Personal style for the minimalist

I'm a tall white 34 year old man from Sweden. I've never been able to purchase clothes that really fit. I've bought custom tailored shirts for years.

Is it too early to just go old school, and wear suits the entire time? I've always been comfortable in classic outfits. It fits my personality quite well. And I've basically been using a personal uniform for ten years (blue jeans, white shirt, leather jacket).

I'd like to pair down. My wardrobe as much as the time I spend on outfits. Are suits a smart way to go, or will I be spending too much and drearily wearing the same thing every day?

 Classic style for gentlemen — or boring wage slave old farts?

Classic style for gentlemen — or boring wage slave old farts?

2018 Setup

I’ve always been impressed by people detailing their setups for activity. It’s part inspiring and part a treasure trove of tips. So with a head nod to Thord who inspired this one, here’s my setup going into 2018.

What I do

I mostly do consultant work, front end development and UX design. But I also do some product development, which means writing and creating content. So my time is split pretty unevenly between: Design, Development, Entertainment and Creativity. I figured these might be good categories.

Devices

Design & Development

  • MacBook Pro 13” (space gray, touch bar edition) — I spend 90% of my time on this machine. I wish I didn’t, but until I finish KodApp I can’t properly work on my iPad Pro. The MBP is great though, it’s no longer as overwhelmingly better than the compition that MBPs used to be. But this is still a fantastic machine.
  • iPad Pro 10.5” (silver) — my favorite device by far. I use it with two external keyboards, the Apple Smart Keyboard an Apple Keyboard in a Canvas cover, and the Apple Pencil. Can’t get enough of it! Everything I can do, I do better on the iPad. It’s just a much more limited device. And strangely, those limitations create both focus and creativity.
  • iPhone X (space gray) — I’ve had an iPhone since the iPhone 3G so you can imagine how well integrated into the ecosystem I am. The iPhone has captured more memories and facilitated more  opportunities in my life than anything else (except maybe the internet itself). I could not be happier. And th X is simply the most iPhone of any iPhone so far.
  • Apple Watch (series zero) I’m forever greatful to the Apple Watch for helping me catch my ex cheating, it had gone on for a long time and might’ve gone on a lot longer without the Apple Watch. But truth be told, I don’t use it that much. I wear it every day but I read the time, temperature and measure my sleep. That’s about it. When there’s a nicer watch available with these featres (there are some already but none have caught my eye) I’ll switch to that.

Creativity

  • iPad Pro 10.5” — Already wrote about this device, but couldn’t list creative tools without it. That’s how good it is.
  • Notebooks and pens — I’ve always carried around a ton of notebooks and pencils to draw and sketch on. While I’ve been trimming these down over the last year I’ve also added a new habit: Every morning I journal in my Field Notes with my 0.7mm black Muji pen. It helps me stay acountable and learning.

Entertainment

  • Kindle Oasis — I read. A lot. And this is the best reading device I've ever had.
  • Nintendo Swith — I've always loved gaming, even used to work with game design, and this magical console has completely rekindled my sense of childlike wonder for gaming.
  • Apple TV — Netflix machine.

Apps

Design

  • Paper by 53 — Probably the best sketching app ever. Use it with my Apple Pencil every time I start fleshing out ideas.
  • Figma — This is collaborative Sketch, in the browser. It's amazing, and allows you to prototype directly.
  • Keynote — Sometimes I have to present design, and I usually use keynote for that. Why? It's free and beautiful and easy to use.

Development

  • Atom — Fantastic text editor for all your coding needs.
  • Zeit Now — The best collection of cloud tools for developers I've ever used. Check out everything Zeit does, and never use anything but Now as a dev environment.
  • Digital Ocean — If, and it's increasingly rare, Zeit's environments aren't configurable enough.

Creativity

  • Field Notes — Great looking notebooks, for sketching and journaling.
  • Paper by 53 — Like I wrote above. Everything starts in Paper.

Entertainment

  • Spotify — For music, tried Apple Music, but I just missed curated playlists way to much. Before you say it, no, Apple Musics playlists are not even close.
  • Podcasts / Overcast — I try to live with defaults to understand users in all situations. But Apple Podcast app is just so bad I keep coming back to Overcast.
  • Audible / Kindle — I listen to books as much or even more than I read.
  • Twitter — The only social media I've ever truly loved. The company is doing everything wrong now a days, but I still love the free exchange of ideas. Wish someone could build a next generation of this.

