- iA Writer
- OnSong - a sheet music application
- Paprika - A recipe management app
- Kindle/iBooks/Scribd et al - reading is play, right?
- Messaging apps
- Social networks (Instagram & Microblog. Yes, even you.)
- Wet wipes
- Muslin rags
- Bottles of water
- Anti-mosquito spray
- Fruit Mousse for the kids
- A change of baby clothes (full set)
- A backup t-shirt for me, incase of vomit
- Backup shorts for the potty training child
- opened presents
- went to the local softplay
- had curry for lunch
- went to the playground
- had ice cream in the park
- made a plastercast unicorn she got from her uncle.
- watch a couple of episodes of Paw patrol
- had pizza for dinner
- not flossing every day
- drinking more coffee than I’d like
- snacking on chocolate during the day
- Floss when after brushing your teeth
- drink water
- Eat fruits instead of chocolate
- They act out because they are tired — I act out of tiredness
- They shout at each other — I shout at them
- They aren’t patient — I lose my patience.
- / - / ➡
- Plus is for the good things from the week
- Minus is for the bad things from the week
- And next is for the things I want to do differently next week.
- intelligence and surveillance to identify networks
- educating communities to spot the signs of traffickers and trafficked people
- policy which allows trafficked people safe haven
- support structures for their long-term recovery.
- Mac – Arc (cheating I know, but I’d need it for work). excluding that, Obsidian.
- iPad – Reader from Readwise
- If I feel grateful for someone helping me, how can I be helpful?
- If I’m grateful for learning something, can I share what I learned?
- If I feel grateful for some part of nature, can I share it by taking someone else to the spot?
This quarter, I’m focusing on writing.
I’ve had a writing habit for a long time, but since I became a professional copywriter, it’s been harder to write the type of content I want to. So, I’m focusing on my writing habit.
The only problem: distractions!
There are so many of them all over the place. Sometimes I’t barely a minute between sitting down and when I get swamped my emails, notifications or a youtube rabbit hole.
My cure? Making a focused creation device.
Enter the iPad.
A creation iPad
My goal is to remove the apps that distract me, and leave only the ones that allow me to create. That way, I have a device geared to creating new things rather than scrolling the endless feed.
There are a few apps I use to create
Then some to play
And there are a few apps that distract the hell out of me
Plus some which are kind of distracting but I still need to use sometimes, like mail.
Not an anti-consumption device
You might have noticed that there are some consumption apps there like the kindle and Scribd. On the one hand, these are not creation, they are consumption. If I wanted an anti-consumption device, I should remove them. And yet the kindle and other ebook readers are some of the highest value apps on my iPad.
Sometimes the ideas within the books I read provide the impetus for new creative works. And while that can also occur with youtube or another service, the hit ratio is lower and I’m more likely to choose one of them instead of creation.
So I’m happy (for now at least) leaving them on my iPad as I try this experiment.
Will it work?
I’ve debated doing this in the past and always found it tricky.
No single device seems to be a perfect “distraction free” or “creation” device. There are times I need to look up data on the mac, there are times I want to check a message on my phone, and my iPad is arguably the best web browsing experience.
But I think this is the best action to help me create more.
Procreate, after all, is ONLY on the iPad. And using the ipad as a distraction free writing device is great (as long as you have a keyboard to go with it).
So I’m giving it a go and I’ll report back later.
Whenever I’m with my kids, I have my “Dad bag” with me.
Its content varies slightly depending on which of my three kids is with me, but here’s the basics of it.
Sometimes I’ll take a few extra items like more food or a picnic rug, but that’s the main gist of my bag (although If I don’t have certain kids with me, I can take fewer things).
Overall, it’s a great pack to have but there’s one item I’m missing.
A backup battery.
My 5 year old iPhone Xs doesn’t have the battery life it used to, and if I don’t charge it during the work day, It can lead to some issue. Like not being able to warn my wife when we’re heading back home or asking if we should get something from the shop.
My one pro tip
If you have certain items you need for one kid or another, try to group them together in a mini kit or bag (we just use Ikea resealable bags). That way, if one parent takes one kid and the other another, you have the right nappies with you at all times.
This is one of my core values.
It’s a phrase taken from Football [^1] and means “debate the idea, not the person.”
On one level, this is a reminder not to fall down to ad hominem attacks, but it goes beyond that too. When we look at bad behaviour, we should consider the system that created the issue as well as calling out the behaviour, not the person.
This is one of the things we try as parents.
We don’t say “you’re being mean” or “you’re silly”, but “it’s not nice to…”. Of course, the other person might not notice the difference, particularly over topics their identities are tied to. But at least this option allows people to change.
When we play the ball, we have the option to discuss the issue, not ourselves.
Exceptions: abusers and repeat perpetrators
Of course, sometimes the behaviour needs to be specifically called out.
When someone abuses someone else, commits a crime or a great injustice, they need to be called out. Even in these situations, it’s still good to focus on the actions and showing how they are wrong rather than the person who perpetrated them. After all, some people can rush to defend an obvious corrupt government official just because he happens to be in their party affiliation.
Individuals as emblems of a system
A while back there was a professor who made a joke to point out the obvious discrimination against women in the sciences. It was clear satire to most of the attendees of the conference. One attendee, a journalist then denounced the professor on Twitter leading to his eventual dismissal. When the transcripts came out that showed his was joking and pointing to the ironies in his own life, many still attacked him.
He was an emblem of the problem.
That’s a dangerous stance. When we start to attack someone rather than the actions, we can infuse their actions with all sort of other beliefs. “They might not have said X, but this is exactly the kind of thing that leads to X.” So we’d had just better assume they believe or do X anyway.
It’s okay to point out the slippery slope or common beliefs but that’s why we need to attack the broader issues (radicalisation, sexisim in science) rather than creating scapegoats to sacrifice.
While it might clean us of our sins, it doesn’t actually address the real problems.
: sorry, Americans. “Soccer”. And yes, I know it was originally Associate football and widely called soccer in the UK till the early 90s. You know who doesn’t care, the rest of the world now.)
The internet is a game.
If you play it well, you get “internet points.”
Most of the time they are pointless, but if you collect enough of them, you can become “internet famous” and even earn some income because of them. For the most part, internet points just give us a sense of feeling good or “valued”.
How do you get internet points?
I’m glad you asked.
You get internet points for doing actions that the internet validates. It doesn’t have to be the whole internet, it can just be a small group, but the more validation you get, the more points you get.
If you put a post and no one reacts, that’s zero points for you.
But if you get 10 reactions, even if one attacks you, that’s 10 internet points.
So if you want to win the never-ending internet game, you need to start an arms war. What got you points yesterday won’t today. That controversial or “risky pick” that you made last year, you need to go far crazier this year.
Even if no one else is competing with you, you need to compete with your past self because just as the addict gets less of a kick from subsequent hits, so the internet machine needs greater and crazier content to doll out its points.
Just look at Mr Beasts.
As you can guess, this is a problem.
The internet game is changing what we think and how we act. A nuanced opinion or debate is “boring” (even if it’s accurate) but a snappy comeback is pure gold (even if obviously wrong). Getting in a quick reply for your side will win you far more internet points than reflecting, waiting and offering a true critique.
Some versions of the internet are worse for internet points. Platforms with likes, hearts and algorithmic suggestions will always promote the game. But there are slower forms of the internet where we can play a different game.
My kids know my dark secret.
I have an alternative, evil personality.
His name is “Grumpy daddy.”
I don’t turn green and suddenly rip my clothes when he emerges, but the personality shift isn’t that different. Instead of the peaceful and fun-loving father they expect, they have a grouch who just wants to be left a long.
I don’t like grumpy daddy, no one likes grumpy daddy, and yet he is a fixture of our house.
Just like Bruce Banner, I haven’t found a cure for my alternative personality, but I have found a trick that works well when I remember it.
If I can put on a silly voice and give my reasons for being annoyed, I don’t transform into grumpy daddy.
It’s amazing how it works but I can instantly switch into a more appropriate mode. When the kids have done something wrong and we need to talk about it, I can talk about it sensibly AND THEY LISTEN! (I know!). And when it doesn’t really matter — most of the time — I can reveal how silly my grumpiness really is.
The only challenge…
Remember to make the jump isn’t easy.
When the red mist descends, the lizard brain wants me to react instantly. It wants me to escalate the tension, to give in and lose control. The adrenal makes it harder to have a cohesive thought let alone remember to be playful.
But I’ve had some success. And I’m writing this to remind me to do it more.
Thinking about this idea especially before a grumpy daddy situation arises can help, at least that’s what I’ve seen so far.
I hope this helps you and I’d love to know what already does help you.
There’s this common idea that “it’s the action/skill not the tools that matters.” As with all good pithy statements, it applies in most situations, it has a great deal of truth in it, but it is not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And so help me God I’ll prove it to you.
A few weeks back I put a new curtain rail up. To do so, I had to drill a couple of holes into our walls. The first was easy, but the second set was impossible. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t do it. In the end we borrowed a drill from a friend who does smart home installation.
It finished the job in seconds.
My skill didn’t matter, I needed the right tool.
Admittedly, if I didn’t know how to drill straight or what size drill bit I’d need then the right tool would make no difference (here’s that kernel of truth again). At the same time, even if one can achieve an outcome with any tool (such as making sweet sounding music on a “bad” guitar), it can be easier and far more enjoyable with a high-quality and correctly setup tool.
And when it is more enjoyable, you often want to do it more.
So investing in a good tool can lead to you improving your skills more than a bad tool.
Professional vs good tools
Professional tools don’t always meet this criteria.
They can be enjoyable to use and help beginners, but often a professional tool requires more skill than a beginners tool. If a beginner tries to pick up a pro level camera and just snap a picture, they may be confused by the controls and options causing them to accidentally set their auto focus point to a different subject.
In contrast a beginner tool might abstract the process too much and leave them to enjoy the process too little.
So while “cheap” usually means bad, expensive doesn’t always mean good and certainly not good for you.
The best tool, is the tool you’ll use
I believe this is what Chase Jarvis was getting at when he said “The best camera is the one you have with you.”
There might be a “superior” tool out there, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have it with you or choose to use it. I still regret selling my fuji x100t, not because it was the best camera, but it was the camera I took the most photos with.
Yes, part of that was due to the quality and style of images it produced, but it was also the experience of shooting with it and its size and portability.
And while many people have this same experience with smartphones, I preferred a dedicated device that I didn’t have to worry about draining my battery with.
There are plenty of good reason not to buy new gear, but you shouldn’t not buy gear just because someone on the internet shamed you into thinking that the pros all could make. something better with rubbish gear.
It’s probably true. There was a great series on YouTube called ProTog Cheap camera which featured just that.
But those pros didn’t stick with their terrible cameras. They went back to the cameras they enjoyed using.
Find the tools you like and you use and enjoy them!
Yesterday I was stuck driving home behind a car who had the audacity to stick to the speed limit (I know. The nerve of it!).
At first I tried to spy moments to overtake and thought ahead to the prime spots on the road for overtaking. Then something changed. My perspective.
I realised I was in no rush. We were returning home after a bbq to celebrate my daughter’s birthday and practically the whole family was fed and having a nap. We had no pressing deadline to make.
Suddenly I realised this could be an invitation from God to practice patience and to slow down.
So I sat back in the driving seat, stopped straining my eyes ahead, and appreciated the time I had.
There are many moments like this every day which I pass over in my rush to Getting Things Done™️. And while I could still take action to alleviate my impatience and boredom, I wonder if it’s better to see them as a gift. As if each moment were an invitation to slow down, appreciate what is around us and maybe even accept the boredom that comes with it.
Now excuse me while I get back to being frustrated at a website taking more than a second to load! (outrageous I know!)
It was my daughter’s 5 birthday yesterday.
We did all her favourite thing:
It was a real feast day.
Funnily enough, there’s a lot that we do often, but the combination of it all together really makes it stand apart. One of the challenges I wonder about, as a parent, is helping to keep things special.
There are things my kids can have every week (or even every day) that I only had a couple of times a year. On the one hand it’s great they live in this abundance, on the other hand I wonder if they don’t appreciate things in the same way.
It make me wonder about abstinence: not indulging often so we can appreciate things more when we do have them.
It requires patience (refusing cartoons can start a family civil war) and planning (having other activities and alternatives ready to go is a must) that make it far more work for us parents. But it helps to keep things more special.
