In college, my roommate Adam returned from the holiday break with a new alarm clock he'd received as a Christmas gift. (My dorm days were a bit before the smartphone era and we all still used actual bedside clocks to wake up for our 8:00am classes). This particular alarm clock was special; it featured a
Downtime. Or, in same cases, dead times: waiting rooms, lines, traffic, the moments in between appointments. Those places where you get nowhere quickly, but live in effective purgatory, embracing neither productivity or relaxation. To the overly ambitious (or those suffering from some form of adult ADHD), these are the times that try your soul in that special kind of slow-drip water torture way.
Sure, you could kill your dead time by scrolling through Instagram. You may even decide to do something useful with your phone, like one-liner email replies or clearing out your old voicemail. But what if you want to occasionally limit your exposure to the little blue screen that wasn’t a crucial part of human existence before 2007?
In lieu of time-killers, here are four suggestions for time-fillers that you can perform with absolutely no equipment other than your mind and your body (as well as one that requires a simple piece of string). These are especially helpful if you’re stuck in a situation where you really shouldn’t be using your phone, like stop-and-go traffic.
In order to be your best, you need to make the most out of your mornings. More than anything else, how you begin your day sets the template for how the rest of it will go. Here are nine things you can, and should, do every single day to be your most productive self.
1. Make Your Bed (2:oo)
When this becomes first thing you do after you wake up, you accomplish so much more than flat blankets and straighten pillows. First, you immediately achieve a goal; the very first thing that happens during your whole day is a success. Secondly, though it might sound dramatic, you've ordered chaos. What was a mess is now straight and clear
The first week of January is often about adding things to our list. "This year, I'm going to do this every day, or execute a hundred of those..." Instead, perhaps this is the year you drop some of the stuff that just isn't serving you well. We have a few ideas.
There is lots of scientific research on why setting goals on January 1 never really works out, and why, by March or April, we've all backslid into our old habits. Often, it's because goals aren't specific enough, or we haven't found the best way to track the work we've done. Or, perhaps we don't actually believe we can achieve that new version of ourselves for the long term.
I think I was eight. Maybe seven. It was my birthday, and a family friend who'd taken a mentor role with me stopped by to give me a small gift. I don't remember what was in inside, but I can so perfectly and vividly recall that it was wrapped in the full, CMYK color of Sunday comics section, and it blew my freaking mind.
Here's the thing people who don't like spicy food don't really understand: adding heat to your food, whether in the form of fresh chile peppers, their dried counterparts, or any number or cooked, mixed, and fermented chile-based condiments, is not just about upping the Scoville units. What the true piquancy people know is that chiles aren't just spicy, they're full of amazing, floral fruit flavors that you can't get anywhere else.
Often, the best way to add that can't-stop-eating-it peppery bite is in the form of prepared hot sauces. There are tens of thousands out there, too many of which are characterized only by heat levels and how much devil imagery they can fit on their labels. But hot sauce shouldn't be a dare. It's an invitation to a new world of flavor that can accentuate whatever its added to.
You can barely imagine what the world was like in the proto-suburbs of the Pacific Northwest for a child who had traveled there––entirely on his own, with his mother at home and his father awaiting him––from a small Tuscan village. This was before "a small Tuscan village" was even a thing on the radar of America at large. And it was before America had its culturally and politically dominating century. It was before anyone knew what the Pacific Northwest would become, foodwise.
And yet, that is where Angelo Pellegrini settled. His childhood of 12 or so years in Tuscany gave him an uncanny experience to bring to pre-depression America, including an adult life that coincided with the Cold War in which his heritage could not have been less relevant. He was born at just the right time to enjoy America in a way that few others had. But he was also born just a bit too early to have been the celebrity he would have been if he had emerged in the age of Alice Waters and the Food Network.
One of my all-time favorite aphorisms is that Victorian era gem that shines from its facets of order, efficiency, and thrift:
A place for everything, and everything in its place.
I consistently use this idea to recalibrate the way I see my home and studio. My wife and I are work-from-home freelancers; we're in our house 90% of the week and share it with our very active toddler and three cats, working and playing and cooking three meals a day, so we make a lot of mess. Without direct intervention, entropy reigns supreme, with total anarchy its final goal. Thus I constantly ask myself when I put something down: Is that where it lives? If the answer is no, put it away for real.
Well, let's piggyback off the idea of "a place for everything" to deliberately use our physical space to make good habits.
Everyday carry: that's, like, the wallet and keys that you shove in your pocket on your way out the door, right? Yes... and no. Sure, your everyday carry (EDC) rotation will include your wallet and keys, but it has the potential to be so much more: a vehicle of personal expression, an art form, a tool to daily sharpen thoughtfulness.
Unsurprisingly, EDC is a Thing on the Internet now, especially on social media—as of the time of this writing, the #everydaycarry hash tag has over 2 million photos associated with it on Instagram. A niche with roots in the military and law enforcement community has truly bloomed into a universal pastime.
Looking to refine your EDC game? I've shaken out hundreds of "pocket dumps" to uncover their most common elements. Let's take a look!
So, I'm gonna throw down and get controversial for a sec: William Shakespeare was the greatest playwright and poet who ever spoke English, and I'd relish a comment-fight-to-the-death in the comments anyone who disagrees (not really, but I encourage the conversation).
