Everyone suffers from procrastination at some point. You know you need to start that job but you hit resistance – you just can’t get going.
If that’s happening to you right now there’s a good chance that’s because you’ve set yourself bad goals. No matter what fancy todo list app you use, if your tasks are boring, hard or vague, you are making it harder for yourself to get them done.
Try reframing those tasks into something better. By turning into them input-based instead of output-based goals you can fix two of those problems straight away.
Take this as example: Let’s say you have a blog post you want to write and you have a task on your list for this week called “Write awesome blog post” – that’s an output-based goal, it’s vague and it’s daunting. The next action item isn’t clear and writing a whole post in one siting sounds like a lot of work.
Reword that to an input-based goal like “Work on blog post for 25 mins” you’ve immediately cleared those 2 hurdles. Writing for 25 mins is much more specific, you know exactly what you have to do, and it’s far less daunting than writing the whole post in one go. And the chances are you’ll go way past 25 minutes anyway and finish the job anyway. The task is just a way to trick you brain into getting started.
Flipping your output-based goals to input-based ones might be just the kick in the butt you need to get started.
It’s widely accepted that sharing your writing online is A Good Thing and despite intrinsically knowing this, very few of us are actually doing it.
I have been reading a lot on the subject recently and I want to share with you some of the insights I have gathered from articles and videos that have created a critical mass in my brain and finally kicked me into action to start my own writing habit.
I’ve decide to share my writing regularly for two main reasons. To improve my thinking and to create opportunities.
Improving my thinking
Writing sharpens your thinking because you can’t explain a topic to your reader unless you have a good understanding of it. This is sometimes referred to as the Feynman Technique (developed by physics legend Richard Feynman) and it revolves around explaining the concept in simple language as if you were teaching it to someone else. If you can’t do that, you don’t understand it well enough so you go back and fill in the gaps in your knowledge.
Creating content around a topic solidifies your understanding of that topic – it turns passively consumed information into something more solid in your mind that you have a much better chance of remembering.
David Perell calls posting to your personal website to building a Serendipity Vehicle in his brilliant article “The Ultimate Guide to Writing Online”.
By putting work out there, week after week, month after month, year after year you’ll expand your network. Your work will eventually attract like-minded people, enable you to connect with them and create opportunities that you can’t even conceive of yet.
I have had a taste of this as a photographer. Just the act of consistently publishing my work, and it being seen by others, opened doors. My website at the time had galleries of my work, I shared what I was learning in the craft and I posted articles showing behind the scenes of my photoshoots. Through this people got to see how I worked and decided I’d be a good fit. Next thing you know I was travelling Europe filming a team of racing drivers!
Doing the work
Now this is the hard part: Writing a single article and posting it won’t have people beating down your door to work with you. Writing ten won’t either, but 50 or a 100 might. You have to keep putting in the work consistently. Eventually, you’ll reach a tipping point and things will begin to snowball. Keeping going until you hit that point when you don’t know how far along the path you are is the challenge. And all the way, you don’t quiet know what waits in store for you even if you do keep going.
It’s a lot of work over a long period of time but if you keep going at it long enough, good things happen. No one can’t tell you what those good things will be but there are enough people out there telling the same story so there’s got to be something in it.
And worse case, you sharpen your thinking and expand your understanding of topics that interest you along the way. Doesn’t seem like a bad place to invest some time.
If you’re not afraid to put in the work and you want to go get inspired yourself, these are the articles and video from David, Nat and Ali that finally got me started. I hope they have similar effect on you.
Roam is all the rage right now in the productivity world. Thomas has dabbled, Ali has signed up to the $500 Believer plan and if you just type Roam in to YouTube the list of video goes on and on. And on!
There are videos ranging from basic intros explaining the joys of bi-directional links, to full breakdowns of how to use Roam for your university research paper to this pretty epic 25 minute collection of 100 tips from Marc Koening.
There’s no need for me to hash over those same tips but what I can do is explain why after using Roam for the 30 day free trial I have decided it’s the best note taking app for me by far and why I am happy to stump up the $15 a month asking price. Maybe some of my thoughts on Roam will help you decide if it’s right for you too.
I’m not the most organised person. I want to be but try as I might I just can’t stick with a system for more than a week – it’s why many of the apps I use daily are the default iOS and MacOS ones. Complex systems of tagging and filing just don’t work for me – I just want a place where I can dump things out of my brain and rely on search to find them again later. (Admittedly this works better on my Gmail inbox than it does in my physical office!)
