On the Past 30 Days

Today is day 30, the last day of my 30 day challenge to show up and post something here every day.

How was it? You may ask. Well, that’s what this post is about.

I’ve been keeping track of a lot of numbers this past month that paint an interesting picture of my undertaking. Here I’ll be sharing them in tables and graphs together with my subjective take on the experience.

30 Days in numbers

First for some total numbers:

  • Words written: 14,330
  • Hours Worked: 69,1
  • Hours Writing: 37
  • Total “Likes”: 79 (only of 30 Day Posts)
  • Total Page views: 471 (only of 30 Day Posts)
  • Average words written/minute: 6.45
  • Average hours slept/day: 6,7

Time has to come from somewhere

So I spent an average of just over 2 hours a day on this project. It defintily felt like more. That’s because I feel the extremes of a 4-5 hour day and forget the quick post that’s up in 45 min. 2 hours isn’t hard on one day, but try carving that time out every day for a month. The time has to come from somewhere.

I used to read a book about 20-40 minutes every evening. The past month I read for 10 minutes and that only a handful of times. On a normal weekday I’ll get between 7-7.5 hours of sleep and 8-8.5 on a weekend. On average I slept 30 min less this past month. Again, it definitely felt like more. I feel the extremes. But even then, the sleep deficit did add up:

Besides the sleep and reading, the time came from work at my day job and cleaning up my apartment. I am glad to have a job where I can come and go as I wish, provided the work is done. The past month I worked half an hour less on most days, only making up the deficit on several business trips. I have no exact numbers for the time spent cleaning up, but know everything got messier as time went on.

It goes without saying that this isn’t sustainable.

Productivity in Numbers

The following is a graph of the work that went into each post, divided into writing, creating, and publishing.

The three tasks can be summarised in this pie chart:

In total, I spent just over half the time at the keyboard and about 30% creating content (other than writing). Spending 15% of the time publishing is very high. That’s equal to 10.5 hours, or about 20 minutes a day. This is where a good workflow and publishing system can go a long way. Optimising my publishing is definitely something I’m going to look into.

Another observation: there are four posts that took over 300 minutes to complete. However those minutes were spent quite differently in the latter two. The longest time spent writing was for the post On Discipline Equals Freedom. I remember that well. I had to postpone it a day as I wasn’t done with it.

All my writing benefits from “sitting” a while, I’ve found. This means the quality is much better if I write 30 minutes in the morning and 30 in the evening, than if I write 60 minutes in one sitting.

Feedback

The feedback I’ve received has been great. The feedback buttons work well and are being used more than I would have thought. Thanks for that.

Here’s a bar chart adding three different feedback sources for each post:

It looks like it was worth spending that extra day on the freedom post. It has received the most postivie feedback to date. Besides that it is also noticeable that every post with no positive feedback is a YouTube recommendation. I guess I’ll be doing less of those in the future.

Looking at Groups

To get a better picture of what these numbers mean, it helps to group the posts. This helps me draw conclusions about what resonates.

I’ve split the posts into the following groups:

Here’s the percentage for the number of each kind of post I did:

The total time spent per group is surprisingly even:

It shows here that recommendations are the easiest of posts. I only spent 8% of the total time on 20% of the total posts. However, they also got the lowest amount of positive feedback with 6%:

Thoughts posts and cool tools fare much better. I wouldn’t judge the projects too harshly, as it was only the one post and quite recent. Besides that, the feedback I received for the podcast was the best of all. That is something this chart does not account for.

Quality over Quantity

An interesting yet unsurprising observation that came out of my analysis is that there is a greater appreciation for the posts I spend more time on. Both the like and page view count rise with the time spent on the post (I don’t trust that blip down in view counts at >240 as the likes go the other way).

Conclusion

Was it worth it?

Without a doubt. I’m sure I worked a good hour more a day than I otherwise would have and it’s exciting to get so much done. I accomplished more in 30 days than in the past 6 months.

What now

First, I’m taking the next week off. I just need this break.

But then I’m interested in keeping this up – not daily though. I can imagine doing two posts a week. This will still be challenging, but by committing to it I will be a lot more motivated. I’ve noticed how that helps.

