Higher Level Problems
Last month, I was getting annoyed with some of the things with my current email app. These little annoyances build up in my head, making me think that I’m not as productive as I could be. I started looking through what my other options are, assuming that I’ll get a huge productivity improvement from a new app. I look at what others are using, including blogs like The Sweet Setup and Interface Lovers. I’ll list out pros and cons of each app because none fit my specific use case perfectly. I’ll get even more annoyed that there isn’t an app that is great for my workflow.
In the past, I do this same process with task apps, notes apps too. Anything that I’m convinced will give me minor speed improvement or feel better in the app. I don’t just do this with software; I do it with my hardware setup as well. I’ve switched iPhone cases probably about four times in the last three months. Each change is thought through. This applies to my keyboard, mouse, backpack and more. You can even read through some of my overthinking on this site.
I’ve realized that this process I was following was useless. I was tackling small problems that in the grand scheme of things didn’t matter. The time I invested researching the perfect app isn’t going to payout for me in the end. The milliseconds that I could save from a new app isn’t worth the headspace that I’m giving it. In a vacuum these small decisions aren’t that big of a deal. It’s good to analyze your setup to make sure you’re removing friction from your process. The headspace these low level details took up prevented me from thinking at a higher level.
I’ve been training myself to push aside small level thinking to not block more important thought work. Applying techniques that I’ve developed while meditating has helped me clear these choices from my head. Having a workaround so that I don’t get caught up in meaningless details will hopefully let me think about
As for my new email app? I’m using the standard Apple Mail on my phone and computer. Not because they’re the best email app but because they’re the simplest to setup and maintain.
Ways I've experimented with Design Sprints to make them more sustainable.
I’ve found facilitating a product design sprint really draining for my team and me. Here are a few things that we’ve tried to make them more sustainable.
Our Favorite Events During Startup Week in Austin
Our recap of some of the best events during Austin Startup Week.
Setting up my physical workspace
I believe that my physical workspace, just as the digital tools that I have, can have a big increase or decrease my productivity. Whether it be a standing desk or headphones that remove the noise, I want to be in an environment that I can focus on my work. I don’t work well when there are lots of things to divert my attention, like working in a coffee shop. When I’m home I close the door to my workspace so that my family knows that I’m not to be interrupted; I’ll also leave the door open when I don’t mind the interruption.
If you stop by the thoughtbot office or my house you’ll notice that my desks are practically the same. Both spaces will be clean to give me space to think and work. The more that is on my desk the more I get distracted and lose focus on my work.
Below are the objects that let me get my work done and why I think they are important.
13in MacBook Pro
The MacBook is the standard for any designer position but I’ve loved the 13in form factor. When I’m not hooked into a monitor, it fits perfectly on my lap which makes it easy to pull out on a train, in the airport, or almost anywhere else. The smaller screen forces me to focus and think about the tasks that I do on it. It ends up being great for writing but shitty for doing any kind of design.
Adjustable Height Desk
I’ve noticed that I do much better work while being able to sit and stand throughout the day. This could all just be in my head but I believe that there have been studies that show that both sitting and standing though out the day makes for a better work day. I am looking forward to getting these in the Austin office this week.
Lightning Display & 12 South HiRise and Book Arch
Bigger real-estate plus clamshell mode FTW.
Bose QuietComfort headphones
Besides my computer these might be one of the biggest tools that help me work. In my house and at work there are always outside noise and these headphones block out most of it. They put me in my own little world and allow me to focus on work.
Logitech MX Master
Switched to the Logitech mouse when I started having wrist issues from Apple’s Magic Mouse. The support and angle are perfect and the duel scroll wheels make up for not having a touch input. I used to have a Trackpad as well but it isn’t precise enough for design work and bothered me how much desk space it took up. I’ve tried Wacom but never could get it setup where it made me as fast as I was with a mouse.
Apple Wireless Keyboard
Probably the biggest reason for using this keyboard is that it’s similar to the keyboard on the laptop. There isn’t an adjustment from one to the other that there is with other keyboards I’ve used. Plus I’ve had both for so long that they just feel natural. I love the small form factor and the minimal space it occupies on the desk; it gives me much more range for my mouse.
Dot grid notebook & assortment of pens, markers and pencils
I like having dots to help me draw strait lines but I’m not tied too tightly to any paper or writing instrument. I will say that when drawing I love the standard yellow HB Ticonderoga.
Apple iPhone 7
Mostly used for keeping up on email, podcasts and RSS. At the beginning of the day I’ll sort through email, check on my days tasks and see my calendar otherwise it usually stays in my pocket or in a stand. It serves as a secondary tool for notes and todos too.
For work, I mostly use my watch to keep me on schedule. It shows me what my next meeting is and when and how many todos I have left in the day. I get few notifications expect for meeting reminders.
The Importance of Exercise
I used to obsessively track my steps with my Fitbit. Remaining the weekly champ was all important and going for runs and walks with the dog were the best ways to get myself up there.
I slowly fell out of favor with carrying around my Fitbit. I had found a consistent rhythm, hitting the same count every day, and wasn’t seeing the same push from the device that I had before. I stopped using it and without seeing my scores, with that I slowly eroded the habit I built up. I learned my first lesson; It’s much easier to stay in old habits than create new ones. It’s much easier to stop working out than it is to start up again.
Over the last couple months, I’ve been making sure that I exercise. What’s been unbelievable to me is the change that I’ve seen so far has been more mental than physical. Exercising has had a huge improvement to my stress level, my energy level, my patience and my ability to think. It’s been a reminder to me about how much our mind and body are connected.
Many of the workouts that I’ve done so far, especially the ones when I first started, haven’t even been that difficult but the mere act of doing something has made a huge improvement. I need to remember that such a small change can make a big difference in my mental health as well as physical.