How to track your time across all devices

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Earlier in this Run Wild adventure, I decided to track how much time I spend across anything that’s connected to the internet.

The reason behind this is: You can’t change a habit if you don’t know your baseline.

Back then, it was impossible to estimate how much time was spent on devices, but that’s changed (and will hopefully get better with more time).

On your iPhone, the only useful app is called Moment. While it doesn’t drill down to what apps have been used, it does track how much time you spend on your device and, more telling, how many times you swipe it open.

So Moment is effectively tracking how many times you glance at your phone. It’s kinda scary seeing that. I pick up my phone 15 – 30 times throughout a day. And that’s me being mindful!

You can export your results, which is cool. Because Moment constantly runs in the background, it drains the phone battery, so only run this for two weeks to get a baseline then experiment for two weeks to break the habit and run the app again to see if you’ve changed the results.

Android (of course) is more open when it comes to accessibility. There’s an app that tracks how long you spend head down in your phone and what apps you spend the most time in. I’ve heard good things about it.

I still use RescueTime to track time spent on my computer and I believe RescueTime is experimenting with an iOS version. I glance at the weekly email summary of my app usage for my mac, but don’t worry too much. My computer is slowly turning into a to-do list, rather than a research or social media hub, so I know that in general I’m doing useful stuff.

What do you use to track your current online habits? Anything else I should look at?

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Write your good ideas down (before they disappear)

I’ve had a journal in one form or the other, since I was eight. My best friend Alicia bought me a gaudy pink journal with a cheap golden lock for my birthday and that was it.

Over the years, I’ve moved away from ‘dear diary’ entries. Now I scribble down mix of ideas, things that inspire me and the odd old-fashioned list of things to do.

I don’t think I’ve found the best sketch book, but the idea is to keep it as simple as possible, keep it so simple that you carry it around with you everywhere.

Right now, I’m using a small moleskin book with a rubber band and my father’s fountain pen. It’s almost the same size as my phone, so I think nothing of stuffing it into my back pocket and heading out the door.

You can buy a three pack of these books for $13. I got the rubber band from my vegetables and the fountain pen costs about $1 to refill from an ink pot (oh, the love I take out of refilling the pen, ink stains in the crevices of my fingerprints).

Sure, you could use your phone to take notes, but with all of the notifications and the internet (see: the history of the world) at your fingertips, I often get distracted when I swipe it open.

I was going to buy a beautiful handmade canvas cahier for my journals from Etsy – but then I thought I should keep it simple. There’s a fine line between investing in your art and then buying things for the sake of it.

In your sketchbook, you should write down everything: every hunch, every half-baked idea, a point that sparks your imagination, a tickle in your brain. Jot it down before it disappears.

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Unlined sketchbooks are best, you know, so your ideas aren’t pinned down by lines.

I used visual art diaries with big black covers for the longest time, but now I enjoy the way salt water soaks into my notes and makes the ink run and the way the book creases with each journey.

Here’s the real gold of carrying a notepad: reviewing your ideas and connecting the dots where you thought there were no connections.

Having your ideas in one place and looking through them every once in a while is invaluable for ideas, as well as nostalgia.

Ideas don’t just circulate among people, they also run circles and collide in our minds, but only if we remember them.

How to start being an artist by Georgia O’Keeffe

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Photo by Christopher Springmann (source)

 

Georgia O’Keeffee was a prolific artist from 1916 to 1984. During her peak, she sold the highest piece of art and in 2014 her White flower no 1was sold at $44.4 million, doubling the previous highest paying female artist. What’s most interesting to me is her strong character and dedication to her work. She had decades of fluxing between extreme introversion to extraversion and back again.

While she’s well-known for her microscopic paintings of flowers, she started using clay after 57 years in the business, while she was going blind. That shows courage, picking up a new skill set after half a century.

Early in her career, she was taught by a teacher to paint a picture a day.

“The idea was a multifaceted lesson of genius.

Painting a picture a day trains you to:

a) not take your work or yourself too seriously;

b) capture the energy that led you to paint this particular thing in the first place;

c) loosen up (you’ve only got a day, so no fussing around);

d) remember there are more where this one came from (there’s always tomorrow); and

e) love the process; the enjoyment you had painting that kitten in a basket is more valuable than the painting itself.”

– How Georgia became O’Keeffe by Karen Karbo

For me, this is how I’ve trained myself to think. It didn’t come naturally, it’s been a hard slog. I always use to struggle on getting started, because once you start, failure is inevitable.

But actually, all of that messy failure, scary fear and dose of adrenalin has to be consumed. That’s the stuff of a life well-lived.

Start small, don’t be precious about your ideas and keep on building on it. I quite like this approach over labouring over making everything perfect.

In Georgia’s later years, she would get asked on how to become an artist.

She always said, or wrote, the same thing. Go work. Go work now.

