What’s on My Desk Mobile Edition

I have two modes of work. Every morning I head out to a local coffee shop and read then write. This is my mobile office and 90% of my writing happens in a coffee shop.

So let’s look at my mobile office1.

1. iPad Pro 9.7

This is my third iPad. My first was an iPad 2. Then I got an iPad Mini, which I ended up giving to my wife and not having any iPad for a few years. Even the initial introduction of the iPad Pro 9.7 didn’t get me to purchase it.

What finally kicked me over the edge and made the iPad compelling again in my workflow was the addition of Scrivener for iPad. I use this almost daily as I work on books that will be coming out in the future. Scrivener is an amazing writing tool, and the iPad version is nothing short of stellar.

I’m seriously tempted to get a large iPad as I use my current one more and more. Specifically, because the split view would be larger with a larger iPad. Sometimes with the 9.7, it feels like I just don’t have enough real estate to see what I want to see as I’m researching and writing.

2. 1ByOne Keyboard

I run to Starbucks and home at least once a week. That’s over 12km with my stuff on my back; I wanted to find a keyboard that was functional and small. I’m amazed at how nice the OnebyOne keyboard feels and how long the battery lasts.

As I head into the local electronics store and try out the MacBook Pro’s currently being sold, this little $35 keyboard feels much nicer, and it’s inexpensive.

The only caveat is that it took me a few weeks to get used to typing on it. The keyboard is small, and the right shift key, in particular, is where I usually trip up now. I end up hitting the up arrow instead at least a few times in the morning. It’s not a big enough problem to change keyboards though.

3. Hydro Flask Coffee Cup

First, I want my coffee to stay warm as I sip on it. Second, I want to throw out less stuff. For Christmas, my amazing wife got me this Hydro Flask. Funny story, I got her the same one in the same colour.

I take this with me every time I head out and reduce my waste, plus closing the lid means nothing spills. This is something my 1-year-old has tested many times.

4. Jaybird Freedom 2

I had an original pair of Jaybird BlueBud headphones for exercise, and after around five years they finally died. While I did try some much less expensive Bluetooth sport headphones, nothing lasted more than a few months.

This is my second pair of Jaybird Freedom 2 headphones because my first pair just wouldn’t stay connected to my devices. Lucky for me, Jaybird has a stellar warranty and sent me a replacement pair which have been trucking along for three months just fine.

It’s not uncommon for me to have these on and running from 6 am – 12 pm and then some days back out to a coffee shop in the afternoon for another few hours. This is possible because of the battery clip on the headphones. I can unclip it and charge it while using the headphones. Then, clip it back in, and it starts charging the internal headphone battery again.

5. Pen

What’s pictured is a Sharpie Pen, but I’m still looking a bit. I love the feel of the Sharpie on the page, but being a lefty, it smudges a bit.

6. Kindle Paperwhite

One of my best purchases a few years ago was a Kindle Paperwhite. This device is terrible at anything but reading. It’s way lighter than an iPad and much easier on the eyes to read for a number of hours.

This single device helped me increase my reading in 2017 to 80 books.

7. Leuchtturm Notebooks

I carry two notebooks pretty much anywhere I go. The one I use throughout the day is the one that’s open in the picture. It’s a Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal. I’ll be writing a bunch about how I use this later in the month.

The second one that’s almost always in my bag, but is always out with me in my mobile office is again a Leuchtturm1917 notebook. I take all my book notes in a physical notebook because I figure if it’s too much work to write a quote down, it’s not worth writing down. I’ve just started choosing the same colour for a year of notebooks.

Last year I used pink. This year its teal. I’m looking forward to the day a few years in the future when I have a shelf of notebooks that change in colour by the year of book reading.

Not pictured

There are a few items that are in my bag and may come out to inhabit my mobile office, but don’t always come out.

  • Battery
  • Apple Pencil

The spare battery is only used when I forget to charge something. I use the Apple Pencil to do sketching and annotate images, like the one you see above.

The Tools Don’t Matter

While I know people love these posts on people’s tools, it’s important to remember that the tools don’t matter. I could still write without an iPad. A larger keyboard would still mean that I can write and run, it would just make my bag heavier.

