Open Thinkering


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, 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)