🔗 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Your Writing)

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Your Writing) Go a week without

• very • rather • really • quite • so • of course • in fact

Benjamine Dreyer on Twitter Thought I’d share this as well to go along with that last bit of writing advice. “Of course” is one of those zombie phrases that still rises from my fingers no matter how many times I try to kill it… but that’s what editing is for…of course.

One thing I wish was better with MB-hosted Micro.blogs...but then again

I really like MB-hosted micro.blog for the simplicity of publishing…but it’s not that easy to edit older posts. For example, if I wanted to write a list of authors I’m into right now, It would be tricky to find later. I could of course use a page — and that makes a lot of sense for this type of post…sorry, page. There are, however, occasions where I’d like more ways to revist old posts and update them. Then again, I never knew the best way to do this with WordPress: a new post, a note on the old post that it had been changed, just updating? Perhaps this is a bug which is a feature?

Podcast idea: Coffee conversation

No, it’s not a podcast about coffee…well not direclty. Here’s the pitch: I meet up with people I think are interesting and have a coffee with them, we record the conversation because maybe other people would like that.

But then again, it would probable be a bad podcast (noise of cups and sipping) and probably change the type of conversation…maybe I should just try and have a cup of coffee with interesting people.

🎥 Why We Still Love Film: Analog Photography in the Digital Age | NBC Left Field

🎥 Why We Still Love Film: Analog Photography in the Digital Age | NBC Left Field
As someone who still shoots film (on multiple cameras) I loved this. The production is top-notch and features some of my favourite YouTubers. I also love the contrast with this week’s ATP where they said that downloading images off an SD card is too slow (although I kind of understand that frustration). Now I’d better take my last rolls of film to the local developer and get out a new one.

🔗 Dark Patterns Website

Dark Patterns Website > Dark Patterns are tricks used in websites and apps that make you do things that you didn’t mean to, like buying or signing up for something. The purpose of this site is to spread awareness and to shame companies that use them.

I’m sure you’ve seen examples of this on the web. Some mild ones are the “Accept” button being clear and bold while the “decline” button is greyed out, hard to tell it is a button and not where you expect it should be.

Why I like and don't like yearly themes

I’m sure the idea existed before but cortex seems to be the chief propagator or the yearly theme idea. The principle: set a word that should direct your year. It can be predictive or aspirational. I’ve done it in the past, but now I feel a bit awkward about the idea. Here’s why.

Many people seem to fail

Perhaps this shouldn’t invalidate the idea but on cortex both Myke and Grey seem to say that they have been unable to meet their themes more than they have achieved them. When two of your key proponents don’t live out the idea, then is it useful?

Too vague

When you set a theme word such as “progress”, then it could mean anything. You’ll start to look at events and force them to fit within your theme. What’s the point in a theme when it could apply to anything?

Too specific

The reverse is setting something so specific it only applies to a few things. In which case, why not set a goal?

Why a yearly theme?

I’ve followed Todd Henry’s practice of setting a word for the week and found that helpful. Yes, it can be guilty of the previous criticisms, but with a week you are reflecting more regularly. An excellent weekly word will be directive or reflective for that week. If you see that a lot is happening this week, you might choose “focus” or “stillness” to either encourage you to get things done or take a much-needed break from the business that is coming. With a years time frame, you can’t possibly know what things will look like in November. Even if you expect the year to be busy, maybe there will be a slow month when your theme is out of place.


At the same time, yearly themes encourage reflection and intention. Neither can be a bad thing. If you find them helpful, then that’s great, but I won’t be spending time thinking of a theme for this year. Perhaps I will next year…we’ll see I guess. (And no, my theme for this year isn’t not having a theme.)

Maybe minimalism isn't enough.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people who are “minimalists” go through a familiar path. They cut back and see significant benefits, then they expand again and need to “rediscover a life of less” or something similar.

I’ve tread this path myself.

Perhaps it’s just part of our natural cycle. When you try to balance on a beam, you have to shift your weight from one side to another as you counteract the forces from yourself and the outside world. Sometimes a sudden rush of wind blows you off-kilter, and you have to make a dramatic readjustment. Sometimes you can’t keep your balance well and then have to readjust. Both happen with minimalism as well.