Don’t focus on the tools you have or don’t have. Focus on the process you use to get work done.

The best tools in the world, in the hands of someone that doesn’t ship work, are useless.

Have an awesome day

Curtis

PS: If you’re looking for better process check out The 8 Week Business BootCamp.

Photo by: paulbhartzog 


  1. I was inspired to do this by my friend Ryan’s post about his desk. I’ll do my home office in a bit. 

Scott’s Best Reading of 2017

I’m a reader, and that shouldn’t surprise you.

My friend Scott published his list of the best things he’s read in 2017. I also read Perennial Seller1, and The ONE Thing2 in 2017 and concur, they are must read books.

The rest of his list is new to me, but is now on my list with his endorsement.

I also picked up The ONE Thing podcast, and it’s a must listen to.

I don’t have my list for 2017 yet, because it’s still 2017 and I’m still reading. I’ll likely finish at least one more book this year. I did publish my 2016 top reading list though, which you can get on Amazon.

I’m also getting together a bunch of topically related reading lists you can find on my what to read page. Watch it for more list of the best stuff to read when you’re trying to learn about a new area of your business.

Check out Scott’s List

Reading for November 2017

We’re trying something a bit new. I read a bunch so on the last Saturday of a month I’ll bundle up the best stuff along with a short summary on why you should read it too.

If you don’t like it let me know. If you do like it let me know. I’ll do it for a few months and then decide if I continue.

Advice From A 19 Year Old Girl & Software Developer
Great piece from Lydia about getting a job with literally no job experience and not getting up at 4am or working 22 hours a day. If you’re saying there is no opportunity out there, don’t read this because it’s going to be hard to lie to yourself.

‘In a world of social media, complex writing gives freedom’ | Tes
Interesting thoughts around writing and complex thought. Are we stifling complex thought because we write mostly on Twitter? Earlier this year I had stopped blogging weekly because I felt like I had so much shallow content going out. Funny that now I have a daily email going and daily blog posts. I’m still struggling with that and the fact that I want more time to write/read/think and then share it with you all.

So yes, my emails may be changing yet again in addition to this longer email that’s starting.

6 Ways to Improve Your EQ for More Productivity at Work – Asian Efficiency
Good post at Asian Efficiency on EQ. How much do you think about that for your work?

Gentle Reminder: Still No Public Email | Lost Art Press
Oh email I really don’t like thee. I haven’t quite quit email but it may take a week or two to get back to things. I was speaking at a conference in November and afterwards talked to a bunch of students about this. They were all surprised when I said they could email me but I might take a few days, maybe a week to hear from me. I spent all day as I write this working on a video course. Didn’t open email once. Won’t open it tomorrow maybe Thursday if I have time. Friday I’ll probably get to it all and no one will be upset. When I moved to this schedule I was nervous and no one ever said anything.

The Success Path for Writers & Artists
Good article, particularly the part about giving yourself permission to create. Actually the book Finish, which I talk about later in this post, talks about the same thing. Being paralyzed by your ideas and perfection.

Every Man a Marketer
Great reminder that we are all in marketing and sales. My friend Brian wrote the same thing a few years back. True then and true now. If you’re not comfortable with sales get comfortable with the way you do sales. Not some sleazy marketer way or used car salesperson.

The da Vinci Pause – Study Hacks – Cal Newport
We may think that there were not as many distractions back in da Vinci’s day but it’s not quite true. It was his ability to pause and exist in the midst of distraction but focus on one thing that led to so much. At least according to his biographer.

The blue-collar WordPress worker and the 2,500+ websites built to grow the CMS
Great post from my friend Matt. I do think that consultants for WordPress built so much of the popularity by recommending it all the time. So yay me.

State Bar Associations Keep Former Inmates Out – The Atlantic
I’m really not sure what happens in Canada around a criminal conviction and jobs or the bar, but there really should be some time limit to needing to check a box about your history. You just keep paying and paying. They talked about this in All In as well which I cite later.

Making Time Off Predictable—and Required
Time off is super important. This is a fairly short piece that talks about how you can get just as much done while taking time off. Goes very well with Rest, (which I reviewed earlier this year.). Christmas is coming, how much rest are you planning on taking?

