HACK / MAKE

Favorite Things: Summer 2012

First, recapping “Favorite New Things of 2011”:

  • Field Notes
  • Raw denim jeans
  • 5by5
  • Traditional wet shaving
  • Merlin Mann
  • GORUCK GR1

Now onto the new stuff.

Aeropress

Up until recently, I bragged about getting through college without a dependency on coffee. I’ve since found out that I was a sucker because coffee is awesome. I realized it wasn’t that I hated coffee, it was that I hated bad coffee, which apparently is abundant. I got started at a local coffee shop that I’d go to write at. It smelled so good and I had to try. Since then, I’ve set myself up with some gear, mainly an Aeropress coffee making dingus. You can see how it works—and the resulting effect—in this video by lonelysandwich. The Aeropress makes some of the most delicious coffee and is only about $20. It’s simple and fun to use, is really fast, and there’s practically no cleanup. I probably don’t need to explain the benefits of caffeine in the morning, so here’s why it’s now important to me, beyond the jolt: it gives me something to look forward to in the morning, which helps pull me out of bed. This leads me to my next favorite thing.

Waking up early

OK, so, I’m still learning to love mornings but they are becoming an important part of my life. I’m not up at 5AM—the ass crack of dawn—like some zen minimalist monk dudes, but 7AM has been giving me enough time to get my day started the way I want it to before getting into work around 10AM. Here’s why I pull myself out of bed early (most of the time1) when my body doesn’t want to: I get to set the tone for each day. I get quiet time every morning where I can do what I want, before I check email and twitter and get into work. My day doesn’t begin with someone else’s beckon. The way I define my mornings sets what’s important to me. I start my days writing, reading, preparing, planning, reflecting, meditating—and drinking coffee. What they aren’t: rushed, commanded by other people, complex. I start my day with my projects and what’s important to me. I’m defining how my day is shaped by putting those things first.

Roderick on the Line

Hosted by Merlin Mann and John Roderick from the band The Long Winters. Roderick on the Line is a collection of stories from touring the world as a rock musician, philosophies about life, and exploring John’s perspectives about everything, usually shaped in the form of “Well, here’s the thing about ______.” I love it because it’s hilarious, while pseudo-philosophical, and slightly make-believe. John’s road stories have a grandeur about them that tempers my wanderlust. His insight, wrapped in cynical tinfoil, will have you wanting for the next episode.

OmniFocus

This tool for Mac, iPhone, and iPad is a powerhouse. That’s not news for many people but after switching to OmniFocus after using Things for years, I know this now. You can read here for the full why but the gist of it is this: your brain sucks at remember things, and you need an outboard brain to keep track of all the things your brain can’t. You need to be able to trust this outboard brain enough to commit to it and to capture into it. I trust OmniFocus. If you’re serious about getting your work done, get OmniFocus.

Launch Center Pro

This is a new tool in the App Store and I like it a lot. I’ve written about Launch Center Pro and the cool things you can do with it a few times. It uses URL schemes to quickly launch actions within apps so you don’t have to flip through home screens and folders, then open apps and dig around the interface to do a thing. It has great support for OmniFocus and other productive apps like Due, 1Password, and Wikipanion. This app brings a novelty to my iPhone once again and has made capturing to my inbox and writing into text files a dream.

Noise

I work in a pretty loud office. Sometimes it’s so loud that, even with good closed-back headphones, music doesn’t cut it. I’ve been using a track of pink noise to help mask the sound of voices which helps me concentrate. Pink noise is similar to white noise in that it’s… noisy—that hiss you think of when the radio station goes out of range—but pink noise registers more in the 2 - 4 KHz range, which is in the range of human voice. Thus, it does a better job covering it up without needing higher volume. It takes a minute or two each time to get over the fact that the noise is a little annoying but once I stop thinking about it, it helps me to really focus in on what I’m doing—like really focus. It’s kind of like the drug that guy takes in the movie Limitless. I don’t know if it’ll work for everyone but it’s worth a try if your in a coffee shop or somewhere with audible distractions and need to get things done. Here’s the 10 second audio file I listen to on loop.

I like writing these posts because it makes me think about things that I really care about, use a lot, and that contribute to making my days a bit, or a lot better.


  1. I struggle here often. It’s too easy, and has very little consequence for me, to turn over and go back to bed. I’ve done a few tricks to help me get out of bed but nothing works like just plain determination, which I need more often here. 

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