Crossing the Finish Line

I realized after talking with Greg Morris for his podcast And You Are? that I am someone that is really good at getting an idea ready to launch, but pitiful at longevity. I can create a decent website, a logo, and come up with branding ideas for a new project. That said, the moment I make this project public for all to see and get this proverbial plane off the ground I’m lost.

It is why I’ve changed the look of my website so much or moved my domain over. Everything is because I have this plane up in the air, but now I have no clue what to do next. So instead of pushing myself to learn more and keep moving forward I decide to crash the plane into the ground and start over. I repeatedly lift off again and again because I know I am good at that, it’s the unknown that scares me into taking the plane any further.

The same goes for other things in my life, like video games. I have created 6 different players on NBA2K19 all of which I have played at most 4 hours on in total. I create a character, get it set up and play a few games with them but I eventually just want to go back and make new players and try new ways to improve the creation of them. My intention quickly deviates from playing with the character I just created to creating the “best” character I can.

It’s maddening to a lot of people who see that I haven’t found one thing to focus on. I have lots of little things I work on simultaneously. It reminds me of something I saw recently from the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. What I saw was a diagram like this one, except instead of it being Focus it was energy. For me, focus makes more sense.

To sum this up, on the left side of this diagram of my focus with a lot of different things I am working on simultaneously. The arrows indicate how far I get into each one of them. I only have so much focus to give and if I spend all of it on lots of different things I won’t get very far in them. On the right side is a different story. I focused on one thing and got much further than I did compared to the image on the left. When I saw this diagram for the first time it was one of those things that just clicked in my brain and never let go.

I have always been someone that does the left side of this image. I get an idea, then another idea, and then another. I decide that none of these great ideas are worth keeping in my pocket for later and I just start doing them all at once. Eventually, after some time has passed, I have gotten little done on all of these different projects. Whereas if I had decided to do one at a time I would have completed them all faster and I would have given each project the focus it deserves to be better.

My Solution

I am trying to be more mindful of this diagram and making it something that I consciously make a habit. Here are a few things I am doing to make that happen:

  • I pick one thing to work on at a time as opposed to many. No new projects are started until I finish the one in progress
  • I am keeping all of my ideas on a separate area in Drafts for later
  • I am setting deadlines for myself to help keep pressure on the things I am working on, which in turn helps me finish things faster so I can work on something new before I get burned out
  • I have made this diagram my new home screen

As someone that is a habitual offender of starting something but never finishing them I am excited to cross the metaphorical finish line more often. I am sure I will have more to say after a little while with this, but for now I am excited to make my work more intentional and less chaotic.

Podcast - A Slab of Glass 28: What iOS 13 Needs

Chris and I talk about our new purchases before diving into our main topic: what iOS 13 needs. We each had 6, okay 10-12, picks and we go into detail of our picks.

This episode was recorded literally the day before the 9to5mac leaks were released, so some of our things on our lists have been mentioned on this list but it in no way was a factor in picking the things we think iOS needs.

I may create a page where you can see both of our picks if people want to documented in writing.

The Escape Key on iPad

This is just a quick little tip for iPad users out there. If you are like me and using the Smart Keyboard or any keyboard that doesn’t have an Escape key you can press command + . and that will most likely work as a way to escape from any text input you are in. I have found it to work in Google Sheets, Things 3, Safari, and several other apps. Your mileage may vary but for me it seems to work more times than not.

Give it a shot and let me know where else you find it to work. You can email me or get a hold of me on Twitter.

My iPad Pro Home Screen

Since I got a new 2018 12.9” iPad Pro I thought now would be a good time to share my home screen for the iPad. Without burying the lede here is my home screen.

For those wondering, I made the home screen image myself using Pixelmator.

As you can see there is nothing on the home screen itself, everything lives in the Dock. My reasoning for this is that because the iPad is something that I fluidly move in between apps I rarely actually move to the home screen. There are a handful of apps on the Dock and everything that isn’t readily accessible goes into a folder that I have organized where each page of the folder goes from most important apps to least important apps. So for my first page I have things like Google Sheets and Google Docs where a lot of the things I do for both my personal life and podcasts live. I also have apps like 1Password, Tweetbot, WordPress, and Ferrite which are apps I regularly use but aren’t something I need immediately accessible.

The apps that did make it on my Dock are ones that I use every day and oftentimes within Split View. I have them in order of left to right from most used to least used. The reasoning for this is that because of the fluidity of the Recent Apps section of the Dock if I were to have the apps I use most frequently in the middle of the dock it can shift several icons left or right from when I last used it. Which is problematic for when I have a blog post idea or a task I need to throw in Drafts 5 before I forget it.

