My alarm went off at 6am. After meditating and making tea, I was at my desk to write for 6:30am.
It’s the first time I’ve had an early start during the challenge and it felt good.
I like to write early when the world around me is asleep. Twitter is slow, my email inbox is dead, and Slack is quiet. It’s the perfect time to create.
I use an app called Focus to prevent further distractions. When I hit the menu bar icon, it enables the Focus timer for 25 minutes. During this time, it blocks distracting websites (such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon) as well as distracting apps (Slack, Tweetbot, Spark).
One of the best productivity tips I can offer is this: don’t rely on willpower. Willpower is finite. You have to setup your environment to facilitate focus. While the Focus timer is running, I can’t get on Twitter even if I want to. And for the most part, it stops me from even trying. My only option is to sit here and write.
Yesterday I wrote about my problems nailing the premise of the book. My goal today was to explore that. I took what I wrote yesterday and turned it into a chapter. What I wrote was pretty good and it helped me think deeper about the problem.
I wrapped up my writing by 8am and went about my day, casually thinking about the book in free moments. You know how it is when you’re working on a big project – you can’t help but think about it. It was much later when I stuck in traffic – driving home from a client meeting – that I had a small epiphany.
I had given the book a title that I liked. It was short and snappy, but it made an assumption about the premise of the book. It wasn’t until that car journey that I realised I didn’t agree with that premise. I know I’m being a little abstract, but it felt like an important break through.
When I got home, I wrote another 500 words to capture my thoughts. And that’s where I’ll kick off tomorrow morning. I’m excited to sit at my keyboard again and see where this path leads.
Words written: 1667
Total words: 3458
Today, I got up early to play squash; rushed home to shower and change, grabbed my camera gear and headed off to my nephew’s birthday party; got back and had a 30 minute nap on the sofa (because I’m getting old); sat down at my desk to do my weekly review; then had the idea to write a journal entry for each day of the writing challenge so I wrote my first entry; then headed out for a game of Badminton with the family, before finally sitting down to eat dinner with my wife.
All that to say that it was 7pm and I hadn’t written a word towards my writing goal. So I poured myself a whisky – which is what I imagine my favourite authors doing – and sat down infront of my keyboard.
I’ve been thinking about the book I’m writing all day. There’s a big problem I’ve been grappling with for a while. I know roughly what I want to say and I have some ideas that I’ve cobbled together over the past few months, but I don’t yet have clarity on the idea. The book isn’t crystal clear in my mind.
A few friends have asked what the book is about and my answer is often waffly. I haven’t nailed the elevator pitch.
The problem, I think, is because I’m over-complicating things. I need to strip back the idea and simplify. I need to unpick the core message and ignore the ideas on the periphery.
I wasn’t feeling any of the chapter titles I’d written down yesterday, so, rather than writing another chapter, I created an empty document with the title “scratchpad”.
I wrote a few paragraphs on who the book is for and how it would help them. This helped free me up.
Next I wrote about the core premise of the book and a few examples to back up the premise. I think those examples will end up being chapters. There’s a lot expounding to do.
So, not the most productive day, and I still have a ton of work in figuring out the core message of the book, but I’m glad I sat in the chair and did some writing.
I need to sleep on it. The alarm is set for 6am. See you tomorrow.
Words written: 960
Total words: 1791
Last year, I started a 30 day writing challenge and invited others to join me. The idea was to write consecutively for 30 days to build a writing habit. I managed to write 30 blog posts. It was a challenge to write, edit and publish a post in a single day. It gave me a lot of respect for people who do that day in, day out.
This year, my goal is different. I plan to write at least 500 words a day towards a book I’m working on. I’m not ready to announce what the book is about just yet (partly because it may change). Let’s just say it’s in the self-help/productivity genre.
My goal isn’t to finish the book during April. I should have over 15,000 words at the end of the challenge. Some of those words will hopefully make sense. The rest will be rewritten or binned.
Yesterday was the first day of the challenge. I’m writing this a day late because honestly the idea to journal about the challenge only just occurred to me. The Slack channel is busy with people sharing what they’re writing. It’s incredibly inspiring to watch. But I felt bad. As the guy who set this challenge up, I felt like I should at least be contributing. So these journal entries are my small contribution.
