The Logitech MX Keys keyboard is awesome

by oneafrikan on February 11, 2021

Background: I’ve struggled with RSI from the tip of my middle finger to the back of my shoulders for a long time now, basically from 20 years of typing. One day on the trackpad and I can feel it coming back. My solution in the end was to get a cheap squash sweatband / wristband from Amazon, and fairly good ergonomic devices, which mean I don’t have that daily RSI pain I used to.

So I’ve just started using the Logitech MX Keys.

After about two weeks, I can honestly say it’s better than the Mac keyboards I’ve been using (long & short, with USB cables, not the wireless ones) the last 10 years or so. It’s exceeded my expectations by a fair margin.

Even better, you can tether it to 3 machines with either bluetooth or the usb thingamajig, so along with the MX Master mouse (I have an earlier generation than the current one – also 3 devices), I’ve drastically reduced desk clutter whilst making typing even better. So I’ve got my Linux box under the desk, my personal Mac Mini & the work Mac, all running from the same keyboard & mouse.

Pair both devices with the Options software, and it’s pretty cool.

We spend so much of our lives using a keyboard & mouse (same as the carpenter and his chisel, or your bed & pillow), it makes sense to invest.

If you’re thinking about getting it, just do it, you won’t regret it. ;-)

Just upgraded to Omnifocus 3…

by oneafrikan on February 4, 2021

I find myself back in a place where I can fully embrace Omnifocus as my GTD brain of choice, so last night I checked I could upgrade to 3 on my primary devices (the Mac I’m writing this on is from 2011 and has had open heart surgery 3 times so is no longer a primary device, will only go so far as 10.13.6, so it won’t support 3, BUT GUESS WHAT, the great folks at OmniGroup have made things backwards compatible for Ver 2 – thank you!!), and everything worked flawlessly.

Chose the 1 Yr subscription plan and so now I have 3 on iPhone, iPad, Mac’s, and browser version for Windows / Linux.

First thought: I never really liked the idea of “contexts” in the previous versions. I found the idea of only one context limiting. So I prefer the way “tags” are implemented in the new version – I’m doing home admin, I need to fill 30 mins with productive actions, and I want them to relate to bills – BAM, 3 tags does it. And no mouse clicks in sight.

Second thoughts: None yet, but will update as I get my brain back into Omnifocus fully. Right now it’s scattered over notebooks, Evernote, Trello and Miro.

Decluttering…

by oneafrikan on February 4, 2021

Late last year, my wife and I decided to go through a process of decluttering our house. Everything that hasn’t been used in over a year is at risk of going.

So far I’ve managed to get rid of c 25 things on eBay, during a global pandemic. Amazing how people want Cokin filter holders, old MS Office CD’s, 2nd hand bags (I’m a bit of a bag man, it has to be said – did you know that a vintage Oakley camo backpack sells for £45, a full 13 years after it was bought new for £80?), and Polar watches without working batteries and a broken strap.

God Bless eBay.

I’ve got another batch or two to do, and then a whole whack load of books to offload. It’s going to be fun letting go. I feel cathartic just thinking about it.

I’ll leave you with this, hat tip to Tim Ferris from a LinkedIn post (which I thought was apt):

In order to change skins, evolve into new cycles, I feel one has to learn to discard. If one changes internally, one should not continue to live with the same objects. They reflect one’s mind and psyche of yesterday. I throw away what has no dynamic, living use.” — Anaïs Nin

A clusterf&%k of email

by oneafrikan on September 14, 2015

I’m working on figuring out an email solution which is sustainable across all my “identities” and which copes with the history & volume I have coming in.

I had a solution in place, which worked well, but have decided that segmenting things further is better, so that when needs be I can focus more -> the previous solution was all about processing email as fast as possible, with a focus mainly on comms.  Now the focus is different…

So far I’ve covered / done:
– extensive use of Gmail labels to catalog email
– use of labels for workflow systems -> settled on one I like
– Import / Export from Google using Takeout
– using Postbox for moving email around accounts (Yup, paid the £10 for the privilege)
– using Mac Mail for the same as Postbox. (Tip: don’t use Mac Mail for much)
– multiple Inbox layout in Gmail to make it easier to see what the crap is going on amongst it all
– moving 8GB .mbox email files around

The objective is:
1. Inbox 0
2. Focus of attention
3. Sustainable archiving for the next 10 years
4. Speed
5. Symbiosis with Omnifocus

I’m getting there – will document for myself & anyone else when done.

