Making it all work

Never understate the impact of minor adjustments to your life – they have the remarkable capacity to change you.

While in Nashville I have re-discovered that stress is really awesome when it’s in balance, and really bad when it is not.

I borrowed a copy of David Allen‘s ‘Making It All Work‘ to reacquaint myself with the GTD framework. I have once again found that his models work really well and I’m using a mashup of them to get shit done.

My best advice is to choose the pieces that suit you and use them in the context of the larger model. Don’t read it as a textbook that you need to complete every part at once. 

You will learn to identify the horizon you are feeling unsure about: Is it remember to buy tickets for a gig tonight, or that you want to change jobs, or that you want to get in touch with your purpose of life in the universe? Each has subtly different ways to solve and each is important when you are trying to achieve balance in life.

While written a while ago, the tools are 20% tech/paper and 80% mind, applying to filing cabinets and iPhones at the same time.

Follow the neon

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Since arriving in Tennessee I have discovered three things: Yazoo Pale Ale is awesome, no map is needed because the downtown area is a grid, wear TOMs and they won”t know you are a tourist.

I arrived at BNA airport late last night and after 22 hours in transit I was ready to crash like a rock. I thankfully followed my jet lag tradition: find the coffee and explore.  I dropped my gear off and set out to explore downtown.

I”ll be honest, I wandered no further than 300m to Printer”s Alley, but I found beer and a damn good meal (as well as the 20% tip convention). I later crashed at 10:30 and woke up at 7.

It was better to follow the neon to the people than to crash in the room and fall victim to the jet lag.

Packing for range and agility: the attack pack and the mothership

I have enjoyed decluttering over the winter. Now that I am heading overseas for a while, I want to travel smarter and a little lighter. The idea of the attack pack and mothership was then sketched out.

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The approach: the attack pack and the mothership, ensuring maximum range and agility.

The mothership is the Rimowa Salsa Air. I picked this up in New York last year. At 2.9 kgs it’s super light and a multi wheel, making it awesome for airports and longer travels on foot. It has maximum range, acting as a hub for my belongings on the long haul of the trip. I won’t be packing my entire wardrobe, but I am no digital nomad so a suitcase is necessary. In Nashville and San Francisco it will be great to have access to some fancier threads and when I’m on the move it can be stored in a train station locker or with a friend.

The attack pack is the Crumpler Tondo Outpost, 25 litres with maximum agility. The pack is small enough to carry my day to day working gear: laptop, camera and notebook and expands enough to last me on shorter trips with the essential stuff like clothes, travel items and The Alpine Review.

I will continue to refine as I get ready to fly out Sunday, so if you have any thoughts please share them with me now.

I’m heading to Nashville

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In the past three years I have:

  • Graduated with First Class Honours with a thesis on country music and disruptive technologies
  • Played in the tech space with Deloitte Digital
  • Funded 16 projects with the Melbourne chapter of the Awesome Foundation
  • Explored the edges of health with Centre for the Edge and my mentor Pete Williams
  • Visited Seattle, NYC, Texas, Calgary and Japan

After spending three chilled weeks in Melbourne drinking coffee, coworking and embracing ambiguity, I started to think about what is next.

I have decided to take some time to explore my own edges, this will begin with five weeks in Nashville. With only a few fixed plans, I’m heading to Music City to spend some time in a community driven by pragmatic innovation and solving wicked problems that bring value to the world. It also happens to be the home of country music (double win!). I’ll be catching up with Marcus, hitting the road with Blake and hanging with some of the sharpest minds in the South East tech scene at the newly built Entrepreneur Centre.

If you have any tips, or will be in the South, hit me up. I’m excited to board the public jet and see where the journey takes me. Feeling like one very lucky kid right now.

Decluttering.

I recently stalked Steve Hopkins‘ Twitter profile, part of it reads “Decluttering, because you make what you are.”

Inspired, I set out this winter to declutter, hoping that it would allow me to cultivate a fresh mindset.

After I mediated on the concept of decluttering, I concluded that each option adds complexity to my daily process. The challenge became to get rid of the parts that weren’t essential.

A year ago I stripped my room back to a bed, a Bose Wave Radio and a side table. Last week I added a small desk that I keep clear and a 27” Apple Cinema Screen.

This environment is designed for a specific outcome: a place to sleep, listen to music and pump out wireframes.

My weekly items have been limited to a Montane Entrant Atomic DT Waterproof Jacket, two pairs of Dr Denim jeans, a pair of Vivobarefoot Neo’s, three lamb’s wool jumpers from Incu and four black and white t-shirts from James Perse.

