Tag Archives: work

Here’s a half dozen pieces on Work and Working that I thought were good

For many, there is not much worth considering when it comes to work. For some, though, work and the nature of it is something they think about often. If you are one of those people, I think you will enjoy these links.

This piece on  comfort work by Austin Kleon is worth considering. Do you have work that comforts you? I think we all do.

People are still discussing Quiet Quitting. This article on quiet quitting argues it could be the result of a trust issue.

If you have worked in different jobs, you may have worked at a toxic one. You may be in one now. Either way, read this on how to recover from a toxic job.

And then this piece argues that “the strongest predictor of men’s happiness and well-being is their job satisfaction, by a large margin”. That surprised me.

Is the 4 day work week the next big thing? It could be, according to this.

I used to work with someone who was incredibly neat and particular about his desk. I think he would appreciate this desk mat (see above). I don’t know which is better: neat or messy. I guess it is whatever works for you.

Have a good work week.

How to succeed in business: make life better for people by taking advantage of new technology

What drives innovation? If we look at the most innovative companies in the last decade, we see innovation happening in areas such as:

Finance: Square, Venmo, Zelle
Communications: Spotify, Tiktok, Instagram, Slack
Logistics: Uber, Lyft

What underlies all those companies: the mobile phone. While the mobile phone is not synonymous with innovative companies,  those innovative companies I listed were able to capitalize on the capabilities of that device to vault themselves into leadership positions.

Mobile phones are not new on the whole, but the capabilities they provide in the last decade provided these companies with the means to innovate.

What else do all those companies have in common? With one of two exceptions, they all made life better for a large population of people. They made life more entertaining, they made it easier to work, to manage your money, to get in better shape, to cook well, to get around easier.

Companies that find ways to make life better for many people while taking advantage of new technologies will be successful companies. It seems obvious, but too often I see companies focused on the technology and not on making life better for people. You need both things to succeed. Obvious, not easy.

For more on this, see: The 16 most innovative new companies of 2010s.

 

 

 

Two useful tools for people who want to be productive but find their work day gets away from them

Do you find the work day slide by and you think: what did I even get done today? Or do you find yourself tracking what you are doing but finding that you lost focus on what you are supposed to be doing?

If so, David Seah has tool useful tools on his web site you can use:

  1. The Emergent Task Timer
  2. The Emergent Task Planner

The first tool is a good way to track what you even got done today. David has some good examples of how he uses it. Generally I like to put what I think my focus will be at the top, put administrivia work and breaks at the bottom, and put meetings etc in the middle. You only have room for 12 tasks, so if you find you have a lot of meetings, consider grouping them all into one task: Meetings. Or you may have two tasks: Client Meetings and Internal Meetings.  However you do it, don’t sweat it too much. The first few days you might find it hard to get everything done, but it gets easier over time.

The second tool is a good way to plan your day and try to keep it focused. It takes a bit more work, but it is good when you want to ensure you spent your time well. It can be handy if you are doing daily standups, because you can list the main thing you are working on at the top. Ideally you are spending most of your day working on that…if you are doing other things below it, chances are they are a blocker of some sort.

These are just two useful tools on David Seah’s web site. I recommend you take a few minutes to check out the rest of his site: you might find other things he has worthwhile. I know I have. I’ve been using his tools off and on since 2007, and wrote about how good they are.

Good luck with the tools. Here’s to being more productive this week.

P.S. If you need a timer, I recommend this site.

(Image: link to image on David Seah’s web site)

What makes you happy about your job. Think Maslow, not Brooks

Too often when I see pieces on work and what makes a good job, they downplay certain aspects, like pay or job title. That comes up in this piece by Arthur Brooks, How to Pick a Job That Will Actually Make You Happy, where he writes:

… this belief is based on a misunderstanding of what brings job satisfaction. To be happy at work, you don’t have to hold a fascinating job that represents the pinnacle of your educational achievement or the most prestigious use of your “potential,” and you don’t have to make a lot of money. What matters is not so much the “what” of a job, but more the “who” and the “why”: Job satisfaction comes from people, values, and a sense of accomplishment.

I don’t think he is wrong with this, I just think he is missing out on the bigger picture. The way to see the bigger picture is to focus on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (shown above).

According to Maslow, we have several needs: basic needs, psychological needs and finally self-fulfillment needs. The lower needs are simple and obvious: the higher ones are complicated.

