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I’m back and no longer playing secret squirrel!

I’m back from my travels with as much if a tan as a pasty guy can expect and many stories to talk about!

I’m also finally writing the email that I promised so many of you I’d write to tell you what I’m actually doing now for work. I know I’ve been playing secret squirrel until now but it’s come to a stage where I can talk about it.

So the long and short of it is that I’ve joined James Moody (innovator, entrepreneur andauthor who you may remember from ABC’s New Inventors) and a small, very talented team to work on two startup projects: TuShare and Sendle.

I’ve told some of you already about TuShare, it’s Australia’s fastest growing giving network where every item is free! The goal is to divert as much of our perfectly reusable stuff from ending up in landfill while building a positive community. I encourage you to check it out and see if you can snag something you want for free, or if it can help you do some much needed de-cluttering.

This leads onto the project which I’ve been quiet about so far: Sendle. After setting up the logistics of the door-to-door delivery of rescued resources for TuShare, the idea was to make door-to-door delivery at post office prices available to everyone! No more waiting in post office lines during precious business hours, needing to pick things up at inconvenient times, being charged extra for tracking or insurance or getting parcels delivered to the wrong address — we even have a cool feature where addresses remain anonymous!

If that sounds good to you then please let me know as I can probably swing some free/cheap delivery for you guys while we’re still in beta (initially it’s domestic only).

If you have any questions or want to catch up please don’t hesitate. I’m still living in Lane Cove and my new office is now near Town Hall/Hyde Park if you’re ever in the neighbourhood and want to get a beverage or a meal.

Solving Battery Anxiety During Big Rides And Travelling

Momax iPowerYou may already be aware from my previous post that I rode 600km over 2 days recently to raise money for Good Return. However, what you may not realise is how important it was to have charged lights, phone and GPS for the 30 hours or so of riding time.

When stumped with this problem it seemed like the best solution was to have a portable USB emergency charger (a battery that you carry with you to charge other batteries). I found the Momax iPower 16800mAh External Battery Pack and decided to give it a go because it had one of the highest battery capacities (about 9 full iPhone charges). Not only did it really save me on the big ride, it has also been a useful device to travel around Europe with!

Charging Suunto with Momax iPower while riding 600km audax.
Charging Suunto with Momax iPower while riding 600km audax.

Soon enough into the ride I discovered that when running at full navigation capacity my GPS (the Suunto Ambit 2) needed to be charged really quickly. In this picture you can see how the charger is hooked up to my GPS watch so that it could charge while riding and not increase the time that I had to spend waiting at checkpoints. I could have the charger safely packed away while the Suunto was charging and being used.

For a ride of this length the high capacity battery was an absolute must. However at almost half a kilo of extra weight it certainly adds to the load that you carry (every bit counts). This unusually high capacity will be very useful for VERY long rides but if you are doing ones shorter than 900-1200km then I would recommend something lighter.

Aside from the weight, it was relatively small compared to other chargers of the came charging capacity (similar weight but only about half the size of the other competing devices).

Having two separate USB ports came in handy when I ended up having the GPS plugged in for most of the ride. It allowed me to plug in my phone or a USB light for a while without needing to unplug the GPS.

Them charger has also turned out to be very durable and lasts through the drop tests well!

We’ve just finished a month of travelling and it’s been really nice to bring along with us to Europe. It’s allowed us to add extra charge to our devices while being or planes or trains that don’t always have charging capabilities (or charge you a pretty penny for it).

All in all I definitely recommend the Momax iPower for those looking at the top end of the market for chargers with high capacity!

2014 Cycle to End Poverty: Festum Prophate Ride Report

Sunday at 6:10pm marked the end of my 600 gruelling kilometres and just over 25 hours in the saddle, many of which were off road & hard climbs. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Thank you so much to everyone who sent messages of support and those that demonstrated their support for me by ponying up the cash to also support something that I care deeply about. Thank you from all the people whose lives will be changed by getting access to the means to bring themselves out of poverty.

As of the end of the ride there was $3,115 of donor support to Good Return and I’m so touched by all the support that I’m going to find a way to match the $3,115 instead of just the first $2,500. In the days since the ride the total has come to $6,350.

I didn’t think I could have got back on the saddle after stopping at Hornsby 325km into it… everything hurt and I was exhausted. Seeing all the support got me back on the saddle (wincing as my rear end touched it!).

