The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin has recently had several mentions on some of the creativity and productivity blogs that I frequent. So I thought it was time to see what all the fuss was about and read his biography (which is freely available on Kindle).

I’d heard of him before but I hadn’t quite realised just how focused a man he was on self improvement through journalling. The fact that he managed to contribute to scientific research, run a publishing house, invent lightning rods, bifocal lens, a new type of stove, be an active civic figure and a statesman/diplomat is awe inspiring. It is no wonder that Franklin is often termed ‘the first American’ and clearly he fully deserves the honour of being know as one of the founding fathers of America.

While I found his scheme for self improvement a bit too intensive for my own applications it was interesting and inspiring to see just what he managed to achieve. I wonder what a modern Benjamin Franklin would be like and what they’d achieve with the technologies available today?

I also found this book interesting due to its coverage of early American history which I wasn’t taught at school.

Deliberate learning

Sometimes its easy to forget that to keep developing a skill requires some deliberate action and planning. In our hectic lives it is easy to overlook and neglect our skill development. Often we don’t realise we’ve done this until someone that was previously less skilful than us appears to overtakes us overnight.  How to avoid  skill stagnation?

  • SCHEDULE – Dedicate time regularly to the study and practice. Go as far as to block of time in your calendar if your really busy.
  • PLAN – Know a small part of the skill you want to develop next and where to find out more about it e.g. books, internet or a skilled friend.
  • EXPLORE – Experiment with the skill to discover its limits and applications. Don’t stop as soon as you understand the basics, dig deeper for true mastery.

Its easy to think I want to get better at X but unless you set aside time, have a plan to improve and experiment it is very easy to stagnate your growth especially during busy periods.

Scott Hanselman on Productivity

Here is an excellent presentation given by Scott Hanselman on personal productivity and efficiency from Webstock 2012, I’d highly recommend watching all 42 minutes of it as he has many good tips.

It’s not what you read, it’s what you ignore by Scott Hanselman from Webstock on Vimeo.

I’ve actually used a set of email filters like the filters Scott describes for a while now and they do simplify things allot.  RescueTime is a great service and I’d highly recommend it for profiling your activity at work and working out where your time is actually going!  The pomodoro technique is also fairly useful for getting focus and there are handy applications available on most platforms for timing sessions.  And I’ve certainly been guilty of having a ‘guilt pile’ of reading material on my desk or coffee table too!

I think allot of the effort in achieving personal productivity is in the analysis where your time is spent and reflection on if that time investment makes sense, not on simply working harder.

Wear sunscreen..

One of the instructors at the spin classes at the gym likes to play this song/advice by Baz Luhrmann at the end of sessions, so its now wedged in my brain.

It seems like pretty good advice though!

Backing up Lightroom to Dropbox

I use Dropbox as an offsite backup to complement my Time Machine backups that I have on a pair of external hard drives, however backing up my entire Lightroom catalogue contents to dropbox is impractical due to its sheer size.  So after a bit of searching I figured out how to backup only the good pictures in a structured folder hierarchy of Year/Month/Day in JPEG format to dropbox:

  1. Install the DateExport Lightroom plugin, you can find it here on GitHub.
  2. Filter the photographs you want to backup in Lightroom.  I use the star rating system built into Lightroom so its as easy as selecting the entire catalogue and filtering out all un-starred images.
  3. Export the photographs you’ve just filtered using the DateExport plugin, I have highlighted the two important options in the export dialogue.
    DateExport Dialogue
    The First important option is to use the DateExport plugin for the export and the second controls how the files are exported in this case into a folder hierarchy of Year/Month/Day into my Dropbox.

Backup up Lightroom in a structured manner like this becomes very simple with the DateExport plugin, so I’d recommend using it.  You can export using all the normal options with this plguing e.g. DNG, RAW, sharpening etc but for me right now having an extra backup of the JPEG files is enough as I have a double backup of the RAW files else where.

An Invocation For Beginnings

Inspiring video about getting started by the comedian zeFrank. I watch this every few weeks as a pep talk to myself as he makes some excellent points about getting started and letting go of the fear of starting which can be closely tied to the fear of failing.

An Invocation For Beginnings from ze frank on Vimeo.

I think too often we hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold other people to and pretend this is a virtue. I think that instead of this being a virtue it can turn into a handicap as it makes us too scared to fail, so scared that we don’t even start. Failure is a natural part of creative iterative process without it we will stale and not progress, I know I need regular reminding of this.