My 7 Favorite Apps for Staying Sane in Batshit Crazy 2020

2020, it isn’t your fault, but you really do suck. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

I’ve missed friends and family, traveling, normal nights out for dinner and a movie, and a gazillion other little things, and with these times being unprecedented, my primary answers to the first 6 months of the 2020 craziness were work, more TV than usual, and too much screen time on my phone. Not too inspired.

A couple months ago, I decided I needed some new technology to help me get out of my reading-too-much-news, sitting-on-my-ass-too-much, not-being-with-other-people-enough funk, and I’m happy to report that my new “sanity apps” are helping.

TLDR folks: the apps are linked below. This article is a little long, but it’s written with enthusiasm and love for anyone wanting to make their lives a little better in this crazy ass year. So…here we go.

When I was looking for new apps, there were 2 things I wanted them to do:

  1. Help me form good habits
  2. Help me quit bad habits

I was also hopeful that I might have the good sense to try to form good habits that would actually, well, be good for me; and perhaps enough self awareness to choose a couple bad habits that I actually had a prayer of cutting out of my life for the better. This is a long-term play, but I’ve enjoyed the process and results so far, so I thought it was worth sharing.

My 2020 Sanity Apps

Without further ado, here are my 7 2020 Sanity Apps.

The first 6 are actually part of a group of 6 apps called the Growth Bundle. Reviews of the bundle of apps haven’t been stellar – the main complaint being some of the apps are very similar. While there’s some truth to that, I’ve found using the different apps for different purposes to be very helpful.

Incidentally, “Jenny”, whose company Treebetty created the Growth Bundle, seems pretty cool and her company was selected by Apple to participate in an event for women entrepreneurs. She also built several adorable apps for kids 5 and under.

The Growth Bundle Apps

App 1: Done “is a simple habit tracker. It helps you create healthy routines by setting goals, tracking your progress, and motivating you with streaks/chains, all in a simple, clean, package.”

I actually found Done before the Growth Bundle because I was looking for an app to help me to track micro resolutions, or small changes to daily habits. I read the book I linked above years ago, and have tried off and on since to implement it in my life.

A few of my daily Done habits include doing chair poses, pushups, walking up and down all our stairs, starting on my new habits before picking up my phone…little stuff that I can easily do every day. I’ve also added in habits for playing music and making art at least a little bit every day. There are also weekly habits (write for work) and monthly habits (write on my blog), which helps to keep those less urgent but still important recurring to-dos in your routine.

RESULTS: My exercise habits have helped me to shed a couple inches around my middle (no weight loss), and I might have a touch more definition in some muscles, plus my good cholesterol has gone up a bit.

My creative outlet habits have helped to keep me energized for everything else in my life.

I’ve been using the Tally app to track food and water intake. Specifically, I track how many heart-healthy foods I consume in a day (I count both my algae omega 3 supplement and a glass of red wine as 1 each) with a goal of consuming at least 7 servings a day of heart healthiness, and at least 7 16-oz glasses of filtered water a day.

App 2: Tally: “Whether you’re trying to track how many times you ate vegetables this week, how many cups of coffee you drank, or whether or not you took your vitamins today, TALLY can help you get where you want to go.”

RESULTS: Obviously, I make no claims as to the applicability of my results to others, but my cholesterol count has gone down by 30 points over 2 months by pursuing this habit.

TIP: If you’re looking for heart healthy food that’s easy to include in your diet, try oatmeal in the morning with fresh fruit (I like bananas and blueberries), flax meal and chia seeds. We buy organic versions of these items when available. I also occasionally put in a spoonful of maple syrup. Based on recommended servings, I count this breakfast as 4 heart-healthy servings in one meal.

App 3: Do is a really simple to-do list keeper. You can create either single item lists or project lists. I put the important things I’m likely to lose track of in there, and it helps me to have those items separate from my daily deluge of emails and meetings. I like it because it’s REALLY simple, but has a couple useful bells and whistles.

