Zen of Technology

Daily E-mail Archive

Dive Right In

When starting a new task or learning something new, it can often be difficult to know where to start. You can get so focused on doing a job perfectly, that work never begins. Find one or two aspects of the task or skill that you can do and just start. The more invested you become - with any form of results - will serve as motivation and momentum that will help you complete that task.

Square Wheel

If you are stuck finding a solution, stop and think of the craziest possibilities. Then, look for all the reasons why that crazy solution would work. Try to find three reasons. This will often open up new possibilities and solutions that traditional brainstorming may not have surfaced.

I'm Wrong

Every day we make decisions based off our knowledge of facts. Not everything we "know" is correct - and what is our biggest enemy is when we have a half-truth. When corrected on something that we know incorrectly - it is easy to see the truth, but when we believe a half-truth, anything that re-enforces the true half makes us re-enforce the untrue half.

Sometimes, we need to step back and think: "What if I'm wrong. How can I find the right facts to make this decision." This skill is even more useful as you find yourself beginning an argument or lengthy discussion. It is more important to come to the right conclusion than to convince someone else you are right - especially when you may not be.

It's All Customer Service

Software is a service. Every engagement with software could make a user's life easier, better, happier, or worse - all depending on the expected outcome and the actual outcome. The most important thing you need to understand is what is your customer's base level of expectations. Your software cannot go below that level, and as often as possible must go above and beyond that base level.

A customer who has their expectations met will rarely speak of the experience. A customer who receives lower-than-expectations experience will complain publicly. Only a customer who has had a far-exceeds experience will speak publicly about their interaction.


Technology changes fast. Faster than we can actually keep up with. Often the best solution to a problem a few years ago is no longer acceptable today. Periodically take an audit of older solutions and determine if they are still the right solution to your problem. There may be a cheaper, faster, and better solutions out there.

Best Time to Organize

The best time to get organized is when you feel like you are swamped and don't have time to organize. Most often we feel swamped or overwhelmed because our task list is larger than 3-4 items. The brain can easily hold up to 7 items in working memory, after that, things get a bit hairy. We get flustered and feel like we have no time - but this is the best time to strike.

  1. Unless you are in a life-and-death situation, you do have the time to get organized.
  2. By listing out all your tasks you can honestly see how much time you need to get things done.
  3. By freeing your mind of having to remember your task list, you free your mind to think about solving and achieving your current task.

Programming is no longer about a core programming languages - it has branched largely due to differing frameworks. Frameworks can be extremely powerful, but they can also be extremely limiting. For a content-based website that updates frequently, Wordpress can be an amazing framework, yet for an e-commerce site, wordpress can be your worst enemy. It is important to consider all the different frameworks when approaching a job.

Another consideration for frameworks is how many developers know that framework. By picking a lesser known framework, finding other developers to work on a project can be difficult and expensive.

The Right Fit

There are numerous different methodologies, programming languages, and processes you can follow. All of them have their pros and cons, what is important is to know your strengths and weaknesses and to focus on the process that fits those strengths and manages those weaknesses.


While you need a destination if you wish to arrive, simply having a destination is not enough. A roadmap gives you clear direction on how you are going to get from point A to point B. By making these decisions ahead, you no longer have to question every stop-off "is this my exit?"

It is important to note that unforeseen roadblocks will happen - assess a work-around, or, stop and create a new roadmap.


Comments are the best way to remember why you did something. While often comments are used so that others can understand what you've written, they also serve as a reminder to yourself when you look back.

Calm Within Storms

There is an overhead associated with multi-tasking. Splitting your processing between two tasks doesn't mean each gets 50%, it means each gets 49% and the rest manages that handoff.

As a computer slows to a crawl when you try to do too much at once, so does your brain. Attempting to focus on (or process) too many things can destroy productivity and cause panic.

You can avoid this by being mindful, focusing on one task, and most importantly, selecting the right task to focus on.


You must be able to clearly see your goal as well as your next few steps if you wish to succeed.

