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.

So, who wants to start sketchnoting

I’ve been “sketchnoting” for about four years now, but I spent a lot longer wishing I could sketchnote. That’s why I created 7 days to start sketchnoting, so people wouldn’t waste time wishing they could sketchnote, but start immediately.

I can’t remember the first sketchnote I saw, it was probably on twitter back when it wasn’t a cool place. As soon as I saw it I wanted to make something similar but two things help me back - “I can’t draw” - how the hell do you organise information so well! So I carried on with my notes plus a could of visual ideas. It wasn’t until I decided that it could really improve my teaching and my students learning that I properly dived into sketchnoting.

Guess what.

It wasn’t as difficult as I had built it up in my head. All it took was a couple of key insights and I broke through the barriers that held me back. I applied those ideas to the way I introduced sketchnotes to students and saw a massive increase in the number of students who started sketchnoting as a result.

So I’m sharing what I learned in the 7 days to start sketchnoting course.

It’s completely free and a self study course. You can start today (and finish every activity today) or take a couple of months to go through it all. But, if you want an assignment a day for a week, then you can get email prompts for just that.

So sign up and get started sketchnoting today.

You could use some eyerollers

This year I’ve seen some writers and podcasters whom I like and have followed for a while make some (interesting/bad/not-for-me) decisions. Today I saw one example and thought this person needs more of what Austin Kleon calls “eyerollers”: a person who will tell great people they are being dumb.

One example I’ve seen is people taking themselves too seriously. They’ve reached a level of success and now every new thing they are doing is a HUGE deal.

Another is employing the tactics that everyone else is using (when they achieved their initial success because they didn’t use those same tactics).

Both of these types of people (and myself) could use some eyerollers in their lives. (But hey, if you roll your eye, you’re just a hater).

The Best Tool, Is the One You Want To Use More (Most of the Time)

I think it was Valerie Jardin who twisted the classic saying to > the best camera is the one you take more pictures with.

While this can certainly be “the one you have with you” (including a smart phone) it may also be a big bulky, dedicated camera if it encourages you to take more photos than your phone.

I believe this is a good rule of thumb for most tools. We want tools that make us use them more. With apps for sketchnoting, some people find the powerful procreate encourages them to sketch more. Other people find the most limited paper by wetransfer gives them the creative constraints they need to draw without thinking too much. (And some people use pen and paper).

The exceptions

There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Occasions when I want to do something less often or spend less time on an activity. I like this idea, but don’t often stick to it. Take email for example. I want to spend less time in my app and check it less often. I usually remove it from my phone to help deal with that (and then reinstall when I need to access some emails, and typically forget to uninstall for a month or two). In this situation, I want to use “the best” tool as it’s such a horrible experience. But perhaps that just encourages me to use it more. Maybe if I used an application I liked less, I’d develop better habits.

Curating friction

Basically, this is another attempt to curate friction, but in a different form. I’m still experimenting and attempting to use some worse/default apps/tools for tasks which I want to avoid doing. I’ll report back.

Do you do anything similar?

Introducing Ukulele.MicroBlog

About a month ago I finally tested out an idea I had been wondering about. I registered a new account on Microblog with the username Ukulele. Today, I paid for the first months hosting.

I had wanted to do it sooner, but there had been a couple of things that held me back (funds in my bank account, not having my ukulele around while I traveled) but now it is live.

Why Ukulele MB

I did something similar in the past on Tumblr (and in fact had a lot of followers there). It was a way for me to share what I was learning and help me see my progress on the instrument. Recently, I’ve been playing the ukulele more again and introducing my 1 year old daughter to the instrument (she’s moved from hitting the strings to kind of sort of plucking them). With my appreciation of, I realised it could be a great new combination. A way to share fun images, and video/audio of me playing. Plus maybe I’ll find some other Ukulele players on MB and share their stuff (with their permission of course).

