Tag: productivity

  • Bad Habit Projects

    Author Preeti Chhibber pretty much nails it, in her How I Work interview on Lifehacker:

    … I have a very bad habit where I start a lot of projects at the same time, and I end up with four podcasts, several blogs, and all these things.

    Me too, Preeti. Me too.

  • In 2 Minutes or Less

    In 2 Minutes or Less

    Here’s something to live by: If it takes 2 minutes or less, just do it.

    Got an email that you can reply to in 2 minutes or less? Hit reply and, well, reply, getting it out of your inbox and – more importantly – out of your mind.


  • Writing a journal

    Writing a journal

    I’ve been writing a journal for a long time. It started with text files on my computer, an overpriced 386 tower in my teenage bedroom, the keyboard within reach from my bed. I wrote a lot back then, as I do now, and why bother getting out of bed, really? Ah, teenagers…

    I’ve never had a physical journal. The thought never even occurred to me. If I’m gonna put down these words, I figured I’d want them digital and not faded over time or forgotten somewhere. So it’s obviously extremely ironic that I’d lose my earlier journals to a smoking hard-drive. I wasn’t upset, it seemed fitting at the time.

    These days, when I write a journal, it gets synced to the cloud. That too will burn, or at least evaporate, one day, but for now it feels at least slightly more secure. I could add additional layers of protection, just manual exports that I’d store someplace semi-safe, a fail-safe, but up until now I haven’t bothered.

    You see, I write my journal for myself. No, I don’t want it to go up in smoke again, but if it did, I wouldn’t be upset. I’d just keep doing it. This is partly because I feel safe enough with the setup, obviously. It’s interesting to look back, and any modern journaling app (I use Day One, despite its obvious shortcomings and the subscription business model) will give you “on this day”-things, like a Timehop but not just photos and stuff you shared with everyone. If you put your innermost in your journal, that’s what you’ll get hit with every day.

    Sometimes that hurts. People pass away, feelings too, and you’ll get that, raw and possibly at the absolute worst time, but there you go. That’s life. I find it reinvigorating, that blast from the past. Even if it’s about a shattered marriage or a friend lost way too early, I’d rather remember it and feel again, than just have it lost to me. Which is easy to say now, writing this, because I’ve had days when I’ve wondered why the fuck I’m exposing myself to past sorrows again and again. But there you go, it’s for the better, I think.

    I write a journal to settle my thoughts. Just a couple of lines every day, which isn’t really every day but close enough. That’s what works best for me, the solution that gives back the most, somehow. I’ve tried doing weekly journals but I’m generally too disconnected to what I did this morning, so remembering how things went down six days ago is a challenge. Perhaps one worth taking head on, it’s a good exercise, but that’s not what I’m after when I’m writing in my journal.

    I want to face what I’ve done and what I’ve experienced. That’s the thing, I believe.

    What happened?

    How did I react?

    Who did I hurt, who did I help?

    What good did I do for the world today, and how does that balance out the bad?

    I’ve come to think a lot about things like that. Depending on who you are, and what position you’re in, you affect so many people. Your family, your friends, but also your co-workers, and anyone you interact with during your day. If you’re a dick at the coffee shop you could ruin somebody’s day. If you whine about someone not understanding something in the check-in at the airport, then you’re not exactly contributing to society, are you? Everything you do have consequences. Most of those consequences are irrelevant, some just appear so because you just don’t know better. So trying to be the best you possible isn’t such a pompous thing after all. At least that’s what I believe. Which doesn’t mean that I’m succeeding at living my life like that, but I can only try, and that’s true for you too.

    Thinking about my day, just processing it and putting it down in words, possibly a photo or three (I’m pretty into photography at times, as you might’ve noticed), helps me be a better person. Or rather, it helps me realize when I haven’t been, and perhaps do better next time. That’s the plan, at least.

    I’ve written things I’m not proud of, because I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I’ve forced myself to accept things I really didn’t want to believe. I’ve lied to myself for days, because I didn’t want to accept the truth, but ultimately journaling has forced me to face situations head on, and go from there. Done right, this is both easy and hard.

    Or maybe you live your life better than I do. That’s always a possibility.

    I’m keeping two journals. The one I’m talking about above is private. You can’t see it, no one can. It’s for me, it’ll die with me. I don’t want anyone to find those words, ever. Some things should disappear, like conversations they’re ephemeral when no one remembers anymore. There’s beauty to that.

