You Want the Best Traveler’s Notebook? Start Here.

If you ever hunt for buried treasure…this is your notebook…

I jumped down this rabbit hole a while back and got lost in the sea of the “Traveler’s Notebook” community.

There is the “official” Traveler’s notebook from the Traveler’s Company based out of Japan, and then there are a bunch of others that have iterated off of their brand.

I had no idea that there were whole communities built around something so small…correction…something so complicated. I ended up with the smaller, blue version of the original that I use at work and then have the below larger version (from another company) for some personal journaling.

Check them out here and here.

Setapp for the Work at Home Save

The Netflix of apps pulls through in this “work-at-home” world we live in right now…

I have written about Setapp before.

Just the other day I had a great work-from-home use case and I thought I would share it with you.


At my work the software we are given to manipulate boring things like PDFs is lackluster to say the least. Last week I needed to convert over 200 pages of a word document (that was broken up in to 60 word files) in to a PDF.

Yes, I could have printed all 216 pages and scanned them to a PDF…or… I could make good use of the various Mac apps I have at home.

PDF Expert

My primary PDF reader/editor I use on my Mac is PDF Expert by Readdle. In my opinion it’s the best app that works across the Mac and iOS platforms. However, when I was trying to figure out the best way to use the software to open up 60 word documents and merge them in to one big PDF I was stumped.

PDF Expert

That is when I remembered some PDF software I used pay for before I found PDF Expert…PDFpen.

PDFpen by Smile Software

This was one of the first PDF editing/manipulating pieces of software I ever paid for a few years ago and it’s still a fantastic piece of software…but I eventually got priced out of the Pro version that had the advanced features I wanted.

When I was a recruiter I used to work from my home office a lot, and had to collect various documents and merge them and send them off for processing. PDFpen was my go to mac app to get this done.

As I was trying to figure out how to use PDF Expert to do just this, I remembered my past workflow…but I didn’t own PDFpen any more.

Damn!!

That is when Setapp popped in to my head. Did the “Netflix of Mac Apps” have PDFpen PRO?

Setapp search function

Setapp

You’re damn right it did!

I opened it up, searched for PDFpen and had it downloaded and open in less than a minute.

PDFpen let me open up the first word document directly in it, then all I had to do was drag each of the 59 other word document to the side bar. That’s it! Once I had them all over in the left hand thumbnails area, I just saved the document and boom…a 216 page PDF.

Easy breezy.

Worth It?

With the way that most apps are moving to subscription models, I would say YES.

Rather than paying $150 a year for various applications that you will use, you can pay about $100 a year (or $10/month) for those same apps and a ton more!

There is always the risk that one of your “must-have” apps isn’t in Setapp…but they’re updating their repertoire often.

Might at least be worth checking out.

Links of the Week (4/27/2020)

So much good advice for your writing and your blog…

In this piece we will cover all the ways you can organize your content creation workflow. Sit tight, because we’re packing a lot of guides on how tools help us create more and create better.

Lots of great apps and tools covered here. Always fun to read through posts like these.

The Complete List of Tools for SEO Content Creation & Blogging Productivity in 2020


As a teenager, you may have once pined over a boy or girl and thought, They don’t even know I exist. Well, it can feel just as bad when you create a new blog and no-one seems to be reading it. In fact, it may be even worse because Google Analytics will confirm your suspicions without a hint of sympathy.

How to Get the Word out about Your New Blog


Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend thousands on your blog to be successful. You don’t need hundreds of thousands of pageviews. Or even a super slick blog design. In fact, you can be extremely successful and barely spend any money. But what you do need is a plan.

5 Blogging Mistakes + How to Fix Them


While I know you’ve heard the benefits of guest posting before, I don’t think it’s often discussed as a practice.

A lot has to happen before more readers discover your writing, and one big obstacle blocks many internet-era writers …

Find Loyal Readers Faster with This Writing Practice

Links of the Week (4/20/2020)

Why they should read your article over others and a 103-year-old’s bucket list…

But why should readers choose your content over another writer’s work?

​This is one of those articles to save a re-read every now and then. Lots of valuable blogging specific advice here.

