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Thursday, December 21, 2017

We use apps every day but it's only those select few of these apps that truly become part of our lives. If you were to ask yourself "which apps can't I live without?", the results might surprise you, and the list may be shorter than you think.

There are so many productivity and social media apps that it's difficult to know which are enhancing your life and which of these apps are cluttering up your screen and wasting your time.

If I were to apply the concept of Minimalism when it comes to apps, I'd have none, right? Wrong. 

The apps I choose are based on my interests and my needs and I use each of them to make my life easier and calmer. Notice I didn't say more productive. I'm already hyper-productive, and for me, a complicated productivity app often has the opposite effect.

Some people thrive on waking up to 17 individual nag screens. I am not one of those people. A nagging, multi-faceted productivity app can cause stress and procrastination due to overwhelm. Too many to-do items creates a split focus and can result in not knowing where to start. Not knowing where to start can result in not starting at all. Getting nothing done while being bugged by multiple reminders? Not fun.

And ask yourself this question: when has a hyper-cluttered to-do list and frenzied multitasking made you more productive? I'm not talking about ticking off half-baked tasks and creating a fresh batch of new ones, I'm talking about true, focused productivity that results in quality, not quantity.

I always feel better when my to-do list is empty. The trick is not to fill it up with too much stuff at once.


Simple Shopping List

This is my go-to everyday productivity app. I use it for shopping lists and various recipe items but I will also use it for checklist items for other tasks. The biggest test of a productivity app is whether it gets stuff done. If I put something on this list, it gets done.

I often think of this simple list as my backup short-term memory. If I think of something, I put it on the list before I forget about it. I make sure I get it done, and it's gone, never to be seen again. Sometimes, basic is best.


You can create your own categories in this simple, colourful list app. I see this one as my medium-term memory. This is for projects and longer term ideas. I like this app because it brings a sense of fun to grouping ideas and tasks together. The playful nature of this app makes the list items seem like things I want to do, rather than things I have to do.


If you want a more full-featured productivity app, Wunderlist is simple, effective and easy to use. I use it mainly for keeping track of birthdays and various other items that require dates and reminders. If my web hosting is due in January, this app will let me know, so I don't have to wonder about it. I basically use this as a calender reminder app. There may be a better one, but I haven't found it yet. 


Kindle, Moon Reader, AlReader, Aldiko Book Reader, Kobo, Google Play Books

Pictured: Google Play Books
If you read a lot, you might want to add one of these apps to your collection. You can buy most paperback books in ebook format and read on the train, bus, in the park, wherever you like. I don't have a Kindle, however the Kindle app works on any PC or tablet. Just buy the book through Amazon and it will pop up on your Kindle reader. If you use Kobo, IBooks, Barnes & Noble or any of the other ebook sellers, you can use their compatible readers on your tablet, laptop or phone. If you prefer to use an independent reader, the best I have tried are Moon Reader, AlReader and Aldiko Book Reader.

Social Media


I don't really see Twitter as a productivity app. It's a place to say whatever's on your mind, play hashtag games and keep up with all that's happening in the world. I use it a lot. Perhaps too much.


I use Pinterest boards to collect decoration ideas, recipes and pictures of cute animals. It's almost like meditation, but with pictures.


Pedometer Pro

This app is great for tallying up steps and calories burned. It syncs with MyFitnessPal and removes the calories from your daily total so you know where you stand with total calories eaten/burned.

My FitnessPal

I don't use this app anymore. Then why is it in this list? Because I used it for a couple of years and it worked so well that I no longer need to use it. It's a brilliant app that gives nutritional information on food as well as calorie totals for the day. I probably will use it again for keeping track of fitness goals rather than food goals. This app syncs beautifully with Runtastic pedometer and you can also set it up to sync with bathroom scales and wearable tech items.


Hydro reminds you to drink water. That's it. It also has some useful graphs of water intake over a period of time and it helps to motivate me to drink water regularly. I don't mind this because I always feel better when I get my required water for the day. It helps to clear my head and increase productivity.


No, I don't mean the vampire books. Twilight is a screen app that protects your eyes from bright blue light, making it easier on your eyes when you're staring at a screen for long stretches of time. It also helps by modifying the light spectrum that disrupts sleep patterns so you don't stay up all night. I tend to stay up late anyway, but at least I know I haven't got harsh blue light keeping me awake.

How to Stay Calm

Just remember that if an app brings stress to your life, let it go. If it makes your life easier and feels expansive, treasure it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The day was hectic, but no more hectic than other days like this. It was the end of reporting / meetings / accounts season and I was stretched out, performing a variety of roles.

I knew I wasn't getting a lunch break today. This often happened once every few months or so. As a kind of consolation prize, the boss gets lunch.

