Category Archives: work

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On the difficulty of meaningless work

I thought this piece was  insightful and worth reading:  Too Many Jobs Feel Meaningless Because They Are.

One of the examples from the piece was especially insightful:

Consider the case of Eric, a history graduate hired to oversee a software project ostensibly intended to improve the coordination of different groups in a large firm. Eric only discovered after several years on the job that one of the firm’s partners had initiated the project, but that several others were against it and were acting to sabotage its success. His job — and that of a large staff hired beneath him — was a meaningless effort to put into place a change that most of the company didn’t want.

This is not to imply that all companies are like this. Companies can be efficient and well aligned and the vast majority of the people in it can feel like the work they are doing make a difference most of the time. However there are also companies which are not well aligned and there are conflicts within the organization. When that happens, the work being done may be meaningless, despite the fact that someone wants it done.

Work can be hard for a number of reasons: too much of it,  difficult people to work with, etc. But it can also be hard if it is meaningless, even if everything else is good.

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It’s Friday. Time to assess your work week. Here’s something to consider

A good work practice is to take some time on Friday and assess what went well this week and what could be improved next week. A great thing to assess is the value your work provides to yourself and others. Clearly if you feel your work has no value, then that’s something you want to address as a top priority.  But that’s not enough. If you feel your work is of low value, then read this article: Stop Doing Low-Value Work.

That article makes the case for why you don’t want to be doing low value work. Sure your boss might not care and sure you may be comfortable, but come on, you can do better and you and your boss will be happy when you do.

Read the article. Assess your week. Do better next week. Now enjoy the weekend.

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Thinking about work (especially if you are not motivated)

If you don’t feel like working this Monday, you can at least read some pieces about work that might help you get motivated.

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“Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business” – a review in the NewYorker


For fans (or critics) of productivity books, here’s a review of  “Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business” in The New Yorker.

It’s a good review of such a book. Better than the usual synopsis. Also good to think about on a Monday as you roll into work and figure out how you are going to tackle – or avoid – the week and what it entails.

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LARPing your job: a guide to thinking about how we work now


The nature of work is always changing, and if you want to think about how we work now, I recommend this piece: LARPing your job.

Work has always been performative. With more flexibility and less well defined jobs, this becomes more and more important. How do you show your value? How do you demonstrate you are working hard (or working at all)? That piece addresses that. As for the title, if you want to know what LARPing is, you’ll have to read the piece. 🙂

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Is Slack the end of email?

Slack may not be the end of email, but some version of it is likely going to result in a decline in email. If it won’t be slack, it might be one of the ones mentioned here:

Speaking of Google, the company has a Slack alternative of its own, called Hangouts Chat, as does Facebook, in Workplace. Microsoft has Teams, which is bundled with its Office software and which the company says is being used by more than 500,000 organizations. This multi-front attack on email is just beginning, but a wartime narrative already dominates: The universally despised office culture of replies and forwards and mass CCs and “looping in” and “circling back” is on its way out, and it’s going to be replaced by chat apps.

I doubt email will go away forever: that’ not how tech works. Dominant tech tends to fade away rather than outright collapse. That’s likely what will happen with email.

Will Slack et all be better? Good lord, no. Just different. Some aspects of it are better, and many aspects will be worse than email.

For the curious, here’s more on this idea:  Slack Wants to Replace Email. Is That What We Want? – The New York Times

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What is the best age to launch that start up?


Did you guess 50? No? If you didn’t you should read this: A Study of 2.7 Million Startups Found the Ideal Age to Start a Business (and It’s Much Older Than You Think) | Inc.com

Key quote:

And in general terms, a 50-year-old entrepreneur is almost twice as likely to start an extremely successful company as a 30-year-old. (Or, for that matter, a successful side hustle.)

It’s never too late to pursue that business dream.

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Able to work remotely? Forget working from home: go work around the world. Here’s how

Thanks to the folks from Roam, you can do just that. It sounds appealing. To find out more, check out:  Forget Coworking—These Coliving Spaces Let You Travel the World For $1,800 a Month – Dwell

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Would you like to work from home all the time? Consider this…

If you would like to work from home all the time, then you owe it to yourself to go here:  Remote Jobs: Developer, Design, Writing, Customer Support & More

Lots and lots of jobs you can apply for that let you work remotely. Worth a look!

