Categories
Apps Personal Development

So Many Shiny Tools

There is a huge amount of tools out there. And part of me is always occupied with tools. Shiny new tools to make my (or my colleague’s) work a bit easier.

My inclination to be on the lookout for new tools is part personal and part professional deformation. In my day job I am constantly looking where I can improve processes or tools.

In my personal life I am always testing some tool or another. Sometimes out of curiosity, sometimes because I want or need to get rid of a tool in my toolbox and need a replacement.

The last time that happened was when I decided that Evernote just is too bloated for note-taking. My process when something like that happens is that I dive deep into what is available and compare that with my way of working.

Keeping with the note-taking example, I know that I take a lot of notes. And I know that I prefer to use an app that has little to none distractions.

Evernote had more and more options and that made me slightly uncomfortable at first. And in the end, it made me hugely uncomfortable. Because of all the options, it felt to me like I was busier finding a structure to put my notes in than with taking notes.

I moved my notes to Notion. An excellent tool for many things, including simple databases, kanban boards and collection of reference material. But not for note-taking, or at least not for me.

So on the move again. Some more research led me to Bear. A simple and clean app for macOS and iOS that is excellent. The only thing it lacks is a way to access my notes from Windows or a web interface. Not a big problem because my iPad is always near me when I am working and I don’t mind copying the few notes I took in the Windows environment to Bear

With Bear as an important part of my current setup, I still find myself looking ahead. On my list of tools to try is Roam. A notetaking app that adds something very interesting to the mix. It has the ability to interlink your notes. Not only by actively making links, it also, and that is the big thing for me, shows you unlinked references. Thoughts and notes that connect to what you are currently writing and give you insights into the links between your notes that you missed. I can’t wait to play around with those! As soon as I get the invite.

Categories
Personal Development

Strange Times

We are living in strange times. As so many people, I have also seen my life be influenced heavily by the outbreak of the Corona virus and subsequent measures.

My significant other works long days as an elderly care physician and I find myself thrown into the role of teacher, beside the regular dad-duties that continue despite everything that’s happening.

The weirdest part for me is starting a new job amidst all this. The entire process of interviews and contract negotiations took place before the outbreak.

And thus I found me, at my first day at work, in my own home office, behind my own PC. Videochatting with my new colleagues, most of whom I never met before.

I am not opposed to remote work. I strongly believe that remote work will grow and become the standard for many careers in the future. Normally we all get into our cars and move from where we live to where we work. We call that a traffic jam. We sit in office spaces that are less than optimal for the work we do.

I think that we do that because we are used to do that. Our ancestors did it to go to the mines or the factory. Because they had no choice. So logically (?) we applied the same pattern to our work when many of us no longer did work that depended on the location where you were working.

So many people nowadays are knowledge workers. People who need only two things to do their work. Their mind and a way to get the things the mind conjures up out of their head and onto something they can share with other people.

And yes, I know that not all people can easily work remotely. The part of my partner’s job that involves examining people can’t be done remotely. The many people that work for the same mental healthcare company I started working for and that are charged with the care for our clients can’t do all of their work remotely.

But the corona outbreak shows that many things can be done remotely. That people, when the need is high, can change and adapt to a new reality.

And I hope this will help people to see the benefits of remote work and lead to a lasting change in work culture. So both employee and employer can benefit. Something to look forward to while we sit in self-isolation.

Categories
Coding Personal Development Work

Why I am Learning to Code

In my daily work, coding plays little part. As a consultant, I mainly spend my time researching solutions, planning their implementation and making sure “my” users get as many tools as I can give them to make the transition to that new solution. (Yes, this is a very brief summary of my work)

I might at times be part of the team that designs the software, but I tend to steer away from built-to-order software whenever I can. In my line of work, I can almost every time find software that helps my client do what needs to be done without resorting to developing custom software. Aside from the occational custom connection, that is.

And that is right for my current line of work. In the Netherlands there are multiple tools available for most of the tasks municipalities deal with. The ultimate choice depends mainly on the use-case and the larger view of the information architecture in that particular organisation.

So, why would I want to learn to code then? Excellent question! There are several reasons for that.