Our jobs provide for some or all of these needs. For example, our work environment should provide us with our basic needs, while our pay satisfies both basic and psychological needs. Things like job titles, promotions, awards, perqs, and other acknowledgements also help with psychological needs. As for the work itself, and the things Brooks is discussing, they satisfy our self-fulfillment needs. If you are fortunate, you have a job that provides for all those needs to a high degree.

That said, we all measure our needs differently. For people who work dangerous outdoor jobs, their basic needs may not be met nearly as well as someone who works in a warm office. For those outdoor workers, the satisfaction from the work itself (e.g. rescue work, emergency repair work) may more than make up for the discomfort and difficulty they face. Likewise, for a person working in an office, doing interesting work that fulfills their potential may be much more important than promotions and pay raises and other things their co-worker with different psychological needs has.

In Brooks’s piece, he emphasizes self-fulfillment needs and minimizes basic and psychological needs. That’s a common mistake, and the reason people might become dissatisfied with their job, even though on the surface what they have appears to be a great job. We all know about people quitting because of bad management: in that case you can see people’s needs at all levels not being met. But people can also struggle because they have a conflict that some of their needs are being met while others are not. For example, people can have a good job with lots of benefits, but it is very unfulfilling, or they can have a good job that is very fulfilling but it doesn’t meet their basic needs.

The best job can fulfill all of your needs to a satisfactory level. That’s the job that will make you happy, not just a job that satisfies your top needs. When you look to work at a new place, make sure you can get all your needs met to the level you need. You’ll be much happier.

Want to make employees more productive. Do this, not the other thing…

If you are a manager and have or planning to have trackers on your employee’s computers to see how productive they are, I have an alternative and better suggestion.

The suggestion? Use your Office software to see how many meetings your employees are in. There is an inverse correlation between the number of meetings they are in and how productive they are. (Worse, when employees are trying to be productive by multitasking in meetings, people running the meetings will sometimes criticize them for not paying attention.) If you can reduce the number of meetings your employees are in, your employee productivity will increase, I assure you. (Can you make it increase even further? Yes. Give them S.M.A.R.T. targets and do whatever you can to help them achieve them. That will be another post.)

Meetings are a necessary evil for work: you need them, but not too many. Anyone managing people should review the meetings their employees are in and find ways to cut them out like bad clutter. And if they can’t eliminate the meetings, have fewer of them and make them shorter. One way to do that is use tools that default to shorter times. Software like Microsoft Teams makes the default meeting size 30 minutes. Years ago software I had would make the default meeting size 60 minutes. Guess what? We had lots of 60 minute meetings. Ideally software would take the default meeting size down to 20 minutes: that would give back at least 20 minutes / hour to employees, and more would get done.

For more on the problems of spying on your employees, see this piece in the WSJ: More Bosses Are Spying on Quiet Quitters. It Could Backfire.

P.S. Microsoft Viva can provide some of this information. For more on that tool, go here.

How to say “no” at work, why boundaries are important, and a very special mute button

To be effective at work, give your best, and not burn out, you need to learn to say “no”. Now if it were as easy as saying “no”, you wouldn’t be reading this. 🙂 Given that, here’s some good advice on how to say no at work without saying no.

I’d add that you want to get to say “yes” as much as possible. However, you want to say “yes” in such a way that doesn’t cause you to be ineffective, burnout or quit. That’s no good for you or your employer. To do that, say “yes” in a reasonable context. Instead of starting by saying “no, I can’t do that this week”, trying saying “yes, I can do that next week / month / etc”. Saying “yes + better alternative” is one way to get to yes for both parties.

That said, sometimes you will have to just say no. Remember, when you say yes to One Thing you are often implicitly saying no to Other Things. Make those Nos more effective.

As an aside, you could always say Yes and then never do it, like Mel Brooks did! But I don’t advise that. 🙂

Speaking of say “no”, here’s a piece on bosses who promise jobs with a coveted perk: Boundaries. Two things on that. One, boundaries are a good way of saying No in advance. Two, boundaries are more common than the WSJ lets on. Your salary is a boundary. Your office situation is a boundary. Scope statements, terms and conditions in contracts, and agreements: all are boundaries. Boundaries are important for EVERY aspect of your work. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Boundaries make work better for everyone. Make sure the people you work with respect them. Go work elsewhere with other people if they don’t (thereby establishing a new boundary).