Here’s a quick synopsis of each of those apps.

Drafts

Drafts has quickly become my main text editor for pretty much everything in my life. From tasks, lists, blog post ideas, full fledged posts I am working on, and even just something I need to keepsake for a few minutes before I can toss it in the trash. Drafts has always had the tag line of “where text starts” and that is what Drafts has become for me.

Fiery Feeds

This has been my RSS reader of choice for some time now and continues to be the app I use most when reading stuff. With FeedWrangler as my RSS service of choice I look at the dozens of blogs, sites, news organizations new items all in one place. the sharing features it offers also satisfies my needs with Instapaper integration as well as Pinboard.

GoodTask

I have been battling finding a task manager that checks every box I want. So instead I decided to pick something that I haven’t given a fair shake, which is GoodTask. I will probably be talking a lot more about this later, but for now it is getting the job done. It is also very Shortcuts friendly and has some decent Drafts 5 support thanks to Reminders being the foundation of this app.

Instapaper

I have been using Instapaper for a while now and it continues to be my favorite read-later service. It has great keyboard shortcuts and allows for folders to organize the various kinds of things I save to read later. Also, the Share Sheet is a treat to use anywhere I want to save an article or even just a link to the article.

Fantastical

Hands down the best calendar app for iOS, and arguable macOS. The natural language support makes adding tasks and reminders a breeze. I also have always been a fan of its look.

AirMail

This is the most recent addition to my Dock, thanks to its sharing actions I can send my actionable emails to Reminders which syncs with GoodTask for future me to deal with.

Messages

This is simply the way I communicate with nearly everyone in my life. There is a reason Messages is the most use app in iOS globally.

Safari

Safari is the browser I use 90% of the time. The other 10% is for iCab Mobile, which allows me to download files, view websites in desktops mode, and do things that Safari for iOS limits me on. For me iCab is a safety net for web browsing while Safari is my go-to app for anything involving a hyperlink.

Shortcuts

I almost left this one in the folder, but I have been making more and more Shortcuts lately and having it available in the Dock makes things a lot smoother for when I have an idea for something I need to automate.

Files

Simply put, I need access to my files and I don’t want to spend time looking for the Files app in a folder or bringing it up in Spotlight every time I need it. It isn’t perfect but it works for me when I need to save something or grab an item in my Dropbox and/or iCloud Drive.

Final Thoughts

My home screen may not be anything to write home about, but it is something that sets precedent of what is important for me when I am using the iPad. Hopefully my home screen inspires you to think about how you organize your apps and make any changes you deem necessary to make you happier.

If you want to share your home screen with me feel free to email me or send me a photo of your home screen on Twitter.

Screw Being Perfect

I recently took a course by Shawn Blanc about Ulysses and learned a ton about the premium writing application, but one thing that I loved just as much were the extra emails Shawn sent out after I purchased the course.

My main takeaways from the emails he sent were these:

  • Don’t overthink things
  • Make the time to write
  • Give yourself permission to be crappy

All of these things are useful for someone like me who writes for fun and as a hobby on Rocket Panda. Honestly its just plain good advice for anyone doing something creative whether it is for a job or a hobby. I frequently look at these pieces of advice Shawn expressed and it makes me think about the one thing that I want to do more of as a blogger: consistency.

These four pieces of advice are perfectly in sync with my main issues in posting more frequently and making writing a daily habit for myself.

Don’t Overthink Things

One of the biggest reasons I’m not writing and posting consistently is because when I begin writing a post I make sure it is absolutely perfect and I overthink the point of why I am writing on Rocket Panda in the first place.

I created Rocket Panda because I wanted to share ideas, thoughts, and interesting things with like-minded people. People who love technology, automation, Apple, and other geeky things. I never got into this “blogging scene” to become rich and famous, I did it because I wanted a way to eexpress my love and interests with others.

There is a great video by Sean McCabe that is all about overthinking things and how creative people should stop doing it.

At first I thought this is something that’s easier said than done. After all, Sean has a successful business and podcast and I feel like I have hit a wall when it comes to growth in readers for Rocket Panda. After some time feeling sorry for myself, I realized that this goes in tandem with posting frequently and showing up every day to make those consistent posts happen. I know that the idea of “if you build it they will come” isn’t something that is always true, but it doesn’t hurt to hit deadlines and make posting something you have in a calendar. If I say I will have a post live on a specific day I am more likely to post it rather than hitting publish after weeks of spending meticulous time making sure everything is absolutely perfect.