Productivity

  • Bear — My note taking app of choice.
  • Things — All my todos organised in a  GTD system. Beautiful app that's a pleasure to use, all day every day.

Stuff

  • Fjällräven G-1000 — my daily laptop bag. This is basically my office.
  • AirPods — The best headphones I've ever owned. Always with me, always in use, always work.

That's it! That's all the stuff I use on a daily basis.

 

Product mechanics

In Games there’s a focus of design called Game Mechanics. It works like this: Mario jumps, that’s a mechanic. The player is pushing buttons, but that’s just how they interact with the game mechanics. In this word where Mario jumps there enemies, enemies move and have behaviors, all of these things are not game mechanics. Mario can jump on enemies, that’s a game mechanic.

Game mechanics could be said to be mental models for how your activity works.

There isn’t really anything like it for the tech industry. There’s no product mechanic for a Todo list. Just an interface, and some actions.  

We design UI. Not activity. UX is trying to change this, but often lacks the understanding and even the language to do that. Maybe we should take a page out of the game design playbook and start designing Product Mechanics.  

Getting rid of wish lists

I've been practicing minimalism for years. Slowly getting rid of things that I don't need. But I realized only yesterday that I'm hoarding clutter in my own head. Getting stressed for no reason. So I've decided to get rid of that stuff.

Yesterday I was talking to my friend Magnus about how he managed his reading list. You know, that list of books and articles you keep in three different places that always seems to grow? Those amazon wish lists that never seems to have a thing you want to read right now?

Well Magnus didn't have one, and that got me thinking.

I've been bookmarking all these books, articles, movies and TV-shows all over the place. But how much time am I actually spending enjoying things from these lists? To be honest, most of the time I stress about them and maybe once in a while I prune. So what is the point of keeping a list of musts when they were supposed to be entertaining?

This is the essence of minimalism. Your stuff ends up owning you. When you spend more time on upkeep of your stuff than on enjoying them. It becomes a ridiculous waste of lifetime.

So I'm getting rid of my lists. I will no longer store articles, I'll read them or disregard them. I'll no longer add books to lists. Either I want to read it now, or I'll come back when I feel like it. I'm not about to stop consuming media. Instead I'm going to consume what I want, instead of what I should want.

The goal is to get down to one or two things I'm reading. One thing I want to see next. The rest can wait.

There's never enough time as it is. Why the hell keep holding on to distraction?

Productivity porn

Conferences have interested me less and less over the last five years or so, and I just realized why. It’s because so much of it is inspirational instead of educational.

Inspiration is basically productivity porn. It’s entertaining and feels like you’re leaning, but it’s just another distraction. It’s the “busy work” of learning.

Stuff to keep you busy from doing what you really want to be doing.

You don’t need more inspiration. You need to do the work. Because doing things inspire us.

Secret advantages to being lean

Over the last few years I've transformed my body through weight lifting. I'm proud to say I've never been this fit and healthy.

Being strong and fit has a lot of advantages. But I would never have guessed being lean would make me enjoy shopping. As a very tall man most clothes still don't even nearly fit, but even clothes that don't fit look ok on me. 

This is not a humble brag, but a post about my genuine surprise.

I wonder if the past decades general weight increases might not be behind a lot of the mental anguish people today feel. Being lean removes a lot of problems, and saves you a lot of time.

 

Listening to the body

I am deeply suspicious of cross fit. While I work out with heavy weight, all the classic compound lifts, I’m deeply suspicious of any training that makes people needlessly tired. Now all training differs depending on your intended goal. So my own might be clouding my vision of other forms of training.

But we should always listen to our bodies. And inflammation, which all my runner and cross fit friends are so proud of constantly having, is a sign of doing something wrong. 

Inflammation is the body’s response to an injury or unnatural wear and tear. If you are regularly getting inflammation due to working out... it might be time to rethink your goals.

Motivation and leadership are passive qualities.

