Productivity Hack: #1. Facebook’s messenger.com

tl;dr Facebook’s messenger.com domain is a great distraction-free way to use Messenger.

I have all the chats.
Seriously. All of them.

Skype, Google Chat, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Slack, Slack, Whatsapp, iOS Messenger and Twitter (DMs & replies). I communicate with clients, business partners and mentors on any bunch of these channels every day. And that’s not including a handful of email accounts, trello, jira, asana and Google Doc collaborations.

Most of these are pretty passive. They don’t get in your way until someone wants to talk to you and most of the time answering one message doesn’t pull you into the dark depth vortex of endless distraction. That is all except that damned beautiful Facebook Messenger.

Chatting within Facebook on web with those little widget windows is DISTRACTING man. All too often I’d switch to the FB tab for a quick reply to a message when I’d inadvertently see something interesting in my news feed and 3 hours later I’m like – “oh crap! I was doing something.”

But Messenger is also arguably the only chat app that provides a consistent experience across all platforms, and as a result is the platform of choice for one of my closest friends with whom I speak the most frequently (and a lot of business).

Because of the productivity hit we’ve tried a bunch of different options, Slack, Whatsapp, Google Chat, but we’ve kept coming back to Messenger. And here’s why – it’s the only network I know of that is available everywhere. It’s pretty stable, has voice messages, relatively good quality voip or video messages, image & doc sharing, et al. But the environment it lives in is damned distracting.

So, my only real option was to keep on looking for a way to use messenger without the inevitable time-suck vortex of Facebook distractions.

Solution 1: Facebook.com’s full Messenger view.
My first solution, which worked quite well for me for a while, was to open Facebook in full Messenger view.

 

fb-messenger-howto
Click to enlarge.

Here’s how: In Facebook.com on the web, click the messenger icon in the top bar and then the see all link. This will present you with all your chats, without any of the distracting newsfeed, however you’ll still see your notifications on your ‘world’ icon.

 

 

This was a decent enough solution, but having the notifications and other facebook chrome in view can still get distracting.

Solution 2, and my current chosen win:
Probably about 2 months ago, Facebook launched messenger.com – a webapp dedicated just to messenger, no facebook notifications, no newsfeed, just messenger. It’s like the iphone app, just bigger.

If you haven’t checked it out, yet, you can at www.messenger.com, especially if, like me, you’re looking for that productivity push, without losing access to messenger.

Purpose breeds potential

tl;dr purpose, by its nature, imbues its bearer with potential. (can I get a hoo-rah?)

I was sitting in the steam room one morning at my local VA, after my usual 3km run and single-exercise heavy weight session, when it came to me, like a gorilla.. I’m going to stop before I get any cheesier.

potential

pə(ʊ)ˈtɛnʃ(ə)l/
adjective
having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future.

noun
latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success  or usefulness.

(courtesy:google)

I can’t actually remember what I was doing when this dawned (probably driving, I have many of my epiphanies behind the wheel), but I know I was thinking about the value I’ve found from setting goals. And how just the act of setting a goal almost immediately predestines you to some level of success. 

On a base level this is immediately obvious. You cannot really experience success if you don’t have something to measure it against.

So by simply giving a oneself a purpose, you open up the world of potential. Without that purpose, you’d probably just carry on your day-to-day without any need to change.

Now, I’m not even talking HUGE goals. Obviously the bigger the goal the greater the chance for success and achievement, but even something small and simple – like the one driving this post – “I’d like to produce some kind of content every day for the month of August” has already seen me reaping rewards and getting excited for what lies ahead –  and I’m only 4 days in.

So hammering on that goals thing again – but by simply setting a goal (purpose), you create this space to fill with change and progression.

That’s zero to 100 with one simple step. As far as life-hacks go, I think this one is pretty awesome. The fantastic thing about it is even if you fail at the goal – your starting point was zero, so any improvement is a success. For example, if you’re a couch potato and you set a goal to lose 10kg in 3 months, but because change is hard and you like your noms, you only lose 5kg – or 1kg or even if you don’t lose anything at all, the really important thing is you’ve moved towards change. You’ve set your eyes beyond your immediate shadow, and set yourself on the road to success – you’ve increased your potential and that’s an empowered place to be.