The pain my body suffered is relatively fleeting, I am well on the road to recovery… but the support to helping those facing poverty will make a lasting impact to people like Candy who I met during my trip to the Philippines last year.

Candy Paris
Candy Paris

Just four years ago Candy received an AU$50 microloan (and financial literacy training) and since then she has developed several streams of income by cooking and selling native foods and delicacies, raising and selling pigs for the local market, selling solar lamps and energy efficient stoves to her village, and her most recent passion is making peanut butter and other preserved foods. She has reinvested in her community and is helping to put her grandchildren through school. The impact of a small investment is huge.

All the people who donated are AMAZING for their generosity! By investing in the prosperity of the lives of people facing poverty they are making the world a better place. I’m blown away by the generosity displayed and cannot express my appreciation enough.

No one deserves a life of poverty and I can’t thank people enough for their support!

Now, I’m sure some of you are wondering how the ride actually went down. So if you are interested in the minutia of detail as to how it all went then you can continue on and read my ride report (full of photos).

Thanks everyone!

Ride Report

At 5:45am I arrived at Jersey Street in Hornsby and was wondering where everyone was. About 10 minutes later a couple more riders showed up.

Seconds before starting I realised that my final bike modification from the night before had gone afoul… the thick bar tape I’d wrapped on top of his other bar tape was loose.

At 6am I was told that it’s just me and one other rider (a fellow Easy Rider nicknamed Wilson) still signed up to ride the 600km course and only 3 others on the 200. Everyone else had pulled out.

At 6:10 we rolled out in the cold & wet.

Fifteen minutes later the rider that Wilson and I were riding with had the first “mechanical” of the day; he broke a spoke.

This was the last we saw of any other Audaxers (the 600km ride is called an Audax which is latin for “dare”).

The clock struck 6:30am as the rain started to pelt down harder.

By 7 am my handlebar tape was completely unwrapped below the shifters on the left (Wilson soon gave me a piece of double-sided Velco which did the trick – note to self: bring strips of double sided Velcro on long rides).

We then continued along the well trodden path of the Old Pacific Highway until taking a convoluted back route to Wong near the reptile park.

Within an hour we were hit by our first off road section which was worse than some of the fire trails in Terrey Hills. Our road bikes were shocked… literally.

I soon learned that my GPS navigation file compression had made it easy to miss details because we almost didn’t make it back on track! Thankfully the other rider, Wilson, had a better GPS navigator so we were soon back on track.

We made it to Wyong, completely drenched by about 9:30am for a cheeky bacon & egg roll and a flat white (which apparently comes with chocolate powder sprinkled on top).

 

The easiest leg was over and we were back in the saddle.

The trip to Yarramalong included a lot more off-road sections than we anticipated. We arrived all shaken (not stirred), muddy, hungry, in need of charging the GPS and in need of refilling our water.

The All-Day Breakfast we ordered for our late lunch was served to us at a leisurely pace (delaying by half an hour or so) but it REALLY hit the spot.

There was no mobile phone reception in Yarramalong so the respective bosses (spelled W.I.V.E.S.) were left to worry about our safety until the next checkpoint (and Luke’s Instagram followers were left without a photo update).

We got back on the bikes with USB chargers all jerry-rigged to charge GPS devices while riding and we started relying more on our cue cards.

The next section had the most off road/unsealed road conditions and they all felt much longer than it says on paper.

Le Tour De Bœuf

“Toto, we’re not in Sydney anymore… we’re in cattle country.”

We had a few run-ins with cows.

In the first instance we were cycling along an unsealed road and went past a few cows lingering along the side of the road. As we went a little further past a tractor we saw a herd of cattle (20 or so heads) running along all over the road… A gap opened up and I raced through it, making it through on the left and causing the cows to all to rush to the right. This opened up a short gap. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough and Wilson missed the gap and the cows quickly covered the road again. Almost a minute passed as Wilson sneakily crept through our remaining bovine comrades.

Another hour or so passing after seeing the cows and we saw some brief signs of civilisation…

For the second run in it was pitch black and we were cycling along another unsealed road, minding our own business… what do we find smack in the middle of Wilson’s path? A big black cow. Wilson screeched to a halt and once again made it through in one piece.

(see the cow? neither did we)

After a 35km stretch of unsealed road is over we came into St Albans and I rushed in to grab an OJ (not the Simpson variety) from the bar and filled up my water bottles.