(Image via pexels.com)

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Truly great MacOS apps for working remotely

I’m often disappointed by lists of software that supposedly help me work better. This is not one of those lists. I think the tools here are really great, and anyone with a Mac that works remotely should definitely check out this:  These Are the 8 Best MacOS Apps for Working Remotely | Inc.com

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A fascinating study of worker engagement worldwide

The big takeaway from this fascinating article, Engagement Around the World, Charted, is that people who work on teams are significantly more engaged than people who are not.

But note the diagram above: working from home also makes people more engaged.

All managers and HR groups should take a look at this and proceed accordingly if they want higher employee engagement.

17 things you should do as soon as you get laid off (and here’s hoping you don’t)

Here’s hoping you don’t get laid off, but if you do, keep this in mind: 17 things you should do as soon as you get laid off | Business Insider India

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My last work project…

is written up, here:  ATB Financial, IBM partnership focuses on digital transformation in banking | IT Business. 

It was a great project, with a great team, a great client, and a great working environment. All around great. I am glad I had the opportunity to do it.

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Senior Citizens Are Replacing Teenagers as Fast-Food Workers. Some thoughts.

Worth reading: Senior Citizens Are Replacing Teenagers as Fast-Food Workers – Bloomberg.

Some thoughts:

  • the reasons to hire older workers for fast food places is also true for other work as well.
  • the notion of retirement needs to be rethought. People are living lives well past traditional retirement ages, and some people retire involuntarily decades before they die.  Additionally, many of them cannot afford to not work all that time. Having work and an income in their later years makes sense.
  • Good work is uplifting. If you can find good work as you get older, you can find a way to make your later years more worthwhile.

 

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The state of meetings

I’ve had this saved from some time ago but I want to post it for two reasons: The Modern Meeting: Call In, Turn Off, Tune Out – The New York Times.

One reason is just as a placeholder for how work is now in this time period. I will be happy to go back in five or ten years from now and see how much has changed.

The second reason is that no matter what happens in five or ten years from now, people who work in offices will always struggle with meetings. There is no solution to effective meetings: there is only managing your time and how best to be effective in the time you are working and meeting. If you work with people, you will have meetings. Nowadays you have too many meetings and you need to manage them and your time as best as you can.

Once meetings were hard to schedule. There were no digital calendars, no videoconferencing. You had to call or talk to someone and arrange to meet them, they would write it down on a piece of paper, and then physically show up and have the meeting. You likely worked with a limited number of people. And even then, even though they were hard to set up, meetings were a pain. Meetings will always be a pain. If they weren’t occasionally useful, no one would ever have them.

But meetings are occasionally useful. Sometimes they are essential. As long as people work together, there will be meetings. If you are working on many different things with many different people, you will have many meetings. Try to be as effective as you can in them. For those holding the meeting, don’t expect so much of people: get what you can and then end the meeting.

Want to be a great boss or leader? Make sure you do these nine things

These nine activities, listed here: swissmiss | The Bosses We Remember are nine things great bosses or leaders do continually. If you had one or more great bosses, then you likely saw that person do many of them. As you become more senior, you should do them too.

(Image via pexels.com)

How to work wellness into your work day

A good thing to consider as you start your week is: does your work day contribute to staying well, or does it do the opposite? One way to know is to compare you typical workday to something like this one: How To Schedule Wellness Into Your Workday And Still Get Stuff Done.

You don’t need to do all the things in that article, but if you do none of them, consider incorporating some of them into your work day. I believe you will see your attitude towards work improve and your workday will feel better.

Work / life balance is important. But having a work routine that is balanced in itself is a better way to enjoy your work and stay healthy, especially during the winter months.

Monday goal: stop using business jargon


Something to consider for the work week is to try and not use any of the phrases found in this piece. I can’t say I agree with their substitutions. Best to leave the cliches behind and strive for clear English.

Once we get rid of all the bad business cliches, we can strive to clean the world of bad office stock photos like the one above 🙂

P.S. If you don’t use those cliches, that’s great. Another thing to consider is starting a bingo card and score it every time you see or hear one of those cliches at work. Chances are you will fill your card by Friday.

How to skip the Monday Blues, take off Wednesday, pace yourself throughout the week and other week hacks

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If you suffer from the Sunday blues, whereby you spend Sunday evening dreading the upcoming week, I recommend you read this: Skip Monday Blues with Sort-Your-Life-Out Sundays – 99U. It is one way to hack your time and enjoy it more.

Another good hack is the making Thursday night the start of the weekend. Consider some of the things you enjoy doing on the weekend and schedule them for Thursday evening. Even people with jam packed weeks can do this occasionally. You still have to go in to work on Friday, but you feel you already have gotten a start on the weekend. It makes the weekend seem less stressed, at least for me.

