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.

* * *

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.

Monday, January 12

Dash is a web app for building and sharing realtime dashboards. They look great in a browser tab, on your phone, or on a wall-mounted TV through Chromecast.

To help you get started quickly, Dash has pre-built dashboard widgets for all kinds of services like Google Analytics, appFigures, GitHub, Google News, and Twitter. There’s also an API to display data from Dropbox or the web with custom widgets like speedometers, charts, tables, and leaderboards.

In a couple minutes you can set up a Dashboard to monitor your web servers with widgets for Pingdom, Chartbeat, and realtime Google Analytics. Or, you can track your fitness New Year’s resolution with pre-built widgets for Fitbit, Strava, and Withings Scale. You can even keep an eye on your online mentions with Twitter and Google News widgets showing the search results of several different phrases.

Dash’s pricing model was designed to encourage data sharing within the community. It’s a lot like GitHub. If you make your data public, Dash is completely free. If you want to keep your dashboard private, you’ll need a pro account for $10 per month.

Dash is currently running a limited time promotion. If you sign up for a free account now, you’ll also get one private dashboard free forever. No credit card required.

* * *

My thanks to Dash for sponsoring the RSS feed this week. I spent some time this morning setting up my own custom Dashboard for Tools & Toys and it’s awesome. There are a lot of drag-and-drop widgets, and you can write your own data to power any custom widgets (like charts, lists, etc.) The Dashboard I set up acts as a one-stop-page for me to see incoming tweets, current traffic numbers, and more. Dash is giving folks one private dashboard for free forever — definitely worth checking out.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

Perpetual Neglect

“Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

* * *

Like many of you, no doubt, I spent some time thinking about personal goals and ideas for this upcoming year. The new year is always a good time to reflect, take stock of where we are, and make sure we’re still on course for where we want to be.

In a few months I will begin my 5th year of working from home and working for myself (thanks in no small part to you, dear readers). One of the most empowering lessons I have learned over these past 4 years has been regarding my own limitations. Not merely my limitations of time, but also of energy.

In any given day I have 2 maybe 3 hours of good writing time in me. A couple hours of reading. Hopefully an hour or two of researching, thinking, or decision making. And maybe an hour of admin and other busywork.

If I push my day to include more than that, I often find myself not making much progress. There is a point when the responsible and productive thing for me to do is leave my office and stop working altogether.

The workaholic in me wants to squeeze in a few more tasks. I have friends who can crank out hours upon hours of productive, creative work. Alas, I’m not one of those types. And so I’m trying to let myself quit while I’m ahead and go upstairs to be with my family, or go run errands, or just lie down and stare at the ceiling while I listen to what is going on in my imagination.

Albert Einstein:

Although I have a regular work schedule, I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head. If my work isn’t going well, I lie down in the middle of a workday and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualize what goes on in my imagination.

I’m an advocate of productivity as much as the next guy with a blog, but over my years of working from home, I feel that too much focus on productivity is to miss the forest for the trees.

Being productive is not what’s ultimately important. I want to do my best creative work and I want to have thriving relationships.

Time management, GTD, focus, diligence — these can help keep me on track. But they are not the end goal in and of themselves. I want to focus first on creativity. What do I need to do my best creative work?

Have I written today? Have I daydreamed? Have I been contemplative? Have I had an inspiring and encouraging conversation? Have I helped somebody? These acts are far more important than the progress I make against my to-do list.

When you work for yourself, there is an oceanic undercurrent that pulls you into the details of your job. The thousand responsibilities of administration and communication and infrastructure. These are important, to be sure, because without them your business would cease to be. But (at least in my case) these are the support structures at best. The foundation of my business is not the ancillary administration; it is the muse.

In The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, there’s this great line: “Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject…”

Mann’s line carries the same truth as the quote by Robert Louis Stevenson which is at the beginning of this article. Our devotion to a subject can only be sustained by the neglect of many others. Finding something we want to do is the easy part. Now we must decide what we will neglect — we must simplify where we spend our energy.

In this new year, as our thoughts are on what we can do and what we want to do, perhaps we should first think about what we will not do. What tasks and pursuits will we give up or entrust to others?

* * *

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” — Henry Thoreau

Speaking of uninterrupted work time, Paul Graham’s essay about how makers and managers use and schedule their time differently is always worth a read.

Michael Lopp:

Who understands the compounding productivity interest earned with each consecutive uninterrupted minute of work? It is there in those hard to capture collective minutes where your best work is happening.

It’s not just a challenge to get uninterrupted work time when in an office environment. It’s also a challenge in the most isolated of work spaces. Because our minutes are interrupted from without (co-workers, incoming phone calls, and other notifications) as well as from within (our tendency to check twitter real quick or to keep our email app open in the background).

Friday, January 9

It’s been 90 days since the re-design of Tools & Toys went live, and when comparing the most recent numbers to the same quarter last year we saw a 3x growth in pageviews, unique visitors, and site revenue.

And so, on today’s episode of The Weekly Briefly I wanted to share more about why we decided to redesign the site, what our goals were, and what we think has contributed to the site’s growth (beyond just the new look).

