A vague Notion of a more productive system

Notebooks, and task lists

I spent a little time in my Pocket recommendations, and found this great post by Marie Poulin titled “One Tool To Rule Them All” and her, and her partner’s search for a more effective, more complete productivity solution. Along the way, she considered Bullet Journals.

I wanted to get on the bullet journal bandwagon, but the sheer inefficiency of hand-drawing the same lines, shapes, numbers, and tasks week after week, and month after month made me twitchy.

Looking at some of those bullet journal masterpieces made me wonder, how much of bullet journaling is just…productivity porn? Are people creating entirely separate accounts for their bullet journaling as a creative outlet, or to distract themselves from actually getting shit done?

Marie Poulin

I’ve been curious about bullet journals, too, but I found myself having similar doubts about how effective the method would be for me. I much prefer digital productivity tools, largely because I’m really apprehensive about having a productivity solution without a backup and sync option.

Also, I really have to watch out for my tendency to go down a complete “productivity tool testing” rabbit hole, and literally lose days testing solutions without actually getting anything done.

Poulin and her partner settled on tool called Notion, that looks pretty promising. I like how flexible the service seems to be. I like how Evernote uses a notebook metaphor with fairly free form notes as a way to capture information. That said, I don’t seem to use Evernote all that much lately (for a couple reasons).

If you do think that Bullet Journal is the option for you, definitely read Jamie Rubin’s post titled “Bullet Journal: One Book to Rule Them All“:

I recently began using a Bullet Journal. Longtime readers who recall my going paperless days might find this odd. My going paperless experiment was just that–an experiment to see how far I could go without paper. Eventually, I decided that there were good reasons (for me) to continue to use paper. I’ve been carrying around Field Notes notebooks for years. I use notebooks for work, and large Moleskine notebooks for my journal/commonplace book. So why a Bullet Journal, and why now…?

Jamie Rubin

For the time being, I’m clinging to a semblance of productivity with Remember the Milk as my main task list. Now and then, I’ll use Evernote to add a task to RTM by syncing between the two services.

The benefit of this approach is that it enables me to associate a task with a note containing relevant materials. Like most things in my life, it’s very much a work in progress that’s hampered by my erratic discipline.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Matt Ragland

“Create the kind of communities and ideas you want people to talk about”

A fountain of water, shot at a relatively high shutter speed

I’ve had an idea in my task list for a week or so now, and I just haven’t made the time to write about it, at least not as I originally intended when I read the post that inspired it.

Jamie Rubin wrote his post titled “A Vision for Blogging in 2019” a few weeks ago. He wrote about a return, of sorts, to blogging, and a different perspective on what blogging means to him:

I’m not farming, but reading and writing are my analogs. I like the tone White captured in his essays, and while I am no E. B. White, it is that sense of making the mundane interesting–in reading, in writing, and anything else that comes to mind–that I am aiming for. That’s my vision for this blog in 2019. I hope you’ll stick around for it.

Jamie Rubin

What appeals to me about his vision for his blog is a focus on writing about personal topics, that have significance to him. I’ve seen a lot of talk about this approach to blogging, lately.

Someone else who wrote about this sort approach is Georgie Luhur Cooke who I mentioned previously. Georgie shared her blogging values, and one of those values is that she intends blogging for as long as she enjoys doing it:

Many people have asked if I would stop blogging if no-one read my blog. Although I love my readership and they often influence my decision on what/how to do things on my blog because I care about them – ultimately I write for me. I don’t write for anyone else, and the fact that people love to read my blog only makes it clearer to me that I should continue doing what I love – not continue doing something because other people like it.

Georgie Luhur Cooke

This evening I was flipping through my feeds while I waited for our kids to prepare for bed, and I came across this post by Jason Kottke titled “14 Rules for Maintaining Your Sanity Online“, that quoted from an issue of Discourse. One of the rules caught my attention:

Create the kind of communities and ideas you want people to talk about.

Sean Blanda

It reminds me a little about the excellent advice I was once given. The context was different, but I think it’s relevant to blogging, and what could be construed as my tenuous vision for my blog (at least for the time being).

It’s often tempting to hammer out a post about something that upsets me, or something that’s controversial. There are times to write about upsetting things that matter, sure. At the same time, many of the posts I feel the urge to write would just amount to me lashing out at someone, or something through my blog.

Those sorts of posts would very much be driven by bitterness, and would ultimately detract from the more positive, and constructive stuff I occasionally write here.

There but for the grace of God go you.

Sean Blanda

So when I write something for my blog, I increasingly find myself thinking along the lines of writing something that makes a positive contribution in some way. For the most part, I’m the main recipient of that contribution because I find myself writing about things that I enjoy, people that inspire me, and themes that fascinate me.

And, yes, there are times when I also publish utter nonsense, devoid of any value to anyone (for example, much of 2004 till roughly mid-2006) but, hey, that’s also blogging. It’s imperfect, and definitely a work in progress (with times of regress).

