Thou Shalt Hustle is about overcoming obstacles and breaking down barriers. Pursue a more meaningful and fulfilling life by focusing not only on doing things right doing but also doing the right things.

The book looks at productivity through a Biblical lens and establishes clear, orderly steps you can follow to discover your “YES!” By helping you find your purpose, this book will equip you to say “no” to the things that aren’t essential and help you take action towards accomplishing your goals — even if you don’t know what they are yet or even where to begin.

Thou Shalt Hustle is available on Amazon Kindle for just $6.99 and includes a link to download a free audiobook version.

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My thanks to Mike Schmitz for sponsoring the site this week to promote his new book, Thou Shalt Hustle.

This has got to be one of the best issues of Offscreen Magazine to date. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I say that about every issue. Well if so, it’s only because the quality of Offscreen magazine has been getting better and better with every issue. Especially lately.

Issue 10 is Offscreen’s anniversary issue. It comes with a beautiful black dust jacket. And, as if written just for me, most of the interviews, essays, and featurettes center around writing, creativity, and business. This is my jam.

The articles from issue 10 that I really enjoyed in particular were: the interview with Om Malik about the journey of his writing career; Rachel Nabors’ essay about (not) doing what you love; Stewart Butterfield’s rules of business; Nick Crocker’s lessons learned as an entrepreneur; and, most of all, the interview with Scott Belsky.

Belsky’s interview hit me like a gospel sermon — I felt so encouraged and inspired after reading it. Scott is someone I admire because of his pursuit to help creative people grow in their ability to be organized and to develop a bias toward action. This quote from the interview especially stood out to me:

It is sad when design and business are seen as so distant from one another — or worse, at opposition. ‘Good business’ is about sustainability, scalability, and restraint — all forces that help the design process. […]

[M]ost people in business discount the value of design, and understand only the surface (literally). But designers are no better, often failing to embrace the principles of business to empower their careers and make their creations accessible for consumption.

The potential of creativity — and your ability to sustain yourself and serve others through your creativity — is more about business than it is about ideas. The impact of your creativity boils down to execution, distribution, packaging, marketing, messaging, strategy, leadership… in short, business.

Friday, February 6

Big news: I’m writing another book.

I’ve been hinting at this on the site since last summer, and site members who’ve been listening to Shawn Today have heard quite a bit about it as well. The book has now reached the point where I’m ready to announce it.

In short, The Power of a Focused Life is about living without regret in the Age of Distraction. I’ll admit, it sounds a bit melodramatic — but I’m serious. I’ve been working on this book for over a year. I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading and doing research (with much more to do still). And I’ve been applying these principles and ideas to my own life for over a decade.

All that said, there’s an awesome book trailer you should definitely check out.

And if you want to follow along with the book’s progress and get an email when it comes out, I’m kicking off a new weekly email newsletter. You can sign up for the newsletter via the book page, or there’s a link here on the site’s sidebar.

Subtropolis

Patrick Clark and Connie Zhou put together a pretty great photo essay on SubTropolis, the giant and mostly unknown underground business complex we have here in Kansas City. It’s a 55 million square-foot space, and it represents about 10-percent of KC’s commercial real estate.

Wednesday, February 4

Tyler Hays (with help from Chris Gonzales and John Carey) wrote an awesome primer to getting started with vinyl — from turntables to preamps to speakers to where to still buy vinyl records.

The point of vinyl, here in 2015, is comprised of two main aspects. The first is the sound, which is remarkably different from the digital pointedness of CDs or audio files. It’s warmer, more visceral. You don’t have to be an audiophile to hear it. I liken it to hearing a recorded live album versus being at the concert — they’re the same on paper, yet totally different experiences.

The second reason vinyl is valuable is its potential for deeper enjoyment of the music.

I’ve been completely oblivious to the vinyl scene, but after working with Tyler on this article I realized that it’s actually alive and thriving. In fact (surprise, surprise?), even Amazon has a Vinyl Store on their site.