Sponsored By:

Wednesday, January 7

Wow. This is a brilliant and fantastic new feature to Gumroad.

I use Gumroad to sell Delight is in the Details, and I couldn’t be happier with the service. As a seller, Gumroad is extremely affordable and very easy to set up. And the user experience for the buyer is just as great — I wouldn’t be selling with them if I thought otherwise.

With their new email workflow stuff, you can set up scheduled emails and automated email campaigns that go out to your customers. It can be as simple as a thank-you email after someone has bought your product, or a whole series of communications.

I’ve been use Zapier to connect Gumroad with Mailchimp to do something similar, but I’m paying $785/year for those two services. Gumroad now includes it for free. Though with Mailchimp I do get quite a bit more control of my email designs and flexibility as my email list grows with folks who are interested in my book but who haven’t yet bought it.

Sounds great, but… rollover data only carries over to the next billing cycle, and it’s only for those on the Mobile Share Value plans. And the Mobile Share Value plans only get their discounted pricing if you pay full price for your smart phone or have AT&T Next (where you “lease” your smartphone).

But it does sound like an awesome step in the right direction. Remember when mobile phone plans were all about how many minutes and how many text messages you got and data was unlimited (because who uses data?) Now that’s basically flip flopped.

And speaking of AT&T data usage, last week I was logging in to my AT&T account to update my billing info. Before making it to my account settings page, I was asked if I wanted to upgrade my plan from 10GBs of shared data/month to 30GBs. Below, in smaller print, was a link to see my average monthly data usage. So I clicked that only to discover that my wife and I use about 1.5 GBs of data per month. So instead I downgraded from our 10GB/month plan to the 3GB/month plan and we’re now saving $40 (!) a month.

Something we didn’t put to our 2015 Tech Resolutions article was to check in on and evaluate our cell phone plans. Mobile carriers are changing and reconfiguring their plans all the time; how many of us are on older plans that are charging us more than we need, but don’t know any different?

Tuesday, January 6

We just posted our latest app review over on The Sweet Setup, and it’s for desktop RSS readers. We tried out literally a dozen different apps and Reeder was clearly the best. It’s fast, it’s well-designed, it’s awesome.

Monday, January 5

Managing teams is hard. Imagine it’s Monday morning and your team doesn’t know what they’re working on for the week. Plans change and schedules change with them. Spreadsheets weren’t built for this.

Harvest Forecast is a tool designed to plan your team’s time. Visualize schedules in Forecast and easily adjust them as needed. Forecast keeps your team’s expectations on the same page and helps you move projects forward.

As new projects come in, you’ll know who’s available, and when to hire. Leave behind bloated spreadsheets and begin scheduling in Harvest Forecast with a free 30-day trial.

* * *

My thanks to Harvest Forecast for sponsoring the site this week. Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

Great setup interview with Sebastian Green. And I love that The Sweet Setup now has its first Hackintosh featured:

When in my home office, I use what I call a Hackintosh Pro (Yes, you did read that correctly). Before I got bitten by the Apple bug about 10 years ago I used to build my own PCs, and for the past 3 or so years I have been itching to build one again. I had an old PowerMac G5 that finally died, so I decided to strip the case, convert it to fit an ATX motherboard, and build my own machine inside it. Building the machine was the easy part. Getting it to run OS X was the tricky part

Once you go “paperless” you can never go back. It’s great. For one, the lack of clutter is wonderful. Secondly, it’s ridiculously easy to set up some Hazel rules that will automagically sort your incoming document scans for you — making it a nearly-mindless task to file away all your paperwork, instead of sitting in front of your filing cabinet putting one piece of paper away at a time in different hanging file folders. Moreover, with all your documents scanned, it’s very very easy to find what you’re looking for.

All that to say, over on Tools & Toys we just put together a big update to our guide to going paperless. If you want to know which scanner to get, which shredder to get, and how to go about organizing your scans, check it out.

Saturday, January 3

I want to thank curbi for sponsoring all three sites this week.

Curbi offers parental controls for iOS devices, and it’s pretty incredible — especially if you’ve got a family of devices you’d like to help safeguard. Curbi is a way to monitor and restrict the apps and websites your kids use on their iOS devices.

You can flat-out block certain content content (such as porn), and you can set time-based restrictions on other content (like no Facebook during study-time hours), etc.

And curbi can be more than just for kids — you can set it up on your own device as well. Use curbi as an internet content blocker that actually works so you don’t accidentally get slimed with stuff you don’t want to see, and so you’re not constantly entering in a PIN to visit regular sites that iOS doesn’t need to block.

Curbi is free to use for 14 days, and then a monthly subscription is just $6.99 no matter how many devices are in your home.

Friday, January 2

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly, I talk about the pursuit of “the best”.

Who doesn’t love finding the best tools, the best coffee, the best food, the best experiences? I know I do. But I realize that this can, at times, be an unhealthy pursuit. Too much focus on only ever doing and experiencing “the best” of something can lead to disappointment and complaining when we don’t have “the best”. Which is why being content — and making each unique experience “the best” — is a choice.

Sponsored by:

Welp, it convinced me to finally drop in a dynamic timestamp in all my sites’ footers.

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