    The second journal is my lifehack to write more. You might’ve seen it, it’s public on this very site. It’s not as personal obviously, but I do want to be honest in there, much like everywhere else. This particular journal exists for two reasons, one coincidental, and one very much calculated.

    The blog is dead. Remember that nonsense? That said, yes, social media has ripped a big hole in the ecosystem that I stepped into back in the day, when sites like the Blog Herald (where I ended up the editor in the end) had something to write about. It was a thing, the blog and the tech behind it – no matter what publishing solution you preferred back in the day – really did help democratize online publishing. Your words might’ve been at the mercy of search engines, but that’s nothing compared to the Facebook algorithm or soap-boxing to deaf ears on Twitter.

    There’s a movement today, about reclaiming your online self. I’ve written about this so many times that it’s boring even me, but it is as important today as it ever was. Don’t be the product, be yourself. That sort of thing. So there’s some buzzing going on, some “we’re doing this now, look at us”, and some genuin reactions based on actual realizations. I don’t care what camp you’re in, if you’re doing your own thing, owning your online presence first and foremost, then I’m in your corner. Feed and syndicate, cross-post however you like, but own yourself. That’s all I’m saying.

    And just saying it is obviously not enough, hence the daily journal entries.

    That’s the coincidental reason. The calculated one is solving a problem my new life, post-agency sale, awarded me. I’ve been struggling with finding time to write, but more importantly, I’ve lacked the energy. That’s very unlike me, and it might hint at the fact that I’m getting older (perish the thought!), but there you have it.

    I used to be a pretty efficient writer. Days of 5,000 words were in no way flukes, I could have weeks and months where that just happened. Two weeks and the first draft is done, that sort of thing. If there’s an idea (there’s always and idea), and if there’s time (there’s always time, if you make the time), and finally, if there’s energy (ah, shit…), I’ll blast through just about anything.

    I’ve been lacking the energy. Life has sucked it out of me, literally.

    I hated it. Still do, because life is still a vampire firmly attached to my arterial vein.

    So my second reason for writing a journal is to kick said vampire in the nuts. Or uterus, I’m unclear of its gender, but there’s definitely a kick in there somewhere. Writing a journal every morning has proven to be an effective word lubricant. No, I don’t always manage to get any writing in, not at a daily basis, that’s step two and it’s tied to the time aspect – that I can manage – but I do want to write every day. That’s something I haven’t felt in a long time. I’ve got the energy to write again, and it’s all down to those journal entries, the blog posts of yore if you will. A writer’s lifehack, well-used in various ways by more people than I care to admit, because I’m just happy that it works for me.

    I’m writing again. Translating Ashen Sky to Swedish, mapping out novels, getting ready to edit manuscripts, thinking about new things with optimism.

    For me, that’s huge.

    I believe that keeping a journal is a good idea. You could focus it on a part of your life, maybe your progress in the gym (I’ve got one of those too) or your running, or it’s about your sex life, your relationships, your children, or everything else. I wouldn’t know, it could be literally everything, a diary of your dirty life and times. It matters less, as long as you’re honest when you do it, because that’s when you can learn something along the way.

    Write your journal in an app, on your computer or your phone, buy and overpriced notebook and write it there, scratch it into the prison wall, whatever you feel comfortable with. Put the words down and learn from them, now and a year from now, and possibly more. Who knows? I sure as hell don’t, and neither do you, until it happens.

    You can keep a journal for many reasons, but only one actually matters. You’re keeping a journal for you.

  • The reMarkable

    The reMarkable

    Regular readers know all about my obsession with e-ink devices. From my dreams about an e-ink typewriter, later realized in the Freewrite, to various e-ink readers, it should be fairly obvious that I find e-ink fascinating. It’s also no surprise that the reMarkable would catch my eye.

    The reMarkable is an e-ink tablet with a stylus that’s meant for taking notes, drawing, marking up documents, and obviously reading. Some of these things work really well, while others are just bad. The device is roughly the size of an A4 paper, white and plastic. It’s not a super premium device or anything, but I don’t mind the feel of the plastic and the buttons feel okay. The €629 price tag is a bit steep though, but I’ll allow it since this device is one of a kind, so to speak. I’ll even accept the slowness of the screen when it needs to refresh, because that’s e-ink for you, and the lack of background lighting. Also, worth knowing, is that if your documents are getting big, undo/redo load times increase to the point where they can get annoying.

