Book-talk with Joan Boixados, Founder of everydayCheck

Joan Boixadós is an entrepreneur, product manager and freelance web application developer from Barcelona, with studies in computer science. Joan gained experience working for startups, until he went full time working as a freelancer.

He values freedom above all, so the idea of having his own business has always been on top of his mind. And, at the beginning of this year (2017), he founded everydayCheck, a project dedicated to all productivity freaks (myself included).

everydayCheck is a simple habit tracker that will help you form new habits and get disciplined. The idea behind it is that the best way to reach our goals is to work on them and keep them in mind all the time, every single day, no matter how little we do. Don’t break the chain!

This side project ignited after Joan re-read Pieter Levels’ post “12 startups in 12 months” and made it his resolution for January 2017: “Make a project that makes a least $1”.

Joan’s also the creator of awesome-indie repository on GitHub, a curated list of resources that help independent developers make money from their digital products.

Keep reading to find out more about the books that inspired and helped him, but also about his reading habits.

 

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

Ah! So you decided to start with a tough question! The book I enjoyed more to read was The Egyptian by Mika Waltari. Unfortunately, I couldn’t read it in its original version, suomi, but the translation into Catalan was brilliant. Besides the fact that it was my mum’s recommendation, I am sure I enjoyed it because of its sense of adventure, open-mindedness and ultimately, freedom.

As a developer and bootstrapper I must recommend Getting Real by the guys at 37signals. It’s a compilation of articles on how to create a successful web applications by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried. Straight to the point, matching the bootstrapping culture they preach and apply. I deeply admire what they have accomplished and their message really resonates with my values.

 

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

To answer a little bit differently, when I read books I don’t seek to learn specifics out of it as much as I seek that the book makes me think and generate ideas. The books I read frequently have side annotations of thought streams that arose from certain lines in the book but that aren’t always immediately related to the text. Books are like someone’s talking to you and all your brain machinery is working up there trying to conceive smart answers that build on top of the text.

But far from trying to avoid your question, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg has been quite enlightening to understand more about habits, how we form them and how important they are in our daily lives and the way we think. Specifically, the cue-routine-reward cycle he inferred from several behavioural studies. Not only has it helped me to design a better [habit tracker], but it also helps me take action into improving my behaviours and mentality. It’s a great personal growth resource.

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

I grew up in a town where we have a big building called “Walden 7” by a quite renowned architect. It’s not the most beautiful building but it’s inspired in the utopian sense of community depicted in Walden Two, by B.F. Skinner. Of course, I had to read it! I was quite young when I did and it certainly helped me develop open-mindedness and critical spirit. Questioning everything and considering alternative options to every single problem is critical.

In case you were deceived and expected me to name Walden by Henry David Thoreau, you should read it too if you haven’t, it obviously is the inspiration to Walden Two. 🙂

 

What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

To answer such question we would first need to define my career path, if there is one. I studied computer science and make a living out of freelancing and bootstrapping small software companies. To me, computer science is just a tool to know how to write in the 21st century. You can apply it to anything, or seen differently, you can dig into any field of your interest with it. For example, it gave me the chance to work with neuroscientists, biologists or music production! And given the pace the modern world is taking, it can also mean freedom in the sense that I don’t need to worry about falling behind because my skills become obsolete. Some programming languages I use will fall obsolete, but the ability (or mentality) to learn and adapt constantly won’t. The point I want to make is that young people shouldn’t read so much targeting a career path but targeting more abstract goals they can apply everywhere, their careers too. I’d recommend young people to read books that spark their curiosity, develop in them the sense of opportunity and boost their creativity.

But I get it, you just want a list!

If you’re interested in bootstrapping and starting independent businesses as a developer I created this awesome list of resources (books, talks, articles, etc).

Some books that come to mind are:

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Richard Feynman) – A brilliant mind with unlimited curiosity that played major roles in several different fields. Fun to read.

A History of Modern Computing (Paul E. Ceruzzi) – Only for those who really care about computers and history, but great to see how many great people have worked hard for us to end up exchanging emojis online.

Rework (David Heinemeier Hansson, Jason Fried) – No bullshit.

The Art of Learning (Josh Waitzkin) – Recover soon from your mistakes.

Founders at Work (Jessica Livingston) – Computers and Business.

Jupiter’s Travels (Ted Simon) – A guy who took a motorbike in the 70s and rode it around the world, alone.

A Little History of Philosophy (Nigel Warburton) – Three pages per every most relevant philosopher/school of thought.

 

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

Oh habits, [this is my land]! See, I read every day, no matter how little.

In my habit tracker I actually track “reading” in three different formats:

– Read/book: This habit basically tracks that I read a book every day. Books can be both novels or science/business books. I try to do one of each.

– Read/learn: This habit tracks if I have read any articles or online content to learn anything specific (normally more related to computers and business, generally related to the project I am working on).

– Read/other: Tracks if I have read any articles/content on other topics such as personal growth or anything that caught my interest. This doesn’t include news nor irrelevant stuff that unfortunately I still come across and read.

 

How do you make time for reading?

I don’t. Thankfully I formed the habit to read long ago, so I never really had that problem. I’m sure if you understand the importance of reading you’ll manage to prioritize it accordingly and find a moment to [do it every day], even if it’s just a couple pages!

 

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

As a productivity geek this is one of those questions I find myself asking everyone all the time.

I tried many things: Underline important parts (that I hardly get back to), make summaries, take notes on my apps,… I even created my own database of books! But in the end I realize there’s no point. Ideas either become part of us or we need to let them go. I like to think the learnings survive in our subconscious. Still, I try to write one to three takeaways from every book and add them down to one of my lists. It’s like a personal bible.

 

How do you choose what books to read next?

We all have a long pile of books we want to read here or there that we discover by browsing around or talking to people.

I have to make a confession here. I find that many of the books that are more specific to my field have two big problems. First, they are late to the party. By the time the books are written and published, the ideas in them are already represented in top articles. And second, generally, books seem to involve the idea of having to have a certain length, so I feel like many books add a lot of bloat. Let’s take “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. Is the idea brilliant if not revolutionary? Yes, it is. Did we really need 300 pages to express it? Nah.

So this basically means that I hardly read books on topics directly related to my field and go for more introductory books on other topics I want to learn more from such as neuroscience, astrophysics, mathematics, linguistics…

 

Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?

Not really. I prefer the exploration approach. However, it’s good to allow for wild recommendations, it’s the way you may discover pearls. For example, there’s this book I really really enjoyed: The Memoirs of Sergeant Bourgogne. I would have never even heard about it had I not asked someone for an odd recommendation. It’s raw, the edition is poor or lacking, but your imagination covers for it. The story is so detailed and crude that I still don’t understand why there isn’t a movie about it!

 

Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I’m reading “On intelligence” by Jeff Hawkins. I am really enjoying it. It’s a very specific theory of how our brain learns and makes predictions (the root of our intelligence) explained for average people unfamiliar with the field. It’s also very related to computer science and artificial intelligence since it tried to prove the current approaches to those are flawed. I’m getting a better understanding of how our brain works and how does our behaviour affects our thinking as much as our thinking affects our behaviour. Thus, it’s interesting to connect it with the idea of habits and how we can really benefit from them.

Links where you can follow Joan Boixados or find out more about his projects:

Books mentioned by Joan Boixados in this interview:

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