Lessons Learned From 3 Years of Black Friday / Cyber Monday Sales – Holler Box
Nice post from my friend Scott as he looks at the exceptions set for customers with sales and what it means to his revenue numbers. He tweeted a follow up to say it’s hard to argue with 2x the revenue even if it does cause a slight dip just before:

Scott Bolinger on Twitter: “@innerwebs @curtismchale I know you’re not 😉 It certainly can be a drawback, personally I’m not concerned unless they expect a discount all the time. Once a year i… https://t.co/zi1XmcYZ7e”

The Life-Changing Magic Of Taking Long Walks | Thought Catalog
I usually work from 6-9 and then have a walk home. Sometimes a run. I try to find somewhere green out of traffic and away from the city. Doesn’t always happen but still I try. That lets me recharge so I can dive back in for three more hours of focused no interrupt work. Take walks and find somewhere green.

Second Life Still Has 600,000 Regular Users – The Atlantic
Yes I tried Second Life years ago. No I didn’t stay for more than a few hours. To much stuff to do out in the world. Still very interesting to see how disabled users have used Second Life to get together and experience things they wouldn’t otherwise. Not sure I jive with the rest of it thought. Just doesn’t make sense to me.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘People Are Frightened of Saying What They Think’ – The Atlantic
Yes I’m a white dude middle class. I’ve got it good in ways I’ll never appreciate but I get the feeling about being scared to place one word wrong online. I’m super willing to talk about gender and stuff but only in person where we can have a reasonable conversation. I don’t argue on the internet.

Anton Krupicka – Injuries and Related Thoughts
Something about Anton just appeals to me but it’s not his injuries. Yes his site sucks on mobile but still read this personal thought on injury and still wanting to do so much. I’m not injured but I do find myself looking at my kids sometimes when I’m sitting at the arena watching figure skating think “Why am I here I have so much I want to accomplish in the mountains.” That’s not fair to them and I’m only 37, I have lots of years to do stuff left. Just need to keep picking parts off as many weekends as I can.

005: Austin Kleon – Pencil vs Computer – Hurry Slowly — Hurry Slowly — Overcast
Been loving the Hurry Slowly podcast. So much goodness. This one in particular looks at how you work. Digital or analogue or both? Just pick the right tool for the right job for you. Side note: I’m doing some video content for Asian Efficiency on analogue productivity but you need to be a Dojo member to get it so sign up.

For Depression and Anxiety, Running Is a Unique Therapy | Runner’s World
I haven’t suffered from depression but I know people that have. Good look at how running can help treat depression.

I’m David Heinemeier Hansson, Basecamp CTO, and This Is How I Work
No you won’t be DHH by adopting his work practices but it always love reading about how others work. That is one reason I have listened to Daily Rituals 20 times or so.

Andrew Anglin: The Making of an American Nazi – The Atlantic
Crazy look at one of the most popular faces of Nazism we have today. Emphasis on crazy. I read stories like this and have no idea how people come anywhere near believing the type of lies spouted by this movement.

Death at a Penn State Fraternity – The Atlantic
Man I don’t even know what to say about this story. I’d like to say that I would never participate in a story like this but if the old experiments after WW 2 have anything to teach us it’s that most of us would do something similar.

Some of the links above came from Jocelyn K. Glei and I love the Hurry Slowly Podcast and her book Unsubscribe was great. Make sure you get on her email list. Newsletter • Jocelyn K. Glei

Books

Finish by Jon Acuff

Good book about perfectionism and how to avoid it. Makes me think of my shirt from WooCommerce which says “ship your ideas”. Ship those ideas people. This is a good book for the Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim type. The next book is good for the Ready, Fire, Aim type.

Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday

Another book on creativity and this one talks about making awesome work that will last decades. Not so much advice to procrastinate but to do the work that it takes to make an awesome product and then the marketing work it takes.

