My Stories: The Coffee Bean Pot Band

There’s a tradition in our house that every time we open a new bag of coffee beans we cut out the label and place it under the elastic band that’s around the pot where we store the beans.

The pot is an old Illy coffee pot that we’ve had for years, over that time the number of labels has grown and the elastic band expanded.


Each of the labels compacted under the band has a little story of its own.

The story might be as simple as a trip to the local supermarket. Some of the stories are about special occasions; others are about holidays. The Pilgrims Coffee is from Lindisfarne.


There are stories about trips out and also stories about trips further afield. The Lojano is from Ecuador.

There are coffees that are there because they are favourites, others are special treats. Some we return to, others have been a unique experience.

The idea that we have drunk a coffee called Lazy Sunday is a deep irony.

The coffee bean pot band is a treasure trove of memories.

The Fourth of the Fourth | Blogging Birthday 2017

On this day in 2005 I started blogging, 12 years later and I’ve written 1874 posts. I’ve actually written more posts than that, but some of them never see the delights of publication, I have certain standards.

Most popular blogging sites focus on a particular subject or agenda, I don’t. For me, blogging has, always been about expressing myself and not about driving a particular set of topics. Sometimes I dive into series, sometimes I just write what I want to write in a single article.

I’d like to say thank you to those of you who read and those who comment, it’s humbling to recognise that you invest your time reading what I write.

When I started blogging I used TypePad which I quite liked, but had some limitations so eventually switched to a self hosted WordPress.org site. Running your own WordPress installation comes with some overhead, particularly if you want to keep your site out of the hands of hackers.

More recently I’ve migrated over to WordPress.com which is the WordPress application hosted by WordPress.

There were a couple of glitches in the migration, but all of my information made it across without any problems. The only lingering issue is that some of my older posts are missing their header image which is a problem I can live with.

There were several reasons for switching over to WordPress.com:

  • I wanted to move to HTTPS as the primary protocol. Google and other search sites give preference to HTTPS and it was going to be tricky (and expensive) to go HTTPS with my existing hosting provider.
  • I’d learnt what I wanted to learn about hosting WordPress which I’ve used on a number of private projects.
  • Maintaining WordPress does require some effort, it’s a lot better than it used to be, but it was still more effort than I was wanting to expend.
  • I wanted to save some money. My existing hosting was coming up for renewal which gave me the impetus to change and using WordPress.com was cheaper than the hosting provider I was using.
  • It’s good to change.

I’ll be back soon with some more writing, but until then I’ll leave you with a thought from someone else:

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”

Isaac Asimov

I’m reading… My Morning Routine

My Morning Routine is a site that asks people about their morning routine, as simple as that, but I really like the insights.

Some of my fascination with this site is pure nosiness, I like to know what other people get up to, there, I’ve said it.

The major part of my fascination comes from experiences in my own life where I’ve let my morning routine get in a mess, once I was in a mess I realised how important routine was, especially in a morning. Since then I’ve tried to drive a set routine for most mornings and that’s really helped.

There are a couple of other aspects of the site that I like. Firstly, most of the insights are from women, My Morning Routine is not a site dominated by middle-aged white men. Even though I am a middle-aged white man even I can have too much of them. Secondly, many of the people would only be recognised in their own field, they’re not universally famous, or even recognised, they’re not ordinary, but they aren’t celebrities either.

I thought about writing my own version of one of the My Morning Routine posts, but instead decided to highlight some of the intriguing answers that people give to the standard questions:

David Kadavy

I am not a morning person. This is exactly why first thing in the morning is my most critical creative time. Research shows that your off-peak times are the best for insightful thinking, so my one goal in the morning is to make the most of that still-slightly-groggy time.

Arianna Huffington

Yes, I treat my transition to sleep as a sacrosanct ritual.

First, I turn off all my electronic devices and gently escort them out of my bedroom. Then, I take a hot bath with epsom salts and a candle flickering nearby; a bath that I prolong if I’m feeling anxious or worried about something. I don’t sleep in my workout clothes as I used to (think of the mixed message that sends to our brains) but have pajamas, nightdresses, and even T-shirts dedicated to sleep. Sometimes I have a cup of chamomile or lavender tea if I want something warm and comforting before going to bed. I love reading real, physical books, especially poetry, novels, and books that have nothing to do with work.

Mike Vardy

I am a night owl, so my bedtime is usually around 1:00am these days.

I have a specific evening routine I carry out as well so to help me wind down my day and start the next one with a sense of direction; part of my evening routine is writing down My 3 Absolutes for the next day.

Erin Loechner

I start my morning with a simple prayer: Lord, help me see. That’s it. Nothing fancy. I find it offers me the precise amount of perspective I need throughout the day – I’m always repeating it in my head!

The statistics page is interesting, 30% of the people are 6am risers with 30% of them in bed for 10pm. 30% of them have had their current routine for more than 3 years. 60% of them check their phones immediately.

Do you have a wandering mind? It’s probably making you unhappy.

The other day we revisited the subject of multi-tasking and I talked about a few ways I try to remain focused. Focus isn’t just important for productivity, it’s also a core competency for happiness.

Back in 2010 Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert published a scientific paper titled: A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind.

We developed a smartphone technology to sample people’s ongoing thoughts, feelings, and actions and found (i) that people are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as they are thinking about what is and (ii) found that doing so typically makes them unhappy.

Let me say that a different way: spending your life thinking about things that aren’t happening is making you unhappy. You would be happier if you focused on the here and now.