I’m enjoying my blog lately. I’m not sure what changed for me, but I’m just going with it.

I sat down with my notebook recently when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed about life, work, family, and the Universe in general. I sketched out the things that are important to me, looking ahead.

I felt like I really needed to shift to my high altitude view of my life for a bit, and identify some priorities, so I could set aside all the other themes/goals/impulses that make me crazy, and mostly ineffective.

One of my priorities is my blog. Partly that’s because I’m enjoying it. It’s also because I wanted something I could turn to that feels good to do, for various reasons, and also helps me be better.

One of the ways that I feel that I can do that is to write about the things that I’d like to see people talking about. Or, put a better way, I’d like to write about the things that I’d like to have more discussions about because they interest me, fascinate me, or otherwise enrich me.

New Year’s resolutions are a little weird, and arbitrary

New Year’s resolutions are a little weird. We pick this convenient change from one year to the next, and declare our intentions to do more or better.

I’m not sure that we give much thought to why we pick this one date as the time for this rededication to some form of self-improvement. New Year’s Day has had much less significance to me in recent years for a couple reasons.

For one thing, it’s not the new year in Israel tomorrow. We use the Hebrew calendar for official stuff, and our new year was in September this year.

A more personal reason why 1 January isn’t much more than Tuesday, a regular working day, to me is because there’s another day that’s a more meaningful day for a renewed sense of self-improvement – my birthday!

Sure, on 1 January, the year increments. Other than that, what’s the personal significance of the day?

I see my birthday as a celebration of my continued existence, and a reminder that I have yet another year behind me, and fewer ahead of me.

With that comes the realisation that I have fewer opportunities to make a difference, be a better parent, husband, friend, sibling, son, and so on. The time I have left is more precious, at the very least because there’s less of it.

I’m generally not conscious of this fact during the year because I’m so caught up in my daily dramas and busy work. My birthday is a convenient time to pause, look back, ahead, and at what I have, and think about what’s really important to me.

So, as 2018 draws to a close, I can’t help but think that it’s really just a Monday night, and I still need to be up at 5:30 tomorrow for an early shift.

Great Spotify playlist to relax and unwind with

Window with the word Relax

I really like this Relax & Unwind playlist on Spotify. Aside for it’s obvious purpose, I like it as a general purpose/background music/atmosphere playlist:

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Clem Onojeghuo

Some perspective on Facebook to for the maddening crowds

It’s almost fashionable to bash Facebook at the moment. To a large degree, the criticism is well deserved. At the same time, we should maintain some perspective on the reports, and resist the urge to be carried away by the maddening crowds.

I read Jeff Jarvis’ post titled “Facebook. Sigh.” recently. He makes an argument that Facebook’s executives aren’t necessarily malicious, they’re just really not thinking through the implications of what they do, or even why shouldn’t do what they do.

None of this is to say that Facebook is not fucking up. It is. But its fuckups are not so much of the kind The Times, The Guardian, cable news, and others in media dream of in their dystopias: grand theft user data! first-degree privacy murder! malignant corporate cynicism! war on democracy! No, Facebook’s fuckups are cultural in the company — as in the Valley — which is to say they are more complex and might go deeper.

For example, I was most appalled recently when Facebook — with three Jewish executives at the head — hired a PR company to play into the anti-Semitic meme of attacking George Soros because he criticized Facebook. What the hell were they thinking? Why didn’t they think?

Jeff Jarvis

I recently blogged about Facebook sharing private messages with various companies. While we probably don’t know all the details, this clarification from Facebook is not unreasonable:

Why did the messaging partners have read/write/delete messaging access?

That was the point of this feature — for the messaging partners mentioned above, we worked with them to build messaging integrations into their apps so people could send messages to their Facebook friends.

Specifically, we made it possible for people to message their friends what music they were listening to in Spotify or watching on Netflix directly from the Spotify or Netflix apps (see screen shots below), to message links to Dropbox folders (like a collection of photographs) from the Dropbox app, and to message receipts from money transfers through the Royal Bank of Canada app.

In order for you to write a message to a Facebook friend from within Spotify, for instance, we needed to give Spotify “write access.” For you to be able to read messages back, we needed Spotify to have “read access.” “Delete access” meant that if you deleted a message from within Spotify, it would also delete from Facebook. No third party was reading your private messages, or writing messages to your friends without your permission. Many news stories imply we were shipping over private messages to partners, which is not correct.

Facts About Facebook’s Messaging Partnerships

One of the factors that Facebook points out is that they share your personal information in terms of their privacy policy, so with your permission. The big question is how familiar you are with Facebook’s privacy policy?

