Tag: Lifehacker

Weeknote 39/2013

This week I’ve been:

  • Resolving knotty Web Literacy Standard issues, sometimes through consensus, sometimes through fiat. This document is what we’ll be using for v1.0 (two days left before ‘code freeze’)
  • Hosting the Web Literacy Standard community call. You can catch up here.
  • Writing about what I’m using now to backup/sync my files, my mental health and this time of year, as well as more about Minimum Viable Bureaucracy.
  • Getting confused as to why I kept get notifications for people subscribing to my Spotify ‘Electro House’ playlist. I then realised it’s because I was featured on Lifehacker.
  • Talking to Computing At School about non-linear learning pathways and Open Badges.
  • Attending the Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow. I met up with friends old and new and wrote it up here.
  • Setting up a new tumblr called EduSpam.
  • Taking Friday off unexpectedly after my son came home from school ill (after only being there 30 minutes!) I now feel terrible while he, of course, has recovered and is bouncing around…

Next week it’s all about the ‘code freeze’ on v1.0 of the Web Literacy Standard. I’ll also be doing a lightning talk at SuperMondays in Newcastle before heading off to Brussels on Thursday for the Mozilla Summit.

Habits are things you get for free

By now I’ve probably over-shared this excellent Lifehacker interview with Cory Doctorow where he uses the throwaway line “habits are things you get for free”. What an excellent way to capture the benefit of engrained behaviours!

It got me thinking about the things that I do everyday to remain productive – and what I could do to increase that further.

What I do now

  • Wake up early. This is easy when you have young children. I have a sunrise alarm clock to wake me with light instead of noise.
  • Have a cold morning shower. It’s horrendous at first but you get used to it. The benefits? It properly wakes you up, and it’s supposed to be good for staving off depression and increasing testosterone production in men.
  • Do exercise. What kind I do depends on the time of year and my travel schedule, so it could be running 5k, interval training, swimming, weights or my kettlebell. It’s good to mix things up.
  • Eat protein for breakfast. Nothing but eggs keeps me full until lunchtime, so I vary between an omelette and scrambled/fried eggs on toast. If you mix a bit of chilli in there it kickstarts your metabolism, too.
  • Drink coffee. I’ve found that the optimum amount for me is a cup in the morning and then a cup early afternoon. Caffeine 3pm in the afternoon affects my sleep.
  • Listen to the right kinds of music. Since selling all my CDs in 2009 I use Spotify Premium and Hype Machine. I’ve got playlists that I put on at certain types of the day – for example ambient sounds (rainforest, ocean waves) first thing in the morning, electro house for processing email, slower bpm with no vocals for reading, etc.
  • Go for walks. I’ve lost 8lbs in in the last month and the only significant different is a conscious effort to walk more. I’ve got a Fitbit that tells me when I’ve done my 10,000 steps for the day. I use my phone to take voice notes.
  • Associate tasks with locations. I’m fortunate in that I can work from anywhere in the world. I’m writing this, for example, at a train station. I associate email processing with sitting with my laptop at my dining room table. Reading with sitting on the sofa in my study. Writing (i.e. typing) with sitting on the floor. Hour-long Skype calls with sitting on the armchair in our bedroom.
  • Write down how I feel. I’ve got a diary but, given that I type faster than I write, 750words.com is a handy resource. It also does sentiment analysis, which serves as another data point.
  • Change my screen temperature. Blue light isn’t good in the hours before bedtime as it can interfere with sleep patterns. Given the rest of my team is based in a timezone eight hours behind UK time I sometimes have no choice but to be looking at screens. To mitigate that, I use f.lux to automatically change the screen temperature of my MacBook and (jailbroken) iPhone.
  • Eat a yogurt before bed. Or a spoonful peanut butter. Both keep me full until morning so that I don’t wake up hungry.
  • Have a hot bedtime shower. This is a great way to decompress and also lowers your core body temperature ready for sleep.

What I could do

  • Schedule short breaks. I’ve experimented on and off with the Pomodoro technique but need to ‘chunk’ my day better. Ironically, I find this easier to do when I’m travelling than when I spend all day at home.
  • Take steps to improve my posture. It’s pretty bad. I used to have an iMac which was at the correct eye height but now I just use my laptop I could do better than I do now.
  • Do more exercise. I’m better than I was, but I do skip days and it has a noticeable hit on my productivity.
  • Eat less sugar. Although I eat way less than I used to, it’s like caffeine in producing a noticeable short-term ‘rush’ of productivity. It’s not sustainable, however, and significantly affects one’s long-term health. I’ve found a yogurt or a square of 70% chocolate works well if I’ve got a craving for something sweet.

