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Seize your Time

I started working on MindfulPomodoro.com, a tool to help people make the most of their time.

How so? Mindful Pomodoro combines the Pomodoro technique and a bell of mindfulness in one browser extension.

A bell of mindfulness is a practice inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh from the famous Plum Village, for the monks and pilgrims to practice mindfulness. The idea is to ring a bell every 15 minutes to remind us to breathe and to bring back our attention to the present moment.

The Pomodoro technique is a productivity tool used in time management. A timer is set to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. The objective is to dedicate each unit of time to one single task, to improve the practitioner’s focus.

Mindful Pomodoro combines the two concepts to come up with a way to help you become more aware of how you spend your time. As Seneca puts it in On the Shortness of Life, it’s not that we don’t have enough time, it’s just that we use it poorly.

It’s going to be a product I’ll use on a daily basis myself, so I’m going to improve it over time. I want to quickly release it, so I decided to go with a browser extension.

Then, I’ll slowly move toward a Progressive Web App at the crossroads between RescueTime, a Pomodoro app, a website blocker, and a mindfulness bell app.

I’m still not sure about the business model. Either a one-time payment with a free trial, or a freemium model (pay once to go premium).

If the idea interests you, go check out the website and leave your email address!

Strong

As a teenager, I started working out because I wanted to look stronger. Not be stronger, look stronger. What does it mean to be strong anyway?

We think having a six-pack is the epitome of strength. The main protagonist of Fight Club jokes about how art directors and advertisers define masculinity. A toned body and visible abs are the marks of beauty and everybody should look like a sculpted David.

The archetype of the fighter is also how most people imagine strength. A fighter doesn’t want a six-pack, a thin skin would leave an opening for the enemy. In the French army, the ideal soldier is depicted as a “thin cat” (chat maigre), strong yet agile.

More than physical strength, mental strength is what makes someone strong. Physical strength is acquired by developing mental strength, but the contrary isn’t always true.

Mental strength originates from stress, pain, loneliness, rejection, frustration, adversity. Once you accept what’s happened to you and you manage to go past self-destruction, you can focus on growth.

Strength is the ability to overcome any external stress. When a Christian says, “Lord, give me strength”, he probably doesn’t want a bigger triceps. In a sense, strength, for human beings, is Darwin’s definition of adaptability: the capacity to go through change, unharmed.

Minimalist Work Environment

What’s preventing us from doing our best work? It’s not so much about what we don’t have, and more about what we do with what we have.

Buying more stuff is not the way to go about it. A developer doesn’t need more monitors for example: we can only do one thing at a time, and we can learn to better navigate through the interface by memorizing keyboard shortcuts.

Using a single monitor is a constraint we can use as an opportunity to increase our focus and our knowledge. Do more with what you have, until you can’t grow any further.

Simplifying our work environment is much more powerful. Clutter is distracting. Our best work reflects what’s essential about it.

Before you sit down to work, ask yourself: what is not needed in my current work environment to perform my task? Remove those distractions.

It might be a website - temporarily block it. Or a pile of documents on your desk - sort it, then store it. It could be a hundred tabs in your browser or cognitive tasks running in the background of your head - prune them away.

We are used to doing things a certain way and we rarely take time to reflect on how we work. We don’t need to change our entire methodology to get better, but we have to get back to its core. Otherwise, we get in our own way.

30 Days of Digital Silence

I am astonished by the number of hours I spend browsing Youtube or Netflix. It has become common to make fun of people mindlessly watching TV, but consuming streaming content is not much different. We try to convince ourselves it’s okay to watch educative content as long as we’re learning. Or that we need music to get work done. “I need a break, this Netflix movie will kill time”.

Truth is, all this content is not gonna help us. We mostly watch it out of boredom, it’s just another form of procrastination. I decided to put a stop to this habit: I’m going on a 30-day digital silence retreat where I’m not allowed to consume video or audio content. How does it work concretely?

I downloaded a browser extension called BlockSite that prevents me from entering Youtube, Netflix, Spotify, or Soundcloud. The website and all the links leading to them are disabled.

I added a Days of Digital Silence section in my personal website to remain publicly accountable.