Give it a go – what area would you like to see yourself growing in? Why not, set a goal, and give it a try.

My dirty ‘d’-word.

tl;dr Discipline is a bitch. Get on that shit early.

I’ve been thinking about discipline a lot lately.

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’d have realised that it’s a bit of a recurring theme lately.

I think it was late last year when I came to the awkward epiphany that the one thing I’d been running away from most of my young life and is now quite lacking, is the one skill I could damn well use right now.

Discipline. Yeah, that old chestnut. 

As a kid, I remember my father trying desperately to instill a sense of discipline into me. Mostly he used the “brute-force” method – with a belt. Now before you go crying about it to your oversensitive sensibilities, hidings were a celebrated means of discipline back in the day and had their merits.

That said, I saw discipline as everything I didn’t want to do getting in the way of everything I did. Discipline was a dirty word, and not in a good way. I felt it was everything stopping me from being ‘free’, from really enjoying life. I mean who wants to learn the value of mowing the lawn when you could be playing games at the mall or vegging in front of the telly watching Empire Records for the hundredth time?

For me, discipline was a pain in the arse and I did everything I possibly could to avoid it.

Oh, what an idiot I was.

Flash forward 20-odd years and all of a sudden I’m lamenting the free-spirited child of yesteryear with all his frivolous whims and afternoons spent rollerblading in the driveway.

I wish I’d just hunkered down and did the hard stuff, because all of a sudden I’ve realised discipline IS the ONLY way to achieve true freedom – the freedom to do what you want without getting in your own way.

There are so many things I want to achieve (my list of ‘this’ll be so awesome, let’s do it’ is maybe a little too long). And yet I find that no matter how much I wish and want and hanker after that Men’s Health look for summer, the Nosh bar next to the teller invariably wins out. Or the couch over the gym. Or the next super rad awesome cool series over learning to actually play guitar, paint more or write.

Thankfully we have passion, but passion usually runs out just that little bit too soon. Just before we get to the place where we’re hitting the “ooooh this is rad, I’m so glad I did it” phase, passion invariably goes “ok, I think you’ve got it from here, I’m off to the Bahamas” and dumps you on your fat ass, nosh bar in hand watching the latest Game of Thrones.

Discipline.

And so this year after crying in my beer for a few days, I realised I should probably get on with beating my body into submission (BDSM, self-flagellation whip in hand) and focus on instilling a little bit of discipline into my life.

I’m now about half-way through the year, and to be brutally honest, I’m not quite sure how I’m doing. Discipline has got a lot to do with perseverance. And probably the only thing I’ve really persevered at is attempting to get more discipline – which isn’t a bad thing, but I’m a little worried that I haven’t really stuck it through on all the wonderful things I’ve been attempting to be disciplined at.

But it’s not all thorns and teardrops. I’ve seen a modicum of success across a few things, albeit up-and-down across them all – but the positive thing here is that I suppose this is the journey. The weird thing about perseverance is that you simply shouldn’t give up and you have it. Get up one more time than you fall down I think the adage goes.

So far I’ve more or less gymed at least 8 times each month this year, I’ve also maintained some sort of focus on my weight-loss goals- even if it’s not exactly going fantastically. I’ve sorta kinda kept reading and have some semblance of a morning routine going. And I think the most important thing is I feel like I’m gaining more control over my life and my future.

And honestly that’s a win for me and I’m amped to see what the next part of the year holds.

Is the dirty-d something you struggle with? I’d love to hear what you’re doing or done to push through the laziness and get more.

In the eye of the beholder.

Author Note: I wrote this a few years ago on my side project. Reposted it here, because I like it and want to consolidate the things I like under one roof. Have made a few edits here and there.
Repost from tiltrepublic.com 

tl;dr an essay on beauty.

Whenever I think of beauty, I’m reminded of that scene from FightClub where Edward Norton fucks up that guy, because he felt like destroying something beautiful.