RESULTS: There isn’t a lot to say here, but I’ve completed a couple dozen important things that I probably would have otherwise forgotten about or not done in as timely a fashion.

TIP: Do is where I’ve begun to see the benefit of the Growth Bundle. I’ve tried a gazillion different “getting things done” tools. Do is the first one I’ve stuck to, because it’s in a folder with the Done and Tally apps, which I use multiple times a day. I recommend you keep your bundle in the same app folder, too. If you aren’t familiar with app folders, you can create them by dragging one app over another. This works in both Apple and Adroid phones.

App 4: Last is very like Tally, but instead of helping you track how many times a day you’ve done something, you track how long it’s been since you’ve done something. You can also enter the cost of the bad habit to you in terms of either time or money.

For example, I’m trying to quit eating after 8 PM. So every time I cave in and eat something after 8 PM, I go to Last and click my “Eating After 8” icon. My “last time” clock resets at that moment. I hate opening Last to make an entry, but I like opening it to see how much time or money I’ve saved by not doing something for X days in a row.

Here’s an “I wish” for Last: I wish it offered more “cost” categories, or better yet, the ability to create your own cost category and cost units (X dollars, hours, etc.) for each bad habit.

RESULTS: The longer my “last time” is for anything I’m trying to stop doing, the motivational it is for me to see it in the Last app!

Grateful app screenshot

App 5: Grateful is a gratitude journaling app. You can add pictures, and there are a few different prompts you can use to get you started.

As I shared in my first post, my first wife died in 2009, which led to me taking a Positive Psychology course from the University of Pennsylvania to help me get myself back on track.

Gratitude journaling was one of the top 10 proven methods from that course for increasing resiliency and happiness with one’s life. I enjoy the Gratitude app because it makes it easy to get the journaling process done, and again, it’s grouped with all the other apps, so it’s in front of me multiple times a day, reminding me to be grateful for what I have.

NOTE: If you’re aren’t familiar with positive psychology, it’s the science of what works to help people to thrive and live well, and how to help others to adopt what works for others so they can also thrive in life. Think of it as the polar opposite of traditional psychology, where the object is the science of treating psychological illnesses.

App 6: Moody: “Log a mood in seconds. Optionally log a note, photo, activities and the weather as well.” There’s also good reporting tied into the Moody app.

Logging a mood is actually very in line with the “Labeling” meditation method, which is typically used in conjunction with another style, like focusing on your breath. For example, if a thought distracts you during breath meditation and you become aware of the distraction, you label that distraction as “thinking” and ‘gently’ return your focus to your breath. This method is intended to accept and move on from your mind’s distractions with no judgement as to the distraction itself.

Along the same lines, if I’m feeling…well…moody, I log it in Moody, and return my attention to my work, or play, or whatever. In essence, this app reinforces my work in App 7.

Balance app

App 7: Balance: This is the last app in my 2020 Sanity app folder, and the only one not created by Treebetty. Balance is by far the best meditation app I’ve ever tried. The guided meditations are both intended to help you to learn how to meditate, and also there are some great meditations for specific purposes, some of which you can see in the screenshot to the left of this paragraph.

RESULTS: In short, Balance is helping me to let the stressful moments of 2020 go. Focusing on my breath for a few moments when I’m experiencing an angst-filled moment does wonders for both taking me out of that stressful spiral before it gets in a groove, and also getting me back on track with whatever is more important than the stress of the day moment that was about to set me off.

TIP: One of my Done daily tasks is meditation on Balance. This interweaving of the different apps helps it all to be a single practice, as opposed to 7 different apps in a folder on my iPhone dashboard.

Well, I should probably wrap this up. I’ve already gone longer than most people will care to read. I hope my story gives you some inspiration for ways you can get a little more out of this incredibly unusual and difficult year.

