Still Waiting.



You haven't written a word since the end of 2014, because you were waiting.

You were waiting for the right day. You know, because it only makes sense to start something new on a Sunday. Or a Monday. Or as a "fresh start" at the first of the month. Or definitely, definitely on your birthday.

You were waiting until you had set up all of the right routines and scheduled the perfect editorial calendar. You were waiting for that new writing app to come out of beta, or to think of the best idea, or define the most focused niche.

You had to wait until your site had the cleanest design possible. You had to decide if your home page was going to be a "now" page or a blog roll. Or a "now" page. Or a blog roll.

But the Sundays, the Mondays, the firsts and the birthdays have passed. You've tried all the apps and wrote down all of the ideas. You've made all of the decisions. You've either run out things to nitpick in the design, or you haven't enough skill to make it any better. Yet, somehow, you are still waiting.

You're resourceful. You'll always be able to find a reason to hold back. Maybe it's just time to start, instead.

Read and Trust.



I'm generally a happy person. By most measures, I lead a privileged life. This typically means I'm not outraged about anything. Shouldn't I be outraged about something? How can I consider myself to be an upstanding member of modern society without a sufficient level of outrage? This problem must be rectified, posthaste!

These days, whenever I need to know what I should be angry about, I just head on over to Twitter. I imagine any social network would suffice, but I prefer my outrage in 140-character morsels. Delicious, rapid-fire bites of entitlement. Whether it's a free service trying to make money, a debate on free vs. paid software updates, podcasting equipment, or the minute details in an 80-second movie trailer, it doesn't take long before the injustice du jour is served up piping hot. Bon appétit!

Lately, though, I feel like I have had my fill. One can only make so many trips back to the outrage buffet. The problem is, how can I continue to use Twitter and yet filter out the majority of the indignation/entitlement/anger/bullshit? One answer I have found is the List.

Twitter has a feature (for now, anyway) that lets you group users together into public or private lists. You can then view the updates from these users (including users you do not follow) like a filtered timeline. I've used lists in the past to group together particular interests, like "Hockey" or "Apps," and have kept my "Following" list relatively small. However, I have found a more useful implementation. Instead segmenting them, I follow all of the users that represent these different interests and as a result, their updates are included in my primary timeline. This makes for a very diverse stream of updates, but it can get "noisy" at peak-outrage times.

I've created a list by going through the group of people that I follow and hand-selecting the ones that regularly post thoughtful content and who are interested in engaging conversations. They generally keep their outrage at a tolerable level. They don't post hundreds of times per day, so the pace is slow and purposeful. I've named this list Read & Trust, an homage to the former blog network and newsletter of the same name. Many of the people on this list were members of this original group, but it was not a requirement for selection. The sole requirement was that I personally Read and enjoy their posts and Trust their opinions. They're generally very responsive and interested in conversation. Currently there are 37 members. It's not a very diverse group. It's pretty nerdy. It might not be for everyone, but if you're interested in following, I've opened it up to the public here.

Sure, I could have just mass-unfollowed everyone except for these users, but I still want the option of switching back to and checking in on the full timeline. Maybe I'll unfollow everyone down the road or leave Twitter altogether. But for now, whenever I need a break from my main Twitter feed, I switch over to Read & Trust. Lately, I've been spending more time here than in my primary timeline. It's possible that as I get older, my appetite for outrage is waning.

Analog.



I think something might be wrong with me. Mentally, I mean.

I've been a "tech" guy for years. Digital all the way, man. We sold our CDs and now all of our music is digital. I gave away all but three of my books and got a kindle. I stare blankly at people who try to hand me printed documents and I've been known to call people dinosaurs for reading paperback books. Paper? Pssh, please. Tree killers.

I was perfectly happy being an ambassador for the digital age. I shed a bunch of physical possessions and organized all of my media files like a gentleman. But recently I think something in my brain has broken. Maybe I had a stroke? I don't know.

A couple of weekends ago I was on a ferry back from the Island with my family. We were killing time wandering around the boat, as you do, and I was struck with the overwhelming desire to hold—and read, I suppose—a paperback book. We headed to the gift shop. I had, in my hand and ready to purchase, some trade paper work of fiction. The only thing that kept me from buying it was the $25 price tag. I couldn't justify spending the cash, just in case this is some kind of strange pre-mid-life crisis or fever dream. So instead, when we got home I went to the library—the library!–to take out a book. It doesn't end there. This book thing is just the tip of the iceberg.