But I also wonder if there isn’t an issue at the heart of minimalism. Perhaps it is only diagnostic of the symptoms and doesn’t prescribe a cure.

Minimalism is about clearing the way for what really matters, but it’s rare to hear minimalist actually advocate what matters — it’s your objective to identify what matters. Other philosophies, don’t just say what is wrong but also offer a path forward.

Many habit coaches will tell you that it’s much easier to replace a bad habit with a good one (drinking water instead of cola) than just cutting a bad habit. In the bible, Jesus says that if you don’t replace an evil spirit that is expelled with the holy spirit, the evil spirit will come back with 7 friends. I wonder if this adds to why minimalism is so tricky to keep following.

If you only cut out the unnecessary but don’t fill the gap, the stuff you kicked out will eventually come back. Then you have to start culling again.

I’m not saying Minimalism is wrong, but maybe it’s just not enough.

p.s. These thoughts were prompted by Greg Morris but this is not criticism of him. I’ve certainly been on and off the minimalism bandwagon.

Evergreen creator recommendations?

Are there any bloggers or content producers who you have followed for more than a couple of years and you still pay attention to all their content with the same enthusiasm? I ask because I can think of many great content producers who I loved and have either gone off, think they’ve changed and don’t care for what they now do/have become, or still think they are good but just don’t focus on everything they put out. I don’t think there’s anyone who I have followed closely since I first came across them.

Company values

I’ve been working on some company value statements. They’re great things and I really think the company tries to embody these values…but they’re really secondary considerations. There’s often a couple of primary drivers which we don’t really talk about. It makes me wonder what a company would look like if it really put the values it states above all else.

Unhappy at home, unhappy in Rome.

Today, I was reminded of Adam Sandler’s SNL sketch where he is a travel agent who basically says his trips can’t change the person you are: unhappy at home, unhappy in Rome.

Isn’t that true with everything. So much of marketing is “this will finally make you happy” and it doesn’t. Even courses on how to be happy with less.

You already have everything you Need to be happy (unless you are living in genuine poverty).

As I write this on the train home my wife just sent me a message “We have everything we need :)” yes, we do friends.

Inspired by Patrick Rhône.

🔗 Desirable difficulties — Wikipedia

🔗 Desirable difficulties from Wikipedia > A desirable difficulty is a learning task that requires a considerable but desirable amount of effort, thereby improving long-term performance. The term was first coined by Robert A. Bjork in 1994. As the name suggests, desirable difficulties should be both desirable and difficult. Research suggests that while difficult tasks might slow down learning initially, the long term benefits are greater than with easy tasks. However, to be desirable, the tasks must also be accomplishable.

This concept came up in Range: Why generatlists trumph in a specialized world.

Reference Your Sources and Inspiration

I disagree with Derek Sivers. In fact, that sentence is my rebellion. He suggested that quoting is lazy and sounds bad.

I think it enriches communication.

Okay, not always. Derek does give some good examples when it’s bad (constant quoting, to protect yourself from being attacked, constant hedging.) but I don’t believe that’s always the case.

An invitation to go deeper

Quoting, especially with a hyperlink, allows someone to explore and idea further. If you reference someone’s work in a book, I can continue reading it later. If you mention someone’s theory on a podcast, I can look it up along with the critiques of it.

By referencing Derek, you can see what he said exactly and see if you agree with me or him more. You may not have heard of him before and know may become one of his ardent fans.

In fact, even when you do adapt an idea from someone else, I can see value in referencing the source of your inspiration. The reader has the possibility of being inspired in a different way.

Sub blogging

This came up in a discussion on micro blog earlier this week about subtweeting and sub blogging. This is where you respond to someone or something without referencing the original person. Often it’s obvious whom you are writing about. I started off defending occasional subtweeting/blogging as sometimes it’s not an obvious calling out, but inspiration for a discussion about a larger issue or you might suspect that the situation isn’t as clear cut as it appears but you still want to discuss an issues. As I consider it more, however, I realised that even in those situations, it is probably better to refer to the original source and state your exceptions. This actually helps show that you are talking about larger issues and not calling someone out, without having the guts to say their name.