Follow and get connected with Ukulele MB

I’d like your help. Please let me know what type of content you’d like to see (especially if you are a ukulele player yourself) and follow the @ukulele account

Where did the inspiration go

I’ve found it harder to write “title worthy” posts recently. I’m not sure the exact origin of this trend. - Perhaps I’m concentrating more on other creative activities that drain that inspirational spark. - Maybe I’m being drained more by work with a more strenuous workload. - Possibly my inspirational diet isn’t as rich as it has been in the past. - or it might just be a little creative burnout. Whatever it is, I’m still going through the creative motions–Learning and getting inspired, doing some common creative activities, sharing items that inspire me. These habits have helped me not worry about the lack of titled posts. After all. I’m still creating–I have many sketchnotes which aren’t for others to see–and I know that the drought will end at some point. Yes, this is a post about writing: A thing I usually hate. In my opinion, it’s much better to create primary source material than commentary on top of commentary. But it’s not criminal to occasionally discuss the frustrations of creating and you can do whatever you want with your blog.

Sidenote, I’m not talking about writers block. I’ve been writing, just none of it was worth sharing on my site.

The Third Law of Creativity

Newton’s third law of physics states “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It’s true of the creative process too.

I’ve noticed a tension present in most creative work. The ideas and projects which are the most exciting and motivating also have the most inertia.

The cause of that drag can be laziness, distractions and self-doubt.

That tension doesn’t feel pleasant, but it’s a telltale sign that a project is a good idea.

You are fine without advice and suggestions - Austin Kleon 🔗

You are fine without advice and suggestions - Austin Kleon 🔗

But no, I don’t want to instruct step-by-step how the collages are done, because:

1) I’m still exploring the technique myself and I don’t want to codify it or make any rules or make it boring

2) I am certain that if curious commenters sat down and tried to approximate my technique with their own tools and materials, they would come up with something of their own.

I have to admit that I often ask people how they did something. Sometimes I try to do it myself before I ask (leading to interesting results) and on other occasions I try to copy to the letter (and often I fail to reproduce it exactly). I wish I could say those failed attempts always lead to some cool, unique style. More often than not they are just lame attempts. Regardless, the process is always fun (with frustration).

Stock and Flow Creating

In my experience, your stock is best made by collecting, organising and expanding upon your flow. Social media sites function a lot like public notebooks …but the thing about keeping notebooks is that you have to revisit them in order to make the most out of them… once you make sharing part of your daily routine, you’ll notice themes and trends emerge in what you share. You’ll find patterns in your flow. - Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

I like Austin’s approach to stock and flow media. Flow is like the little ideas we chuck out and see how it feels when they’re published.

Maybe nothing happens. Maybe something sticks.

There might be an opportunity to expand upon this idea and turn it into stock or it may inspire more flow.

Related, I saw this LinkedIn post from Gary Vaynerchuk (I’ve probably lost some people already but it is worth watching what he is doing) which at first looks like he has the opposite model – He starts with long content (a podcast or vlog?) and then turns it into smaller content. But he is actually doing the same.

His longer content is flow, just ideas from meetings. Then it is refined into more solid content and ideas by his team.

On Drawing a Circle ⭕️

When I was a kid, I struggled a lot with drawing. I’d try to draw a round circle. Put pencil to paper and before I rounded the first corner, I’d know it was no good.

So I’d rub it out and start again. This time the first corner would be good but it would be more oval. And so I’d picked up the eraser again, and again and again.

Soon I’d have a pile of eraser rubbings on the side and even though I had removed all the graphite from the page, a mess of a circle would remain due to the indentation. Frustrated I’d give up or try something else.

I couldn’t accept the reality of my skills not matching the vision in my mind.

I accepted that I was no artists.

Imperfections are okay

I still wish I could draw a perfect circle, or a straight line that doesn’t go up at the end. Maybe one marvelous day I’ll look down with surprise at one of these impossibilities emerging, but I don’t need it to happen anymore. I’m better at accepting these quirks and trying to turn them into something unique.

When the line bends the wrong way, maybe I can use that for something else. When the circle is more squashed in one direction, perhaps the person’s face was always meant to be that odd shape.

