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CITATION WORKFLOW FOR EDITORIAL

When I write on the Mac I use either Byword or Scrivener, depending on the size and complexity. On my iPhone, Byword is my preferred editor along with Notesy which is my nvALT replacement. All well and good. I also use Byword on my iPad, but for a long time I felt like more was needed for more complex things. And then Editorial by Ole Zorn came along. Many (like the infamous @Viticci from Macstories.net) have heralded this app as a giant step in the evolution of editing/writing on the iPad.

I tend to agree, that is, if you like building nerdy workflows to amplify the tool and your writing. I think that for bloggers, especially those using their iPad as their primary device, it’s a godsend. Some of the writing I do is not just for blogging, but also for more serious stuff (like work) which requires reasearch and maybe even citations. For bloggers, citations are often links to other blogs, and this is of course where the build-in browser of Editorial is pretty darn good. But when it comes to citations, most people I know, use a bibliography manager, not a browser.

I’ve chosen Zotero as my bibliography manager, as it works really well with my general information management workflow (documented here), which is the basis of most of my more complex research. In general I also keep my documents in Dropbox to ensure that they are available from all my devices. Bottom line is, I’ve long wanted to have access to my references (from Zotero) when I happen to be writing from my iPad, either in Editorial or Byword.

Zotero in action


WHY WE PROCRASTINATE

Ever a person to face the threat of procrastination, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about this devil. And this article from Nautil.us is a good primer on why we procrastinate. I especially enjoyed this quote:

Or, as in the case of Parfit’s smoking boy, we can focus on that version of our self that derives pleasure, and ignore the one that pays the price.

Personally, I’ve discovered that most of my procrastination has two primary causes:

  1. When I loose focus on the task at hand, it’s often because the activities ahead of me are too big, unpleasant or lacking in fun factor (e.g. I’m not motivated).
  2. Other times I don’t even get to evaluate if I’m willing to pay the price of my procrastination, I simply act on impulse.

And this is where I find the quote spot on. Because when you dive into whatever your impulses tell you that you’d rather do, this is exactly what happens: You let the future version of yourself pay the price by giving in to impulses which gives us pleasure. The hard part being that it’s very difficult to visualize the future you in the actual situation.

This is also referred to by Clayton M. Christensen in a Harvard Business Review article,1 as ‘giving in to the marginal cost’:

The marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails.

So it seems, that science and clever men agree that we’re not in touch with our future self, when we procrastinate. What to do?

A method which helps me is a simple 4 step method from the book ‘Search inside yourself’2 by Chade-Meng Tan . The method is called ‘S.N.R.R.’ which is an acronym for: Stop, Notice, Reflect and Respond.

The critical first part is stopping and being aware of the procrastination taking place. The second part is noticing the feeling you have in the situation. The third part, is actually reflecting upon it. Do you want to do this? Does it contribute to your goals and the future version of you? Last is responding according to your choice. So you see, during parts two and three, is where you should keep the future version of you in focus.

Another interesting read for me has been ‘Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It’3 by Kelly McGonigal, because it’s a really great mix of research, theory and practical appliance. She focuses a lot on three primary tenets: I will, I won’t and I want. These should be treated as the primary aspects we should constantly know for ourselves. So that when we get to evaluating the price of a given procrastination, we know what to compare it against.

I really recommend both books I’ve mentioned. They give many insights on the subject of self control as well as the neurology and research involved. Another aspect they cover is meditation, which will help you become even more aware of the desires and priorities of your future self.

So dive in before another pleasureful impulse leads you to letting down your future self!

  1. Harvard Business Review. (2010). HBR’s 10 must reads on managing yourself. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Review Press. Amazon

  2. Tan, C.-M. (2012). Search inside yourself: The unexpected path to achieving success, happiness (and world peace). New York: HarperOne. Amazon

  3. Mcgonigal, K. (2013). Willpower instinct: how self-control works, why it matters, and what you can do to get more of it. [S.l.]: Avery Pub Group.Amazon



THE BEST CALENDAR APP FOR IPHONE

Over at The Sweet Setup they’ve just declared Fantastical 2 their pick for best iPhone Calendar app. A choice I can only agree with, having been a user of the original Fantastical app as well.

In a nut, what makes Fantastical the best pick is its great design, superior natural language text entry, and its support for iCloud reminders. The only thing we dislike about Fantastical is its lack of an iPad version.

If you do not know about Fantastical, read the review1 and give it a go, especially if you’re tried of the Calendar App supplied by Apple. What I really miss there, is better integration with Reminders, but Fantastical takes great care of that. Plus, it’s got really great integration with URL-schemes which makes it pretty powerful in conjunction with e.g. LaunchCenterPro.

