Happy Monday, everyone!

We made it to the 13th issue! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️

📆 Today I’m featuring Andrew Rodebaugh and Michael Tigas.

Andrew is the creator of Mirror Journal. Mirror Journal is a digital journal designed around secrecy and self-reflection. Journaling may not be for everyone but I highly suggest you give it a try. It helps with organizing and prioritizing thoughts and along with self-reflection. Journaling is historically done with a physical notebook but a digital journaling product can offer a fun and useful new set of features. Mirror Journal offers features for securing enteries with a password and self-expiring enteries. Mirror Journal also allows self-reflection by adding notes to enteries. This is really great for adding emotions and thoughts about the activities that your journaling about. One bonus feature that Mirror Journal received in iOS 14 was Scribble. Now you can even hand write your enteries with an Apple Pencil 😊 I highly recommend checking out Mirror Journal if you are interested in journaling!

Michael is the creator of Focused Work. Focused Work is an app that helps you focus and structure your time effectively. Focused Work offers the ability to make focused work sessions by using timed phases for different activities (planning, focused work, break, etc). I’ve tried using the Pomodoro technique in the past but the 25 minute focus time just never worked for me. Focused Work offers a handful of different session types (stack being my favorite) that can work better for different types of work. The default sessions have focused work time that will range from 5 to 45 minutes but you can change them up to whatever works best for you 💪 My favorite feature is the ticking sound while the timer is going. While this may not be for everyone, it’s a nice reminder for me that I should get off of Twitter and keep working 😉 Focused Work also has some really nice widgets that compliment the app really well. Staying focused on work has been hard for me this year with so much happening in the world but Focused Work is really helping me stay productive when I need it!

👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.

Indie Devs

Andrew Rodebaugh

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Second-year Software Engineering student at Drexel University and creator of Mirror Journal

Michael Tigas

Melbourne, Australia

Freelance developer and creator of Focused Work

Andrew Rodebaugh


1) What is your name? Where do you live?

Andrew Rodebaugh and I was born, raised, and currently living in Philly.

2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?

I am currently a second-year Software Engineering student at Drexel University. I do freelance web development occasionally. My interests mostly lie in tech, especially web and app development. Along with robotics and electronics which was my leap into getting interesting in programming. I also am into coffee (formally a barista pre-covid), baking, listening to music, along with the occasional video game.

3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?

I guess so. I never really heard of the term until earlier this year but although I technically have an LCC (which I founded because I was too young to make an Apple Developer account at the time of my first app). I do all the creative decisions, code, marketing, and some of the art.

4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?

I started as a web developer in middle school which got me as a programmer for my school’s robotics team. App development was not really an interest of mine or something I tried until 2017 when Apple did their annual WWDC scholarship. So, I learned swift to create a hydration app that I eventually released and was able to go to WWDC17 which was a ton of fun. It’s what gave me the motivation/interest to try to create other apps.

5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?

Most of my indie dev time is during the summer when I have a ton more time. But I try working on developer stuff during weekends, but schoolwork is always a priority. Along with my mental health so I make sure that I am taking the time for myself to exercise, do stuff I enjoy, and spend time with friends/family. App development is something fun I do on the side, so I don’t want it to be a burden to me at all.

6) Mirror Journal - Journaling is such a powerful tool! What got you interested in journaling and what got you started on creating an app for it? 😊

Oh goodness, honestly, it’s a habit I should’ve gotten into a lot sooner. Because like you said it really is a powerful tool… just being able to turn your feelings, ideas, and experiences into words. To be perfectly honest I didn’t start journaling until I started testing prototypes of Mirror Journal. I think making an app gives you a different motivation to use it. But the reason I created a journaling app was because of the idea of self-reflection. I noticed how much my feelings/thoughts would change every year, month… heck within hours sometimes. So, I wanted to create a tool to keep track of how that changed and be able to comment/critique. So, it wasn’t necessarily an idea to make a journaling app, but I found that journaling was the best medium to communicate feelings.

7) Mirror Journal - I used to journal in a notebook because I liked being able to physically write my thoughts with a pen but Scribble being added in iOS 14 has changed things up for me. I love that I can write with my Apple Pencil inside of Mirror Journal. This isn’t really a question but I really hope this new ability helps journaling apps like Mirror Journal take off!