The bartender then informed me that “it’s not far to Hornsby from here”… When I pulled up my drink bottles he then added “…by car that is” and suggested that we stop for a meal. I thanked him and told him that we’d better get to Wisemans Ferry soon or I wouldn’t make it to Hornsby at all (I then started to dream of drinking several pints to numb the quite literal pain in my rear end)!

Onwards to Wisemans we went!

We cruised into Wisemans at about 7:30pm and quickly headed to the bistro to order some dinner (we may have got lost along the way and found ourselves ordering an “isotonic beverage”).

All fed we jumped back on the bike and slowly grinded our way out of Wisemans (yet again on unsealed road).

We spent the next few hours trying to stay awake and safe until we made it to the Berowra ferry (we subsequently made some more friends on yet another ferry).

It’s not until after 11pm that we find our way to the Hornsby Golden Arches and top up our energy with supreme nutritional value.

At this point Wilson bowed out after a champion effort (biggest ride ever and only ride bigger than a 70km this quarter) and I found my way to the car to catch a little bit of sleep.

Day 2

At 4:20am I woke up very disorientated and aching all over, wincing as I walked to the Golden Arches to get changed into fresh clothes and address the calls of nature.

After doing some work try to fix things on the bike (trying & failing to change seats) and restocking I realise that time is of the essence and I must get going.

Everything hurt.

“Ouch.”

“Owie.”

“Oh mummy, please make it stop.”

…eventually the self-doubt subsided, the sharp pain became a dull ache and as the sunlight hit hope was regained (although moments later I was overtaken by a few bikes out for their Sunday ride).

Following the masochistic route into Springwood (wondering “does the route REALLY need to depart from the main road to take all those small detours up bigger hills?”) the first 100km of the day hurt and I arrived at Springwood with only 40 minutes to spare before cut-off.

A quick bacon & egg roll and coffee was followed by a banana bread and I quickly got back on the bike on my way to Sackville.

I was back onto the off-road/unsealed sections for a good chunk of the next 100km to Sackville. When I arrived I saw that the next checkpoint was closed (see the bandits on bikes who shut the place down) and that there was nothing else in town.

With empty water bottles and empty stomach I went on an excursion to try and find more food & water.

No luck.

Off to the Sackville ferry it was then.

A few more km down the road and this sign appeared…

I was without phone reception so I followed the detour not knowing where it’d take me.

Quickly enough I was back on path.

Eventually I found a service station at Maraylya to refuel and revisit the route. My rough calculations showed that I needed 9km more to make up for the River road affair.

A second wind came on and I powered it back to Galston with dreams of eating dinner before 7pm…

After grinding up from Galson Gorge I was passing by Somerville Road when I remembered that I was still going to end up 8km short at this point so an extra loop would be necessary to reach the 600km. In the meantime my mum was following my location on Find My Friends and started to think that I was delirious because I was off the official course and heading away from Hornsby.

Soon I was back on track and finally arrived at the final checkpoint, Hornsby Police Station, at 6:10pm.

 

It was quite an experience, one that I will remember.

But at the end of all that the question is, what does pushing myself out of my comfort zone and cycling 600km have to do with helping to end the cycle of poverty (aside from the word ‘cycle’)?

I had a lot of time to think during the ride and during the lead up and I thought it would help for me to unpack that question.

What is the link?

  • Is it that it’s (perhaps more) uncomfortable to think about poverty than it is to ride 600km?
  • Is it that it’s hard to live in poverty and it’s hard to ride 600km?
  • Is it that a rickshaw driver toils for over 12 hours a day and I sit at a comfy desk job?

I’m sure that there are many links that could be drawn but for me the answer was really quite simple (albeit less direct).

  1. I’m incredibly lucky to have a network of family and friends who support me.
  2. I’m incredibly lucky that through the means of the ovarian lottery I was born to be affluent by global standards and so were my friends and family.
  3. I’m incredibly lucky that when I choose to do something difficult my friends and family are not only happy to support me, but generous enough to transfer that support to something I care about, to helping make the world a better place.

I’m one lucky guy with awesome people in his life. I got their attention by doing something brave and I’m endlessly thankful that they came through for me.

Now the world is just that much better.

And for that, I am truly thankful.