The winter splurge was a Deadwood River’s Edge jacket, handmade from vintage leather and 80’s Levi’s denim. This worked for me when I found out the jacket required only 5kg of C02 emissions, compared to the average 200kg for a leather jacket. As the former owner of three leather jackets, this was an education.

I’ve designed my style to reflect my attachment to simplicity. The benefit is feeling comfortable and equipped for any situation. Some people have called my style hipster, I call it not having to think.

I haven’t nailed it yet, but decluttering has encouraged me to seek a lifestyle free from complexity, designed for context and optimised for outcomes.

Thanks Steve.

Connecting – the future of interaction design and user experience

This 18 minute documentary is an awesome introduction to interaction design and user experience. It explores the future of the interaction design field. What piqued my interest are the thoughts around what will happen in the future when the digital and physical worlds intersect, enabling the connection of colonies that are not simply human based.

Connecting (Full Film) from Bassett & Partners on Vimeo.

Social: Driving the new organisational brain.

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Everything is designed to grow and everything is evolving at a rapid pace, including the way we work.

Social has the ability to transform behaviour. The killer experience of connecting through technology and the networks that have emerged in the last decade is staggering. The real magic for me is seeing the human aspects of technology come alive even more through intuitive and user centred design.

This progression of social is rapidly accelerating in the enterprise social network (ESN) world as products like Yammer and Salesforce Chatter work to sync the social fabrics that we are a part of and adapt them to the work environment.

As we step away from the traditional working model of 1-to-1 and towards 1-to-many, it’s not just about surfacing SMEs and providing a platform for knowledge exchange, it’s about creating a central organisational brain and a unified community.

These ESNs represent the edge: where the organisational brain is smarter and it’s capacity to make an impact goes up. They are nurturing the next organisational brand.

It is vital that we help guide that leap in the organisation, both through the people within it and communities that are a part of it.

This facilitates the evolution for human impact, organisational impact, and community. When people are empowered to use and do things, they are more likely to create this impact.

To grow, it’s about listening to people in the network, supporting and guiding them in the right direction and empowering the organisation to maximise impact.

Generating a mental map of Melbourne

Similar to Manhattan, the Melbourne CBD is a network of streets, a grid. Once you become familiar with your surroundings you can wander around, turn endless corners and still be aware of where you are. And yet, you can still stumble upon a new lane way or discover a whiskey bar on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

The experience of exploring the city with headphones on and being guided by a Google map is familiar to most of us – our destination recommended by Foursquare’s Explore feature or a tip from a friend, the journey of getting there drawn from Google’s multiple layers of data.

The challenge of finding new coffee in the city is a unique one. A write up on Broadsheet drew my attention to Little King Cafe, the map guided me up Flinders Lane and through the arch ways of St Paul’s Cathedral. Now when walking from the Bourke Street end of the city I simply wander in that direction, sometimes diverging from the path, but always ending up at my desired destination.

Mental models generate their own map of the grid, not made up of geological surveys and sensis data but the unique experiences and memories that lay hidden away in our subconscious.

Little King Cafe is now a part of my mental map of Melbourne.

Maps have meaning because they filter out all the chaos in the world. How different would Melbourne be seen through the cognitive views of its inhabitants? Maybe our routes would be different, some landmarks forgotten and others elevated (Starbucks would be omitted).

Of course, the only way to expand our mental data set is to explore.

Cyborg swagger

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How one presents him or her self to the world. Swagger is shown from how the person handles a situation. It can also be shown in the person’s walk.

While I was in New York I met up with a mate from Nashville for the first time. He was confused by my initially reserved demeanour, it didn’t seem to match the public face he had become familiar with on Twitter.

This could be the same for a lot of us. If I’ve never met you before, I may not deliver my typical swagger right up front.

I brought this up with a friend in Melbourne. He made the observation that I “write about big things online.” He was describing the extension of myself online, my cyborg self.

My digital self is less scattered. It’s confident, direct and clear with it’s intention. It’s the best version of my analogue self.

Until recently I was slightly critical of two individuals who present a certain level of arrogance online. They do,  but they also live their truth. They maintain their online selves in the same way they do offline and there is a remarkable honesty in that.

So onward I go, committed to making my digital and analogue self one and the same when I turn off the screen, because ubiquitous swagger is awesome.

 

Washington Square Park.

