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Month: September 2015

we are all wrong

We fail, we try and we try again.

We think we might have the right words at the right time but we fail.

We think we have the right answer, but we fail.

Well, we don’t fail that much, but we fail often enough.
Sometimes though we don’t remember that failing is common, we are not perfect, we are a continuous evolution, we constantly learn through trial an error, through successes.

We are often not humble enough to be humble.
Guess what? The world humble doesn’t transform us in humble people.

Being humble means listening and understanding, it means to not have ego.
And so we fail again.

The good news? We can learn, we can wait a second more before talking, we can try to be honest without trying to be false-humble and without being arrogant.
We can show our weaknesses without worry because once we know how to do it it’s a sane thing to do.

PS: yesterday I failed to write..

newspapers and the absence of context

Few days ago I was in a bar and my eyes checked out the newspaper headlines of a local newspaper in the bar.

I started reading a few lines
“Sales date settled, it will be the 6th”
“The city of Anghiari recovers from the heavy rain”
etc etc.

It took me a while to notice that the headlines presented were of december 2010.
The newspaper was celebrating its 30 years in business and it displayed on one page some of the old cover pages of the old times.

Then I realized that newspaper both have and don’t have a context.
They don’t have a context because their context is strictly time related, the work in the absolute present, in the now.
Therefore, if you read the headline
“Sales date settled, it will be the 6th”
You would know which six because you are reading a contextually time-based piece.

But if you take the headline out of the newspaper, you’ll wonder “6th of which month?”
The same can be applied to any headline of newspaper since they are so closely linked to time.

beauty in the little things

Few minutes ago I was walking on the street and saw and Indian father playing outside with his child.

She smiled and laughed.

Right now in Italy there’s a lot of talking about immigration, as it always has been.

Seeing this scene just reminded that we are all human, we are beautiful every time we live in peace and love openly.

It will be hard to build a better world, but it will surely help us remember that the smile of a child unites us all under the same flag.

the daily life in a software product

One of the most needed features of any digital product is to consider the daily life of the user and anticipate his or her questions.

The famous dashboard is often misused, but when it’s correctly done it can make a difference.

Products like Facebook obviously solve this problem from another angle, but the goal of this is to lessen the need of information through the dashboard.

Once everything you really need is there, you’re done.

we all need sleep, yet we don’t think we really need it

It occurred to me today that I was tired, with less enthusiasm.
Although the day was full of work and I was always focused, I was less effective and productive.

Also, I felt a bit sick.
Then I got it why… in the last few days I didn’t slept that much.
I woke up early and went to bed late.

What’s “late” anyway? Going to bed late means whatever lets you sleep less than 8 hours, at least for me.
It might seem like a waste of time, but in fact is one of the best way to spend time because while you sleep you recharge your body and relax your mind.
you remove tension and stress, and you allow your creativity to sparkle.

I’m partly saddened by the fact that we tend to love so much going to bed late.
We feel like we’re younger this way, but in fact we are damaging ourself every time.

I know it’s counterintuitive (why have less time, right?) but the more I choose to sleep more and better, the more I find myself more productive, efficient and focused.

the things we own

how many things do you own?
If you were to fill a backpack with what you own that matters, what would you carry with you?

I ask this question myself a lot, and part of my actual lifestyle revolves around owning less, not because of a zen-principle but both from a performance and usability point of view.

When you choose to reduce the number of things you own, each of them must have higher standards of quality, durability, effectiveness.
They must solve problems, be adaptable, be useful and help you in the daily life.

You can’t buy something because you “like it”, aesthetic is one of the variables of this equation and cannot be considered the most important.

Reducing the things has also an interesting side effect, because it also reduces the number of choice you made.
Obama has a set of identical suits, he wear the same style everyday.
By doing that he removes the cognitive work he needs to choose what he want to wear.
Sounds creepy? Too nerdish? We are still talking about the president of the united states.
What about the creator of Facebook?
Same thing.
Steve jobs?
Same thing.

