My favourite Chrome extensions of 2021

These two extensions have really changed the game for me in terms of my productivity, so I’d like to share them here.

There are plenty of useful Chrome extensions out there, and no doubt plenty of extensions that have the similar functionality than the one’s I’ve listed here. I just happened to find both of these through a simple Google search after asking myself “Surely there’s a better way to do X..” and they seem to do a fantastic job of working as advertised.

Best of all, both of these extensions (at least for the way I use them) are totally free!

 

Unhook Youtube

One of the biggest time-wasting traps I fall into is watching YouTube and getting sucked in for ages. The Youtube algorithm is a force of temptation that’s impossible for my dopamine-craving brain to resist.

The solution here should be simple: install a website blocker to shut out Youtube when I’m trying to work. The problem is, I actually need to watch it for work related things: like tutorials on how to do something in After Effects/Final Cut/Davinci Resolve etc. The recommendation pane next to any video I watch is quicksand, ready to pull me in if my eye glances over to it.

So what I needed was a way to browse Youtube for the things I need to learn, without the risk of being drawn into those recommendations.

Unhook Youtube gives you plenty of options to hide distracting content

 

Unhook YouTube is a simple extension actually goes way beyond removing the recommendation pane – you can remove video suggestions literally everywhere! On the home page, subscriptions page, at the end of videos – the works. All you’re left with is the search bar and the video that you’re currently watching. When you get to the end of the video, you’re free to leave, totally unaware that there are other videos for you to watch.

As they say, ignorance is bliss.

 

Workona

I’m definitely not the only one who does this, but when I’m working on a project I often have dozens of tabs open in a single window. And then I have another Chrome window, with dozens more tabs, for each project that I’m working on. For projects that I’m not actively working on, I’d simply push those windows to the back. But they’d always be lurking there, cluttering my workspace over time. Since I also use my laptop for non-work related browsing, I needed a better way to organise all my tabs and to avoid looking at work-related stuff when I’m trying to relax.

 

 

Enter Workona.

This fantastic tool allows me to manage all my tabs across all active projects seamlessly. Each project window becomes a Workspace, which can be switched around in a single click. As you open and close tabs, it saves your “session” in real-time. So anytime you close a window, you can instantly open it back up and resume your session where you last closed it. Now I can close down Chrome completely at the end of my work day or whenever I feel like it, and then get right back to work just as easily.

And it has an iPad app too. This is awesome, because if I happen to be browsing on my iPad and want to pull up something work-related, I can continue right where my laptop was. It’s like a better version of the tab-syncing already built into Chrome

The other cool thing is that you can save bookmarks as “Resources” which is just a way of saying project-related bookmarks. I often need to save something as a bookmark only for that project: think specific Google drive links or client websites. Now when the project is complete, it doesn’t clog up my Bookmarks folder any longer. It just gets archived along with the rest of the project tabs.

On top of all that, it’s even got other neat features like a task manager and notes manager built in. This extension is really aiming to be your all-in-one productivity tool. I’d say it does a pretty great job it!

EVs, Superblocks, Christopher Nolan – Sunday Sesh 07/11/21

Hello, welcome to another Sunday Sesh, where I give a little life update and share tidbits I’ve found interesting over the past week.

This week I went to watch a movie with our friends. At the cinema! It was such an immersive experience and I’d forgotten just what I was missing out on. Nothing like watching Netflix at home. We watched Shang Chi and I could feel every hit, block and pulse in the movie through the massive sound system. I thought the movie was great! Seeing an all-Asian cast led by an Asian Marvel superhero is bound to inspire lots of kids out there, and the Eastern mythology and old-school kung-fu movie tropes were beautifully brought to life.

EnergyLab also hosted an exciting panel discussion on the future of electric vehicles in Cambodia. I got to film one of the epic entrances to the event, with the Australian Ambassador driving the Managing Director of Electrice Du Cambodge to the entry in an electric Jaguar I-PACE. The two remaining panelists, the British Ambassador and the Managing Director of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, also drove to the event in the same epic fashion.

Check out a recording of of the panel discussion here

 

 

🎧 Podcasts

“What Does a ‘Just Transition’ Look Like?

Link

At this point, it’s accepted by (almost) everyone that our energy is going to be all-renewable at some point in the future. That means that the massive fossil fuel industries that power our world today are going to to the way of, well, fossils.

But what about the thousands of people who’s livelihoods depend on these sectors? Most of them entered the industry just trying to make a living and feed their family, like the rest of us. This podcast discusses how we can ensure that the renewable transition can be fair for everyone. It covers those directly impacted, but also indirectly, through the local shops, restaurants and communities that existing mines and plants might support.