To be perfectly honest until you told me a couple of weeks ago about how you used scribble with Mirror Journal it wasn’t something I thought of much. But 100% I am glad this feature exists because it’s definitely a different experience using a pencil/stylus to write vs a keyboard. And I am glad iOS 14 gives every app this option now especially for something as personal as writing in a journal. Also, a lot less work for me as a developer 😅.

8) Mirror Journal - I think two of the coolest features are the expiring journals and locking journals from being read by others. These were two things I couldn’t do when physically keeping a journal. Were these features some of your required features when you started to make Mirror Journal? Did you have any weird/fun issues when trying to build these features? 🙃

Those are some of my favorites also… I think the expiring journal idea came first. I am a very private person with lots of secrets that I don’t want to get out 😂 and sometimes you just want to write things down… and you don’t want them to stay forever. The locking journal one was definitely a requirement though it was one of the later features to be implemented.

The trickiest part of making this app was honestly the UX/UI, especially with the locking. One of my original UI prototypes was like this really weird button labeled “👋 Swwwaaappp” (honestly there were a lot more emojis in the app originally, but I went for simplicity in the end 😂). When you clicked the button a certain way you set it to be clicked it would unlock your “secret journals”. It’s confusing but I swear it made sense to me at the time 😂.

Expiring journals were a pain and I almost removed the feature for that reason… let’s just say I’ve lost a lot of journals to this feature that was not intended to be lost.

9) Mirror Journal - The self-reflection feature is super cool! It feels a lot like giving a code review but to my thoughts 😛 I’m great at remembering to do this but it always feels great when I do. Did you try to recreate this based off of a process in real life journaling? Did anything change along the way from how you originally wanted to implement this feature?

This feature was such a pain to make but it was the entire idea for the app, so I had to do it and I am so glad I did. I modeled it from a note-taking software I’ve used for college. And was also inspired by Facebook Memories a little bit. It wasn’t really based on any real-life journaling processes because I didn’t really journal until I made this app. I feel like it would be more accurate to say that it mirrors my brain process when self-reflecting. But a more visual tool of that.

I think this was the feature that changed the least from the original idea/designs. I mostly just simplified it and made the interaction a lot more natural once I was testing it more.

10) Mirror Journal - Do you have any tips for our readers on how to journal or best journaling practices with Mirror Journal? 😊 I think I like how I use Mirror Journal but I’m sure there are some journaling techniques that I could improve upon!

Just write. Everything and anything. I would rather write too much than forget it later. I also like using headers to split up my thoughts. Sometimes I am creating multiple journaling entries at once and there is nothing wrong with that. The memories feature that reminds you of the journal entries you’ve written shows them 1 week later, 1 month, 6 months, and then after that once a year. Try seeing how your mindset, ideas, and thoughts have changed using the self-reflection feature… you may be surprised how much you grow in a year.

Also, I use the self-reflection feature to add on to journal entries when I know more information about the events that took place. Like if I talk about being nervous about let’s say a test… I will go back and write about how I did.

11) Mirror Journal - What’s next for Mirror Journal? Do you have anything on the roadmap that you’d like to share? 😃

Honestly, the roadmap is constantly changing, and I have a lot of ideas but not a lot of time. Recently I added themes to the app after I got a suggestion from a friend. But making the app more personal is definitely something I will continue to work on. Hoping to get it on more platforms also since the app is made with a cross-platform framework. But in general, I love where the app is at and I want to keep it simple to use. I don’t want to go overboard with features because I want the app to just make sense.

12) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What the most fun part of being an indie dev?

The hardest part… developing for other people. Honestly, I make apps for myself 😂 so it’s easy to design for yourself. You can tell at what point in my developing process I decide “okay this is good enough that others would want to use it” so you start seeing a shift in how the features end up/how the design looks. Something that I find obvious like that dreaded “👋 Swwwaaappp” button may make absolutely no sense to anyone else. So, you must give it to other people to try and see how they interact with it… the results may surprise you.

Fun part… I love putting inside jokes that only my friends will get. That’s a ton of fun. Also, once it’s done seeing how people interact and feel about your app. Because you have no clue… they might completely hate it. But when they do and tell you about how they do it’s just the best feeling.

13) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?

