Knowledge Base








Work Less

“We never feel like we’ve done enough. Even when, by all external standards, we’re kicking ass. [...] Working less would mean reducing the number of things we do — which would mean focusing on higher priority tasks.” Leo asks here what we would do with 2 hours of free time if we couldn’t work. I think this is a really important question I (and many others) should ask themselves on a regular basis. Be ruthless with what tasks are truly meaningful, discard the rest and ensure there is always time in the day for play/rest/fun.

Indieweb Activity Logging

A post that made me think about how I can track more important metrics in my life and leverage that metadata in this site, which is built using Eleventy:

  1. Use a purpose-built tool for tracking information on some subject
  2. Pull the data out using a Jekyll plugin, and then
  3. Write lightweight blog entries which automatically incorporate that metadata.

Essential Meaningful Productivity

Get clear every day on what’s essential to you. Execute on work in structured sessions (I do this using work cycles). Don’t let fear or uncertainty about tasks prevent you from working on them. Find meaning and joy in the session—play is an essential component of the pursuit of mastery.

Come for the Network, Pay for the Tool

“As more and more identity formation happens online, it’s is inevitable that most of it happens in private spaces. As we spend more and more time living in these spaces, it’s inevitable that their intentional shaping should become more important to us.” A great essay expanding on the idea of paid communities, a new category that is likely to change the meaning of community and business in the current era, as we transition from centralised management of human development and capital to decentralised and emergent systems.

A Meta-Layer for Notes

Digital note-taking lacks the spatial relationship to their context—they are in stand-alone apps that treat notes as a separate workflow to the current process. Julian argues for a “spatial meta layer for notes on the OS-level that lives across all apps and workflows”. A great idea with some excellent mockups showing this in action.

Successful habits through smoothly ratcheting targets

Though I already use a great habit-tracking system, it can be difficult to form new habits. Andy recommends two key principles here: make every day do-able with rolling windows (meaning x times in the past 7 days as opposed to Monday - Sunday) and starting habits at a low frequency and gradually ‘ratcheting’ up to the desired frequency.

Satisfaction and progress in open-ended work

Andy Matuschak provides some useful, actionable advice about how to approach work without clear-cut goals. A key here is to connect a long-term plan with downstream goals to work being done in the present .

World 2.0 Startups

A fairly short piece with a great core message—observing that between the old world and the new digital era lies “World 1.5”, a transitional product that is halfway in-between worlds. The post goes on to list a few key examples like iTunes, Adobe Illustrator and OKCupid. Perhaps more importantly, the post identifies a few open areas that are ripe for new innovation; remote video conferencing, school/university, theatres, etc. Worth the read just to get your mind thinking about what the future holds or even to begin actively looking for opportunities to improve on existing systems.

The prestige trap

A reminder that a lot of people who did very important work during their lives did so by being playful and curious, not by fulfilling some obligation to do ‘Important Work’. I commonly find myself in the position of trying to force a particular activity to happen simply because I feel like I’m obligated to do something meaningful. The author quotes a Paul Graham essay saying: “Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like”. A really important idea and an area I personally need to spend a lot more time working through.

Finite and Infinite Games

I’d wager most people have probably heard this concept brought up once or twice, but it is an important one to keep in mind—especially for those, like myself, who can get caught up in the competition of life. Playing life as a finite game, you train for the rules. Playing as an infinite game, you focus on being educated to adapt to unknowns. Let’s remember that every day is another opportunity to learn more and to seek joy through playful experimentation.

68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice

Kevin gives an incredible list of advice from his 68 years on this planet. Among my favourites are “The secret to making fine things is in remaking them” and “Separate the process of creation from improving”. I highly recommend everyone read through the entire list and revisit it every once in a while. I get the feeling that many of these nuggets of gold come hard-won from first-hand experience and may save years of anxiety and failure over the course of a lifetime.

The Art of Dying

A fairly long read but a great memoir of Peter Schjeldahl, a staff writer at The New Yorker. I particularly enjoyed the sections about his alcoholism and smoking habits—they are brutally honest and I appreciated the perspective. This piece is a little different to the writing I usually link to but I found it to be a thoroughly interesting read. I will be doing my best in the future, however, to avoid linking to paywalled articles.

Many people like to contribute to vectors, few like to own them

Visakan references a great Paul Graham tweet here about how it is much easier to contribute to an existing ‘vector’ as opposed to creating it. This is something most of us understand already—creating new and unique things is hard, coming up with original ideas is a difficult thing to do. Visakan offers some great advice here by suggesting that even by articulating your idea modestly well, others can chime in and help you to understand the idea even better! The people around you can function as a support team that can help you to see different perspectives and leverage the knowledge around you. A really important concept to grasp in our hyper-connected digital age.

The Elements of Euclid

Nicholas Rougeux has put a serious amount of effort here in reproducing Oliver Byrne’s 1847 book about geometry. Beautiful illustrations, painstaking typesetting and interactive proofs. I am reminded how powerful refactoring design can be—what a difference intelligent implementation can make into breathing life into old content. A truly impressive project here.

Mood as Extrapolation Engine

Tiago hypothesises that our moods function as ‘extrapolation engines’, putting us in the appropriate state of mind to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, without having to wait for full information. Some second-order reasoning about the definition of ‘psychological capital’ suggests that by designing our work to produce experiential rewards now and completing our work such that it increases the likelihood of benefit in the future, each day represents a kind of compound interest for our moods.

