My First Productivity Retreat

I just returned from a day and a half productivity retreat. Me, my wife, and some friends rented out an Airbnb and spent the time just working. I only checked email, DM’s, texts, and notifications for possible urgent matters. Other than that, I solely focused on working on my business.

I began working on things I hadn’t had time to work on this year. It felt so good and relaxing not being bothered and accomplishing something.

I highly recommend doing a work getaway like this for those who struggle with working from home. Ideally, I would’ve liked to make it longer, but this was a really great trial run.

Here are a few photos I took.

productivity retreat
productivity retreat
productivity retreat
productivity retreat
productivity retreat

Why I Keep Distracting Apps On My Phone

The productivity advice I want to put out online is simple – It’s that it’s okay to be human. No one is perfect. And I feel that most productivity advice online makes normal people feel guilty. There are ton and tons of articles and videos online that are honestly extremely similar. We’ve seen them all. Stuff like, you should have a strict morning routine, turn your phone off, delete social media apps or get off social media, and do nothing but “deep work”.

This is honestly great advice if you’re not a normal person. But not everyone has a virtual assistant. Not everyone is able to do “deep work” while their significant other watches their children 24/7. Some of us aren’t able to have set schedules. And let’s be real, normal people don’t want to delete distracting apps off of their phone or even get off social media.

Don’t let the typical productivity advice out there make you feel guilty for being a normal human being. I will say however, keeping distracting apps on your phone does require some discipline.

Either way, I wanted to share my thoughts on why you shouldn’t feel guilty and how I approach distractions on my phone.

1) My Laptop Is My Main Way To Get Work Done

Being that I’m a photographer and have to edit photos and what not, my laptop is the main way I get work done. iPads and apps are getting better at being able to make them the sole way to get most work done these days, but for me, I can’t imagine editing photos on an iPad. I’m way more productive doing most things on a laptop. I’m faster and more efficient.

Why do I bring this up?

Well, it’s because most productivity advice out there says to delete social media and other distracting apps off your phone. The idea is that you can always go onto your computer to access these apps and services.

Because I make my laptop my main source of getting work done, I do not want to check distracting things on it. I know that I will create a habit of distracting myself if I do. I would rather create a habit of only using my laptop as a means of doing work I want to do.

This does mean that you need to have the discipline of not checking your phone constantly though. Maybe keeping it in another room and/or bring strategic about how your phone gives you notifications for certain apps.

2) I’m An Introvert

Being that I’m an introvert, I don’t like most social situations. Even family gatherings. I know, I know. That probably makes me a terrible person, but most social gatherings drain my mental and physical energy. So for me, these times are perfect for me to pull out my phone and scroll through my distracting apps.

For the most part, my main distracting apps are Instagram and reading articles I’ve saved to Pocket. I hate being on Facebook, but I also use that time to check my Facebook groups and respond to people. However, even my Facebook is strategic. I’ve unfollowed most friends and Facebook groups. This keeps my newsfeed boring.

Now, I don’t just totally ignore people in social situations completely, but let’s be real, we all do this. You might even be reading this on your phone now in front of friends or family. The point is, this works for me. I absolutely don’t feel guilty about this. The only time I do is when I’m with my son or my wife. This leads me to my last point.

3) It Forces Me To Be Intentional

Keeping these hard lines or boundaries, allows me to be intentional. I want to know that being on my laptop means it’s time to get work done. Being on my phone means, I can also get some work done, but I can also be a normal human being an enjoy my guilty pleasures like Instagram. And if I want to decompress at night while in bed, I can do so too.

I understand that this does not work for everyone. I have friends that totally get distracted by their phone. Some of my friends have even got off social media for a while because they know how addicted they get to their phone.

For me, I view my phone mostly a tool. It’s a utility for me. But it’s also a fun thing for me to enjoy and appreciate. I can use it to get work done, communicate with people I love, or just enjoy some guilty pleasures.

Don’t let productivity “gurus” make you feel guilty. Be a normal human being. Be intentional so that you can enjoy life.