I’ve also realised the power of doing something daily and gathering momentum in getting stuff done. After my break I will try to find something I can do daily that takes about 10-15 minutes. This will most probably be something to help me practice design.

The current thought is to find a different 10 minute exercise every month, which I do daily till the next month. This will be something I post everyday, but probably only on social media . It’ll be an experiment at first and I haven’t figured out the details yet.

I’ll keep you posted though. Thanks for reading.

Ortlieb Panniers – Cool Tool

Ortlieb have made what may be the perfect bags for cycling.

An Ortlieb classic pannier attached to a bike An Ortlieb classic pannier attached to a bike

A pannier is a bag that hooks onto the rack of your bicycle so you can ride backpack-free (or just take more stuff).

What’s special about Ortlieb panniers is that they are nigh indestructible and have a clever latch mechanism. The latches hook around the top bar on the rack of your bike but release on lifting the pannier. Check out this YouTube review for more details.

The latch mechanism on an Ortlieb pannier The latch mechanism on an Ortlieb pannier

The panniers are made from tough canvas and are completely waterproof (if closed right).

I took two on my trip to the UK last year, when I cycled form Edinburgh to London. Now I use them everyday going to work. Besides that I take them shopping, as they are a great way to transport heavy items for someone who doesn’t have a car.

You know how you can usually tell how serious a hiker or cyclist is by their gear. Well in Germany all serious cyclists use Ortlieb panniers. You can just count them going by or in the bicycle coach on trains.

Where to buy

Depending on where you are, you can get the panniers at the local sports or big outdoors store. It may be easiest to get them online, but only if you know what you want. Ortlieb has tonnes of options and your choice will vary depending on your use case. This is the one I have.

Smash Bros Documentary – YouTube Recommendation

I know the Olympics are going on at the moment but I have a nerd confession to make: I thoroughly enjoy watching Dota 2’s The International competition. It’s going on right now and you can watch it here.

Dota 2 is a computer game. It is highly complex and very strategic, especially in the pro league. I’m definitely no expert and can’t really play myself (I’m like level 15 or so), but appreciate the skill required and epic suspense in many of the games.

In Dota 2, two teams of five players face off against each other. Each player plays one of 100+ unique heroes that are surprisingly well balanced in skills. Complimentary skills and team work are key to success.

The International is the biggest annual Dota 2 competition. The winners walk away with an excess of 8 million dollars.

This too is a different world and has only come to be quite recently.

What originally gave me an appreciation for pro gaming was the brilliant documentary on the evolution of pro Super Smash Bros gaming.

No kidding, I love documentaries and this is one of the best I’ve seen. I’d never even played Smash Bros before.
It portrays the people in a relatable way and most importantly is simply great at storytelling. Ok, it’s long. But give it a shot:

Revisionist History – Podcast Recommendation

Recently the New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell has entered the podcasting scene. His podcast Revisionist History has quickly climbed the ranks to be one of the most popular out there.

It is part of the Panoply podcast network and very well produced. Gladwell is a great storyteller.

In the podcast he goes back and reinterprets something from the past. Shedding new light on a misunderstood topic.

Today I listened to Episode 8: Blame Game (follow the link to listen on Overcast). In it he takes a look at the Toyota sudden acceleration scandal and explains how the most likely explanation is that there was nothing wrong with the cars at all – people just had their foot on the wrong pedal.

I remember hearing about the scandal at the time and it being used in a class as a warning to us young engineers. But it was always the car’s fault.

Human error is something very hard to rule out and design for. It is also very hard to explain, especially in such tragic cases.

We don’t want to be at fault, even if we do nothing wrong. That’s why people went in search for a scapegoat and found the floor mats to blame.

Breadcrumbs – Starting my First Podcast

Today my friend Sean and I uploaded the first episode of our new podcast Breadcrumbs.

You can listen to it below and find all episodes on the designated project page or directly on Libsyn.

Besides that you can add it to your favorite podcast player via RSS. It’s been subbitted to iTunes, but will take some time to show up there.

Sean and I grew up together overseas and have both studied engineering. Unlike me, Sean lives in the US.

On Breadcrumbs we talk about life and things past, present, future. The plan is to make this a weekly thing.

This is an experiment. Similar to my writing here, my goal is to get creating and publishing, even if that means I have to suppress the perfectionist inside me.