Learning to build conviction

Conviction here refers to the confidence that your idea is good enough that it’s worth throwing a lot of effort behind. The author reflects on the difference between making decisions based on a mentor’s advice, compared to theirs as an individual. The key understanding here is that in order to make high-stakes decisions with long-term consequences, you need a conviction that must come from learning from previous mistakes and not from the advice of others—the kind of thing Nassim Taleb calls ‘Skin in the Game’.

A free guide to building awesome communities

A free guide outlining nine ‘bricks’ that you need to get right to successfully start and grow a community online. A little too wordy for my taste but a great resource for anyone interested in this kind of thing. My advice is to read the ‘homework’ sections at the bottom of the bricks to get a sense of the practical steps you can take to grow your own community or to check whether you have missed any crucial steps.

Why bother?

This was an article that came at the right time for me, as the question of why I am writing and building a body of work in public was weighing on me. One great point made here is that you incur a kind of mental cost for carrying a bunch of ideas around—ideas you never executed on. Building in public is a way to clear your mind and the act of articulating them is often enough to either dismiss an idea or pursue it further. This is a short article but contains some absolute gems.

Stop Trying to Make Hard Work Easy

Nir Eyal thinks we’re spending too much time trying to make work easy. There is some good advice in this article about how to overcome distraction but for me, the key point was that people want to start a habit just so that something difficult can eventually become effortless and that is simply just not possible for some activities—in this case, writing. We need to become comfortable with the fact that some tasks are just difficult, no matter how proficient we become in them. Embracing this mindset is crucial if we are to succeed over the long-term.

Grippy and slippy

David Kadavy splits up the tools he uses in his creative process between the ‘grippy’ and the ‘slippy’. Slippy refers to tools like laptops and phones which are frictionless but allow for distraction, grippy are physical notebooks which force you to write slowly and think harder. There is room for both in a creative process, David believes it is best to use grippy first (to generate deep ideas) followed by slippy (to execute and iterate on ideas rapidly) and I tend to agree.

My Oversubscribed Life

While I do personally see the merit in some subscription services (think Instapaper, Spotify, ProtonMail), this was a great piece because it drills down to why people go overboard with subscriptions. “The dream of the subscription is that without having to use our brains for something as mundane as remembering to buy razor cartridges, we might do something better with our time. We might even become more optimized human beings”. We subscribe to so many services to optimise our time but end up wasting that trying to optimise it even further. Worth pondering and even doing something like explicitly writing down what you hope a certain service will do your life; review this in a few months and confirm that it is indeed helping to achieve that goal. If not, ditch it.

Cost and value

A timely reminder that “Your customers don’t care what it took for you to make something. They care about what it does for them.”—there are several products in my life that provide so much value I would easily pay 10x as much as I currently do, others would find that it՚s not worth anything to them. It՚s not about time, effort, or even creativity. It՚s about how useful and valuable the outcome is to a customer. I՚ll be thinking a lot more about this concept.

Oh, the Paywalls You'll Meet

I have been reading and listening to a lot of conversation about the concept of independent creatives charging $5 a month to 1000 subscribers. Or $50 a month to 100 subscribers. This model makes sense in our modern, technological era but I have also pondered what kind of long-term effect this might have, and how this works on a larger scale. An interesting technology called Coil is discussed in this piece, revolving around the concept that for $5 a month, you could access monetised content across the web. Using this technology, profits would be split between creators depending on how much time you actively spent accessing their content. Definitely something to consider moving forward.

Constraints Make You Interesting

A short, punchy piece about the power that constraints can have when you implement your ideas. Constraints force us to think about correct implementation and to maybe think outside the box in order to solve a specific problem. An easy example is this newsletter, where I constrain myself to three pieces of writing, two useful tools and two images of people’s work. By limiting myself to these items, I can rapidly produce a distilled document of my week’s exploration.

You don’t have writer’s block, you’re just being evil

This piece hit me hard, in a good way. “You tell yourself you’re more profound than you are, so your actual ideas seem uninteresting”. Justin argues here that to escape the sin of intellectual boredom we must become who we are (to quote Nietzsche). A timely reminder that we must always chase what excites us, question what intrigues us, and write about what inspires us.

Illustrated Notes on Building A Second Brain

Maggie Appleton does an excellent job here of turning such a nuanced concept of information organisation into a few really useful sketches/infographics. I find that making these things visually-appealing helps to solidify understanding in text-heavy fields.

Good enough

Max recognises the anxiety of sharing something with the world, that we can often feel like we need to match the standards of others. Yes, there are details to get right and non-negotiables that ensure a degree of quality in our work but as you move closer to 100% you will see diminishing returns from your effort as you begin to doubt yourself or become fixated on tweaking your post. Get the important points down and let the 80/20 rule guide you to release. Each piece of writing you publish is an opportunity to learn and grow, don’t get bogged down in the minutia.

The Art of Stillness

A great little piece which serves as a timely reminder that it’s ok to ‘stop moving’. The author draws on Leonard Cohen’s book by the same name and how “going nowhere isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply”.

The Decisions Journey

Reflections on the journey into the unknown we embark on when starting new projects. Though we are unable to know where and when our plans will fail, we can prepare ourselves by “generating enough good options, enough promising ideas, and enough valuable solutions”.

An introduction to meta-modernism

Finding the balance between working hard, finding meaning in our work and remembering our lives and achievements will ultimately be forgotten when we are gone. We must put an emphasis on enjoying the process rather than the outcome.