For the month of July I intend to do what Cal Newport in his book Digital Minimalism calls a digital declutter. For 31 days I’ll abstain from the use of Facebook, Instagram and the like. I just don’t like how I behave around these engineered endless sources of dopamin hits. These are my rules:

  1. I may check email once a day, using my new favorite,
  2. I may check the Instagram page of Gillio once on Monday evenings, to know if that particular binder I’m waiting for will be released on the Tuesday after, because if I miss it it might be another decade before I get a new chance.
  3. I may check two sources of news once every morning.

Apart from that, no optional technologies.

I plan to put my iPhone in a drawer and only use my Punkt MP01 when I’m out and about. We’ll se if that’s even possible these days.

I’ll try to fill the void with good old-fashioned reading and practicing being bored.

29 Jun 2020

Graphite delight—the return of pencil

After a decade-long love affair with fountain pens I’m returning to the unassuming simplicity of pencil. I used to only keep a Pilot Vanishing Point in the pen loop of my binder. Prompted by the need to change future appointments in my diary, without loitering the paper with ungainly strike-outs, I added a mechanical pencil, a Rotring 600 kept in a second pen loop on the rings themselves. The future would be written in pencil and the past in many-colored ink. Then I switched to a day-a-page diary format, and suddenly I needed every last millimetre of ring space I could find and that second pen loop became a problem. The only sensible thing was to put my mechanical pencil in the pen loop and let the Vanishing Point stay on my desk. While I do prefer the traditional wood encased pencil that becomes duller with use and that periodically makes you take a break to sharpen it, they are a bit unpractical to put in a binder or in a bag.

Pencil does look lifeless and dull, but it solves the problem of erasability like no other. I briefly toyed with the idea of using FriXion pens, but a brief experiment where I blew hot air on a sheet of writing and watched it disappear before my eyes made be scoff and donate them to my daughter. I also tried using colored pencil, but they were waxier than graphite and didn’t come of the page as easily. The invention of the wood encased graphite pencil is at least 500 years old and it has survived for a reason. It’s cheap, it’s resistant to heat, damp and time and it can vanish without a trace when you want it to.

I wonder if there’s a psychological component to using pencil that slightly changes how you write too. The optional impermanence lets your thoughts flow freely and uncensored, tricking your mind into not taking itself too seriously. Pencil is for the quiet thoughts, the shy thoughts, the soft whispers that drowns in the chatter of the colorful. Pencil is for the things that matter.

18 May 2020

Justine’s rotary cellphone#

Justine Haupt built her own cellphone, with a rotary dial and dedicated buttons instead of a general purpose touch screen. I really wish I had the engineering skills to pull something like that off.

Solving the problem of organizing next action lists on paper

For as long as I’ve used my paper-based system for GTD I’ve struggled with how to physically organize my next action lists in my binder. I missed the ease with which I would create contexts as needed in my digital applications, and toss them when I was done with them.

I used to have six tabs for the different sections needed (I believe the official stance is that you should have ten sections for GTD, but Filofax only sold numbered dividers up to six), where I put all action lists in one section. I simply wrote “@home”, “@work” etc. at the top of each page. Sooner or later, this approach always led to me writing stuff on the wrong list and generally meant I had to flip through quite a few pages to get me to the one I needed.

I also tried having a different colored set of numbered tabs just for the next actions lists (a sub-system of tabs if you will), so I could give each context its own tab. This worked as long as I didn’t have more than six contexts and in all created a lot of rigidity.

I now think I have a partial solution to my problems. I’ve added a second A-Z index just for these next actions lists and I simply put pages tagged “@home” under H, “@waiting for” under W and so on. This makes it considerably easier to create ad hoc contexts and adds a much needed feeling of flexibility to the system.

25 Nov 2019

The best guide to shorthand#

Mystery man Christoffer wrote the best guide to Melin’s system that I’ve seen. If you read and write in Swedish and want to learn shorthand I urge you to check it out. Learning this is still on my someday/maybe list (actually I’ve put it on my active projects list a few times but have always put it back away) and now I know where to go.