Solving my USB charging problems with the Capdase Porto

One Thursday morning after a 140km ride before work, I was starting to plug in my lights, phone, Suunto Ambit 2, iPad Mini, Bluetooth headphones and iPhone charger case. I quickly realised that I had not only run out of USB outlets on my computer to charge everything, but that everything was also charging very slowly. I clearly needed a better charging solution.

After doing some Googling, I decided to give the Capdase Porto V4 Quartet USB Power Adapter a go. This was in part because it comes with all the international power outlet adapters I’ll need when travelling Europe for a month in June/July with my wife.

So, the fifty-seven trillion dollar question is obviously: How did it fare?

I love the capability to charge everything separately from the computer without having lots of individual USB adapters, all it requires is one power socket and it charges four things — quickly too!

The carry bag is a bit big because it’s built to carry all the extra adapters with room to spare. That’s not so great if you want something compact, but for me it’s great to have all my electronics and USB cables in one place.

The four USB ports are nice and compact which is great, however if you have USB devices that plug in directly without a cable it can be a bit difficult to do (I can only fit one of my Knog bike lights on at a time).

The 1m cable is also great because if you have short USB cables then the transformer can be plugged in away from you (e.g. under the desk) while the 4 USB ports are nice and close.

The Capdase Porto USB charging station has a very clear value proposition and pretty much is what is says in the name; an easy to use 4-port USB charger that is going to keep me well-lit on the road & pack light while travelling!

Luke’s Cycle to End Poverty – June 14th 2014

Luke's Cycle to End PovertyI’m training to ride 600km on June 14th-15th and in the process I want to make a difference and fundraise to help reduce global poverty. This cause is deeply important to me.

Here’s the bonus: I am personally matching every dollar donated to Good Return through this link.

I’d really appreciate any contribution, big or small. This support will go a long way to helping people in need and knowing that I have your support will be a BIG factor in helping me complete the ride (it’s MUCH further than I’ve ever done).

Donate Now!

Taking the plunge with an iPhone battery case

This month, after holding out for a while for fear of a bulky phone and a state of indecision, I finally decided to give an iPhone charger case a go.

Dexim XPowerSkin
Dexim XPowerSkin

After um-ing and ah-ing for a while about what style of case I should try first I decided to go for the Dexim XPowerSkin case which encapsulates the entire phone and has a button on the back just to turn on charging functions.

I thought this month would be a great one to trial it seeing as I was doing a 336km ride that’d require me having enough battery to track my ride, get map directions and listen to some audiobooks. Quite a trial by fire!

An early win

Before I took the case on my big ride it certainly earned its keep by protecting my phone in the first few days when it flew out of my jersey pocket as I came out of the saddle riding at 40km/h. I heard the explosive sound of it hitting the pavement as bits flew everywhere but when I picked it all up the phone was fine as the case had taken the brunt of the impact.

The big ride

So, how did the charging case fare over 336km and 11 hours of high use? It performed admirably, but the task was too great.

The case made it to about the 250km mark before my battery dropped below 9 percent and I had to plug in another USB portable charger, very admirable considering the usage. This is hardly surprising as the case is only designed to give it one full charge (doubling the battery life of the phone). What this tells me is that if I want to have a single charger case last that kind of distance then I’ll need one that is probably more than 2000mAh.

Everyday usage

My initial impressions were a little shakey because I had trouble putting the phone in as I felt that I would break the plastic when trying to snap the two pieces together. This anxiety turned out to be a folly as I’ve put the case on and taken it back off a few times now without any trouble. The case does attach pretty solidly so its intended use seems to be a more permanent solution.

As expected any charger case is going to be bulky to carry in a pocket but it does help to always have the extra juice with me considering the pretty poor battery life I get with my high iPhone usage.

Final thoughts

For the moment I will keep using the case as I think I get good value out of it. I’ll watch this charging case space more closely now and look to try another case that is either less bulky or one that has more than one full charge in it.

All-in-all it has been a good experience for dipping my toes into the world of charging cases.

10 lessons for living life to the fullest

I’ve spent my entire life over-committed, to a fault actually. It came to a crunch a few years ago when the exhaustion hit me.

Fast forward to now and I’ve got my priorities in much better order. I’ve picked up a bunch of useful techniques to help me try and get the most out of my limited time on this planet so I thought I could share some of my life hacking and productivity tips… put my inner-nerd to good use.

