> Hello
> My name is Julian
> This is my lifelog
>
and digital playground  

Inventory Update (Q2/20)

This is a quarterly update and review of new tools and products I have recently added to my personal productivity stack.

Glyphfinder
I used to spend at least five minutes each day on Google just searching for specific unicode characters – especially when I was writing or designing. Until I found Glyphfinder. Glyphfinder is a Mac app that gives you instant access to more than 30,000 characters and emojis. The best part: Super fast and well-designed search that just works. (Whoever is building Alfred 2.0 – good unicode search has to be a key feature!)

Nototo
I stumbled upon this app in John Palmer’s article on Spatial Software and it’s one of the most unique products I’ve seen recently. The best way to describe Nototo is probably as a cross-over of Notion and Minecraft. Instead of writing down notes on a blank canvas like in any conventional note taking app, Nototo gives you a game-like map on which you place and group your thoughts. The idea is that visualizing your notes makes it easier to connect and remember them. As someone who loves working with post-it notes, I definitely subscribe to that idea.

Zelda and Chill
This playlist of Zelda soundtracks remixed with lo-fi hip hop beats is my new go-to productivity music.

Other apps I’ve played around with in the last couple of weeks but don’t have an opinion on yet: Pitch, Centered, Clay.
May 09, 2020  ×  Berlin, DE

Music for Productivity

As part of my ongoing work on a personal operating manual, I’ve been thinking a lot about what Tyler Cowen would call the “Julian Production Function”. Namely, a list of all the habits, routines and things that make me more productive.

One element of my personal production function I find particularly interesting is the impact of music (or audio more general) on my productivity.

Based on almost 15 years of Last.fm data, I know that music consumption overall is a pretty good proxy to measure my productivity. The graph above shows the number of songs I listened to on a monthly basis (the gray bars) as well as the monthly average per year (the black line).

My music consumption peaked in years where I did lots of deep work such as studying, writing or coding (2008, 2010, 2013, 2017-2018). Years with less screen time correlate with a lower number of songs I listened to (2014-2016, 2019).

Of course not every type of music is necessarily great for productivity. When I dug a little deeper into the data I found another interesting trend: Over the last ~10 years, I have increasingly listened to ambient music and soundtracks. These two graphs essentially represent my efforts to optimize my music consumption for further productivity improvement.

The problem is that I haven’t found a good way to measure if (or which of) those attempts to improve my productivity have actually paid off. More music consumption tells me that I worked more – but it doesn’t tell me if I worked better or more efficiently.

It’s hard to quantify actual productivity or focus work: I’ve tried using productivity proxies such as RescueTime, number of emails sent and GitHub contributions – but all of those are pretty vague. Rating each day with a “perceived productivity”-score also hasn’t really produced any meaningful data.

Nevertheless, I will continue to experiment with different music to improve my focus. Here’s a list of music apps and playlists I’m currently using:

AMBIENT MUSIC
Brian Eno’s Music for Airports is great for productivity – I especially like this 6 hour time-stretched version. Someone put together a fantastic Spotify playlist of similar airport music. Max Richter’s Sleepis meant to be listened to at night” but I find it perfect for focus work. (I also tried listening to it at night to see if it would improve my sleep. It didn’t.) If you like Richter’s work, you might also enjoy Nils Frahm and Jóhann Jóhannsson.

SOUNDTRACKS
I can recommend pretty much everything by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (the new Watchmen OST is particularly great). The Black Mirror soundtracks have a similar dystopian feel – Jason Kottke compiled all of the songs in a playlist here. Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar and Dunkirk soundtracks are also great for productive work.

NATURE SOUNDS
You can find endless nature sound playlists on Spotify and YouTube. I prefer thunderstorm and rainforest sounds. Noisli is great to mix and match different sounds.

LO-FI ANIME BEATS / CHILLHOP
I’m subscribed to ChilledCow and Chillhop Music on YouTube, but to be honest this type of music has never really worked for me.

FOCUS MUSIC APPS
My go-to productivity app these days is a service called Endel which “creates personalized, sound-based, adaptive environments that help people focus and relax” based on a variety of inputs (including time of day, weather, heart rate and location). I have also heard good things about Brain.fm and focus@will.

Last but not least, Flow State is an excellent newsletter that sends you a daily focus music recommendation.

Do you have any other recommendations?
Please let me know on Twitter!

Mar 16, 2020  ×  Berlin, DE

Inventory Update (Q1/20)

This is a quarterly update and review of new tools and products that I recently added to my personal productivity stack.

Spoonbill
I’ve been looking for a product like this for a while: Spoonbill connects with your Twitter (and GitHub) account and sends you diff-updates on the bios of the people you follow. You can receive updates via email and RSS. Someone should build this for LinkedIn.

Noto
Noto is an app to send email notes to yourself. The app opens directly to the input screen – a simple swipe then sends the note to a pre-defined email address. This is ideal for people like me who use their inbox as their primary productivity control center and to-do list. You can add up to six different email addresses which becomes pretty powerful in combination with Superhuman’s split inbox feature. I wish a note functionality like this was built directly into the iOS lock screen.

Zenly
This is one of the most interesting apps I’ve played around with lately. Zenly is essentially the Gen Z version of Foursquare: A location-first social network, but instead of manually checking into places, users constantly share their live location (as well as other data such as your current battery status). What I find most interesting though, is the app’s fog of war-like map that shows you exactly which areas you’ve already explored (plus the exact discovery percentage number per city). This is a great way to quantify my movement patterns and set monthly or yearly discovery goals (I currently do this with Swarm).

Feb 06, 2020  ×  Dublin, IE

My Notion Subscription Tracker

We now live in a world where pretty much everything is subscription based. Listen to music? Monthly subscription. Start a meditation habit? Monthly subscription. Faster Amazon deliveries? Monthly subscription. Life as a service, essentially.

While recurring revenue streams are great for the businesses offering them, as a consumer I find it increasingly harder to keep track all my active subscriptions. Free trials, different billing periods and automatic renewals have made it really difficult to stay on top of my finances.

So I created a little subscription tracker in Notion.

In this database I save all of my subscription services including their current status (active / paused / canceled), billing period (yearly / monthly) and calculate monthly and yearly costs.

Most importantly, I save the renewal date of each subscription and add a 1 week reminder so that I still have the option to cancel before a new payment hits my credit card.

I posted a public version of my subscription tracker here for you to copy.

Jul 25, 2019  ×  Berlin, DE
You can subscribe to this blog via RSS, follow me on Twitter or sign-up for my monthly newsletter: