March 13, 2019

Journaling Prompts: Random Entry Starters

When faced with the blank page, it’s nearly impossible not to want to switch to anything else. One of the reasons that I’m into prompts recently is that it gives a nudge to just answer it. And once you get started, it’s very easy to just let the habit kick-in and continue writing.

I’ve been playing with a Shortcut script which randomly selects one of the below sentences as title of an input prompt:

  • Describe the day in three words
  • Today I learned that
  • If it were morning again I’d tell myself
  • Today I daydreamed that
  • The quote of the day was
  • Today I spent time with
  • The best meal of the day was
  • The day got interesting when
  • The better left unsaid secret of today was
  • The photo I did not take today was

The intention is not to answer any of them directly, that’s why the prompt itself should not be included in the sentence you write. Rather I just take the prompt as the topic to address in the first few sentences. Sometimes it’s a simple continuation of the sentence, other times I just follow wherever the writing takes me.

None of this should be a solution in search of a problem. If the first few sentences give you no trouble, don’t mess with what works. But if you find that on averages days you have to fight the urge to just write nothing new today, then these could be useful.

March 12, 2019

Journaling Prompts: Faux Japanese

Although I crossed 3 years of daily journaling, my workflow has changed over time. Some of it has been fine-tuning — but for the most past, it has been to find ways keep it interesting and doable. Over the next 3 posts I’ll share my latest setup and thinking.

Domo Arigato Mister Roboto

Ending my entry with: a) something I’m grateful for and, b) something I regret (or wish I have done better), has always helped frame the day. Many days they’re so useful that I start the journal with those two items.

So I wanted to expand on these prompts with a few more daily ones. However, I hate writing I’m grateful for… or today I regret… over and over everyday. Not out laziness, it just seems to get in the way writing somehow because it makes me sound like child saying a fake apology.

I experimented with emojis, and acronyms, but it lacked context. As usual when I search for inspiration, I headed to the land of the rising sun1. I had already used Kaizen as a question to track improvements in the past, and after a few days of playing around I arrived at the following:

These are not so much faux as probably grammatical incorrect. But they work for me. Now I’ll always end my entries with this closing section:

  • Kansha: Something I’m thankful for, like ice on my night water.
  • Kaizen: Something I know is compound work, writing in this blog.
  • Kōkai: Anything that looking back on the day makes me cringe, such as losing patience while driving.
  • Saikō: Highlight of the day.

The mere act of remembering the words helps me mentally review the day. And having the Japanese words as cues looks fine in the document overall, which is important since I don’t tire of it and helps me come back to journal another.

  1. Actually I went to Google Translate, but the inspiration still stands.

March 11, 2019

Journaling as a Personality Backup

I often struggle with my tone and sincerity of my daily journaling. Why should I spend time giving depth to thoughts I’m probably going to remember with just some short words?

Today I was reminded of the movie Regarding Henry, where Harrison Ford’s character forgets his personality after being shot. For sure his journey would have been different — and likely ruined an excellent movie. But the exercise of writing to a version of myself that has forgotten what myself means, struck a chord.

Visualizing the target reader is an often repeated writing advise, and thinking of blank future me sounds like a compelling exercise. It puts me in a clearer mindset of what I should put an effort in detailing and what not.

March 5, 2019

Benjamin Mayo on Siri Shortcut:

A truly good voice assistant does not require the user to remember something.

Bingo. I tried, but all my shortcuts used are triggered by clicking on an icon. Siri Shortcuts failure rate was comical for me.

March 1, 2019

My buddy Nav with a great set of notes of how deliver design to a client — and not become a cynic in the process:

With my team, we’ve approached design work with a different set of principles. Of course, we’ve come across clients who are used to an approval based’ design process, but we’ve never worked that way.

These are applicable even if you think of another department as a client. Great read.

February 14, 2019

Journal Categories

Yesterday I mentioned storing highlights in DayOne, but I wanted to expand a bit on all my journals in the app:

  • Journal:

    Where I write every night. Only encrypted one. It’s a mental download of the day, not pausing long enough to edit or filter. At the end two bullet points: something I’m grateful of, and something I could have done better. There’s 1788 entries, since I’ve written almost everyday since Feb 2016.

  • Aeropost:

    A work notebook. Most useful as quick two liner entry after any meeting. But it also has longer notes of stuff that becomes emails or documents. Not so often anymore, but whiteboard photos — cleaned up with Carbo.

  • Scrapook:

    Anything external I want to save. Originally where all quotes from Quotebook were imported after its demise. But now a repository of anything external that I want timestamped.

  • log:

    In contrast to Scrapbook, on log I save anything internal that I want to remember. Many coffee recipies, names of specific menu items I liked, shaving results with different safety razoes, etc.