Salt The Water

I grew up being told to add a bit of salt to boiling water when making pasta. For years, I continued this practice. At 17, I was once asked why I added salt. My response was: "It increases the boiling point of the water and makes the pasta cook better." I have no idea why I thought that, but it was my reality. The questioner responded back, "Think of the molality. You'd have to add quite a bit of salt to raise the boiling temperature. That salt is doing nothing."

From that day on - until yesterday, I neglected to add salt to the water when making pasta. It wasn't until I saw a video on how to make the perfect pasta which put things into the correct context. "Add about a tablespoon of salt per pound of pasta. Think of the pasta as a sponge. It absorbs that salt to give it a richer taste." My reality was shattered - not only was I wrong as for the reason for adding salt, but I've been missing out on quite a bit of taste for a nice chunk of my life.

Remember - salt your water when making pasta.

(It is important to question your assumptions. Sometimes ask "how can I do this better," or "what is the value of this thing I just do. Verify your answer, not just with logic.)


Ignore the boxes that have been placed on you from others and yourself. Just because you are a "developer" does not mean you cannot make good business decisions. Just because you are a "business person" doesn't mean you cannot figure out how to code. A form can only limit us.

Instead of taking a form - define yourself by your goals. Instead of saying "I'm a developer" say "I write code to entertain others" or whatever you are currently working on - that will impose the least limits on yourself.


Often times, when creating new things, we get married to the idea that a person wants something specific. The reality is - all our wants and needs spur from an innate problem. That core problem often has multiple solutions. If you are struggling or stuck trying to get a specific fix to work, stop and look for the other solutions. Another may be better.


All the good work you've done helps build a foundation that puts you where you are today. Even small tasks - if done correctly - can help strengthen that foundation. Sloppy work can only - at best - fail to add anything to your foundation.

It is important to return to your foundation - your past work - and not forget its value in the present.


While performing routine maintenance may not be as fun as working on something new and exciting - the return on investment for maintenance work can be quite high.

There are two different types of maintenance tasks:

  • Unavoidable - These are tasks that must be done and can rarely be optimized. It is best to just complete these.
  • Optimizable - These are tasks that can be affected by outside sources. Depending on the time you spend on a given task, you should research if there is a better way to do it or if external work can reduce the time spent on a certain task.
You Are The Universe
Brain Games

The brain acts like a muscle - it strengthens as we use it. And, like the rest of our body, the exercises we do work different muscles. Learning a new task is mentally difficult when you first start as it requires a great deal of brain power to accomplish the task. As you continue, you get better and the task becomes easier. Even the most complex of tasks can become easy if you practice them enough.

Inspiration Article: (The Science Behind How We Learn)


Preaching may be a good way to teach, but it is a horrible way to learn. To be a good educator, I must constantly learn. In this tip, I ask you to tell me one tip, trick, or piece of software that makes your life easier. If you wish it not to be shared, let me know, otherwise I will compile a list and share it with this list.

Performance Tuning

Whether you're trying to debug slow code or optimizing the order in which you cook food, there are some key basics to performance tuning that you need to keep in mind.

  • Step Back - Remove yourself from the process and simply watch. If you must be involved, be mindful and be aware of the steps you are taking.
  • Keep Time- Take note of time and available resources after each distinct step. This will identify where potential problems lie.
  • The Observation Paradox - By observing, the entire process will take much longer. Additionally, for human-based tasks, the act of being observed effects accuracy and performance. Results should be measured for effectiveness after changes are implemented.

Some simple things can be done to quickly boost performance or reduce time:

  • Minimize Idle Time - Try to reduce the time you (or the computer process) sits and waits. Do something else in the meantime.
  • Don't Overload - Pushing things to the max tends to reduce overall performance. Spread out the work.
  • Find Alternative Paths - There are often multiple ways of doing things. While all may have the same final result, the path taken may vary greatly in length. Seek shorter alternatives.
Beat the Heat

Pressure, stress, and general discomfort can bring out the best or the worst in people. Be aware of how your environment controls your performance. If it is too cold, toss on an additional layer. If it is too hot, drink cold water, get a fan, or turn up the AC. You want your environment to be ambient - unnoticable, otherwise you're wasting brainpower thinking about comfort.