On that note, let me introduce the 10 things I’m learning about taking control of my life to live it to the fullest (disclaimer: I’m certainly no expert, these are just anecdotes, but I hope they can be helpful for some people).

1. Sorting out our priorities is the first step to taking life by the reins

First and foremost, before I could do much of what I’m about to tell you successfully I needed to sort out my priorities. For a very long time I had gone along with life just assuming that I was living life in a way that was in line with my priorities. It just made intuitive sense to me that it couldn’t be any other way. I would think to myself, “if I’m doing X instead of Y then X must be a higher priority to me.” For a long time I didn’t realise that some things might just be more urgent, easier to think of, or maybe just more enjoyable in that moment.

As time has gone on I have started to be more intentional about my life. Ultimately I seek to have not just a life that I could look back on and be proud of but also one that was full of joy along the way.

I’ve come to know that the things that are a priority for me are happiness (both ‘hedonic’ and ‘eudaimonic’), a sense of purpose (can be defined subjectively), continual growth and learning, developing and maintaining good relationships, maximising my experiences, living in an ethical way and, most importantly, seeing the lives of others improved.

I could write an essay on each of these “meta-priorities” (in fact I hope to at some point), but these priorities have helped in deciding on more tangible goals and categorical priorities.

A good example of a categorical priority is keeping in good health, as it is integral to many of these. If I’m not in good health then I become a burden to others, I’m less happy, it’s harder to think, it puts strains on relationships, it limits my experiences and impacts my meta-priorities negatively.

Other categorical priorities can include things like health, career, relationships or creative endeavours. These priorities can translate into specific goals like entering into a sporting competition, presenting at a conference, going out for dinner with my wife or booking a gig to play music. The specific goals are things that are much more open to change — life gets in the way. Things falling to the back-burner or getting completely reassessed is not just absolutely okay, it’s to be expected.

2. Understanding our psychology is incredibly empowering

The more I read about our psychology (from trained professionals, not so-called “self-help gurus”) the more I understand how to account for basic human tendencies and develop techniques to not just compensate for them but to leverage them to my advantage.

An important lesson is that we are almost entirely creatures of habit. Most of our brainpower, energy and time is spent on following our habits. We rarely stop to question why we do things and we often fail to make changes in our lives because we’re entrenched in many habits that are hard to change. This knowledge was very empowering because it taught me that forming one good habit at a time is the way to get to where I want to be, and not to feel like I’ve failed for just being human.

From biology right through to psychology it’s pretty darn obvious that we’re not perfect. We’re products of evolution and that means that we have traits that were advantageous in some circumstances but not others and we have some traits that are just vestigial (may have once been useful but no longer are). For example, we naturally gravitate to eating sugar and fat; this is quite likely due to spending most of our existence chasing calories to stay alive (note: while this example fairly straightforward, be careful of evolutionary psychological explanations as they can have issues).

Knowing this is empowering because I don’t have to feel that I’m a failure for seeking out these things that are naturally pleasurable. However, I can use other psychological tools to combat this. The book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” is fantastic for understanding the psychology of food — not just to help in finding ways to eat less but to also in understanding ways to get more enjoyment out of our interacting with food.

Understanding our basic tendencies, biases and heuristics can help in leveraging them to our advantage.

On this point I also strongly recommend reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, The Happiness Hypothesis and 59 Seconds.

This simple video by Richard Wiseman demonstrates how you can leverage knowledge of our psychology to change your eating habits.

3. There is no substitute for good planning

This really point kind of speaks for itself. My whole life I’ve found it pretty consistent that if I don’t plan for many things they won’t happen. However, this doesn’t mean that if I do plan for things they will happen, planning just makes things much more likely.

Setting aside ample time to plan is incredibly important whether it is budgeting finances, planning a trip overseas, getting a project done or putting together a training program.

4. Following a good productivity system will help with getting things done

This doesn’t mean entirely follow a system that someone else has developed, we each have to figure out what works for us.

In 2002 when David Allen first published Getting Things Done (GTD) many people would have been pretty well placed to follow his advice down to the smallest detail. However it was pretty quickly out of date as email and smartphones became the norm. I recommend reading Getting Things Done but the system that seems to be working for me is The Secret Weapon (TSW) which is based on GTD but uses a system of email, diary and Evernote.