I replace this browsing habit by reading, writing, making, and walking more. I am still allowed to go to bars and clubs to listen to music, which might create an incentive to leave my cave, but I’m not allowed to download songs or podcasts.

I wish to demonstrate a few things by abiding to this contract: 1) the virtues of silence, and 2) how small daily distractions have a huge impact on your productivity.

Got any tips and tricks? I’d love to hear them.

Mindful Pomodoro

Time flies. You make New Year’s resolutions, and the next moment it’s November. I’m not particularly mindful during the day. I didn’t reach peak productivity either.

I thought a lot about how to become more mindful of my time over the last five years. I tried RescueTime for a month and it opened my eyes. I waste a lot of time browsing Youtube and social media websites - up to 2 hours a day, sometimes more.

Then I tried using a Pomodoro technique but I was not very consistent with it.

Last year I stumbled upon the concept of bell of mindfulness, used in the famous Plum Village near my hometown for the monks and pilgrims to practice mindfulness. The idea is to ring a bell every 15 minutes to remind us to breathe and to bring back our attention to the present moment.

I want to build a product that would combine Pomodoro and bell of mindfulness, while adding more productivity features similar to the ones we can find in RescueTime. I will call it Mindful Pomodoro (mindfulpomodoro.com), and it will be my ultimate time management tool.

I’m gonna release a MVP next week. At first, it’ll only be a simple countdown playing a bell sound every 15 minutes, available as a browser extension. It’ll be enough to get into the habit. Then, I’ll add a server to display some analytics: number of cycles, total hours spent, etc.

Hopefully, this little app will help me reduce the time I spend procrastinating.

From Location Independence to Financial Independence

Location independence is a huge unfair advantage in the quest for financial independence.

Financial independence is about increasing your saving rate. You can do so by decreasing your expenses or by earning more, or a bit of both.

Most people assume that traveling is expensive. It’s true, if you’re tied down by geographical or time constraints: as long as you don’t overly care where you live, there is always a way to find a cheap ticket and an inexpensive yet decent accommodation.

Here is how I do it. I open Skyscanner, I enter my departure location, and I ask the website to search anywhere for cheap tickets over a whole specific month.

Then, I write each cheap destination on the list in Airbnb and I add a few criterias: an entire place under $500 for a whole month, with a kitchen, Wi-Fi, and a washer.

The results are quite amazing. It’s quite common to find whole places rented under $400 for tickets under $100. Then you just need a health insurance and a budget for food. It’s not hard to leave under $800 without sacrificing your living conditions.

Living on less means you can invest more money in things you care about: funds, time, or experiences. I choose location independence because it gives me more time to work on my own business, and I am not rich by any means.

If you spend $1,000 a month while earning $3,000, that’s a saving rate of 66%. Not bad. At an annual interest rate of 4%, that’s $300k in funds over 10 years, including $50k in compound interests. $750k over 20 years. $1,400k over 30 years.

Now, the average annual interest rate of a Vanguard-like index fund is closer to 10%. Personally, I would consider myself financially independent with $500k invested. I’m 25, so I’d only need 12 years to reach this position in these conditions. 9 years on a 75% saving rate. 7 years on a 80% saving rate. 6 years if you were to earn $6k per month. See how impactful decreasing your housing costs would be?

Don't Write for an Audience

Don’t write because it’ll play well in front of others, write because you want to or because you think it’s important.

The problem with most content on the Internet nowadays is how bland it tastes. And writing to please a market segment is the best way to do that.

When you write for an audience, you shut down your inner voice. It’s counter-productive. Not only restraining your personality from shining through will make your writings less relatable, but it’ll also prevent you from attracting the right people.

Failing to do so is a crime. Writing is not meant to manipulate others for monetary or social gains, it’s a way to express yourself. An audience is not an end-goal, it’s a by-product of genuine work.

Steven Pressfield expresses it beautifully: ”The hack is like the politician who consults the polls before he takes a position. […] It can pay off, being a hack. […] But even if you succeed, you lose, because you’ve sold out your Muse, and your Muse is you, the best part of yourself, where your finest and only true work comes from.

You might be tempted to write content at the crossroads of what you want and what your audience wants, but it’s also a mistake. The creator has to constantly reinvent herself to grow. Whatever you do, you have to be confident you’ll attract a different audience. You won’t lose your audience, it’ll just change. And it’s okay.