8 Transformative Edits to Strengthen Weak Content Writing – Copyblogger


The leading theory for why this happens is that the perception of time relies on the number of memories formed in a period, and memories are encoded from new and surprising experiences. The monotony of commuting to work on the same road for 20 years passes without leaving a mark. But every day is a memorable surprise to a child experiencing her first summer camp, or learning how big the universe is for the first time.

Time slowed in March because for the first time since childhood many of us are being bombarded with new and surprising experiences.

​I this this article answered a question I didn’t even know I had.

Why Time Has Slowed


  • Like everybody else, Romanian philosopher Mihai Sora is stuck inside.
  • He is keeping busy for a 103-year-old man, and keeping the world up to date on his indoor adventures with Facebook.
  • His to-do list is impressive, but not so impressive it can’t be used by most people.

​I’m impressed.

This 103-year-old philosopher’s to-do list will get you through self-isolation


While it’s very tempting to roll out of bed and into the workday still dressed in your most comfortable pajamas, this could be one of the biggest reasons you’re finding it hard to concentrate during your work from home days.

5 effortless, science-backed changes to your isolation workspace that will improve productivity and mental health

10,000 Hours of Blogging

I did the math…

Have you ever heard of the 10,000 hour rule?

What is the 10,000 hour rule? How long is 10,000 hours? Have you blogged for 10,000 hours? How?


This is a “rule” that Malcom Gladwell popularized stating that approximately 10,000 hours of practice are needed to master a skill (in the simplest terms). For now I will ignore the many arguments against this rule. Instead I will focus on the fact that it basically shows that a lot of volume is needed to work towards mastery of anything.

Many circles apply this rule to athletes, pointing to the amount of hours of practice that they need to get to the elite levels of competition or expertise. Volume is not the ONLY factor that contributes towards mastery, but 10,000 hours is widely recognized as a bar that many reach for.

How Long Does That Take?

Photo by Behy Studio on Unsplash
Photo by Behy Studio on Unsplash

Good question.

Some basic math (assuming 2 weeks vacation) showed me that if you put in 40 hours a week, you would reach this mark in 5 years.

10,000 hours / 40 hrs/week = 250 weeks

250 weeks / 50wks/year = 5 years

Is this realistic? Nope.

As a gymnast, growing up, I practiced for 3 hours a day 5-6 days a week (on average). That would put me at about 12-15 years to get to that mark of 10,000 hours.

This lines up well with high school athletes looking to compete in college. If they start young, like I did, they hit that mark just before, or during, college. I won’t go in to the various opinions on whether or not athletes should be multi-disciplinary in their younger years to round out their athletic foundation…I am focused on the raw volume for now.

Photo by Gentrit Sylejmani on Unsplash
Photo by Gentrit Sylejmani on Unsplash

Applying The Rule to Blogging

Does this mean you should blog full-time?

Maybe.

Why do you think the full-time bloggers are so good?

This was quite a realization for me. Largely because I’m not even close to 10,000 hours of blogging.

However, if you look at blogging as writing, then you can give yourself more credit towards that 10,000 hours. High school was hopefully a time to lay the first building blocks of your writing skills; with college giving you a serious boost towards the reps and volume you can’t avoid when honing a skill.

Let’s assume, for arguments sake, that by the time you have finished college you are at about 4,000 hours. (2 hours/day, 5days/week, for 8 years) While that is very optimistic, you still have 6,000 hours to reach the aforementioned Gladwell benchmark. Seeing as how most successful bloggers start off with a “regular” job and write on the side…let’s say you write for 4 hours per day. (That’s still a ton and probably not realistic for most)

6,000hrs / 20hrs/week = 300 weeks

300wks / 50wks/year = 6 years

6 years post college to become a “good” writer (blogger)!!!

That seems like a lot.

But it’s not. I would bet money that most successful bloggers didn’t find their success for at least that long…if not longer. I wrote about Jason Kottke not long ago and how he was running his website for 7 years before deciding to give blogging full-time a try. He has now been blogging full-time for 15 years and his blog is 22 years old.

Seth Godin…has been doing what he does for almost 30 years. He wrote his first book in 1999…his blog coming later. Talk about volume.