Strangely, the visual impact of that iconic fight left me not able to look at Jared again in the same way for a very long time. It even impacted how I enjoyed 30 Seconds to Mars (until they did this). Beauty, whether unblemished or destructed has the ability to impact us in a profound way.

Beauty is a strange construct. Sometimes it can be sickening, pulling us to destroy it. A sappy, weak thing, that calls a rage from us that we never knew was there. Other times it can make us cry, overwhelmed by whatever our own personal mix of beauty is.

There is beauty in so many things. There is beauty in destruction. In pain. In a field of flowers. In a breath. There is beauty in my little girl as she sleeps. In a duck perched on top of a pole, the rising dawn as it’s backdrop. In the graffiti someone painted all over the carriage on the train I took into work this morning.

When you think about it, beauty tends to conjure up thoughts of peace and serenity. A quiet calm. It’s sublime. Demur. And yet it is these qualities that allows it to persist in the most unexpected of places. Beauty is subjective. I’m certain my personal brand of ‘beautiful’ is very different to yours. For me, it’s got to be a little fucked up. A little twisted. Decidedly tilted. It’s Yolandi Vi$$er. It’s Kat von D. It’s Fight Club. It’s graffitied trains. It’s metal like this. It’s Mix n Blend’s Oppi mix. It’s pretty much all my Pinterest posts.

It’s not ballet; It is thistattooed girls, underoath and a song by fun.

We may think that destruction is the enemy of beauty. But there is beauty in destruction. The degeneration can be something amazing. It all boils down to our point of view. I honestly think the antithesis of beauty isn’t destruction, it is apathy. We let life pass us by, absorbing but never adding to it, simply perpetuating the 9-5 40hr a week syndrome, as we scramble to pay off our debt, pay our rent and somehow pay for our procreation to go to school and get an education so that they, too, can rinse-repeat the cycle.

Modern society is stuck in a mundane existence. I find myself living vicariously through movies, in music and through those people around me that have managed to buck the system and throw themselves into being beautiful. I want to be beautiful. I want to be known for creating beauty. Instead I’m stuck in a 40hr a week job, doing tiny tweaks on the same thing every day.  Ad nauseam. It’s not that I’m not grateful. I get to spend my 120hour months in a pretty cool office. And I get to make something. But it’s not inspired. It’s not interesting. It’s not beautiful.

My outlook on life is decidedly alternative. It’s different, but even in difference it falls into a predefined set of rules. My brand of uniqueness has just been cloned from everyone else’s. I love that I’m not a commercial being. I like to tell myself I’m not one of the Bieber, Lady Gaga or Parlatone-loving non-thinkers out there. I’m not another one of the mindless many. But the truth is, I am. I may not like Bieber, but I’m a sucker for my iPhone. I buy Vida. I like my DCs and my Von Zippers. I want a Nixon watch. Or maybe a Tag Heuer. I only get tattoos at guys that do awesome work. And one day, when my 40hour work weeks pay off, and I’m no longer over my head in debt, and when I finally break out of this middle-class holding cell, I really want to buy a Ferrari. Why am I any different? I like metal and dubstep. I have dreads. My tattoos are innapropriate in most corporate jobs. I wear sneakers and a hoodie to work. But I’m still a slave to the suck. I like to think my one saving grace is that I’m aware. I know that I’m stuck and in my mind’s eye, I’m clawing my way out.

But my pessimistic side seems to say this might be our truth… Hope. That light at the end of our tunnel. Is there really a way out? I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, pondering on what allows us to escape. There are a few answers, I think. The truest and most obvious is to find a way to climb out; To be your own champion, and somehow through shear will and lack of fear, create a different reality. And there aren’t many who do this, but those that do, achieve wealth and we presume happiness. What seems to be a more achievable goal is to redefine what escaping means. I think it’s in no longer worrying about the light at the top of the climb, in finding peace and our success in our family, friends and the things we can do outside of our offices. In that, there lies an alluring glimmer that seems to say “accept your fate, and find happiness elsewhere”.