  • Spark:

    Random thoughts. Undigested ideas. Mostly short snippets that make little sense, a with no real hope become an insight. Which surprisingly happens, but many days of weeks later. Right now I’m using in a habit stacking experiment, where I have to write two sentences before visiting Morning Reader.

  • Check-in:

    Failed experiment awaiting rethinking, an IFTTT applet that saves all my Foursquare check-ins. But it doesn’t integrate with DayOne locations, so I end going back to Fsquare when I’m looking for something.

  • Blog:

    Mostly useless. Another IFTTT applet that saves all posts to this blog sometimes fun when I use DayOne’s On this day feature.

  • Comidas:

    Abandoned experiment I wish to revisit. For about 100 days in 2016 I took a picture of everything I ate. Premise being that it would be easier than calorie counting.

February 13, 2019

Hello Highlights

Reading in the digital age allows for the magical benefit of storing all your highlighted text. In my case, this includes: Kindle, Apple Books and Instapaper.

For the past few years my flow has been to export Instapaper highlights as markdown to my Scrapbook journal in DayOne. I also will usually use the share extension to collect any interesting tidbits I read while browsing. However, eBooks highlights have remained on their respective app silos.

Over the last month I’ve been testing Readwise, and I’m ready to subscribe to their light plan when the trial runs out. Readwise imports your highlights from Kindle, Apple Books, Instapaper and a couple of others — either directly or via a plugin/app on the desktop.

But once it pulls all these highlights is where Readwise shines: you get a daily email with some of the notes. I’ve rediscovered a lot of ideas with this feature, enough that I think it’s worth paying for.

I still want to figure out a way to channel this content into DayOne, but in the meantime, it’s a useful service for a reasonable price.

February 12, 2019

Processes, Tools and People

Things go wrong. People make mistakes. Unknown/unknowns make a grand entrance in production. You bang your head against the paper-thin meeting room wall and look up at the… soul-sucking florescent lights trying not to scream something that will break your company’s HR rules.

Careful. Either the process or the tools will be the prime suspects. In some teams, changing the process is easier. On most, tools are simpler to replace. Diagnose the actual problem incorrectly and — just like trying to clean a dirty carpet — you just push the stain further down to hide it.

Remove existing negatives before adding philosophical positives. Processes, tools, and people will always have both friction and flexibility — highlighting less important problems and hiding more critical ones. Remember to be careful with what you think has to be fixed first.

February 11, 2019

Leaders of the Venezuelan Opposition Used Zoom for Conference Calls

From WSJ on of how the Venezuela opposition coordinated its surprising come back(behind paywall1):

We spent hours every day on Zoom, talking about what to do,” said Mr. Borges, referring to the videoconferencing app.

Zoom’s security white paper is a bit scant on details, but it does seem to hit all basic security points. I would have thought that the Venezuelan security forces would be all over traffic coming out of Leopoldo Lopez home, but judging by the initial surprise, it seems SSL held up pretty well.

  1. I read it on Blendle, my goto source for paid content.

February 7, 2019

So many other extraordinary things about Jeff Bezos post, but this paragraph on the NY Times is fascinating:

It has also shown that even for one of the world’s most powerful tech titans and the owner of one of the country’s most influential newspapers, the best means of communications can be a simple blog post.

A simple Medium post. No fancy domain name or custom design. Just something to say.

January 24, 2019

Nitin Khanna: Don’t Moleskine your blog:

It got me thinking — do we sometimes treat out blogs as Moleskine notebooks? Do we worry that we must only present our best writing on them, instead of just putting our ideas out there, perfection be damned? Yes, we do.

This made me step back and read again. I didn’t follow the rest of his unpublished narrative — but the insight of the moleskine analogy was very powerful.

January 15, 2019

Brent Simmons On Public Bug Trackers:

But opening up the bug tracker to the public is just a way to get bogged down: it’s a way to make worse decisions, and make them more slowly.

This also applies to internal customers. With enough size, you need to have a ticket system, but it should be separate from your bug tracking tool.

January 11, 2019

Things Inbox Bookmarklet

Things has amazing URL Scheme support, so I created a quick bookmarket to quickly add to my inbox links from Opera while at work — Things auto-fill doesn’t work that well on some apps.

Here’s the bookmarklet: 📥Things.

Grab to your bookmark bar on Opera/Safari/Firefox. On Chrome, right-click to copy link, and then edit the URL of any bookmark to replace.

January 8, 2019

Brydge for iPad Pro 2018


This is looking very close to my iPad/iBook wishlist. I really hope Apple is working on some interpretation of the iOS notebook. At $150, if I get a 2018 iPad Pro, I’d rather get this than Apple’s new Smart Keyboard Folio — $179!

January 6, 2019

Organize multiple applications into grouped tabs on your Windows desktop

Back in the early 00’s, when I was using Windows on my desktop — and later alongside my iBook — Stardock’s apps were probably my first software purchase.