Break It Down

When you come to a difficult task or frustrating roadblock - break it down quickly. Upon recognizing it, before letting it frustrate you or intimidate you, immediately break it down into small logical tasks (20 minutes - 4 hour in size, the smaller the better).

Remember that research and education are time-worthy tasks. They are also essential in solving most problems, so make sure to task out your research. Often a problem can be solved in the research tasks (someone else has solved the problem, you can use their solution).

No Excuses

When attempting to complete a task, take ownership of both roadblocks and possible solutions. When you take ownership of a solution then you have no excuse for procrastination. Also, a roadblock becomes a learning moment instead of a reason to lose momentum.


The best chance of success will come if you share your goals.

Sharing makes you accountable. By telling others that you plan on doing something, you will have additional motivation to continue - simply by not being seen as a liar.

The biggest boost from sharing is the doors you never knew existed that open up. People generally want to help. If you share a goal, most people will be more than happy to provide advice or help. I've learned about wonderful educational resources (stack-overflow.com for example) by sharing with people an educational goal of mine.

The final benefit is that it forces you to solidify your vision. By communicating it with someone else, you must turn your idea into a logical story. It forces you to fill in missing pieces and can identify logic gaps.


The reality we experience is simply our perception of the reality that actually exists. Our perceptions can shape reality. If you constantly note to others - and yourself - that you are bad at something, you will convince yourself this is true (and therefore it will become true).

The opposite is also true. By saying things like "I am good at picking up new technologies." or "I am good at learning new languages" you can be. While this will not increase a natural ability to learn new skills, it will make it easier for you to avoid roadblocks, deal with stress, and recognize progress - which in turn will make learning more fun and productive.

One at a Time

When coming back from a few days off, things can seem overwhelming. Your task list, e-mails, and tasks can seem like a mountain. The best solution is one that is a surprising technology - the index card.

While not a sustainable methodology, if you are feeling overwhelmed by tasks, write each task down on an index card - one task per card. Note how long it will take to complete each task - 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours. Then prioritize them as necessary. Finally - put a few 5 minute tasks up front to get the ball moving.

Stack your index cards so you can only see one at a time. Focus solely on achieving the task on top. When it's complete, cross it out, cut it up, and/or toss it away. Then move to your next task. You'll be caught up in no time.

Ask a Friend

One of the best ways to learn is to ask others about their experiences. Do you have an iPhone, ask a friend who has an Android phone their thoughts. Or vice versa. Often problems that you are encountering in your personal or professional life have been solved by a friend or family member - most likely in a completely different field.

This can also be a great conversation starter or topic - sure beats "So... The weather... Been hot..."

Thought Vacation

Your brain never truly rests. Even when you are sleeping, your brain is chewing on whatever thoughtful nuggets you've fed it. By taking a "Thought Vacation" you let your mind resolve complex issues and attain deeper analysis.

A Thought Vacation is engaging in any activity that does not require acting mental attention. Some good Thought Vacations:

  • Exercise
  • Naps
  • Meditation
  • Gardening
  • Cleaning
Comfort Zone

Everyday learning happens in our comfort zone - it is slow, and constant, but it evolutionary. If you truly want to learn a new skill, you need to leave your comfort zone. When you out of your comfort zone you are more aware of your surroundings and learn the right way to do things - free from any prior bad habits.

Some tips for breaking your comfort zone:

  • Change your environment - re-arrange your monitor(s), change your chair, or move to another location.
  • Push your skill level - Create a sandbox and push yourself as safely as you can. Start simple, then try something complex.
  • Fail - Most people are not comfortable with failure - which is why they say we learn more from our failures than our successes. When learning a new skill, set yourself up for failure and you will learn very quickly.

Making a wrong strategic decision can be painful - so we normally stick with what we know will work well enough, even if it may not be the best solution.

A sandbox is a safe environment to test. It is small, enclosed, and cheap to build. No matter what the skill or technology, using a sandbox can help you test new tools and learn new skills safely.