Sometimes I come across quotes and ideas by people that resonate so intimately I can't help myself but share them:

"You can’t motivate people. The best you can hope for is to inspire them with your actions. People who think they can use behavioral “science” or management techniques have not spent enough time on the receiving end of either."
— Leo Babauta (Zen Habits)

The science of motivation, and of fun, is quite clear on the subject. It's very easy to motivate someone who wants to do something. It's near impossible to motivate someone who doesn't want to. Which is why leisure and luxury sells well, while real fitness and learning looks stuffy and boring.

This is a moral question for designers. Because the easy design, the quick sell, will be motivating. It will also, quite probably, be the wrong thing to do.

The anti-conspiracy theory

In literature and movies there's an archetype, a certain type of character, that I enjoy; the antihero. 

An antihero or antiheroine is a protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, and morality. (Wikipedia)

The antihero usually portrays how a slightly more realistic person would react in situations in need of heroism.

These days conspiracy theories are both abundant and constantly heckled. Something about great mysterious behind-the-curtain players who try to mastermind humanity into their evil machinations speak to us. It probably makes us feel like the underdogs, or heroes, of our daily situations.

The anti-conspiracy theory would, like the antihero, explain all the same facts and results as the conspiracy theory. But instead of grand masterminds hiding in the shadows, the antagonists world be plodding middle managers doing a series of dumb things to further their immediate, and often political, claims. With little or no thought about the actual results their actions have.

Basically, the road to hell paved with good intentions.

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."
(Hanlon's razor)

    A perfect example of this story arc would be Ayn Rands much debated Atlas Shrugged. The story is often ridiculed for over-the-top heroes and a utopian view of rationalism. While most of those criticisms are pot shots at an author that never really mastered the English language, they completely miss the main plot of the story; in Atlas Shrugged the world is ruined by a series of bumbling idiots trying to pursue their own political power and ideals. To effects all to common in our own world. It's an alternative narrative to why things are so messed up, taken to an extreme.

    It doesn't really matter if you think Atlas Shrugged is a good book or a terrible one (I love the book for it's contrarian world view, but the author was not a very good writer). But the way the story is built up, the narrative, is a perfect anti-conspiracy theory. 

    The next time you hear a conspiracy theory, try turning it into an anti-conspiracy theory and see if that story doesn't work a little bit better. 

      Lifestyle design: iteration two

      I’ve spent 20 days trying to follow the routine I set up in iteration one. It didn’t work.

      Well maybe that is a bit dramatic. It didn’t work as expected, but I learned a lot about how time tracking an entire life really works. As usual, I’ve been slightly too enthusiastic. So I need to tweak my formulea based on what I’ve learned.

      What I learned one: Sleep is hard

      I planned to sleep 8 hours and spend an aditional 1 hour per day in bed to relax.
      I mananged an average 6 hours of sleep and I felt like shit. I was lucky if I spent more than ten minutes relaxing before I needed to sleep.
      This isn’t really a fault in planning, just an observation that I’m not disciplined enough. I need that sleep. It’s the foundation of everything else.

      What I learned two: No one works 8 hours a day

      Now when I say work I mean active time being productive. Since all my work is digital I’ve been able to track every minute of work. And let me tell you, whenever someone says they work more than 40 hours a week, what they really mean is they spend that time in proximity to work.

      • At 4 hours a day I work great. A lot of things get done and I’m nice to collegues.
      • At 6 hours a day I work sporadically. Some things get done but I get easily distracted and I’m a bit of a grouch.
      • At 8 hours a day I don’t work well. Little things get under my skin. My solutions are equally brilliant and idiotic. I’m easily angered and everything stresses me out.
      • At 10 hours a day I’m mad. Everything pushes my blood pressure through the roof, and little real work gets done.

      Thankfully I also tracked the number of tasks that got done. I’ve edited out the small stuff and most of these tasks were about as much work.

      • At 10 hours: average of 4 tasks.
      • At 8 hours: average of 6-8 tasks.
      • At 6 hours: average of 12 tasks.
      • At 4 hours: average of 15-25 tasks...

      Working less apparently forces me to focus better. A lot better. In fact I’m slightly shocked at the difference.

      What I learned three: Media is not rest

      I had 3 hours of play, or rest, planned per day. But after 8 hours of focused work, I ried watching a movie or reading a book. Both of which made me even more tired. Media, it turns out, is not really that restful.

      We spend a lot of time with media, as relaxation, as a social event. So much time we take it for granted that we should. But at least for me, I’ve found that media doesn’t relax me at all. On the contrary, it keeps me focused and alert, spending more of my energy.