Finally, if you feel every week is one busy day after another, try making Wednesday a night of putting everything down and just relaxing. Either pare back the things you’d normally do on Wednesday, or shift some of it to another day.

Ultimately you want to figure out how to do less throughout the week in order to enjoy each of the days in themselves, be they busy or slow. If you do that, the days you have to do things will help you enjoy the days you do not.

Pace yourself and enjoy yourself.

Work sucks. Here 16 things to read and give you some perspective


Ok, work doesn’t always suck, and sometimes it can be really great. But it sucks more often than it should. If you wonder why, these links can help you gain some perspective and insight.

  1. Why Workers Are Losing to Capitalists – Bloomberg– Not promising
  2. How to Maintain Your Sanity (and Be Productive) When You Work Alone • Jocelyn K. Glei– Those who work at home, take note.
  3. Meet the Developer Who Made Games for Three Years While Living on the Streets – Motherboard – If you feel you need motivation in a difficult work situation, read this
  4. Motivation is Overvalued. Environment Often Matters More. | James Clear – on the other hand, there’s this.
  5. Pocket: I Quit My Job to Live in a Tent and Write Code – more on working in difficult situations.
  6. The pursuit of loneliness: how I chose a life of solitude | Society | The Guardian– more for those who would rather work and be alone
  7. You Probably Need a Public Portfolio Even If You’re Not a Freelancer or a “Creative”– good advice, especially for people that think they need no such thing.
  8. I’m Ira Glass, Host of This American Life, and This Is How I Work – Glass provides some inspiration here.
  9. Can a company innovate without working its employees to death? – The Washington Post– You would HOPE so.
  10. A cycle of exploitation: How restaurants get cooks to work 12-hour days for minimum wage (or less) – The Globe and Mail– depressing but essential reading.
  11. The Simple Technique To Fit A 40-Hour Workweek Into 16. | Fast Company– and here is the opposite extreme.
  12. I worked in a video store for 25 years. Here’s what I learned as my industry died. – Vox– good insight for those in a threatened industry.
  13. Working with the Chaos Monkey– help for those dealing with chaos monkeys (I have recently).
  14. The secret to success: take risks, work hard, and get luck– obvs.
  15. The Shame of Work – New Rambler Review– hmmm.
  16. Final Frame: Office Propaganda | Apartment Therapy – Finally, a light link after all that.

(Image from the last link)

A Portable, Flexible and Affordable Cardboard Standing Desk that is perfect for Road Warriors

Standing desk
This: A Portable, Flexible and Affordable Cardboard Standing Desk over at the site Design Milk, is a great design of a desk that not only is capable of transforming from a typical to a standing desk, but is also capable of being packed up and easily transported to different locations. For standing desk fans that travel to different work locations, it might be just the thing you need.

It’s strong too. Check out the link above and see what this piece of furniture can do. Impressive.

Practice for an interview with good interview questions, like these….

Interview
If you are applying for a job and haven’t done so in a while, chances are you will have a difficult time with some of the questions asked of you, if only because you are expected to provide answers on topics you likely haven’t thought of in some time.

Two ways to deal with that. First, find friends who have recently gone to job interviews and get them to give you some of the questions they were asked. Second, try out some of the questions found here: swissmiss | My Favorite Interview Questions.

I should add, any place that asks you the kind of questions found at swissmiss.com is likely the kind of place you want to work.

Good luck. Ace that interview.

(Image linked to http://sscrecruitmentresults.in/hr-interview-questions-answers-freshers/)

 Networking and work: overrated but not useless

This piece in the New York Times is great advice for anyone young and struggling with networking. Is networking useless? Not at all. But like direct mail or many other forms of outreach, the effort to success ratio is far from 1:1.

If you are an extrovert, then you likely get something out of networking even if it isn’t a leg up at work. If you are are introvert, however, articles like that one are  likely to make you never want to even try. For you introverts, I recommend you find ways to network that are pain free. You may not even have to directly talk to people: just be contributing to platforms that have alot of participants, you can get the benefits of networking. Networks are everywhere these days and embedded in much of the technology we use: take advantage of that fact to network in the ways most effective for you.

Hard work and luck are the keys to success. Networking is also a form of hard work, and if you work at it, it can bring luck! (After all, good luck is the residue of hard work.) Therefore include networking as part of what you are doing to be successful. Just hav the right expectation of what comes from such work.