For example - if you're new to email filters, set up a new e-mail account, forward tons of emails to it, then play with filters. Since it is a test account, with duplicated e-mails, there are no negative consequences.

Format Change

A number of people responded noting that a daily e-mail was a bit much, so to best accommodate, I will be changing the frequency of e-mails.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: The standard Zen tips.
Saturday: Weekend Notes (short days-off tips).

Your feedback and input is extremely important, so do not hesitate to respond with your thoughts.

Proper Engagement

Thank you all for your wonderful feedback. Many of you have replied with great questions, additions, and insights. While you will always be able to reply privately, I wanted to create a way for people to comment, share, discuss, and engage with Zen of Technology.

After considering building/installing my own feedback system, I've decided to take the simple (and still wonderful) route - Facebook. Zen Of Technology is now on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/zenoftechnology

On our facebook page, I will post archives of the Daily e-mail, as well as answer questions directly and let you engage on a deeper level.

The archives will remain updated on the ZenOfTechnology.com/email_archive.html site as well, and the e-mail will not be changing.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing what you have to say. Enjoy your weekend.

Time to Innovate

Our weekly tasks always seem to add up to more than a week. Through prioritization, we get the important tasks done and the rest wait for another day, or simply fall into the void of "not getting done."

On everyone's weekly task list should be "Innovate." Innovation is different from simply learning, as it is putting learning in action. Give yourself a block of 40 minutes to an hour every day to try something new and put it in action. You can always build on last-weeks work.


TL;DR (Too long; didn't read) is that feeling you get when you open up a news article and decide not to read it after seeing it is 10 paragraphs long.

All digital content is susceptible to TL;DR - but there are a few things you can do to avoid that feeling about your content.

  1. Be Short - Say only what needs to be said.
  2. Summarize Then Expand - Start out with a high-level summary, provide details/justification below.
  3. Formatting - Break up huge blocks of text with headings that are bold italic or another font.
  4. Break it up - It is better to send 3 one-paragraph emails about 3 different topics than 1 three-paragraph email about 3 topics.
  5. Good Subjects - Use the subject of the email (or title of the article) to share the topic. "Open me," bad; "Question about [Task]," good.
Removing Noise

If the noise is great enough, you cannot understand the signal. There are a few things you can do to remove noise.

  • Unfollow/Unfriend - If your social streams seem like raging rapids, start to unfollow/unfriend people you do not know or that you don't actually read their messages.
  • Focus - If you insist on following 10,000+ people on twitter, make use of lists to filter your stream results.
  • Routine - Add calendar items or persistent tasks to remind yourself to check your favorite news sites or blogs. Force yourself only to check at those times.
  • Let go of being in the "know" - While the news would like you to believe there is "breaking news" around the clock, most information loses no value if delayed for a few hours or even days. Additionally, many "breaking news" stories aren't worth following (remember the boy who "flew away" in the home-made blimp, that turned out to be a hoax?).
  • Be practical - When learning something new, or determining if something is real, stop and be practical. For new tasks, give it a try, often by pairing doing with reading you greatly reinforce your learning.

A signal is something of value that is transmitted; noise is useless (to you) chatter. The problem of separating signal from noise exists in all aspects of technology and communication. Either from sending a signal over thousands of feet of wire, or trying to learn something new, separating the signal from the noise is key.

Focus - Listen to one source at a time, and pay attention to that source.

  • Trust - Find trusted sources and use those first.
  • Timing - Find the best time to communicate - when both you and the source can have the proper conversation.
  • Acknowledge - Take the time to confirm the message. Give yourself a few moments to process what has been communicated before moving on.

This applies to getting news, learning a skill, using social media, or simply having a conversation.

Don't Hit Send

Before you hit send, make sure your e-mail is being sent correctly. There are three ways to include someone on an e-mail, using To; CC; or BCC.

  • To, CC: Recipient is visible to all recipients. Will be included in a reply-all
  • BCC: Recipient is not visible to recipients. Will not be included in a reply-all.

