One Small Thing

Push-ups

Can you do a push-up? Whether it’s from the knees or strict I’m sure you can. Go on, try one now.
That was pretty easy right?

Do you think you could do one more tomorrow when you wake up?

Earlier this year I was reading “Tools of Titans”, from Tim Ferriss and I was inspired by one of the examples he shared. No matter what I had going on, I could absolutely commit to doing 1 push-up a day.

So I did. For the past 5 months I’ve made sure to do at least 1 pushup every day. While it’s a very small thing that will not help me reach my long term interests for fitness, it is a step in the right direction.

Journaling

For years I tried journaling. I’d enthusiastically start writing one day and pour my thoughts onto the page; digital and analog. Sometimes I’d write a few sentences, and other times I could fill out a few paragraphs. However, the story was always the same. After a day, or two, or even a few weeks, I’d end up quitting.

At the start of this year I decided I would journal every single day. The trick this time was to only do one line of journaling every day, and then force myself to stop. Over 7 months later my journal the habit has become clearly established. I now have a log throughout the year sharing major things I did, and often how I felt on a given day.

Note: I did cheat on this one a bit and sometimes would come back to fill in 2-3 days, but ultimately I’ve kept it going so I call this one a win.

Bible

For a long time I’ve wanted to be more intentional about my personal devotional time. I wanted more consistency. So I made a commitment that I’d read 5 minutes from the Bible every day. Sometimes I would actually read and other times I’d listen to a narration of the Bible. The result has been that I haven’t missed a day in almost 10 months.

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What are some things you’ve been wanting to do? If you have tried to start a habit, only to break it a few days later, then you might want to give this a try.

What is something you want to start doing? Running, lifting weights, push-ups, journaling, reading, drawing, flossing?

Decide now what you really want and make the tiniest step toward that goal. Put it in writing and make sure you can see the words everyday.

Some tricks that have helped me are repeat reminders in a task manager, changing the wallpaper on my phone, or writing it up and sticking it on the wall right by my desk.

Push-ups, 1 line journaling, and 5 minutes of reading my Bible have now become habit for me. I don’t feel that my day is complete unless I can check them off.

Now I’m thinking about what my fourth habit could be. Running 1 mile a day?

My Favorite Noisemaker App

These two apps, Relax Melodies and Noisli, perfectly illustrate why a simpler, more focused, solution will often win out over one that tries to do everything.

For the past few years I’ve used Relax Melodies, the main function I use is the white noise sound. At one point I even considered making my own app that just has white noise and nothing else.

Relax Melodies is an example of an app that drives me nuts. First off there are ads, unless I opt in for a subscription. A description on a noise maker app? This is madness. I don’t want to pay $10/month for a glorified fan. And what else does that subscription give me? A bunch of fancy new noises?

Still, I held onto this app because it had a sound that I thought would be hard to replicate.

Then along came Noisli. It’s $1.99 to buy. This app is beautiful and simple. No ads, no upsells. When I open it all I see are a few simple icons that I can tap to start the noise. That’s it.

Lately I’ve grown accustomed to switching to the brown noise setting. It’s less sharp and feels a bit more relaxing.

Choosing my next iPhone

Last year I made the decision to switch to the iPhone 7 Plus. This phone is huge. To say it can be used one handed is a bit of an exaggeration.

All of my phones prior were smaller and easier to carry around. 

Below are my pros/cons of owning a bigger screen size and what will influence my future buying decisions. Please note that these reasons are based on how I use the phone. I realize that for other people the list will be different.

Pros

  • Watching video – It's easier to watch video and get a bit more immersed in what you're viewing. This is especially the case since I always watch video (unless it's portrait shot) in landscape. 
  • Taking photos – This is the biggest benefit for me. I LOVE portrait mode. It's the number one reason I decided to go with the bigger phone. 
  • Texting – This one is almost a tossup again. For texting I have to use two hands, and because I do my texts are much faster. However there are situations where I'd prefer to be able to use one hand (running for instance) but can't do that easily. It really just depends on how you use the phone. Since texting IS really nice with two hands I'll call it a benefit.

Cons

  • Reading books – On the one hand I like the bigger 5.5" screen as I can more comfortably read through words on the page. On the other hand a smaller screen is easier to hold one handed. If I really want to read a book for longer periods I can pull up my Kindle Paperwhite, or you know.. read a book. I'm calling this one a con since the portability of the phone (smaller is better) outweighs the extra real estate for reading. 
  • Listening to books – Almost all of my "reading" is through Audible. Smaller phone will always win here. 
  • Running – Yeah, smaller is always better here. 
  • Playing games – This is a very low priority for me, so smaller is still better. 

Lately I've been trying to experiment with ways to become less reliant on my phone. I'd like it to be more of a utility than an always on, always available, always in use device. 

The main reason I stick with a larger iPhone is for the portrait mode. I love it! If the next iPhone has portrait mode on the smaller size then it will be an easy decision.

So here's to looking forward to seeing what comes up next!

Creation vs consumption

Lately I’ve been thinking about how I’m spending my time.

There are periods of time every week where I find myself consuming content. That could be a TV show or movie, a book, Reddit, social media, news, tech blogs, etc.

In all of this I’m merely an open vessel absorbing bits of information. Now granted some of it is good information, and I could argue that other pieces are actually quite valuable. But on the whole a lot of it could be completely ignored, even the good stuff.