Because I want to

I don’t want to sound like a petulant child. But there is something to say for the very simple reason of learning something because you feel like it. I want to learn how to code, so I proceed to do so. I feel this is the prime motivation behind my desire. I like to learn new things.

Because it helps me in my work

In my opinion a good consultant should broaden his horizons as much as possible. In my work for municipalities I did that by going towards other departments and talk with the people there about their jobs. Not only in relation to my own, but to get a broad sense of what people were doing.

And it helps. Knowing why people need a new tool helps me find the best option for them. Just knowing that the wish exists is not enough. Seeing what issues arise from the current tool does.

And I think that learning to code is able to help me pinpoint the issues people have. Not because the actual act of programming is helpful in that, but because the way of thinking and applying logic can be used on people like it is used on code.

It helps me communicate

In my work often talk to tech people. Either because I need their help, or to act as a go-between with tech on the one side and the end-user on the other.

To do this properly, I believe I should know a bit about the tech side of things. I know that tech is much broader than just programming, but it is the biggest hiatus in my knowledge I have identified so it is the first I want to fix.

Coding improves creativity

I solve problems for a living. And while I often can fall back on established practices, at times a more creative approach is needed. And I think coding will help me to spark that creativity.

Besides that, coding can be a creative tool in itself as well. I have some ideas for little side-projects that might solidify as my coding journey continues.

Categories
Personal Personal Development

When Your Mind Is Not Your Friend

In an ideal world, your mind is reasonably in tune with your body and your life. At the moment, mine is most definitely not. The last few months have been a rollercoaster when it comes to both physical and mental health. I have long hesitated to write about this as it is a very personal topic. Then again, I know from experience that writing about it has positive effects on me.

A little backstory

To get where I am going what this, a little backstory is necessary. In March 2017 I had surgery for an issue with the link between my oesophagus and stomach. This surgery was the end of a more than a year-long period with lots of physical pain and bad reactions to pain medication. And it worked, after the surgery, the pain was gone. The only thing left was the little pain the surgery itself had caused, but that went away quite quickly as well. Happy me!

But then…

About a year later, in May 2018, the pain came back. With a vengeance. I was angry, annoyed and sad because I did not see that coming and obviously wasn’t happy with it. It meant another long 3/4 of a year of being in a medical rollercoaster where I saw a lot of doctors, had a lot of examinations and am still not sure what is going on.

That weighs on the mind.

All that uncertainty and pain is having major effects on my mental health as well. It is hard to face this again, getting the impression that the surgery apparently did not work as well as hoped and getting a great scare last week when a neurologist told me that my pain symptoms in combination with a sudden drop in vision in one of my eyes might very well be a first sign of me having multiple sclerosis. That was, mentally, a big hit. Luckily I have a supportive girlfriend (who can explain medical things to me due to being a doctor herself) and family and friends that support me. But still, I also am currently on anti-depressants and in a therapy program to deal with all this stuff. Because I can not see my mental health separate from this and surely don’t want to fall into a depression again. A lot of medical appointments in the coming week, where hopefully I get 100% certainty it is not Multiple Sclerosis and also a plan for getting rid of my pain. A terrifying week ahead. Thanks for letting me rant!

Categories
Books Personal Development

Currently Reading, Now On The Blog

At the moment I strive to get myself to track a lot of stuff in my life. Things like what did I eat, what did I read, etc. To help with that and to share a bit of what I am doing, I now added a widget to this blog that shows what I am currently reading. At any given time I am reading two books. One for fun. One to learn from.

Not that those two can’t overlap, but it helps me to make that distinction. Look in the sidebar on your left for what I am currently reading.

Categories
Apps Personal Development

Guided Journaling

In the spring of 2018, a health issue popped up that I thought fixed by surgery in 2017. This health issue causes me a lot of pain. Pain that is extremely annoying and has a big influence on my ability to function. In order to track the pain (and hopefully its cause), I journal about it.

I know stumbled across Grapefruit, an app by Angus Woodman (who is also the creator of the theme I use on this blog), that not only offers a guided way to journal, but also options to customise the questions I need to answer. I think this is the thing I needed to track this well, I will review after a few weeks of usage.