James Ball tweeted a similar criticism of reports about the private message issue:

It’s worthwhile reading Jarvis’ post:

Featured image by Thought Catalog

A desperate plea to MS Office lovers everywhere

Man working in an office with the sun over his shoulder

Dear MS Office lover

Although I don’t see the appeal*, I understand that you love using Microsoft Office for your daily tasks. It seems like pretty good software, and if it helps you become more efficient, then that’s terrific.

Anyhoo, I’ve noticed that many of you have a tendency to do some interesting things with MS Office in order to share things with the rest of us. For example, to –

  • share images by adding them to your Word documents;
  • paste bits of text into other Word documents, and then emailing them;
  • create PowerPoint slides for newsletters; and
  • take notes in Excel spreadsheets*.

Another Pro tip is not to send Word documents by email, unless you want to collaborate with someone, and intend for them to edit the document and send it back. If you’d like to share a letter by email (consider just sending the text as the email), save the Word document as a PDF instead. It will look the same on every device that can read it. Unlike Word documents*.

I’m a big fan of using your tools to do cool, interesting things. I’m also a fan of using a tool appropriately. Striking a balance between these two isn’t always easy, and erring on the side of innovation is a good thing, too.

That said, it’s also important to think outside the box here. MS Office isn’t the sum total of what’s available to you.

If you need to share a snippet of text in an email, paste it into the email. If you need to share an image, please don’t add it to a Word document first. Just attach the image, like you were planning to do with the Word document containing the image to your email.

Email is cool like that, it can handle so many types of content.

Oh, if you prefer writing your blog posts in Word, remember that copying and pasting into your blog editor of choice can carry across Word’s silly formatting too. If you happen to be using the Classic editor in WordPress, read this guide to stripping out that formatting cruft so your posts look the way they’re meant to.

If you’re using the new WordPress Editor (aka Gutenberg), you should be able to just paste your text, and the editor will remove that extra stuff automatically.

So please, please, rethink how you use use your MS Office tools for the sake of our continued sanity. It’s the productivity equivalent of “Be kind, rewind”.

*On the few occasions I use conventional office productivity software, I prefer using LibreOffice or Google Docs/Sheets/Slides, but that’s just my choice.

*Why not just use Word for this?

*But, seriously, just add the text to an email and send it directly. It works far better.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Bethany Legg

Pride and self-congratulation before the Idiot Tax (we’ll laugh about this later)

Last week, while my family was in Eilat for a long weekend vacation, I made my way to a shopping complex just outside my city.

I was there to do some research for our daughter’s birthday party (check!), look for running shoes (nope!), and one or two other errands.

While I was there, I thought I’d pick up a spare SIM card, just in case (… one of our kids lost their phones).

I thought this was admirably forward thinking on my part, especially given that this was the only place I could buy this SIM card nearby (in some respects, we’re pretty backwards here in Israel), and it usually involves a nauseating 30-40 minute bus ride to get there. 🤢

As it turned out, when my family returned home, my wife informed me that they had left my daughter’s phone in Eilat.

Not to worry, I thought, we could replace her cheap Nokia feature phone (an 8 year old really doesn’t need a smartphone), and it just so happens I have a spare SIM card! 😁

I’m sure you can imagine how proud I was that I had the foresight to buy that spare SIM card!! 😊

My wife and I went off to the mall so I could get a snappy haircut. While we were there, we bought our daughter a cool, new Nokia 3310 phone.

When we returned home, I went online, and activated the new SIM card. I placed it into our daughter’s new phone, and congratulated myself once again.

Not long afterwards, our son emerged from his bedroom with his phone, and casually asked me why his SIM card had stopped working.

It didn’t take me long to realise what I had done. 😱 Pride gave way to shame, and dismay. I had switched our son’s number over to the new SIM, not our daughter’s.

Oh, and once a SIM is deactivated, you can’t reactivate it.

And I was fresh out of SIM cards! 💩

I took a quick look at my calendar, and realised that the only time I had to journey back to that store for a replacement SIM card was, well, today.

So, I tucked my pride, and sense of wonder at how well prepared I was just a few days ago, and started the journey back to the store.

I bought two SIM cards, just in case.

Thankfully I managed to activate the SIM card for the correct number, second time around. All it cost me was my Idiot Tax for not taking a couple extra seconds to check which phone number I was activating the first SIM card for, as I was basking in the warmth of my self-congratulation.

Feedback that inspires me to be a better blogger

Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

I enjoy blogging because I enjoy sharing things that interest me. My blog has a pretty modest following, and I like receiving feedback on posts that resonate with readers.

This evening, I opened Twitter for some reason, and noticed this wonderful tweet from Jamie Rubin, a writer, blogger, and stimulus for my Field Notes obsession:

What makes Jamie’s feedback so much more meaningful is that I’ve followed his blog for a little while now, and I have great respect for his writing just based on his blog. Feedback like this inspires me to be a better blogger, so I can do justice to such kind words.

Jamie’s latest blog post, “Inside My Notebooks“, will give you a terrific sense of what he writes about (if you haven’t read it posts already):

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Adam Jang