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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Chris McLeod’s typical day

Chris McLeod:

Like most people I suspect I have days where I don’t feel like I’ve actually achieved anything, and others where I’m amazed by how much it seems I’ve made it through. I find the trick is to just keep going steady. Those really productive days are usually the culmination of work you pushed yourself through on the slower days.

Nice tip.

Like Chris, I have times where I leave work feeling overwhelmed and think that nothing got done. Other days I leave feeling like superman.

My trick to combat this feeling is similar to the trick to begin a productive day – choose something small that I can be successful at. Pick one thing that I can start and finish. That usually helps a lot. So if I have a few of these sprinkled throughout my day I generally feel better.

Cassie Evans’ typical day

Cassie Evans’ typical day:

One thing that doesn’t change is that I try to approach my days gently. I listen to how I’m feeling and adjust my plans to fit around that. I also try to find a highlight each day to focus on.

Super interesting approach. I need to give this more thought.

More typical days.

Rob Weychert’s typical day

Rob Weychart, tagged by Dan Mall, whom I tagged:

I keep my personal and professional web browsing segregated to different browsers, and I use a plugin to block Twitter, news, and other productivity draining sites during work hours.

I used to do something similar. I think I had an app that blocked blacklisted URLs. But I find myself so busy most days that if I am able to dive into Twitter or YouTube I allow myself.

Sara Soueidan’s typical day

Sara Soueidan, who was tagged by Dan, whom I tagged:

I think of day and time management in terms of blocks. Or, chunks of time, so to speak. I divide my day into “activity blocks” that are then distributed to occupy different time slots across the day.

Her post is a must-read even if you haven’t been following along with these “typical day” posts.

This bit hit pretty hard:

5:30am–7:30am[Creative block] This can be anything I am inclined to do, as long as it’s meaningful work — “work that contributes to your legacy, helps you advance your career, expands your skill set, etc.… When you finish such work, you have the satisfying feeling of time well spent and a job well done.” (Jocelyn K. Glei, Unsubscribe)

“Work that contributes to your legacy”. Wow. I have a bunch of projects that are sitting on the shelf. Some half-started, others half-finished. I would love to dedicate a meaningful amount of time to getting projects out into the world that will impact my legacy.

Thanks to Sara for putting so much thought into her post.

Mike Carbone’s typical day

Mike Carbone, tagged by Dan Mall, whom I tagged:

10:30am: Wake up

OK, straight out of the gate this young lad is showing off. He continues…

4pm-6pm: Lift and work. This is something new I’ve been trying and it’s been going really well! I bring my laptop to the basement, blast some music, pump out some sets and write code in-between. Surprisingly productive.

Who is this guy? Lifting weights while writing code? We’re obviously not cut from the same cloth.

6:30-7:30pm: Consume enough food to feed a small African village, shower, protein shake.

My imagination of this gentleman is running wild.

Again, I’ll be collecting all of the links to those that participated on the original post in the coming days.

Noah Read’s typical day

Noah Read:

Most of the fall was absorbed with house-hunting, purchasing, finding new renters for our previous home, prepping for the move, moving, and unpacking. This has taken any spare moment and more than all my spare energy and attention to make happen.

In July, as Eliza and I soldiered on towards our new home’s closing day, I nearly threw in the towel. A new job, a pandemic, and buying a home almost did me in. But I’m extremely happy we muscled through it. We are far better off now than we were in the beginning of the pandemic.

I feel some of your pain Noah. And you have the added responsibility of homeschooling children! Hats off.

See also.

Dan Mall’s typical day

Dan Mall, whom I tagged:

7:30pm–8:30pm: Optional work wrap-up time if there’s anything urgent from the day. 

I envy that he has that evening time-slot to be productive. I find that my evenings are far less productive after I get into wind-down mode. I wouldn’t mind adding an hour or so of productivity to the end of my day.

Jeremy Keith’s typical day

Jeremy Keith, whom I tagged:

Y’know, in the Before Times I think this would’ve been trickier. What with travelling and speaking, I didn’t really have a “typical” day …and I liked it that way. Now, thanks to The Situation, my days are all pretty similar.

Waking up at 8:30 seems like such a luxury! I wish I could sleep in until then. It isn’t that I’m not allowed to do so – I simply haven’t been able to sleep past 8am in years. But then I see he doesn’t get into his pajamas until almost midnight and I realize he’s on a completely different rhythm.

At some point, I’ll update the original post with links to everyone’s daily routines for posterity.