While functionally To and CC are the same, they have very different meanings. Adding a recipient to the To field means that the message is intended for them, and in most cases requires a response from that individual. Including someone in a CC field means they should be aware of the discussion but not respond. If you have a workplace problem where e-mail is seeming dysfunctional, I've seen good managers who send a casual "How best to use e-mail" meeting or email that outlines proper use of To; CC; and BCC.

BCC is used for sending e-mails to a large recipient list where you don't want a reply-all to go to everyone.

More Listening

It is my turn to listen. Reply to this e-mail and let me know what topics you'd like me to discuss.

For those interested, I'm giving a free webinar on HTML5/CSS/Javascript on Thursday 6/27. You can sign up here:


"If you build it, they will come" no longer works when it comes to making software, giving presentations, or anything business related. More than ever, it is about telling a good story. The right picture is worth 1000 words. An engaging story will entice your users to engage further.

Consider this short video about the time we have on this earth, demonstrated using jelly beans:


Sure, you can say "time is short," but taking the time to watch and absorb the jelly beans shifting - it drives the point home.

Inbox Zero - Wrap Up

Your inbox does not have to overwhelm you. The last week of tips described many ways to achieve inbox-zero and get a little bit of sanity back in your life. To summarize:

  1. Get started with a mass-file - Take all e-mails 1 week or older and file them or archive them.
  2. Take the time to sort - Every e-mail is an action - a calendar item, task, information, or NNR (no need to reply). Act on your email, then file appropriately.
  3. Check e-mail sporadically - Treat checking e-mail as a task. Give yourself time to read, respond, and file your e-mail. Don't check it while actively working on another task.
  4. Set up filters - Auto-file non-important emails with filters. Set reminders or tasks for you to check those folders occasionally.
  5. Turn off social media notifications - Update your social media settings not to recieve emails. Instead, login to the service and actively check it when you have time.
  6. Unsubscribe instead of delete - Instead of just deleting spam, click the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom.
Inbox Zero - Cleanliness

Every time you enter your e-mail online, you are essentially accepting to receive e-mails from that service. Be it Facebook sending you a message about a notification, Twitter about a new follower, or some clothing or big-box store letting you know about their latest sales - you are bound to get tons of non-essential e-mails.

You have the power to control the noise.

  1. Turn Social Media Notifications OFF - If you need, make a task to login and check for updates/notifications, but these e-mails will only serve as a distraction from your task of inbox-cleanup.
  2. Unsubscribe - Every e-mail list has an "unsubscribe" button at the bottom. If you aren't interested, don't just delete - unsubscribe and save your delete button hundreds of future clicks.
  3. Filter - Set up a filter to move certain emails out of your inbox. Make a task for you to check those folders daily or weekly if you need.

A mountain of emails is a tough climb, a short stack is easy to crack.

Inbox Zero - Filters

One of the most heavily under-used features of email is filtering. Nearly all desktop email clients (Outlook, Mail.app [Mac], and even Gmail) allow you to apply filters to incoming e-mail. Filters check an e-mail for something specific, and if that condition is met, does something to your e-mail.

While you can get very advanced with filters, at a bare minimum, you should consider setting up a few basic auto-file filters. Filters can be setting up in the settings->filters menu, or in Gmail, in the same menu as "reply-all" there is a "filter emails like this" that you can use to quickly set up a filter.

As a reminder:

  1. Get clean quick - auto-file all e-mails older than 1 week
  2. Take the time to file/task/calendar your last weeks worth of email
  3. Treat checking your e-mail as a task - don't do it constantly, and when you do it, make the time to do it right.
Inbox Zero - Respite

The next key to maintaining inbox zero is to take an e-mail respite.

E-mail is not instant communication.

It may be instant delivery, but, emails should not require an instant response. You should not send an e-mail that requires an instant response (make a phone call) and people sending you e-mail should also not expect an instant response.