 

📚 Books

I’ve been reading Originals by Adam Grant, which is a good dive into the factors that make teams and companies innovative, from tech startups to the CIA. It’s super interesting so far. It challenges a lot of common conceptions that we take for granted and I’m excited to read the rest of it.

 

📺 Videos

THIS Is The Future Of Urban Planning!

Link

A very interesting video talking about an idea to reclaim city streets to be places where people can walk around and socialise with each other. The solutions is “superblocks”: a bunch of regular city blocks squeezed together with the inner roads changed to prioritise foot and bicycle traffic rather than cars. It sound like an excellent idea to reclaim our cities for people, reduce pollution, improve our communities and increase happiness.

How to Create like Christopher Nolan

Link

This video from David Perrell extols the value of “getting wonky” – going deep into a single niche that other people might consider “weird”. By honing in and applying an obsessive amount of thought and consideration to tiny details, you can end up creating great work. Such is the domain of Christopher Nolan, who’s directed many of my favourite films including The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar and the Dark Knight. Each of these films plays with concepts of time, space and society in extremely interesting ways that really require you to think differently to any other films.

 

📃Articles

22 rules of story telling from Pixar

Link

Storytelling continues to be more important in my life every day: from this blog to the personal and client videos that I write scripts for. This is a fantastic Twitter thread that explores tips from one of the most innovate storytelling companies ever founded: Pixar.

How David Perell writes an essay

Link

So this is actually the third piece of content this week that I’m sharing in relation to David Perrell – I have been trying to learn more about writing lately so naturally I’ve been consuming a lot of his content.

“If the internet is a Great Online Game, David Perell is one of its grand warlocks”. A fitting description, as he runs one the premier (and rather expensive) online writing course Write of Passage.

The article is a fascinating look into how he comes up with ideas to create essays, and tests the waters along the way and gets feedback using Twitter. By the time he’s ready to publish, there’s good reason to think that people will like it.

The feeling of success, short-circuit your habits, slowing down – Sunday Sesh 31/10/21

Hello, welcome to another Sunday Sesh, where I share tidbits I’ve found interesting over the past week.

This week’s photo is of me editing my first Youtube video (yep!) more details to come later.

 

🎵Music

Ed Sheeran’s new album is out and I’ve been loving it! It’s been playing on repeat and I don’t think there’s a single song on the album I don’t like.

These are my 3 favourite songs so far from the album:

  1. 2step
  2. Collide
  3. Shiver

 

🎧 Podcasts

“5 Seconds to Change Your Life with Mel Robbins” from The Chase Jarvis LIVE Show

Link

Mel Robbins has popularised this technique to change your habits and the response that you have to difficult situations.

The moment you feel like you need to hit the snooze button, or calm your nerves before a speech, or honk at a driver for cutting you off (but really shouldn’t), just count 5-4-3-2-1. This is supposedly enough to short-circuit the thought loop that your brain may be going into and bring you back to the present. It can be used for any situation where you’re trying to change your habit.

It’s so simple and easy that that it seems like it wouldn’t work. I’m not really sure how she wrote a whole book on this, but I’ll have to give the technique a try.

 

📃Articles

How Does It Feel To Get Everything You Ever Wanted?

Link

It feels like nothing.

This is a great reminder to enjoy the journey along the way, because once you reach the top you’ll find that there’s nothing else there.

You’ll still be yourself. You’ll still go through the world the same way. You’ll still need to eat, poop and sleep. This article is great advice to keep in mind for anyone pursuing a big goal, thinking that happiness, self-actualisation and meaning lie on the other side after achieving it.

Funny enough, the song First Times on Ed Sheeran’s new album also concurs with this perspective. In this first lines he sings about playing at Wembley to 80,000, everyone singing along with him. His dream. Everything he ever wanted.

“Ain’t it funny how the simplest things in life can make a man?

Little moments that pass us by” – Ed Sheeran

Although most of us may never experience worldwide fame, acclaim and the pinnacle of success in our field, we all get to experience these little moments that make our lives. Let’s not forget to appreciate them.

The Tried and True Five-Step Method of Filming a Scene

Link

In Hollywood, filming a scene is a 5 step process: blocking, lighting, rehearsing, tweaking and filming.

This is a great bit of introductory knowledge for anyone out there with an interest in filmmaking – myself included. I’ve yet to actually be on a big production going through this process myself, but hope to one day soon.

But even on the smaller productions that I manage, these methods are still relevant and come into play.