That’s not to say it’s terrible. I am actually quite proud of our first episode. It was the fourth time we recorded and we knew right away it was to be episode one.

In the episode we talk about eating habits and rituals, from growing up to current day.

Here’s the episode:

On Exhaustion and Focusing on “Musts”

I’m tired. I may be getting sick. It’s fair to say I’m only just short of exhausted.

Thank God it’s the weekend.

Yes, keeping this up has been taking a lot of time and energy, but I also had a 12+ hour day at work yesterday.

I can feel my mind and body demanding a rest.

But what is there to do if there’s still a lot on the to do list?

Focus on the musts.

Musts are the things I have to do. These are things I can’t put off (at least not indefinitely) and that other people depend on me for.

Ok, that’s not the most concrete definition, but you should know your musts without me explaining them to you.

Filing my taxes is a must. Replying to that email or catching up on Twitter is not. Neither is returning that Amazon purchase within the 30 days (ok depends on the value of the purchase).

Question if something is a must and ask yourselves what the consequences would be for not doing it. Will it cost you money or maybe disappoint some people? More often than not I find I can live with that.

Or reschedule an engagement, call something off, tell that friend you promised something it’ll be a week later.

In times like this I’ve got to reduce the overwhelm and allow myself to take a break. Permit me to sleep in and let personal projects go for a while.

The alternative is grinding through. The work takes longer and is of lower quality. And sooner or later your humanness will catch up with you.

Often on Friday I remind myself that I have one responsibility over the weekend: be fit for Monday. That may mean, like this week, that I have to take a break and reevaluate my weekend to do list, but it’s always worth it.

Reducing it to that one must helps me focus on relaxing and do the thing that is most important for getting any work done at all: staying healthy.

Radiolab – Podcast Recommendation

Yesterday I was once again blown away by a Radiolab episode. Everyone, go listless to this, you won’t regret it.

Radiolab: From Tree to Shining Tree

Radiolab is arguably the podcast with the highest production value out there. It has pioneered and perfected the art of using sound effects and music a to enhance audio story telling.

It is hosted by the insatiably curious Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, who play so well off each other while guiding the listener through the episode.

They tackle topics on the scientific spectrum. Sometimes with a historic perspective, and other times a breaking discovery.

What I love most about it, is how it opens my brain in a beautiful way and expands my capacity to wonder. The world around us is so incredible and fascinating and we don’t understand the half of it yet.

What is Design? – Listening

Recently a friend asked me if I’d rather lose my sight or hearing.

This isn’t an easy question – as absurdly hypothetical as it is.

If speech were an option, that would be the first to go, which is telling in its own right.

In the end I favored losing my sight because I need my hearing for 360° awareness and communicating with people.

Sight makes life easier to live. Hearing makes life worth living.

The Blind Designer

Yes, I would go so far as to say that a designer is better off with his ears than eyes if he had to chose between them.

This may seem crazy to those who think a designer’s job is primarily in aesthetics. How could a blind person do that job?

But how can someone who is deaf design something that speaks to more than just their own needs?

No designer is an island. They don’t design alone or only for themselves. What good is a market of one?

A good designer is a good listener. There is far more that goes into a product than a polished exterior. Great design is the product of all the steps taken before “designing”.

A leaf is beautiful not because it is stylish but because it is natural, created in its exact from by its exact function. A designer tries to put forth an object as naturally as a tree puts forth a leaf. He does not smother his object with his own personal taste but tries to be objective. He helps the object, if I may so put it, to make itself by its own proper means.

-Bruno Munari, Design as Art

Listening, Thinking, Making

Designing is 80% listening, 15% thinking, and 5% making. And like every good statistic, I made that up on the spot.

Listening here stands for research: understanding the market, understanding the people, and understanding the purpose.

Most projects that fail do so because of being incorrectly defined. Understanding the market, its people, and their problems to be solved is the often-forgotten prerequisite to making something great.

As a side note: this is also why design costs. Research takes time and time is always the most valuable (and hence expensive) good in a project. It also cannot be bought with more money.

The 15% thinking is ideation, being creative, and problem solving. It builds on what comes before.

The last five percent, defining the form, should then come by itself. As naturally as the leaf on a tree.