First Break All The Rules

This book is based on a whole bunch of research around what makes a good team and manager. It says that you shouldn’t expect your employees to change so don’t bother. Make sure you have them doing the right thing instead of trying to force them into a role that doesn’t suit. Not sure how I feel about it saying that people can’t change since I’m in the business of helping people change and I’ve seen it happen many times. I would agree that if someone doesn’t want to change they won’t so don’t bother with them.

All In by Josh Levs

This is a look at how we have pushed for gender equality for women which is great but then men have been held out of typically female roles like being the main child rearing parent. Yes this is a US specific book so if you’re like me and have way better parental leave laws parts of the book may feel foreign. Still, to get more women in tech we need to make it okay for men to be at home.

Grit by Carol Dueck

This is a great book about being someone that keeps going even when things are hard. I loved the chapter around building Gritty kids. Make sure you do the Grit score. We will be reading this as part of Bootcamp so if you want to talk more about it, join us.

Eat That Frog

By the well know management and business consultant Brian Tracy. The main idea is that you need to eat your biggest ugliest frog first everyday. That big ugly frog is whatever task is most important for your day. If your looking for somewhere to start with your productivity this is a good book. If you’re a bit further down the road read Deep Work and The ONE Thing. They cover the topics in greater detail.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

I always want to love Rubin’s style but I don’t. Dot like her podcast or her writing style. Good content but I don’t think I’ll pick up another book from her again without some huge force of recommendations.

I also preorder this book about education in the future. Very much looking forward to it.

photo by: pinkpurse

Money’s Choke Hold

Change is challenging enough to navigate without financial pressures. With them, it places a choke hold on your creativity and your options –Pivot

I know you want to change. You want to move from your job to that business you’ve always dreamed of.

I know that you want to pivot your niche to something new.

You want to take a risk. That’s what entrepreneurs do, they take risks and some of them pay off.

The thing is so many of you have a beast on your back. That beast is all the payments you have.

That car you just had to have. Could you put the cash down? Nope, you could afford the payments though. Now you’re sitting around looking at the anchor weighing down your dreams.

Maybe it’s your credit card with debt that’s racking up.

Maybe it’s school loans for a degree you’re not using.

Whatever it is, this anchor stops so many from embarking on their dreams. It doesn’t have to though.

Years ago I was in the same boat. We had a car payment and a little bit of credit card debt. With a focused year of effort, we paid it all off which enabled my wife to quit her job and be the full-time parent she wanted to be.

It’s enabled me to make a change in my business and focus more on coaching than development. I don’t have car payments on top of the basics.

If you’ve got that anchor, I recommend you read The Total Money Makeover and work the plan.

That’s what we used, and have helped others use to get that anchor off their lives.

Have an awesome day

Curtis

photo credit: wiredforsound23 cc

This is not a mistake, it’s a change

There is no mistake today, there is no blog post.

While I did not love the book Pivot (my review will come out in a bit) one great idea in it was to run pilots.

For a while now I’ve looked at my content and wondered if I would read it. I make a point of not reading shorter articles. I subscribe to very few blogs and almost all of them write less than weekly and much longer than 1000 words.

Yet I write twice a week, plus a podcast on Friday. I write primarily around 1000 words with the occasional jump in to something much longer.

I’ve wondered if my furious publishing schedule has harmed the quality I know I’m capable of.

That means from today till at least September you’ll see less on my blog.

I’ll still write reviews of the books I read as I finish them. I’ll still publish those reviews for the next Thursday after they’re finished.

I’ll still be writing daily. I’ll just be focusing much harder on longer pieces.

Pieces like one I’m currently working on that’s around 6000 words and explores how to figure out when it’s time to quit and when you should stick it out with your idea. It also explores how to bring in diverse stimuli to help you be creative but balance that against the deep work time we all need to get creative.

If you’re reading this on the email list, you’ll still get daily emails like you have been 5 days a week. If you’re reading this on the blog, I hope to have the first long post out in a week or two now that I have the time to dig in to it without being pulled away by needing to keep up a weekly schedule.

If you’re not on the email list go subscribe now and you’ll get a short dose of advice 5 days a week that will help you run the business you’ve always dreamed of.

Have an awesome day

Curtis

photo by: clement127

The ways you let communication ruin your life

The online world is amazing. Every week we get new awesome tools that can make our lives better. From dropping email and using instant communication methods like Slack, to automating parts of our lives with services like Zapier. There is so much to be thankful for and amazed by online.