When I first started following the GTD methodology I couldn’t believe how much more stuff I got done. This is certainly one of the most useful techniques I’ve learned for getting the most out of life and clearing my head. Anything that is floating around in our heads instead of written down is just clogging up our brains and stopping it doing the stuff that brains do well — thinking!

5. Filtering out distractions helps with focusing on what’s important

We are bombarded with things stimulating and distracting us everyday. We cannot possibly absorb everything and it makes it incredibly hard to focus and hard to get things done. We really don’t have an option, our brain IS going to filter things out (it does it all the time) so we need to make sure that we focus on which things we filter and which things we focus on.

Personally I’ve found it helpful to turn off all social media notifications, only check things when I have the time to and use a variety of tools to help surface things that are of high quality instead of wasting time sifting through things which don’t give much value to my life.

From a technological perspective I’ve found using things like email filters/rules, Unroll.me, Gmail Tabs and many other tools incredibly useful in making sure that I only see what I need to see but I do continue to see new things that challenge me. I structure serendipity into my life (by using digests such as Nuzzel and HASO) in a way that reduces procrastination.

Filtering also applies to our head space and our priorities. We shouldn’t get distracted by baseless hype or worrying about things that are incredibly unlikely (e.g. worrying about wind turbine syndrome). All this does is distract us, it doesn’t do any good. Instead I’ve found it helps to focus on reality and on what really matters. If we care intimately about the well-being of other people we shouldn’t go campaigning against wind turbines (little scientific basis, low likelihood of success, mentally exhausting) but instead donate money or time to help people get out of poverty (using proven ways of actually helping people). We’re better off focusing on what’s effective, focusing on reality and filtering out the rest.

6. Wait… because patience pays off

As someone who naturally operates at a thousand miles (1,609 kilometres) an hour, taking things slowly doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve had to learn to be patient the hard way.

I find I get less distracted if I write down all my ideas when they come to me and then come back to them later instead of starting on them straight away. Waiting actually helps with filtering and also with sorting out priorities.

Daniel Kahneman (psychologist, author and winner of Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics) wrote a great book called Thinking, Fast and Slow which emphasises the value of thinking slowly (using what he calls “system 1″) to reduce falling into the traps of our biases and heuristics. Waiting helps us to withhold judgment where possible and to give ourselves the time to think about things properly. The bonus of waiting is it also allows our subconscious to have a go while we’re doing other things or quite literally “sleeping on it”.

Another great book on waiting is Frank Partnoy’s Wait: The Art and Science of Delay which talks about waiting long enough (but not too long) to get the best decision or result.

7. Money is (just) a tool

I’m an incredibly frugal person but I like to be frugal for two main reasons: (1) it allows me to be generous to others which I find more fulfilling; and (2) it allows me enough money to use strategically.

Although the competitive side of me will want to get as much as possible and social norms will pressure me in all sorts of ways, it works when I remember this:
Money is (just) a tool

I’m hesitant to spend money if it’s unnecessary; but I don’t hesitate for a second if it is. I apply the above strategies of prioritising, understanding psychology (e.g. how much happiness can I “buy” for $10), planning, creating lists, filtering and waiting in my money management.

8. Automate it, delegate it, outsource it or crowdsource it

For this point the main lesson is to stop doing anything that doesn’t make sense for you to do — whether it’s using technology to automate a monotonous task, delegating work to other people (where appropriate), asking people directly for help, employing a virtual assistant or putting a request out on Facebook for travel recommendations.

We’re not good at everything, not everything is of equal importance and we just don’t have enough time to do everything ourselves. Some things are worth our time, some things are worth our money, some things we don’t need to do at all and some things we enjoy doing even though it’s not worth our time from a financial perspective (I get intrinsic value from brewing beer).

I use a lot of apps and services like ANZ Money Manager, Auto TextExpander, Automator, Buffer, Canned Responses, FollowUpThen, Freelancer, Hootsuite, IFTTT, keyboard shortcuts, LastPass, MS Excel, PhraseExpress (just to list a few that come to mind) and if all else fails a little bit of programming skills will help! If there is something that you do regularly try googling ways to make your process more efficient.

If I have to do something myself that is time consuming or monotonous then I at least try and multi-task (e.g. cooking whilst listening to audiobooks/podcasts) or to do it in bulk (e.g. cooking large batches) so that I can squeeze out a bit more efficiency.