Writing for yourself doesn’t mean you should neglect the quality of your content. Focusing on getting better at your craft is self-rewarding.

It doesn’t mean you should neglect what’s going on outside either, confronting yourself to reality is how you learn to judge your work.

Let your writings be the vehicle of your soul and you’ll never have to censor yourself again. Be unapologetically yourself and you’ll eventually find the right individuals to help you.

Weekly Review

I want to focus more on the public accountability aspect of my journey as a maker, which is why I recently had the idea to create a newsletter where I would review my tasks, goals, and objectives on a weekly basis.

I am still thinking about the content and how I could make it interesting for my readers.

One section should describe my progress toward my business goals with key metrics like the MRR or the number of new customers. Something similar to the Open page of this website but from my perspective.

Another section should review what’s been done: number of tasks completed on Makerlog, habits, what’s been written, what’s been read… an overview of my work throughout the week.

More importantly, I should write a list of what went wrong or what I can improve, and how I plan to do that. I think people who would subscribe to this newsletter are more interested in the analytical aspect of the weekly review, the operational part being already publicly available. The thought process, rather than the actual actions.

I decided to not call it Road to Ramen, because I’m thinking of something more long-term: an email list that would indirectly force me to be productive and do my best to reach my goals, while providing inspiration and practical advice to the members. I’m in for the long run, and I might as well try out new things.

For now, I’m going to make some research on how others perform their weekly review and what tools and tone I could use to improve the reading experience.

Childhood Vision

A clear mental picture appears to me when I try to imagine who I want to be: a man in a private office, sitting at his desk, surrounded by books, flying paper sheets, laboratory equipment, and mysterious inventions. I feel like I had this vision since forever, which intrigues me. I wonder where it comes from.

Growing up, I idolized characters displaying a form of eccentric yet great wisdom, whose strength was known, yet hidden. I can trace it back to movie characters like Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, Merlin from the Arthurian legends, and Dumbledore from the Harry Potter saga.

I was 7 when the first LotR movie was released. The first HP movie came out in 2001 as well. I grew up with stories about Merlin and Brocéliande.

Wise characters advising kings and queens, but sort of crazy. Not mentally deranged, but showing a different perception of reality. Feared yet respected.

The first Iron Man was released in 2008. Tony Stark’s lab must have been a huge inspiration as well. Same with Emmett Doc Brown from Back to the Future. Mad scientist surrounded by their own gadgets. Science has a magical aspect to it, which is probably the unconscious bridge I built between Gandalf and the Iron Man. Using the invisible laws of Nature to create something out of your mind is akin to magic.

I think the core idea behind the mental picture I described is a general depiction of a scholar surrounded by his own creations.

Now, I guess my vision could be translated into a maker surrounded by his own tech products. Maybe my sole goal in life is to make more things, and it’s during this creation process that I blossom. I guess it’s a sign I have to persevere. The key to my happiness is not money or fame or love, it’s the act of turning ideas into a reality.

Low Pressure

Growing up, I developed a tendency to stress myself more than necessary. I’m born anxious, and I became more ambitious over the years.

You can’t get work done without a healthy amount of stress. That’s how our lizard brain works. Stress derives from fear, and fear is a defense mechanism processed in our amygdala.

But sometimes, the pressure grows too big and it produces the opposite effect: procrastination. How can we achieve the right balance between stress and productivity?

Steven Pressfield’s concept of Resistance comes to mind. The stronger the pressure we apply in our work, the stronger the opposite force. Working too hard or expecting too much feed this creative resistance. Mixing anxiety, passion, and hustle is an explosive cocktail leading to burnout without proper management.

A day at work is like a wall. You need to go past the wall to advance your career. You can go through it like a wrecking ball, but you’ll hurt yourself. Or, as Bruce Lee would say, you can be like water. Be the gentle drop that penetrates the wall, or the sharp-witted wave that goes around it.

The best way to overcome any mental barrier is not through direct confrontation. You shouldn’t try to force yourself into doing anything, and you shouldn’t feel bad about things not acting the way you expect them to act. Reduce the pressure.

You don’t make intellectual diamonds by adding pressure. You keep the stress low and focus on increasing your intensity.