Hey what’s up. I know you come to this blog to read my often terrible opinions on videogames, but unfortunately for you, there are no games I’m interested in talking about at the moment. I already wrote about Apex, which is about 50% of how I spend my game time lately, and the other 50% involves shutting my brain off and playing The Division 2 — although, it might be worth it to write about that game’s terrible politics at some point. The industry is basically waiting around for November to hit, with a bunch of heavy hitters and the next generation of consoles around the corner, so we’re sort of spinning our wheels here.
That said — and at the risk of sounding dismissive — this is my blog and I get to do what I want!! So today I’m gonna tell you about all the tools I use to do my work and why I like them. I have found that my ability to focus on and do work, creative or otherwise, is dependent on systems that provide a range of helpful features without being bogged down to the point that using them effectively requires me to have a PhD. This year I got a fresh start on my workspace that actually makes me feel good when I am in the process of creation, so I wanted to share it. Maybe you will find this interesting. Maybe you won’t! I don’t have any analytics set up for this blog, so I can’t actually check to confirm. Also, there are a lot of Mac apps here, so I’m sorry if I upset anyone with my garbage taste in electronics.
What does the Camping Mint art by @pocketghosts have to do with this? I just wanted a cute picture as the header. Let’s go!
Ulysses is the main app I use to write this blog! It’s a writing app that is powerful enough to do a lot of stuff I need, but stays out of the way when I want to just focus on writing. You can separate documents out based on what they’re for, so I have a tab for work, a tab for my blog, etc. And those tabs are further divided out based on my own organizational flow.
The editor is markdown-based, and has a nice full-screen mode that operates like a typewriter, keeping what you’re writing at the middle of the screen. You can choose to have your current sentence, word, or paragraph be the only thing that’s highlighted, to help you focus further, and there are lots of stats you can keep track of, and a grammar checker. Most importantly, Ulysses uploads directly into Ghost! Two clicks and this draft will be placed right in my blog, waiting to be fully published.
Notion is a fantastic second-brain app that’s basically as powerful as you want it to be. It holds a ton of data that I want to keep hold of, but don’t always need on hand. It can work as a wiki, a bookmarking tool, a place to write, set tasks, or all of the above. While incredibly comprehensive and powerful, it can be a little intimidating. Not quite as “get out of the way” as I normally like my apps, but it’s the one place I make an exception.
One nice thing is that Notion gives free personal plans to people with EDU email accounts!
I have burned through so, so many to-do apps ever the years, and none of them have worked for me the way I’d like. Not sure if it’s just because I’m picky, or bad at getting my organized, but that’s how it’s always been, until I found Fantastical. I downloaded the trial on a whim, thinking there’d be no way I spend actual money on a calendar app, but wow was I wrong. Fantastical has a fantastic UI that makes blocking out time almost enjoyable. It lets me add events and tasks as needed, letting me organize based on what makes sense. And now that I’m a working Mint, its ability to detect events on my calendar and allow a one-click button that sends me straight to whatever Zoom meeting I need to go to has been a god-send. I love this app.
Journaling has been important to me ever since I was a teenager. Being able to go back and see the kind of person I was when I was 17 has been an illuminating experience, and a solid reminder that I’ve grown a lot in the years since. Day One has made the journaling process seamless for me for years now. It’s another app with a fantastic user interface that’s cross-platform between macOS and iOS, and places an emphasis on capturing all the memories you want to retain. It can hold photos, videos, has a tagging system to filter posts when you want to look back at them, keeps track of everything from weather to location, and even lets you make multiple different journals if you want to separate things out even more. Perhaps most importantly, your Journal is not held hostage by Day One, with the option to export in a variety of formats and even order a physical book of your journal!
I have four email addresses that I have to keep track of, with only one of them being based in Gmail, and I like to have them all consolidated in one space. I also like desktop apps more than stuff that’s web-based, so Postbox has been a great tool for me. I only really recommend it for email power-users, but if you’re the type of person that often has to live in their mailbox, it’s a great choice. It syncs with email servers quickly, and has a bunch of great filtering options and tagging features. You can set emails as reminders, color-code them however you’d like, and archive and delete tons of emails at a time — great for someone like me, who is obsessed with having a zero-inbox because I’m a weirdo.
Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo
I didn’t feel like posting all my UI/UX tools in this piece since those are very niche (although I might in a separate article, if people are interested), but I will throw in some kudos to the Affinity Suite. Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo are what most people will ever need, and they are fantastic alternatives to Adobe tools, which are garbage when it comes to price. They can take a bit to get used to, but the transition from Illustrator and Photoshop was painless for me, and I hardly miss any of the features from those former tools. Best of all, they’re one-time purchases that get you free updates until the next major release, which tends to come out every two years — far more manageable from a financial perspective.
A year ago I would have balked at the idea of using Apple Music as my primary listening tool, but then every Final Fantasy soundtrack dropped on streaming services, and suddenly Spotify told me that I was exceeding their completely arbitrary cloud library limit. So, I made the switch, and frankly, I couldn’t be happier. Obviously, it helps that I’m fully walled off in the Apple garden, but even then, it really is that good. Sure, the algorithm for recommendations isn’t amazing in comparison to Spotify, but that’s never really something I cared about, since I like to search out music myself. Moreover, adding my own personal albums to the ones that I add from the streaming service is a simple drag-and-drop, meaning my obscure albums of dance music from Japanese Rhythm Games don’t get left behind either.
Okay, this isn’t technically a tool for work, but I want to recommend it anyway. Tweetbot is great because it’s Twitter with none of the fluff. I happily pay for it to remove garbage like ads, recommended posts, and all that other nonsense. Notifications are a little screwy in comparison, but frankly, not getting pinged by Twitter all day is a pro for me, not a con. It’s showing its age design-wise, and I don’t know if we’re gonna get another update for it, but as it stands, it’s currently the best way to experience Twitter.
My most important physical tool! Designed by Antsy Labs — and wow, just as I wrote this, I realized why they’re called that — my Fidget Cube is my personal savior during meetings. I can click and clack and spin and tap away for stimulation all day to stay focused and engaged while people talk. Plus, now that I work remotely, I can do it without worrying that anyone will hear! I love my fidget cube.
Anker Bluetooth Ergonomic Mouse
They’re a little unwieldy at first, but my ergonomic mouse has saved my hand and wrist from crippling pain over the years. They allow me to comfortably rest my hand on the mouse for hours without pain. Super useful if your meat prison is weak and wimpy, like mine. Throw some grip strengtheners and a lacrosse ball in there and you’ve got yourself a mini physical therapist office!
That’s pretty much everything! Hopefully, you’ll find something here that helps you too. If you do, tell me about it @mintplaysthings! And if you like my writing, please consider donating to my Patreon or Ko-Fi. Thank you!