I find myself struggling against the impulse to constantly refresh and see what’s new out there, just to get a quick fix, and the desire to build and create things.

Writing articles on this blog is one perfect example of this struggle. I could spend my time reading what others are saying out there about some of the topics I love (simple living, traveling light, focus, essentialism, Apple products, etc) or I could add value to the world by sharing the things that are of interest to me.

I’d like to think that the second option will win out! I’ve caught myself reading opinion pieces on something that interests me and in the same breath realizing it’s exactly what I’ve been thinking.

So my encouragement to you is to look for the value you can add to the world, and not to just be someone who is taking what the world has to offer.

Creating

Using a new content editing experience

For the past few months I’ve been following the progress of project Gutenberg with WordPress. I’m really excited about how it’s coming together, and how this spells a new future for folks who make content.

For years I’ve helped people build websites, and used WordPress for creating content. The current writing area is hardly inspiring. It doesn’t instill a feeling of being immersed with your words.

I’ve rarely actually written my content in WordPress. Instead I’ve opted for creating my articles somewhere else and then pasting them in.

With Gutenberg I’m looking forward to seeing this change. As the plugin matures (it’s still in Beta) I believe it will offer an opportunity to provide a richer, more immersive experience for users.

Looking forward to good times ahead!

Note: This was written/published using Gutenberg.

iPad Pro 10.5″ designer mini-review part 3

This is a 3 part mini-review of the new iPad Pro 10.5". Read part 1 and part 2.

After spending several days with the 10.5” iPad Pro, I decided to return it for the new 12.9” model. Here’s my reasons: Most of my working time (95%+) is spent at a desk. So for me, portability isn’t an issue.

When I use the iPad Pro it’s primarily for sketching prototypes for web interfaces, notes from meetings, etc. For these situations a larger screen is more important. It’s basically the size of a letter (or A4) piece of paper and means I don’t have to do as much zooming.

I really wanted to love the 10.5” size, and for many people I’m sure it will work well. However, as Rene Ritchie pointed out, if you want a laptop replacement – and yes, I think it’s possible that this could replace a laptop for many people – a larger screen with full sized split views makes sense.

If it’s more important to have portability, then you may want to look at the smaller size. At the end of the day I made the decision, that as a designer, that screen size was more important than anything else.

Traveling light

Often for work I need to travel stateside by plane. I’m constantly trying to whittle down what I’m carrying to see how little I can take. After several tries I’ve gotten it down to the following for a 2-5 day trip:

  • Backpack – I searched a long time for one that was small enough to carry my laptop and still had room for a few days worth of clothes, all while offering some protection.
  • MacBook Pro 13″
  • One quart sized bag of toiletries (case for glasses, contact lense solution, toothbrush, etc)
  • 1 pair of underwear for each day
  • 1 shirt for each day
  • Running shorts for wearing around the hotel room
  • Phone
  • Wallet
  • Various cords
  • Down jacket – I roll this up and stuff it in the top
  • Small water bottle for refills

I wear jeans on me, and only bring comfortable dress shoes that I can easily walk 3-5 miles in.

I roll all the clothes into packing cubes and iron the shirts when I get to the hotel.

While I can easily bring a backpack and small bag, I’ve found it so much easier to have one small backpack that I can carry anywhere I go. When I get to the hotel I pull out the packing cubes and put them away.

What’s in my bag – June 2017 edition

A few quick notes:

  • Laptop stand – Ergonomics are important. After years of using a laptop at a desk and bending my neck, I decided to elevate the laptop and buy a keyboard and mouse. It’s made a huge difference! This stand will elevate the laptop up to 11 inches off the desk.
  • iPad stand – The main thing I use the iPad for is sketching. After looking around a ton (and reading reviews from Ben Brooks) I decided to grab this stand. It’s perfect. It tilts the screen up a few inches and offers a great angle for using the Apple Pencil.
  • iPhone stand – Sometimes I prefer to use my iPhone for video calls. This stand works pretty well to elevate my iPhone off the desk so I can actually look into the screen when I’m on video calls.

AirPods

I’ve been curious about AirPods since they came out. I finally got my own (Father’s day gift from my wife) and have been using them all day. I love them! My previous favorite headphones were the Jabra Move Wireless (recommended by The Wirecutter).

  • The fit – I’ve never had a problem with Apple earbuds. As such these fit just fine. They don’t fall out of my ears and I’ve been walking around all day wearing them.
  • Volume – This one annoys me a bit. I love that I can double tap to pause/play, and I am glad I was able to disable Siri (I’ve had a love/hate relationship with her for years), but not being able to change the volume without talking or using my iPhone is annoying. As someone who is constantly changing between audiobooks, podcasts, and quiet/loud music, I need to be able to manage the volume. Even with an audiobook the environment I’m in will dictate how loud or quiet it needs to be. This means I’m usually raising or lowering the volume by  one or two notches every few minutes. Having to talk to Siri or use my phone to do this feels like a waste. I would love to have some way to do be able to touch the AirPods and have the volume go up and down.
  • Size – I love how they just get lost in my ears. I barely notice them. This is a huge win.
  • Auto pause – Being able to quickly pull one out and have the music stop is great. The Jabra didn’t have this feature and I’ve have to remember to press the pause button or risk having my audiobook go forward a few minutes without me.

In short I’m liking these already and plan to use these exclusively.