I recently read this book on Georgia O’Keeffe that made me realise just how diverse she is. Her art really is amazing and I loved reading such a candid biography. Karen Karbo, I’m sure Georgia would approve.

Georgia O'Keeffe, hands 1918, photo by Alfred Stieglitz

Georgia O’Keeffe, hands 1918, photo by Alfred Stieglitz

 

 

 

What I noticed about musicians

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That hand reaching out before the body slam kills me. Quite proud of this shot of Dillinger Escape Plan.

I went to a birthday party for a musician. He had an open mic where he called up his friends to play on the stage for a bit.

What was interesting was how they supported each other with their whole bodies.

They bopped, they swayed, they danced and cheered their support of each other. They were really into the music with their whole selves, in an unabashed, almost childish way.

It was so unlike some gigs I’ve been to where people strain to look cool and composed in their seats, like they just woke up and put on faintly ironic clothes and couldn’t care where they are.

As I’ve started to play more music, I’ve noticed that I appreciate it a whole lot more, cause you know, I still haven’t gotten to that stage where I’m comfortable playing in front of others.

When I hear live music now, I try to show my appreciation with my whole body, without any embarrassment, because fuck it, the musos are putting themselves out on a limb, the least I could do is reciprocate.

Now dance.

A menstrual music playlist: or if you’re feeling introverted

I could say that this will strike a chord with 50% of you but that’s not really true.

When men are experiencing low testosterone, they feel as introverted and moody as women do during their lowest drop in estrogen during a menstrual cycle.

So if you’re craving introverted, slow music. Here you are.

Includes such hits like:
I don’t blame you by Cat Power
Today I sing the blues by Aretha Franklin
Hood by Perfume Genius
I need my girl by the National
Waterfalls by TLC
Song to the Siren by Tim Buckley

Enjoy.

And, what do you listen to when you need slow, inward, soothing music?

Need a new idea? Get bored and boozy

Christmas Eve, 2011. Kona, Hawaii.

If you find that you’ve been stuck in a rut or you need to work on an idea that just isn’t coming to you, try these things that are all designed to lower your inhibitions or preconceived barriers:

  • Get bored: switch off the internet and sit outside. Take a shower. Take a long train ride and don’t pull out your phone. Sit at a cafe. Stare outside. Let your mind wander to that slightly discomforting place and see what happens.
  • Try sleep: Sleeping on something refreshes you and gives distance.
  • Or, have a drink or two with a sketchpad.

Doing these things makes your mind wander, makes you think “what if” in a safe, new atmosphere. Just make sure you write it down, or better yet, start doing the thing you really want to do.

What do you do to make your mind wander or you need to come up with new ideas?

How to make a creative difference in the world before you die

It turns out that if you really want to make a creative difference in the world, you first have to know a field intimately.

Mihlay Csikszentmihalyi and a team of researchers conducted a four year study into creativity. They had 91 in-depth interviews with a range of artists, scientists, designers, philosophers and musicians. All the while they were looking for patterns.

This is one of them.

You have to know the rhythm and rules of your field but remain distant enough to stay curious. People sometimes describe this as hunger. I prefer the word curiosity, because it’s an ongoing open-minded way of playing, not a way to get nutrition. It’s bigger than your body’s functions.

What these great creative people did different from everyone else, was that they didn’t loose the intangible magic of creativity and questioning.

The moment you start to see things in black and white is when you need to step out of the safety of the norm. Then, riding the sweet, sweet balance of it all, you can make great things happen.

Some creatives that Csikszentmihalyi interviewed have this sweet balance by slipping into diverse bits of knowledge that feed into their primary passion. Others get obsessed to the point of it being the only thing they think about (and in the process they forget about doing other things like social events and laundry).

From what I gathered from this study, the only thing that matters is that you have to understand the current thinking, who the key players are and how it all works. And then you get distant or bold enough to play with “what ifs”.

You have to have enough space, courage and boredom to deviate and (this part is important, otherwise your work is in vain) you have to come back to your field with your new thinkings and inventions.

Honestly, I think if you can walk this tightrope, this sweet balance of keeping abreast of the field while keeping time to play and explore, you’re pretty fucking amazing.

Asking for help – often and gracefully

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Amanda Palmer is a transparent artist. She was the first musician to raise over $1 million for an album on Kickstarter. When she tours, she stays with audience members and while on stage, she talks frankly about what’s going on in her life and what her struggles are.

I cooked for her when she was toured through D.C in 2009. In no small accounts, she was a very strong role model when my life was in a spin cycle (It’s a really good read, if I do say so myself). To thank her, I cooked lots of food, dropped it off backstage, felt awkward, got really drunk and took some photos of the gig.

Anyway.

When I read the end of Amanda Palmer’s book ‘The art of asking’, I cried. That’s not true. I cried throughout the whole book.

This book was all about asking for help, without any shame, guilt or apologies. To figure out what you want and then to ask for it gracefully and without embarrassment.