Chris Coyier’s typical day

Chris Coyier:

That long of a workday means that I can be very flexible without feeling behind. If I need to run any sort of errand, I do. If I need to stay home a morning, I do. If I need to come home “early”, I do. And I can do that without feeling like I’ve meaningfully eaten into my work, which is a major stressor for me. It means there is some space in my day for play and exploration.

He and I share our love of mornings. But I also like this quoted bit because my entire reason for getting to the office earlier than everyone else is selfish. I want the freedom to bug out whenever I want.

Here is my typical day. Where is yours?

My typical day

Here is a general overview of a typical day for me. Routine makes me happy but it also lends to my productivity. The more each day is the same the more I can accomplish.

I’m sharing it because I would like to see other people post their typical days – as mundane as they may be. To that end I’m doing the old-school blogging tactic of tagging others to share their typical day. I’m tagging Manton Reece, Julia Evans, Dan Mall, Chris Coyier, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Matt Mullenweg, and Jeremy Keith.

Update, January 19, 2021: Many of the above tagged have responded with their own posts on their own blogs! And they, in turn, have tagged others! I’m going to keep track of all of the posts that I see and put them under my typicalday tag. So if you’re interested in the routines of others, I suggest you browse through them. There are some gems already!

If you’d like to share your schedule or tag others please do and let me know about it!

  • 6-6:30am – I usually wake in this window. If I don’t, by 6:30 the Apple Watch taps me on wrist.
  • 6:30-7:30 – Read and meditate on daily scripture using JW Library app. Shower. Dress. Coffee. Recently, Duolingo Spanish lesson. I also typically watch about 20 minutes of YouTube. Most of which is saved in my Watch Later list there or in Unmark. Latest topics include photography, chess, NBA highlights.
  • 7:30am – Drive to work. Listen to a podcast in Pocket Casts.
  • 8am – Arrive at work. Virtual asynchronous “stand-up” in Trello with team remarking what will be happening for the day.
  • 8-9am – Project management in Trello in some form. Making sure the team has what they need to get their work done. Work of some form usually prepping for any meetings. Slow days I open NetNewsWire.
  • 9am – Daily meeting with CEO. Pretty much a stand-up.
  • 9:30-12am – Work.
  • 12pm – Packed lunch. Catch up on news (very briefly, usually via Twitter). 20 minutes of YouTube. Usually something I am learning from programming to marketing.
  • 1-2:30pm – I schedule any meetings in this time period before I get back to work after lunch. Usually only on a single weekday. So if I may have a meeting at 1pm on a Tuesday but no other day that week. So, only about 10-20% of the time do I have an afternoon meeting.
  • 2:30-4pm – Work. Listen to music while working via Apple Music. Sometimes a podcast or a long YouTube video in picture-in-picture but only if I can concentrate.
  • 4:30pm – Typically read a few things in my Unmark queue. Then make end day notes for the next day.
  • 4:30-5pm – Arrive home. Dinner.
  • 6-10pm – My time. This can be filled with time in my darkroom, watching some TV, or yes, more YouTube. Reading a book, etc.
  • 10-11pm Go to bed.

At first glance it may seem like my week is meeting heavy. However, most weeks my meetings are less than 4 hours total. When meetings are on a schedule, have a purpose and most often an agenda you’re able to block those times out in a such a way that you remain productive in the other times. Unexpected meetings with no agenda are the ones that are the killer. Very short daily meetings cut down on the need for any other meetings.

Obviously, this schedule varies a lot. I may have meetings with new clients or other things that break up my day. But in general I’m able to keep this routine and I’m feeling just about as productive as I’ve ever been in my career.

See also Benjamin Franklin’s.

Using Spotlight and Shortcuts to create daily notes in Simplenote

While trialing Obsidian I became fond of a core plugin it had called Daily notes. Activating the plugin adds a button in the interface that creates a new note with a name based on today’s date. It makes keeping a daily log extremely easy.

Since I primarily use Simplenote I wanted the same thing on both iOS and macOS.

My DailyNote Shortcut on iOS

On macOS I was able to do this with a rather simple AppleScript that opens Simplenote, sends a keystroke of CMD+N, types in “Daily note:” followed by the current date. I’ve put the source of this script in a gist if you’d like it.

Saving this script as an application using Script Editor on Mac (I chose the name DailyNote), and then giving this app Accessibility permissions (System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Accessibility > +) will allow you to run the app via Spotlight and then voila … a new note in Simplenote with today’s date in the title.

On iOS unfortunately Simplenote hasn’t yet added many options to the Shortcuts library of commands so while I was able to create a quick “New Note” action on my phone I wasn’t able to automate typing in the day’s date. At least not exactly.

