Archive for the ‘Thawts’ Category

Newspapers: A bridge on fire

Brilliant, compelling blog piece on the newspaper business (my business) from a lontime editor: the bridge is on fire, indeed.


Wash Up and Have a Stroke of Genius

Of all the techniques for opening your mind for thinking, Nate Weiner’s has to be the most unusual. He suggests taking long showers and spending that time to ponder the ideas and self-reflections that are suppressed in other environments.

“I take long showers,” Weiner writes on his Idea Shower blog, a name obviously inspired by his unique thinking habits. “If I go long periods of time without answering the phone, my girlfriend does not worry about me being dead, or kidnapped, she’

ll just assume I’m in the shower. I take long showers because it gives me time for my mind to run.”

While I wouldn’t necessarily suggest you spend an hour in the tub, I certainly agree that the bathroom possesses many of the necessities for a good thinking environment. It’s distraction-free–you won’t normally find a telephone or a TV in the lavatory. It’s the one place in your home where you can go and be assured no one else will barge in on you in the middle of your thought process.

Some more conventional ways for harvesting ideas is to lock your bedroom door and sit at a comfortable chair (or even on the floor) and run through ideas in your head. I find the outdoors–under a tree or in the grass–to be a good place for inspiration.

But most of my ideas seem to come at night, so if you’re like me, keep a notebook handy for those random lightning strikes of ideas. As for Weiner’s suggestion, I think the comment on his post says it best: “Stop wasting water.”

Surviving Modern Parenthood

Productivity guru Merlin Mann has just become a daddy. And as one might aspect, it has completely changed his life. One particular adaption he mentioned on his blog, 43 Folders, is that he now carries around a notebook to jot down things throughout the day. I’ve gone over the benefits of the notebook secretary, and have even offered tips for those with the high-tech alternatives.

On the subject of children, the new Mac operating system, Leopard, is making its way into homes. One great new feature for parents is parental controls. The controls are incredibly expansive, including the ability to block sets or specific web sites in Safari, stop kids from using certain applications or even setting bed times. Parents with little Mac users should look into the new controls offered in Leopard.

Organize Your Thoughts: iPhone

I posted some tips a couple weeks ago on why you should write down your thoughts in a notebook and on how to keep it all organized. So for everyone who bought a notebook and started writing, keep at it! If you’d prefer a more high-tech alternative, this one’s for you.

While a PC is fine for jotting down some streams of consciousness, it’s not all that portable because it can’t be kept in your pocket. However, an iPhone can.

(Yes, I realize I’ve been talking a lot about the iPhone the past couple months — and I don’t even own one — but this is related to any PDA, smart phone or even most cell phones — although it really sucks typing on the latter.)

Create separate notes on the device for categories like “ideas” and “thoughts.” Then whenever something comes to mind, no matter where you are, just pull out your cell phone and jot it down. I’ll often type in my cell phone if I think of something I want to remember when I’m out. It’s a lot less geeky than pulling a loose-leaf notebook and pen out of my pocket.

For iPod touch owners, you can keep your notes as separate contacts. Just create separate contacts for the categories we talked about earlier, and then in the notes field you can enter whatever is on your mind. It’s a decent substitute for Apple Inc.’s annoying choice not to include the iPhone’s notes application. The beauty of using the contacts area is that, unlike the iPhone’s notes app, the contacts will sync to your Mac Address Book.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

So we’ve discussed how having a calming daily routine can help clear your thoughts. Probably just as important as regularity is fitness. Without regular exercise you’re putting your heart and not to mention your appearance at risk. What’s worse is that your mind requires that physical activity to stay alert and focused.

Get enough sleep. “Enough” is relative to the person. Some people need eight or nine hours of sleep; some can get by on five or six. I’m right in between — normally feeling rested after between seven and eight hours. But sleep is probably the most important of this list that people often ignore.

If, for whatever reason, you can’t budget the amount of sleep you need to feel regular, sleep experts say that napping can be a helpful supplement, according to

Start the morning with something physical. If you have trouble waking up (and staying up) doing some type of exercise every morning can be a good catalyst to get you going. I do a set of pushups every morning, and later in the day — a few times a week — I run a couple miles.

Be well fed. The saying “food for thought” is a good indication of how important eating is to the brain. Without having regular meals, your mind simply cannot function up to its potential. Having healthy meals that hit on the major food groups should be a daily goal.

Meditation. I personally have never had any training or personal experience with meditation, but I’ve heard really good things about what will it do for both, body and mind. From what I understand, it relaxes them simultaneously and can allow you to free your thoughts.