Monday, February 2

Helena Price:

What if we made more active decisions about how we spent our Internet time? If we weren’t bogged down maintaining our inboxes and social networks, who would we set out to meet or get to know better? If we weren’t so busy clicking links or browsing photos in our feeds, what would we choose to study or learn more about? If we spent these hours differently, what would happen?

I was curious to find out for myself.

So, one night while I was sitting in bed, I un-followed everyone on the Internet.

Helena’s considerations about how she spends her time and her desire to be more focused and intentional are just fantastic. Perhaps it just because we’re at the beginning of the year or perhaps because I’m nearing the finished first draft of my book about focus, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this stuff as well. And just a few days ago I even recorded a podcast episode about it.

P.S. Helena will be speaking at the Circles Conference later this year. You should come.

I was recently a guest on Robert McGinley Myers’ podcast, Anxious Machine. We talked about connecting with people, finding meaning in our tools, and a bit about how I got into my career as a full-time writer.

Rob is an incredibly thoughtful maker. He has written several excellent articles for us on The Sweet Setup. If you haven’t heard an episode of Rob’s show yet, you’ll be impressed. The production value is incredibly high — the shows are more than just back-and-forth conversation, but they weave storytelling and music and additional information to give context to the things being discussed.

Friday, January 30

On today’s episode of The Weekly Briefly, I talk about how there is more than one way to help us keep on track with doing our most important work day in and day out. And it goes beyond just white-knuckle focus and ripping our internet cable out of the wall.

It can be helpful to know what our high-level goals/values are for each day. And then we have a plumb line to see if the tasks we are doing fit into the big picture.

Sponsored by:

Thursday, January 29

If you’ve got something awesome you’d like to promote to the readerships here on shawnblanc.net and on Tools & Toys, then I’ve got some sponsorship openings available for you. And since February is still a bit open, I’m discounting the sponsorship rate by $100.

And speaking of… over on The Sweet Setup, we’re also running a discount for sponsorships in the month of February.

If you’re interested in a spot here or there (or both!), please do send me an email.

Speaking of typefaces, Obsidian is a new one from Hoefler & Co., and it’s pretty ingenious. The typeface itself has its own set of logic and rules for how the decorative shading is drawn, how the swash caps are rendered, and more.

Margaret Rhodes has more details about Obsidian over on Wired.

From the 8 Faces blog:

Over four years and across eight issues we interviewed 64 world-renowned designers1, including; Erik Spiekermann, Jessica Hische, Michael Bierut, Nina Stössinger, Mark Simonson & Seb Lester, plus owners of respected type foundries such as, Font Smith, Type Together and Process Type.

We’ve counted the number of times each typeface was selected and found consensus with the top 25. The top 10 designers’ favourite fonts will be quite familiar to many but hopefully the full list will provide a useful stepping stone to exploring many more.

So this morning Microsoft shipped what looks like a pretty great email app for the iPhone and iPad.

It works with Exchange, Outlook.com, iCloud, Google, and Yahoo emails. And you can also connect to your Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and/or Box accounts for sending attachments, etc.

In classical Outlook fashion, email, calendars, and contacts are in the same app. Which I’m not sure about. But there are definitely some is cool things going on:

  • A quick filter button that shows you only flagged emails, unread email, or only emails with attachments.

  • A “Focused” inbox view that is supposed to be Microsoft’s way of auto-filtering your inbox to only show you the most important emails in your inbox.

  • Scheduling of email messages. Which is the Mailbox-style of “remove this message from my inbox and hide it for the next hour/day/week/whatever”.

  • A files tab that shows you a list of all the files that are buried in attachments within your emails, and that lets you browse your OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox folders.

Outlook is certainly taking a lot of cues from a other successful iOS email apps, but also is very Microsoft-y in that there is a lot going on here. But honestly, my first impressions are good. Over on The Sweet Setup we picked Dispatch as the best iPhone email app for power users, but Outlook may give Dispatch a run for its money.