Referencing treats your reader as an curious, equal

General, I think referencing treats your reader as an educated and capable person who is your equal. You are inviting them to go deeper and explore the topic further (and say where they disagree). If you seek to make an idea your own and don’t state your inspiration, it can come across as trying to elevate yourself to an expert.

Make ideas your own.

Although I disagree with parts of what Derek says, I firmly agree that you should make ideas your own. To understand an idea and phrase it in your own way or express your own exceptions.

But I still believe it is worth reference and sometimes quoting.

Just start (even if you only have five minutes)

“I only have fifteen minutes. I can’t finish this task, so I won’t start.”

How many times have I thought something similar to that? I’d guess hundreds of thousands.

But when a day is made up of dozen of these moments, that’s a lot of opportunities to do something. Especially for a large project when there is rarely the whole 40+ hours to complete it in one go.

Using those little moments can really add up. Four fifteen minute bursts are an hour. No, it’s not the same as an hours focused work, but it is something.

And sometimes just starting is the hardest part.

Before we begin, we don’t know how things will look, what the challenges are, or even how much time we’ll need to finish. Starting often illuminates the answers to those questions, or starts that process.

After all, sometimes it’s not a lack of time, but fear that’s stopping us from starting. And the only way through is …well through.

A couple of quick ideas

If you need some help on ways to start in 5 or 15 minutes, here are a couple that might help. - outline the blog post - define the problem or project. Just writing down what you want to do can help. - write down the questions you have. - think of people you could ask for a goal - look in you calendar for when you’ll have more time - Write one sentence

This post was, in fact, written across the course of the day in 5 and 15 minute moments.

A time to rest

Today, we went to the countryside and cooked sausages over a fire. Not much around, very poor phone signal, and things were as they should be.

I didn’t have to think about work or what creative project I should do next. I could just enjoy hunting for firewood, sipping back a beer and playing a few games.

It’s moments like this that make me realize how shallow most of my rest is.

Instead of the deep, REM stuff where time passes without much notice and there’s no nagging feeling, there’s a shallow rest, where nothing is really settled, and there’s always a place to be or a project to do in the back of my mind.

In theory, this is exactly the sort of thing GTD and other systems are designed to aid: Working when you work and resting when you rest, safe in the knowledge that your trusted system has it covered. But in reality, many creative projects are never truly off.1

It seems that rest, creativity and productivity are complicated (who knew!) and that a lot of one size fits all advice is probably bad.

When I was in my mid 20s, I was obsessed with productivity stuff. I thought I ought to spend every waking moment doing something productive.

Of course, that was silly. I wish I had know.

I spent so much time trying to learn “how to be productive” and while it brought fruit, after a while, the benefits were reduced, the points were much a like, and I still struggled with the same issues. It made me realize that those personality traits and habits were the biggest issues I had and I could focus all my attention on those.

I’m sure this isn’t the most productive approach – there are probably more areas I could be productive in – it works for me…for now. Who knows, maybe I’ll go deep into the productive rabbit hole again one day, or maybe I’ll just forget all about that.

I have no idea.

But today, I rested. And it was good.

  1. In fact some recent neuroscience stuff seems to say our subconscious does a lot of processing when we’re resting. Especially in creative tasks. [return]

There's Never Been a Better Time to Be a Creator

Last week I had an impromptu task at work that is the kind of thing I love about my job. I was asked to make a video bumper for some tutorials we’re putting together. It’s the kind of creative task that is also a bit of a break from the day to day stuff.

I looked into the tools that came with my work PC, then some online services and eventually came back to the brilliant LumaFusion Pro on my iPhone.

As I thought about this moment after, I realised just how powerful the tools on smartphones (especially iOS) are. The camera can be used for picture or video, you can use the free pages to write an ebook (with videos), you can find logo making tools, play with GarageBand, record a quick song idea and basically make practically anything you want and then share it with millions of people. (Okay, perhaps just your friends).