      Perhaps more media is not the answer.

      What I learned four: This is going to take forever

      I can’t keep testing this slowly. Or I will never find a balance that works. Thankfully a tip from my friend Michael gave me an alterantive strategy.

      From now on I will try to plan only the next day, and evaluate how it went each night. I’ll keep tracking my time and use Day One to plan and evaluate my days.

      What TV executives believe about their audience

      A few years back I was involved in redesigning a website for a TV channel in Sweden. What they told me gave me a profound insight into the minds of the networks. To bait your click, you won't believe what they believe. We met in a conference room in the networks main building. He was in charge of communications for several channels that belonged to the network. I was a junior employee at a highly regarded marketing agency.

      We sat down, three of us from the firm, and the TV exec, to discuss what we would be doing. We began by offering a series of ideas about how they could communicate their unique brands and shows, but the exec stopped us half way though.

      "No, no. You've got it all wrong." he said "this isn't why people watch our channel at all".

      We all leaned in. The exec launched into a vague pitch about what made them truly unique, summing it up in a phrase that is forever etched in my mind:

      "People stay with our channel, for our programming"

      I was confused. I didn't think he meant any coding was going on, but didn't understand the term, thankfully he explained it. In the view of the network, people tuned into to a channel, and stayed with that channel, because of their unique arrangement of shows and commercials. The programming, is their term for the schedule of material broadcast. Each show, each commercial break and even the ads themselves, are scheduled to reflect the overall feel of the TV channel. This is, according to him, why people like one channel over another.

      I was stunned by this. Not the information itself, I've always expected every media form to think like this to some degree, but by the thought that these executives actually believed that in the age of the internet.

      This was prior to Netflix launch in Sweden, but anyone who had seen any statistics about video usage online, or seen anyone using youtube or torrenting a movie knew that this was completely false. Not just ignorant, but incorrect almost to the point of lunacy. People find and watch specific content because they like that content. They might endure everything else, only if there's no easier way. But they do not choose their content by association.

      I walked away from that meeting in a stunned silence.

      Recently I think I have realized how this idea took shape. TV usage is measured by putting a box near your TV that records audio cues from the programs and commercials. This recorded data is later collected and aggregated to find statistically interesting patterns.

      The problem, like with most statistics, is of course that this collection method cannot measure intent. So if you were to turn on your TV while you do the dishes, and talk on the phone, and then see one program before you go to bed, you will be measured as staying with one channel for quite some time before jumping to a specific show and then turning off.

      Even though your intent was background noise while you do something else, the measurement is easily interpreted as you enjoying the channel and sticking to the programming.

      For that network, or at least that executive, the numbers were clear. Their unique programming was what kept people glued to the TV screen five hours every night.

      This is not a jab at TV, though they are aging rather badly, but a warning to all of us not to get caught forcing what we want users to think onto statistics, just because we believe our work to be important. Let's never become so arrogant we start believing our brand is more important than our product. In the end, every business is about creating value for your customer.

      (If anyone has similar insights into the TV industry, I'd LOVE to hear it. Please post in the comments below.)

      Lifestyle design: the plunge

      Getting started was much harder than expected. After I got past the first wave of fear & procrastination actual problems reared their ugly heads.

      "Problems"

      Now there are a lot of people who complain about this word; problems. They seem to believe that by admitting there is such a thing, we stop and give up.

      I’ve never believed that. I think we need to clearly state and define every problem and complication before we can do anything about them.

      In my experience, the people complaining about this word are the same people who are least likely to solve anything. I might be wrong about this, but it is interesting to note that the larger and more sluggish an organisation, the fewer problems they seem to communicate.

      Problems solved

      I have things I need to deal with to really get going. The first of these major hurdles I’ve just left in the dust. I’ve managed to clean up my debt and I’m back in the black. It took some radical action, but I’m actually better off now than I have been in years.

      Getting ready to celebrate

      Happy celebrations

      I also managed to celebrate my 31st birthday with a few of my dearest friends. We drank sparkling wine far into the night and both laughed and cries. There was also chocolate cake that might haunt me forever.

      Friends

      Thank you everyone, I really needed that.