 

Against 3X Speed

Link

David gives an analogy of his hypothetical friend Mike, who we can probably relate to in one way or another. Mike listens to his audiobooks and podcasts at 3x speed in an effort to consume as much information as possible within the constraints of his day. The more he listens to, the more he can learn and therefore the more successful he can be, right?

Not so fast..

We have an obsession with consuming as much information as possible in a small amount of time. But it’s based on a flawed theory of knowledge that we all pick up in grade school. What we’re actually doing when listening to things this fast is forgetting most of the information and wasting our time.

Alternatively, David recommends to spend your time 1. Practicing space repetition and 2. Writing essays. This makes you interact with the information at a slower pace and actually remember it by giving yourself space to distill and express it.

 

What is underneath productivity?

Link

Productivity isn’t just software, notebooks and to-do lists. Underneath it lies psychology. Underneath psychology is biology and neuroscience. To understand productivity is to also understand all of these layers, and more. By going deeper down, you gain more mastery over what comes further up.

Editing Videos Better AND Faster

Here’s a couple of great tips I’ve picked up in recent months that have really improved my video editing. I’ve found these much more handy beyond the typical “5 shortcuts to make your editing faster” posts that I read when I first started out.

 

How to Avoid the “Video” Look While Color Grading

https://nofilmschool.com/how-avoid-video-color-grade

I’ve still got a lot the learn when it comes to colour grading, but I like to think that I’m improving with every video that I edit. As a filmmaker, naturally I’m aiming to get closer and closer to that “cinematic” or “film” look.

One of the key pieces of a beautiful cinematic image is all about contrast. But no, this doesn’t just mean cranking that contrast slider up. That’s like using a sledgehammer to sculpt a statue. It’s actually about creating separation between different areas in the image. This article explains how to take a more refined approach, so that you can replace that sledgehammer with a chisel.

The first method is to use the Tone Curve alongside Masks (or Power Windows in Davinci Resolve) to isolate different tonal areas in the image and adjust them separately. This means targeting specific areas to make darker and others to make lighter. For example, you can draw a mask around your subject and make it ‘pop’ out from the background by making it slightly brighter.

The second method is to use the Colour Curves in a similar way. Instead of increasing contrast between light and dark areas, the idea here is to increase the separation of colours.

The above shot is from Mad Max: Fury Road. Although there are only two main colours, the saturation and tone in both areas are so clearly separated from each other that it makes the landscape come to life. This gives the image a cinematic feel.

 

How to stay focused as an editor

 

This has been a major help to me. The struggle with editing isn’t all of the little productivity hacks you can do to squeeze out an extra 1% speed – although that can help too. It’s about staying focused for long periods of time. It’s more of a marathon than a sprint. It can take a while to really get into the zone and stay there. Sometimes the thought of sitting down to edit a big project can seem so daunting that the probability of procrastinating is almost 100%.

Blocks and slowdowns are inevitable whenever you’re editing. But the main takeaway from this video for me is, surprisingly, not to clamp down and white-knuckle your way through blocks. You need to actually to know when to quit. You should anticipate a slow down, and quit just before you lose your flow. He likens this to a wave – you get into the wave, ride it and then exit just before it crashes. Then take a short break, ready to ride another wave again.

You’re (probably) trying to do too much – Sunday Sesh 24/10/21

We’ve all got those projects that we would do if we had more time. We imagine reading all those books on our reading list, recipes to try out, taking up bouldering, launching that side hustle. But imagining all these projects never gets you any closer to realising them.

I’m usually trying to juggle a bunch of things at the same time. Wanting to learn Khmer, practice the guitar, have a social life, take photos, be a good husband, write blog posts, film passion projects and do client work. For starters.

I recently read this article that argues against having all these scattered commitments, and our modern culture against commitment in general.

“It’s more fun to think about being good at something than to actually do they work to get good” – Scott Young

The solution is to choose just one project: learn a new language, learn to draw, learn a new skill – whatever. Pick one and just go for it for 30 days. It’s a hort enough timeframe that it’s relatively easy commit to, but long enough that it’ll force you to tackle the projects you really care about.

The flip side to this is that I believe many skills work best when you practice them every day, even if just a little. Things like practising an instrument, learning some new words in a language. You’ll be better off spending 15 minutes a day doing these little things, and doing it for a whole year. Rather than, say, committing 1 hour/day to the same skill for 3 months and then never doing them again. I think Scott’s thesis relates more to certain areas of life such as work, where you’re likely to be juggling multiple projects at once.

Still, I think it’s a great idea. Imagine working on 12 different month-long projects over the course of a year? Or four 3-month projects. What skills could you learn? What meaningful projects would you go after? For me I’d like to learn more about graphic design, marketing, branding, writing and of course filmmaking. So I will look at picking one of these.