I’d be fascinated to learn what productive habits YOU’VE got. I like to learn from others. 🙂

Image CC BY-NC russelldavies

Things I learned this week – #8

If you create a service that people actually find useful then I suppose you’ve got a right to charge for it. Still, it annoyed me that FeedMyInbox has gone paid-for. $5/month is $5 more than I expect to pay simply for the privilege of getting email updates from blogs that haven’t provided the feature themselves. For those in a similar situation, I’m trying out Blog Alert and Reblinks at the moment… 😀

Top 3

  1. A stereotype was a printing plate case from movable type. A cliché was a phrase that, because it was used often, was cast as a single slug of metal. Thanks for that nugget, Seth!
  2. Toward a grand theory of n00bs. Seriously, you couldn’t make up some of this stuff!
  3. Why ‘serious games’ work (via OLDaily):


I felt compelled to devote a section to Lifehacker this week, just because so many of their articles/posts were top-notch:


  • I auto-tweet from this blog when a new post is auto-published. It makes me smile that I could be asleep yet people think I’m active online. The Make Me Social WordPress plugin takes this one step further, auto-posting to services such as Delicious (via @durff)
  • Google Docs now has a web clipboard that remains over sessions and between computers!
  • RealPlayer SP allows you to trim videos ready for posting to YouTube, etc. I haven’t tried it (yet) but it looks like it could be a basic alternative to Windows Movie Maker. And it’s cross-platform!
  • Published blog posts now appear instantly in Google Reader. Which is nice. 🙂
  • How many oranges does it take to charge an Apple iPhone? About 2,380 slices apparently (via TechXAV)

Productivity & Inspiration

Education & Academic

Data, Design & Infographics

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.



A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes (H. Downs)

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. (Henry David Thoreau)

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it. (Edith Wharton)

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak. (Anon.)

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen Keller

(image at top CC BY-NC Brandon Christopher Warren)

Embracing the future: why I’ve ditched MP3s and signed up to Spotify Premium

Spotify logo

Image BY-NC Rsms @ Flickr

I like music. A lot. I listen to as much as I can as I believe it makes me more productive.* As a student I worked in HMV at Meadowhall in Sheffield and bought a prodigious amount of CDs. When I did my MA in Modern History I sold many of them to fund my living expenses, but still many remained. I hadn’t ripped them all to MP3 but still had around 100GB of my 250GB taken up with MP3s. I deleted all of that today, leaving only my downloaded podcasts:

iTunes data

After my week of divesting the only CDs that aren’t in boxes ready to be sent off to Music Magpie or Amazon customers are those (nine) that I’ve decided to keep as artwork.** I signed up for a Spotify Premium account the day after their iPhone app became available. It costs £9.99 per month to upgrade from the Free account. For that you get, amongst other things, the usage of their iPhone app (which doesn’t work with a Free account), a higher streaming bitrate and no advertisements.

That’s not to say that Spotify features every album and every piece of music that I’ve ever listened to. But I reckon that they’ve got about 90% of the stuff I search for. That’s good enough for me, especially given my eclectic, ever-changing taste in music and the fact they add thousands more track to their library every week – check out their blog!

The streaming model makes sense. Now that a decently-fast internet connection is available to me pretty much everywhere I go, there’s no need for me to manually sync and carry around with me a partial collection of music I like. Much better to have access to a much bigger collection everywhere I am. 🙂

Of course, there are times when your internet connection isn’t so good (or even non-existent). It’s for these times that Spotify has made playlists that you create available offline. Up to 3,333 tracks can be cached for offline play at any one time. That’s certainly enough for me!

Finally, then, there’s the problem of making Spotify’s vast library user-friendly. A start has been made via SpotifiTunes (see my library here) which takes your iTunes XML file and creates a list of Spotify links. Wanting an up-to-date version of this, I’ve created a workspace on my wiki dedicated to this. To access this, click on the ‘Music’ link at the top of this blog or click here!

What do YOU think about Spotify and the like? Will you be signing up any time soon? 😀

* I recommend you read Lifehacker’s The Best Sounds for Getting Work Done

** See CD wall tiles @ IWOOT)

5 productivity tips/hacks I’ve come across recently.