Think in the Dark

Now that you have your idea notebook and started organizing it with tags, the only thing left is to write in it regularly. Often times I find that thoughts seem to come moments before I fall asleep. I wouldn’t want to get out of my bed, turn on the light, find the notebook and a pen so that I can jot down a quick thought.

Instead I store the notebook and a pen within reach of my bed — on a night stand or on the floor beside it — along with a keychain flashlight. This way if an idea comes to me in the middle of the night I can reach over and jot down whatever is on my mind in just a few seconds.

Tag Your Moleskine Pages

So now that you have your notebook and hopefully started jotting down some thoughts, you should have a few good pages of your streams of consciousness. Keep this up for a few months, and you should have 30 or 40 pages filled with writing, which should start to appear fairly unmanageable. What’s the point of writing all this stuff down if you’ll never be able to wade through it to find the good stuff?

Let’s take a tip from Web 2.0 and tag the pages of the notebook. Write a couple keywords about the contents of the page at the top right of each one. I have a tag for work-related stuff (along with the project names), one for “ideas” and one for “thoughts.” With the addition of tags, the Moleskine becomes a pretty good place to organize your life and mind.

The Boston Globe did a story last year about the “back to paper movement,” where PDA users were quickly moving toward living their lives by a notebook and pen. But the traditional paper tablet is not the only way to go, so I’ll break down some of the high-tech options later this week.

Moleskine Notebooks for Organizing Your Brain

As part of a new series of posts (tag: Thawts) I’ll walkthrough some tips for organizing your thoughts. Very often the best ideas are drawn from day-to-day life. But the problem is that those thoughts come just as quickly as they go. Very rarely do we find the time or incentive to write them down.

In reality jotting those ideas down is the biggest obstacle. I’ve found the best way to organize my ideas is with a pocket sized notebook. I use a Moleskine notebook for work-related notes and for dumping miscellaneous thoughts into. Any notebook will work, but I love the Moleskines for a number of reasons.

It’s small. The pocket notebooks are the ideal size. They fit comfortably in the pockets of my jeans and have plenty of pages to last me months.

Unlined. I have very neat handwriting and an inherited artistic hand, so the lack of lined pages might not be ideal for everyone. (Don’t worry. Moleskine offers both lined and unlined versions.) But I find the blank slate pages are ideal for spilling your brain onto the page. So I can throw a ton of writing down, and then if I need to do a sketch to get a thought across, I can easily do so without worrying about lines obscuring the drawing.

Folder. Moleskines have a little folder in the back that can store business cards, leaflets or whatever you need to hang onto. In essence, these notebooks could organize your entire life. In addition to the folder at the end, Moleskines also have the trademark bookmark (think: Bible fabric bookmark) and a clever little attachment that keeps the book shut even if you have a ton of leaflets in the folder.

Despite how much use I get out of my notebook, I don’t come close to the cult of Moleskine lovers, like Armand Frasco, an artist who runs the Moleskinerie blog.

Be sure to pickup a notebook and start jotting your thoughts down. And stop back tomorrow for a tutorial on keeping your notebook organized.

Apply Google’s ‘20% Time’ to Your Own Life

Google Inc. has long offered its coders a very compelling proposition: for one-fifth of the time they’re at work, they can do just about whatever they want.

That’s not exactly true, but that’s the basic idea behind “20 percent time” for employees. It means coders can devote a few hours each day to a personal project, pending approval by administrators.

Such “personal projects” that have resulted from the program are Gmail, Google News, Adsense and Google Reader.

The concept is so successful because it gives some of the smartest technological minds the freedom to pursue those ambitious projects that never would have gotten done if someone wasn’t paying them for the time they were working on it.

Not every employer will pay a handsome salary for doing whatever you want on company time, but these personal ambitions are important for maintaining a happy, healthy lifestyle. Ambition is one of the most important ingredients for self-satisfaction.

So try to set aside about 20 percent of your time away from work — the time spent watching TV or surfing the Web — for your own project. If you have wanted to build a birdhouse, start a blog or write a book, but you’ve been putting it off, stop reading this and start working on it!

And of course, once you finish with that, start something else. Try not to keep doing the same thing over and over again.

Really Desperate for an Idea? Turn to the Generator

Idea blocked?

If you’re really in need of something to get the brain working, check out the Idea Generator.

The web application, a Directors Bureau project, chooses three words randomly from a pool of possible choices.

The first idea I got when I opened the page was “words together onscreen.” Not really a groundbreaking concept, but the thing is fun to play with nonetheless.