Photos from WWDC Trip, Day 0

Yesterday, Sunday, I flew in to California for WWDC. Here are a few photos from my first day at WWDC 2019.


Even though the conference is in San Jose, I first flew into San Fransisco to meet with a friend for dinner.

At my layover in Las Vegas.

My WWDC travel bag. (Read here for more details.)

Outside Marlowe restaurant in Soma.


After dinner in San Fransisco, I hopped the Cal Train to San Jose and got in just in time to meet up with a bunch of other Apple nerds…

Stephen Hackett and me. (Photo by Mike Hurley.)

With Federico Viticci and “Underscore” David Smith. (Photo by Mike Hurley.)

Myke Hurley.


Side note… I forgot my iPad’s SD Card reader! And, to top it all off, there’s a bug with the Leica Q app on my iPad that is keeping me from being able to import photos.

So let’s just say my photography workflow this trip is a bit convoluted. Here’s what it looks like…

I am using the Leica Q app to connect the camera to my iPhone via the camera’s built-in WiFi. Then I transfer the JPG files over to my iPHone. And then I transfer them via AirDrop to my iPad where I can edit them.

Normally, I’d just plug in the SD card reader dongle and transfer the RAW files directly to my iPad. Ah well.

Photos from WWDC Trip, Day 0

A few days ago my friends at Studio Neat released a brand new notebook: The Totebook. And it’s fantastic.

The Totebook is about the size of an iPad mini. It has a soft cover (more on that in a second). And it’s dot grid (the only possible option).

As far as soft cover, iPad mini-sized notebooks go, the Totebook is the nicest one I have ever used. The whole thing just oozes quality unlike any softcover notebook I’ve seen.

And the cover. I don’t know what they did or how they made it. But the cover is awesome. It feels like leather. But it’s not leather. But what is it?

Now, I have to say that for me, personally, I’m not sure the Totebook will find a way into my daily carry. I’m a one notebook kind of guy, and that notebook for me is the jumbo-sized Baron Fig. But there are some very cool tricks in the Totebook that I sure wish the Baron Fig folks would borrow — such as internal page guides.

Despite it’s awesomeness, the Totebook is cheap! Just 2 for $20. And for further reading, you can, naturally, check out Brad Dowdy’s more in-depth review.

The Studio Neat Totebook

On Monday I officially ran out of feature ideas and improvements for Ulysses. Because the iPad app now offers split-screen editing, and it’s fantastic.

I mostly use Ulysses from my iPad, and this was the last remaining feature request for me.

I don’t need a split screen editor all the time, but it is something that I often incorporate as part of my writing workflow. Usually I will have an outline on one side and my working draft on the other.

Before Ulysses offered split-screen edition on the Mac version, I had a Keyboard Maestro macro that would open up a new editing window and re-size. On the iPad, if I wanted to do side-by-side document work, I would usually copy all the text from my outline out of ULysses and put it into Bear so I could work with those two apps in split view (since iOS supports it, but Ulysses did not).

The way that they’ve implemented split view in Ulysses is just perfect. There are lots of little nuances in it to make it delightful, and it feels just perfect on the iPad. It’s an excellent example of an iOS app feature done right.

And it’s power-user friendly, too, of course. You can use the keyboard to enable the second editor and switch between which document is in focus. Or you can drag a document out of your library and over to the “side” to open that document in the second editor.

(This is one feature that now makes me wish ever-so-slightly that I would have held on to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro instead of trading it in for the 11-inch.)

On the Sweet Setup, we put together a review of this newest version of Ulysses that also walks you through exactly how the new split-screen editor works and how you can use it.

(And, of course, if you’re a Ulysses user — or want to be — we have a pretty fantastic series of training videos for you.)

Ulysses for iPad Now Has Split-Screen Editing

Just a friendly reminder our spring registration period for The Focus Course is currently open for just a few more hours…

thefocuscourse.com/course

The Focus Course is a proven system that will help you:

  • Get control of your schedule.
  • Free up precious hours in your day.
  • Stop living in a constant state of overwhelm.
  • Keep the important things from falling through the cracks.
  • Get better at dealing with distractions and diversions so you can be present in the moment or focus on the task at hand.
  • Spend more time on what matters while delegating or eliminating the things that aren’t worth your time.

How long have you been trying to gain traction on your projects? How many hours of your day are you spending on things that truly matter? Are your relationships strained because of work or side projects? When was the last time you had the chance to truly rest and recharge?

The Focus Course walks you through all of that.

I’ve actually heard from a handful of long-time readers who’ve been following along from the outskirts with the Focus Course, but they said that life is at a point where they are finally ready to sign up and dive in.