And often the alternatives are better anyway.
This isn’t just true for parenting of course.
Last week I made a shocking discovery.
Fruit is great in hot weather.
I know, revolutionary insight but if you looked at my habits, this idea was a real shock.
I don’t have anything against fruit and eat it when offered, but I just don’t choose fruit or go for it. Instead I’m more likely to snack on a piece of chocolate or sandwich. But during this heatwave I realised that fruit was clearly the more refreshing choice.
And that made me think about my habits.
I know it’s not great, but …
There are a lot of my habits which don’t match my intentions or goals.
The fruit one is one small example.
It’s such a small thing that could be corrected with a minor lifestyle change (buy more fruit in the shop, keep sweets at home, choose fruit at snack time) and yet I wasn’t doing it. Why?
Well I wasn’t really thinking about that habit.
So I decided to make a list of the bad habits I have (in obsidian of course). Here’s a sample:
And once I made that list, the alternatives were pretty obvious:
Not every bad habit is so simple or unentrenched, but some are.
And guess what, just making the list has helped me change these habits.
I’m still not perfect, but they’ve far lesser.
More tricky habits
There are a couple of bad habits in my list that are more sticky.
Not least of which is “being impatient with people”.
While it’s not something that just magically changes, I’m glad it’s on this list. Unless I acknowledge this is an issue, I won’t be willing to change it. And now it’s there, I can plan for change.
Not magic, but maybe worth a go
A lot of good coaching and therapy starts with awareness.
Sometimes, that’s enough.
And sometimes we need to do more. But either way, maybe making a bad habit list will help you with some of your bad habits that you know about, but do nothing over, or even ones you are less aware of.
If you give it a go, let me know what you think.
My kids are almost 2 and 5.
Both of them are going through a period of temper tantrums.
It’s annoying and frustrating. Especially when the elder one turns around and sets off the younger one, usually with a punch or a poke after being asked not to.
On my better days I stay calm and manage to get through the conflict.
But most days aren’t my better days.
Instead I can lose my cool and try to physically or vocally stop the conflict: It always increases it.
Doing the same negative behaviour
The irony is I’m often doing the exact thing I’m annoyed at my children for.
I fail the same measure I evaluate them by.
On being the adult in the room
I realised this all about three months back.
My child was acting like a child (as should be expected) but I, the adult, was also acting like a child.
How did I expect my children to learn the values I wanted if I didn’t embody them myself as an adult?
So I made a change and used this mantra:
I am the adult in the room.
Any time I face these kinds of situations, I say those words to myself and force myself to respond like an adult.
I wish I could say this has been a magical panacea — it hasn’t — but it has helped. A lot.
I don’t know if this will help you, but as a parent, I know I could use all the help I can get.
It’s the end of my Friday workday so I’m doing my simple weekly reflection. It’s called plus, minus, next and I heard about it from Anne-Laure Le Cunff of Ness Labs.
I like using the symbols
So simple, but that’s its power. By being so low effort, I can almost always do it; it’s just 5 mins at the end of the day. Now I have a record of what I’ve struggled with and what was easy and good.
You can do it on paper or digitally and I have templates for both Obsidian and DayOne.
One last thing to note, this isn’t a full weekly review in the GTD sense. Instead, I split that onto Sunday evening when I plan for the week ahead.
There’s a movie going around that’s getting some major press. It presents an anti-trafficking group as the saviours of children caught in the child sex trade.
The only problem?
It’s a fantasy.
Sure, there’s elements of a real story — organisation, people, even rescue missions — but the truly effective work of anti-trafficking is less glamourous. Instead of sting operations, it’s more about policy changes and resources for local groups to provide effective assistance.
Heroes need not apply
By seeking to be heroes some groups are harming efforts more than helping.
Conducting a sting on a human trafficking group might help arrest some low level members, but if there isn’t a support system in place, the kids freed won’t go back to their families. And even if they do, they need help to recover from their trauma and protection from the people who sold them in the first place.
You see while there are gangs who snatch children, most people end up in trafficking situations due to a person they, or their family knows.
So why aren’t we doing more for anti-trafficking support?
Anti-trafficking is tough.