But there in lies our apathy. The lie inside the half-truth. It’s learning to both love life now – live fully;  connect deeply – and continue to strive to free ourselves from this suck. It’s a unique meld of the scramble and the considered. And it’s about creating beauty.

It’s something that I need to realise. We can all create beauty. We can all learn to really, deeply, share our lives with our families and friends. We can all find something that inspires us to be great, and dive into it. We need to learn to enjoy life. Share it with our family. Leave the 9-5 at the office and be present. We need to throw off the corporate stagnation and create something beautiful. And we need to learn to scramble.

I have realised I’m on a mission to create something beautiful. And then to do it again. And again. My rinse-repeat needs to be in creating beauty; not boredom. It’s creating a brightness where there is something dull. And I urge you to join me. The world is fucked up. Our middle class utopian dream is a nightmare. We’re over our heads in debt, working too many hours doing godawful jobs. It’s time we start creating again. Whatever that may mean to you.

I dare you to be beautiful.

Rolling Monthly Goals; My new regime.

tl;dr I have goals now. They may change next month.

I can’t quite remember when iI came on the idea, but in June I decided to start tracking a few different goals every month. I set myself a few rules to guide them. They are:

1. Each goal (or task – see #4 and #5 below) must be defined and achievable.

2. Be Accountable.

3. Each goal should be visibly tracked.

4. As much as possible, set daily tasks to work towards the goal.

5. Have a maximum of 2 different tasks for each goal (ideally only 1).

Initially it was a rolling goal, with a one-month focus. June went well, and I had fun tracking everything across the 4 primary goals.

So in June, my primary goals were:

1. Watch what I eat, with the primary tasks being: weigh myself every week day and have a daily caloric intake of under 2250 (tracked with My Fitness Pal)

2. Have a solid body-base by end of July (be strong and work with minimal weak areas), with the primary tasks being: Do Wendler 4x a week, Do 3 SSI exercises per week.

3. Finish 80% of my work projects within the set timeframe, tasks being: Communicated daily with clients and set daily goals.

4. Live within my budget with primary task being to save details of expenses daily to a google spreadsheet.

Initially I had just thought I’d keep the goals running kinda until I didn’t want to anymore – or until they needed change, but I found that June went well, then July I really struggled to track anything (although I have kept up with the financial tracking), so as I enter August, I’ve decided to add a 6th rule: Each goal lasts 1 month. Thereafter, I re-evaluate and set new goals or new tasks (or keep the ones that are working).

In all honesty, this is all a bit of an experiment. I’m hoping that at least some of each habit will stick, and I’m sure I’ll be drawn back to the important ones.

Also, I’ve found that I tend to stick to something for 4-6 weeks, and then get bored or distracted. I’m hoping that forcing myself to refocus each month will help me gather some kind of traction.

And then as I attempt to achieve my greater goals, being able to have a month to try something new both keeps things interesting, but also means that I’ve built experimentation into the regime, which allows me to tweak and find what works for me.

The main idea is to keep what works, discard the rest and that way, hopefully I’ll be able to keep moving towards the goal.

Also if one month I try something that bombs, then it’s a relatively short delay before I can get back onto things with the next month.

My goals for August are as follows:

1. End August lighter than I started it. I plan to achieve it by tracking my weight daily.

2. End August stronger than I started it. Tools/Tasks: I have a solid weight training program (Wendler 5/3/1), which I simply need to follow throughout the month. 2. Do 1 Sports Science Institute work out each week – I have 3 for rehab which I’m seriously struggling to get to, so I need to at least do one.

3. Generate more content. Tools: Create at least 1 piece of content every day. This excludes facebook, twitter, instagram posts, but can include Medium, my blog, vlogging on Vine, Snapchat, Younow or Storie and podcasts.

4. Spend less than I did last month. Easy enough to achieve, simply need to track all my slips in a google spreadsheet.

5. Something to do with my worklife. (still figuring this out).

I’ve also realised I need to tie each of these into a long-term goal. I know in some ways I’ve been doing that subconsciously, but it will be good to make a specific note so that as I change each monthly goal, I’m still focussed on the bigger picture.