Since e-mail is not constant, you don't need to check it constantly. By checking e-mail frequently, you derail your productivity on your current task and end up inefficiently dealing with your e-mail. Follow these rules when checking e-mail:

  • Only check your e-mail between tasks
  • Try not to check e-mail more than twice an hour
  • When checking your e-mail, treat it as a task. Give yourself time to read, file, task, and calendar item emails (see #28)
  • If you mainly check email on your phone, learn the gestures/buttons to quickly delete/file e-mails (usually a left-to-right swipe of the title or a folder icon)
Inbox Zero - Salvation

There is nothing more serine than having zero items in your inbox. Achieving and maintaining "Inbox Zero" is simple. Every post this week will be another tip on maintaining Inbox Zero.

Start with a win - create a new folder (or label if you are using gmail) and move every email in your inbox older than a week to that folder. The e-mails can still be searched for, but are no longer in your inbox. Then, spend 10 minutes filing the rest of your e-mails.

All e-mails fall into one of the following categories:
* Calendar item - Add these items to your calendar (alert optional) then file or delete the email.
* Task - A request for you to do something. If it is quick, do it and delete it (or file under a "done" folder), otherwise, add it as a task in your project management software and delete/file.
* FYI - Informational, read it, then file it. If it is long and you wish to read it later, create a task for yourself to read it, and file it. Don't let it sit in your inbox.
* NNR - No need to reply. These are e-mails saying "thank you" "got it," etc. I delete these, but they can always be filed.


There are many layers of software between you and the hardware. As layers get further from the hardware, they lose complexity while also losing control and performance.

Develop your applications on the highest layer that affords you the performance you need. That will reduce development time and code complexity.


Order of operations is just as important as the operations themselves.

Do something too early or too late, and the results may not be what you expect.

Start With a Win

Getting started in the morning can be rough. Spend a few minutes and find three to five 5-minute tasks. Write them down and go through them one by one. Cross them off your list as they are completed.

Not only have you completed a few tasks, but the feeling of productivity will help carry you forward.

It is also a perfect way to work through some smaller tasks that keep getting pushed.

Less is More

Say only what needs to be said.

It will provide the most value / time ratio.


Time is limited.

The potential of what we can do with our time is not.

Efficient use of time is key.

Inefficient code can severely hinder an application's potential.


Unless you are at war, you cannot be defeated. Don't go to war with yourself.

Setting unrealistic goals - a declaration of war with yourself.
Giving up - a declaration of war with yourself.
Refusal of help - a declaration of war with yourself.

If you refuse to give up, you can only experience a change in direction; not a dead stop.

Respectful Design

Responsive Design is the concept of adapting content to the screen size it is being viewed on.

Respectful Design considers why the user is using such a device. Cellphones are used on the go, during commutes; while tablets and laptops are used while relaxing on a couch. It is not enough to simply consider the size of the screen, but the reasons a user has chosen that size screen for consumption


It is my turn to listen. Simply respond to this message with your thoughts or questions. I will do my best to explore all of the topics mentioned.

Thank you for listening.


Keep It Simple, Stupid.

No need to over-think a solution. Most technical problems have simple solutions. Seek the simple solutions out and give them a try. More often than not, they will suffice.



Take 5 minutes to prepare yourself.

That's pre-loading.


Respect the user. That is a must.

Respect the consuming device. Pushing a device to it's limits reduces battery life, can cause the application to respond slowly, and will create a poor user experience.


Perfection is not required.

It simply needs to work well enough.


Technology can be a tool for consumption or creation. Consumption is passive; to create you must be active and engage your tools. A car stuck in first gear will still drive, but unless you switch to a higher gear, you'll never reach top speed.

Engagement also requires focus and progression. Like a car, you can't simply go from first to fifth gear. Take the time to learn your tools and give your brain the time to focus and be most productive.


Like a computer that is running slow or awkwardly, often the solution is a simple reset. Why does the computer or software run better after a reset? Because small cumulative bugs/memory issues get wiped clean.

After a week away (at a conference, vacation, etc...) inbox zero may seem unattainable, your tasks list may strike fear, and your vacation relaxation may be completely wiped. Stop! Be like the computer and take things like a reset. Start with organization. Get your inbox back in control, spend the morning responding to e-mails and doing all the 5-minutes-or-less tasks. The rest of the items should get tasked or made into calendar items.