How I’m Ditching Evernote & Re-Organizing My Life

ditching evernote


I’ve been an Evernote user since about 2013. I went through many phases of using it because I could never really understand how to use it. After researching how others use it, I just couldn’t figure out how to use it in a way that made sense to me. I tried different layouts and different tags, but it always felt so frustrating to use.

Eventually, it became my “everything I can throw in it” app because I got lazy.

I had figured out a way to structure my documents for taxes in Evernote. Stuff like my receipts for deductions, etc. Even other documents like contracts that I needed to hold on to.

However, the one that I wasn’t storing in it was actual notes. It was too frustrating opening Evernote to actually use it for notes. It felt very overwhelming and bloated to open and look at. I barely opened up the app. Even after the “newly designed” look of the app from a few months ago, the app still had an ugly Windows/PC/Microsoft Word kind of look to it. As you can tell, I’m an Apple user. ?‍♂️ Nonetheless, for a company being around as long as it has, they’re not innovating in my opinion. The app feels stagnate as far as the features, look, and ease of use goes.

I had also been using Ulysses to write blog posts in. In fact, this post your reading was written in Ulysses. It’s a simple and powerful app. The main feature I love about it is the fact it can publish directly to my WordPress sites.


ditching evernote


So, when I needed to keep notes for projects I was doing, I began storing them into Ulysses. However, I don’t feel Ulysses is made for notes. I feel it’s better for long-form writing.

After being fed up with paying the high price of Evernote and starting to store notes in another app, I decided to finally try out Bear notes. I had been hearing a lot about how great it is for the past year or so. And let me tell you, I was very impressed and bought a subscription after a day of using it. Bear notes makes total sense to me. Using it allowed me to make sense of all my current systems. And it’s incredibly inexpensive at only $1.49 a month compared to the almost $10 a month I’ve been paying for Evernote.


ditching evernote for bear notes


At the current moment that I’m writing this post, I’m still not fully switched over to Bear and out of Evernote just yet. I’m still doing some organizing and moving around of files and notes. However, here’s how I’m going forward with using various apps and how I’m going to go about organizing files.




The plan is to move all my documents into a folder structure in Dropbox. This means stuff like documents and receipts I’ll need for taxes, contracts, etc. Basically, anything I’ll need to hold onto, but don’t necessarily need to access frequently. Eventually, I’ll create Hazel rules to file them into the correct folders automatically for me.




Documents with more sensitive information and stuff I may need to access in a very fast manner is going to be stored in my password app, 1Password. This is everything like insurance info, health records of me and my family, car info, etc. The app encrypts everything and makes me feel safe. I also have plans on creating a shared vault of this info so that my wife can have access to our important life-related info for myself, herself, and our son.




This app will be for strictly long-form writing only. Currently, I have 3 folders in Ulysses. “Ideas” will be for posts I’m currently brainstorming on. All other ideas that I haven’t begun brainstorming will be stored in Bear. “Writing and Editing” will be for posts I’m currently writing and/or proofreading. And “Publish” is for posts that are done and need to be published to my WordPress sites.




This will be meant for notes and how I should’ve been using Evernote. It’s to store project notes, ideas, lists, reference material, various things I need to remember for in the near future, receipts I only need to hold onto for a short period of time, and other admin types of things I want to remember for my photography business or this website and his isn’t sensitive information.




I use this app for sending articles I want to read later. If after reading an article I decide it’s something I want to hold onto, then it’ll get stored in my reference tag in Bear. One thing I forgot to mention is that after I started going through my reference folder in Evernote, I threw away hundreds of articles I had saved. So now, I’m going to very strict with saving articles.




This is something I’m still working through. I moved my someday lists I had in Evernote and created a board for them in Trello. I broke down lists based on categories of whatever it is related to. Some are related to photography or Christmas gifts, etc. I still haven’t found a way to use Trello that makes sense to me, but I do like the app. I just haven’t quite defined what hard lines need to be drawn with using Trello. Then again, I might just ditch Trello. Who knows.


So, this is how I’ve been transitioning out of Evernote. I feel like so much stress and frustration is being lifted off my shoulders. I can’t wait until I cancel my Evernote subscription and drag the Evernote app into the trash. It’s already deleted off my iPhone.

If you have a system that works for you using these apps, I’d love to hear how you’re using them. Let me know in the comments!