So, my over-arching goals are:

1. Get to and maintain a body weight of less than 100kg or 15% body fat.

2. Have a functionally strong and fit body.

3. Be in a financially secure place (debt free, investing, future focussed).

4. Be successful in my work

5. be a good father & friend, person.

6. There are a few general life skills that I want to focus on (content creation, guitar, art/painting, etc) and an singular monthly focus will help.

I’m very aware that I don’t want to overwhelm myself. In general we can only make 1 small change at a time – or it’s one small change that sticks. So each of the tools or tasks that I’ve set needs to be small and easily achievable.

Also, by aligning it to a greater overall goal, it aligns with my passions and things I really want to achieve, which adds in that much needed emotional motivations.

Keeping it to a focused monthly goal means that the timeline isn’t super long and fuzzy in the future. Each goal is only 4 short weeks away, so sticking to the new habit is easier.

And I’m sure as I get used to this schedule, adding habits will become a habit in itself, and so sticking to each of the primary goals will (hopefully) become easier.

This is all actually part of one of my primary themes for my year, which is to become more disciplined. I have a poster stuck to my wall “If you have self-control you can accomplish anything”. I also read somewhere recently that discipline is a bigger indicator of success than talent. Gary Vaynerchuk said “Lack of consistency is a MASSIVE vulnerability”. And discipline is one of my weak areas – so definitely something I’ve been trying to focus on this year.

So that’s the basics. I’ll probably delve deeper into each of these goals and my thinking around this system as the month progresses, but for now, let’s see how it goes.

August, a month of content. Day 1.

tl;dr I plan to create some form of content every single day in August.

In June this year I started on something I’ve found to be very useful in my goal of continuous improvement and increasing my discipline.

I started setting monthly goals with the mind of intense focus on 1 small thing that I can do consistently through the month.

I’m busy writing a post explaining the whole process in more detail (which I’ll probably release tomorrow) as it’s turning into something quite valuable for me. So as a part of this new regime, I’ve decided that for the month of August, I will create some form of content every single day. (if you want to run away screaming, now is the time).

My goal is two-fold. Firstly I want to get into the habit of generating content consistently, and secondly, it’ll allow me to experiment with the different platforms out there.

The basic rules are as follows: “Normal” social media posts don’t count – so posting to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (although a 15s instagram vlog would probably qualify).

I’ll probably use my blog here at cameronolivier.com as a catch-all, and cross-post as much of everything I’m doing here, as an anthology of sorts.

Then I plan to post text & images on my blog, my new project’s blog (coming soon) and Medium. Also considering Facebook notes and tiltrepublic.com as well as maybe a guest post or two.

As far as images go, I want to start pushing content to Pinterest and I’m quasi-considering getting my tumblr up and running again, but I doubt it on tumblr.

From a video point of view, I’m looking to test out Snapchat (@billyrocha), YouTube, YouNow, Storie and maybe some Vines (@cameronolivier) and Instagrams as well.

Audio I’m hoping to start a podcast or two and do a few interviews (so iTunes and maybe Stitcher I think it is?).

And just to go properly OTT I’m considering using Meerkat or Periscope as a live-stream of the podcasts or maybe some of the video vlogs if they seem interesting enough.

As my time is already limited, I don’t see myself pushing out too many long-form things, and I’m hoping the video apps make content creation and dispersal relatively fast, but we’ll have to see.

Another concern I have is topics, as I haven’t really come in with any list of ideas – so I’ll need to start thinking on that as soon as possible, but I have a few rough ideas, being some code/front-end related topics, definitely some wordpress-based things. Then a few aimed at diet & training, a few at what’s going on in my life and a few on productivity and business stuff I’m learning. I’ve been focussing on a bunch of areas in my life and I think it’ll do me a lot of good to start journaling out what I’m learning and thinking on – so that should keep me busy for at least the first week.

I look forward to having you guys along for the ride.

PS. If you know of any more content, vlogging or podcasting apps I should try out or a BEME invite, leave me a message in the comments!

Coffitivity – the sounds of a coffeeshop in your browser.

tl;dr: https://coffitivity.com/ is a rad little online app that lets you stream the sounds of a coffee shop at work.