It’s time to write again

by oneafrikan on September 4, 2015

One of the things I enjoy the most is writing. Over the last while I’ve de-prioritised this for various reasons, and after some reflection over whether to bin the whole idea and stick to infrequent posts on Medium, or do it properly, I’ve decided to do it properly and start writing again. But now I’m going to write about anything and everything I’m interested in that isn’t work related. Some of it will be my own long term memory, some of it my reflections, and some of it wonderment.

What am I going to write about?
All the things that I’m going to adopt an attitude of shosin towards but not specifically Tech or eCommerce. So that should cover startups, growth, building teams, productivity, lifehacks, my own views on Tech in Africa, photography, MTB, hacking in general, living a paleo lifestyle, parenthood / fatherhood, and at some point crossfit. For the Tech & eCommerce stuff, I’m going to setup another site and focus on that there.

Short term goal: something good every week.
Longer term goal: enough good material to write a book (with some bonus stuff thrown in so you have to buy the book) on growing companies ;-)

Why should you care?
I don’t expect you to ;-) But if you find something that resonates for you, then voila!

On the variance between effort and reward when people are involved

by oneafrikan on November 10, 2014

I set aside 30 mins of writing time on Sunday after doing some Borough hunting in London.

After looking through my list of writing ideas list I’m not really in the mood to write about anything other than how f&%king angry I am at the moment.

If you read this post, you’ll see there a lot of things that many, many people don’t do whilst expecting contrarian results.

At the moment, the one that jumps out at me is this one:
You have to grind out the details when it’s easier to shrug them off.

Why?

Because shrugging them off is the easy way out.
Because I’ve had 4 people tell me that something couldn’t be done. They were adamant about it, they had conviction in their beliefs, they had spent a lot of time on the question. And I believed them because I saw their effort. The problem is that effort doesn’t necessarily mean results. It doesn’t mean you’re grinding out the details. All it means is that you’re sweating.

A (side)note on sweat:
Doing something the same way 10,000 times means you’re just repeating yourself.
Doing something once, learning from it, then doing it differently the next time, is progress.

So I said to myself: I can either throw money at the problem (bad idea), or I can dig really, really deep into the detail to understand what the F&%K is going on. The only way to know whether the people above had any cause to shrug the problem off, is to do it for myself and see the results for myself. There are around 25 metrics I need to look at for 110k datapoints, over a 10 month period, with two similar datasets, where at least 7 people have been involved in some capacity before. So this isn’t what I’d call a simple, easy, or shruggable exercise.

And here’s the rub: digging into the detail has taken me almost two weeks of constant analysis. I’ve only just begun.
I reckon there’s at least another 2 weeks ahead, and then after that it’s going to be a weekly exercise.

So now I understand why the otherwise smart and intelligent people who had worked on this before thought it was easier to shrug off.
After all, what do they have to lose when they can just go and ply their trades somewhere else? In the end, the people with a vested interest in the outcome are the only ones who really win / lose.

So what’s the people lesson?
There is a massive amount of psychology involved in people reporting back on progress, and this is further muddied by having unclear targets or metrics.

Let’s take some examples:
The smart analytical person does some initial (real) analysis, finds little to talk about, reports back that there is a HUGE problem that can’t be solved.

The overconfident person has read enough to seem trustworthy when discussing the problem, and been around long enough to talk a good game. They know enough in conversation about the tactical bits to be able to execute some changes required. But as above, they lack the ability to do the analysis, and their ego won’t let them ask for help, look for help, or find the help. So they try pushing and pulling on the web tools they are used to, whilst trying to throw money at the problem.