Wednesday, January 28

Over on Tools & Toys, Erin Brooks wrote a review of the Tom Bihn Parental Unit. It’s a diaper bag that doesn’t suck:

The market for diaper bags is pretty flooded — there are trendy diaper bags, designer fashion diaper bags, tiny diaper bags, giant diaper bags, giant purses people try to make “work” for diaper bags, and totes. Some people don’t want a “diaper bag” and opt for a regular messenger bag or a good old backpack instead. After trying numerous bags, the Tom Bihn Parental Unit ($140) has become my family’s go-to bag.

Erin’s review of the Parental Unit is the latest in our series of reviews of awesome bags.

Monday, January 26

For much too long email has been the main medium for communication at work. While email isn’t going away, team communication platforms like HipChat are allowing for more collaborative and productive communication experiences between co-workers.

HipChat combines every communication method you’d ever need — IM, group chat, screen sharing, file sharing, link sharing, video and voice calling — into a single solution. Working remotely, working across time zones, and working with the person right next to you becomes infinitely simpler and more efficient.

Create a chat room for your team or project so you can brainstorm, discuss work, or share files all in one place. Everything in HipChat is archived and searchable by keyword so you go back to a conversation whenever you want. @mentions allow you to bring your co-workers instantly into a conversation so you can get all of the right people involved in the discussion.

Best of all, HipChat is completely free for unlimited users. The Basic plan offers everything you need to get your team started: group chat, IM, file sharing, unlimited users and integrations. And if you’re interested in video chat and screen sharing, HipChat Plus is just $2/user per month.

Get your team on HipChat, sign up for a free account.

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My thanks to HipChat for sponsoring the site feed this week. Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

Friday, January 23

Last week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly was about technology. And, more specifically, how technology helps us to do our best creative work.

This week’s show is about another aspect of doing our best creative work: our inner work life.

When we have a healthy inner work life then we are poised to be at are our best in terms productivity and creativity. And so, how do we stay happy and motivated so we can be productive and creative? That’s what today’s show is all about.

Sponsored by:

Celebrate Progress

How would you define a successful creative career?

There are two important elements: creative freedom and financial stability.

So let’s define success as having the ability to do creative work we’re proud of and to keep doing that work.

Now, there is no recipe for this stuff. It’s different for each person and changes with all sorts of factors like skills, passion, and even geographic location. It important to define creative success in such a way that it doesn’t require a particular location, vocation, or paycheck.

However, there is more to it than creative freedom and financial stability. Something else is also critical to our long-term journey of doing our best creative work.

We need a healthy inner work life.

Our emotional and motivated state is just as important (if not more important) as our finances, tools, work environment, and overall creative freedom.

Teresa Amabile is a professor at Harvard Business School. In 2012 she gave an excellent talk at the 99U conference. In that talk she shares about how our inner work life is what lays the foundation for being our most productive and our most creative.

When our emotional and motivated state — our inner work life — is strong and positive then we are most likely to be at our best in terms of creativity and productivity.

What drives our inner work life? Well, a lot of things. But one of the most important is making progress on meaningful work.

When we see that we are making progress — even small victories — then it strengthens our emotional and motivated state. We are happier and more motivated at work. And therfore, we are more likely to be productive and creative.

Consider the inverse. When we feel like cogs in a machine then we see our time as being spent just doing meaningless busy work and not contributing to anything worthwhile. And so we slowly lose our desire to be productive and efficient. We don’t care about coming up with creative solutions or fresh ideas. We just do what’s required of us in order to get our paycheck so we can go home to our television.

This is one reason why having an annual review for yourself (and your team / company) can be so beneficial. It reminds everyone of the goals accomplished and the projects completed. It shows that the oftentimes mundane and difficult work we do every day is actually adding up to something of value.

Coming back to Teresa Amabile, she calls this the Progress Principle. In short, making progress on meaningful work is critical to being happy, motivated, productive, and creative in our work.

And so, if progress is so important, why do we seem to celebrate only the big victories and only once or twice per year?

One of the greatest ways to recognince our progress is to celebrate all victories — big and small. And one of the best ways to celebrate and chronicle the small victories is with our own daily journal.

We often forget about our small wins after a few days or weeks. Or they quickly get buried under our never ending to-do lists. Or, if we don’t recognize and celebrate them, then they stop being “small wins” and start just being “what we should be doing anyway”.