It involves many parts to make sure we can catch the perpetrators, help the abused recover, and ensure they aren’t trafficked again. That typically means
That costs a lot more than taking down a few local crooks and patting yourself on the back saying job well done. It also doesn’t help that safe haven policies are anathema for right of centre parties (and some left of centre ones too).
And finally, it’s a global challenge.
To prevent trafficking of people from developing to developed countries we need the right structures in place in both countries and coordination between each. With budgets stretched and a lack of political appetites for cooperation, that makes it extremely challenging.
It’s far easier for a group to claim they are the heroes doing what governments won’t, all the while merely putting people back into the same situations that lead to them being trafficked in the first place.
How to actually take a stand against human trafficking.
There are many long standing human trafficking groups such as Stop the Traffik who are making meaningful, long-term changes to help end human slavery.
Look for groups such as these rather than wannabe soldiers.
I used to be a massive defender of the Oxford comma, now I think most examples where it adds clarity are usually the result of poor writing.
For example, “He met with his parents, the Pope and Barak Obama.” Is this a list of three people or are the Pope and Obama his parents?
All that needs to be done is to put his parents at the end. “He met with the Pope, Barak Obama and his parents.”
There are perhaps a few situations where it can add more clarity (a list of groups) but it’s hardly the saviour of English grammar some writers make it to be.
For the last few years I’ve felt like tech companies and tech journalists are all trying to tell me I shouldn’t be happy with the “amazing revolutions” that came out only a year ago (but of course these new ones will all fix my problems). It’s things like the iPad which was finally a pro device when the iPad pro came out, or maybe when it got the m1 chip, or perhaps stage manager? No, sorry. It was when final cut pro and logic came out last month.
There’s nothing wrong with improvement (and sometimes “improvements” are steps backwards.) but maybe we could drop the technology gaslighting where we’re told that we’re not happy with the things we loved and they are clearly terrible now.
🔗 What if you could only use ONE APP on your iPhone? – Shawn Blanc
So this is a completely random but fun experiment… but what app would you pick if you could only pick ONE?
I read this quick post from Shawn a few days back and knew my answer almost instantly – Drafts.
I’d certainly miss the camera (but I have a ricoh gr), podcast, and the sat nav in some situations, but with drafts I’d cover the other 80% I use my phone for. I could even manage my tasks there too if I needed.
Continuing with the other devices… I’d probably pick
I’d never choose obsidian on the iPhone, it’s just not fast enough. In fact, it almost makes me wonder if I could just switch to drafts…
What about you?
I’ve noticed (and I feel the temptation too) to think of task management/PKM/bullet journaling/jorunaling/whatever as a binary thing — either you have some incredible complicated system which you use everyday the way the gurus on YouTube use theirs, or your “not doing it right”.
Task management is about managing your task. If a post-it works for you, that’s great! You have a system that works.
PKM is about storing and retrieving ideas - if a pocket notebook works for you, great! You have a system that works.
Journaling is about getting thoughts out of your head and on paper. If you do that every now and then and find it useful, great! You have a system that works.
Maybe you would benefit from adopting some practices or ideas (or more consistency) but you shouldn’t do that out of some sense of envy or guilt. You can always try things out and stick with what works for you.
Give yourself grace to experiment.
Writing what you’re grateful for is a common journaling activity and for good reason.
Practicing gratitude is one of the most effective ways to increase your happiness. If you aren’t doing it, I highly recommend you start.
But it’s easy to stop there. To feel better about ourselves and what we have but not respond out of that. There can be knock on effects such as a more positive and warm outlook to those around us, but what if there was a journaling prompt that encouraged us to be more generous too?
Here’s one I’m trying today.
What am I grateful for today? How can I help others share this gratitude?
It might seem like a small addition, but I’m hoping it will lead me to take action.
Sometime it might be trite, but just perhaps a small act of generosity will make someone else grateful too.
I’ve been less patience recently.
It’s been a growing issue since my daughter learned the word “why” and now her brother is “stealing attention” from her, at least from her perspective.
Blaming my situation is the easy and half-true option.
While I certain have some extra pressures, these are an opportunity for me to demonstrate greater patience. Plus I can always choose my response to even the worse situation. And that’s where my journaling experiment comes in.