There is also a subtle trap in all the amazing tools that show up in our lives. Not a trap by those who offer us these new tools, but a trap in our reasoning as we decide which tools we’ll use in our workflows.

It’s called the ‘any benefit’ trap according to Deep Work (my review of Deep Work). It goes something like this:

We choose to use a tool if there is ’any benefit at all’ regardless of the costs associated with that tool.

Most people know that their attention is a finite resource. The ability to really dig into client work, or writing, or study is something you need to cultivate and to do that you need large swaths of time where nothing interrupts you. This comic shows how it works for a programmer.

Yet knowing this we try to multitask which really means we shift quickly and frequently among tasks but rarely do any of them well. We let our focus get interrupted by an open Slack channel and our Twitter feed scrolling by on a second screen. Facebook can notify us of incoming chat requests.

We essentially enable ourselves to be less than effective (I don’t like the word productive) because there is some benefit somewhere to the tools we have in our arsenal.

If you want to truly get times of deep focus here’s how you should be setting up your tools.

Email

Turn off your email. No it’s not good enough to just turn off notifications and badges, though that’s a great starting point. If you’re employed somewhere you may think my advice is going to be a problem since everyone expects an instant reply to emails but it’s probably not going to be the problem you think.

Years ago I worked at a non-profit and I was pretty low on the totem pole. Despite this lack of any authority, starting day one I only checked my email at 11 a.m. and at 3 p.m. I would not open my email any other time of the day. At first I’d have people come over to my work station 10 or 20 minutes after an email was sent wondering if I got their message, and I explained how I worked with email.

Even when the CEO came in and I explained that I needed big swaths of time with no distraction to really dig into a programming problem he bought into it and learned to just wait. There was no problem at all with my email policy once I explained the rationale behind it.

Now that I work for myself I use the Pomodoro method and I only devote one 25-minute block a day to my email. On Tuesday only I devote two blocks to email because I really spend one of those working with my CRM, Contactually. Despite getting close to 100 email messages some days about possible projects or other opportunities I still achieve Inbox 0 in that single 25-minute block.

Let’s define Inbox 0 though, because even when I work with my email I treat it very differently than most people.

First off, just because someone sent you an email doesn’t mean you need to respond. Email is simply a way for others to tell you what they think is important for you to focus on in the day. Just because someone sends you a request to work on a project doesn’t mean they ever need to hear from you about it. The responsibility is on the email sender to send you something that’s compelling enough to respond to. Just like you’re not required to pick up your phone because someone calls, you’re in no way required to respond to every email you get.

Second, even when you reply to emails you should have a bunch of email templates to make that reply take seconds instead of minutes. I’ve got a bunch. When the project doesn’t look crazy but is a bad fit for you send them a ‘no thanks’ email that recommends colleagues or other services they could use for the project.

Third, schedule almost all email to send later. This stops you from playing email tag all day. I know you’ve been there. By the time you get to the last email you’ve got five new ones in response. This just gives you a never-ending inbox which sucks. Also, scheduling means that the person that emailed you at 9 a.m. just as you’re checking your inbox doesn’t have unrealistic expectations set. They still get a response a few hours later.

Now we’ve mostly cut ourselves off from email so of course that brings us to instant messaging systems like Slack or Hipchat.

Messaging

While there are many great things about instant messaging systems like Slack (or Skype or …), there is also a huge cost to productivity. These are, in theory, turned on all the time ready to notify you of something someone needs at a moment’s notice no matter what you’re currently working on.

Yes using these tools means less email in your inbox. Yes they look way prettier than email. Yes they allow others to find similar answers via a history search. Yes they let remote workers have a water cooler.

Despite all of these awesome things the worst thing you can do for your focus and effectiveness is to leave them on, generating a stream of notifications all day. Again, change your mindset with the tools — how do they best serve your business and productivity?

You should keep all messaging off most of the day. Even when you’re in my email block I don’t have messaging applications open. The focus of the email block is to complete my email not answer a bunch of chat messages.