With your inbox in order, you can prioritize your task list and take things one at a time.


Before modern plumbing, wells were the life-blood of a town. Without a functioning well, the town's population and livestock would go thirsty.

The process of digging a well is simple - dig a hole, reinforce the walls, build a pulley with a bucket - all of those parts needed to be done with care. Cracks in the walls could cause a collapse, frays in the rope could cause the bucket to fall, etc.

When you build something well, it can be the cornerstone and foundation for the rest of your work - no matter how simple it may seem.


Like life, equality can be a tricky things. While two people may be equal (have equal rights) they are not the same height, weight, and have different memories.

A huge source of bugs and logic gaps is equality. There are three forms of equality:

1) Assignation - stating that a variable is now a copy of another value. Example: a = 1; The variable "a" now holds a value of 1
2) Loose Comparison - when two things are essentially equal. For example the string "1" and the number 1. Many programming languages use the == for this: "1"==1; which will return the boolean value true.
3) Completely equal - when two items are exactly the same. The string "1" and another string "1"; Programming languages often use === for this, so "1"==="1" is true, "1"===1 is false;

Remember to check for the equality that you are looking for.




That is the amount of things that actually stand in your way of solving a technical problem. Any obstacles that you see are all in your head. Skills can be learned, Logic can be solved. If you're not sure what direction to go, just start walking. If you find you've been headed in the wrong direction, change.

Standing still will not solve your problem.


The word "hack" has many definitions. Barring the one with a connotation of wrong-doing, hacking is one of the best ways to learn. Hacking is the physical equivalent to tinkering or kicking-the-tires.

Want to play with a website? Browsers let you download the HTML and CSS source code, and you can freely edit things to see how they change. Can you make your favorite site look better than it's designers? Can you change the javascript to make things run faster or differently? Don't be afraid.


While technology might be native for you, many people find it scary territory. Threats of viruses, or fear of breaking things keeps many people away from using advanced features or exploring your interface. There is a way to combat this, and it is with a hello.

You may not use those exact words, but you want to greet the user and then show them what it is you'd like them to use. For example, when faced with a wordpress blog, people will automatically assume that the content area (where your text lives) is safe to read, and will most likely gravitate there. If you want them to use a widget you installed on the right, let them know it is there (in the content) and how to use it.

The same goes for hardware. Curiosity is not innate in all, so people shy away from pressing unfamiliar buttons. Instead of getting frustrated, recognize their fear and let the technology say hello to the user (and let the user say hello back).

Just Act

When things go wrong, there is a pull to point fingers, and discuss the millions of ways the situation could be avoided. The best thing you can do is to ignore all of that and simply act. When I fire is lit - put it out. If a mess is made, clean it up. It doesn't matter if you made the mess, as what matters is that it gets cleaned up.

By the time the problem is solved, if there is a need to talk future prevention, thats a good time. Remember, if you're not acting, you're not helping. If you're not helping, go do something else :)


The brain's ability to recall feelings well outweighs its ability to remember facts. The truth is, a person will long forget anything you've said before they forget how what you've said makes them feel.

When developing systems, users understand that things won't be perfect. They may complain about bugs, typos, or wish for a feature you don't have, but at the end of the day, they will come back if you can make them enjoy (or feel good about) using your product. Conversely, no matter how error-free your system is, if it makes the user feel poorly, they will never come back.

Often, little design quirks that seem to add no functional value can be the ones that make a user smile. Even when rushed, don't overlook the simple flare.


A study was done that revealed that for every hour spent planning, four hours of work was saved. This applied to meetings (when the organizer was well prepared, less time was wasted and more got done), to large projects, where the planning phases had greater focus.

Organization is a way of planning to plan. By being organized, you can plan better and spend less time looking. Take 15 minutes this weekend to organize something you use often - either online or off. You may just cut your 5 minutes off your daily morning routine.

To start your weekend with a smile, below is a link to an R2-D2 fish-tank.

