My Daily Habits for 2019

Now that we’re about four months into 2019, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at the habits I’ve defined for my year. I’m leaning into Habitify as my habit-tracker of choice, and so far things have been going really well. I’m not trying to change my entire life; I’m simply trying to commit to small steps that I expect will add up over time (see all of Atomic Habits by James Clear).

I’ve got four habits I’m working on this year:

  1. Devotions (Bible reading & prayer)
  2. Exercise 5x/week (30-minute+ session)
  3. Journaling in Day One
  4. Reading (20 pages — again, thank you, James Clear)

This might sound like a lot, but like I said it’s actually going pretty well so far. Here’s a quick update:

Devotions. Thanks to The Bible Recap, I’m cruising through the Chronological Bible and retaining more as I listen to the daily podcast. Adding in my church’s 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer (from January), and I’ve found my prayer life is a lot stronger, too.

Exercise 5x/week. I’ve been loving Fitness Blender’s free workout videos on YouTube. Daniel and Kelli know their stuff, but they’re also super down-to-earth and encouraging. Highly recommended. Plus, I’ve been training for the Traverse City Bayshore Half Marathon, so that training schedule has me knocking out my exercise ring 5–6 times each week almost by default.

Day One. Taking another page from the James Clear playbook, I’ve been aiming at journaling one sentence each day in Day One. Recently I’ve also started using this iOS shortcut to go through a reflection time at the end of each day.

Read. This has been a strong suit for me all year. I’ve got a non-fiction book (Make Time) and a fiction book (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) going at the same time, and this has worked well for me. I’m also chipping away at Thomas Stanley’s The Millionaire Next Door when I think of it. I’m working my way through a physical stack of non-fiction books, while I’ve been reading the Harry Potter series on my Kindle Paperwhite (I just upgraded to the latest model).

One habit that made my initial list for 2019 but never stuck is writing. Inspired by writer Austin Kleon, I really want to make daily blogging a thing in my life. My first inclination is to say that I don’t have time to make it a highlight, but then again I’m not so sure. I think if I can master the discipline of a 5 AM wake-up call, that could be my time to knock out 300–500 words before work. I’ll keep you posted.

Various Loog Pro guitars in different colors and configurations

The Loog Pro Guitar

I began learning the guitar sometime in high school, and one Christmas I was fortunate to buy a Martin DC1-E acoustic-electric, and I’ve been playing on & off ever since. Sadly I don’t play nearly as much as I used to. But I have a feeling that’s about to change.

I have a three boys, and my oldest (6) is starting to take an interest in music. So when I brought up the prospect of reviewing a Loog Pro guitar, he was thrilled. And when it showed up in candy apple red, he was ecstatic.

Half the Strings, All of the Sound

What makes Loog unique is that it makes its sound with just the top three strings of a normal guitar (G B E). With fewer strings and a narrower neck, it’s far easier for kids (and adults!) to master chord positions. And I have to say: curling your fingers into the right configuration on the fretboard is one of the most difficult aspects of learning the guitar.

Loog Guitar for iOS

Loog was made for my kids’ generation. The guitar has a free iOS companion app, and it features a whole family of friendly monsters, one for each chord. Each guitar also comes with a set of fun chord cards featuring these characters, and a handy carrying pouch, too.

Screenshot of Loog guitar companion app running on iPad
The Loog iOS app home screen.

The Loog app has an integrated tuner (of course), video lessons, songs to learn, games to play, and a “wall of fame” highlighting YouTube vids of Loog players playing their favorite tunes.

My son does not want to play the Loog guitar without the app, and I think that says something.

Back to the guitar. You might be thinking: Three strings, that’s fine, but what if I want to learn how to play a real 6-string guitar? Fear not. When you’re ready to make the move to the more advanced 6-string version, the fingerings will translate perfectly.

Likes & Dislikes

So the boy and I have had a few pseudo guitar lessons, and I asked him what we thought about the Loog Pro. Here’s what he said:


  • That it does the chords for you so you can hear them.
  • The bright red color of the guitar body and that it looks like a rock guitar.
  • The Hall of Fame section of the app where you can see videos of people playing the Loog.
  • Likes lining up the guitar chord cards — favorites are B and Bm because of those particular monsters.


  • Would love to have an electric version. (Such a Loog does exist!)
  • See-through version.
  • Have someone showing “how to really rock” on the Loog guitar.