On being great and still having to deal with rejection from employers

Is this you: despite having a great resume and being really good at your job, you aren’t appreciated at your current workplace or you are struggling to find a new place to work? If so, I encourage you to read this: The Life of a Free Agent Kicker | The Players’ Tribune

It doesn’t matter if you love or hate football, it is a great example of how you need to think in order to stay positive and maintain perspective when your work situation gets tough.

You can be great at your job, you can have a record of success, and you can still be rejected by employers. It can happen to anyone. You have to stay ready, stay focused, and do your best when the next opportunity comes along. Read the article and grab some perspective.

Fascinating jobs unique to specific countries

This post on Quora has a long list of jobs unique to specific countries. For example, in Iran, there are professional licence plate blockers, like this guy:
And why doe such a job exist? You will have to read this: What is a unique job that you’ve only seen in your country? – Quora

The whole thread contains dozens of jobs you can’t believe exist, but once you know something about them, they make sense. A great read.

Your Late-Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team

Put away that email you are about to send out and read this: Your Late-Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team. The same is true for the Sunday evening emails. Stop sending them.

Once you do that, look at how many emails you send out and try and find ways to reduce that, either with meetings, quick chats, or other media (e.g., internal blogs, status updates).

The result will be a better informed and a more motivated team.

If you’re having a rough start to the new year, here’s how to fit your work into 16.7 hours

It does sound too good to be true, and no, I haven’t tried it, but if you want to change your work routine, consider the pomodoro technique.

If you are still interested, there is an article on it: The Simple Technique To Fit A 40-Hour Workweek Into 16.7 Hours. I find it hard to believe, but for some of you, it may just be the thing you need to improve your work life.

Radical Candor is a bad idea with some exceptions

This article, Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss | First Round Review, is making the rounds and is making my nervous. It makes me nervous because it is a terrible concept and it is very hard to do well. Even the example given – being called stupid – is a bad one. Be wary of any boss or any organization adopting this in your workplace.

My long work experience is that the Challenge Directly part takes little effort and energy, but the Care Personally part takes a lot of effort and energy. The result is a drift towards a demoralizing and toxic work environment with lots of criticism and little encouragement.

There is a rare exception where I have seen radical candor work: an elite athlete with an elite coach. Elite athletes sign up for and encourage radical candor because it is the best way to be the best. If you consider your work role similar to an elite athlete and you consider your boss an elite coach, then radical candor could work for you. Likewise if you are in the role of manager. Otherwise, I would recommend you pass on this approach and look for a better way to work.

You’ve been at your desk all day. Time for a stretch (or six)

And here over at A Cup of Jo are Six Stretches for People Who Sit at Desks

These are good stretches….even non-flexible people like myself can do them. 🙂

Here’s what Vox and others miss when it comes to multitasking

Over at Vox is your typical article critiquing multitasking: Multitasking is inefficient. Here are 6 tips for a more productive workday. – Vox.

If you do a search on the word multitasking, you will find similar articles. Like the Vox piece, they are all reasonable, and they all offer good advice.

What they all miss is why we multitask.  I think there are three key reasons why we do, and they go hand in hand:

  1. We have too much to do in the little time you have.
  2. The tools we use are not responsive and/or support multitasking.
  3. You will be penalized for not appearing busy.

To give you an example of what I mean, consider your day. You likely have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Now let’s look at the tool you have at hand in an office. First, you have a computer and you use software like email and your browser. With email, you can start a number of tasks, but you cannot complete them. With your browser, you ask for information, then you wait for a response. If you are using a mobile device, a similar lag in request and response occurs. Now, you could just sit there and wait for a response to complete your task, but remember, you have too much to do and not enough time. As a result, you start other tasks. You are ….multitasking. You are maximizing your idle time while you wait for tasks to complete. Now you could just sit there, look out the window or go for a walk, but that would be ignoring the third point, which is that you will be penalized for not appearing busy.

If you are fortunate, you can focus on one task, complete it, and then move on to the next one. If you are like most of us, you have to multitask for the reasons above.

 

Why aren’t we becoming more productive with all this new technology?

Vox raises that question here: All this digital technology isn’t making us more productive – Vox, and it implies that because people are slacking off on the Internet. I think that is incorrect, and here’s why.

The chart that Vox piece has shows big producitivity gains from 1998-2003 and smaller gains after that.

