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#16: 2 apps to supercharge your productivity, recording your grandparents' memories, & more
Become a person that "gets shit done".
Welcome to the 16th edition of International Generalist! Today, you’ll learn about different ways to record your grandparents’ memories and why that’s important, two apps that increased my output like crazy, and the mental framework of “gravity of responsibility”.
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 The difference a few generations make
I recently stumbled on a post on LinkedIn, about a woman that hired a writer to sit down with her mother every weekend. After two years, the writer had finished a book: her biography.
That biography, told by a woman that grew up in India in the 1930’s and 40’s, must be incredibly interesting - especially for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Which got me thinking: which stories would my grandparents have told (or, fortunately, tell)?
Having grown up in post-war Germany, their life was very different from the life we live today. Things weren’t available in abundance. Food was a serious concern. My grandma would always use butter excessively, and I only understood why when I realized that back in the day, butter was scarce.
For most of us, that’s unimaginable (unless you currently live in Hungary and are suffering from horrid food inflation).
Even our parents’ life was very different from the one we live. Imagine having gone to school without any use of computers, writing your first job applications on paper or a typewriter. That seems so odd.
And now think about what we’ll tell our children: that smartphones weren’t a thing for the majority of our youth (when I moved to the US at age 16, the concept of “free texting” blew my mind - what do you mean you don’t have to pay per message?!), that you couldn’t just ask ChatGPT but actually had to figure out shit for yourself, and that we used these maps made of paper without integrated GPS.
Change accelerates with every generation.
Which makes it easy to forget how different life was just a few years or decades ago.
Writing down what life was like when you were young is a good starting point. I love the idea of hiring a writer to document your grandparents’ lives. Just think about what an insightful, yet relatable, lecture this will be for your children - the legacy of their ancestors.
I also understand that not everyone can hire an author, so here are a few alternative routes:
A few years ago, I gifted my grandmother a book called “Oma, erzähl mal” (= “grandma, tell me”) - a book with a multitude of prompts for storytelling. My grandma loved it, and filled it out diligently, so that we always will have some of her memories. For now, I’m looking forward to making more active memories with her.
A friend of mine runs a small business called Comemoria. They send a film producer and an interviewer to your grandparents’ house and create a custom video about their story. Gives the added value of audiovisual context.
You can also just do it yourself. Ask a few questions, record them, maybe write your own family chronicle (one of my favorite pastimes of my grandfather, may he rest in peace).
Most of all, though, remember how quickly the world changes. Let’s enjoy the ride, and appreciate how far we’ve come.
And maybe, when you’ve finished reading this newsletter, give your grandmother a call. She’ll appreciate it.
 Two new (old) favorite productivity tools
This newsletter’s title contains “generalist” for a reason: it allows me to have jarring transitions in my writing, from grandparents to … productivity.
Alright, here we go.
In the past two weeks, my output at work and while writing felt significantly higher than usual.
In fact, I already pre-wrote some articles last week that I’m looking to publish over the next weeks, for example about the dilemma of when you should say yes and when you should say no to things.
Subscribe now to get them directly when they’re released.
Two weeks ago, I also started using two tools (again) - and I would feel guilty if I didn’t share them with you.
Brain.fm uses AI to generate music that increases your focus. Their product is based on the theory that certain beats and sounds stimulate your brainwaves to focus, relax, or sleep.
They also have validated their hunches with plenty of science:
Their sounds, paired with ANC headphones, get me in the zone instantly. I’m listening to it as I’m writing this.
If you wanna try it, use this link to get your first month for $1. (I’m not getting anything out of it, just genuinely believe that it’s a fantastic tool).
For most of my professional career, I used Todoist to manage my tasks. It’s a great to-do list, not going to lie.
But there was always one big drawback: whenever I finished a task, I had to decide what to work on next.
Even if it doesn’t feel like, making complex prioritization decisions places enormous strain on your brain.
One of my main goals is to eliminate as many unnecessary decisions as possible, so I can focus on the truly important ones.
Motion synchronizes with your calendar, and plans your tasks around your events, meetings, and blockers. So instead of having to look at your to-do list, you just look into your calendar and you see what to work on next.
The software schedules tasks automatically based on deadline and priority, splits up bigger tasks in chunks, and always keeps you on track.
I’ve been churning away on tasks like crazy, and for the first time in ages, actually finished a week having achieved all the things I planned to do.
I casually mentioned the app to my flatmate; two days later, she exclaimed “this app is the best thing that’s ever happened to me”.
If you wanna try it, sign up for a trial and let me know that you did (eg. by replying to this email). I’ll then send them a note that I’ve referred you, and they’ll apply $100 in credit to your account (and mine).
 Gravity of responsibility
The more responsibility you agree to take on, the more responsibility will be pushed onto you in the future.
Feels almost like gravity: the heavier an object becomes, the stronger of an attraction it creates.
The interesting projects at work usually land with the people who have proven to take on responsibility in the past.
Conversely, if you never take responsibility for anything, you likely won’t be deemed appropriate for a new project - or a promotion.
This is why I believe working in early-stage startups can be a great career accelerator: there simply is no way to hide from responsibility. You’re an intern? Well, you’re responsible for sales now.
Therefore, when starting a new job, showing that you’re capable of owning projects is the best thing you can do. This will establish a track record of you being “a person that gets shit done”.
Everybody loves people who get shit done. You can always start saying no later.
Find ways to chronicle your grandparents’, parents’, or even your life. Future generations will thank you for relatable insights into what the world was like back then,
Check out brain.fm and Motion - they might just supercharge your productivity.
When in doubt, volunteer to take on tasks and projects. Sooner than later, the interesting stuff will find its way to you.
Oh, and: call your grandma!
One ask from my side
I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that some of you really enjoy what I’m writing - which makes me feel giddy, warm, and fuzzy. Please keep that coming.
My friend Lea mentioned recently: “a few friends and myself love the newsletter - we don’t always agree with what you write, but it encourages discussions among us, and that’s awesome”.
I love hearing that. If everybody agreed all the time on the things that I write, this stuff would be boring as hell.
So if you feel anything like Lea, please tell a friend about this newsletter, and maybe even forward them this email. It’s the best thing you can do to help this newsletter grow.
The more people subscribe, the more time I’m forced to spend on writing the best possible newsletter. Everybody wins.
That’s it for this edition of International Generalist. Thanks for tuning in and reading!
Who’s behind International Generalist?
I’m Dominik, and every day, I try to figure out how to become a tiny bit more effective. Then, I share some of the lessons learned here.
When I’m not writing, I build the international business for Sdui - the Leading European SchoolOS -, play Lacrosse, lift weights and enjoy draft beers.
Here’s how else I can help you:
Read the newsletter archive for more actionable nuggets
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