Closing Out This Review

Growing up, friends of mine had 3/4 sized guitars, and I still maintain that’s probably the ideal way to learn a regular 6-string guitar. But playing the guitar is complex, and taking half the strings out of the equation is indeed helpful. For that reason I think Loog is just a terrific beginner’s guitar for kids and adults alike. It looks great, it plays great, and most importantly, it sounds great. Most folks will be off and running far faster than they would on a standard guitar.

The Loog Pro Acoustic Kids’ Guitar starts at $129, or you can check out the Loog Mini Guitar, which retails for $79.

Mini-Review: Burkley Snap-On Leather Case for iPhone XR

I got an iPhone XR in blue on launch day, and in the weeks leading up to that I’d been on the lookout for just the right case (I’m normally a case-less guy, but with an all-glass back, I’m not messing around). Apple had been, and to this day remains silent with regard to any sort of first-party cases, so I was obligated to look elsewhere.

I looked at a bunch of different options, including:

In the end I landed on this leather case by Burkley (Saffiano Navy Blue version linked; mine is in distressed coffee brown), and it’s just beautiful. At press time the case is absent from Burkley’s online store as they are making a few design tweaks for re-release.

Burkley iPhone case
The Burkley Full Leather Case for iPhone XR.

Okay, I’ll be honest, I didn’t love the texture of this leather case at first. I guess I’m a bit sensitive to texture (looking at you, Fast Company cover stock), and out of the box I found the overall feel of this Burkley case a bit rough/off-putting in contrast to an iPhone’s typical smooth metallic or glass surface.

However, after a few weeks of wear and some further review, I’m loving how this case looks and feels. The sides where I hold the phone have already started to pick up a rich patina from my finger oils (is there a better way to say that?) and the back has gotten some nicks and scratches that give the case some truly unique character. Any roughness seems to have faded away, leaving a smooth, clean finish.

The coffee brown color of this Burkley leather case complements the iPhone’s blue finishes, both on the camera/flash cut-out on the back and the buttons/speaker inlays on the side and bottom. And I love the Burkley buffalo that’s stamped into the leather at the very bottom of the case.

At $50, this was not an inexpensive option, but to me it was well-worth the purchase. I plan to keep this phone for at least three years, and this Burkley case is both protective and stylish.

Creating and Organizing My Little Office Library

As I mentioned in my post last week, I recently added five new physical books to my library. Once they arrived, I thought it would be fun to gather up all the business-y type books that have been gathering dust on the bookshelf in our basement at home, bring them into the office, and display them as a “Little Office Library,” of sorts.

And here is the result:

No one’s taken me up on it yet, but I’ve offered all of the books up to my colleagues for borrowing (even the ones I haven’t read yet).

The Master List (Organized by Height)

‘Homecoming’ Is Too Good

A couple weeks ago my wife and I binge-watched a TV show for the first time since our kids were born: Homecoming, an Amazon Prime Original.

Homecoming was based on the Gimlet Media podcast of the same name (is this the first time that’s ever happened?), and it happens to be Julia Roberts’ television debut. And it’s fantastic.

It’s not scary. It’s not gory. It’s not gratuitous. But Homecoming is pretty darn unsettling. Much has been said about director Sam Esmail’s directing style, and without spoiling anything, I can say that Homecoming is as Hitchcockian as it gets in 2018.

The camera angles. The spooky orchestral soundtrack (man, there are so many trombones). I even found the main title and credit sequences a bit off-putting. Homecoming is so good.

There are 10 episodes, each somewhere around 25-35 minutes long. We watched the first five without batting an eye, and if it hadn’t been for the threat of children waking us early on a Saturday morning (let’s face it: every morning), we might have watched all ten right in a row.

You are going to love this show.

Save a Few Bucks with Boosts on the Square Cash Debit Card

I stumbled across this the other day and thought it was pretty cool. I’m a long-time Square Cash user (now called Cash App), but I didn’t know much about the Square Cash Card, a debit card that’s tied to the funds in your Square Cash account. Using a Cash Card could be convenient, but we typically empty our Cash account balance after each incoming transaction.

Now I have a reason not to do that. Square is offering “Boosts” on the Cash Card that give discounts at participating stores & restaurants — Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, and Whole Foods, to name a few.

One boost in particular caught my attention: $1 off at coffee shops. Um, yes please! I don’t typically go in for $5 lattes, so $1 off goes a long way for me. And with a minimum spend of only $1.50, I could be sipping someone else’s java for less than a buck.

Here’s another awesome Cash Card detail: you get to create a design that’s laser-etched on the card itself (I’ll post mine here when it arrives). I used my Studio Neat Cosmonaut to write my initials, and then I selected a coffee cup graphic to go with them. Super cool.