Hit me up on LinkedIn or Twitter if you have any questions or want to share how you’re getting through 2020.

Best,

Mac

Mostly Bootstrapped Startups in The Great Lockdown

topsy-turvyLife during The Great Lockdown is topsy turvy. I don’t have to explain that to you any more than I have to check GoDaddy to know thegreatlockdown.com was snapped up long before I became aware some clever person coined that term for the COVID 19 pandemic.

Speaking of feeling topsy turvy, I’m confused by never being in the office somehow morphing into a feeling that I’m always at work because suddenly, my home is the only place where I can work. And I can’t compute wanting to hug someone who I haven’t seen in a long time, while also feeling repulsed by the idea of being close enough to hug that person.

One thing I can easily understand: I’m more fortunate than millions of people across the US and around the world. Some of the things I have to be thankful for:

  • my friends and family remain healthy and safe
  • I have a comfortable home and enough to eat
  • I can wear a mask to the grocery store without someone fearing I’m a criminal
  • no one from my company has been laid off
  • essential workers bravely continue to go into work every day
  • and so many more blessings in this time of great hardship for many.

Please forgive me for going on; there’s one more thing I want to share from my gratitude list, and it’s a little specific. Bear with me. I promise I’m going somewhere with this.

In essence, I’m grateful because I work in a mostly bootstrapped startup.

It’s been hard – occasionally very hard – to succeed as a lightly-funded startup competing with companies that have raised more than $10mm in outside capital. But that “lightly funded” part was often the difference-maker for us. We had to be thrifty, we had to sacrifice, but someone – literally an Angel in many cases – always had our backs when we really needed help.

There have certainly been moments when I’ve wished we were located in one of the major startup hubs, where capital seemingly has flowed to growing startups like the mighty Mississippi flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. Smart people have said human beings are lazy by nature — we prefer easy over hard. True to human form, I would have preferred “easier” and “more,” where fundraising is concerned.

However, I’ve come to realize there is a big silver lining to being a mostly bootstrapped startup during The Great Lockdown: we are used to doing more with less. These may well be times when being used to Struggling can be a gift, and being used to Easy can be a curse.

Mostly bootstrapped startups seek out inexpensive office space, use plastic folding tables for desks, and decorate our breakrooms with hand-me-down furniture. We’re careful about every decision we make, because we know we have less cushion for costly mistakes. We have to hire slowly because we have no other choice. We have pot luck Christmas parties instead of extravagant ski trips. We keep our focus on doing the right little things for long-term growth because we don’t have the cash to blitz the market about everything we’re doing right.

And, mostly-bootstrapped startups have people who have our backs when we most need them to.

Suffering and death are happening all over the world as I write this, and this is an article about being grateful for experiences that can best be described as a white man’s observation of limited First World problems. Hence, it’s time for me to wrap this up.

I’m genuinely sorry for startups that have gone bankrupt because their funding has dried up. I ache for people who have been laid off or lost someone to COVID 19. I’m a little sad for a future in which startups don’t have as easy access to capital, and Unicorns with crazy ideas will become rare once more.

But I’m oh-so-grateful that mostly bootstrapped life has prepared my startup to survive, and perhaps even to thrive, in these difficult times.

I hope there might be something about The Great Lockdown, some aspect of life that is incredibly difficult for people today, that will make us all stronger when we’re on the other side of this crisis.

In the meantime, may we all be fortunate enough to have the strength and find the resources to be someone else’s Angel, to help them be mostly bootstrapped. Maybe topsy turvy will work for us, and while we’re more separated from each other than we’ve been in any other moment of history, now will be when we realize how much we need to come together.

On Life and Startups

What do you say to re-introduce a website that hasn’t been active in nearly 10 years? The basics, I suppose.

My name is Mac Bartine, and I’m a high growth startup CEO living in Knoxville, TN with my wife and twin step-sons. I like lots of different things – including growing businesses, and I enjoy thinking, talking and writing about my passions.

