Quotes · You

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

This Abraham Maslow fellow doesn’t just have a pyramid, he also has a hammer. Here is the popular phrasing of Maslow’s Hammer.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Maybe Maslow

I love this saying. People often “hammer away” at something the wrong way, wasting time and failing to learn a new skill.

It’s easy to make this mistake.

As a software engineer, I’ve seen this 1000 times. “Well, we have a bunch of web servers, and we need a mobile app, so… let’s make our mobile app using web tech!” At first, it seems to make sense. But you end up with a crappy app, lots of extra work, and maybe even some unhappy developers who leave because they care about their career too much. They want to use Xcode because that’s a great tool for making apps.

(But beware, Xcode could become your next hammer. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ)

Me

All the “Things” 2020

I’ve been using the Things app to track all my personal to-do’s and projects for a couple of years now. I love this Mac-assed Mac app and use it all the time.

I recently discovered how to get access to the Things database and took the chance to reflect on how I’m spending my time.

So here are some highlights of all my “Things” in 2020.

Lastly year, I completed 108 personal projects. Each project consists of a number of specific to-do items (tasks). A project can be something small like πŸ›³ Renew passport (6 tasks) or big like 🎸Convert guest room to a music studio (31 tasks).

I generally include an emoji in my project names because somehow they help motivate me. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

Some favorite completed projects of 2020 were:

  • πŸ—³Vote (3 tasks)
  • πŸ€Ήβ€β™‚οΈPlan for best self (7 tasks)
  • 🦠Corona (5 tasks), my most fitting “project” for 2020

I canceled 9 projects, such as:

  • 🌢Home gardening
  • πŸ₯‹Grav Maga
  • πŸ¦ƒ Holiday family plans, the most fitting cancellation for 2020

I completed 11 projects to “fix” things, including:

  • 🐍Fix that gap under my door (3 tasks)
  • πŸ₯Fix drums (luckily only 2 tasks and zero dollars)
  • ✍️Blog fix up (6 tasks)

Top project in progress:

  • πŸ“˜Write a book (43 tasks completed, many more to go — and growing)

In 2020, I completed about 7 per day on average. This is useful because it tells me how to pace myself.

I canceled about 1.4 per day. Canceling isn’t a bad thing β€” it’s just the opposite. It’s a conscious choice not to do something you thought you needed to do.

Going into the new year, I have 62 projects in progress. Hmm, it already looks like a busy year coming up. πŸ€”


Here is one of the SQLite queries I used for this post. πŸ‘¨πŸ»β€πŸ’»

SELECT title, date(creationDate, 'unixepoch') as start, date(stopDate, 'unixepoch') as stop from TMTask
WHERE type = 1
AND status = 3
AND date(creationDate, 'unixepoch') BETWEEN '2020-01-01' AND '2020-12-31'
ORDER BY creationDate

Practical · You

Things and the 5 Second Rule

I recently came across this book on Audible called The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. I didn’t end up buying the book since I don’t want to send 7 hrs and 35 mins listening to a book about a 5-second strategy. The math just didn’t add up for me. πŸ˜†

But I saw there was a short TED talk on the 5 Second Rule plus an even shorter YouTube video on the topic.

The basic idea is that as you go through your day, you have things constantly popping into your head. These are fleeting things that you should do, would like to do, useful ideas, and so forth. Mel says you have 5 seconds to act on that idea or it’s gone, or at least you won’t do anything about it. And acting on those ideas is the difference between making the life you want and not. 🀯

I like that idea. But what can you actually do in 5 seconds? I mean, you’re probably driving or out for a jog or playing Wii. You can’t necessarily write down a note or call up your cousin right then and there and invite him to lunch. You can’t go adopt a dog in 5 seconds. And you sure as hell can’t write a book in 5 seconds.