Roam’s low-friction approach to note taking is what appealed to me first. There are no hierarchies here, no folders within subfolders, no notebooks within stacks, just type your notes and put double square brackets around anything important. The first time you do that for any given word or phrase Roam creates a new page for you, next time you do it, it will link to that page. Click on that link and you’ll be taken to a page that you can add info to and that links back to every other time you have mentioned it. Carry on in this way and a web builds, reaching out and linking all your pages together in a two dimensional mesh that Roam calls your Graph. Nothing is buried in a folder or nested below anything else so you don’t need to spend time thinking about where to file something or how to tag it. You can focus on the reason you wanted to take the notes in the first place safe in the knowledge .
The main reason I am so excited about Roam is the way it makes me want to use it. It’s not a pretty app like Craft and it’s certainly not as feature rich as Notion but something about seeing all my notes meshing together makes me want to take more notes. I’m a sucker for gamification and Roam seems to be doing for my note-taking what the three rings on my Apple Watch did for my activeness. Even after the first notes I could see how this was going to be incredibly powerful and now, after just a few weeks of using it, I can’t imaging watching a useful YouTube video or reading a book or a blog without taking notes.
Taking notes on what you consume is an important step towards retaining that information but until now, until Roam, noting taking always felt like an obligation. Something I knew I should be doing, but not something I enjoyed. It’s hard to stay motivated to keep producing detailed notes when those notes seem to get filed away never to be seen again. In fact, transferring my old notes from Notion over to Roam was the first time I’d seen many of them since I first created them. Now they are living in Roam, links are starting to form – new notes are reaching out to old, connections are being made, and the more than happens the more the data becomes useful. Even if I don’t manually make connections by linking key phrases, Roam will do it for me by adding unlinked references to pages.
So in short, Roam has got some nice features and it’s fast but in essence it’s just another note-taking app in an already crowded space. Oh, and it costs $15 a month! And yet here I am, happily to spend more on this single app than almost all of my other app subscriptions combined not because of what it does, but because of what it makes me do: Take notes, lots of notes!
A shiny Macbook, brand new iPad or a powerful PC are nothing without the software you run on them. The apps you use are everything and what follows is a guide to the apps that I’m using right now. Admittedly I have bounced between apps a little more than is necessary and tomorrow’s list may be different but right here, right now, this is what I use on a daily basis.
Way back in the day it was Evernote all the way for me. I had a pro account and I’d fund it by buying the Evernote branded Moleskin notebooks that included a few months subscription. (My Moleskin fetish continues to this day by the way!) I kept absolutely everything in there – thoughts, book notes and scanned copies over every physical bit of paper that passed over my desk. Then Apple Notes had its time in the sun for me until my head was turned by the very pretty Bear only for it’s lack of table support to send me back to Apple Notes.
Then almost over night, a new name started to appear all over social media and YouTube. Something called Notion had landed and make a splash. To label it a “note taking app” sell it sort as it’s so much more but I go into more depth in other articles. Long story short, Notion is the central hub of everything for me, be that a place to store documents, blog articles in progress, notes on books I’ve read or a database of links that interest me.
ToDo lists & Task Management
I’ve tried more than my fair share, doing my usual trick of jumping ship every time I discover something new and shiny. I’ve dabbled with Things but was put off by having to pay multiple times for the iPad and MacOS versions and I spent a year trying to cajole myself into using ToDoist. While both apps are powerful tools for managing projects and tasks I fund them a little too powerful. Keeping my todo list organised within these app was becoming a todo item in its own right. So I went back to basics, not all the way back to a pen & paper list but back to Apple Reminders. Because of the way it’s so tightly integrated into iOS and the Mac the barrier to using it is super low. I’ve not found a better quick capture method than raising my arm and saying “Remind me tomorrow to write a blog post about which I apps I use” in to my Apple watch.
In the same vein as task management I’ve gone native and use Apple’s calendar apps across my mobile devices and computers. It’s the integration that makes it work so well for me. I’ve used Google Calendar synced to Apple before but using both didn’t give me anything more.