In other business links, here’s more on quiet quitting, which is a passive way of saying no. And here’s a very sophisticated mute button, which seems related. 🙂

(Image: link to page on Austin Kleon’s blog)

 

 

 

Up and at ’em! Here’s some good stuff on remote work, office work, quiet firing and more


Hey, welcome back to work. Here’s some things to think about as you start (postpone?) your work day and work week:

Quiet Firing: first there was a trend about quiet quitting. Now there is a new thing: quiet firing. You can read about it here at huffpost and life hacker. I don’t know if this is a real trend or just something the next gen of workers are noticing. My take: if you are being sidelined or ignored, look for ways to discuss it with your boss or your HR people. You are responsible ultimately for your career, but you should also be getting the support you need to succeed. If you aren’t getting that support, you need to take action.

Remote work: One form of action you can take is to go and work some place else. If you want to remain a remote worker, consider these 10 companies that will let you work from anywhere and are hiring now . Or review this list of most in demand work from anywhere jobs. You are going to get pressured to go back to the office because …spurious reasons. Consider your options.

Office work: if you are looking forward to going back into the office, don’t forget: open office plans are awful and this piece reminds you why. Even if you work in a good location, you also need to consider how to deal (once again) with work distractions . You can’t ignore the coworker who sits in your workspace the way you can ignore you coworkers on Slack, I’m sorry to say.

Side-hustles: Maybe you plan to start up a side hustle? If so, read this, how to successfully bootstrap your startup , and this, is your side hustle is causing burnout? What to do before you quit.

In general: consider this,  is work intrinsically good?. Remember what Toni Morrison said about work. And finally, update your LinkedIn work profile.

Go get ’em.

Are you bad at taking vacations? If you are American, chances are you are


I am on vacation this week for a long overdue time off. In that regard, I am like many of my American counterparts. As this piece shows, Americans don’t get much vacation time. Worse, they are bad at taking it. As for why that is, it says Americans…

  • felt they couldn’t adequately disconnect from work while on vacation
  • thought they wouldn’t feel relaxed or connect with loved ones
  • anticipated negative outcomes, such as feeling stressed or having financial burdens.

As someone who has worked with many Americans, that all rings true.

There’s a joke on the Internet that Europeans will take off the whole summer for vacation, while Americans are available to take a business call during surgery. An exaggeration, but not that far off.

For more on this, see: U.S. vacation time is short and Americans don’t use it wisely.

Get some time off. You and the people you work with will benefit.

How’s work?

Work can be uplifting, especially if you have good leadership like that of Barack Obama, who knew the importance of such things as play at the office. Such work can be rewarding, not just financially but in spirit.

To have that type of work, you need good management, not just at the highest levels, but all through your organization. Unfortunately, no one wants to work in middle management anymore. At least according to that piece. Indeed, many women in general are giving up on work ambition in general. That’s too bad. Good workplaces need good leaders to be successful.

Perhaps as a result of all, we see dissatisfied employees who are “quiet quitting”. It doesn’t help that they are being forced to return to the office when they don’t want to. It also doesn’t help when you have people like Malcolm Gladwell going on about how working for home is bad (unless you are the hypocrite known as Malcolm Gladwell).

Mind you working from home can also be tough, as companies are dumb enough to think they can make people more productive by using employee monitoring. That’s the worst form of leadership.

If you are suffering at work, then you may want to read this account of how quitting a job changed their Work-Life Balance.

Finally, while it’s not for everyone, if you have considered being an entrepreneur, I recommend the site for Justin Jackson

It’s Monday. Do you dream of labor? Not if you are this group or Beyoncé

Chances are, if you are a young person, you do not. At least according to this: Gen Z’s war on modern-day work – Vox

I was skeptical when I first started reading it. I thought: Gen Z are just another generation dealing with their first few years of work. And that’s true, but there’s much more at play than just that. Things like the number of recessions that they’ve been through, a pandemic, the high/impossible cost of home ownership, and more.

It’s worth a read. Especially if you are in a position of employing young people.

With that, I give you Beyoncé and her big summer hit about….work. And more:

For more on that, see how Beyonce’s Break My Soul Inspires People To Quit Jobs. Very relevant to the above piece.

P.S. Relatedly, here’s a list of the Top 10 books about terrible jobs over at The Guardian. That might not seem appealing, but it is a list of very good books. It might appeal to those of you, Gen Z or not, who also do not dream of labor.