Mel has other suggestions on how to handle this 5-second period, but I’ve been dumping things like this into the appropriately named Things app on my iPhone. It goes like this:

Hey Siri, using Things, remind me to invite my cousin to lunch

That’s it. Now it’s in your inbox. You can figure out the details later, but at least now you have a placeholder / reminder. My Things inbox has grown way too long to be useful in the past (way into the hundreds), but I eventually fought it down, gradually turning this list into projects or reference notes or calendar reminders. I’ve also turned more than 400 fleeting thoughts into a database of book ideas (thanks to Evernote).

The only way I keep my Things inbox under control is to clean out the inbox once a week on Sundays. Usually I have about 40 things for the week to act on, organize, file, or discard. It takes about an hour a week.

And by the way, both this very blog and this specific post came out of a 5-second thought. πŸ€“

Hey Siri, using Things, remind me to check out Mel Robbins and The 5 Second Rule

You

The Artist’s Hierarchy of Needs

I’ve been taking on some creative projects lately (music and writing) and found this idea of an artist’s needs really helpful. I makes me want to create!

πŸ‘‰ The Artist’s Hierarchy of Needs

(I’m not sure this is technically a “hierarchy”, but still it’s a good list.)

Cheat sheet: creative physical space, creative imaginative space, creative peers / community, creative fuel (filling the well), being active / taking care of your body, creative edge / challenge, faith and belief in yourself and your work, having your work responded to, certainty (confidence?), and time.

Here’s just one of the ten artist’s needs that I really liked: The need for your creative edge:

Solving problems, pushing boundaries, developing something new is at the heart of the creative process. Rather than despair about how difficult it is, embrace the challenge of your craft.

Screenshot 2019-07-04 07.47.42.png
You

Rest, Leisure, and Mental Crop Rotation

This article talks about taking time off from a difficult problem to get some distance and perspective so you can make a breakthrough.

I also really like the idea in here of “mental crop rotation” where you intentionally work on a different hard problem for a while to clean your head before you come back to the first hard problem. Actually, that’s from Kierkegaard. (I used to make fun of people who quoted Kierkegaard in college. πŸ˜‚)

πŸ‘‰ Using Incubation to Unlock Your True Creative Potential

Creativity is about connecting dots. But if we try to force it, if we’re too focused on it, all we ever do is connect neighboring dots, resulting in a rigid grid of stale thoughts. To really see the interesting connections we need to get a new perspective and gain some distance. Then the truly interesting connections will reveal themselves.

creativity · Music · You

The Best Music for Working

According to research on the effect of music listening on work performance, music can indeed help your brain work better. But it depends what you are listening to.

πŸ‘‰ 5 Types of Music That Increase Your Productivity, According to Science

Official Recommendations

Classical music, especially baroque, can increased mood and concentration – see Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel πŸ‘‰example

Not really music, but nature sounds can increase cognitive function and concentration – rain, water, etc. πŸ‘‰ example

Epic music can inspire you if you’re feeling unmotivated πŸ‘‰ example

Video Game Music – this music is designed to help your brain feel better! πŸ‘‰ Sim City, Bastion, or pick a game! (Zelda?)

Ambient music can reduce stress (I’m not a huge fan, so no example πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ˜‚)

My Own Favs

I personally love classical adaptations of rock and pop, such as Kashmir: Symphonic Led Zeppelin or the Vitamin String Quartet.

I also like some of the Apple Music concentration playlists such as Swift Concentration.

And even though it breaks some of the rules above, I just find KUTX relaxing.

Also, Miles Davis. And the Isle of Dogs soundtrack.

Duke Ellington: Black, Brown, and Beige.

Shostakovich: Jazz Suites Nos. 1 – 2 – The Bolt – Tahiti Trot

For some chill beats, try Trappin in Japan (YouTube) (ο£Ώ Music).

Also, just any classical waltz music seems to work.

What Doesn’t Work

Not surprisingly, complex musical structure and lyrics don’t help. In fact, they make it harder for you brain to focus. (*Still, I can work to Johny Cash music, probably because it’s so familiar.)

Also, any music may hinder the especially difficult tasks.

And you have to be in the habit of listening to music to make it helpful. If you only do it sometimes, it doesn’t help.