Primarily, in this blog I’ll be writing about my experiences in entrepreneurship and my intention to live well in the time that I have. And, I’ll share resources I find that help me in those pursuits.

Life…

As I mentioned before, it’s been a while since I used this domain for anything. Beginning in 2007, I used bartine.com to inform friends and family regarding the progress of my then wife April’s struggle to survive breast cancer.

After 2 years of being an inspiration to everyone around her, working full time until she went into the hospital for the final time, and going out with a party instead of under a physician’s care, April passed away in August of 2009 at the much-too-young age of 35, and I stopped writing here shortly thereafter.

I share this part of my life so you know I’ve seen the valleys of life, just like you and everyone else. We can all agree: those periods suck. I can also attest that the valleys – whether personal or professional – still have their moments and are worthy of our attention, so I won’t be skipping over them here.

Fast forward to today: I’m very happily re-married to an amazing woman, have twin stepsons who I adore, and we’re a successfully “blended” family – the boys’ biological dad and I even coached their basketball team together a few years back! Life is good.

Noah, Jill and Owen

It’s taken me 10 years to return to writing about what’s important to me, and I have to say: I’m excited to be back!

I credit the fact that I’m generally happy these days to very good fortune and to my study of psychological research.

Specifically, I’ve studied and am interested in peer reviewed research on what has been proven to help people to thrive and live well, which is also known as the “Positive Psychology” field of study.

You can count on me bringing in research and facts to my posts here, and I’ll welcome good resources you suggest as well.

A few years ago I combined some of my favorite life lessons and positive psych research into a response to a question on Quora, “What are the top 10 things I should experience in life?”, which got picked up as an article by Inc.com. I wouldn’t say that article encapsulates everything I believe is truly important, but it’s a good list if I do say so myself, and I expect to occasionally expand on some of the article’s 10 subjects here.

Summing up, I want to write here about life and all its facets. I may also occasionally share a personal creative project that I’m particularly excited about at a given moment in time.

Startups…

My first real job out of grad school in 1996 was at a startup that made statistical process control software. The company had a creative solution that customers liked, was filled with talent, and was battling to win against bigger companies with worse technology. You could say it was a classic startup experience.

While that company didn’t “make it”, the time I spent there gave me the startup bug, and I’ve stoked the fires of that passion ever since.

Over the last 23 years, I started multiple solopreneur businesses, had a lot failures and a few successes, learned a little about business management, more about working with people, and a lot about promoting products and ideas online.

In 2010, I became a partner in a great digital marketing agency called VIEO Design. There, I learned a lot more about business and the importance of having a great team. Nearly 10 years later, I’m very proud to remain a silent partner at VIEO. They’re better than ever with a variety of clients ranging from advanced aircraft manufacturers to thought leadership in the psychology of influence.

In October of 2015, I became CEO of SmartRIA, a SaaS (software as a service) startup that simplifies compliance for the wealth management industry.

I was fortunate to take over leadership of SmartRIA after our founder spent considerable time and money to build a solid beta version of the software and get dozens of trial accounts in use.

Nearly a year later, we officially launched in August of 2016 and had 39 paying users by the end of that year. 2 1/2 years later, we have grown to thousands of paying users and our reputation within our industry is growing rapidly.

I’ve learned several very interesting lessons at SmartRIA, had some great victories and plenty of failures too, and I expect to discuss some of the best moments that are appropriate for sharing here. More frequently though, I’ll be talking about the high growth startup experience in general, and sharing what I observe to work well to solve problems in the startup environment.

Combine the Two: Life and Startups

What I really want to think about and write about here is where the subjects of living well and working in a high growth startup environment intersect. Sometimes, they mix like oil and water. Sometimes, they come together like the best birthday party guest list ever.

I’ll also write about regulatory compliance, the arts, and other topics that are important to me and my business.

Here’s to living well and starting up new adventures!