It’s Monday. Let’s look at how work is changing in the summer of 2022


Work has changed alot since the pandemic. People are somewhat returning to the office, though I have seen reports of it being less than 50%. As a result, you have pieces like this, talking about places trying to get people to come to the office three days a week. Should one of those days be Friday? Fuggitaboutit. As WaPo explains, nobody wants to be in the office on Fridays. Finally this piece argues you should come in for your own benefit. Ummm, maybe.

So we will still work from home for the next while. That’s fine by me. If staying on mute is a problem, you might need this Mute Me Button.

Maybe you should quit your job. The BBC makes the case for job hopping. That’s not always an option for people. How about this: Could the quiet quitting trend be the answer to burnout? What you need to know. Hopefully you have good bosses and will recognize that you need support. More likely they are too busy and you are own your own.

Good luck with things. You will need it.

You should be writing better emails. Here’s how

You – yes you – can write better emails. To do so, first read this:  How to Write Persuasive Emails: 4 Simple Tips to Turn Blah Into Crisp Writing

Second, write down those goals.

Third, practice with the next emails you send.

Maybe you – yes you – already write emails like this. In that case, try this as an exercise: look at the emails in your inbox and see how many of them meet these criteria. I’ll bet most don’t.

A word to younger people: you might think, I don’t write emails…I use Slack or Teams or some other form of instant communication. If that’s true, then you definitely need to read that and practice it. You cannot avoid email (yet) and when it comes to key communication, you need to write good email. So get going on that.

Good luck! Was this clear? I hope so.

Want to be more organized next week? Start with your desk

500

If you are like me, your desk gets cluttered and disorganized at times. We all could use some help. To aid you, here are some nifty desk organizers to create the most efficient desk space for you from the good people at Yanko Design. Some of them are very practical, and some of them are very cool, like this:

All are worth a look.

The best way to organize your desk is to clear it off. The next best way is to get organizers that keep it tidy.

An office with a view. Or maybe it’s time to pack it in and go work from Italy….


What’s that you say…work from Italy? Well according to lonelyplanet.com

If you’re a remote worker looking for a change of scene, consider the possibility that before long you could be working from the sunny terrace of a hilltop town or beachside city in Italy. Italy’s government is planning to launch a new “digital nomad” visa to encourage foreigners to spend a year working there remotely. According to The Local, a government decree was first introduced in January and voted into law on March 28.

The idea of a digital nomad visa is a great one. And there are lots of great companies that are embracing full remote. If you can handle the difficulties of the time zones and you have some Italian in you, then maybe Florence is in your Future. Andiamo!

On rethinking work

Work takes up a significant portion of your life. To me, it is something we should always be examining, if we care about our lives.

This is especially the case during this pandemic. I think we all have been examining work as a result of it. as a result of  how we have had our working lives disrupted. That’s a good thing.

I expect employers are going to want us to resume working as if it were the Before Times. Maybe you are one of those employees who wants to go back to that time. Maybe you aren’t.

All that is to say that I recommend you read these two pieces as you reexamine your work life:

We sometimes need prompts to help us think about things. Those two pieces will help with that.

Thinking about your work life is thinking about your life in general. A worthwhile thing to do.

Here’s eight good pieces reflecting the state of work these days

I wanted to say the state of work is in flux these days due to the pandemic, but I have to admit that work is always in a state of flux, regardless of what is going on in the world. Here’s eight pieces that reflect that:

  1. According to VOX,  employees don’t want to return to the office . If the pandemic had lasted less than a year, we might not have seen this. But two years later, many people have adjusted and settled.
  2. Still, some are going back to the office. It will be interesting how this looks in a year.
  3. For those working at home, try and find an employer that does not use such surveillance. Such companies do not care about you at all.
  4. If you are going to look for a new job, here’s how to get your resume past the robots .
  5. If you are considering how to balance work and non-work, here may be the best thing ever written about “work-life balance” according to Austin Kleon .
  6. Whatever you do, do not write open letters complaining about your employer, especially AT WORK. Sheesh. I know I am old, but this is a terrible idea and I am not surprised that SpaceX fired the open letter writers.
  7. Here’s a good piece on how the billable hour is a trap into which more and more of us are falling. For some jobs, the billable hour is important. But find other ways to show your value to your clients, your employer and your co-workers.
  8. And finally, whatever you do, remember that you are more than your job title. 

