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2×4: An Interview With Stephen Hackett

2×4: An Interview With Stephen Hackett


    2×4: One series that examines two topics, creativity and productivity, by asking those who make things on the web the same four questions on both subjects.

    Many of us appreciate the devices in our hand, on our laps and upon our desks. Few understand their heritage. Now heritage may seem like a strange choice of word for describing technology, but as the industry of personal computing matures, its history becomes more and more important, as do the people who truly know and understand their evolution. One such writer, a man so dedicated that he has Clarus the Dogcow tattooed on his ankle, is Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels fame. The site that is named after the number of pixels across on the original Macintosh (which boasted a 9-inch, 512×342 monochrome display for those of you who aren’t running to Wikipedia).

    Now with heritage and history often comes with an air of pomposity. Hackett has none of this. In fact, in both his writing and his various podcasts, the guy is relatable, inventing and often outright hilarious. He has the knowledge, but not the airs. His passion for technology encourages you (or at least me) to learn more about the devices I take for granted on a daily basis. If you’re at all interested in technology, journalism or design, you won’t do better than his 512 Pixels blog. Or the newly created 512 Podcast along with fellow 2×4 alum, Myke Hurley of the 70 Decibels network for that matter. His passion for knowledge also goes beyond technology and into a variety of (often unusual) topics on his podcast, Ungeniused.

    Without further ado, here’s a look at informative look at the world of Stephen Hackett.

    Creativity

    Have you always considered yourself a creative person?

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    I have. As a kid, I always was writing or sketching.

    What mediums and inspirations do you gravitate toward to realize your creative goals?

    Sometime between 7th grade Art Club and giving up on my art degree two years in to it, I thought I could become some sort of artist as a living. You know, a hip graphic designer who could draw and paint, too.

    It turns out while I am pretty handy with a Wacom tablet and Adobe software, I can’t draw or paint. Not even a little. I can, however, write. So I suppose my mediums of choice are the pixel and the written word.

    If you had to point to one thing, what specific posts or creations are you most proud of and why?

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    2011 marked the first time I ever really wrote a lot of personal posts on 512 Pixels. That said, I am super proud of Two Years and The Fifth Floor, which are both posts about my wrestling with the fact that my three year old has brain cancer.

    Any suggestions for those who feel they may not be creative enough to unlock their inner artist?

    While I’m sure most people would say “Don’t give a shit about what others think,” for me, not caring what I think is more important in many ways. I often find myself dismissing one of my own ideas before I act upon it, censoring myself. Sometimes, that can be good, but for me, it often means that I don’t do things that I probably should.

    Productivity

    Can you describe your current personal and professional responsibilities?

    Sure. First and foremost, I’m a husband and the dad of two small kids. With our son still in and out of the hospital for various tests and things like physical therapy, we’re busier than the average 4-person family, I believe.

    From 9-5, I work for The Salvation Army as the IT/Multimedia Director for The Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. The building is currently under construction, and is slated to open late this year. I oversee all of the IT, audio video and multimedia stuff. If it involves data, pixels or electricity, my department is there, ready to work.

    How do you go about balancing the personal, professional and digital?

    I get it wrong all the time. I am late to work because I can’t tear myself away from breakfast, but I check work email before bedtime. The system I outline below helps, and I’m trying to be more intentional about separating work from home.

    What tools and techniques do you find yourself counting on to get through your workload?

    I say this often: my life is in OmniFocus. I have folders for home, work and the website. Inside those folders, I have dozens of projects, with lots and lots of tasks.

    For capture, I use Field Notes notebooks. There’s always one in my back pocket. A couple times a day, I take any tasks and move them in to OmniFocus. When in the car, I use that Siri-on-the-keyboard feature to get things in to my OmniFocus Inbox without crashing my truck.

    Notes and reference information live as plain text files in Dropbox. I get to them via nvALT on my Mac and Notesy on my iPad and iPhone.

    What is the best starting point for the unproductive amongst us, who are looking to get more organized?

    Something like OmniFocus isn’t going to help you get off the ground. Get some colored index cards, assign a color for work, home and other and go to town writing stuff down.

    More by this author

    2×4: An Interview with David Sparks 2×4: An Interview with Myke Hurley 2×4: An Interview With CJ Chilvers 2X4 Interviews 2×4: An Interview With Gabe Weatherhead 2×4: An Interview With Brett Kelly

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    Last Updated on February 15, 2019

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

    Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

    Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

    So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

    Joe’s Goals

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      Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

      Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

      Daytum

        Daytum

        is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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        Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

        Excel or Numbers

          If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

          What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

          Evernote

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            I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

            Evernote is free with a premium version available.

            Access or Bento

              If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

              Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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              You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

              Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

              All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

              Conclusion

              I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

              What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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