If you want to create something, then a tool which most people have in their pocket and apps that are infinitely more affordable than they used to be are all around you.

With the blogvember challenge, its a great time to remember how incredibly lucky we are to be alive now. We have all the tools we need.

Be kind to yourself

I just completed the inktober challenge yesterday and I’m about to embark upon the “blogvember” or “NaBloPoMo” (or whatever you choose to call it). I know I’m not alone in attempting this or similar challenges so I thought my first post should be about the challenge – meta, I know.

Be kind to yourself.

With challenges like this, or starting a new habit, it’s very easy to get into all or nothing mindsets: To think that we must do the best everyday.

When we inevitably fail, in some minor or major way, we beat ourselves up and condemn ourselves as worthless. “I’ll never be able to do it! I couldn’t even keep it up for three days.” So, we just stop and feel bad.

This is the wrong approach.

Spoiler; it doesn’t matter if you miss one day of a thirty day challenge. You’ve still done 29 days more. You can catch up later, or not. The point isn’t to do every day, it’s to do more.

James Clear in his book Atomic Habits advises the “rule of two”. Basically, don’t miss two occasions in a row. It’s a useful mindset to help a habit going. But I also like CGP Grey’s comment on Hello Internet where he talks about the meta skill of restarting a habit fast.

If you miss a day, identify why (I was driving on Wednesday evening when I would normally do my inktober sketch) and think of a way to get round it (for example, do my next sketch in the morning. Make note when I’m traveling this month and make sure I can find a different time instead).

And importantly, start again.

These challenges should be fun experiment not a guilt trip.

Be kind to yourself this November (and all the time).

On Small Phones

In some ways, I miss my iPhone SE. With the renewed rumours of an iPhone SE 2 (fool me once…) I thought I’d finish writing a post I started on the benefits of small phones.


I have the smaller iPhone Xs but even this beast can be difficult to fit in some of my pockets! Every now and then, I accidentally set off Siri as my phone gets squeezed in my pocket.

With the old iPhone SE size phone, I can’t remember ever having issues with buttons being accidentally pressed. Admittedly, siri was on the homebutton back then but there was still the volume button.

One Handed

I have larger hands and long fingers but I often default to the bird pecking approach to using the iPhone Xs. It’s not terrible, but I miss the ease of using one hand and being able to touch the whole screen. Not to mention how secure it felt in my hand all the time.

This is a business point but a year or so ago, I noticed that the iPhone SE/ the iPhone 5s? was clearly the most popular phone around. Maybe not more than all the android phones combined, but more than any other individual model.

The price was surely a big part of that for a country with slower mean salaries than say the US or UK. Many of those users wouldn’t replace an SE with any regular iPhone due to the price. That’s potentially a lot of lossed customers and service revenue.

From the personal side, I find it harder to recommend an apple device to Polish friends as it can be a signifcant percentage of someone’s sallary.

No other companies are doing it

One of the things that is great about Android is the variety. If you need a specific type of device, you can get it. It’s basically the free market dream. But, there aren’t any companies making small phones anymore.

That’s a real shame as some users do want smaller phones.

Wouldn’t it be great if Apple was the company offering more variety than the whole Android ecosystem (at least in some aspect).

Less distracting

Personally, I find smaller phones discourage me from fidgetting with them. Perhaps it’s just not looking at YouTube or maybe it’s just harder to use (which encourages you not to use it).

Perhaps that’s a strange idea — the device is better because it’s worse…

Helps with other issues

As the iPhone SE was simplified, it had some unexpected benefits. For example, as the iPhone SE’s screen was smaller and lower resolution than the iPhone 6S (which had much the same hardware), it had better battery life and faster performance.

Those are significant benefits.

Admittedly, there were some downsides but perhaps an iPhone SE 2 would have some performance related benefits.

Will it happen?

I’ve had my phones of an iPhone SE 2 or SE version of the iPhone X (an iPhone SE X if you will 🥁) raised before only for nothing to come. Maybe the same will happen again… but perhaps this time something is coming.

I guess we’ll see.

I'm an Unprofessional Blogger

About 10 years ago, I wanted to be a professional blogger. Now I’m happy to be an unprofessional blogger. Well, most of the time at least.