On Getting Things Done

The book and system Getting Things Done (GTD) has been around for so long that I used to assume that everyone knew of it and used it. Lately I’ve been reminded that is not true.

Well, if you haven’t heard of GTD and forgot about it, this primer on it may be just the things you need to (re)acquaint yourself with it.

I have issues with GTD, but if you are someone who feels like you can never get all the things you have to do organized and get yourself feeling productive, then get using GTD. You will get more productive, for sure.

Your desk needs an upgrade. This can help

If you’re like me, your work desk could use an upgrade. Maybe it’s too cluttered. Maybe your tech is looking a bit shabby. Either way, I recommend you go see these top 10 desk accessories to level up your work from home productivity over at Yanko Design. For example, the organizer above is a nice way to get things off your desk.

And this keyboard below looks like it would be an improvement on the one you currently have:

Hey, new stuff isn’t everything, but it could be just the thing to make you a bit more productive and happier when you sit down at your desk to work.

 

It’s Monday. You’re struggling. Maybe you need some help adjusting

If it’s Monday and you feel already like you’re struggling, it may be time to hit the reset button and ask why.

One reason may be you have too high expectations of what you can accomplish. If so, I recommend you read this: It’s Okay to Be Good and Not Great

Another reason may be that you just don’t have any energy/vigor/gas in the tank/what have you to get things done. If so, then start with this:
Building Healthy Habits When You’re Truly Exhausted

Finally, if you’re not sure what the problem is, but you think you suck for some strange reason, then go through this fine collection of articles to see if any of them can help: You’re Not So Bad: The Case Against Self Improvement

We don’t have to be at our best all of the time. Sometimes we are at our worst or close to it. These things come and go like clouds. Be good to yourself. Take a moment for yourself. Then do what you can.

Here’s how to know when to quit, using math.


Knowing when to quit is difficult. Fortunately, there is science and math to help us, as this article in plus.maths.org explains:

Knowing when to quit is one of life’s great dilemmas, whether to persist in the face of diminishing rewards, or to quit now in the hope of finding richer rewards further afield. For every gold mine, eventually there comes a point when the amount of gold extracted can no longer justify the cost of keeping the mine open; once that point has been reached, it is time to quit, and start looking for a new mine.

Similarly, for a bird feeding on caterpillars in a bush, there comes a point when the calories gained can no longer justify the energy expended in searching for more caterpillars; once that point has been reached, it is time to quit, and move to another bush. And, for a honeybee, there comes a time when the weight of pollen collected can no longer justify the energy required to carry that pollen; at that point it is time to quit collecting, and fly back to the hive.

Fortunately, there is a mathematical recipe, embodied in the marginal value theorem (developed by the American ecologist Eric Charnov in 1976), which specifies when to quit in order to maximise rewards. More importantly, the marginal value theorem has an enormously wide range of applications, from its origins in optimal foraging theory to how brains process information. In essence, the marginal value theorem provides a general strategy for maximising the bang per buck, irrespective of the nature of the bang and the buck under consideration.

Wait you say: it’s Friday afternoon! You know when to quit (at least for this week). Ok, that works too. But if you need more general guidance, read the article.

It’s Monday. Two ways to work better this week: more stretching and less control freaking

Here’s two piece of advice for you on a Monday morning: one is easy, one is hard.

First, the easy piece. You need to work more stretching into your day. Here’s some advice on how to do that. If it has been so long you don’t even remember how to stretch, I give you:

I don’t think you need a dozen stretches (but go for it if that makes you happy). I do four to six for about 20 seconds each and I find that very helpful. I try and focus on the parts of me that tend to get stiff or sore.

Now the hard piece. Does the following apply to you?

  • You’re a perfectionist with high standards (and you don’t trust anyone else to meet them).
  • You want to know every detail of an activity or event: Who, what, when, where, and why.
  • You over-plan and get upset when things don’t go the way you envisioned them.
  • There’s only one right way to do something—which happens to be yours.
  • You get angry when other people mess up your plan, or do things differently than you would.
  • You prefer to be in charge. That way, there will be fewer mistakes.
  • You have trouble giving others free rein to do things as they see fit. Instead, you micromanage.
  • You’re overly-critical of yourself and others.

That list comes from this piece: How to Stop Being Such a Control Freak. If one or more of them apply to you, you could be a control freak. It’s not a good way to be. If you would like to change that, I recommend you read that piece and work towards being less of one. The people around you would appreciate it.

(Image: link from Cup of Jo piece.)