If the art of asking is not easy, the art of not asking is even harder.

I decided to run a little experiment on this by asking for three things I really wanted.

I asked the cabin owner if I could check out earlier from what I had booked. She said yes. It was like a thousand little weights were just lifted from my body and I stayed for a week, knowing that I had flexibility.

I was stuck on a Crowded House song on my ukuele and asked a musician playing at a restaurant for help. He said yes and showed me some strumming variations but also told me to just go with my intuition. We shared a love for sad songs and I bought him some cake.

I needed to make a visual design course more flexible as I travelled throughout this month, so I asked the school if I can have some catch up sessions and they said yes, and in fact, others would benefit as well.

These were amazing, great experiences that I, for the most of my life, have been too scared/worried/polite to have, just by asking.

So this is going to be me. Asking for help – often and gracefully.

It probably means I’m going to be crying alot more, because I’ll inherently be more open and vulnerable. But that’s a good thing.

Thank you Amanda, for writing this book. I think you guys would dig it.

A week without civilisation

The last six months has been packed with stuff. So naturally, I made plans to stay in a cabin in the middle of a forest, just to see what would happen.

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I wanted to explore who I was amongst natural surroundings and limited resources. I was tethered to my phone like it was life support. I had neck problems from staring at my computer for too long. And, more importantly, I’ve been surrounded by people all my life (aren’t we all?) so I wanted to see if I changed when I was by myself.

I packed up my things last week and drove five hours south to a cabin that had one gas stove, no electricity and no connectivity.

Reverting to 18th century living is not poetic nor is it graceful.

You know that moment where you’re at the top of a roller coaster and you realise, not only is this silly but you’ve irrevocably committed to it until the end?

That was my cabin adventure.

I had time aplenty to think of where my life’s heading.

I wanted to see who I was without my partner. We’ve been inseparable since I was 20 and I feared that I had fundamentally changed who I am, unknowingly, throughout our relationship.

People look at us from the outside and think we’re similar: two Sri Lankans that met in Australia. But if you look closer, we have sharp edges in our different principles and behaviours, and I am so happy that we do.

We toe around each other’s madness and rub away the sharp, rough edges, which is a good thing in life; where there are many different ways of doing the same thing.

When I thought about our relationship as I walked through the forest, I kept on thinking about two trees together. We grow next to each other, but don’t rely too much on each other. It becomes dangerous when one is a vine and the other is the trunk. But as long as it’s two trees growing together, with space in between as needed, it’s a healthy, balanced relationship. Ok, enough of this shitty ass metaphor.

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I ate less that I normally do, and what I ate was better for me. Not having a fridge means that your meals revolve around the vegetables on the shelf.

I slept for longer but walked less than I do in the city (I used a jawbone to track all of this).

The thing that I didn’t anticipate was my fear of being raped and killed in the middle of a forest.

It was a tangible fear that hung in the air like a fog whenever the sun set. The thunder and lightning every night didn’t help.

I say it’s an irrational fear for me because women are 90% more likely to be raped or killed by someone they know (source). 10% of assaults are what all of our myths and horror stories revolve around – a woman being by herself, in the dark, no connection to the outside world, blah blah, fucking blah.

I hated my fear.

I hated that as a woman in 2014, I didn’t feel safe.

I hated it so much that I opened all the windows and doors and looked out at the trees through the lightning and lashings of rain, daring some hooded asshole to appear. And then I locked everything to go to sleep.

But I was out there, and I was being present through the fear, worry and adrenaline. And I returned, not in a coffin.

How do other women get past this? Is it just a matter of putting myself through these kind of experiences more often so that I harden my resolve? Maybe I should brush up on self-defence again.

I read three books and learnt eight songs on my ukulele. I painted and wrote. I swam in deserted beaches and watched wallabies eat in the dusk.

It had previously took me a month to learn one song on my ukulele and in one week I learnt eight songs.

I think this just points out how much value we should place in focus and how important the allocated time we have on earth is. I sing flat and fuck up chords, but there’s an unnamed joy in making music.

I also painted my ukulele. It’s a eucalyptus leaf on a uke. Euc on a uke. Get it? In Australia, the shortened word for a eucalyptus tree is pronounced like ‘uke’. Yeah, use that one the next time you want to impress someone with your worldliness.

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For the first day, I looked at my watch every half hour. By the third day, I had taken it off and was just waking up with the sun.

I imagine that people from the 18th century longed for the 16th century and so on and so forth from the beginning of time. We romanticise the past for it’s simplicity and we’ll continue to do so until humanity blows up.

Our grandchildren will probably pine for a world where a GPS didn’t tell you when you were, indeed, on the road less travelled.

If I’m being completely truthful, I much prefer the background din of a local pub or a crashing ocean to the laughing sound of kookaburras and the rustle of trees.

There is something to be said of loosing track of time and going back to basics.

Here’s a little home video I made of the week.