This goes for text messages from friends as well. Turn off iMessage on your Mac. When friends keep texting you put your phone in airplane mode. When I do this I let my wife know so that if she has an emergency she can FaceTime me on my computer.

Choose a time or two per day to check in with the messaging apps you have. I choose just after lunch and just after I get back from my workout. Then turn off messaging for the rest of the day and get back to work.

You need to ruthlessly guard your focus and messaging apps shouldn’t make it into your day except when you let them.

Social networks

Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network is built to be addictive. I know, I regularly find myself having three seconds where I’m waiting for something to happen on my computer and I default to opening Twitter.

You may want/need to be on social networks for your business. I need it to interact with my readers, but I don’t need it 32 times a day. At most I need it once a day.

Check your social networks once or twice a day at a time you decide works for you. I’m terrible at this so I use Self Control. I check social media and then I turn it on for eight hours. You may also need to delete social networks from your phone — I know I need to. If you’ve blocked your computer but just pick up the phone to check and find you waste time getting sucked in (which is what the applications are trying to do anyway) then remove them.

Contrary to popular belief you will miss nothing important when you don’t check social media regularly. Those photos, messages, things will still be there later.

Calls

Now what about calls from clients or prospects? Could you guess that I don’t think you should answer your phone when you’re working? My wife has a special ring and her calls are the only ones I answer because she only calls when there is something important to talk about.

You should only take scheduled calls from clients. Yes that means if a client just happens to call you one day you shouldn’t answer the phone. I let it go to voicemail, and I rarely check voicemail. For me current clients should know that the best way to interact is via our project management system because I told them that in my project success document. I even assigned a task to them to read it and don’t start working till that task is resolved.

When any client asks to talk send them a meeting link with a service like Calendly. For me this allows only meetings on Tuesday and only one meeting on a Tuesday. If your schedule doesn’t work for a prospect in your initial call to talk about the project then you have a good reason that working together is a bad idea. Your schedules aren’t compatible and which means you can’t serve them well.

This all goes for home too

All of the above goes for you at home as well. When you get home take your phone out of your pocket and put it somewhere that’s not easy to get at. I put mine on top of the fridge and tell my kids to remind me not to touch my phone.

All too often we do okay at cutting distractions at work only to let a bunch in at home. Is a successful week at home marked by a bunch of chats with people that are nowhere near you or is it marked by quality time with your children, spouse, friends?

The latter is what constitutes a good week for me. Take a stand at home and cut out the distraction.

It’s all about your mindset

Everything here is about a mindset shift. Email is there to serve you and your business, not let other people tell you what’s important for you to do in the day. The same thought applies to every tool in your life.

Just because there is some benefit to the tool doesn’t mean you should be using it. Step back first and weigh the costs to your effectiveness. If it’s not a net benefit, just don’t get involved. If you must, schedule the times to check it. If you can’t do that then use some tool that blocks them for you so you can’t check even if you wanted to.

It’s all about constructing the ideal work environment for you so you can get your work done.

But my job is…

If you’ve got a job in sales or some other job where a major part of you doing a good job is using one of these tools regularly then of course you should do it. A sales person needs to take sales calls. Someone that’s selling on-call support should be answering their phone to offer the service their clients have paid for.

But almost everyone overestimates how much people need to get in touch with them and what the negative effects of cutting off lots of that communication will be. There is likely to be nothing bad that happens, in fact you’re likely to get way more work done of a higher quality so there is a net gain for your business.

Start cutting out the distractions around you today so you can focus on doing your work right. Only use the tools that help you do your work better and only use them on your terms. Forget being ‘normal’ and run a business that is awesome.

photo credit: 50006501@N03 cc

Learning to Flow between questioning methods with clients

We’ve spent the month talking about questions to ask clients and how to ask them. One thing to remember is that you don’t just use one method for the whole call, that’s going to sound wooden. Use all of them and learn to flow between them.

Maybe start with the 5 Why’s and then when you find an interesting topic use reflection or echoing questions to dive deeper on the interesting bit.

One great way to do this is to get involved with a mentoring group. There you can role play as practice. If you don’t have one get in touch with me about the mentoring groups I run.