By cataloging and celebrating our small wins each day then we can be reminded that we are making meaningful progress. And, in truth, it’s the small wins which all add up to actually complete the big projects and big goals. As Benjamin Franklin said, it’s little strokes that fell great oaks. And so, to celebrate a big victory is actually to celebrate the summation of a thousand small victories.

Thursday, January 22

Macminicolo has been hosting mac minis for ten years, and they’d love for you to join them. To celebrate the milestone, the Decades Promo is just $10/mo for ten months.

Low cost. High performance. The perfect Mac server.

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My thanks to Macminicolo for sponsoring the site this week. These guys are the industry leader in providing world-class hosting and data center services exclusively for your Mac mini server. They host a ton of Macs minis, they’re located at one of the most advanced data centers in the world, and their Decades Promo is one heck of a deal to help you get up and running.

Over on The Sweet Setup we just posted our latest app review, and it’s for shared lists.

We chose Wunderlist as our favorite because it has great apps for every major platform (so you can share your lists with folks who aren’t as Apple-nerdy as you are), it has great and reliable sync, and a lot of extra features to make collaborating with others very simple.

Or if you want something more basic (like just one, maybe two, lists that you and your spouse share), then Apple’s Reminders may be the way to go.

Write for Yourself, Edit for Your Reader

At the root of most bad writing, Stephen King says you’ll find fear. It’s fear — or timidity — that holds a writer back from doing her best creative work.

Ray Bradbury admitted this outright: “I did what most writers do at their beginnings: emulated my elders, imitated my peers, thus turning away from any possibility of discovering truths beneath my skin and behind my eyes.”

You’ll also find fear at the root of most non-writing. Shame, doubt, worry, second-guessing, and all their cousins stand guard against us when we sit down to deal with the blank page.

As someone who writes for a living, I can tell you this: anything that keeps me from writing is public enemy number one. And the one thing that most keeps me from writing is fear.

Fear works against me more than my lack of time, focus, ideas, and talent combined. Time, focus, ideas, talent — these are all quantifiable. But fear? Fear is completely irrational. You can’t argue with it, you can’t tell it to go away, you can’t schedule around it, and you can’t bribe it or distract it.

But you know what else about fear? It’s universal.

We all feel afraid and timid when facing that blank page. Look around at some of your favorite writers and creators. They are more than talented and hard working. They are brave. They’ve found a way to keep writing in the midst of their fear.

* * *

To pull the curtain back just a little, oftentimes the thing which most keeps me from writing is a fear of putting my own narcissism out on display for all to see. So often my first draft is little more than my own self-centered view of the world — a world where I sit at the center. This is not the world I am trying to build up, but when writing, how can any of us write about anything else but what we know and what we have heard? We write about what we know and what we feel. We write from our own soul and our own heart and we share what we’ve seen through our own eyes and what we’ve heard through our own ears. We write from the inside out.

Here is how I deal with my own fear, doubt, worry. When writing that first draft, it’s allowed to be as horrible and ugly and awkward and egocentric as it needs to be.

This first draft is the personal draft. It’s the crappy draft. Nothing is off limits. I can write whatever I want and say it however I want. Everything is fair game so long as it keeps the cursor moving.

When the first draft is done, then the work of editing begins. It’s time to edit not just for flow and grammar and clarity, but edit for the reader. It is time to take this story that was once built with the author at the center and to instead put the reader at the center.

When you are writing, write however you must. Don’t let fear or timidity keep you from being honest and exciting. And when you are editing, improve your words so they serve the reader. Write for yourself, but edit for your reader.

Tuesday, January 20

In response to yesterday’s article about The Core Curriculum, a few people asked me how I intend to put together my notebook. Well, I don’t know yet. But, I have a pretty good idea.

The first question is the most important: should your Core Curriculum be digital or physical? Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

What’s great about a digital notebook is that you can add to it at any time. You can edit it, rearrange it, and tweak it. What’s bad about digital is that, well, you can add to it at any time. I fear that a digital notebook could be the enemy of the necessary brevity that would make the Core Curriculum manageable.