This is a lot easier with pen an paper than iPad and pencil™️, The ease of the double tap undo gesture is seductive and less noticeable than the collection of discarded shavings. That’s why I’ve embraces analogue sketching tools more recently (along with the increased screen time from my job).

Keep drawing circles

I still keep drawing circles, and still can’t really get one “right”. But now I leave the previous attempts. These accidents sometimes lead to and idea that couldn’t exist.

Actually Listening, Not Waiting to Speak

I’ve recently become aware of how powerful listening is and how terrible I am at it. It’s shocking the number of times when I ”listen” but am really just waiting to speak.

When I have truly listened and held back from speaking or giving my 2c, the conversation is always more edifying and usually saves time as I don’t say something the other person would have said anyway.

I’m starting to think that developing my listening skills may be one of the most transformative actions I can take.

Curating Friction

One of the curious ideas I found in Atomic Habits is that often our environments have a greater impact on us than motivation or character.

For example, if you live in a country where there’s lots of cheap fast food, you’re more likely to be overweight than in a country where fast food is expensive and most people have more restricted diets.

There are exceptions, but you will be closes to your countries average (whatever that is).

But this isn’t just on the macro countrywide level, it equally applies to our micro environments such as the office and home. If your shelves are stocked with sweets and chocolate, then you probably won’t eat as healthy as when they are full with fruits and vegetables.

This is where curating friction comes in.

Friction is how easy or difficult an action is. If it’s easy to complete, it’s a low-friction activity. If it’s difficult to complete, then it’s a high-friction activity.

When we curate friction, we are adding or removing friction in areas of our lives to make certain actions easier or more difficult. Here’s some practical examples.
- Placing a paper notebook journal open to today’s date on your bedside table is reducing the friction to journal. - Packing your games console away after you play increases the friction of playing a “quick” game.
- Placing your scale at the end of the bed is a great way to reduce the friction of regularly weighing yourself.
- Uninstalling all the social media apps on your phone is increasing the friction to get stuck scrolling the endless feed.

There are many more examples for different habits and goals and in each case it’s not impossible to do the “wrong” thing. But it’s much more difficult and becomes easier to choose the right thing.

The idea of curating friction as it helps me take more ownership of my environments. Just as an art gallery makes decisions about every item on display include where it is positioned in relationship to the other pieces, so should I take ownership of the friction I create and leave in my life.

I’d love to know what ways you currently curate friction in your life.

Out of the box 📦

In general, I believe iOS users tend to prefer out of the box solutions. It’s the whole model of Apple pricing and technology (certainly in contrast with android which favours customisation, even if it is become more standardised).

I enjoy this approach a lot. Not having to think but instead just use the default option along with its decisions helps me avoid decision fatigue. When I had an android phone, I found myself fiddling, trying to set it up just right.

At the same time, there are clear downsides. These default options have decisions which I don’t like and frequently miss power feature. For a simple example, the Apple podcast app doesn’t have the same queuing and smart speed features of apps like Overcast and Castro.

Apps like drafts and shortcuts are another curiosity to me. I love their power but they are the antithesis of “out of the box” philosophy.

I have certain actions and shortcuts which are really useful, but I also have a selection which are just taking up space, unused. I try to clean up my actions episodically, and have recently been doing just that.

but I still wonder about the friction between out of the box and customisation.

Sometimes a Tweet Should (And Does) Become a Blog Post

I recently -complained- wrote about when a book should really be a blog post or series (hey there most business books) but sometimes the reverse can happen where expanding upon a short idea provides greater context and value. I was reminded of a great example of this, expand by Garrick van Buren.

The idea of expand was simple, Garrick posted three tweets every day and then at the end of the week he found out which resonated the most and wrote in greater detail about them for his newsletter (which cost money).

To some degree, I try use for a similar purpose. Posting content and seeing what resonates with people. There are no favorites, stars or likes so it’s more about comments but also when I see similar themes appear elsewhere.

This post is actually an example. It’s a continuation based on the reaction to the first and on seeing @PatrickRhone mention Garrick.