    I’ve been using the reMarkable for a couple of months now, not just a quick test, and it’s found its way into my workflow. More on that later, but first, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way: If you want an e-ink tablet for reading, this isn’t it. Yes, it works, but it’s not a particularly good alternative. The format’s all wrong, it’s cumbersome, the interface is horrible, and I just plain hate it. If you want to mark up PDFs or paper scans, thus getting something from the larger device footprint, you should also forget about the reMarkable and get yourself an iPad.

    To be fair, that exact advice can be offered for anything you can do with the reMarkable. An iPad Pro, like the 10” model I’m typing on at the moment, can – with a Pencil – do everything the reMarkable can. Better, even.

    And yet, the reMarkable is on my desk and gets used a lot more for note-taking and scribbles than the iPad Pro. Why is that?

    First of all, I have a soft spot for devices that do one thing well. That’s everything a smartphone or typical tablet isn’t. They’re multi-functional monster computers, entertainment machines, typewriters, books and magazines, and the whole bloody internet in your hand. Meanwhile, the reMarkable is digital paper.

    I like the digital paper idea. Single purpose devices can be motivated if their existence adds something special. The texture when the stylus hits the e-ink screen might not be identical to paper – alas no – but it’s a lot closer than the hard glass of an iPad Pro. Add to the fact that the reMarkable is close to the iPad Pro when it comes to picking up whatever you choose to write or draw, and you’ve got a pretty nifty little thing right there. Feature-wise, the note taking and drawing alternatives on the reMarkable are laughable compared to the apps available for iOS and Android. That’s beside the point, because the reMarkable feels right. Despite the stylus, I must add, because it’s on the light and cheap side compared to Apple’s Pencil.

    There’s something to be said about owning another gadget that performs worse than one you already got, just because it feels right. In general, I’d scoff at the notion, being a person who’d like to cut down on “stuff” rather than add to the pile. And yet, the reMarkable is a part of my workflow now. There are several reasons I could list for you:

    • Single purpose devices offer no distractions.
    • The feel of stylus on the screen is more akin to paper and thus I type and write better.
    • It’s something new and curious, a great ice-breaker in meetings.
    • The paper-sized screen is more suitable for taking notes.
    • It’s cheaper than getting an iPad Pro with a Pencil.

    That’s all well and good, but not really relevant.

    Truth be told, I just plain like the reMarkable. It’s the paper metaphor I’m sure, but it does unlock something in my mind. My notes in meetings are more vivid, I use it to barrel through logical problems when developing, and I like that it can just sit there on the desk, waiting for me to put stylus to screen. The iPad never did that for me, because I use it for so much more. It’s the same reason for having a notebook to scribble notes in, the difference is that the reMarkable won’t run out of paper, and my notes are synced. I had an extra iPad for a while but that was just too excessive.

    This. This works for me. Remarkable, isn’t it?

  • "People don't have hours anymore"

    Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp, said this in the HBR Ideacast podcast, which I didn't listen to but luckily there's a transcript:

    You know, people don’t have hours anymore. Like, you don’t have hours at work. You know, people say they work 8 hours a day or 10 hours a day or 12 hours a day. They don’t. They work 15 minutes and 20 minutes and 25 minutes and 6 minutes and maybe 45 minutes if they’re lucky. And that just seems broken to me. So I’m trying to push hard against that.

  • Todos in the calendar

    Todos in the calendar

    I’ve been playing around with putting todos in the calendar lately. Not as actual calendar events, that would be a potential mess, but blocking out time when I’ll work with a dedicated project or company, and then add tasks to that particular time period. It’s not a new way of doing things, I’m by no means the first here, but it has helped me to take better control of my days.


  • On word counts

    On word counts

    I’m one of those obnoxious people who like to tweet my daily word counts when I’m writing. Not all the time, I forget, but when I’m really into it, I do. It’s a way to connect with other writers out there, often under the #amwriting hashtag. It’s not about letting other people know how great I am or anything like that.


  • Bingo wheel to productivity

    Viviane Schwarz is using a bingo wheel to get stuff done. Throw in the projects, spin, and pick a winner. Set a timer and work on it for that amount of time. Rinse and repeat. I like it, it’s chaotic and just a little bit insane. She explains further in her The Setup piece:

    It sounds quite ridiculous but it beats every other system I’ve ever tried for productivity; you just have to make sure the right balls are in the cage, throw in more if a deadline is approaching or take some out if something gets less urgent. Statistically, as long as it all gets done on time, who cares what order it happened in?

  • Federico Viticci's iPad Pro

    It should come as no surprise that I enjoy Federico Viticci’s updates on his iPad usage. The latest one, being the first after the introduction of iPad Pro, is no exception. Here are so many things to quote from this beast, so I’ll just point you to it. Brew a cup, and settle in for an interesting read.