What’s great about a physical notebook is that you’re removed from the distractions of a glowing screen. You can write in the margins, make notes and highlights, and add your own insights as you go. But the disadvantage is that if you lose your notebook or you’re in trouble. And if you want to add to it or rearrange it, it could be difficult.

All that to say, I’m leaning towards a physical notebook. I’m going to put together my core curriculum as a Pages document and then print it out like an old fart. And to solve the issue of being able to rearrange pages and add new pages if I need to, I’m going to use the Levenger Circa System.

And, speaking of Levenger Circa…

After having a nice camera for two and a half years, I finally settled on a camera bag: The Ona Bowery. And it is awesome. It’s one of the most usable, handsome, and well-made camera bags I’ve ever come across.

The Core Curriculum

Premise

  1. There are many books, speeches, articles, sermons, quotes, and conversations which have shaped us over the years into the people we are.

  2. We retain a limited amount information when learning something new, and our recollection and interpretation of that information gets foggier over time.

  3. The best way to keep important information fresh and accurate is to review it regularly.

Idea: The Core Curriculum

And so, why not put together a small notebook that contains highlights and summaries from the books, speeches, articles, sermons, teachings, and other things which have most shaped us? Our own Core Curriculum.

Have it cover the most important areas of life, such as:

  • Personal growth
  • Spiritual foundations
  • Relationships (spouse, kids, friends, peers)
  • Vocational wisdom
  • Living with focus and diligence
  • Financial health and wisdom
  • Creative inspiration

Then, once a year or so, go through the notebook. Read your summaries and highlights to stay familiar with the things that have shaped you.

Just the act of making your Core Curriculum notebook will in and of itself be an excellent way to re-learn the material. And reviewing it once a year will help keep your mind and emotions and actions on track with the values and vision you already carry.

A.K.A. The Commonplace Book

This idea isn’t entirely new. Commonplace books have been around for hundreds of years:

Commonplace books (or commonplaces) were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.

Today, we all have Internet Communication Devices in our pockets. The need for building our own index of important facts isn’t quite so necessary because we can search for anything using just our phones.

But what is important is remembering foundational principles for how to live life and to live it well. Our values, ideals, thoughts, emotions, and habits are bombarded every day in so many different ways. Movies, commercials, TV shows, social media, and so much more tell us how we ought to live and what we should believe. Which is why our Core Curriculum notebook should be comprised of things that speak truth to who we are, who we want to be, and what we want to do.

* * *

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been building the outline of my own Core Curriculum. And I’ll be working on it for the rest of the year, no doubt. My goal is that when completed, it will take about one month for me to read through it. It’ll be something to do each January as a 31-day study guide of sorts that reminds me and inspires in the topics of spirituality, living a disciplined and productive life, marriage, fathering, creativity, work, and relationships.

Friday, January 16

On this week’s episode (episode 50!) of The Weekly Briefly, I talk about how even though technology can be a cause of distraction for doing our best creative work, so too can it empower us — not to mention enabling us to build an audience, a business, and to make a living from our creative work.

Sponsored by:

“How does this setup help you do your best creative work?”

As longtime readers of this site will remember, the Sweet Mac Setup interview series used to be hosted here. That was before The Sweet Setup launched a little over a year ago and took over the interviews.

The very first Sweet Mac Setup interview was with Mark Jardine on May 31, 2009.

In the fall of 2010, I “rebooted” the interview series and added in a new question:

“How does this setup help you do your best creative work?”

I wanted the interview questions to draw out more than just information about the hardware and software people were using. As a reader, I wanted to know how people’s tools were empowering them to be more creative than if they didn’t have those tools.

There were 28 Sweet Setup Interviews that asked the question about doing creative work. This morning I read through each of those interviews again. Here I want to share some of the answers from the interviews:

Leo Babauta:

I like focus — simple software that doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles helps me find that focus. I like things that do very little, very well. I try to cut out distractions — Tweetdeck or Tweetie, iChat or Skype, these things distract me.