How to Get There

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

A couple years ago, I was traveling from Memphis to Portland with a connecting flight through Dallas Forth Worth. A cashier in DFW mentioned to me that I appeared to be in good shape and asked if I had any advice for him when it came to putting on muscle.

While the comment and question caught me off guard (because I was in a candy shop of all places), I assumed he was emboldened to ask because of the Crossfit shirt I was wearing.

In an instant, I thought of the thousands of hours of practice and working out I had accumulated for over 30 years. I asked myself, What one thing can I tell this random guy about my lifetime of fitness?

“Consistency man…go to the gym even when you don’t feel like it.”

I said as he handed me my receipt.

I couldn’t tell if the look he gave me said “true, true” or “that was lame” Nevertheless, it was the best piece of ‘gym advice’ I could think of as, ironically, I was walking out with a bag full of gummy bears.


Photo by Matthew Cabret on Unsplash
Photo by Matthew Cabret on Unsplash

I learned a lot about consistency and self-discipline from my years of gymnastics. Yet, I find I still need these reminders as I work on becoming a better writer:

  1. Becoming a better writer will take time…a few years by my calculations, probably more.
  2. There are no shortcuts…no matter how many Medium articles I read that promise me ‘5 Tips to Becoming a Better Writer’.
  3. Consistency is key…I have to write even when I don’t feel like it.

Now you’ve read this article and learned in 5 minutes what it took me decades to discover.

Knowing these 3 insights alone won’t guarantee your success…but they sure as hell will help.

This was first posted over on Medium. If you like these longer form posts, you can get early access to them by becoming a Patron for $1 a month.

Links of the Week (4/06/2020)

Mind mapping, a replacement app for Notes, and building your blog email list…

Shawn and Mike hosted a webinar to teach more about our Idea System and how to better use mind mapping.

They covered not only the basics of mind mapping, but also a handful of mind mapping workflow examples.

Idea Magic: How to Capture, Manage, and Develop Your Ideas (Video Replay) – The Sweet Setup


But two apps rise above the others as the true cream of the crop: MindNode, with a stunningly beautiful user interface, and iThoughts, with powerful features and impressive flexibility.

​I used MindNode extensively when I was in the thick of my Masters degree. Really helped me with outline is and structuring all those papers I had to write.

iThoughts vs. MindNode: A Comparison of the Two Best Mind Mapping Apps – The Sweet Setup


I can’t think of a single other notes app that looks as good as Noto. Appearance isn’t everything, but it sure is important, and Noto nails the look of what I consider a modern interface. It’s clean, elegant, and vastly superior to Apple Notes’ textured notebook style. And just look what happens when adding notes to folders.

I moved over to Noto from Apple Notes. It gorgeous.

Noto Review: Beautifully Modern and Versatile Note-Taking


Creating a newsletter for my blog has totally changed the blogging landscape for me. It’s my best blogging asset.

​One of these days I’ll explore doing this more in depth.

How to Create a Newsletter For Your Blog #GrowYourBlog Series

Harness Your Inspiration

When you catch the wave, ride it as long as you can.

I’m not sure about you, but inspiration is very rarely a constant for me.

The Sprint

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

There are crazy bursts of energy that come with being inspired. Over the years I have come to realize I have to use those bursts to propel me forward. For example, if I am inspired to write longer form articles, I will do so at a maniac pace (for me). Much more than a brain dump, I ride these waves of ‘needing to act’ as long as I possibly can.

That probably explains how, a few months back, I wrote a bunch of articles on Medium and each one got noticed by an editor or picked up by a publication. Alas, these hyper productive bouts do not last forever.

After these shorter periods of increased inspiration, I often feel like I am a sprinter that just competed in a few different track events in one day – needing to rest and tone it down for a couple weeks afterwards.

The Distance

Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash
Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash

There are more steady states of inspiration. Like running my blog, my year of vlogging, a lifetime of staying in shape, and more. Yet these are more of a “long distance run” type of energy level. These kinds of projects are more akin to restoring an old car or remodeling part of your house. It takes patience, time, and the slow and steady burn of focused determination.

I find that my “distance” projects often start off with the sprint. It takes a lot of energy to get something started, and a lightning strike of inspiration is often just what is needed.