If you’ve been thinking about the Focus Course, now is your chance to get access. But you will need to hurry, because I am closing the doors later tonight.

Here’s the link to the course page where you can then sign up to get instant access:

thefocuscourse.com/course/

Last Call: Focus Course Spring Registration Closes Today

Spring is upon us. Well, maybe. But that’s another story.

For me, when the seasons change, I often get the desire to reassess my goals and to make sure my time is being spent on the right areas.

As we are fast approaching the half-way mark of 2019, if you are looking to improve your schedule and be more intentional with how you spend your time, then The Focus Course can help.

There is an extreme amount of depth within the course. I walk you through the exact process for how to align your values, your tasks, and the time you have in the day.

What you’ll discover are the very same things that have helped me overcome that feeling of overwhelm, grow my career while doing meaningful work that I’m proud of, and have plenty of time to spend with my family and my personal interests and growth.

What I teach in The Focus Course is the very same content that has changed my life. (Not to mention it has changed the lives of thousands of others who have already taken it.)

And, as a side note, you might want to hurry, because registration is only open for the next few days.

We Just Opened Spring Registration for The Focus Course

Have you ever felt at your limit? Perhaps emotionally you’re feeling on the edge. Or perhaps there is little to no breathing room with finances right now. Or physically, you’re just tired and feeling overwhelmed.

We all need breathing room in our lives. As my friend James Clear says, that margin of safety acts as a buffer against the unknown and the unseen.

Over on The Focus Course blog, we just published an article about how to include in Margin as part of your decision-making process. It includes some questions you can ask yourself when you are setting goals and planning out your week or you month. It also includes a few bullet points to help you identify if you are good on margin or if you’re lacking it.

It’s a fantastic article, and it was written by my production manager, Isaac Smith.

Check it out: How to Include Margin as Part of Your Decision-Making Process

Consider Margin

Noise Cancelling Headphone Review Showdown: Sony XM3 vs B&O H9i

A few months ago I bought two pairs of noise-cancelling headphones:

  1. Sony XM3
  2. B&O H9i

First of all, noise-cancelling headphones are amazing! Where have these things been all my life?

Secondly, it’s safe to say that both of these headphones are fantastic.

These are arguably the two best pairs of noise cancelling headphones on the planet right now.

When I set out to get a pair of headphones, all I wanted was:

  1. Incredible sound.
  2. Something that would be comfortable to wear for several hours in a row.
  3. Something that could cancel out annoying background noise of people talking and kids running around in the next room.

I read tons of reviews. Watched all sorts of comparison videos. Asked around to different friends who already had headphones of their own. Even spoke directly with my friend Marius who wrote our own comparison review of these same headphones for an article on The Sweet Setup.

Now, what I should have done was simply pick one of the above two pairs of headphones and move on with my life.

But no. for whatever reason, I couldn’t just take other people’s words for it. I couldn’t just pick one and trust that it’d be great. I had to compare them for myself… Whatchagonnado?

I spent 29 days comparing them both and using them both. And to be honest, these two headphones are pretty much neck and neck.

There are subtle differences between the two. But the differences are so small that no normal person should bother themselves taking the time to obsessing over the small details between these two sets of headphones.

But, let’s be honest. We’re not here because we’re normal.

No, we’re here because we’re nerds who have been known to obsess over the details that nobody else may notice.

So, okay then. Let’s dive in.

Sound

I like a clear sound profile with full bass. And this is pretty much what the B&O headphones sound like out of the box, though I like the bass turned up a bit more.

After listening back and forth between a bunch of my favorite albums with both the B&Os and the Sonys, I think the sound quality is just about equal between the two. And by that, what I mean is that both of these headphones sound amazing and you will be able to EQ either of them to sound exactly how you prefer.

Both headphones come with an iOS app that allows you to adjust the EQ and sound profile. The Sony app has much more control and lets you really fine-tune the EQ to get exactly the sound profile you want.

The B&O app leaves much to be desired in terms of setting your EQ. They call it “ToneTouch” and basically all you can do is move an orb around inside a bigger orb to find a balance between “Warm”, “Excited”, “Relaxed”, and “Bright”. Which I’m honestly not even sure what those mean.

However, between the iOS Music EQ presets and the B&O Sound Profile settings, I’m able to get a pretty great EQ mix for the H9i.

Above screenshots: I have my iOS Music App EQ set to “Classical” and the B&O app’s ToneTouch set to the “Bass” preset, which puts the orb between pretty warm and excited. (Don’t look at me; I didn’t choose those labels.)

To adjust your EQ presets in the iOS Music app, go to the Settings app → Music → EQ.

