Writing for friends and yourself can clear your thoughts, help you plan and invite the discovery of new ideas. Writing with the intention to put your thoughts out there leads to real writing. Writing gets real when it is read. Before that, it is a dream in letters. Writing to get read makes you careful, responsible, and considerate. It forces you to think as simply, clearly and understandably as possible. It forces you to think about how what you say may look and feel from the outside.

Take the Power Back – iA

The above post is one of the best ones I’ve read this year. I made at least a dozen highlights and finished it with a head full of ideas about how to improve my blog.

H/T to Patrick Rhone for sharing it on his feed.

Write to figure it out

Daniel Boorstein once said ‘I write to figure out what I think’. It’s a surprisingly accurate quote – until you sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) you have nothing. Not until you have a coherent work with a beginning, middle and end, AND a justifiable premise, AND the ability to defend it to other people’s attacks, you don’t really know what you think. Writing it out is a very, very different process than just having a half formed idea kicking around inside your head.

Ritholtz: Why I Write – The Big Picture

Why blog

I share below quote only to realise it’s been a month since my last entry.

“Your podcast will reach more people than your book will. A blog post will reach more people than a podcast.”

“Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. There’s countless reasons why it’s a good idea and I can’t think of one reason it’s a bad idea.”

 Seth Godin Explains Why You Should Blog Daily

Writing and productivity links

[Productivity] serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days.  – Oliver Burkeman

Why time management is ruining our lives

Zen To Done (ZTD): The Simple Productivity System

Tim Harford — Article — Three great books about getting the important things done

Ritholtz: Why I Write – The Big Picture

The Benefits of Writing

Why I Love Writing About the Markets

Reading a book is step one

writing is step two.

If you want to get something out of every book you read, you need to write about them. No you don’t have to publish what you write, but you do need to write.

How I make my book reading work for me

I quite agree with Curtis on this.
Despite it may be time consuming reviewing a book a writing about it makes the ideas from that book stick much much better.

And after all that is the goal of reading.

Less consumption more writing

Don’t die of consumption, Learn by Writing
makes a compelling case for over-consuption of useful information. In fact the tendency to consume more and more information brings the opposite effect. Instead of more clarity there is more confusion around what’s useful and what’s not. The constant chase for latest tips and hack hampers actual understanding of processes and basic principles.
Speedreading, skimming and other techniques for cobbling (can’t call this reading) books help show off the number of titles completed a week as if this really made the difference.

What is the alternative then as no doubt we live in golden era of freely available information of all kind. Stop reading completely? Read one book per year or month?

Firstly let it sink in. I still think reading a lot is good and beneficial. Yet rather than jumping from book to book and blog post to magazine article that makes it Let it sink in, take notes on it, write down your impressions and own observations.

Secondly Read broadly. Doing a deep dive into a topic can be great for a while but to keep your mind fresh and not filled with the same information venture into different topics. Check out what’s the latest in social science or medical research or biology or math. Opening to new topics not only increases general understanding but also helps building new connections, spot trends or gain completely new perspective.

Lastly diversify source. Personally I’ve been discovering time and again that great authors and their content is availalble on variety of platforms. Hence rathern than mindlessly jump between books and blogs, consider podcasts or raio or even TV. These mediums can be a fantastic alternative to stacks of books. Because of their different nature they will deliver the content in slightly different way again providing a different point of view.

The best advise on writing

In the space of two, three days I’ve come across two items that pretty much nailed it for me in terms of the best advise on writing.

First one is episode 5 of The Weekly Briefly podcast where Shawn Blanc (the host) talks to Patrick Rhone about writing. It’s 55 min long but every minute is worth it. There is so much good stuff there that single quote will not cut it. Go and listen!! 

(you can easily guess I more than like that episode).

Second piece of content that I wanted to share is Cut the bullshit and make time to write

I think the title says it all but this bit of text is a handy reminder why you should keep writing regardless.

Make yourself write, because a day will come when you’re really fucking inspired and you will shit out 500 words of pure solid gold.

 

My perfect computer

Few weeks ago I posted a link to Michael’s blog post about his perfect setup.

I’ve been thinking about  this topic little further and realized that many of us would have two or more computers to consider in their setup. It’s often the case, that the setup is very different between each of the machine. One computer would be in the office, second is a home desktop or a laptop as it is in my case.
The former is a device managed by company’s IT team subject to various policies and restrictions. It has custom build applications and a predefined set of programs that can be used. If you want something new that is not on a company approved software list you have to go through a lengthy process. Most likely ending with "no go" response. They have their reasons.  Getting this machine to the state of being perfect is difficult. The scope is very limited and you need to learn all the tricks possible to make the most of this setup.
On the opposing end there is a home machine which, with a little tweaking and good and simple software lets you get job done, the way you want. But it’s not only about the job being done. What’s also important is the style, easy of use, friendliness and all encompassing cool factor of the application you’ve selected.

Freedom to  hack, experiment is the best way to find this perfect mix of various tool and utilities which make your computer life easier. There is no single list of ideal apps different people, different jobs will require something different. For me, at this moment the perfect computer looks like this.

Web browsing

Firefox/Chrome – Firefox remains my main browser due to a set of extensions I’m accustomed to it. I also use Chrome to check email and for other tasks where I use Google services.

Writing

Evernote – Evernote is my Swiss army knife. It’s a primary tool for writing, storing ideas, managing projects and reference information.

UV Outliner/Freeplane – Non-linear thinking gets done in Freeplane, which is an excellent mind mapping tool. For more structured outlining and thinking I’m using UV Outliner which is often called OmniOutliner for Windows PC.

WriteMonkey – I use it when I need a so called "distraction free" writing environment or simply black screen and white text. The beauty of WriteMonkey is its versatility, you can use the bare bone elements to just write or take advantage of all the different options available like bookmarking, versioning, referencing, multi-markdown.

Time Management

Remember the Milk  – I’ve settled on Remember the Milk as primary task management tool almost 3 years ago. It’s been serving me well. Although there are certain limitations, versatility and ubiquity of this app are it’s best features.

Google Calendar – gives me access to appointments everywhere I need. There is hardly a better calendaring solution.

Other essentials

Dropbox – for syncing and keeping backup of current work, for sharing files with family and friends.

PhraseExpress – this a fantastic piece of software that allows me to automate a lot of my typing. I have text snippets for almost anything from email addresses, mail addresses to numbers, tags, keyword combination and even few paragraphs. If you type a lot and prefer keyboard as main tool this program is definitely worth trying out.

Thunderbird – email client from Mozilla, I’m using it to keep a backup of all my email.Run it once a week or so and all emails will be pulled for storing on my laptop. This gives me access to my email on and offline.

Lastpass/Keepass – password management becomes critical, using easy memorable words is no longer an option so best way to solve this is to resort to an application that can store this information securely and generate passwords for you. Keepass is an standalone open source application whereas Lastpass is web app with Firefox and Chrome extensions that lets you sync passwords on all your computers. I’m using two programs solely for backup and security purposes, having two encrypted copies gives me a safety net and ability use my data regardless of the situation.     

Notepad++  – This is very powerful text editing application with syntax highlighting, making coding a great experience. Although I don’t use it very often it’s indispensable at times when I need to update WordPress theme files or edit a piece of CSS code.

So this is my current setup and as I’ve been finalising this post I realised that almost all of the above tool have been in my arsenal for a good while. I take it as an indication that majority of my computer needs are now solved. Although it’s more than likely I will be looking at other tools and introduce new tweaks the skeleton  of my perfect setup is here.