Categories
Music Personal Development

A New Hobby

Music, for me, has always been a strictly passive affair. I listen to it. I might hum along a bit or even sing a little when no one is listening. I do not play any instruments. Or did not, actually. In December 2017 we bought a piano. My girlfriend has been playing recorder for over 25 years. She can read sheet music and play along with what she reads. I can’t.

Or actually, I couldn’t. It is starting to be something that I understand, at least the basics. When we decided to buy the piano, I decided I wanted to take lessons. Not that I see myself playing in big venues anytime soon, but if the thing is in my house, I would like at least a rudimentary understanding of its workings.

So, every Thursday night for the last 6 months, a very nice lady comes to our house to teach us how to play the piano. We take turns, so I have a lesson every 2 weeks. And it is challenging. Starting at the very beginning, as I did, means playing children’s songs a lot. That is not necessarily bad, but my hands are itching to play some music I actually listen to. Currently, I am far away from that.

But I am having fun learning and playing. And I notice it actually helps me with my mental state. Playing requires so much focus that thoughts about things not related to the music tend to disappear for a while. There has been some research on the health benefits of playing music, so I am actually doing something that is good for me in several ways AND I am having fun. I’m curious where this will take me.

 

Categories
Personal Development Podcasts

The Joy that Podcasts Bring

To me podcasts are a thing of beauty. It is like radio, but better. I can pick what I want to hear. Skip a part if I’m not interested in that, and often one podcast leads me to finding another. In this article I want to point out my top 5 of podcasts at the moment. As this is ever changing, I might very well revisit this now and then to take out a podcast and put in another.

5. Trek.fm

I start here with a bit of cheating. Trek.fm is not a single podcast but a network of 28 podcasts all dedicated to Star Trek. There is Literary Treks, about Star Trek Books, a dedicated one for every one of the series, a podcast about socioeconomics, I basically pick and mix whatever I feel like at the time. Be warned though, this is a massive time sink if you are into Star Trek. Listen at your own peril.

4. Minimalists

Minimalism interests me. At the moment my interest lies more with the concept than with any kind of practical commitment, but I might get there one day. Besides some excellent books, the minimalists serve up a wonderful podcast that is fun to listen to, explains things well and gives a lot of room to user input. This is my to go podcast when I walk back from dropping the little ones off at school.

3. Inside iOS Dev

At the moment I am doing a Udemy course on iOS Development (this one). I like to listen to this podcast to pick up some things and just get a feel for how programming podcasts work, as I have little experience with those. At times the topics are challenging but they are also very interesting, so I keep up as good as I can.

2. The RPS Electronic Wireless Show

This is the podcast of RockPaperShotgun, a website dedicated to PC gaming. Being an avid gamer, I like to listen to what they have to say. It helps me discover new things to play and just is fun to listen to. They hit the tone of their written content quite well in the podcast, and what they write is often funny without losing informational value.

1. A Plate to Call Home (with Gary Mehigan)

Those who know me in person, know that I can gush on quite a bit about Masterchef Australia. Won’t go into that today. Gary Mehigan is a judge on (with Matt Preston and George Calombaris, who both have an episode on this podcast). In A Plate to Call Home, Mehigan chats with someone who is into food, often professionally. Besides his Masterchef colleagues, great names like Nigella Lawson, Alla Wolf Tasker and Curtis Stone have been on the show. I like how the show slowly meanders from topic to topic, with Gary Mehigan as a pleasant and interested host. I highly recommend this show.

What are your favourite Podcasts? Please let me know, I am always looking for new ear candy. If I like it, your recommendation might even bump one of my Top 5 out of this list.

Categories
Personal Development

A Fresh Start

For a long time this blog has been silent. I think I put up the maintenance warning somewhere around christmas 2017 and it hasn’t been removed since. Not that the itch wasn’t there, but work, illness and other life stuff somehow always moved the blogging to the background. And I missed it.

I also noticed an issue with my old posts. They rambled on and on, so now I am trying for a more structured approach. Stay tuned.