I just picked an awesome $3 breakfast, a coffee, ice cold bottled water and bagel from a street vendor. It’s 7:35am. With no particular direction in mind, I found myself walking through a quiet SoHo, still deep in slumber. I soon wandered into the beautiful Washington Square Park.

The sun is out, the bench is empty. I can pull out my pocket notebook and take a breath.

I am surrounded by a three hundred and sixty degree ring of greenery and I have every intention of enjoying the warm rays on my skin before the sun takes full effect.

The young woman to my left appears to be my carbon copy: bottled water, a black pair of TOMS shoes with bare feet resting on the ground and notebook in hand.

As I focus my attention away from my bench counterpart, I notice that the flowing water from the fountain that sits within the centre of the park is serving as the soundtrack for every person in the park but me.

The Civil Wars have now been removed from my ears, I bid farewell to their sweet Alabama harmonies.

Removing the audio barrier between myself and the park creates a different kind of awareness.

I have opened my ears to the song of water, a light breeze and yoga classes on the grass just a few meters away. This makes me appreciate that this beautiful morning is not my unique experience.

Observing the people that that have chosen to spend their morning here is a beautiful privilege. It is another moment driven by serendipity and sweet luck.

Today the comfort of my iPhone is turned off. It’s so easy to hesitate and plan, but where is the fun in that? How else would I have ended up here?

I would not have spent a day simply drifting through Williamsburg, surveying the incredible street art. I would not have met Rob, the freelance Android developer who acted as my walking spirit guide through the Brooklyn startup spaces.

After feeling completely present in this moment and armed with just a pen, notebook, cash, credit and ID, I feel ready to explore again.

A stream of consciousness from @bluebottlenyc

My favourite thing to do is pull out my Macbook Air in a cafe and let words flow through. As powerful as caffeine, the experience feels natural and cathartic.

I”m a little over halfway through my US adventure which thus far has led me to Seattle, WA where I spent time with the US Deloitte Digital crew and inhaled my body weight in caffeine, Seaside Heights, New Jersey and New York City.

After what feels like a fleeting five days in New York, I now find myself sitting at a table at Bluebottle Coffee in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

It could be the Fleetwood Mac playing softly in the background, the comfort of awesome coffee or the dry humour of the barista standing behind the bright red La Marzocco espresso machine, but this is the first time that I have written since arriving in the country nine days ago.

It”s quiet here. There is a tinge of sunlight making it”s way through the open shop front, just enough to provision the large space with a subtle radiance. People walk in and out but no real crowd forms. Bluebottle is situated on Berry Street, a stone”s throw away from the main strip and crowded wifi cafes of Bedford Avenue. The word I use to describe this place is “chiller”.

After hustling through Chinatown, knocking back scotches in TriBeCa and shopping on Broadway, this is a rare moment of perfection.

A communal table, a fedora, a $3.75 coffee and the sense that nobody gives a fuck.

I now realise that I have just under two more weeks to explore the city, to become a little more familiar with it”s anatomy and to understand the allure of the constantly beating heart of New York.

It had to be the fedora.

Finding flow in an analogue moment.

It’s cold, wet and grey in Melbourne. When you drive just an hour out of the city and journey through the winding roads, there is a small coastal town with a bakery, a general store and a recently renovated hotel with a uniquely Australian bill of fare.

As soon as I step foot out of the car I reach my flow state – this is either life’s greatest moment or its most common experience.

My week in the city interfaces with a weekend of back roads, highways, beaches and wineries that serve as a backdrop to this town.

Temporarily free from the internet and concrete with just a mobile command centre, I find myself present in a prolonged moment of ease. I wander the town, breathe in the fresh air, inhale the coffee and amongst the quiet.

This is the benefit of a customised life of technology enabled connectedness. Being connected to the grid is how I choose to live most of the time, but having the freedom to rest hard means returning to the city restored and alive, ready explore the edge.

It”s all connected. These analogue moments are crucial to maintaining a truly present mind in my networked life.

You don’t care, you just scribble stuff.

Jon Chambers is the Creative Director at Deloitte Digital, Seattle, WA.

He showed me his sketchbook at dinner last night. I asked him to tell me about this drawing.

“Really early on when I was in school I learned that if you draw with a ballpoint pen you don’t think about “Can I erase this?” You just draw. You don’t care, you just scribble stuff. I started that drawing just scribbling stuff and then it turned into that. I think that’s important, just getting outside your mind and “Oh my God, can I erase that?”…just draw it. Perfection, it’s overrated”