  1. For more review glory, check out the review at Macstories as well.


HYPERSMART STIMULATION

In the December issue of Wired Magazine (UK Edition) there’s an interesting article on Hyperstimulation. The topic is gaining a lot of traction these days, with many notorius names expressing their opinions, ranging from Sir Ken Robinson and Daniel Goleman (with his new book “Focus”) to David Price and his book “Open”. What seems to be on everybodys mind, is how we, and especially kids, manage in a global world which is rapidly changing, driven by technology. And in a sense, technology is rapidly changing our culture, while challenging the recommendations and practices of previous generations.

The Wired article written by Tom Cheshire, whom you can follow here, goes in-depth, with a focus on how kids and teenagers manage while subjected to hyperstimulation. As the following example shows, hyperstimulation is something we’ve all come to experience, in some form or another, whether it be through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram:

Zena Williams, a 13-year-old from Redbridge who wants to be the creative director of a video-game company, tells Wired: “The suggestions pile up and you can scroll down for ten minutes.” Musa Kazim, nine, says: “I literally can’t hear anything when I’m on the computer. I’m just in the zone.” Theo Merten Manser, a 16-year-old, says he regularly uses “ten or 12” social networks at the same time. Young people everywhere are reporting similar hyperstimulation.

The big question is, of course, what consequences this will bring in the future? Today, a lot of tech bloggers are having fiery debates on the social consequences of Google Glass and what its impact will be. Or whether or not the rumoured Apple watch is better. But actually, we already have a big challenge on our hands. As another quote from the article shows, it might not be good with all this hyperstimulation:

What is hyperstimulation doing to children’s brains? Surely nothing good: Manfred Spitzer, a German neuroscientist, calls it “digital dementia”. According to him, a generation is voluntarily lobotomising itself with digital hyperstimulation, reposting Tumblrs until catatonia comes.

On the other hand, not much research actually exist on the subject and I suppose this is why it’s mostly met with concern and a tinge of fear. What seems to be the way forward, since social media and frequently switching between different tasks isn’t going away any time soon1, is to teach kids, and ourselves, strategies to control the hyperstimulation:

“What we should be focusing on is ways of helping kids develop strategies to manage attention.” It wouldn’t be hard to do, either. “Absolutely this is something that schools should teach,” Thompson says. “The great news is it’s pretty teachable. You could comfortably put this in the curriculum for elementary and secondary schools… Learning to deal with social media – they’re chasing it out of schools, but that’s exactly where they should have kids interacting with social media.”

It’s going to be interesting to follow how this all develops. But it is so absolutely critical that we embrace new technologies to get the best out of them, especially since the technology fastrack of our times isn’t letting up. And neither should it. But it also calls for new approaches, most of all, in the classrooms.

As David Snowden has said2, ‘best practice is by definition, past practice’. It’s time to keep up.

  1. No, multitasking doesn’t exist. And no, it’s not gender specific either: Then there’s what many people think of as “splitting” attention in multitasking, which cognitive science tells us is a fiction, too. Rather than having a stretchable balloon of attention to deploy in tandem, we have a narrow, fixed pipeline to allot. Instead of splitting it, we actually switch rapidly. Goleman, D. (2013). Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

  2. Snowden, D. J., & Boone, M. E. (2007). A leader’s framework for decision making. Harvard Business Review, 85(11), 68.



MARKDOWN: FOR GENERAL WRITING I REALLY DON’T GET IT

David Hewson wrote this post about Markdown and it’s usability and worth for writers. I think that it’s good to see more debate about this, because right now, Markdown seems to be in fashion. Here`s Davids argument:

“I’m a big fan of ‘if it works for you then stick with it’. So if Markdown really does unlock something for you then stick with it. But we need to get away from the idea that creativity can be found in gimmicks. Markdown was never meant as a replacement for an industrial strength word processor. It’s a superb minimal markup language for people dealing in computer code or writing for the web.”

And the thing about using ‘whatever is in fashion’, is that fashion changes. It might just be shifting your focus away from actually being productive, to instead, implementing yet another tool or writing process. Which is pretty lame, especially as Markdown is a plaintext format which would imply the simplest of tools.

A boon with Markdown, or essentially, all formats based on plaintext, though, is longevity. The formatting is caused by markup in a plaintext file, as opposed to arbitrary formats like thise of Apples Pages and Microsofts Word. But that still does not make it the best tool for all writing purposes, which often is an effect of being ‘in fashion’.