Stop giving the praise sandwich feedback, and other advice on giving good feedback at work

Image of feedback

Do you use the “praise sandwich feedback” approach at work? If you don’t know it, the approach is this: you take a piece of negative feedback and layer it between two pieces of positive feedback.  If you do know it and use it, consider reading these pieces for better ways on how to give feedback:

We all benefit from good feedback. Deliver it better. I’m sure you can.

P.S. One of the articles argues for Radical Candor. I can see it’s appeal, but I wrote before why it is usually not a good way to provide feedback. My arguments against it are here.

It’s Monday. Here’s how to work smarter and speak better


To be your best at work, you need plenty of skills. Hard skills for sure. But soft skills are the thing you need to really have a successful career. Here’s two good sources of information to help you with those skills.

First, check out this article on how to speak better in public: Demystifying Public Speaking . Whether you are talking to 2 or 2000 people, knowing how to do it effectively is an essential soft skill to have.

Second, if you want to have a long and successful career, you need to work smarter, not just harder. For ideas on how to do that, study this: Why Simply Hustling Harder Won’t Help You With the Big Problems in Life .

Ok, break’s over. Go and have a good Monday!

It’s Monday. Your resume could use a tuneup. Here’s a easy and fast way to do it

Chances are you have a weakness in your resume and you don’t even know it. (I did.) The weakness is the word “helped”. Sure, helping is good, and helping is likely something you did on the projects you worked on. But compared to other words, “helped” sounds weak. I’d advise you to upgrade it. For help on that, see this piece: Stop Saying You ‘Helped’ on Your Resume (and Use These Verbs Instead)

It’s a small thing, but I bet when you make the tuneup you’ll be glad you did.

It’s Monday. You want to be more productive. Maybe you need to be less available.


With all the ways people can reach you, you may find that you spend much of your time responding to requests and less time doing work you consider productive. Being responsive is good but not at the cost of being unproductive. If that sounds like you, I recommend you read this: I’m Not Sorry for My Delay – The Atlantic.

Much of the time we respond quickly because we feel we must. Being able to comfortably separate the times we must respond quickly versus the times we can respond slower is a worthwhile thing to cultivate. Reading that article can help you get there.

It’s Friday. A good day to tidy up, workwise. Start with your inbox


It’s Friday, a good day to tidy up, workwise. That way it’ll be easier to start things fresh on Monday.

Sure you can tidy up your Downloads folder, your desktop, maybe delete some really big files that have been hanging around forever. Those are all good, but I recommend you clean up your inbox.

If you need a tool to do this, I know some really smart people who have recommended this: Mailstrom: Clean Up Your Inbox Now.

Your Monday self will thank you.

It’s Monday. You have a difficult decision to make. Use this approach to make it

a ladder

If you have a difficult decision to make, then the 5-minute ladder rule is a good way to approach it. Essentially the ladder rule allows you ” to climb, one rung at a time, to a resolution. For example, at the first rung, ask yourself:

  • “Will this decision have a measurable or noticeable impact on my people, my company, or society?
  • Is this decision time-sensitive?”

The rest of the rungs and the approach in general can be found here: Stressing Out About a Tough Decision? Make it Easy with the 5-Minute ‘Ladder Rule’ | Inc.com.

Dealing with tough decisions is like falling into a big hole — it can overwhelm us. The ladder rule approach can help you get out of such overwhelming sitations. Give it a try.

(Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash)

It’s Monday. You want to be more productive. Toss your todo list and project plans and use a Kanban board


It’s true: we can all get more done if we adopt Kanban boards, as this piece in TechRepublic argues. While todo lists are good, Kanban boards give you more. They show you your backlog (more or less your todo list). But they also show you todos in progress and what state they are in. That’s good. They’re more flexible than a project plan, which is great for when you aren’t sure of what it takes to get done. In effect, they lie somewhere between a todo list and a project plan.

Kanban boards are also good for prioritizing long lists of todos. The tasks that leave the backlog are the ones you have decided are the most important. That’s useful, especially if you are trying to communicate to someone else what is happening and what is on hold.

Kanban boards also give you a sense of progress. Sure there may be lots of things to do, but over time the Done column fills up. It can give you a real sense of accomplishment.

They have weaknesses though. If the tasks you include are too big, they may sit in one column for a long time. If the tasks are too small, they move quickly from backlog to done.  That said, those weaknesses can turn into strengths. Items that are too big should be broken down into parts. Small items can be lumped together with larger items or left off all together.