From 1998-2003 was the peak adoption of the Internet by companies. In the early 1990s, companies started to adopt email. In the later 1990s companies started adopting the Web. To me it is not surprising that companies would become more productive and they shifted away from snail mail and faxes to email. And then companies shifted further and started offering services over the Web, I imagine they became much more productive.

Slacking off on the Internet has been a problem since the Web came along. I know, because I used to monitor web server traffic.  I don’t think that is the issue.

I think it is more likely that companies grabbed the big productivity gains from the Internet at the beginning, and then those gains slowed down after.

So what about smartphones? Have they made people more productive? I think they have, but I also think that the gains in being able to access information remotely may have been overtaken by the sheer amount of information to deal with. Being able to deal with email remotely makes you productive. Having to deal with way more email than you ever had to in the 1990s because now everyone has it makes you unproductive.

Furthermore, many of the features on smartphones are aimed at personal use, not professional use. I think smartphones make us more productive personally,  but less so professionall.y

 

Success doesn’t come easy for anyone, not even Elon Musk

I admire the work that Elon Musk does, be it Tesla, Space X, or other endeavours he takes on.  I also had an opinion that the success he achieves is as close to a Given as success can be. I held that option until I read this article: Elon Musk Had a Deal to Sell Tesla to Google in 2013 – Bloomberg Business. This article shows just how touch and go it was for Musk and Tesla in 2013. Among other thoughts, it reinforced in me the notion that success in challenging areas is difficult for everyone, whether it be Elon Musk or anyone.

If you are trying to accomplish something difficult, and if you think that others have it easier than you, I recommend you read this article. I also recommend it to anyone who needs to be reminded that success is never a given, but with the right effort and focus and dedication, even the most challenging type of work can be accomplished.

Should you leave your job? Find out in 10 questions (or less)

The 10 questions are from this article: The only employee engagement questionnaire you’ll ever need  and it is the kind of thing a manager would ask employees. But really, they are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself.

I like the first three:

  1. Why are you still here?
  2. What would make you leave?
  3. Where would you be if you weren’t here? (What company would you really like to work for?)

The other seven are good too.
Anyone working anywhere should ask themselves these questions regularly.

If you want to become a consultant, you will need five key traits

That’s what this piece in the Globe and Mail says (Five key traits of successful consultants – The Globe and Mail), and as a long time consultant I find it hard to disagree. The traits?

  • intellectual capacity
  • self-confidence
  • moxie
  • adaptability
  • endurance

You could argue successful consultants have more common traits, but these are a good basis for anyone who want to provide such services to clients.  If you want to become a consultant, ask yourself if these apply to you. If you want more details on this, click on the link to the Globe.

How to be more productive at work? check out what tools other people use

Chances are, if you talk to five different people at work, you will find five tools or techniques they use to be productive that you hadn’t even heard of.

Rather than do your own polling, you can also check out this article: Most Popular Apps Employees Use At Work – Business Insider.

Remember, these are just for work, and yes, Facebook still shows up there. And this is just the cloud / distributed services. (Also, I am wondering Evernote didn’t show up there.)

I  would be surprised if you read it and didn’t adopt at least one of the items on the list by the end of your work day. Good luck.

You wouldn’t go to work drunk: why are you going to work tired?

I ask that because as you can see from these charts, in terms of impairment, there is not much difference from showing up for work tired and showing up for work drunk:

Weirdly, if you do show up tired from overwork, you may be praised: if you show up drunk, you may be fired.

Regardless, to do good work, you need to sleep. (I know, I should practice what I preach.)

Julia Kirby in HBR has more on this in this piece: Change the World and Get to Bed by 10:00. You’ll be convinced to go to bed earlier by the time you finish it.

The Economist (and yours truly) on why you want to update your LinkedIn profile

If you think LinkedIn is a waste of time and something no one uses, think again. For starters, check out this chart:

More and more companies and people are using LinkedIn.

You might counter: I have never heard of anyone getting a job on LinkedIn. To that I say that people are losing jobs to LinkedIn, in that HR and others are using LinkedIn as a screening process. Good use of LinkedIn might not get you a job, but poor use of LinkedIn might lose you a job.

I’d add that lots of recruiters use LinkedIn, more than you think. The better your profile, the better chance you have to get linked in with someone with a new and better job for you.

Lastly, LinkedIn is becoming a longer and better version of a resume. Just like you should have an up to date version of that, you should have an up to date version of your career highlights on LinkedIn.

For more on this topic, and to see where I got the chart, go to The Economist’s excellent tumblr