can be complicated to use. I’ve tried many note taking apps such as Evernote, Google Keep, Microsoft OneNote, even Apple’s own “Notes” but while Evernote excells at saving whole web pages for later reading, Google Keep is simple to use and syncs across all devices.

Depending on your operating system and personal preference, you may be using different brands of tools (like Yahoo, Microsoft, etc) but these four categories of tools are what I have found to be fundamental for organizing your life on a tablet or smartphone.

In the next post on simplifying life on one device, I’ll review what writing apps and rules I use to create a simple workflow for blogging and other social media.


One Device To Rule Them All: Part 3, Tools of the Trade

“Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) or Compulsive Tool Acquisition Syndrome (CTAS) [1] has been defined as “the all-consuming desire to expand your collection of gear …”  Wikipedia

After deciding to buy a tablet computer, based on real need and not GAS, I calculated that an iPad Pro, with 256 gigabytes of storage capacity, would be plenty for my needs. I’m not a big music listener or video watcher but I do have a large podcast library. I’ll write about the value of podcasts in a later post.

The only accessories I bought with the device were the optional stylus, the Apple Pencil (gives a little more precise control when editing photos and writing) and a protective case. I’ve used Otterboxes on every tablet and phone I’ve ever owned so I bought an Otterbox DEFENDER SERIES case.  The case comes with a cover that doubles as an adjustable viewing stand and pencil holder. No external keyboard, batteries, earphones, speakers or other stands are necessary. I’ve owned all these accessories before and it’s more pieces to keep up with…more distractions.

“App” wise, I use an internet browser, Firefox, that syncs across all devices (laptop and phone), as my main app, especially since the device is internet connected. Chrome and Safari web browsers also work. I’ve bookmarked the web applications of many of the apps and only use apps as back-ups in case the browser doesn’t work. The browser provides a familiar, stable, and minimalist interface on the tablet. I can switch between applications on the browser quicker than switching apps even though the iPad Pro now does faster multitasking and split screen viewing. The goal is to keep as many those accumulated and distracting apps out of sight.

If you have a smartphone, you can identify with being overwhelmed keeping up with apps. It’s the same with a tablet. The key is to use only the apps that you have a real need for. Those are below on the first screen of my iPad.


You may also notice that utility apps, that allow me to maintain the functions of the device, are located on the bottom of the screen allowing quick access.

What you don’t see are all the entertainment apps and lesser used apps in folders that are out-of-sight on the second page.


Sure, I’d like to access my flight simulator (I missed that part while I was in the Air Force), but having it tucked away until I get my work done lessens the temptation to fly. 🙂

Now that we’ve covered the physical setup of the device and app organization, in the next post of this series, I will write about how I generally basically organize my life on my tablet. Windows and Android users, it’s all the same principle.  Stay tuned.


One Device To Rule Them All: Part 2, I’m Not A Juggler


In Part 1, I wrote of my goal to incorporate most tasks and activities such as: photo editing, contacts (address book), calendar, to-do list, music/audio player, radio, clock, calculator, audio recorder, television, telephone, books, newspaper, typewriter, and even the kitchen sink, 🙂 into one device, my tablet computer (iPad Pro).

Why? To continue my life’s mission of reducing clutter and distraction, no matter the form. For the past two years, with some degree of success, I did make my laptop the “control center” of my life.  As a business owner,  24/7 functionality was mandatory but my Apple Macbook wasn’t the most stable device to use on the daily four to five hour commute to the day job. I still watch, in amazement, how my fellow commuters manipulate their bodies, like human gyroscopes, to prevent their laptops from falling to the floor. I tried this, but I’m not a juggler. A tablet, with as many of my laptop programs as possible, seemed like a more manageable solution so last January, I decided to field-test its’ functionality.

So far, it seems to be working despite the challenges of the commute. If it didn’t, this blog would have remained dormant.

I’m now in the tweaking phase, making final decisions on those apps that will make the iPad my Swiss Army knife. What works best for me might work for you and if not, I hope to give you  ideas.  In the next installment, I’ll write about the physical considerations and initial setup. Stay tuned.

One Device To Rule Them All: The Series, Part 1


Why not document my continuing efforts of reducing and transforming my use of technology? Bet you’d like to do the same. That plus-size cell phone we all purchased last year was cool looking, but has become a brick. How about that hardly used Kindle that was advertised as the greatest thing since the invention of the book? Ever since multiple consumer electronics have existed, I’ve envisioned one device to do it all so there would be no need to manage multiple distractions….oops, I mean, devices. Having an address book, calendar, music player, radio, clock, watch, calculator, audio recorder, television, telephone, books etc. in one portable device would not only reduce electronic clutter, but help  simplify life. I started with PalmPilots and even Microsoft Pocket PCs but the most effective, most loved device I ever owned was an Apple Newton,  the grandfather of today’s iPad. The technology of my iPad Pro has eclipsed the Newton all in but one aspect…I still need a laptop or desktop computer to do some functions that the iPad can’t do or struggles with.

One Device To Rule Them All is not an original idea, there are users out there, like me, and Apple, infamous for restructuring popular computer design; marketing the hell out of the change; weathering the consumer disapproval; and then riding a tide of mainstream acceptance, is trying to accommodate us. Why do I put up with this struggle when my issues could probably be immediately solved using a Microsoft based competitor ? One word…Brand loyalty. I prefer the Apple ecosystem and have established 20+ years of databases. Those databases could be adapted and I’m not discounting any of the Microsoft based competitors, but I don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort operating or even maintaining Apple products, they just work. If Microsoft wants me to test a Microsoft Surface Pro, I would not object.

In the meantime, I’ll keep struggling to adapt the iPad to be my sole device and from time-to-time, I’ll post articles how that makes my life like less complicated;  more efficient; and more peaceful.