What I was able to do (see screenshot) is set a variable for today’s date, copy it to the clipboard, open Simplenote, create a new note, and then I have to manually paste in today’s Date. You can get the Shortcut here. Not ideal but good enough for now.

Thanks to Matthew Cassinelli for his guidance with all things Shortcuts.

But she’s a girl on Obsidian

But she’s a girl…:

I wanted something that operated on plain-text files kept in a local folder, and that also had a graph view: that was the feature in org-roam that really made the difference between me just writing notes and seeing how they fitted together and building ideas out of them. Obsidian has both of those plus a very active community and rapid pace of development, so that was what I went with in the end.

Really great post on her thought process in choosing to give Obsidian a try. I swear, y’all are trying to get me to go back to Obsidian!

Obsidian didn’t stick, for me

Back in May I came across Obsidian, a knowledge base app that stores your information in Markdown files.

I used it a bit here and there until, in July, I stumbled onto Ton Zijlstra’s post about Obsidian which motivated me to try it in earnest. I was excited to have a note taking app that would store its data in files that I could keep myself.

Over the last several months, I’ve tried and tried to make it my place to store notes. It just hasn’t stuck. I believe there are 3 main reasons:

  1. Mobile – I sync Obsidian’s Markdown files via One Drive and can use any Markdown editor on my phone or iPad, however, that experience isn’t very good. I find myself in countless meetings or conversations during the day where I need to quickly jot something down and sometimes the only device I have on me is my phone.
  2. Speed – Obsidian is fast at what it does, but not nearly as fast as opening a new note in Simplenote. If I’m in the middle of a presentation or a meeting, and I need to take notes on my laptop or phone, I find myself opening Simplenote. Perhaps there is a workaround for that that I’m missing? (yes, I have a pinned note that is a “scratch” area, similar to my method from 2016)
  3. The opposite of flat – The UI of Obsidian sort of begs one to put notes into folders. Which is really nice on one hand, but debilitating on another. I find myself much more of a tagsonomy man.

I’ve tried workarounds where I use Simplenote in the moment and then move those notes into Obsidian. But that just adds more work.

Perhaps I’m trying to use Obsidian for something it wasn’t intended – a note pad full of simple scratch notes that eventually become to-do lists, emails, blog posts, etc. It should be used to build a knowledge base – a collection of information that rounds out a subject. I just simply don’t do that type of note taking.

Zijlstra, though, seems to have hit his stride.

After over 100 days of Obsidian my use of it has expanded to include a much larger part of my system. Along the way it made my use within that system of Things, Evernote and almost Excel obsolete. It also means I sharpened my system and practice of using it again.

Good for him. However, I’m left wishing I had an app that did exactly what Simplenote does except that it stores local files rather than cloud files. And works on mobile. Even Apple’s own Notes app doesn’t do that.

If you have any recommendations please forward them along.

Annie Mueller on the merits of the mundane

Annie Mueller:

Maintenance tasks—like washing the dishes, folding the clothes—not only keep the basics of life functioning, but they also honor life itself. We are not too good for any of this. We are blessed to be here. Let me remember this as I wipe the table. Let me remember this as I sweep the floor.

Me, in 2011:

Stop thinking of all of the things you’d rather not do in a negative way. Start thinking of fun ways to make these tasks easier and more enjoyable to do. Who knows, maybe after a few times you’ll start wanting to do them instead of avoiding them!

My advice then was sort of the opposite of Mueller’s. She writes of relishing the mundane. My advice was to quicken it. Take shortcuts. My advice today would be more aligned with Muller’s. Soak life in, one mundane task at a time.

Six ways to tackle boring tasks

Earlier this year I wrote a rather blabbering post about how you should reward yourself while you’re doing tasks that you don’t like doing. I gave the example of treating yourself to your favorite drink for filing your quarterly taxes.

Well, it turns out I’m not alone in thinking that this is a good idea. Timo Kiander has come up with 6 ways to tackle boring tasks and one of them is to praise yourself.

Remember, as soon as you get started with your tedious task, you have already done something that most people are not willing to do.

When Alan Henry of Lifehacker linked to Kiander’s post he added:

When you’ve finished all of the work you normally have to do and are left with only the toughest, most undesirable tasks left, consider rewarding yourself for mustering the effort to get started-it’ll go a long way towards making sure you’re content enough to finish the task at hand.

We’re all saying the same thing; set yourself up for success. Kiander thinks you should praise yourself, Henry says reward yourself, I say combine the two and add a bit more.

Give yourself a great environment to do the task, make the task as easy as possible, and reward yourself for completing it and the most mundane tasks of our lives may just turn into the most fun ones.