9. Failure is always an option

Failure is always an option
Failure is always an option
As the legendary team over at Mythbusters like to remind us “failure is always an option”. I’ve got enough silver and bronze medals sitting in my sock draw from all my years of rowing to know that I can’t always win. In fact some of those medals are from experiences that I treasure much more than any gold medal.

Furthermore, something I’ve learned about our psychology is that the one route towards guaranteed failure is to try and do everything at once! Instead, it’s better to take things one step at a time and have the discipline and confidence to start again… and again… and again.

Sometimes we have to just cut our losses, move on and come back to it later. That’s completely okay.

I’m not perfect and us humans can never have perfect information, that’s why we can’t be too hard on ourselves, we need to be nimble and bounce back.

Fear of failure is much more debilitating than failure itself.

Failing teaches us a lot, strengthens our character and gives us direction.

10. Reassess, rinse and repeat

One great thing I find about writing down priorities, plans and systems is that it makes it really easy to go back to look at them and reassess if they are right for me.

Something that I’ve found useful on that front (that I am however currently failing at) is journaling. Picking regular intervals to reflect, muse and reassess can help cut through the drudgery, give a sense of purpose and increase satisfaction.

It also helps to seek external feedback both indirectly (through things like reading books and assessing people’s body language) and directly (by asking others for their feedback). When I ask other people I try to have specific questions that they are well-placed to answer (e.g. asking my boss what I could be doing better to help the organisation meet its core goals).

These steps are not things to I do once and move on, they’re things that I try to integrate into my daily routines, my thought process and my personality.

Final Thoughts

I’ve written this in the first person because this is just my personal anecdote (albeit with links to some more objective reference material).

I know that people’s experiences vary and while some things are fairly universal, other things come down to personal preference, personality and biology (for example, #9 is difficult if you have clinical anxiety or depression).

From my perspective, I’m aware of how limited my life is and I want to use it well. My goal is to get the most personal fulfilment and while doing as much as I can to help others. Objectively I am certainly going to fail at this goal, but I want to have at least given it a red hot go.

I hope someone finds this useful… especially if they’ve read the whole way through!

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[Photo Credit: Samantha Macabulos]

My audible, underwater adventures

At first the water felt ice cold as his waist first was submerged. He felt a tingling in his recently injured shoulder as his arm sliced through the water, hurling himself closer to the headland. Another wave crashed over his head as the taste of salt started to set in. His ears wear blasting with the sound of “bubbles… gasp… bubbles… gasp” mixed with the words “We worked for some months in a spacious basement suite in which we had set up a closed-circuit system that projected an image of the subject’s pupil on a screen in the corridor…”.

It’s okay, I understand that confused look on your face right now.

You’re thinking, “What on earth is Luke on about?”, “What on earth is he describing?”, or perhaps “WHY IS HE TELLING ME THIS?! IS HE MAD?”.

I was describing myself at 7:05 this morning as I went swimming down at Manly Beach again, but this time there was one important difference…

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls I have an announcement: I can now be less focused on my horrible drowning-style swimming and pass the time while listening to audiobooks, podcasts or music!

Sony NWZ-W273 Walkman Waterproof MP3 Player
Sony NWZ-W273 Walkman Waterproof MP3 Player

While my Avantree Jogger Bluetooth Headphones have been great for running and cycling, allowing me to pass the time while I put down some long kilometres but so far this hasn’t extended to swimming – my least favourite, most boring sport that needs the most improvement.

So back in December I was searching through a range of iPhone 5S/5 bluetooth headphones to try and find waterproof ones and a waterproof case for the iPhone (which in hindsight would have been pretty bulky for swimming) and low and behold, thanks to the genius of “related products” I saw this pair of headphones that are actually an waterproof MP3 player!

When I got my first Sony Walkman at 2 years old it was a radio/cassette tape player that hooked me onto audiobooks, I would never have anticipated that decades later I’d be using a new model walkman (NWZ-W273) to seamlessly listen to audiobooks underwater!

So how’s the experience? They’re comfortable enough considering they function underwater. Listening to music is a piece of cake, podcasts are fine too. Audiobooks are harder because you have to make sure you don’t accidentally have it on shuffle. Also be careful to slice the audiobook into small segments in case you accidentally skip forward or backwards and lose your place. It’s a little nuanced but well worth it.

All in all, I’m really excited about continuing to use these. It’ll really help my swimming training knowing that I have the likes of Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” waiting for me…1.5km at a time!

