A Short History of Nearly Everything — Bill Bryson

I’ve always been fascinated by the origin of humankind. How did we go from cavemen trying to figure out fire to being able to fly huge airplanes through the sky? I’m deeply interested in the many steps that led not only to our present day progress but also to our very existence in the first place. This was my first book by Bill Bryson and I went in with high expectations based on his track record.

But then I read through the first few chapters focused on the big bang and the origins of the universe and decided to take a break. I’ll admit that it didn’t meet my expectations at first because I was focused on a very specific part in the universe’s timeline. Not being one to give up and having run out of books in my backlog I gave it another chance. And I’m glad I did.

It’s such an entertaining read and Bill knows how to turn his well researched content into page-turners. I don’t think I’ll remember most (if any) names of the people mentioned but it gave me a really good overview on many topics that relate to my main interest at the moment–how humans evolved over time.

With that being said, the chapter I enjoyed the most was the obviously the one describing what little is known about our many Sapiens ancestors. This led me down a rabbit hole and I’ve found a few promising resources on the topic such as The Ascent of Man, Prehistory, Guns, Germs and Steel and Sapiens which I’m currently reading.

★★★★☆

Mindful habits

I started my mindfulness journey a few years ago when I was looking into ways to look after my mental health. I had made sure to take care of my body through exercise but hadn’t paid too much attention to my mind. I figured having a busy mind with lots thoughts was probably the same for everyone else. I guess not.

A particularly stressful situation in my personal life was the trigger that made me look for solutions and answers. This led me to books as well as teachers about meditation and stoicism which resonated with me a lot.

I turned to practice what I’d learned and have been meditating almost every day for about five years now. I’m actively trying to apply mindfulness to various parts of my life.

For example, before I make breakfast I read a page out of The Daily Stoic to start my day which gives me something to look forward to.

The shower used to be the place where I think about stuff the most, heck there’s even an entire subreddit dedicated to this which proves I can’t be the only one. But now when I take a shower I’m simply in the moment and focus on the various sensations. The smells. The water hitting my body and flowing continuously. It’s quite a different experience and I urge you to try it at least once.

Throughout the day I try to practice mindfulness as much as possible by being present instead of lost in thoughts. Even if my mind ends up wandering, which is still fairly often, I remember to be kind with myself and bring it back to the present moment.

Every night before going to bed I take some time to meditate. This helps me win down for the day and prepares my body for a good night’s sleep.

As is the case with any skill you only start to see the benefits over the long term by showing up for practice every day. Don’t neglect your mind–it needs training too.

A Man Called Ove — Frederik Backman

Ove is the grumpy old man that you’d complain about as a kid because he keeps telling you off. The kind who takes it upon himself to ensure rules are followed and things are done the proper way in his neighbourhood.

A Man Called Ove is the story of a man full of principles and a rigid mindset who slowly changes his ways with the arrival of new neighbours–a kind and energetic family of four. Parvaneh, the mother immediately sees through Ove’s facade and an unexpected friendship starts to unfold.

I enjoyed Frederik Backman’s writing style, which I first encountered in Anxious People and it’s no different with this book. He elegantly weaves Ove’s past into his day-to-day adventures which helps the reader discover the complex layers of Ove’s personality little by little.

This book is an emotional rollercoaster and a great reminder to be kind to other people as we don’t know what they might struggle with.

★★★★☆

My most used apps

Last week I got a new MacBook which meant starting with a clean slate. This is usually the moment when you realise which apps you miss and want to install right away on any new device. Below are my most used ones, however most of them are only available for Mac.

Things

I’ve been using Things for about 3 years after relying on post-it notes neatly arranged on the edge of my desk. It’s the best way for me to clear my mind of anything that should get done and follow up. It’s so good that I’ve even adopted the Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity methodology successfully without realising it.

Alfred

Yes, Spotlight on Mac OS has improved a lot over the years but Alfred has been my go-to productivity app for a while now. Whether it’s looking for files, controlling my music or any other workflows I might need, Alfred has got it covered. I use its shortcuts and workflows countless times during the day.

iA Writer

There’s just no better app for writing than iA Writer in my opinion. It’s simple, uses Markdown by default and most importantly gets out of the way with a focus mode. Until recently it wasn’t even possible to change the typeface or font size, which I loved. The less settings there are to customise the more time you spend on writing.

I’ve been using it for everything from meeting notes to these blog posts. Thanks to Blot, all I have to do is save the file, move it into my Dropbox folder and it’s published a few seconds later.

Spark

When I was looking for a replacement for Mailbox after it got shut down, I came across Spark which has filled that void ever since. What I like about it is the design, multi-account support and the ability to snooze emails. I’ve gotten into the habit of achieving inbox zero which has been easy to do with this email app.

Sip

Sip is a simple colour picker. I like that it lives outside of my design tool which means I can inspect colours form anywhere and add them as swatches for easy access later on.

ImageOptim

ImageOptim is a great app if you publish images online. It significantly reduces file size and it’s easy as dragging and dropping entire folders into the app. Since it runs multiple file optimisation tools at the same time in the background, you’re guaranteed to end up with the best result.