What I read in April 2020

I wish I had read more this month! I think the COVID-19 pandemic has changed my reading habits. I’ve been way too much news articles and updates about. Ugh!

  1. Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, 288p – A fun book about productivity techniques. It has lots of nice ideas on how to focus and achieve goals. One of the main messages is to choose the highlight of the day. It is valuable advice because the highlight can be something as ambitious as “finish that final report” or as simple as “enjoy a cup of tea after work”. It has lots of ideas to experiment with our habits and routines, not all of them will work for everybody. It is a lighthearted book about productivity with no pressure on being highly productive all the time. It’s more about doing what we enjoy 🙂
  1. The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz, 352p – Time travel, feminism, 90’s riot grrl punk rock scene, murder, abortion rights, geology, wormholes. Yes, all this together to form an exciting story of people wanting to make the world a better place. Lots of imagination and interesting historic facts that creates various alternate histories realities. A great read with lots of historical references related to the 1800’s social movements! I had to stop and do some Wikipedia research here and there. Fascinating!

Mind mapping apps and the cloud realization

I’ve been testing mind mapping apps this weekend.

I liked XMind the most. It’s not web-based but I loved the clean and minimalist space and the fact that I can brainstorm using the keyboard 99% of the time, no extra mouse clicking needed. I also tested Mindmeister, which is all on the web but it felt clunkier to add nodes and do everything using the keyboard. I want a mind mapping software to be easier to brainstorm than if I was doing it by hand (or as close as possible).

XMind seems to be the one for me. Super easy, simple, clean interface. But, again, it’s a desktop app, which lately has not been a disadvantage for me.

I have been noticing that I don’t like to use the web for everything. It’s distracting!

  • Note-taking: I like to use Evernote desktop app (I don’t like Evernote Web)
  • To-do List: I like to use NirvanaHQ’s desktop app (which is exactly the same as the web, which is great)
  • Writing: I like to use good old Microsoft Word to write.
  • Calendar: sometimes I prefer to use the Windows native Calendar app to check my Calendar. But since there are limitations on the app, I still have to use Google Calendar on the web (that’s the only exception to my list).

That doesn’t mean I don’t like information being available on the cloud. I love that Onedrive, Evernote, NirvanaHQ and Office 365 offer online access whenever I want. I don’t like it when I don’t have control over the data. I can copy all my files stored on Onedrive to an external hard disk. I can export all my Evernote notes to a file and save it wherever I want as a backup. I can copy and move my .doc files around. I can export all of Nirvana’s data into a file.

I avoid cloud services when they are 100% online. Like Google Docs, for example. I don’t know where my Google docs files are stored. I mean, yes, I know they are in Google’s servers, but I don’t have control over them unless I export it to .doc or .pdf and make a copy somewhere. That’s the only way to truly have those files. Otherwise, they are linked forever to the cloud service. It seems scary to me!

Conclusion:  I decided to stick with XMind to so some mind maps 😊. At least for now. I’ll give a few weeks and see how it goes.

My first Mind Map using XMind

What I read in March 2020

  1. The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley, 369p: A different flavor of time travel in a military sci-fi setting. I liked the way the author doesn’t emphasize gender differences, the characters are people and you can tell their gender when there is mention of a pronoun.
  2. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin, 336p: Really good book about how our brains like organized information. It even mentions the GTD methodology and how it works.
  3. Swordheart by T. Kingfisher, 419p: A fantasy of a fantasy. A man that lives in a sword and protects the wielder of the sword. So it’s kinda like the talking sword fantasy meeting the genie in the bottle. As I said, lots of fantasy! Oh, and romance.
  4. Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne, 206p: Another military sci-fi in a dystopian world from the point of view of an elite super soldier.
  5. Echo Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes by Kent Wayne, 298p: The continuation to Echo Volume 1. This one is like 200 pages of an action sequence non-stop. Very military and action packed.

Home Office

As an introvert, I’m enjoying this “work from home” policy.

It’s an opportunity to use introspection and slow down a bit. Look around. Reflect on where we want to be next as inhabitants of this planet. Focus on taking care of ourselves and our loved. Remembering that we are all in this together.

Stay safe!

My home office setup today

Free time with no Facebook

This week Cal Newport talked about this paper titled “The Welfare Effects of Social Media.” I don’t have access to the paper but research of this type always interests me. The social media site used on the research was Facebook and it’s not surprising to see that:

“Deactivating Facebook freed up 60 minutes per day for the average person in our Treatment group.”

I deactivated my Facebook account last year and I don’t miss it. Not having the urge to open Facebook and get lost in its endless timeline and roller-coaster of “likes” gave me more time and mental space. Time to read more books, time to reflect on what I read, time to meditate, time to do Yoga, time to do… nothing.

After doing this little experiment myself I’m sure social media, as it is available today, really hijacks our minds and changes our behaviours. It creates a weird feedback loop in which we click, click, click, get small amounts of dopamine due to its intermittent novelty and the return of our time investment is not proportional to the effort.

After I stayed away from social media for a while I realized I don’t enjoy snippets of information anymore. And by that I mean: I deactivated Facebook, I drastically reduced the number of accounts I follow on Twitter and I deleted my accounts on Instagram and Pinterest. So even the short science/educational videos on You Tube started to annoy me. I prefer now to watch a full length documentary about a topic instead of watching 4-5 short videos about cool and interesting science facts.

I’m changing the way I consume content. It takes time because all around us everybody is still on this fast-paced mode of paying attention to quick snippets of information. And the way this information is presented to us is addictive. That’s why I’m changing.