I was curious what the actual Classical preset was doing. So, I went to Apple Music app on my Mac, where you can select a preset but then also adjust the individual levels. This is what the Classical preset levels look like on Mac:

Above: I like the Classical preset on iOS because (assuming it’s the same as on the Mac) it boosts both the bass and the treble. I wish I could push the highs up a bit more, but this is good enough.




Noise Cancelling

Neither of the headphones eliminate all noise. I had heard such crazy reviews and testimonials (especially regarding the Sonys) that I somewhat expected them to eliminate the sound in a room down to nothing at all. And, sadly, while they do work well they don’t work that well.

When comparing them side by side the Sonys were somewhat better for noise cancelling. Both sets of headphones cancelled out the same types of sounds — but the Sonys seemed to reduce ambient sounds by a few more decibels than the B&Os.

An example of a real-world use: About a month ago we had a late-season snow storm, and around 10 in the morning my neighbor got his snow blower out in order to clear his driveway. My office window is about 30 feet from my neighbor’s driveway. His gas-powered snow blower sounds like a lawn mower. I put my headphones on and I could still hear the engine gurgling. But then, I turned on the noise cancelling and I literally could not hear the snow blower at all. Pretty amazing.

Lastly, one thing that is important for me is that neither of the headphones cause any sense of pressure on the ear-drum (like the Bose Quiet Comfort headphones do).

Comfort

For me, the comfort issue ultimately comes down to the headband padding.

Alas, I don’t have much hair left on the top of my head, and what is left I keep pretty short. So whatever headphones I wear, it helps if there is extra padding on the headphone band.

In this regard, the Sony headband is just a bit softer than that of the B&O, thus making the Sonys a bit more comfortable. But for long-term usage, it didn’t really seem to matter.

After 3-4 hours of wearing either pair of headphones, I will get a bit of discomfort at the crown of my head where the headband rests. And so, alas, if I had more hair then I think maybe this wouldn’t be an issue for me.

Build and Style

No comparison here. The B&O are gorgeous, high-quality, and built to last.

The Sonys look nice and have some cool brass accents, but they also look more generic; they don’t have the quality feel that the B&Os do.

I also can speak to the overall quality of B&O in general.

I have a different, 4-year-old pair of B&O H7 headphones that I have used constantly since I bought them in 2015. I have traveled with them all over the country — never once putting them in a case — and they still look and sound brand new. The only reason I am “upgrading” to a new pair of headphones is because I wanted to get active noise cancelling.

Bluetooth Pairing

Look. If your headphones don’t support multi-device pairing then they’re doing it wrong.

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

  • You sit down at your Mac or iPad to do some work.
  • You put on your headphones or AirPods.
  • But they pair with your iPhone that’s in your pocket.
  • So you go to the settings app on your aforementioned Mac or iPad and get your headhones to pair with the device you’re actually in front of.
  • Repeat every day.

Imagine instead a scenario where you sit down to do some work, you put on your headphones, and they are automatically paired with the device you’re using. Because they can pair with multiple devices at once! I can tell you: it’s wonderful.

The B&O H9i headphones can be paired with multiple devices at the same time. When I turn them on, they simultaneously pair and connect with my iPad and my iPhone. Then, whatever device I play music from, or watch a video from, etc. They just work.

I didn’t realize how incredibly helpful and frictionless this was until experiencing it. In fact, after having this “always connected / it just works” experience with the B&O headphones it has made my AirPods feel outdated. (I can’t believe Apple didn’t include multi-device pairing in the recent AirPod update.)

In contrast, the Sony headphones can only be actively paired with one device at a time. Like an animal.

Other Tidbits

  • The B&Os have an accelerometer feature where they can pause your music if you take the headphones off, and then they un-pause the music when you put your headphones back on. However, in my usage, it was always getting false positives and it was super annoying. Fortunately you can disable the feature — though it’s an incredibly obscure process that you would never know without reading the manual or searching for a solution. I’m not sure why this isn’t at least a toggle within the iOS app.

  • The stated battery life on the Sony is 30 hours compared to 18 hours for the B&Os. I never really did an in-depth test of the batter usage. But since February I can only recall one or two times that I’ve charged the B&O headphones, and I wear them for a few hours every workday. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that they get plenty amazing battery life for me.

  • USB-C! Yay. One less cable that I have to carry around and use. And it means my iPad can charge them.

  • The Sony headphones fold up and collapse better than the B&O headphones which, well, don’t really fold up at all. The Sonys also come with a nice, hard-shell carrying case. The B&Os come with a cloth bag.







My Pick: The B&O H9i

After all my comparing and side-by-side usage, I went with the B&Os.

To sum it all up for my preference as to why:

The B&Os sound better to me. They are full, with lots of clear bass while also having a natural and clean sound.