I’ve been reading up a lot on ways to get myself more productive lately. One thing I’ve stumbled on is a short e-book I bought on Amazon a little while ago on habit stacking.

The book is a fantastic little reference for tons (well 97) mini-habits that can stack, allowing you to leverage mini-habits into a routine, and thus get a bunch of things done that you might not. More on that later though.

One of the productivity ‘habits’ it suggests is using a noise generator to allow better focus. Research has been done which shows that moderate ambient noise actually helps enhance creative cognition, and the free web-app, Coffitivity achieves that with the very pleasant hubbub of a coffee shop. Unfortunately great-coffee-at-a-wave is not included.

I’m 5 Months into freelancing. Now what?

In November last year, due to a rather unforeseen and unfortunate situation, I was thrust into freelancing. It was probably the best un-decision I’ve ever not made.

I’d been wanting to start freelancing for a few months already, but the comfort of the day-job salary was hard to give up, especially at 35, being a single dad. Responsibilities and all that. But I was tired and uninspired and really just not that amped to keep at the slog. The commute was killing me (at ~3hours/day it really chewed into my ‘living’ time) and although where I worked was awesome, I’d been there for 3 years and my on-the-job learning & growth had slowed considerably.

And so, being thrust into freelancing rather unceremoniously, but thankfully directly into a few chance-jobs that really saw me through, I strode boldly forward.

Initially, it was easy to keep discipline up – I had work to do, and the new environment meant it was relatively simple to introduce new habits. But over time I got lazy – and by last month, I was really starting to feel it. The lack of routine was really affecting my day-to-day focus and there was just so much I wasn’t getting to.

Thankfully, I stumbled on a medium post lamenting the same thing, and the author stated how much having a daily morning routine had helped. Tim Ferriss speaks of the same, as well as a few others – the benefit of having a Morning Script and how much that helps set things out for the rest of the day. So,  I started

And so, with the start of April, I’ve started to get my day in order. Earlier in the year, I’d created a google calendar that maps out my ideal work-week – when to work on what, time for admin, planning etc – but I’d stopped using it, ignoring the constant updates and just carrying on as normal.

This week that’s all changed. I’ve created time for blogging, personal projects, training and reading. All things I’d wanted to make sure I focussed on, but I allowed the ‘busy’ to consume me, and so it slipped by the wayside.

It’s early days, sure, but so far it’s been a lot of fun. I always get amped for my work and for life in general when I read – I’m currently finishing off Seneca and Jab Jab.. by Gary Vee. I’m especially enjoying Seneca – it’s a introspective look at bettering oneself – which speaks right to where I want to be. I’ve learnt as we only have one life  – a continuous view on bettering oneself is something I want to remain focussed on.

Along with my morning routine, I’ve also started forcing myself to leave the house – taking a walk down to my favourite local coffee shop (Fred and Max) for my daily read and sometimes planning session. And a few weeks ago I started a Thursday coffee/breakfast date with my good friend Ian. By time-capsuling each of these, it’s allowed me to focus on my personal and technical growth while still having time in the day to get the work done.

In future posts, I’ll be walking through my current weekly calendar, what my morning ritual looks like – and why I’ve found it so helpful, as well as my renewed focus on stoicism and journey into daily meditation (it’s still early days) as well as a few other little life-hacks with a goal of growing my discipline. I read a poster on Pinterest which is fast becoming my mantra: “If you learn self-control, you can master anything”. If I have one goal for 2015, it’s that.

That and survive. Damn, this freelance thing is tough.

I’m excited to be blogging again, and it’s great to have a set time to do it in – I’ve had “Blog once a week” on my trello board for a good 5 months now – and this is the first one. It seems all this focus on routine is doing me good.

I’m thinking I’ll probably start posting these to Medium as well. Figuring out what should go there and what belongs here is going to be interesting, but we’ll see how that goes.

And that’s that – my first post and really just a brain-dump of where I’m at. I’d love to hear your routines and what works for you in your day-to-day and keeping productive.