I've started keeping a paper journal and it's awesome. I don't really like my handwriting and I've never been one for journalling, but this system inspired me to stick with it. Sometimes I'll just open up the Moleskine and feel the paper. Or smell it. Don't judge me. The journal is kind of where the problem started, but it's spreading aggressively, and getting worse.

The button on my Nike fuel band stopped working for the second time and now it's sitting in my bedside drawer next to my old analog watch which has had a broken band for years. I'm probably only going to fix one of them, and I'm seriously leaning towards the watch. It might be nice to wear a dumb watch again.

My new favourite website is The Cramped, an entire site devoted "The Unique Pleasures of Analog Writing". I recently subscribed to the Pen Addict podcast. All those guys talk about is fountain pens and Field Notes. And I love it! I'll listen to it all day long. Now I'm thinking I'd fancy a decent fountain pen. Or a couple of them with different inks. I'm wasting all of my time researching Midori Traveler's notebooks and typewriters and record players.

Guys, it might actually be the end of times. Everywhere I look, people are creating websites, products, and podcasts all about analog interests. Or am I just seeing them everywhere because subconsciously it's all I'm thinking about? Like when you start thinking about grey Jettas and then every other car on the road is a grey Jetta? What the hell is happening to me? Somebody has got to hold an intervention before I give away my iPhone and buy a pack of envelopes and booklet of stamps. Whatever you do, do not give me your mailing address.

Please. Send help.

A Knife's Purpose.



My knife lives a mostly sedentary existence. It can lay latent in my pack or hooked on my pocket for weeks without use. Yet, it performs admirably when it is called to duty, even if the particular job might fall well below its station.

"The more comfortable you are with your knife, the more you will find it being a natural extension of your hand. Again, like your iPhone probably is." —Ben Brooks

The knife's tasks are mostly mundane: cutting Amazon packing tape, Toys R Us blister packs or sales tags from new clothing. Nothing difficult, nothing close to it's intended use. However, it's presence and utility are appreciated when the need arises.

On an occasional camping trip or outdoor expedition, the knife catches a glimpse of what it's life could be like. Cutting through rope and wood. Bathing in sweat and dirt. But these moments are seldom and fleeting as the excursions become more suburban.

"The carrying of a pocket knife is a man tradition that should be continued." —Art of Manliness

But today the knife has felt its purpose. Today the knife went to sea, its excitement building with each strike of the hull against the surf.

Today it was passed between expert hands as it cut tangled lines, opened cheap Island beer, and sliced cured game. It looked proud when the others remarked on its keen edge and its clever-yet-sturdy design.

It reached its full potential when it pierced the flesh of a freshly caught spring salmon. And as the fish bled out, as the knife was doused in its first true filth, it felt alive.

Today the knife knew its purpose when it rode home on the pocket of a 5 year old boy's hero—his Dad who got to drive a boat, caught a fish straight-out-of-the-ocean and then brought it home for dinner.

Check out Patrick Rhone's awesome video review of the knife I carry.

Hybrid Journal.



I have a long and rocky relationship with pen and paper. I've often romanticized the idea of keeping a paper journal to record the passage of my life. Yet, despite many attempts over the years, I've never been able to stick to any kind of journalling habit for more than a couple of weeks at a time.

That was until I came across Ryder Carroll's brilliant Bullet Journal concept and mashed it up with Patrick Rhone's Dash/Plus pen and paper markup system into a "Hybrid Journal".

Required Reading

None of what follows is going to make any sense unless you have at least a rudimentary understanding of Ryder and Patrick's concepts. So, if you've never read them before, take a few moments to catch up on these:

Bullet Journal

The foundation and layout for the hybrid journal is Ryder Carroll's Bullet Journal. He's done an amazing job documenting the setup and usage on this site, including awesome video how-tos. I recommend reviewing it in a desktop browser to get the full effect.

Dash Plus

I have deplorable penmanship. Even my check-boxes look like shit. This is one of the main roadblocks I struggled with when figuring out how the Bullet Journal would work for me. However, I can draw a pretty boss dash, so Patrick Rhone's Dash/Plus paper markup system ended up being the perfect solution.

Extending Dash Plus

Since Patrick's system is based on a simple "—", it is very extensible. There are almost limitless ways it can be adapted to fit your needs.