 

Clean Energy Week 2021

In other news, this week Clean Energy Week 2021 is officially launched! I was really honoured to be there for the launch event, which for this year took place in Kampong Speu, Cambodia’s second largest solar farm at 80MW. To kick off the launch, I got to film the Ambassador of Australia to Cambodia giving the commencement speech and Clean Energy Award. We had influencers, social media crew and SchneiTec Group all on the scene.

To find out more about Clean Energy Week and get involved, check out their website where you can also watch all the videos I’ve produced for their program this year:

http://cleanenergycambodia.org/cleanenergyweek

 

And here are some other tidbits of things I’ve found interesting over the past week:

🎧 Podcasts

“How Crypto Projects Like Loot are Rewriting the Playbook for Building Communities” from Means of Creation

https://www.airr.io/episode/6140fca8ab3f6c000f5ecc26

A super interesting podcast about some of the latest developments in the crypto space. Namely around NFTs and DAOs. It tells the story of Loot – selling NFTs that are nothing more than a few lines of text for hundreds of thousands of dollars, by creating a narrative and the prospect of being part of an exclusive community and having immense future value.

📃Articles

Reclaiming the joy of work:

https://www.nateliason.com/medley/283

There’s a negative part of our work culture, where we admonish people for being “obsessed” with their work and tell them that they should work less. But why is that? Many people associate working hard with working to reach status, money and climbing an imaginary ladder at the expense of personal health and meaningful relationships. Our schooling and corporate system ingrains this notion that work is about purely achieving some sort of reward in the future. Where its all about slaving away and enduring a job/class you hate today so that you can have a different job in the future that you might still hate (with higher pay and status).

Instead, we should be trying to find a deeper meaning to our work. Something that drives us with a raging fire to achieve a goals that are meaningful to us . It turns work into something fun, a game we can play forever. And there’s nothing wrong with “working” hard at that.

100 Days of Motion Design:

https://medium.com/the-100-day-project/100-days-of-motion-design-463526af852f

I found this article really inspiring and lines up well with the piece I wrote at the top of this post. This guy decided to spend every day for 100 days studying and practicing motion design. 100 days seems like a bit too much of a commitment though – I think I’ll just start with 30 days. Learning to draw and/or graphic design is something I’ve wanted to learn about for a while, so maybe I’ll start there. I like the way he walks you through his journey and shows his progress from start to finish.

How Memes Control Everything – Divinations – Every

https://every.to/divinations/how-memes-control-everything-8ef8ece7-58b3-45b7-b906-0b6acc48d387

An interesting dive into how memes aren’t just funny internet jokes, but actually part of our social fabric. They’re a way to mimic common behaviour so that we can become socially accepted. Much like catch phrases that came before internet memes.

Eerie abandoned resorts, snorkelling and surviving waterfalls

A trip to Koh Rong Sanloem

A couple of weeks ago, we got invited to go with some friends to Koh Rong Sanloem, which is an island off the coast near Sihanoukville to the south. This trip would be a few firsts for us: our first visit to Sihanoukville, first time to an island in Cambodia and our first time travelling with a group of friends in Cambodia. We travelled over Pchum Ben (ancestor’s day), a week-long holiday where Cambodian people usually visit their home village and pray at their local pagoda.

It was a 4-day trip in total. This gave us two full days on the island, with a day on either side to get there and back.

Day 1: Getting there

We left at 6.30am from Phnom Penh for a 6(ish) hour drive down to Sihanoukville including breaks. The road had just been finished a couple of years ago, so it was a smooth drive all the way down (not a common thing when driving to a province in Cambodia). A couple of highlights we spotted on our drive: 1. A waterfall down the side of Kirirom mountain and 2. Outdoor shrines crowded with people praying for their ancestors for Pchum Ben.

From Sihanoukville, we took a speedboat directly to Koh Rong Sanloem, a ride which took around 30 minutes.

Sihanoukville

I’d heard a lot about this coastal city since moving to Cambodia. I’d heard that in the past five years, this small beach town was transformed into a Chinese-run gambling city infested with crime, gangs and trash. But personally I found it to be a nice place in the limited time I was there. True, it does somewhat resemble a Chinese city. With big, wide roads, concrete buildings and signs with Chinese writing dominating the cityscape. On the surface it looks like a cleaner and more modern version of Phnom Penh but hey, maybe I just didn’t have time to visit the underbelly.

“None of this was here when I last visited in 2018”, one of my friends tells me.

Looking at the number of high rises, skyscrapers and roads here today, it’s hard for me to even comprehend how this was all built in three years.