Want $5 free to load up on your Cash Card when you give it a try? Sign up for Square Cash and we’ll each get $5.

books on a windowsill

Five Physical Books I Just Bought On Amazon (And You Should, Too)

We don’t have a huge house, nor do I have a giant bookshelf at work, so buying physical copies of books is something I have to be a little thoughtful about.

Don’t get me wrong, I love physical books. To me there is something so special about opening a book whose cover and content have been well-designed and conceived.

(I will concede that reading ebooks on a Kindle is both enjoyable and practical, plus you can find awesome deals on great books — all the time.)

But when I spend money to own physical books, they must have been recommended in multiple places or have such an intriguing subject matter that I feel I just have to own them.

And there’s been a glut of such books lately! I’ve been keeping an Amazon Wish List this summer/fall, and recently I went ahead and bought them all.

So without further ado, here are those five physical books I can’t wait to dive into right now (in no particular order):

1. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

If you’re not reading James Clear’s weekly posts, what’s wrong with you? His writing is so well-researched, clear, and concise — it’s very impressive. Don’t believe me? Take less than a half hour and watch this video. You’ll get what I’m talking about.

2. The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King

No public figure has had a greater impact on my life than Mr. Rogers. His gentle demeanor, quiet leadership, and considered speech are something I aspire to every day. But all I really know of Fred Rogers comes from the episodes of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood I watched on PBS as a kid. I know there’s much more to his life, and I’m so excited for this one.

3. Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp & John Zeratzky

To be honest, I can’t remember where I stumbled across Make Time, but I joined the authors’ email list and have been waiting for the release ever since. I know I shouldn’t, but I do judge books by their cover. For the topics I read, a book’s cover says a lot about what the author values, so I find them helpful. This one fits the bill.

4. Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers

This one was a Shawn Blanc pick for his Focus Course Book Club, and Shawn continues to reference this one again and again.

5. It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Yes, yes, I’m a Basecamp fan, so if its founders write something, I’m probably going to read it. Thankfully I don’t work in a crazy office — we have pretty good work-life balance here at Hope — but I also want to make sure we don’t get that way! Looking forward digging into Jason and David’s latest.

One-Click Bluetooth with ToothFairy by C-Command Software

I’m a sucker for inexpensive, well-conceived macOS utilities, and at $3, ToothFairy by C-Command Software certainly fits the bill. I learned about the app from the show notes of this week’s episode of Mac Power Users.

I’m always switching between Bluetooth audio devices on the Mac, usually sending music to my AirPods, Bose SoundLink II over the ear headphones, or even my Amazon Echo Dot. Unfortunately macOS doesn’t always do a great job of connecting and switching between them.

ToothFairy lets you create little menubar icons for each of these devices and then toggle them on and off as you wish:

Device Icons in ToothFairy
Customizing your device icon in ToothFairy.
AirPods icon in the menubar.
ToothFairy fills in the AirPods icon to let you know it’s active.

And ToothFairy works great. I’ve been testing it for the past few days and it’s been super solid. Snag it on the Mac App Store for around $3.

The Doxie Go SE

In the past I had the opportunity to review both the Doxie Go WiFi and the Doxie Q, and this time the folks at Apparent sent me their newest scanner, the Doxie Go SE, for review. As the name implies, the Go SE represents an incremental evolution over the Go WiFi design.

But it’s more than that. Simply put, the Go SE my favorite Doxie scanner yet. Let me tell you why.

Hey There, Good Lookin’

First off, I do prefer this form factor over that of the Q:

I particularly like Go SE’s rounded corners and edges. There’s a certain warmth and friendliness to that style of industrial design which feels right at home here in 2018.

And the stickers. Now I don’t mind if you want to adhere labels on your product to help educate the user on unboxing, but those dang things better come off when I need them to. Thankfully that was my experience with Go SE: they came off clean as a whistle.

A Quick Scan

We don’t often have huge stacks of paper to scan in — thank goodness for statement PDFs delivered via email — so a single-sheet feeder works just fine for our needs (compared to the Doxie Q’s tray feed system).

With Go SE you’ll be scanning in documents face up, and they go through the rollers fast. I also appreciate the nice, but firm tug you experience when pre-feeding your paper into the scanner.

In terms of transferring scans to the desktop, I’m always partial to using an SD card because my MacBook Pro still has an SD card slot (that will not always be the case). Thankfully one version (in this case, the one Apparent sent to me) of the Go SE offers a WiFi transfer option like its predecessor.

What’s New?