I thought I wanted the exciting lifestyle of making money from work anywhere I wanted. I saw these people “doing nothing” (spoiler, they were doing a lot more than what I saw) and thought that looked great. Free products to review, working in my pyjamas, travel whenever I wanted.

But pursuing that “dream” did something to me.

When I sought to be a professional blogger, I ended up focusing on tactics and topics which didn’t really interest me. I focused on topics that would help my search engine position with 800+ word articles for topics that could be addressed in 350 words at most.

It wasn’t all bad; it made me a better writer and led to my current career. In many ways, my day job is being a professional blogger. But I don’t need to pursue page views for personal projects anymore.

As an unprofessional blogger, I can - write about what I want, when I want
- not write when I don’t want to (and not apologize!)
- try out something stupid and fail (but have fun)
- make grammar and spelling mistakes (and thank kind souls who point them out while deliberately annoying pretentious pedants)
- make a mess of my website as I change the design

Basically, I can have fun.

Of course, there are times when the green-eyed monster appears after someone else has great success for something which “I could do better” (In most cases I probably couldn’t and in the cases where I might be able to, the fact of the matter is that I’m not doing it and they are. That’s all that matters). It’s something that will probably remain, but I’ll try to stay grateful that I’m an unprofessional blogger.

Goodbye Apple UK, Hello Apple Poland.

Well I finally did it. I switched from my UK based Apple iTunes account to a Polish based one. A couple of years ago (sometime after June 23, 2016) I realised I probably wouldn’t be returning to the UK in the short run and looked into changing to a Polish account. The additional benefits of paying less for the same products and spending money from my account which is more regularly topped up were key factors. But there was an issue. Switching accounts ends any subscriptions and a couple of years ago I had a few (Apple music, Ulysses, FitStar and a couple more). So I was stuck, especially as they didn’t run out at the same time. I would have to lose key apps while I waited for my other subscriptions to expire. This morning I finally made the jump. I had moved away from some of these subscription apps (YouTube music, where I switched my Google account to a Polish one no problem and iA Writer) and so I was finally free to make the jump. I still lost another few months of my Drafts subscription and I’ll have to wait longer for AppleTV+ or other subscription services, but the long-term benefits are worth it for me.

I just wish Apple made switching countries easier, I completely understand why they don’t want to (preventing abuse) but it sucks to be caught in the crosshairs.

Hey fellow imposter syndrome sufferers 👋. Just a reminder of a simple thing that can really help at work. When someone praises you/your work, take a screenshot/write a note/record it and then put that in a place you can get to. When you feel worried or think that you suck, look at those comments.

Stay Curious — Advice to Myself

My Daughter doesn’t need this advice. She’s just turned 14 months old and she is the most curious person I know.

Sometimes I don’t like her curiosity and try to stifle it. Like when she picks up a cigarette bud off the ground and moves it towards her mouth. Or when she tries to touch the dark black surface of our induction hob that is still radiating heat.

While those occasions may be very noble efforts, there are other occasions where the intention and outcome are less positive. When I’m tried and just want to sit on the sofa and not check every room in the house. Or when she hears a noise on a walk and wants to go back towards it while I want to rush on to our already late appointment.

Of course, her curiosity is not unusual for a kid: they all are curious. But that also means she’s likely to lose this trait. Especially if her father discourages her.

So this advice is for myself. Stay curious, encourage your daughter’s curiosity. You never know where it might take you.

Challenge: Use a voice assistant more

There’s a piece of data that makes me the most skeptical regarding voice assistants is how (in general) younger people prefer to text rather than call. Perhaps that reflects that younger people are less willing to use a voice assistant than type commands. On the other hand, I know many parents who say that their kids “talk to Google” or Alexa. Not having a smart speaker probably makes me biased here, but I still wonder if trying to make voice the primary method of interaction is flawed.

To investigate for myself, I decided to set a challenge for the week.

Try to use Siri for all my interactions.

I’ve already had to set up some new Siri shortcuts to do this and I hope it will give me a different perspective on voice assistants.