The first day of the challenge just so happened to be a Saturday. I have a morning routine that I try and stick to but I have a much more laid back approach to Saturday and Sunday mornings. This was the case yesterday, too. I arrived at my desk to write about 8:00am.
I started by arranging some chapters titles I had written down and formed a rough outline. I then picked the most interesting topic and starting writing. It just so happened to be chapter 1, but I don’t plan on writing the book in order.
It went fairly smoothly. I’m in writing mode. I’m not worried about editing. I fix typos and sentences when I spot them, but otherwise, it’s rough work. The plan is to edit at a later stage, but for now it’s production mode.
So that’s day 1 done. 29 days to go.
Words written: 831
Total words: 831
Yuval Harari, author of the fantastic book Sapiens (which I’ve started and still need to finish), was a recent guest on The James Altucher Show. Go listen, it’s a great interview.
One of my favourite parts was Yuval’s brief thoughts on meditation. He explained that he starts and finishes every work day with one hours meditation. He explains:
“(Meditation) gives me balance, peace, and calmness and the ability to find myself.”
“The idea of meditation is to forget about all the stories in your mind. Just observe reality as it is. What is actually happening right here, right now? You start with very simple things like observing the breath coming in and out of your nostrils or you observe the sensations in your body. This is reality.
For all of history, people have given more and more importance to imaginary stories and they’ve been losing the ability to tell the difference between fiction and reality. Meditation is one of the best ways to regain this ability and really tell the difference between what is real and what is a fiction in my mind.”
In episode 44 of Cortex, Myke and Grey discussed time tracking. I have a love/hate relationship with time tracking. As an employee, I hated it. It made no sense to track 7.5 hours per day (because who does that much productive work in a day?). But as someone who is self-employed, it makes total sense (and I can see why I was made to do it as an employee).
As Grey says in the episode: if you care about how you’re spending your time, track your time.
Myke and Grey talk about the revelations they had while tracking their time, which match my own:
- Your brain has no idea how much time you’re spending on stuff. You can’t trust yourself to have any sense of how long it takes to do things.
- You think you’re working way more than you actually are.
- You’ll spot patterns. You’ll notice that those busy periods will catch up with you.
It’s worth a listen. And FWIW, I track my time using Freckle.
I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of AirPods since they were announced in September last year. Mine finally arrived after ordering in late December.
Here are my initial thoughts after just over a days use:
- The charging case is great. It fits nicely in a trouser or jacket pocket. The “click” of the magnetic lid closing is incredibly satisfying, as is the way the AirPods slide in to the case.
- Syncing to my iPhone took seconds. It was the perfect first-use experience. Open packaging, remove AirPods from charging case, click Connect on my iPhone, start using them.
- They fit snuggly in my ears. AirPods are the same shape as EarPods, so if EarPods fit you, these will too.
- They haven’t fallen out of my ears yet (although that’s with light use: walking, house chores, etc). They sit better than EarPods, I assume because they don’t have the added weight of a cable.
- They do look a little ridiculous. But I don’t care.
- Sound quality is noticeably better than EarPods. Good enough for casual listening and podcasts. Yes, audio nerds, I know there are better sounding headphones for the price point.
- Recharging the AirPods in the case is quick. 10 minutes and they’ve got another few hours of use.
- The range is surprisingly good. I can have my phone charging at the opposite end of the house, although it does occasionally stutter at this distance.
- The lack of volume control and skip buttons is annoying, but not reason enough for me to stop using them.
- And the biggest weakness: Siri. Double tapping on an ear bud will invoke Siri, but Siri is still slower and less accurate than many of its competitors.
There’s a whole bunch of stuff – thoughts, ideas, links, quotes, etc. – that I don’t publish. I’ve created, without realising it, expectations for what I deem to be a worthy post. An idea has to be fully-formed before it gets published. Which is just daft.
So, in order to share stuff I wouldn’t normally, I’ve created a new section I’ve ingeniously named “Notes”.
Those expectations no longer apply. I now have a place to share thoughts (that’s not Twitter), no matter how short, silly, or trivial they are.