Seeing Beauty in Basic To-Do Lists
25 March 2023 | 11:00 pm

I like making lists. A lot of people do. And this is reflected in the abundance of to-do apps available today. There's a silly amount of them. Designed to augment and organise our lives, they end up being far more complex and clunky than they need to be. The rise of the overwhelming to-do app (web and native) has probably driven a bunch of people back to pen and paper and I don't blame them. It's basic. It's boring. But it works. But it's also pretty wasteful. Especially if you're writing daily tasks. I prefer digital, but I don't need filters, labels, colour coding, theming, reminders, calendars, timers, prioritisation, or integrations. I just want a simple and accessible task list in a clean environment that's easy to use. Remember, this is just for my essential needs. I can totally appreciate that others might need some advanced features.

I've used quite a few different to-do apps to organise personal and work tasks. Some of them worked well but would have an ugly UI, some would be over-engineered resulting in a compromised UX, and others would find the right balance of form and function, but weren't particularly well supported or maintained. So recently I've been experimenting with some options after discussing the topic with Manu. Looking into apps that are not specifically engineered to manage task lists. And I might just have found a tool that works well for me: iA Writer.

If you're not familiar with iA Writer, it's a focused text editor with a simple interface that uses a formatting language called Markdown. It has evolved incredibly well over the years and in my opinion, offers a wonderful and unmatched user experience. From the typewriter-like environment, to the minimal and uncluttered UI design, to the clarity of the typography. I use it to write personal blog posts, feature articles, web copy, business plans, invoices, random notes, and now... to-do lists. I don't need another tool. This one works beautifully albeit a little imperfectly, but I'm fine with that.

My approach is like this:

  • I only use the Mac version of iA Writer.
  • I have the app always open.
  • I have just one file titled to-do.txt.
  • The app is always set to full screen so I can tab or 3-finger drag to view it whenever I want.
  • I have a subheading called Today for my daily tasks.
  • Under that, I'll create a simple task list, which in editor mode, I can mark as complete as I move through my tasks.
  • If need be, I'll create more subheadings related to other topics. These are typically geared towards unscheduled tasks that I'll eventually get to.
  • At the end of the day, I wipe my task list and start a new one using the same file the next day.
  • Rinse, repeat.
Task list in iA Writer Pro

As I said, this is still experimental. Give it a try too if you want to change things up. But if not, here's several alternative apps that might take your fancy:

Reflecting on Minimalissimo
16 March 2023 | 11:00 pm

I was recently asked what my values are in life. It's a very tough question to answer without throwing out one word answers off the top of your head. And that's pretty meaningless unless you're prepared to elaborate on that word and what it means in relation to your life and experience. And one word that comes to mind when I consider my values is perseverance. It's something that I've come to know quite well in recent years. Ever since I took ownership of and began rock climbing, my attitude towards patience and perseverance has been pretty unrelenting. Don't get me wrong though, I'm very often left frustrated as hell too, but that's life. I can't control every outcome but I can keep trying, training, tweaking, experimenting, re-evaluating, and recalibrating.

Reflecting on Minimalissimo specifically, day in, day out I've researched, curated, collaborated, and created. I've trialled a lot of different things with the brand over the years. Some worked, most didn't. But I always learned something in the process. It's a passion project, but how long can a passion last? And if I'm persevering with this project, then I must ask, to what end?

Perseverance: persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

What is success? To generate enough income to support my lifestyle as a sole project? The means to simply curate for the love of good design? To give back to the design community? To create a never-ending minimalist gallery as some kind of obscure digital art installation? At this point, I don't actually know. But what I have acknowledged upon reflection is that our level of curation for minimal design is incredible. Not just in terms of consistency, but continual improvement. Minimalissimo has never looked so good as a digital gallery. And nothing even comes close to its level of curation on the web within this niche space. Call it positive affirmation, call it pride, call it confidence, or shit, even call it arrogance. The site is fucking gorgeous. So whether or not it makes me any money or not, this little pillar of the design community is still standing strong, carving out pockets of progress here and there to keep my love for this project as pure as a Japanese dental office.

On Being a Slow Thinker
16 January 2023 | 11:00 pm

For a long time I considered myself a slow thinker. Meaning, I felt I wasn't particularly good at thinking on the spot and articulating what I wanted to express. Probably one of the reasons why I never do podcasts and why job interviews are met with such trepidation. But I recently came across Derek Sivers' post on this very topic and I found it so relatable. He explains:

When someone asks me a deep question, I say, “Hmm. I don’t know.” The next day, I have an answer. I’m a disappointing person to try to debate or attack. I just have nothing to say in the moment, except maybe, “Good point.” Then a few days later, after thinking about it a lot, I have a response.

I'm far more confident in expressing thoughts in text form, but even then, it's rarely an immediate back and forth conversation. I might need several minutes to formulate a response. That's not really applicable in person. You can't exactly sit and stare at someone blankly for 60 seconds while the cogs are turning to gather your thoughts. Live conversations don't work that way. There's no pause button to go and double check a reference to avoid a fuck up. We never like sounding stupid or misinformed. And you can't prepare for every conversation you have.

People say that your first reaction is the most honest, but I disagree. Your first reaction is usually outdated. Either it’s an answer you came up with long ago and now use instead of thinking, or it’s a knee-jerk emotional response to something in your past.

How slowly or quickly you think is not an accurate measurement of your intelligence. Slow thinking is, as Derek mentions, more deliberate and less emotional. Yet, with this in mind, I do sometimes fall into the trap of verbosely answering a question that I later regret, when I should have simply pushed it to one side until I was ready.

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