So instead of making things “perfect” I plan to make frequency and deadlines be my determining factor of when to publish. If the clock is racing and I don’t feel good about something I’m writing I am more likely to improve it and still hit my deadline in the process.

Make the Time to Write

When it comes to any craft you want to get better at, you have to make it something you do regularly. If you don’t then you’ll never improve in any significant way. This isn’t anything new for me but it is something I am reminding myself when it comes to writing. Which is why my goal every day is to write 500 crappy words at a minimum.

If I want to hit that goal of 500 words a day, I need to show up every day to write, and right now it just isn’t happening.

The thing that helped me with this valley of nothing was Merlin Mann’s talk at MacWorld in 2009 about the patterns for creativity. I have this video starting at 18:15 because this is where the nut of what got me started. The only thing you really need to know is that there is a book called Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and when she is asked to do a project she uses these boxes where she does this thing called “scratching” which is her putting literally anything and everything that brings her inspiration. I recommend watching the whole thing to fully understand things but that is the very brief version of what led to this 5 minute section of the talk.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GExHiI_bQqc&t=18m15s

There’s a lot to unpack in this talk, and maybe I will write more about it someday, but this got me thinking about why I haven’t been making the time to write. It was because I didn’t want it enough.

This isn’t me saying you have to go all-in and work 18 hour days to make your dreams come true, but it is me saying that I spent more time trying to find inspiration from writers and bloggers who were at the level I wanted to be at. I was gawking at their work online wishing I was where they were instead of making the stuff I wanted to make. That isn’t their fault though, it’s mine. I cared more about the idea of blogging and writing than actually putting in the work and making a commitment to myself to keep working on the things I want to be better at.

Give Yourself Permission to be Crappy

I am not as strong a writer as I would like to be, but if I allow that distance between where I am and where I want to be affect me then I would never write again. The only way that you can get better at a craft is to keep doing it over and over again and learn from your mistakes.

I think it’s been made painfully clear that I am a perfectionist and I never allowed myself to just be okay with mediocrity, let alone being crappy. Still, I think if I allow myself to write 500 crappy words a day I will get better faster than if I wrote 1000 good words every few weeks.

Being perfect is overrated in my opinion. I say that knowing full well that has been what I’ve been striving for the last year writing on my blog. Honestly it’s just exhausting reading over your work a dozen times and making small and unnecessary edits. That said, there is a difference between being perfect and having something presentable.

This isn’t me saying that I will be drafting something up without proofreading and multiple edits. I still plan to do the work of combing through for errors and mispellings. The part I won’t be doing is going through what I have written actively looking for something to change just to change it. I want to keep things simple.

Changes for Rocket Panda

All of this has come to a head for me and there are some changes effective today that will be taking place at Rocket Panda.

1. I Will Write at Least 30 Minutes Every Day

Now, 30 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but with that low bar of entry I have no excuse for myself to make the time to write every single day for 30 minutes. I have found if I spend that amount of time writing I am able to shake the cobwebs off and really start diving into more focused writing.

2. I Will Post at Least Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

I will make a total of 3 posts a week on Rocket Panda. I may post more, but I am committing to 3. They might just be links to things I find interesting or longer articles that I spend lots of time writing. Either way I have set the precedent that I am posting on specific days and that this is my new posting schedule.

If I’m being honest, this is a safe space after all, I wanted to commit to more than 3 posts a week. I wanted to go daily but I know that the one day I miss posting I will kick myself for it and lose all sense of control. I have been there before and I stopped writing for weeks because I was too busy beating myself up for not meeting the exceedingly high bar I set myself. I want to avoid that this time so I have lowered the bar for myself and will start out with 3 posts a week and see where things take me afterwards.

The first post of the week starts today with this one. The next scheduled post will be Wednesday.

One More Thing

One of the biggest things that I want to stress and put out there for both you and me is that it is okay to not think that what you are putting out there is perfect. Perfection is what stifles my creativity and my writing process every single time I let it take precedent. I can’t move on to the next post until I make it published, and I won’t publish unless it is perfect. Screw being perfect, if I look back on my work and think I could have said it better that only means that I am improving on my craft.

So with these new promises I hope to achieve the goal I have wanted for a while and post consistently and create without overthinking things. If I can do that this year I would consider it a success.