Haha, you’re doing great! Love the questions! Follow me on Twitter @andrewrodebaugh that is where I talk about all my coding relating stuff. Also, reach out to me if you have any questions or want to inquire about anything my DMs are open. I love helping other developers and trying out their stuff…so if you want any feedback on an app or anything I would love to help!

14) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?

Check out Sai Kambampati (@HeySaiK) he’s a really talented app developer who ended up also making a journaling app that takes a very different approach than mine. Also, a news app (Views 4) that I really enjoy using. He’s also helped me in the past look over my UI/UX and debug things.

Michael Tigas


1) What is your name? Where do you live?

Hey Josh 👋 I’m Michael and I live in Melbourne, Australia!

2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?

I’m a 28 year old app developer who’s been creating apps since 2014.

I graduated from uni in 2014 with a Bachelor of Applied Information Technology, which began with a mindset of wanting to build computers, and finished with unrestrained excitement to create apps for a living. 🔥🔥

After spending the next couple of years being responsible for a startup’s Android app, I went out on my own and began freelancing in mid-2016 (teaching myself iOS dev along the way).

I live and breathe anything and everything related to mobile & apps. From coding to architecture, design, marketing, strategy. I love finding ways to combine these areas to solve real-world problems.

Outside of apps, I live & die by the sword with my Aussie Rules football team the Collingwood Magpies ⚫️⚪️, and I’m also a huge Star Wars fan & FPS gamer (on PC - of course!)

3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?

Only for the last month, after launching Focused Work. I’m really excited to see where this path takes me! 👶

4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?

Lacking autonomy in client projects can be a little tricky to navigate, as there will be decisions made outside of your control. Some will be good, others not so much.. and it can be hard to improve project success with limited influence.

Creating my own apps resolves this problem, and lets me experiment with proven ideas that can be beneficial to the app and my knowledge.

5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?

Lately it’s been straightforward since I haven’t been able to move outside my 5km radius, nor am I allowed to leave the house for social reasons because of the pandemic lockdowns.

Work was a little quiet following the outbreak too, so splitting my new-found spare time with my girlfriend and working on my apps was easy! 😀

6) Focused Work - I definitely have focus issues so I’ve tried pomodoro in the past but everything felt forced for me. Focused Work is such a nice replacement for me! What got you started on creating Focused Work? Did you have similar issues to mine where pomodoro didn’t always work for you?

I totally getcha - Pomodoro’s have never, ever, worked for me, and they still don’t. ❌

I find them way too short, and since coding tasks mostly require a state of deep focus, 25 minute focused work blocks are too short. I do see the benefits of Pomodoro’s for shorter tasks, but longer time blocks work better for me.

Part of my inspiration behind creating Focused Work was to help me get smarter in areas of mobile apps outside of just coding. I felt the need to go and put my spin on what I think makes a great mobile app, after helping so many other people over the years do just that.

In the context of solving a problem, Focused Work initially began as a port of a Discord Pomodoro bot myself and a mate were using, that allowed for flexible work/break stage durations. It slowly iterated into the product it is today 🙂

I also wanted to write about the experience launching an indie app, so I made sure to journal every single day I worked on it and share my experiences afterwards. I’ve just started writing a couple of weeks ago, and I’m now up to Part 2 of my Launching an Indie App blog series!

7) Focused Work - How did you come up with the different default sessions? “Two Halves”, “Gap Time”, “Half”, etc. Are these other legit types of focus strategies? Or are these strategies that you found useful and decided to make default? By the way… my favorite is “Stack” 😇

The default focus session configurations included with Focused Work cover several different focus strategies I’ve found useful for a variety of tasks.

Some are named after actual strategies, like Pomodoro 🍅, and others named based on situations where you’d likely use it. For example; Gap Time 🍩, a 15 minute focused work block, could be helpful while cooking dinner and you’re waiting 20 minutes for something in the oven, giving you enough time to knock out a task uninterrupted.

Stack 🥞 (glad you enjoy this one!) is awesome for when you need to focus on moving a task forward in the first 50 minutes, and then spend the last 35 minutes winding things up.

I’d also like to add the ability to enter descriptions for sessions, so you can give them more context outside a title and emoji icon. Expect this feature addition sometime soon!

Two Halves 🤲 is my favourite, where you have two 45 minute blocks of work, with a 10 minute break in-between. It’s perfect for when I’m coding and doing content writing, with the mid-session break providing enough time to refresh my mind.

8) Focused Work - I don’t remember if the pomodoro timers I used past had the tick sound but I love love love that. I got distracted by Twitter the other day and that tick sound reminded me that I shouldn’t be doom scrolling 🤦‍♂️ Was this a feature you wanted to add from the start? Do you have any plans to offer any different tick sounds?

I actually didn’t consider adding ticking sounds until later on, since the Discord Pomodoro bot didn’t support audio. But it’s great for boosting awareness that you need to be focusing on a task, so I’m glad it’s helped you do that!

There’s something about the ticking metronome that helps with staying engaged on a task, but I’m also aware it’s not for everybody. My girlfriend finds ticking sounds extremely distracting, so thankfully she can reduce the ticking volume. 😛

I’d like to include more ticking sounds for sure, but would prefer to integrate Shortcuts support first. The thought of being able to leverage apps designed specifically for that scenario, like Dark Noise, is a sensible decision.

I’ve also added a feature into the app I call Distraction Awareness, which reminds you mid-session to stay on task with a blocking popup alert and knocking sound cue. Make sure to check that one out too!

9) Focused Work - This question probably doesn’t get asked much but… how long did it take you to get good at making beautiful gradients? 😛 For real, the gradients in Focused Work are so subtle but soooo gorgeous looking. My gradient attempts look so bad. Have you ever thought about offering a gradient course for people like me to take?

Thank you for the gradient compliment 🙂 Setting them up took half a day, but the tricky part was finding the correct colour palettes.

I originally went with a diagonal shade then switched to a vertical gradient, lighter at the top and darker at the bottom.

People have suggested parts of Focused Work take inspiration from the Shortcuts app, and they’re totally right because I loved how punchy its gradients are.

Although I don’t think a gradient course will get much attention, when I reach the gradients stage in my blog posts I’ll make sure to share deeper insight how I created them. 🌈

10) Focused Work - Was testing Focused Work different than testing other apps you’ve created in the past? I’m going to assume a good portion of your testing was actually also doing some of tests of your focused session types? Did you actually just use Focused Work while working on Focused Work? 🙃

I definitely did use Focused Work while working on Focused Work! Once I had completed the timer mechanism I actively began using it every day.

Looking at my journal log, this was on Day 52. And given it took 186 days until launching, I had tested the app for a consecutive 134 days. 😉

It was really important creating a Closed Beta, followed by a Public Beta leading up to the launch, so I could also cover all the ways I didn’t use the app. There’s a lot of moving parts behind the scenes so I had to ensure the UX was consistent.

11) Focused Work - Your widgets are so 💯 I couldn’t figure out which style I wanted to use so I just have all of them on my home screen right now 🤷‍♂️ What was your experience like with doing widgets for the first time? I know I got hooked and disappeared for two whole days just working on widgets. And I did not expect the current session widget to update every second 🤯 Is that even allowed?!

Thank you! 🙌 🙌 I’m the same, but am trying to make a conscious effort to organise them as I listen through episodes of AppStories!

With Focused Work widgets, on my home screen I have a medium Current Session widget in the middle and a Daily Goals widget at the top. It’s a perfect fit for me since I can always see my goal progression throughout the day, which keeps me conscious for whether I should run another session to complete another task and extend my daily streak. (I’m currently on a 15-day streak 🙂)

Building the widgets… well that was a rocky road! I launched a week before the iOS 14 GM announcement, so I thought I could smash it out in a week, but it took me three weeks until an update landed on the App Store.

In the end, I had to do the following to get from A to B;

  • Learn about App Groups
  • Learn how to migrate both my CloudKit and non-CloudKit persistent stores to App Groups, without breaking CloudKit sync (Focused Work is powered by NSPersistentCloudKitContainer)
  • Learn how Intents work
  • Learn how Widgets work
  • Figure out how to make NSUbiquitiousKeyValueStore share data between the app and widget
  • Deal with NSUbq edge cases for non-iCloud users
  • Correctly observe persistent history updates between the app, its extensions, and CloudKit
  • Deduplicate persistent store updates

And after publishing the app update, the app then immediately began crashing for everyone… 😭 It turned out the version of the BugSnag SDK I was using was causing the app to crash on launch. No crash reports came through because the crash reporting tool was crashing. Ironic!