It’s Adobe Creative Cloud all the way for me. I’ve used Lightroom from the beta and I have subscribed to Adobe’s Photographer plan (Lightroom and Photoshop) ever since things moved to the subscription license model. But last year, thanks to my work in education, I can now get the full Creative Cloud suite at about half price. Premier Pro has replaced Final Cut and Illustrator has trumped Affinity Designer although both are still very capable packages.
Most of the time is Safari. It’s quick, great on privacy and light on battery on the Macbook when I’m on the move. When I need to dig in to the code of a site though, I switch over to Brave. It’s basically Google Chrome with the Google bit removed but all the handy developer tools are there.
I try and read whenever can grab a few minutes and to make the most of those snippets of time here and there means I need to make it as easy as possible to pick up where I left off. Paper books have never appealed to me in the same way as physical CD’s and DVD have no place in my media library. Just give me the content in a string of ones and zeros that I can consume anywhere I want.
Most of my reading (including all of my fiction reading) happens on my Kindle Paperwhite. There are newer Kindles out there but my trusty Paperwhite works perfectly and my favourite feature is the gentle illumination of the page – I can sit anywhere and read without having to worry about being near a window or turning on a light.
For shorter form things like blog posts it’s Instapaper. I’m still on the look out for a read-it-later app that has better handling of longer term storage of read articles though.
Audible is my choice for audio books. I must admit I struggle with listing to books as I don’t have a long commute and if I try to listen whilst doing something else, all work on that something else stops.
I’m a little better with podcasts, maybe because the ones I listen to tend to be more bitesized or because I don’t feel like I have to take notes unless there’s some particularly good info.
Pocket Casts has been my player of choice for a few years now after replacing Overcast. It’s better at surfacing other podcasts I might enjoy and the silence trimming, adjustable playback speed and volume levelling takes it a notch about the rest. But having said that, I am currently dabbling with Airr. The ability to tag a clip while listening just by triple clicking my earbuds is something that I think will be very handy.
And finally for tunes you can probably guess from my previous Applecentric choices, it’s Apple Music – just for the way it works so well across all my iOS and Mac devices.
So those are my current apps of choice. If you’ve got a suggestion for something I really have to try, let me know in the comments.
If you are an Elegant Themes subscriber and you use Divi you are probably aware of their plugins too. Today I’m talking about Bloom – their fantastic plug in that lets you add beautiful email opt-in forms to your WordPress blog. I plan to write articles about both Elegant Theme and SendFox and why they should be on your radar soon. I’ll link to them here when I do but for now I’m going to assume you use both.
Bloom has a list of mailing list services that it natively works with but unfortunately the service I want to use, SendFox (the free email marketing system for content creators from Noah Kagan’s App Sumo) isn’t on that list.
Getting things up and running isn’t quite as easy as simply plugging in a MailChimp or SendInBlue user name but it can be done.
First things first, get Bloom installed. Download it from your Elegant Themes account page then head over to your WordPress dashboard and upload it via Plugins>Add New in the usual way.
Next up, you need to head over to SendFox and generate a form. Log in to your account and go to Forms. Once you’ve got your form all set up something like this, publish it and you’ll get the embeddable HTML form.
Now keep that code handy and head over to your WordPress installation and look for Bloom in the sidebar. Click New Opt-In. I’m going for a Fly In this time but Bloom can display our opt-in form in several different ways, have a play around and see which works best with your site and your audience.
Even though Bloom doesn’t natively support SendFox we can chose Custom Form and paste in the code we grabbed from SendFox just now.
Next up, pick one of the 100+ templates.
You can now use all the functionality of Bloom to customise your form and make it irresistible to your visitors. I’ve kept it basic here and just tweaked some of the colours to match the look of the rest of the site.
I like to make one more tweak before setting the opt-in live. Because the form that SendFox generates is basic HTML, Bloom does a good job of styling it but there’s one thing I want to change to dress it up. The input fields in the form (Name and Email in my case) butt up against each other and I’d like just a little spacing so I add this little but of CSS at the very top of the form. Go back to the Setup page of the Opt-in setup and add the following.
All that’s left to do now is tell Bloom where you want the opt-in to be displayed. There are loads of options here again but I just want the form to show on post pages and only when the reader has reached the bottom of the post – nobody want’s a signup for blocking their view mid-read!
And that’s it – Bloom with SendFox although this will also work for any unsupported provider that Bloom doesn’t natively support.