This blog’s wide range of coverage from Septuagint studies to parenting updates, from musings about the good life (and good music) to app reviews… is nothing compared to the amount of content my wife has to learn for her MCAT exam.
To help her prepare, she’s taking an MCAT prep course through Kaplan Test Prep. Here are some of the books I’ve seen her working through regularly the last months:
More specifically, she’s doing the Live Online MCAT Prep course:
The course includes many hours of live, interactive, and pre-recorded video instruction. I’ve also seen my wife take advantage of the MCAT Channel, which is live instruction above and beyond the regular weekly course time. Eric Chiu, Executive Director of Pre-Medical Programs at Kaplan, puts it this way:
And we’re the only company that offers the MCAT Channel. It makes available live instruction, six days a week: Monday through Thursday evenings, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons, as well as weekday summer afternoons. Students can log in to the channel if they need more help. This allows students to pinpoint where they need content review. We place our most expert (10 best, top-rated by others) instructors here. The MCAT Channel allows students to get questions answered in real time.
(Read more of part 1 of my interview with Eric here.)
Here are some more initial impressions from the course, courtesy of the course-taker herself:
- It’s well-structured and well-staffed
- It’s flexible, but to take advantage of the offering, it requires a significant investment of time–for the class, the homework, and the reading
- The staff are encouraging and available–they want to be in touch to help
- The online course has been technically smooth, even though we have an old computer (2008! going strong… sort of)
- The program and videos have all streamed smoothly
- There’s helpful information about applying for med school and AAMC updates
- Instructors are knowledgeable
- The course includes very helpful online resources with instructions and encouragement to use them
We’ll write more about individual components of the course later on, as well. Learn more about the Live Online MCAT Prep course here.
Many thanks to Kaplan for giving us access to the Live Online MCAT Prep course for the purposes of offering an unbiased review. More to follow.
Last week I finished watching every minute of David Sparks’s OmniFocus Video Field Guide.
Sparks covers all of the basics, and then some. You get in-depth tutorials on how to use Due Dates (sparingly!) or Defer Dates, navigating your way through Projects, what Contexts are and how to use them, keeping your Inbox clear, integrating OF with other workflows like email and TextExpander, and much more. From Capture to Review, the Field Guide has it covered.
There are two nice touches that I especially appreciated:
- Sparks is funny. You see him working on a project called Flat Earth Manifesto in the video. But he avoids the pitfall that some tech writers get into, which is being overly cute or annoyingly glib. He uses humor perfectly.
- He shows you some of his unique Custom Perspectives in OF. This alone may be worth the price of the field guide. I have already copied his settings that he shows to set up my own Perspectives like his. Even though I have been using the app for a good while now, and consider myself fairly proficient with it, my productivity with OmniFocus has definitely increased since adding these Perspectives.
As you can see in the above shot, you can navigate by chapter, and scroll through all of them to see a sort of Table of Contents of the whole Field Guide.
Here is a short clip so you can get a feel for the approach and content.
Learning OmniFocus is an investment of time. Some people will balk at spending money to learn how to use the software they already spent good money on. But for $10, with well over two hours of top-notch content, the serious OmniFocus user should get to this field guide as soon as possible. Easily 5/5 stars.
Find it here.
Thanks to MacSparky/David Sparks, for giving me a download of the Field Guide for this review.
A prayer for schools and students from the Book of Common Prayer, “For Schools and Colleges”:
O Eternal God, bless all schools, colleges, and universities [and especially ______.], that they may be lively centers for sound learning, new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom; and grant that those who teach and those who learn may find you to be the source of all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A new breed of task management app seems to be proliferating in the App Store as of late: the habit tracker.
The idea behind a habit-building app is not just to help you cross things off your list, but to actually build the kinds of repetitive practices you’d like to be a part of your everyday life.
Streaks is one such app, and perhaps the one with the most aesthetically pleasing presentation.
What I Like About Streaks
The first thing to appreciate about Streaks is its layout:
You can change colors from the default orange to 11 other options:
As you complete (or miss) habits, the app makes it easy to access statistics from the main screen with just a tap. Check this out:
The reminders are customizable, so they can be as obtrusive or unobtrusive as you want them to be, depending on what you need to get your habits in place:
Checking off habits is satisfying. You just hold down the circle till it fills in:
If you missed a day, Streaks knows it:
There are a ton of habit icons from which to choose, and they look better than any I’ve seen in other comparable apps (some of which are just icon-less lists):
Setting up habits is quite easy:
What I Found Lacking
Probably the biggest miss in the app is that there is no way to adjust a habit you forgot to check off more than one day ago. If you missed marking a habit yesterday, you’re all set, but you can’t check off habits you completed two days ago but didn’t note. I lost some streaks this way (at least within the app) when I was on vacation last month. I was completing habits, but not on my phone as often as usual; there’s no way to adjust to get your statistics to reflect such a reality.
I would love for future updates to Streaks to include some sort of sound when you fill in a habit circle. This is just personal preference, though.
Streaks maxes out at six habits that you can be tracking at a time. The developers have a reason for this–it’s hard to maintain more habits than that on a regular basis, but the limitation does not allow for as great user control as some other apps do.
One other lack: you can’t make a habit to do something, say, three times a week, without also having to specify the days. So I can have “Exercise” three times a week, but only if I assign days (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday)–I couldn’t set it up for any three days.
Final Words and Where to Get the App
Limitations notwithstanding, Streaks is easily one of the three best habit-tracking apps for iOS. It’s clearly designed with the user experience in mind, which makes charting habits through this app fun. As long as you can stay on top of tracking your practices each day, Streaks is a worthy aid in helping establish regular life patterns.
Find Streaks in the App Store here.
Thanks to the good folks at Streaks app for the review copy of Streaks, given to me for this review but with no expectation as to its content.
I ran a 5K today. Not my best time ever, but an improvement on recent times. It’s been a very long time since I’ve raced–I’d forgotten the energy boosts that come from family and friends (and complete strangers) cheering us runners on!
It’s Friday, so hopefully you’re winding down a bit and thinking about how to relax rather than how to be more productive–so file this away for Monday (or read it now if you work weekends).
Here are two resources–one paid and one free–to help stay on top of email and tasks.
1. Dispatch App
I’ve never understood the logic of apps that allow you to “snooze” email. Handle it once and move on, I think. Emails are often calendar appointments or tasks in disguise, and our Inboxes are no place to be keeping tasks. Inbox Zero is elusive (though see here), so an app that helps you get your Inbox messages into tasks quickly is appreciated. This is the goal of Dispatch app, newly available on iPad. Check it out here.
2. Free Podcasts from GTD
You might also check out free podcasts from David Allen‘s Getting Things Done:
Our GTD podcasts are here to support you at every stage of your GTD practice. You will hear interviews with people from all walks of life about their journey with GTD, from beginners to those who have been at it for years. The podcasts include personal and professional stories, as well as practical tips about GTD systems for desktop and mobile, using apps and paper. Start listening now and you’ll be well on your way to stress-free productivity.
Find the podcast page here.