So much of the multi-tasking that we do is an attempt to switch between multiple things that aren’t happening, it’s a type of active mind-wandering. How many times do we check our social media to see if something is happening only to be reminded that nothing is happening. How many times have you refreshed your social media site only to refresh it again, and then again without even thinking. The research tells us that this is making us unhappy.

Below is Matt Killingworth talking through his work at TEDx:

Matt also talked through his findings on the TED Radio Hour in 2014.

I’m reading…Tom Peters

Tom Peters is a writer on business management practices, I suppose you could call him a motivational speaker but that term has become so clichéd I’m not sure you would understand what I meant by it.

Tom is very active on twitter, he’s written over 60,000 tweets:

But the thing I love about Tom are his PowerPoint presentation decks. They are the most remarkable things. He publishes the slides that he uses at events and has also compiled a master copy called The Works while has over 50,000 words in it. A recent one from December 2016 comes to over 108 slides and obliterate many of the design rules that our modern corporate slides abide by, but the contents are thought proving and challenging:


be-the-best


design-rules


women


whoever-tries-and


At the beginning of this post I said that Tom was a motivational speaker, but I also said that you may misinterpret what I meant by that, this is what I mean: I love to read through Tom slide decks because they motivate me. They motivate me to be a better leader. They motivate me to see that things can be better. They motivate me to keep trying new things. They motivate me to keep seeing new things. They motivate me to adjust my priorities.

Every time I sit in a dull, pointless meeting Tom’s words about meetings ring around my head and make me determined that we are going to do better next time:

Prepare for a meeting/every meeting as if your professional life and legacy depended on it. It does.

Most of Tom’s material is highlighted through his blog which I subscribe to via Feedly to make sure I don’t miss out. His most recent post on collected quotes has some gems in it.

I’ll leave the closing thoughts to Tom himself:

My Tools: Evernote for iOS

It’s that time which sometimes happens in our house when we need a few things from the shops. I’m the designated shopper for this trip. We only need a couple so I don’t bother to write down a list. Then a member of the family adds something extra to the list, three things, my brain can cope with that. Oh, but while you are there could you also look for another thing. I’ve now got to four things to remember and I don’t know about you, but four is about my limit. It’s time to make a list.

My daughter’s car is in the garage for some work and she wants me to phone up to see what the progress is. I’m asked to do this because I supposedly know more about what they are about to say, that’s debatable. I know I’ll need the car registration but there’s something about the registration number of this car that means that I can’t remember it consistently.

These are just a couple of examples where I use Evernote for iOS on my iPhone. Back in 2012 I described how I used Evernote as one of my daily productivity tools which it still is (It’s interesting to read how my writing style has changed a bit since then). Evernote has all sorts of information in it having those that information on my iPhone makes them significantly more mobile.

Now is a good time to talk about Evernote for iOS because it’s recently gone through a significant interface overhaul which I must say I approve of. For one thing, making ad-hoc notes like a quick shopping list is much simpler. It’s also much cleaner and easier to read.

This is my All Notes screen from this morning:

20170120_134853000_ios

Creating a new note is as simple as clicking the plus sign at the bottom.

The integrated scanning has also removed the need for Scannable simplifying the workflow of scanning things into Evernote.

I’m not sure there’s much more to say than that:

Let’s talk about Multitasking again!

Confessions of a multitasker

I am a multitasker; I’m doing it now.

There are a group of people sat around me discussing something, it’s a discussion that I could contribute too, but I’m also writing this blog post, I’m also allowing my iPhone to interrupt me. I’ve done this on many occasions and every time I do it I tell myself that I’m not going to do it again, so why am I doing it? The lie that I am telling myself is that the discussion doesn’t need all of my attention and I would be better spending my time doing something useful. I am kidding myself and every time you do something similar you are kidding yourself.

(I’ve been writing this blog post for over 40 minutes now and written 104 words. If I’d gone off to a quiet corner and really engaged I would have finished this post already. I’ll leave you to judge, but I suspect the quality of the words would be better as well.)

A recent report from the World Economic Forum based on some research from Stanford University, University of London and Sussex University highlighting the consequences of all of this multitasking which is probably more damaging than we might imagine.

Some of the report states what has been known for some time:

Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

Repeat those words to yourself a few times: “your brain can only focus on one thing as a time”.

The report goes further, not only are you being less productive in the moment, the research is starting to point towards the impact being longer term:

It was long believed that cognitive impairment from multitasking was temporary, but new research suggests otherwise. Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK compared the amount of time people spend on multiple devices (such as texting while watching TV) to MRI scans of their brains. They found that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.

While more research is needed to determine if multitasking is physically damaging the brain (versus existing brain damage that predisposes people to multitask), it’s clear that multitasking has negative effects.

So there you have it, there’s no advantage to be gained from multitasking, yet, we continue to tell ourselves that we are gaining something from trying to do two things at once. This isn’t the only situation where we behave illogically, but it is a growing madness as screens continue to proliferate.

Personally, I’ve been trying to build a set of practices which insulate me from the temptation to multitask. When i get home I’m trying to leave my iPhone somewhere out of reach and preferably out of view. I’m trying to take notes on paper in meetings, leaving the screens in my bag. When I have screen time I’m practising closing all applications apart from the one I’m focused on. I’m practising scheduling my days on a piece of paper. Another practice is to spend time in each day in silence or with quiet music without screens giving my brain time to calm down. What are your practises?

(It eventually took me two hours to write this post while multitasking which I did as a bit of an experiment to highlight the challenge. Hopefully the practices will reduce the time I’m multitasking and hopefully there isn’t any lasting damage to my brain.)