A journaling prompt for patience
“What are some situations that typically trigger impatience in you? How can you prepare and respond more calmly in these situations?”
I stumbled upon this journal prompt yesterday and started to write out my answers.
As soon as I did, I saw some common trends in my triggers. But more importantly I noticed that the solutions had even more in common.
Accepting the situation as it is
Mentally preparing for the situations
Taking actions to prevent those situations from arising.
I still need to see how I actually live these ideas out and I’m journaling every day to track what happens, but I’m hopeful. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Today I came across a writer with a boring site.
He has a single profile picture at the top along with links to navigate to his various writings and podcastings.
It was wonderful. I was soon on a wikipedia-like spelunking trip through his various article.
His site feels like such a breath of fresh air in an age of full page cover images with email popup forms. Admittedly, the depth of articles he has written helps a lot. And I’m publishing this on Micro.blog where this kind of design is the norm.
While there is a place for the website with landing page, I’m grateful that some people still publishing on boring blogs.
I am not a consistent journaler.
Over the last 8 years, I’ve tried lots of different system with varying degrees of success, but every time I keep the habit going, I gain a lot from it.
In my experiments, I’ve found three prompts which have helped me more than any others. So I thought I’d share them with you.
What’s on your mind? - answer this often reveals a hidden fear.
What are you grateful for? - this shifts my perspective to one of gratitude.
What would make today great? - it often does take much, but this prompt helps me improve my days.
There you have it, 3 quick prompts that you may find valuable.
I’d love to hear any prompts you’ve found beneficial.
UPDATE: I’ve realised that even these thoughts aren’t completely correct. I’ve noticed exceptions to my main issue. My new working theory is that I just wished we were all a little self obsessed, and when someone is less obvious with it, it make me realise the issue in myself.
I’m finally preparing the latest edition of my newsletter to send and got caught on the invitation for suggested content.* I always assumed people would refer someone else’s content which has happened but I have one reader who sends their own content every time I open the invitation.
At first I thought it was my cultural background that makes me view that so negatively. Then I wondered if it was the implicit, if not explicit, request for other people’s content. But as I really thought about it I realised the strongest reason for my reaction.
I don’t trust someone’s opinion of their own creation.
People generally have good taste when it comes to other people’s work and certainly don’t share everything they like with everyone. But that instinct frequently get’s turned off by the kind of person who promotes their stuff all the time.
While I was selfishly asking people to act as a filter and finder of quality instead of taking that responsibility myself, this reader redistributes that work back to me again. So I suppose it serves me right really!
*In the end I cut it. I couldn’t be bothered to work out a good way to phrase it. At least not today.
I’ve been thinking about minimalism again. My main prompt is reading “The Life We’re Looking For” by Andy Crouch. He lays out how “devices” can take as well as give and advocates for technology that makes us more engaged with our whole being rather than passive. As is common, I’ve started to see patterns everywhere. Suddenly stoicism seams very minimalist, I started to look at some of Patrick Rhone’s old essays and I’m wondering about how Christian “simplicity” is similar and different to minimalism. Oh and I’ve coincidentally decided to clear out my desk and draws at the same time.
In the past I commented that my big issue with minimalism is that it provides a diagnosis without a prognosis. I still believe there’s truth to that critique, but it doesn’t make the diagnosis less true.
Now excuse me while I go back to holding some old T-shirts and asking “does this spark joy?” Over and over again.
I’ve got the week off work (but my daughter is still going to pre-school) so I’ve drawn up a list of things to do that I would normally struggle to do due to lack of time or her presence! There’s a lot of big topic conversations with my wife plus making sure I’m fully present and engaged with her in the evening.
First item on my list - cleaning up my desk, notes and old clothes that need to be thrown out.
I had to renew my phone contract and had a chance to upgrade my four year old phone. In the end I decided against it. The offer sounded good but I wouldn’t have wanted to upgrade this year anyway so it was just spending money I didn’t want to spend.
As I reached the conclusion that I should declining the offer, I felt an uncomfortable pain. I knew it was a good offer, I knew I wanted the new shiny thing, but I also knew it wasn’t a good use of money and I’d be getting a phone and deal I wouldn’t have chosen otherwise.
I knew the decision was right, but I didn’t want it to be the right decision.