Nike’s Just Do It slogan is beyond cliché but I really like that notion. Just doing something implies that it’s simpler than you think. You can stop thinking about it and just do the thing!

I know plenty of people who get stuck and can’t start. I’ve been known to get bogged down myself. It’s an awful place and I’ve been there. Here is a little technique to quell any fear and just begin.

There is something splendid about the process of just starting. No matter how awful it feels or how bad your project is, the process of starting sets things in motion. The act of starting forces your brain into a new state. Your brain transitions into the how can “I make this better” mode instead of the counterproductive anxiety based thinking that can prevent anything from even happening.

When did we become conditioned into being passive consumers? When did we accept that all we can do is buy things and be passive? Stop that and just start.

Been thinking about a new hobby, a new business, a new project? Just freaking start.

Keep this in mind when starting: NOBODY CARES. Nobody cares about your widget or your new project as much as you do. Nobody gives a rats ass about anything. Or rather, that’s a tool to keep in mind to quell the those negative thoughts in your mind that will prevent you from creating or doing.

We tend to overestimate other people’s interest in our stuff. Consider vacation photos. Nobody cares about your vacation photos as much as you do and yet we put on elaborate slideshows thinking people will actually care. To a certain extent they do care, just not as much as you think they do.

Nobody is going to judge you or think badly of you or your creation. If they do let them! They can judge you all they want it doesn’t change the fact that you’ve created something. Also if they’ve never created anything why should you care what they think anyway? If they have created anything they’ll know what that’s all about and probably be super supportive of you.

The point is, don’t get caught up in the minutia of over-thinking and just begin. Begin now.

In Other News:

You can now get updates from this site via email.

Also, our van is for sale. If you’re looking for an awesome van in Australia or know someone who is check this out.

Hard Choices Are Easy Choices In Disguise

When faced with a personal decision choose the more difficult option because it will actually be easier in the long run. It’s like personal finance. Spending money now is easy but it’s not good for your long term savings. Saving money now is always the more difficult option and yet it is far better in the long run.

For example:

Decision: Should I smoke that crack?! No!
Result: You won’t become a drug addict and you’ll save money on buying crack. (isn’t crack cheap though? hmph)

Decision: Should I wake up earlier and gor for a run before work? Yes.
Result: You’ll be happier and healthier in the long run.

Decision: Should I work instead of playing Angry Birds? Yes.
Result: You’ll accomplish more and spend your time doing things that matter.

I think you get the idea.

It’s pretty easy to get overun by the “shoulds”. I should be doing this or I should be doing that. Don’t let that kind of thinking take over. Be gentle with yourself and if you really want to just sit around watching movies than do that.

Just don’t make a habit of making the easiest choice all the time. The choices you make now become the habits you form and those habits will impact the rest of your life.

A side effect of this line of thinking is that you’ll appreciate the down time, or non productive, or just plain fun stuff more. A ‘treat’ isn’t a treat if you do it all the time. You wouldn’t eat a tub of ice cream every day? So why would you watch 2 hours of TV or movies every night?

Also, I’m really enjoying writing these posts these days. I hope you’re finding them useful. Also, I’ve fixed up this site a bit but you won’t see it if you’re viewing via RSS. I’ve updated my photography portfolio and disabled comments on this site. I feel the comments just aren’t adding any value and they’re just another inbox for me.

The Flow State

You Know The Feeling
Your head is down, you’re cranking out whatever you’re working on and all of a sudden time disappears and nothing else matters. Everything else is muted and you are just destroying! Well, er, in a good way of course. Everyone has this feeling of getting into the zone or being in a state of flow from time to time. I’ve started to ‘hack’ this artificially get myself into this headspace at will. Here’s how I do it.

I’ve noticed that I almost always have some type of drink on the go. And no, I’m not talking alcohol. I gave up that poison years ago. I’m talking about the best espresso you’ve ever tasted at a cafe in Athens. Or the incredible organic coffee from Arbutus Coffee in Vancouver. Whenever I get into this flow state or into this zone there is always a drink involved. I suppose the caffeine induces some type of biochemical or neurological response which makes my feel like I’m in the zone… It could also be that I’m least productive when I don’t have a drink going.