Trialling of an iPhone Bike Mount: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Tigra Bike Mount Console for iPhone 5/5S
Tigra Bike Mount Console for iPhone 5/5S

When was the last time you were more than 30 meters (90 feet or so) away from your iPhone? It’s certainly a rare occurrence. Seeing as I always bring it on the bike with me for emergencies and ride tracking I thought it would be good to try a bike mount.

After my amazing success with the Avantalk Jogger Bluetooth Headphones I also got the Tigra Bike Console Mount from the Mobile Zap iPhone 5S Cases site.

Here’s my thoughts on the product…

The Good

Firstly, it’s great to have the phone mounted safely and waterproofed so that it isn’t in danger of getting wet when sitting in my pockets/bag.

On the few occasions that I needed maps it was incredibly useful in providing a safe way to get around. This is the most valuable feature for me.

It also made tracking my rides easy. When I stop to meet up with other riders it is really easy to pause my rides to make sure the stats on Strava (the exercise tracking app) make sense. This helps your phone double as a bike computer and makes so much sense to not have two devices where you could have one.

The console mount has also helped a few times to be able to see the text messages (waiting at the traffic lights of course) coming in from my wife asking for me to drop into buy some groceries on the way home.

It’s a bonus that I didn’t have a good iPhone case and that the bike mount comes with a case which clips into the console (though that could work against you if you wanted to keep using your existing case).

The Bad

Glare. On really sunny days or with the wrong angle of light it could be impossible to read the screen… although that can also happen with the phone itself (although if you’re holding the phone instead of having it mounted it’s easy to adjust the angle to reduce glare).

Another issue was the one time it was pouring down raining and I tried to unlock the phone it wouldn’t respond to wet fingers. This only happened once but in fairness I was only really soaked once this month.

The Ugly

Although it is great to have a mount to make your phone double as a bike computer, this is definitely much bulkier than a regular bike computer and I got a few comments from other riders (it’s okay I’ve got thick skin and a self-deprecating sense of humour — “Shh… don’t interrupt me when I’m watching The Simpsons!”).

I still prefer the mount over having to use two separate devices though.

Conclusion

I think this is definitely something that I’ll keep on my bike unless I’m racing (aerodynamics). I might upgrade to one that mounts well to the handlebar stem though or one that is more aerodynamic but until then this is a keeper.

Great Bluetooth Headphones for Cycling and Jogging… Finally!

It’s been so hard to find good headphones for exercising and last month I picked up a pair of Avantalk Jogger headphones and all month I’ve had comments and people asking me questions about them so I thought I’d put them down here and do a little review.

The’ve been fantastic!

Avantree Jogger Green
Avantree Jogger Green

During October I rode 2,000km to raise money for the Children’s Medical Research Institute and these were a life saver. I listened to over 120 hours of audiobooks and podcasts and got a lot of milage out of my bike and my headphones!

I’d previously been quite disappointed with bluetooth headsets, but I really liked the idea. Avoiding getting the cable caught (and breaking regular earphones about once a month) was getting tedious so I got these from MobileZap online store (check the ‘iPhone 5 Accessories‘ page for the latest models). The store was really helpful. I sent a few questions through by email and the reviews on the site really helped.

The only problem I had was with the earbuds being a bit too big for my ears (I get this all the time) but I was able to use them without the earbud cover.

So far the battery life has been great (will see how it lasts in a year or so) and they only cost about $35 (which is much cheaper than the other ones that I’ve been dissatisfied with).

They’re certainly not noise cancelling, but that’s exactly what I need on the bike for safety reasons (I want to know what’s going on around me).

Obviously they’re really quite water resistant (unlike most headphones) and have lasted through a couple of storms.

The controls on the sides work great and if I’m listening to music at work it’s really easy to pause it or if I’m surround by loud noises (like the tunnel at central station in Sydney) I can turn the volume up easily.

They’re very comfortable to sit underneath the helmet and I can lay in bed with them too (which I’ve never been able to do with other bluetooth ones because of the way they sit behind the head).

All in all they’ve been one of my most satisfying tech acquisition in ages. If they come out with smaller earbuds then I’d have no complaints at all.

UPDATE: After six months of use the pair I had stopped charging. Without any trouble Avantree were incredibly helpful and replaced them for me. Fantastic customer service, great experience. I now continue to use these headphones every day.