It was all worth it in the end, and I made a Twitter thread sharing a quick sneak-peek video!

Per-second widget updates is a no-go based on the HIG, which mentions that Widgets operate as an independent process from the app, and automatic refreshes are pre-determined by the OS and/or Timeline configurations. So I had to rely on some black magic. ☠️

Since Focused Work was designed to run in the background for the focus session to progress, I soon realised I could update my widgets as often as I’d like! I could NOT contain my excitement when I discovered this.

12) Focused Work - What’s next for Focused Work? I saw something about macOS coming soon 😁 Anything else you got in the works that you can share?

I sure can! I spent the last couple days sorting feedback that’s come through the last few weeks, and I’ve decided I want each of the three next major app updates to focus on a key area. Productivity, iPad, and Automation.

1️⃣ The app is currently lean on productivity stats, outside of showing an average productivity rating from your last 20 focus sessions and storing notes. I want to leverage the data from each completed focus session, and turn it into meaningful information and insightful charts. It’ll be really useful to have a strong grasp on your productivity levels, to use as a baseline for improving your productivity habits.

2️⃣ I want to make Focused Work a first-class citizen on the iPad. So I plan to cover heaaaaaps of ecosystem-related improvements in this update and adopt more platform features.

3️⃣ Automation is code-word for Shortcuts & Siri 😉. Providing the opportunity to integrate Focused Work within existing workflows, or leverage Shortcuts to trigger actions when particular events occur in the app, will significantly expand the capabilities of this app. Ryan Christoffel couldn’t have said it any better in his MacStories review of Focused Work, in the closing section.

The final piece of the puzzle will be bringing the app to the Mac via Catalyst. I know Focused Work will be a total productivity banger with all of these improvements.

13) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What the most fun part of being an indie dev?

The hardest part - maintaining your motivation, optimism, and momentum every single day. It’s a mental game, coding is seriously the easy part. I view building great products as a marathon, not a sprint. So if these 3 areas are aligned for me I then become a raging bull at whatever I do.

The most fun part - being able to meet and chat with so many interesting people, even if they’re on the other side of the world! After following some advice from a wise mentor, early on I made the effort to DM every single person that followed me on Twitter. I’d send them a quick one-liner to kick start a conversation, and it was one of the two best decisions I’ve made.

Since launching my app there’s been so much to do every day I haven’t been able to continue it, but I do need to get back into this happen since I’ve experienced how beneficial it is.

14) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?

Make sure to check out Part 1 of my Launching an Indie App blog and say hi on Twitter!

I also want to share an important piece of advice, explaining the second-best decision from above that I made. If you’re thinking about how to get traction with your app early on in the process… Share, Share, Share!

Talk about everything and anything related to what you’re working on because if you persist with this effort, people WILL take notice and reach out to you.

When I first publicly revealed on Twitter that I was working on Focused Work, it was after I was able to finally push past my inner self-doubt of feeling like a fool because people won’t care if there’s no TestFlight download link (which was weeks away at the time).

I bit the bullet, and yes I was a complete fool for thinking nobody would care.

I had so many early adopters reach out wanting to try out the app, which meant I was able to compile a beta testing email list, and I made at least a dozen new friends from that thread. Some I still chat with to this very day, who continue to positively influence key areas of my app.

Try it out and send me a DM after you see results over a week or two. I’d love to hear your story 🙂

15) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?

Yes, go and follow each of the following indies! I met them from the thread I shared above, and they’ve been awesome ever since. 🙌

@simonnickel, @therealjamesryu, @anikaseibezeder, @SawyerBlatz, @j_t_saeed, @theandynadal, @r_alikhamov, @neil_jhaveri, @hkaju, @bobek_balinek, @bionik6, @jordibruin

I have another dozen more I can share, so DM me for the other handles!

Thank you to everybody who made it to this footer! You either spent the time to read or took the effort to scroll 😊

Make sure to visit https://indiedevmonday.com/subscribe to get an email of future issues!

And go to Twitter and give @IndieDevMonday a follow… or multiple follows if you manage more than one Twitter account 😜