30 days of sketchnoting the course is live

To give people (and myself) something to do during self-isolation/social distancing or whatever, I published my premium 30 days of sketchnoting course. 🥳

It’s 30 days of sketchnoting activites to build your sketchnoting skills (it works if you’ve never sketchnoted before, or if you have experience but want to expand your skillset).

It might be a bit rough around the edges so if you use the code MARCH20, you get 75% off (and I’m going to take it down after a week and correct any issues).

If $7 is too much for you, I have a couple of free sketchnote courses (but they don’t have videos).

I’m hoping to use the money from this course to pay for the hosting, add an email drip system and perhaps even get some new gear to make better videos for the next course (and add videos to the free courses).

P.s. If you know someone who is interested in sketchnoting, I’d love it if you shared these courses with them. Thank you.

Answer the question.

I got to take part in some interviews today. I asked what aspect of their work they enjoyed the most and which they liked the least. For the first part, the candidate basically answers everything. I asked about what they liked the least and they answered a different question. I asked my question again and the candidate again avoided answering. I wonder if the candidate thought I was asking a “what’s your greatest weakness” type question when I really wasn’t. Avoiding my question, especially after I asked again, annoyed me.

No, your "brilliant guest post" isn't right for me

I get a couple of emails a week with content people want me to share on a site I’m connected to. I think there has been two times when the content was actually relevant to the site and didn’t sound terrible. And yet, every time I get sent an approach email, it says differently.

There’s a good chance that if you are sending emails asking to guest post on someone’s site and you get no response, you are making the same mistakes.

Some simple advice

  1. If you want to people to accept your invitations, then suggest relevant content.
  2. look for content submission details. Some sites WANT more content and have an easily discovered page where you can submit content.
  3. On the other hand, some sites DON’T want your content and won’t accept it even if it’s great. (e.g. This site is my own personal site, I will never accept a guest post on it. Start your own.)
  4. Don’t use a stock approach email. They are easy to spot and I will ignore your message. (but you may get inspired)
  5. If you don’t read a site, then be honest! Don’t fake “being a long time reader”. I’m more likely to read the “hey I’m looking for guest positing opportunities on {topic} and I came across your site. I was wondering if…” If you read my site, prove it subtley not just saying you read a post.
  6. Even if you do everything right, I may have just deleted every email in my inbox because I got fed up. You can try emailing me again but there’s a good chance I’m ignoring you or have blocked you as you came across as spammy.

By the way, this was going to be a tweetstorm but I remembered the words of a friend and decided that a blog post would be better.

Treating other people's time as valuable

I try to treat everyone’s time at work as valuable. If there is something I can probably find out without bothering someone, I don’t disturb them. If I want to ask a question, I make sure I keep it short, clear and with any follow up questions I might need so that the other person only needs to respond once. I do this with supriror, people of the same rank, and inferiors. When a supriror asks me to do something that would take them less time, I get it. They probably have less time and its their perogative. But it shocks me the number of times people will send me a request for information that is easy to find (probably easier for them) and that they then have to wait for me to respond to. I don’t know if it’s laziness, lack of gumption, poor work culture, fear of taking the blame for any mistakes, my overeagerness or something else entirely but I’ve just sent five minutes looking up some information on the public company directory to send over to someone who could have done it themselves and didn’t launch something last night because “they were waiting for me”. 🙄

p.s. yes, I know that I’ve spent more time writing this than finding the information.

Em dashes on the web: Chicago confusion

I just saw an example of Chicago style em dash format on the web (no spaces between words). Initially, I thought it was a hyphenated word and read it as such. Perhaps this was just the layout on the website as I never have issues with the Chicago approach in books. Regardless, I’m noting this as a point in favour of other style guides.

A Quick Thought on Focal Lengths in Street Photography

Generally, the more populous the area you are shooting in, the wider focal length you want. - Centre of London: 28mm.
- Krakow/outer London: 35mm - rural/ deserted streets: 50mm There are plenty of exceptions (some only use tele lenses. Some only wide. Also are street portraits street?) but I think this is a pretty good starting point.

Dear Aspiring Writer. Keep Going.

I’ve seen some writing from aspiring writers which makes me roll my eyes (and some from professional writers too for that matter). Part of me wishes they wouldn’t bother writing about these topics again (e.g. the iPad sucks/ the iPad is the best thing ever as long as you have these 20 apps), but I’m keenly aware of the dangers of wishing a writer wouldn’t bother.

The creative process isn’t clean or easy. Creating is messy and involves mistakes.

In the words of Jake from Adventure time, sucking at something is the first step to being sort of good at something.

To get better at writing, we need first to write badly. Then slightly less badly (with a few missteps along the way) and eventually be sort of kinda good at something.

Even once we’ve “made it” we may create the occasional average product. As a follower of a creative, we can expect everything to be their best work, but with online publishing that won’t always be true. Admittedly, the skill of knowing what leads to pursue and when to kill a draft are important to develop. But as the ceramics class in Art & Fear showed that focusing on quantity leads to higher quality, so we too should be forgiving of the occasional misstep.

After all, if there is writing (or podcasts or video) that we do not like, we can always choose to ignore it.

It’s not like anyone is forcing you to follow it.

🔗 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.