Music or Silence
If there is not complete silence at the ass crack of dawn then I need to have music. Usually ambient or lyric free music is best. For example this week’s Friday Mixtape by Tor is exactly the type of flow inducing music that I love.

Very Early Mornings
I’m talking 4:30 or 5:00AM. When I get a restful sleep I can rock up at this time of day and immediately start cranking it out. For many people, like my most awesome brother, the late night is a better flow time. He and I once tried to work together and this caused huge issues! He works best at night, I work best in the morning. You can’t just start waking up this early on a whim. It takes quite a while to get used to the sheer ridiculosity of this time of day. The best part about this time of day is you can take your dog for a walk and there is near silence. Take your dog to the local cafe and crank out some work before the rest of your timezone is even awake.

The best combination is this: some fantastic early morning exercise, a great coffee type drink, and silence or ambient music. If you’re a runner you can parlay your well documented ‘runners high‘ into your flow state. If you can combine all of them in the right order you’ll be a productivity master. Your inbox will be zeroed and you’ll get your most important tasks done before your friends or colleagues are even awake. They’ll wonder how you make it look so easy. It appears as though most high performance people (yeah I just said that, pfft!?) do this.

If you really have trouble finding your flow state use one of the time tracking tools to monitor your productivity. Then take note of your environment. Act accordingly.

Counterintuitive: Internet, Less Is More

Contrary to what common sense would suggest, having less connectivity will actually increase your productivity. If your internet access is intermittent and you’re genuinely offline, you’ll get more crap accomplished.

I’ve written 40 000+ words, shot 30 000+ photos, bought and sold several websites+domains+photographs, and run a successful photography school. All of this was with very limited connectivity while traveling through 20+ countries this past year. I’ve gotten more done in less time and I’m happier for it.

When you do have “online” time you have be highly focused on what you need to get done. As a result, you get it all done. Think reverse Parkinson’s Law which states:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Online time should be a treat, like ice cream. If you have 24/7 high speed internet getting distracted into useless minutiae is easy. The web is a hyperactive distraction machine. There is something incredibly awesome and simultaneously useless that comes out every single day. If you want to be more effective give yourself more offline time.

Spend your time having fun and building sand castles, not Facebooking your friends to death. Speaking of ways to be more effective, read this article about email.

Shutter Count

What is the shutter count?

The shutter count on your DSLR is like the odometer on your car. It refers to the number of pictures your camera has taken in total. The number (often referred to as shutter actuations or cycles) is a good indicator of how much life your DSLR has left. If you’re buying a used DSLR you’ll want to know this and vice versa if you’re selling one. Professional DSLRs have a much higher life expectancy than consumer level cameras…

I have an old Canon Rebel XT given to me by my brother. This one:

What makes it special is that it has been taking a photo every thirty seconds for almost a year running my Vancouver Webcam. That’s about 2880 photos per day or 1 051 200 photos per year! Before that the camera had traveled to 30+ countries and taken at least 50 000 photos. According to the internet this model of camera doesn’t keep a running shutter count. I don’t know exactly how many photos it has taken but it’s at least one million images. That’s like having a car with a million miles on it or something?! This is a testament to good design and engineering by Canon given then camera is only rated for ~50k-100k images. It’s like the Mars rover, it refuses to die.

What shutter count can I expect from my camera?

This website has a nice little crowsourced dataset on real life shutter counts and failures:

The Nikon D300:
(camera I’m selling)

The ol Rebel XT that refuses to die:

How can I check the shutter count for my Nikon DSLR?

The simplest way I’ve found to check on a Mac is to use the Preview application. Open the most recent image you’ve taken with your camera in Preview. Click on the Tools menu then click show inspector.