The hard worker who has an ego which is tied innately to their work does a little bit of analysis using the web tools in front of them. They don’t understand the analysis required to give them the insight they are looking for, despite having the tactical ability to execute the changes required coming out of the analysis. But their ego doesn’t want to admit to not knowing, being wrong, having the wrong strategy, asking for help, or just being out of their depth. So they shrug off the problem by working harder and throwing money at the problem, figuring that as long as the revenue keeps coming in everything will be OK.

In most of the above examples, the fundamental piece which puts the puzzle together is doing the hard yards to figure out the details. It means late nights. It means big spreadsheets. It means trying, and trying, and trying again until you find the data you’re looking for. It means the “hard yards”. They are called the “hard yards” because that’s what they are. The problem, in life, business, relationships, and most things where people are concerned, is that we generally wimp out when things get hard. But that’s where the winning is done.

So what’s the startup / entrepreneur lesson?
The data doesn’t lie. But make sure you’re looking at the right data from the beginning. Make this the way you look at all data.

When I look back, and this is the reason why I’m so angry with myself and a few other people and things (hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it), I think that whilst we created a very clear set of KPI’s to measure against, and they were at our fingertips all the time, these metrics were probably two layers up from the detail that should have been looked at every week (in the right way, not the superficial way). So they were aggregated up and then reviewed. I trusted that the detailed analysis was being done by the people I had hired. When the numbers were growing, I didn’t question. When the numbers weren’t growing the way I wanted, I got shrugs and cute answers. I got told eventually it couldn’t be done.

The problem with this approach is that because the things you need to DO are buried inside the detail, the actions coming out of this evaluation are too high level to be meaningful.

So I think the way to solve for this (as anyone who has to make decisions), is to start at the very bottom yourself, so that your systems for reporting enable you to dig really deep really fast when you need to, so that you can interrogate quickly and without any of the distraction caused by the people problems described above (and of course there are many, many more).

So where am I ?
I’ve now got more insight and actionable data than I’ve ever had before. I’ve got something which paints a very clear target for us to go after. I’ve answered some of my own questions, by doing the work myself. I’ve debunked the shruggers. I’ve found the data to give me the confidence to back my gut instinct. And now I’ve got a highly fragmented niche to dominate… ;-)

Notes on Wartime vs Peacetime

by oneafrikan on October 26, 2014

I’m reading Ben Horowitz’s book, for the second time. The first time was before The Forge.

For a long while I’ve been wrestling with this notion of the Wartime / Peacetime CEO. Looking back over the last 2.5 years, there have been many instances when my Wartime CEO was sitting on my shoulder and screaming at me to do something. And then in the interests of not freaking anyone out or making someone cower in the corner, I cooled down and took the Peacetime CEO approach.

It didn’t work (most of the time). It wasn’t Peacetime.

Intuitively, I didn’t know how to describe that internal conflict. My gut was telling me to do one thing, my head was telling me to do another, my heart was telling me to give people a chance, to try and manage them to perform better. I also trusted, probably too much.

Once I’d read the book for the second time after making some hard decisions, it all started sinking in.

What was happening was that my gut was saying “you need to do this, and now”, whereas my head was rummaging through the leadership and management books I’d read over the past 15 years. The problem, as Ben notes in the book, is that most of these books are written about people or companies in stages of Peace.

My own internal conflict is that by nature I have a gentle, inclusive personality. I try to see the best in people and of situations, and I take a lot of joy from watching people grow and develop under my watch. This is great in Peacetime, not so important in Wartime. What’s important in Wartime is staying afloat long enough to survive.

So now things are changing in my own head. I’m letting go of this notion that there is a clear, defined, best practice way of handling or doing things. What’s more important are the results we get.

My view now is that if you’re starting a company, and certainly within the first 3 years of it’s life, you’re at war whether you like it or not. You need wartime people. You need wartime systems (KISS), and you need to think like a wartime leader.

If you’re in eCommerce, you may never leave that state.

Footnotes:
They don’t teach you management or leadership in Zoology (which I studied), so the books above seemed like a good place to start. I don’t think you learn management or leadership other than by doing and observing firsthand.

Probably the most important character traits you need from your people in Wartime are resilience and calmness.