Here are a few additional changes I noticed with Go SE, as compared to the previous models:

  • Go SE has a replaceable battery (🙌🏻) and it no longer requires a power block/brick for charging. Just plug the included cable into any USB port and you’re good to go.
  • The scanner will take a wider sheet of paper, possibly even the A4 format used for sheet music, which is a big bonus for me. I’d love to go all digital with my sheet music.
  • There’s an SD card in the box, and it packs 8 GB of storage.
  • You can transfer scans via a new USB tethered mode.

Wrapping Up

As I mentioned earlier, Doxie Go SE comes in two models ($199 and $219). Both can transfer scans over USB or via an included SD card, but only the more expensive $219 model can communicate with your computer (or iOS devices) over WiFi.

(I should also note the current Doxie promotion on Amazon. At press time your Doxie Go SE will ship with a bonus pair of Doxie socks, so that’s fun.)

For the moment I don’t need the WiFi option, but I can see it coming in handy as laptops (Apple’s machines, anyway) continue to abandon everything but the latest USB-C ports. And at only $20 extra, I think it’s a solid investment in future-proofing your Doxie Go SE.

C’mon people, go paperless! With the exception of just a few legal and other important documents, there’s just no reason to keep stacks of paper lying around and cluttering up your home. Good luck, and happy scanning!

The kind folks at Doxie were gracious enough to provide me with a complimentary Doxie Go SE unit for the purposes of this honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Panobook by Studio Neat

I’m back with my review of another brainchild from Tom & Dan, the good guys at Studio Neat in Austin, TX. This time it’s the Panobook ($20), their latest Kickstarter success and the first notebook from SN.

The Panobook first caught my attention for its form factor — depending on how you’ve got it set up, it’s both taller than most notebooks in “portrait mode”, and its girth in landscape surely suggests the origin of “pano” prefix in its name.

In short, the Panobook is exactly the note pad you’d expect from Studio Neat, as it is both beautiful and functional. Let’s take them each in turn.

Hey There, Good Lookin’

First things first: according to the specs documented on Panobook’s insert, the front & back covers are Neenah LaCrema 617 Charcoal on 50 pt Black Chipboard. I’m no printer by trade, so I won’t confess to know much about what that paper description means, but I can tell you how it looks & feels: dang good.

The cover stock is smooth to the touch, like a soft leather. And it’s thick. You won’t worry about throwing Panobook in your backpack — it’ll be just fine.

cover the Panobook

The insert itself is a sort of minty green, replete with suggestions for how to use the dot grid paper (more on that in a moment), a type size reference to help with sketching layouts, and as I noted before, list of specifications for the notebook.

And lastly we have the dot grid itself. You get 50 sheets for a total of 100 pages, and at 71 in.² per page, you won’t be hurting for writing space. The grid paper itself reminds me a lot of my favorite bound journal/notebook, the Baron Fig Confidant.

If you feel like going full Mister Rogers with regard to the Panobook, check out this video Tom & Dan shot on their visits to The Odee Company, their printing & manufacturing partner in Dallas:

Making It Work

At first I didn’t really know where Panobook would fit into my workflow, but now that I’m using the Baron Fig Planner 2018 to capture my “Big 3” tasks for the day, Panobook has become the perfect “right hand man” next to the Logitech K780 on my desk. Here’s what I’m using it for:

  • Writing out checklist items for to-dos I need to finish in one sitting
  • As a tally sheet for recruiting calls & emails
  • For capturing new to-dos at meetings
  • While planning out schedules and timelines

And what’s more — I’m not even utilizing the neat little touches Studio Neat designed into each page:

  • Subtle corner guides for drawing three portrait-orientation rectangles or six smaller boxes (think storyboards or thumbnail sketches)
  • Notches at the midpoint of each side of the grid that allow you create four equal sections on the page

So I’m not going full tilt with all of Panobook’s design affordances (yet!), but I do think I’m going to grow into it. And when I’m done with this Panobook, I’ll store it safely in the included slipcover, make note of its lifespan, and move on to the next one. I’ll be happy to start a fresh Panobook in the future, and Studio Neat even offers an option for buying them in a bulk 3-pack or on a subscription basis.

Panobook in the Wild

As I was preparing to write this review, I thought it would be fun to scan Twitter for mentions of how folks are using Panobook now that it’s out. Here are some of my faves:

Putting This One on the Shelf

If you like nice things (who doesn’t?) and don’t mind paying for them, you’ll be happy with the Panobook. I’ve found it to be super versatile, and I look forward to seeing the next paper good designed by Studio Neat.

The kind folks at Studio Neat were gracious enough to provide me with a complimentary Panobook for the purposes of this honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Andrew Meyers

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