Notational Velocity is the perfect writing app. All it does is write text, and it stores everything in text files, and you can find them instantly. You don’t need to file, and you don’t need to look for things.

John Carey:

For me the tech I use should actually make my life easier to manage, not get in the way of the process. I am not a super geek by any stretch of the imagination, I just learn the tools I need to know to accomplish what I want to.

David Chartier:

I love to look at the big picture whether I work at home or on-the-go, which is why I keep lots of resources available at a quick glance and why I use MacJournal. It’s the only Mac word processor I can find which lets me draft in rich text, but copy to the clipboard as the perfectly formatted, plain HTML that most CMSes want. Lots of my peers pen in HTML or Markdown, but I don’t like to look at code or URLs when I write. To me, code is code, and prose is prose. I want to draft, re-read, and continue drafting a piece as the reader will see it, watching for things like the visual flow of text and too many concurrent links that can weigh a paragraph down.

Brett Kelly:

The combination of lots of display space and powerful hardware that can (most of the time) keep up with me make it easy to dig into the current endeavor. When I can comfortably view 4-6 source code files on the iMac and have my browser open on the second display, it requires me to do a lot less remembering. I don’t have to switch away from the current buffer to look up the correct parameter order for such-and-such function, I can just open it right next to where I’m working and see both side-by-side.

I liken my working style to the way my children play with toys: they don’t put away each toy as they finish playing with it (as much as I wish they would), so we have a great big cleanup party each evening where everything is organized and stowed in its right place. When I’m ready to wrap up the current day’s work, I’ll spend at least 3-4 minutes closing a dozen Safari windows, Firefox Downloads windows, Evernote notes and such. I like that I have the canvas and the horsepower to work that way without it getting bogged down or looking cluttered.

Dave Caolo:

I trust it. When you’ve got a trusted system in place, your mind stops bugging you about “we ought to be doing [X]” and lets you focus its resources on the task at hand. I know that OmniFocus and the Printable CEO forms will capture anything important so that I won’t miss it. With that off my mind, I can get down to writing.

Iain Broome:

It’s a pretty time-consuming this writing novels, running two blogs while having a full-time job for a design agency business. It means I have to do things whenever and wherever I can. My setup is designed – well, it’s evolved, more accurately – to allow me to do that. It’s all about the sync.

With DropBox, Simplenote and an iPhone 4, I can access everything I need at all times. I can edit files on my work PC at lunch and know they’ll be there when I get home. I can approve comments, make notes or catch up on some reading on my phone while I’m waiting for the bus. And again, when I get home, my Mac is up-to-date.

Novel number one was written on no less than six different computers – a combination of desktop PCs, laptops and my iMac — in even more locations, using goodness knows how many USB drives for transferring and backing up.

Novel two will be written on just my future-iPad and my iMac. That says it all, really.

Aaron Mahnke:

I’ve tried my best to surround myself with tools that help me get the job done faster. I take notes in Notational Velocity, which is connected with SimpleNote, so that I never have to save, rename, or move the files again. I keep inspiration logged in Yojimbo and Littlesnapper, both of which sync across my computers. And I try my best to master hot keys to save time and effort.

Creativity is all about reducing the distance from inspiration to retention. I might not be able to react to a moment of inspiration right away, but if I can capture it properly (via screenshot, dragging into Yojimbo, or typing the idea out) I can come back to it when I’m ready.

Steve Offutt:

I believe that a setup should facilitate an efficient workflow. I’ve noticed most of my Mac-using friends utilize a one-machine setup and it meets their needs — especially when the choice is laptop while on-the-go with a Cinema Display parked at home. However, I’ve found that investing in a multi-machine setup meets the needs of my family as well as my differing job descriptions and their requirements. With cloud-based apps and syncing technology, multi-machine setups are now easy to keep cohesive and consistent day-to-day.