      Lifestyle design: beginning somewhere

      This december my life changed dramatically. I transitioned from being a partner of the worlds best web agencies to what is essentially a normal, though mostly remote, developer job.
      Then suddenly, my intended life partner left me. We came to terms again but after months of tears, talks and moments of happiness we finally parted ways.

      So now I find myself in a situation usually refered to as a life crisis. But I’m not sure I would call it that.

      I’m not crushed. Just a bit sad.

      I am not powerless, but more empowered than ever before.

      So what now?

      Lifestyle design

      I’ve always wanted to design my own lifestyle. To try and define how parts of my life fit together. And I’ve had some success creating an unorthodox daily routine already. But now is the perfect time to try something a bit more interesting.

      I’m looking into every area of my life, to try to change basically everything, into something that is more me. I will post a step by step log here with my ideas, and my outcomes.

      I have no idea where this is going.

      But here’s my initial plan: Over the coming year, I will try to tackle one aspect of my life per week. Some might take many weeks. Some might take days. I expect most of these experiments to fail, but to be interesting nonetheless.

      If you have any ideas, I’d love to read them. I have a few already and will post about the first one shortly.


      Massimo Vignelli on focus groups

      It is one thing to believe something, and an entirely different animal to put that belief into an articulate argument for that belief. This quote by Vignelli explains the true issues of trusting focus groups and market testing.

      "I don’t believe in market research. I don’t believe in marketing the way it’s done in America. The American way of marketing is to answer to the wants of the customer instead of answering to the needs of the customer. The purpose of marketing should be to find needs — not to find wants.

      People do not know what they want. They barely know what they need, but they definitely do not know what they want. They’re conditioned by the limited imagination of what is possible. … Most of the time, focus groups are built on the pressure of ignorance." via BrainPickings

      Whenever someone asks me to do a focus group, I usually begin with asking that person what they want the focus group to answer. It is usually quite easy to guess the normal responses. Especially if the product or service is entirely new.

      It's not that the focus group isn't observant or brilliant, they quite often are. The problem stems from them not having enough time with the product or service to really give us the important information. And sadly we can't observe a tester for weeks.

      Don't confused with testing for quality assurance purposes, I've never seen a project without a few rough corners left, and that sort of testing is essential.

      The continuing decline of Twitter

      As I've written about before I love Twitter, the service, but I'm not very impressed by Twitter the company. Twitter wants to change that, Twitters claims they have changed. This time things will be different. The problem is that Twitter seems to have become even less likeable. A few days ago Twitter launched Digits, a service completely unrelated to their core product. Possibly because they don't like the whole micro-blogging thing. Digits is a service to help people log in without emails or passwords (in detail over on the Verge).

      The interesting part, to me, is how Twitter deals with developers.

      Twitter now wants to reach out to developers, to tell us they've changed, by inviting us to a conference about what sounds like dev tools:

      As a peace offering, Twitter on Wednesday is expected to announce a suite of tools that aim to make it easier for programmers to build apps, according to people familiar with the matter. - WSJ

      But Twitter already burned developers severely a few years ago by closing down APIs. They burned developers so much that Marco Arment just wrote a scathing blog post arguing that we can't trust them. And I think he's right.

      Responding to Marcos comments a Kevin Weil ("vice president of product for revenue") tells the Verge:

      He (Weil) named a few companies that have made millions of dollars developing on Twitter’s platform, including TweetDeck, Hootsuite, and the social-media monitoring company Radian6, which sold to Salesforce for $340 million. The changes in 2012 were intended only to ensure Twitter had control over its core service, he says. "Our API was so open that we allowed people to compete with us, and so there were changes we had to make."

      Wait. What is Weil saying here? That Twitter as a platform should only be available to companies who don't make money? Or just the companies Twitter would like to make money? Or is Twitter NOT a platform at all, but a closed service that has an API just to taunt developers?

      None of the services mentioned compete with Twitter as a platform or service. One could argue they had competitive UIs though. But shouldn't all that traffic made it easy for Twitter to monetize? Perhaps sell higher volumes of API access? It's hard to understand just what Weil intends to say with this strange answer. My only possible takeaway is that Twitter prefers its partners to not actually succeed.

      I think this proves Marco's point wonderfully. Twitter doesn't want developers. Twitter is not a platform. And they want those meddling coder kids to stay off their lawn.