The B&O headphones have a much better build quality than the Sonys. Plus, they look cooler.

While I do think the Sonys had better noise cancelling, it wasn’t enough to tip the scales.

And, of course, there is the fact that the B&Os can be paired with multiple devices at the same time! As I said in this section above, multi-device pairing removes a huge point of daily friction which ended up being one of the big things that pushed these headphones to get the win.

If you’re on the hunt for the best pair of noise cancelling headphones you can buy, then my suggestion is that you get the B&O H9i and enjoy.

Noise Cancelling Headphone Review Showdown: Sony XM3 vs B&O H9i

Over on The Sweet Setup, Curtis McHale wrote a detailed comparison between what we think are three of the best note-taking, writing, and research apps: Ulysses, Bear, and Apple Notes.

Now, I realize there are LOT of other apps out there in this space. I can think of several other excellent apps right the top of my head. But we chose to focus on three apps that are most commonly top-of-mind for most folks right now.

For me, personally, it’s no secret that I use Ulysses for just about everything. (I’m writing this very link post in Ulysses right now.) I also use Bear quite a bit — as my central spot for “throwaway notes” such as shopping lists, errands, and other tidbits of short-term data. I would prefer to use Apple Notes, but its UI is a deal breaker for me.

Ulysses, Bear, or Apple Notes?

If so, then I’d love your feedback in this brief survey.

Why? Well… there are some ideas that I’ve been mulling over at The Sweet Setup, and it’s time now to begin moving forward with making something new.

Of course, before we get started, I would love your feedback.

So, if you have 3 minutes, then would you mind providing your feedback on this brief quiz? Your opinions and ideas would be invaluable. Thanks!

Do You Get Email?

Todd Henry’s Challenge Stability Matrix

Todd Henry Herding Tigers Workshop

Last week my production manager, Isaac, and I went to a workshop hosted by Todd Henry. And it was absolutely incredible.

(I’ll tell you more about the workshop in just a second.)

Todd is the author of Accidental Creative and an absolute inspiration to me personally. He does so well at articulating the challenges of creative life while offering truly helpful solutions. A few years ago I was able to connect with Todd for an interview discussing how to thrive under creative pressure, how to stay creatively focused, and the “myth” of work-life balance.

Todd’s workshop here in Kansas City was from on his book most-recent, Herding Tigers, which is all about leadership. (Todd has an online course version here.)

Specifically, the workshop hit on the challenges of leading a creative team.

Since the creative process is largely opaque — with a lot of complexity and intricacies that aren’t always obvious or measurable — then there can be a natural pressure and strain within the workplace.

Needless to say, I took copious notes.

So. Many. Notes.

One thing I especially loved, which was brand new to me, was the Challenge / Stability Matrix.

As a leader, you need to ensure that your company, your team, and each person within your team has the proper balance of challenging work plus stability.

This balance is unique for each team, as well as unique for each person.

You have your own needs and definitions for work that you consider challenging. And you also have your own different needs for what helps you feel stable and supported to do that work.

As you increase a team members challenges at work, you also need to increase their stability. Otherwise people will feel as if you are expecting things from them without giving them the resources they need. They will feel angry.

With the proper balance of challenge and stability, then people will be able to thrive.

Todd Henry Challenge Stability Matrix

This balance of challenge and stability is variable for every organization as well as every person on your team….

If someone on your team often acts irrationally angry, then perhaps they don’t have enough stability.

Or if someone is always asking for more work, then perhaps they are not being challenged enough.

Consider yourself, your co-workers, those you lead, and ask yourself if there is the proper blend of challenging work along with the stability needed to be able to thrive.

Todd Henry’s Challenge Stability Matrix

Productivity and Promises

Your productivity and your moral character are not intertwined.

Meaning: Getting things done does not make you a good or better person. And, conversely, failing to be “productive” does not make you a bad person.

Now…

There is, of course, a connection between your character and your follow-through.

If you tell someone that you will do something, or if you commit to something, then, of course, you want to follow through on your commitment. You want to keep your promises.

So, in that way, productivity is a means by which we can consistently follow through on our word and our commitments.

But productivity can only be connected to our moral character in as much as it helps us to be the people we have set out to be.

But this has gotten blurry. Because many “productive type things” get thrust upon us by other people. People who have expectations which they’ve projected upon us without our consent!

They want us to reply to their email within their desired timeframe. Or they want us to be available on Slack when they need us. Or whatever.

And then they have the audacity to be disappointed at us when we do not meet their unfair and un-agreed-upon expectations of what they consider to be “productive behavior”.

Well, shame on them. We had better things to do.

Productivity and Promises