Dan Frommer:

My main job is to find and sift through endless streams and piles of information, so being able to have 2 or 3 windows open at the same time, large enough to see a bunch of data, is why I love the big iMac so much. At Business Insider, I had a second 24-inch screen open to TweetDeck all day, but I don’t really like multi-screen setups. I’m really big on symmetry. During baseball season, sometimes I’ll prop up my iPad next to me to keep the Cubs game on, because the iOS version of MLB’s stream is better than the Flash-based web version.

Brett Terpstra:

Maintaining a desktop workstation with a broad range of functionality and a portable setup with a synchronized subset of tho se apps and scripts lets me work when and where I can be most productive. My creativity tends to wane the longer I sit at the desk, so being able to pick up and go somewhere (anywhere) else is often useful in finding my muse.

Part of the reason I love the Apple Bluetooth keyboards and Magic Trackpad is consistency between those work environments. My keys are always in the same place, my gestures match between machines and the overall feel is very similar between my desktop keyboards and the Air. That removes a lot of friction when switching modes and lets me concentrate on just producing.

David Friedman:

I’m not sure my current physical setup does much for me creatively, to be honest. It’s mainly the software, and in that sense I benefit from the work other people did. Other people figured out what’s needed in a good video editor before I ever started shooting video. Other people figured out how to capture raw photo data and how to get the most from it. Other people solved a lot of technical problems for me before I even knew I had them. Because of those engineers, obstacles get out of my way and let me just concentrate on getting things done.

* * *

Reading through the above answers, as well as all the others, I noticed a bit of a trend.

  • People have specific creative goals they are trying to accomplish (write, code, photograph, edit movies, etc.), and they’ve found a combination of hardware and software that helps them facilitate those goals.
  • There’s a level of comfort and frictionlessness that comes with hardware that’s the right combination of powerful and portable to do the job.
  • There’s something freeing about having a clean and thoughtfully put together work space.

This is a topic I want to explore more. In fact, I plan to on today’s episode of The Weekly Briefly which I’ll be recording in a bit.

Technology often gets a bad rap as being “anti-creativity” because of issues such as the distractions of push notifications, our social network addiction, our tendency to pull out our iPhones any time we have a free moment, our overloaded inboxes, etc.

However, the ways in which technology has empowered us to do our best creative work far outnumber the ways it distracts us.

Thursday, January 15

There’s an excellent interview in the latest issue of objc.io with one of the coolest guys around, Loren Brichter.

Regarding software today and where it’s headed:

Personally, I’m tired of the trivial app stuff, and the App Store isn’t conducive to anything more interesting. I think the next big thing in software will happen outside of it.

And regarding raising a kid:

I’m going to be crazy strict in terms of limiting screen time, which maybe is ironic given what I’ve done for a living. I’m not sure when it happened, but my perspective on the mobile revolution shifted. It used to be really exciting just to see someone pull out an iPhone. Now it’s like, “Hey kid, stop staring at your phone!” And apps, apps everywhere! Apps for wiping your butt. I’ve become an old fogey. Get your apps off my lawn!

(Via Viticci.)

Wednesday, January 14

Seth Godin:

The argument goes that making software powerful rarely pays off, because most users refuse to take the time to learn how to use it well. The violin and the piano, though, seem to permit us to create amazing music, if we care enough. The trick is to be both powerful and simple, which takes effort.

This trick of being both powerful and simple is where many of the best iOS apps shine brightest. Take for example apps such as OmniFocus, Drafts, Fantastical, VSCO Cam, Diet Coda, or Unread. These are world-class, desktop-quality apps. They are extremely powerful, yet because they’re built for the iPad and iPhone, they are also quite simple to use and navigate. Now, combine that with the one-window-at-a-time workflow of iOS and you’ve got an even more “simplified” user experience.

Lukas Mathis:

I’ve been playing around with a Firefox OS phone for a few weeks now, and I really like it. I think the most interesting thing about it is how simple everything feels. It feels like the first iPhone, with some additional modern amenities.

Tuesday, January 13

Today we published a fantastically written and photographed review of the GORUCK GR2 by Álvaro Serrano. When we were working on the redesign of Tools & Toys last fall, articles like this were exactly what we had in mind: equal parts helpful, informative, entertaining, and visually rich.

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