  • Reset

    Wil Wheaton, hitting a little too close to home in his reset piece, writes this:

    Going all the way back to last August, I swore that I’d take more time away from other things to focus on writing and taking the pages and pages of story ideas I have in my little notebook and turning them into actual stories. The thing is, when I took that time off, my health and mana were so depleted, I couldn’t find it in myself to do the work. Every few months, I’d take a week or two off, and instead of writing like I wanted to, I’d play video games and do nothing else, because I was just so goddamn tired. Then I would look up, realize a couple of weeks had passed, I hadn’t done anything, and I needed to get back to “real” work. I would feel frustrated and empty, and the whole cycle would start all over again.

    It’s just a coincidence I’m posting this so close to the new year, promise!

  • Distracted by the internet

    Tony Schwartz, writing about distraction and the internet:

    Beyond spending too much time on the Internet and a diminishing attention span, I wasn’t eating the right foods. I drank way too much diet soda. I was having a second cocktail at night too frequently. I was no longer exercising every day, as I had nearly all my life.

    In response, I created an irrationally ambitious plan. For the next 30 days, I would attempt to right these behaviors, and several others, all at once. It was a fit of grandiosity. I recommend precisely the opposite approach every day to clients. But I rationalized that no one is more committed to self-improvement than I am. These behaviors are all related. I can do it.

  • iPad Pro full-time

    Benjamin Brooks on going full time iPad Pro:

    And now, just over a decade later, I am staring at this iPad Pro and thinking to myself: this is the same jump I made back in 2004. Yes, there will be somethings which won’t work, but I jumped because I knew that I had found the future of computing and I didn’t want to stay on the old crap I had before. It’s the same, but I admit it may be difficult for many to see this right now.

    A lot of things in this post rings true to me. Switching to the iPad Pro full time is possible for most, albeit perhaps not entirely so for me if I want to stay fully productive. It’s something I haven’t wrapped my head around yet, but suffice to say, it’s easier with a Mac. Not as fun though, and I think, in all these posts and arguments pro and con switching to a tablet, people are missing some crucial use cases. It’s a half-baked thought for now, and I think I’ll be returning to it in the future.

  • Taking the iPad on the road

    There’s no doubt it my mind that the iPad is enough for most people, and it has been for quite some time. Updates to iOS, especially the introduction of extensions in iOS 8, and the Split View/Side View updates in iOS 9, has made being productive with an iPad easier. That, and the apps, which are getting better and better all the time. With the iPad Pro, which I’m using to type this, eyes are once again on the iPad as a potential alternative for the traditional PCs, or at least as a laptop replacement. I’ve got a lot to say on the matter, but for now, I urge you to read Thaddeus Hunt’s three part blog post series on how he took an iPad Air 2 on the road, while still performing his duties as a freelance web designer: Part 1, part 2, and part 3.

    Oh, and some shameless promotion while I’m at it. I’ll have some initial thoughts on the iPad Pro in the next issue of my newsletter, RE:THORD. It’ll be out soon, so if you’re not subscribing, now’s the time.

  • The device chain

    The device chain

    Steven Levy has a really interesting piece, albeit perhaps somewhat fluffy, on Apple’s new iMacs, as well as the accompanied new keyboard, mouse, and trackpad. It’s well worth a read, and there are a ton of things to quote if one was so inclined.

    I’m picking this one, which is Levy’s take on Apple’s Phil Schiller’s view on how the company’s devices add up:

    Schiller, in fact, has a grand philosophical theory of the Apple product line that puts all products on a continuum. Ideally, you should be using the smallest possible gadget to do as much as possible before going to the next largest gizmo in line.

    Start at the Apple Watch to keep your phone at bay. Then, on your iPhone, you do all the things that makes sense. Too small? Go to the iPad (and soon the iPad Pro), then to the Macbook. Finally, wrap it up on a 27″ iMac, or possibly a Mac Pro, if Apple would be so kind to release a proper Thunderbolt display with retina screen.


  • Time management

    From Kevin Hoctor’s piece on time:

    Statements that begin with “I wish I had more time to…” are red flags for me. When I hear myself say something like, “I wish I had more time to exercise and get in shape,” it really means that I need to make time to exercise. Wishing it won’t change anything. I won’t magically have more time or extra energy by making that comment, so it’s useless.

    Lots of sound advice in there. I find myself thinking more and more about time, and throwing away the excuses not to do things.