Trickle Lists

I've incorporated Michael Lopp's Trickle Lists as the right page of each Month section of my journal. These give me a way to track incremental habits in a Seinfeld method-type way.

Markup

I don't stray too far from Rhone's suggested Dash/Plus markup. All items start with and are converted from the initial "—" Dash.

  • "—" is an incomplete action item
  • "+" is a completed action item
  • "→" is an item that has been carried forward to the next day
  • "←" is an item that has been deferred to another list, calendar, or task/project manager
  • "triangle" is a data or reference point
  • "*" is an event
  • "lightning bolt" is an idea or thought

Pages

As suggested in the Bullet Journal walk through, I start the book with an Index, on the right page of a two-page spread, a couple of pages in. I include a markup reference in one of the preceding pages leading up to this Index.

Next, also true to the Bullet Journal, I start the each month on the left page of a two page spread, the first month immediately following the Index. The left page contains a numbered column with one row for each date of the month. In the adjacent column to the date, I mark the day of the week with a single character. This page is used as a calendar to record the most important event(s) occurring on a given date.

On the right page of the month-spread (opposite the calendar), I deviate slightly from the Carroll's setup.

I couldn't really grok the suggested "list of actions to accomplish each month". So, instead of this list, I duplicate the two-column date/day format from the left page of the spread. Asymmetry drives me completely bananas, so I'm careful to get the rows to line up with those on the facing page.

I add two to three additional columns, depending on how many trickle habits I'm working on at the time. Currently, these are Daily Writing and Exercise.

These serve as a "don't break the chain" system for tracking incremental changes.

From there, the setup stays fairly true to the Bullet Journal, dashing and plusing the events and tasks from each day as I go.

Hardware

I recommend the large, squared-grid Moleskine to serve as the journal. I like the quality, aesthetic and the history of a Moleskine. The back pocket serves as a wallet and holds a few Frictionless Capture Cards in case I need to pass on a note to someone. It's my analog iPad mini.

I write with a 0.7mm Pentel Energel. They've been my favourite for years. To be honest I wish the ink dried a bit quicker, but I am learning patience.

Software

I integrate a couple of iOS apps to extend the hybrid aspect of the notebook. One serves as a digital backup of the log, and the other is used to defer tasks and track projects.

Day One

To digitally back up my analog journal, I take a photo each night of that day's entries and add it to Day One. I tag them with "hybrid" to keep them organized. Sometimes individual log items are copied to their own entry as well if I think they'll need to be recalled later.

One could use Evernote in the same fashion and take advantage of the superior search and OCR ability. If I were to use Evernote, I'd call my main notebook "Journal" and sort it by Date Modified (like a gentleman). I'd archive that notebook at the end of each year by renaming it to "20xx" for the year that just passed and create a new "Journal" notebook to coincide with a new Moleskine.

Omnifocus

Occasionally, journal items aren't carried forward to the next day. Instead they may belong as a next action on a project-specific list, or need to be deferred to future date. These scenarios can both be handled within the confines of the Bullet Journal, but to me they're better handled by Omnifocus. Really, you could use any task app here—I don't think it matters. I use OF because it's familiar and it works the way I think.

Logging

I use the canonical Dash/Plus method to log items throughout the day. Each item as it comes in begins as a "—" and evolves from there depending on what it means to me.

Every night before bed I do a quick review and plan for the next day.

Review

  • Marking any completed action items with a "+"
  • Carrying forward with a "→" any items I'll try to complete the next day
  • Copying any deferred or project tasks to Omnifocus and marking them with a "←" if I don't plan to carry them forward to tomorrow
  • Copying any incomplete date-specific events to my calendar and marking them deferred with a "←"

Plan for tomorrow

  • Check forecast view in Omnifocus for tomorrow, add any events to the journal
  • Add any due or deferred tasks to the journal
  • Select the top three most important tasks for tomorrow so I can start the day without thinking about what I need to do

This gives me a head start for the next day. Then, I just try to repeat the same process again.

Adaptability

The key to both Bullet Journal and Dash/Plus is adaptability. Neither system is rigidly defined, and Pen & Paper are inherently customizable. If you're feeling artistic, you can incorporate Sketch Notes into your workflow. What I've documented here works for me and got me to stick with an analog journal. Take whatever elements you like from these systems and mash them into one that works for you.