Then click the i button, then click Nikon button, then you should see a ‘shuttercount’ number:

Your mileage may vary, I’m not sure this works on all Nikon DLSRs…

[photo by opaco]

How To Find An Apartment Like a Geek

How To Find An Awesome Apartment

We currently live in an amazing apartment here in Vancouver. It’s probably one of the best in our neighborhood (not the one above) at a very reasonable price. People are shocked when I tell them how cheap it is to rent.

Here is a small part of our view from our vancouver webcam
Vancouver Webcam

It wasn’t luck that got us this place, it was our super geekyness… To find this place we used combination of craigslist, rss, feedburner and gmail.

How to find an apartment using RSS and email:

  1. Go to the city you want to live in on craigslist
  2. Find the apartment section
  3. Add your search criteria
  4. Grab the rss feed for that page
  5. Now pipe that feed into Feedburner
  6. Activate email subscriptions on that feed
  7. Subscribe to the feed via email
  8. Confirm subscription

Now you’ll receive a daily email of apartments that match your criteria only. Just set it and forget it. You’ll automatically get results in your inbox. It took us three months of going through these emails every day to find out current place. Of course we weren’t in a rush to move out either.

How to find an apartment using Twitter:

  1. Go to your the city you want to find on craigslist
  2. Find the apartment section
  3. Add your search criteria
  4. Grab the rss feed for that page
  5. Create a new twitter account
  6. Now pipe that feed into twitterfeed using the new twitter account
  7. Follow that new account with your old account

Good luck apartment hunting!!

[Photo by Proimos]

iPhone Tether

old school motorola

In 1993 I was thirteen years old. I was in a boarding school with no internet connectivity. There we’re no network connections in the dorm rooms. After reading about this new thing called the World Wide Web I really wanted to get online. I was rockin a Dell Pentium 120 with whopping 16MB of ram and 4GB of storage! She was a fast machine for her the time.

In order to connect I used an analog Motorola mobile phone tethered to an analog/digital converter box the size of a brick. I would then log into an ISP by dialing in using the phone. The connection was obviously extremely slow and flaky but I was tethering in 1993. That pretty much makes me a giant freakin nerd.

Fast forward to today….

iphone 3g

I now connect from wherever I want. I tether my mobile phone to my laptop using a wireless bluetooth connection and the 3g cellular network. My cell phone alone has more memory and processing power than my entire desktop computer in 1993. I can be working from anywhere that has cell phone connectivity. In fact I’m writing this from a cafe that doesn’t even have Wifi…

I suppose this is an example of Moore’s Law and Gilder’s Law working together hand in hand?

Here are some instructions on how to tether your iPhone 3g or 3gs:

How to use your iPhone as a modem:

  1. In Settings, choose General > Network > Internet Tethering.
  2. Slide the Internet Tethering switch to On.
  3. Connect iPhone to your computer:

Connect via USB: Connect your computer to iPhone using the Dock Connector to USB cable. In your computer’s Network services settings, choose iPhone. On a Mac, a pop-up window appears the first time you connect, saying “A new network interface has been detected.” Click Network Preferences, configure the network settings for iPhone, then click Apply. On a PC, use the Network Control Panel to select and configure the iPhone connection.
Connect via Bluetooth: On iPhone, choose Settings > General > Bluetooth and turn on Bluetooth. Then refer to the documentation that came with your computer system software to pair and connect iPhone with your computer.
When you are connected, a blue band appears at the top of the screen. Tethering remains on when you connect with USB, even when you aren’t actively using the Internet connection.

Check your cellular data network usage:
In Settings, choose General > Usage.

[iPhone how tos]

Auto Forward Gmail Photo Attachments to Flickr

As you probably already know I use Flickr to manage and archive all of my images. I usually get at least one email forward from friends or family with photos in it. Instead of downloading these attachments and re-uploading them to Flickr I’ve set up a filter in Gmail to auto forward all image attachments to my upload by email flickr address. Of course I set them all to private by default.

Now whenever someone sends me photos they get saved (privately) in my Flickr. Keep in mind the Flickr upload by email feature can be flaky and isn’t designed for huge files or large numbers of files. I also do the same thing for documents and spreadsheets except I use Google Docs instead of Flickr.