I’m always on the lookout for ways in which I can be more productive and increase my creative outputs. Time is precious when you’re a teacher, husband and father! Whilst I recommend you subscribe to blogs like Lifehacker and Lifehack.org directly, I’d like to share with you some of the tips and ‘lifehacks’ I’ve found useful recently:

1. FriendFeed

If you’re not using FriendFeed yet, you should be! I’ve been using it for a couple of months and find it very useful. It’s like the river of news and updates you get on Facebook (or at least last time I checked). The difference is that it’s people in the edublogosphere so it’s things related directly to professional learning. The quality of links, recommendations, etc. I get through FriendFeed means that I actually check my feed reader less often now (and use Feedly instead of Google Reader when I do…)

2. Firefox Extensions

I’ve already blogged about Stylish and Feedly, but it’s amazing how much Firefox extensions (addons) can improve your productivity. Take a couple recommended by Lifehacker recently:

  • Tree Style Tabs – allows you to hierarchically organize tabs in a vertical manner in your sidebar. Much more useful than it sounds!
  • Picnik – allows you to capture and edit screenshots online.
  • Zemanta – adds features when creating blog posts like related articles, suggested tags, links to Wikipedia articles, etc.

It’s worth trawling through the Mozilla Firefox addons site and/or doing a Google search for recommended extensions. There’s some great one out there! 🙂

3. How Priorities Make Things Happen

I know from experience that I work much better and in a more focused way if I’m working to a deadline. In fact, I purposely don’t start things until, for example, I’ve only got 24 hours left to complete it. Otherwise, I procrastinate and then, when finished, endlessly tinker to make things ‘just right’.

In a Lifehacker post about a book entitled How Priorities Make Things Happen, this is put into a more structured and easy-to-understand (and follow) form:

The easiest way to make a goal meaningful is to use ordered lists and a high priority one bar. These two simple tools force you to make tough decisions early. An ordered list simply means putting your goals in priority order, most important at the top, least important at the bottom. Divide that list in half: the top are things you must do, or die (Priority 1). The rest are things you hope to do, but can live without (Priority 2). Make your priority 1 list as small as possible: set a high bar. The smaller your list of must do’s, the easier they are to achieve. You will face waves of conflicting emotions as you decide what is truly important, but once you settle on priorities the hard decisions will be behind you.

4. Share Your Secrets To Be The Change

I’ve always shared pretty much everything I’ve ever produced – from my university essays/theses to resources I use in the classroom. Others have been flabbergasted by this approach, finding it strange that I should give away for free what I’ve put so much work into. I have the opposite approach – I get back so much more than I give. I’m sure others reading this have found the same.

It’s for the above reasons that I found Share Your Secrets To Be The Change, a post on Lifehack.org, to be so affirming. I especially liked the bits about sharing ‘making your life happier’ and making you into a ‘hero’. Knowing that I’ve got an audience certainly makes me more productive.

5. Top Ten Modern Life Survival Skills

It’s all very well these websites that show you how to start a fire using a Coke can and a piece of chocolate, but how many of us will actually ever need to do that? Really useful ‘modern survival skills’ can give you more control over your life; ergo more time and therefore productivity.

A post on Lifehacker entitled Top Ten Modern Life Survival Skills includes this gem:

Ever notice how putting your hand on your clock radio tends to clarify and boost the signal? You can use that same body-as-extended-antenna trick to locate your car in a stuffed parking lot. Hold your remote opening fob against your skull, hit the alarm (or beep-beep locking button), and you’ll locate your vehicle from farther away.

Have YOU got any productivity tips/hacks you’ve come across recently you’ve found useful? Share them in the comments section! 😀

(Image credit: branching out by shapeshift @ Flickr)

Zemanta Pixie

4 blogs that enhance my productivity

Dilbert - productivityI used to be naturally productive. These days, for a multitude of reasons, I need some assistance, some guidance, a helping hand to point me in the right direction. It’s about time (and especially given the education, technology, productivity tagline of this blog) that I share some of my productivity kryptonite… 🙂

Read more →

To-do v2

For the last 26 years and 275 days (yes, I worked it out…) I’ve approached ‘To Do’ lists in a very old-school way. We’re talking bullet points here. Obviously, given my ability to procrastinate and the number of things I don’t cross off my list each day, it’s not an amazingly successful system. I was delighted, therefore, to come across this post on lifehack.org with the following graphic:

Urgency vs. Importance Read more →