This year I’ve decided to deliberately slow certain tasks in my life down a bit.
All too often I’ve sought the quickest way to accomplish a task and I think after I turned 40 (I’m turning 42 this month), I’ve really started to question why.
Before, it was simply efficiency. So that I could find the quickest route to consume a result. This year I’d like to do things differently. I aim to be more present during this intentional slowness – more reflective – with the genuine hope that I become more in tune with myself. All of this is aimed at introducing more stillness into my life, with the hope that that could be a conduit to more of the same within myself.
Most of these changes will inevitably cause me to take more of a low tech approach to things, and I look forward to that. I’ve already got a couple pieces outlined that I hope to post on here. They are things I have been already doing in my day-to-day that are giving me more clarity, focus, and happiness.
One of the things I’ve always chided myself about over the years is the fact that I don’t drink enough water. Worse still, when I do drink anything, it’s typically coffee and the occasional cocktail – both of which dehydrate you further. I’ve tried several different methods to drink more water – carrying around water bottles, setting repeatable timers, using counter apps to count the glasses I’ve drunk in a day – but none of these strategies stuck.
I always figured there was an app out there that could remind me periodically to drink a glass, all the while keeping track of just how much I’ve drunk during the day. To date though, I’ve never found one that I felt was worth my money or, more importantly, ongoing attention.
That all changed though when I stumbled upon 1 Gallon a Day, a clever iOS app by Mathias Nilles. 1 Gallon a Day does one thing and one thing only: it prompts you to drink periodically throughout your day, whilst keeping track of the volume of water you’ve ingested. In short, it was everything I needed!
But the remarkable thing is, and it’s the reason I am writing this review, is that Nilles has created an app that makes the monotonous task of drinking glass after glass fun. With a colorful UI that is card based, you go into the app after being notified, swipe up on a card that fits the volume of water you just drank – small glass (8oz), large glass (16oz), or one bottle (32oz) – and tap the check mark. You are instantly greeted with a puff of colorful confetti and a progress ring that adds a bit more to the circle as you get closer to drinking your daily gallon of water.
It’s this delightful gamification that keeps you coming back too. You feel compelled to see that confetti fall and getting that ring to 100%! I’ve been using it for a week now and I feel great! The pace of the notifications won’t have you running to the bathroom all of the time and the tap targets in the UI are perfectly large enough that you can easily use the app one-handed while holding a glass or bottle of water with the other.
I’ve really enjoyed using it and it’s got me living a healthier lifestyle. Hopefully it’ll get you doing the same.
Back in 2013, I wrote a post about digitizing your life and getting rid of the dead-tree paper taking up space in your day-to-day. I’m happy to say that I am still using that exact same paperless system to awesome effect. But I’ve also since left my corporate job moving to freelance full-time and, if you’ve gone that route, you know that the one thing you amass in a short amount of time is the small stuff: business cards and receipts.
As a small business owner, you need to document your business expenses. No exceptions. After meeting clients for lunch, dinner, evening drinks, coffee, or purchasing supplies and buying hardware… it’s pretty crazy how quickly receipts can pile up. When I finally noticed it was genuine problem it was almost too late. A physical file system of tiny sheets of paper was clearly not sustainable. I was already misplacing receipts in my wallet, back-pockets, folders, my back-pack – to either be worn down and unreadable or worse, to go through the wash and become a small blob.
Without a doubt. I needed a quick way to archive this stuff.
There are a lot of scanner apps out there and I’ve used the bulk of them. Basically what they do is allow you to take picture of a document with your device and convert that picture into a .pdf file that you can store locally on your device, or in cloud storage. This isn’t going to be a review of those apps, this is a detailing of what I’ve specifically integrated into my workflow. Luckily I’ve only needed two apps to accomplish this. They are beautifully developed, fast as hell, and they are a genuine joy to use.
For Receipts? I use Scanbot.
Scanbot is an app for iOS and Android that does what a lot of other scanning apps do, but it does so with flare and style. UI and UX aside, it also is thoroughly exceptional at the following:
It has excellent corner/edge recognition to limit the cropping you’d have to do after snapping a pic of the receipt.
OCR. Any app that you choose should have the ability to OCR 1 the receipt/document so that its contents are searchable as a PDF document. Scanbot does this accurately and, most importantly, very quickly.
Contrast. Your receipt scans don’t need to be full high res. color pictures. Color adds unnecessary size to your files which can take longer to upload and open. Scanbot offers four options: no filter (full resolution), a color filter (image compressed/optimized), grey scale, and a straight up, high contrast, black and white filter. I use the black and white filter. Scanned receipts and documents are crisp and readable and this particular filter reduces the size of your scanned pdf’s to smallest size possible.