R2-D2 fish-tank


We all have a few tools that we use on a daily basis - such as our cellphones, a specific document (or code) editor, or even our e-mail client that we have used long enough to consider ourselves masters.

The truth is, there is probably 25-50% of that tool that you have never explored. Today, take the time to stop and explore the advanced settings tab, or a menu button you rarely press. You may just find something that can make your life much easier.

As a reminder that things aren't always what they seem, enjoy this short video:



Technology has enabled us to communicate near instantly with anyone in the world. Despite this fact, we are still reluctant to ask for help. Maybe after an hour of struggling, we resort to doing a google search, but how long before we reach out to an individual via e-mail, twitter, text-message or phone call?

Asking for help not only can gain you knowledge quickly, but it can strengthen your bond with others. It is within the basics of humanity to want to help and be wanted.

Remember to use the right means of communication. If something is urgent, call or send a text-message. If something is less urgent, try email, or social media.

I leave you with a wonderful video of how some technology can bring smiles and connect people:


Simple Solutions

The great thing about technology is that it all boils down to bits and bytes. Everything you do digitally is transforming some value into another value. Even creation is turning a bunch of unset-storage into values. This fact enables there to be truly simple and elegant solutions to nearly any problem.

The more common a problem is, the better chance someone else has found a solution. Use Google to your advantage and remember to search for your problem first and potential solutions last. By searching for your problem, you may discover others have found simpler solutions than you have thought about.

Sometimes, the tools or skills required for an elegant solution may not be at hand (an expensive piece of software, knowledge of a specific programming language, etc), but it may be worth it to buy that software or learn that language if the task at hand is repeatable or difficult enough.


No matter what system you use to track your time, there is one commonality - tasks. Whether you have a list on paper, use index cards, basecamp, trac, or any other project management system, it all boils down to having a list of tasks in some order. The key to happiness is making the perfect task.

The perfect task in between 6 minutes and 4 hours long. Any task that is given to you that takes 5 minutes or less should be done on-the-spot or handed off to someone else. Any task that takes longer than 4 hours should be broken down into sub-tasks.

Mastering the 5 minute tasks

If you check your e-mail every 10 minutes, this rule can kill, as it can completely derail your productivity. But, if you save these tasks up, or you check your e-mail less frequently, you can end up knocking out 5-6 of these tasks in less than half and hour and attack the rest of your tasks with new vigor and momentum.

Breaking down the big tasks

Tasks that take more than 4 hours - or even worse - more than a day, can be a huge hit to productivity and happiness. Since a task can only really be "not started" "in progress" or "complete" being stuck "in progress" for too long can be draining. By breaking a task down into smaller tasks, there is a sense of accomplishment with each completion as well as ease of comprehension. Trying to imagine racing an entire marathon is a daunting task to most, but the act of taking a few simple steps is a walk in the park (literally or figuratively).

Just remember to keep your tasks SMART



Focus is they key to getting things done. Like the rays of sun lighting up a piece of paper on a beach in the middle of the summer - focus helps to define purpose. Left for the entire day, the paper will simply have been illuminated and will remain warm. But, with the right focus, the sun can turn that piece of paper into a blazing fire in a matter of seconds. Sometimes you can achieve the type of focus you need on your own, and sometimes - like in the case of the sun - you need the help of the right tool.

As many tools as there are to help you focus, there are just as many things getting in our way to prevent our focus. One small cloud covering the sun means our paper will never come alight. Trees, winds, and even the local wildlife can quickly get in the way of achieving.

If you want to complete a task - small or large - you need to be able to focus. Learn to use the right tools to help you focus - to reduce external distractions and to increase your ability to focus on the task at hand. Music can be a great focus help but certain types of music can actually distract, so be mindful of what you're listening to and how it effects you. You should also consider turning notifications for social media or e-mail off when attempting to focus. E-mail and messages will be there when you're done, but constantly being distracted can turn a 10 minute task into an hour task.

A final note - if a task seems difficult even while you are focused, take a break from it and return back to it later. Your mind will mull over the task while you are not working on it and a solution may come to you.