To argue the man's merits feels redundant; the work speaks for itself. The Bard's plays are so influential that he's taught us how we understand storytelling and character development in the modern and post-modern world. His words have become so ubiquitous that I'd bet good money everyone reading this knows unique phrases from at least 4 of the 5 speeches below (also lots of movies take their titles from his phrases). I challenge any man considering himself an educated member of our society read these speeches and attempt committing them to memory. You'll find them helpful in more than a few settings.
Many will make resolutions on New Years, vowing to drop the additional pounds leftover from the holidays, and generally making more healthful choices starting January 1st. And while new beginnings can be a helpful motivation, we think the best time to actually get started on new goals is actually now: late winter and early spring. So, while we hope you made some good progress in the first few weeks of January, the real question is: how's it going come February 1st?
If you're looking for a New Year's resolution list to help inspire your personal betterment this year, look no further than this founding father's temperance chart. Read on to see how you can print your own.
As far as the truly great characters from U.S. History to which we might look for timeless advice, it's hard to beat Benjamin Franklin. (We still love you, Mark Twain!) Franklin was born into a family of very modest means, but he manage to use his basic education (he stopped going to school at age ten) to become a successful author, scientist, statesman, printer, politician, inventor, humorist, civic activist, diplomat, and $100 dollar bill appear-er.
If you, like me, were born between 1975 and 1990, your first exposure to the idea that "champagne" has technical regulations and restrictions likely came from Rob Lowe's odious Benjamin character in the original Wayne's World. ("Actually, all champagne is French. It's named after the region.") And you, like me, probably play into/totally own his snooty accusation that Americans don't recognize the convention, and call all their sparkling whites "champagne," and don't care. Because only a true b-hole shames somebody while handing them a drink.
Halloween has its horror and December its infinite loop of sparkle-strung classics. Good or bad, they're the established traditions of their seasons.
But, if you will, allow me to make the case as November as perhaps the prime month for festive film watching. We can't all relate to being chased by ax murderers nor having the carolers sing as we find our soulmate under the mistletoe just as the snow starts to fall outside. But everyone knows the experience of returning home to break bread and spill gravy with family, or, perhaps, what it's like to strike out on your own for the first holiday not spent at your grandparents. The Thanksgiving table (and four days of being stuck in the same place) is the perfect setting for drama, comedy, and everything in between. Plus, all those sweaters. Here are our faves that get it right.
I’ve technically lived in five cities so far if we include my college town (Minneapolis, New Haven, London, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles). And I’ve come to realize that as a creature of habit I eventually start frequenting a couple different venues that all have similar things in common. I think every man should have a couple of these. Let me explain…
Mindfulness. It's a buzz word, and we're all after it, even if we aren't totally sure what it is. But, the benefits are obvious — the ability to be wholly present, cognizant of where you are and what you’re doing, and not being concerned or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you, seems, well, kinda the whole point of life, right?
Good news. This is something we are all capable of achieving, and like any craft or skill, we'll become better when we practice daily. Here's how to start:
Okay. It's time to call it. The long days of summer are gone, and with them went the endless opportunity to take on a new project or adventure, no matter the time. For the next few months, the daylight hours will be spent mostly at work, with our free time coinciding with the dark, crisp nights of the season. The perfect time to do a little whittling or carving by the fireplace, or perhaps time to start a pot of your famous chili and cast iron cornbread. Or, when you just have a few spare minutes to yourself, read a great book.
Etymology often helps shape thought: when you're aware of a word's origins, you're in touch with the full context of the words that filter your inclinations. For example, did you know that wilderness comes from the Old English for "wild deer"?
Think about that for a moment: it's a place filled with animals unaccustomed to human contact, where humans have minimized their prints on the world. So when we go out to the wilderness, we're immersing ourselves in the beauty of nature, we're adventuring outside of civilization, and we're escaping from the creature comforts that can dull our sense of connection to the cosmos.
Well... maybe not 100% escape. Because while I love taking a break, I've never been interested in taking vacation from a good cup of coffee. If you're the same, read on for how we at ManMade make decent coffee in the wilderness, and our choices for a great camping coffee maker.
There are a few adages with which I can start this post. "You get what you pay for." "Some things are too good to be true." Yes, it would be awesome if there were a store in every town that sold solid, dependable tools at bargain prices. When you're just getting started, a place to fully outfit your shop on the cheap would be an amazing gift. I get it. I've been there.
But anyone who knows about Harbor Freight also knows about the reputation of the products it stocks: namely, that the quality is rather unreliable. Today, as I was discussing this post with my friend and colleague, M.E., her immediate response was, "There was one in the same plaza as my old job, so whenever we needed anything, we got it there. And ultimately whatever we bought, broke five days later. That place is the Dollar Store of the home improvement world."
And that's the trick: Harbor Freight stocks items that are designed to be sold, not to be used. I'm not saying their business model is dishonest or nefarious. Nor am I a tool snob with an unlimited budget. I'm only interested in spending as much money as necessary to get the job done. I know what its like to have your aspirations be bigger than your budget. But buying things that don't work, no matter how much they cost, is not saving money. The majority of products there simply will not stand up to repeated use, nor give the you the results you're after. When it comes to their sell-line of "Quality Tools, Lowest Prices"... well, one of them is true.