Cloud storage options. Once your scan is complete and OCR’ed, you should be able to quickly upload to your file system of choice in the cloud. Scanbot support nearly all of them. I have my current file system on Dropbox. A very appreciated bonus: Scanbot also offers one-tap shortcuts to upload files to a specific location in cloud storage. So if you have a “receipts” folder that you always upload to on your cloud solution of choice, you can link that up specifically so that after you scan your doc, you just tap that shortcut and it gets uploaded automatically to that folder. Fast, simple and convenient. You can also upload your pdf’s manually of course, but the shortcuts are a really nice addition.
Prepended Titles. Scanbot allows you to prepend your titles with a naming convention of your choice. So if you like to add the date of a receipt to the front of the title of your scans, you can do so automatically. This saves you time and gives you confidence that the repeatable stuff you always do to organize your documents by title is automated.
Security. On the app level, Scanbot offers password protection and (if your device supports it) Touch ID if you want to restrict access to the documents stored locally on your device. Open the app? It asks for a password.
Document options. Scanbot adds a lot of convenient features that allow you to augment your files after they’ve been scanned. Stuff like high-lighting text, password protecting your files on the file level, leaving comments to share, adding additional pages after the fact, and the ability to add a digital signature, are wonderful options that can take your pdf editing capabilities to the next level. All on a portable device too, it’s kind of crazy!
In short, Scanbot gets my full endorsement. I’ve used it for almost a year now, often daily, and it has eliminated so much friction in my business organization workflow that I honestly can’t stress it enough. I use it on receipts, hardware manuals, insurance policy documentation, monthly invoices… anything I need to file away and search for later.
The barrier to entry is low too. You can download the app for free, but with limited features. To unlock much of what I detailed above you need to buy the “Pro” module which you can get in-app after you download it. It’s only $4.99, and what it adds is invaluable in my opinion. Definitely worth the five-spot.
Relatively new to the scene, Scannable is Evernote’s answer to Scanbot. It’s sole purpose is to create digital documents and then share them. My only issue with Scannable is that it’s a little too stripped down for my use-cases. It does create digital documents to share quickly, but it doesn’t:
OCR them (unless you export to Evernote). It also scans them to .jpg files and I prefer the pdf format. UPDATE 01/26/15: As of a few hours ago, the fine folks at Evernote updated Scannable to export to either .jpg or .pdf formats! W00T!
Doesn’t offer color filter options. You just get color. Though it is optimized and compressed when saved.
Baked in sharing options are limited2. It does, however, allow you to auto-export to Evernote. Which is nice if you use it.
There is no in-app editing tools. None.
There are no prepended title options.
But, what it does do exceptionally well, is scan business cards.
It seems funny to have an app dedicated to doing such a small task, but Scannable scans business cards so well, it’s hard to pass it up. There is a caveat though. Scannable’s full potential hinges heavily on your use of Evernote. Which I do 3. I use Evernote as my space to put things that I need to permanently archive at a glance. Business cards fall into this category for me. But they might not for you.
Caveat aside, using Scannable couldn’t be easier. Put a business card on the table in front of you, fire up Scannable, it rapidly finds the edges of the card 4, snaps and loads it optimized in under two seconds, making it ready for you to share or export. If you do export to Evernote, it will OCR it on the fly so that it’s searchable within Evernote’s interface.
One added bonus! If you are a LinkedIn user it will also scan its vast user-base, find the business card owner and add any additional information from their profile to your scan! Complete with their profile snap, clickable email addresses, web site urls, and phone numbers. All beautifully formatted, looking wonderful in Evernote. You can even add them to your address book if you want. But if they are not on LinkedIn, you don’t get this additional feature, which is kind of a shame. It’d be awesome if it added the same exact fields that are on the card itself. Not to mention, LinkedIn isn’t always up to date.
But it’s hard to criticize an app that is free, that gives you this much. When it works, Scannable is kinda magical! And even when it doesn’t, it’s still incredibly useful.
Well, obviously I chose both. But everyone’s needs are different. If you can swing the investment, I’d definitely snag Scanbot. If not, and you are a staunch Evernote user, Scannable will take great care of you.
If two apps are too many options for this particular task, Scanbot does take excellent scans of business cards and it even auto uploads to Evernote too. It just doesn’t have the LinkedIn profile info injection, which I really like.
It’s also important to note that’s still very early days for Scannable. Evernote is a really reputable development house with a wonderful history of implementing user requests. So I am sure Scannable’s feature set will only grow with time.