The Goal

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Everyone has a different goal. Perhaps a finish line that you set in your mind when you were a kid, in college, or even just today. Some goals are hard and fast:

  • Start writing
  • Make money with my blog
  • Get promoted
  • Start a Family
  • Lose 20 pounds

Yet some are more aspirational in nature:

  • Become a better writer
  • Inspire those who read my blog
  • Change the world through my work
  • Love my family and raise my kids right
  • Stay healthy in to my old age

Where Am I?

Photo by Ethan Hoover on Unsplash
Photo by Ethan Hoover on Unsplash

Are you sprinting right now or settled in for the long haul?

Either way, take advantage of your pace. If you are in ‘distance mode’, then use that time to store up some of that “sprint” energy. If you are sprinting, then haul ass and get to it!

We all need inspiration.

It’s what you do with it that matters.

This was first posted over on Medium. If you like these longer form posts, you can get early access to them by becoming a Patron for $1 a month.

You Won’t Believe My Morning

Straight out of a futuristic Gulliver’s Travels…

I went out on my daily excursion to sit on the front step of my building for ten minutes holding my breath when people walked by. Normally, I spend the time diddling around my phone, but I forgot to bring my phone this morning, so I just looked around.

As I was taking in the emptiness of the street, a little glint caught my eye in a patch of dirt on the sidewalk. I bent over to look closer, and there was the glint again. It wasn’t a normal glint like from a shiny rock or a piece of metal—it was a little pinprick of flashing light.

Intrigued, I was now on all fours looking closer. And I saw the most surreal thing.

Tiny houses.

Like tiny houses. Each about a millimeter high, like ornately carved grains of sand.

I was either dreaming or looking at the coolest, cutest little art project ever.

As I examined the microscopic village, I noticed what looked like a scrawl of teeny letters on the dirt next to the houses. It said:

PUT YOUR THUMB ON THE OVAL

You HAVE to read this.

Blogging Full-Time

Blogging full-time is a goal for many…he made it happen before it was a thing.

Not sure if you have ever heard of Kottke.org, but it’s one of the internet’s oldest and well-known blogs. Somehow I stumbled across a 15-year-old post over there, when Jason Kottke wrote about going “full-time blogging”.

After thinking about it for a few weeks, I had a bit of an epiphany. The real problem was the tension between my web design career and my self-publishing efforts; that friction was unbalancing everything else. One of them had to go, and so I decided to switch careers and pursue the editing/writing of this site as a full-time job.

I would imagine that was as terrifying then as it is now…probably more so. He had been working full-time and keeping up his blog as it picked up steam for about 7 years.

Think about that.

7 years keeping his blog up and running before he jumped in to it full time.

Ok, but why else are you doing this?

Blogging — or personal publishing in general (not that they’re synonymous) — as a pursuit has been somewhat marginalized as a hobby or something one does to support other more worthy and/or lucrative pursuits. People leverage their blogs in order to write books, write for magazines or newspapers, pursue art or photography, go work for Gawker, Mediabistro, or Weblogs Inc., get jobs at startups, do freelance design (as I used to), start a software company, or as a vehicle to sell advertising. All worthy pursuits, but I’m interested in editing kottke.org as my primary interest; blogging for blogging’s sake, I guess.

I have always seen blogging as a way to share my interests…and I think most folks see it the same way. Many might see blogging full-time as a dream job, but I bet it’s a lot of work too. What’s the saying?…

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life

We have the benefit of hindsight and reading this post from 2005 is pretty cool to see. Jason’s write up still holds up all these years later.

Doing kottke.org as a full-time job

Note: I saved that post to read later and write about here and little did I know that just a couple days later (March 14th to be exact), Kottke.org turned 22.

Hello all. I know there’s a pandemic going on out there, but I wanted to take a moment to celebrate kottke.org turning 22 years old today. If you’ve been reading along the entire time or for only a few days, it’s been an honor for me to inform, provoke, entertain, and possibly even infuriate you all for a few minutes every day. Thanks for reading — and an extra-special thanks to those who support the site with a membership. As I said a few weeks ago, all this really means a lot to me.

Celebrating 22 Years of Kottke.org