The thing is, my boss and I are the only ones in the office. My boss knows from countless previous experiences that I hate, not dislike, but hate the food from across the street. The thought of it makes me gag and the last few times my boss ordered from there, I could barely eat any of it and felt sick afterwards. My boss knew this well and had promised not to order from that gunge hole again.

Let's get one thing clear. I'm not a fussy eater. In fact, people complain about how skinny I am and how I can eat pretty much anything. And I pretty much do eat anything, within reason. But the food from this particular place is truly, truly hideous. Disgusting. Barely edible.

So my boss says, "Hey, I know you hate the food from that place but I'm going to order from there anyway."

I was stunned unto silence, mulling the words over in my head. "I know you hate the food...but I'm going to order from there anyway."

My boss also knows that not twenty-five paces from this hell hole is the best, freshest, most awesome food in the suburb. Same price, but edible. My boss also knows that I love that place more than any other restaurant in the street.

The strange thing was, my boss just kept staring at me, almost challenging me, as if I was obliged to change my mind about how gross the food was and how I felt about it. I wasn't sure how to respond. There was nothing I could have said that I hadn't already said countless times before.

So I'm starving. I couldn't leave and I had no other option. I open the container and there it is: a huge mound of bloated, overcooked brown rice, some gross pieces of Fried Chicken and a slimy, wilted splat of salad in the corner.

I look at the Fried Chicken and the chicken looks at me.

It all became clear in that moment, as if the truth had been there the whole time.

I am that piece of chicken, and that piece of chicken is me.

That's what my boss thinks of me.

That's what my boss thinks I'm worth.

"I know you hate the food...but I'm going to order from there anyway."

It's a metaphor. It reaches out, permeating my salary reviews, highlighting the fact that my boss still gets my name wrong enough to be insulting, even though I'm the only other person there, even though I've stopped trying to correct every instance because there's no point.

It's the reason I'm forced to squeeze in a full week's work into a few days on a salary that my boss knows is not sustainable for my well-being. It's the reason why my awesome achievements (and they truly are awesome) are downplayed or downright ignored.

It's the reason I do much of my boss's work, at a fraction of the pay.

I am that fried chicken, and that fried chicken is me.

I wondered where my self-respect had gone. Perhaps it was nestled in that rice, waiting to be liberated.

And that was it. My watershed moment.

I don't want to be that goddamned chicken.

So I ate it, grimacing at every bite because I wanted to remember that moment. I wanted to sear into my memory the last time I let anyone make me feel devalued like this.

That was the moment I decided to leave. The moment I vowed to create something better where my value depends on my ideas and my performance, not some overseer's opinion. The moment I decided that I'm worth more than this, and to accept anything less would be to give in to that notion that what I want means nothing.

It was the moment I decided that no matter what happens, from this day forward, I will never be that piece of fried chicken again.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Aintree’s Ladies Day is a huge event on the UK racing calendar and a showcase for some rather outlandish fashions. Perhaps the fact that there is no dress code opens the field (as they say) to more diverse outfits.

Being from Melbourne, I am no stranger to horse racing or having a bet. Most of the time I go by the name of the horse. Sometimes I even win! Some people have their own system when it comes to picking a winner. It can be the colour of the silks or the look of the horse in general. Perhaps you are one of those people who know the name of the jockey or trainer, the history of the horse including the bloodline and what it had for breakfast. Like I said, I go by the name.

To avoid dignity blowout (see my post: 5 mistakes of racing fashion), here are some of my pointers for making a bold but dignified fashion statement at the races:

  1. Dresses and skirts – I recommend a hemline just above the knee. Stylish, not too long or too short. Bold is good, but go basic black or neutral on the top to balance it out.
  2. Footwear – A good stiletto can add to an outfit, but there is a lot of walking involved on race days: lining up for your lucky bookie, hobbling off to the viewing area and walking over grassy hills to find a nice vantage point. Of course, if the bookie queue gets too long, you can always use your phone to access online betting sites and avoid the rush! Either way, by the end of all this, you’ll be glad you wore flats or at least used some gel inserts!
  3. Fascinators are indeed fascinating. A skillful milliner can help you make a show stopping statement, so choose wisely. If you have the kind of gregarious personality that can pull off the Eiffel Tower look, wear it! And wear it well.
  4. Fake tan – On white skin, more often than not, fake tan tends to come out orange. If you have pale white skin, you may think it is better to be orange than to be white. Not so. It’s much easier (and more natural) to cultivate the ‘pale and interesting’ look rather than looking like an extra from a Willy Wonka movie!
Whatever you do, remember to be comfortable, stylish, and have a fabulous time!