Why minimalism is a meta skill

Cultivating a selective focus is the only way to make real progress towards your goals in life. This is an excellent article by James Clear based around investment advice by Warren Buffet. Advice doesn't get much better than this.

The key point is this:
Your odds of success improve when you are forced to direct all of your energy and attention to fewer tasks.
— James Clear

Staying awake to life

Call it mindfulness, call it happiness. Staying awake to the world is crucial to live a full life. Here are 5 excellent life tips by Sara Hendren.

Here is the hardest thing for many people about adulthood: Staying awake. That is, resisting the somnambulance that will grow like weeds over any state of habitual life, excepting acute crises. You have to actively invite experiences into your life that will interrupt the smallness of your story and the calcifying generalizations you make about the world based on your own private universe.
— Sara Hendren

Magazines are coming back in a big way

I noticed this trend for the first time while visiting Berlin a few years ago. Hipsters love print, and are growing bored with short form "journalism" and blogs. So magazines are coming back.

I love Monocle for their magazine, but I'll keep spending time in Soda Books and Under The Cover to find new things to read. Truthfully though, even in these sublimely designed magazines, most of the articles are just filler. Just like in "journalism" in general.

 

Notebooks and bullet journals

I've had a love for notebooks since I was a kid. I've always doodled, sketched and written on paper with relish. But since collage the habit has waned because it's just not efficient enough.

Bullet Journaling is a trendy todo list idea that is getting people back on paper. And I love it. Check out this amazing journal, and my current favourite notebooks.

Now I just need to figure out if writing on paper is worth the lack of search and tags and get journaling, or if I'll just build a digital tool for the same.

Reading news is pointless and you shouldn't do it.

I've seen studies on this before. But never heard the argument quite so coherently stated as in this post from Farnam Street.

Being well informed isn’t regurgitating the opinion of some twenty-two-year-old with no life experience telling me what to think or how outraged to be. Your first thought on something is usually not yours but someone else’s. When all you do is consume, you are not only letting someone else hijack and direct your attention; you are also letting them think for you.
— Farnam Street

Poetry tips from the late Christopher Hitchens

I'm currently reading Hitch22, the amazing writer Christopher Hitchens self biography. And when such a great write refers to W.H Auden as the best writer of his generation, I had to read him. Well Auden touched my like little poetry ever has. Simply amazing prose.

I recommend you grab some tea and read Autumn Song, and if you can live with the bittersweet sadness of loss, take a look at Stop all the Clocks.

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.