While I wouldn’t advice going all this way it’s a nice reminder that we spend time deciding what to own and what to take with us every single day.
Many of the things we buy aren’t special, they’re likable, but not special.

Owning less puts you into the perspective of “best”.
You need the best for you.

building something real

Creating a physical product is much more different than creating a digital one.
Involved in the creation there are countless different things.

For a cosmetic, for example, we have to take into consideration the consistency given a specific temperature, how similar to a cream it is, the ingredients, and so on.

Also, you have to create your own beta-test of the product to avoid any production issue.
Beta testing a physical product is helpful to determine if you got something wrong.

But the main joy of creating a product of this kind is the pleasure you have when it’s finished.

our ability to focus is based both on time and tasks

When trying to grow it’s common to think that every action will lead to a good result.
This (I think) is based on the fact that we believe in ourselves and therefore we think we can take it on and succeed.

This is great, in fact it’s a good way to start.
The problem arises when the tasks are too many and you can’t finish even one of them.
Accumulating tasks has a drawback, because any task not only takes up time when you work on it, it takes up mind time when you don’t work on it.

Let’s take these two different examples.

Example 1 – The task you are super-energetic about

So you have found a task you love, it’s great, it’s big, and it’s awesome.
Chances are you’ll think about it every time during your day.
Even when you shouldn’t.

It’s ok to allow our mind be creative, but not when we can’t control it. If we aren’t capable of deciding when to work on that task, well, it’s the task that it’s doing us, not the reverse.

In this case it’s pretty clear how much the tasks takes our mind time, it’s quite easy to spot but it’s hard to let it go because, obviously, you love the task.

The task has somewhat become a personal life-goal, that you must complete both on a professional and human level.

Example 2 – The task you almost forgot

Aside from the thrilling tasks there are the tasks that you almost forgot.
You know, that task that pops up from time to time and lets you think “Oh, I still have to do that

Who hasn’t one of these tasks in his or her mind from time to time?

These are the task you procrastinate over and over, almost endlessly.
You wanted to do it, but you lost the enthusiasm and now they are just a bullet in your todo list.

Maybe once they were those awesome-energetic tasks, but now they are just an obligation you created with yourself.

It might occur you that these tasks doesn’t seem to take up that much mind time, but that isn’t true.
While it is obviously less consuming than the awesome-task before, they still use your mind time and in fact are very dangerous.

First of all they linger.
Like a floating dead body on a lake. You see it only when the flow moves it to you, then you realize it’s always been there.

You don’t think that much, but the way you think about it is de-empowering. It removes energy because you feel frustrated, powerless, stupid.

Also, you always think about them, just not as much as the awesome-task type.
But when you think about them, you usually spend your mind time only to work out another excuse to not do it.

How to get back your mind time again?

Given the very difference from the task type there are 2 issue to solve/implement

  1. Controlled Creativity (you want to use your mind when you decide it)
  2. Useless Task Removal (You want to abandon the task you won’t do).

For the controlled creativity I think only the book “The Art Of Learning” of Josh Waitzkin can really shine some light on the topic.
It’s an enormous topic, but summed in a few lines to control your creativity you need to train (and partly trick) your mind to spark creativity based on some recurring conditions that are under your control.

While you can’t really control creativity, you are able to control the conditions that allow it to sparkle.

The second issue, Useless task removal, is easier to explain and to do.
To achieve it I personally define a maximum number of “rescheduling”, much like “If I procrastinate this thing for 3 times, then I won’t do it”.

Obviously you’ll have to live with the consequences, because if we are talking about professional work you’ll have to explain why you won’t do it, but aside from that it’s a great rule because in case you really want/need to do it, then knowing that you only have 3 shots will eventually lead to you doing it.

That’s pretty much it.

Oh, one small add-on on the awesome-task types.
It’s hard to resist the temptation to think about it, they are shiny and beautiful, aren’t they?
But remember, your ability to focus depends on your attention, if your attention is drawn only from one task then all the others will be less effective, and you will still lose.

Reread this Steve Jobs quote if you’re unsure

Additional Read: the difference between time and attention by Jason Fried