 

The island of Koh Rong Sanloem

Situated next to (and not to be confused with) its bigger sibling, Koh Rong, this island is a beautiful getaway lined with palm trees and a sprinkling of resorts. It’s everything you’d expect from a relaxed tropical island. Although the pandemic has left it feeling a little extra relaxed, sullen even. As far as island tourist destinations go, this one felt pretty untouched – there were almost no roads and and everywhere had to be travelled on foot or by small boat. Wooden boats lay anchored near the shore and the place had a sleepy vibe to it. We were staying in Saracen Bay, the main part of the island, where white sand and blue-green waters run a long stretch enclosed by a bay. It was a great little escape from our usual landscape of concrete, pollution and crowds.

We stayed at Sarasea Resort in a beachside bungalow. Outside of our front door, the only thing separating us from the ocean were a few shrubs and a 30 metre stretch of sand – literally a stone’s throw away (and trust me, I can’t throw very far). It’s quite incredible really: being able to just walk out be in the water in under 15 seconds. We’d really been missing the beach lately and this was just the dose we needed.

 

It wasn’t exactly the ideal time to be visiting – we were in the middle of rainy season after all. And this held mainly true: it rained every day that we were here, and grey clouds were almost a constant feature on the horizon. But there was always at least a sliver of time during the day that would prove ideal for a swim. It wasn’t the postcard-picturesque-blue-sky scenery you’d imagine when somebody says tropical island, but it was waaay more than good enough.

Day 2: Snorkelling, fishing, waterfall and abandoned resorts

Our Khmer friends organised this morning’s activity for us. In the morning, we were taken out on a small boat waiting for us near the shore. This took us out to a bigger boat anchored a bit further out. The boat’s driver took us out to secluded patch of ocean and on the way we spotted an unreal-looking resort on the other side of the beach with terraced housing. Once we reached the spot, he threw down the anchor and stairs and we jumped in with our snorkels.

The water was calm and it felt liberating to be out swimming in the ocean again. Visibility on this was wasn’t so great – I could only see a couple of metres in front of me. But it was still good enough to spot and swim with a few schools of fish and catch glimpses of coral.

After our snorkelling session, we pulled up the anchor and stairs and moved to a different patch of ocean. Here, the driver gave us spooled fishing lines and bait, and our friends started fishing off the side. Surprisingly within minutes people were catching fish!

After coming back to have lunch and a nap, we went out that afternoon for a stroll to a waterfall on the other side of the beach.

On the way back, Mel lead us into the ruins of an abandoned resort. The same one with terraced housing we spotted on our boat ride that morning. It was a rather bizarre place – the buildings themselves looked new and almost complete, yet some of them were already crumbling. We explored this place for a while with our detective hats on, trying to figure out exactly what had happened here. We gathered that it was built by a Chinese casino company (I spotted a wifi password in one of the empty rooms). Most of the rooms were unfurnished, some of them were sparsely furnished and others looked like they were stuffed full of random things like a family garage. Looking at the new unlaid cables around, it seemed like a project that was probably nearing completion in early 2020 but quickly got abandoned when the coronavirus hit.

 

 

Day 3: Hiking turned trail run, lunch at Lazy Beach, movie night

On our last full day on the island, we decided to venture inland. The day before, somebody tipped us off to the fact that there’s a lighthouse on the other side of the island, so we ventured out to explore it. A few of our friends joined us for the start of the hike but had to leave an hour in, so Mel and I continued the rest of the way ourselves. The light rain kept us cool most of the way, which was nice.

After we reached the lighthouse, I could feel my stomach growling. We’d just walked for two hours, it was 9am and I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. The constant light rain on my skin reminded me that I wanted something warm. Our plan was to hike further to Lazy Beach, an even sleepier beach nestled on the other side of the island. It would take 1.5 hours to walk there, so in the interest of warm food we decided to run the distance instead to cut the time in half. Along the way, the light rain turned into a downpour at least a couple of times, forcing us to find refuge under an abandoned shack – which there were plenty of.

Eventually we stumbled our way over to Lazy Beach Resort. After running through jungle and forest, being cold and wet for hours, we walked into the warm hut of the restaurant like weary old travellers. I ordered two meals and dug into it like a hungry wolf.

 

Day 4: Departure

On the final day of our trip we woke up and went for a short run plus one last splash in the ocean before our scheduled ferry back to Sihanoukville. You need to let the ferry company know a day in advance when you want to leave, so they can reserve you a seat on the boat.

But there was a bit of a mess around the boats came late, so we got to spend a bit of extra time on the island. We soaked up the sand, the water and the nature vibes, savouring it until we get the chance to come again.