There’s lots of ways to create a Kanban board. Simply sticky notes can work. You can use a window or whiteboard or even fridge to attached them too. You can also use software tools. You can set up a spreadsheet with the various columns. You can use a tool like Workflowy to manage them. Trello boards are another source. You can even build your own, like I did using IBM Cloud years ago. 

While it may seem that they are tools for IT only, they actually can be used by anyone. For anything.  Moving your home? Use a Kanban tool. Planning a trip? Kanban it. Staging a big event? Well, you know.

So get out your todo list or your project plan and turn it into a Kanban board. You will see results soon enough.

(Image from the TechRepublic article)

 

So you are thinking of quitting your job during the Great Resignation. If so, read this

If you are thinking of walking away from your job these days,  you are not alone. As the WSJ says:

The ‘Great Resignation’ is on. Here’s what to do about your finances before embarking on the slowdown you’ve been craving.

Wait! You haven’t thought of your finances before quitting? Well stop for a second and read this: How to Prepare Your Finances Before Quitting Your Job – WSJ.

Change is good. Well thought out change is better. So get your finances in place and then make your move. Good luck!
(Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash )

When it makes sense to eat your lunch while you work

It’s easy to find articles condemning the act of eating lunch at your desk (for example, this one ). I get it. That said, I believe there are three times when eating at your desk is ok:

  1. You have too much to do and even a 15 minute lunch break seems too much.
  2. You want to downplay lunch.
  3. Your work is not good but your lunch is.

Now #1 is not a good situation, but sometimes that just the way it is.

#2 makes sense if you are trying to decenter or downplay food. If you are in a place where you find it tempting to overeat and are trying to avoid temptation, this strategy can work. (I can vouch for it.)

#3 is often overlooked and is often tied to #1. Sometimes your work is just awful but you have to get it done. At least eating something you like while you do it makes it bearable and even a bit enjoyable.

These three reasons to eat lunch while you work are not ideal, for sure. But not unreasonable either.

(Written while eating my lunch :))

(Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash )

It’s Monday. You should update your resume (especially to deal with bad AI) and your LinkedIn too


It’s Monday. End of Summer. There are many things you could be doing in the last quarter of the year. One of them should be updating your resume, regardless of whether or not you are looking for a job.

A challenge with updating your resume these days is running into AI that filters you out for jobs you are applying for. To see what I mean, check this out. How to find a job and make your search for work less terrible – Vox. Some of that I disagree with but I found these two suggestions helpful:

Don’t leave off skills, even if they seem basic. Are you proficient at Excel? List it. “Your odds of getting an interview and a job if you have a facility with Microsoft Office goes up hugely,” Fuller said.

Don’t leave unexplained gaps. If you took a year off to write the Great American Novel, say so. Otherwise, it will look like you were doing nothing, and you might be screened out.

After you update your resume, make sure your LinkedIn is up to date and consistent with your resume. If you say you have five years experience doing XYZ and XYZ does not show up on your LinkedIn, employers will wonder why. So be consistent.

On being acknowledged at work for what you are good at

I have found over my many years at work there are:

1) Things you are good at / like to do
2) Things you get acknowledged for doing

And the intersection of the things you are good at and the things you get acknowledged for is a very small sweet spot.

I try to focus on doing things I am good at. Others I know focus on doing things that gets them recognition.  If you are like me, you will find times when you wish you were in the circle on the right. All I can say is that many in the right circle wish they were in the left circle. The good feeling of acknowledgement is great but it doesn’t last long. While the good feelings from doing things you are good at and like to do last a long time.

If you can find work that you like to do, are good at, and comes with much recognition, then you have a good job and you should stick with it as long as you can. Meanwhile celebrate all those acknowledged and congratulate them. Then go back to what you do best.

It’s Monday. Aim to do more this week by doing less


I know that sounds contradictory, but if you think about it and read this you will see it makes sense: Want to Be More Productive? Try Doing Less.

If you are like me and a lot of people, you take on many (too many) assignments and tasks. You feel like you are getting a lot done but it may not seem satisfying or even worthwhile. If so, take the approach outlined in the article and focus on a few things and cut out the clutter.

More and more I find the secret of being successful is saying no to most things. You need to Marie Kondo your todo list and work on the tasks that bring you joy. It’s not always possible, but more possible than you think.

Good luck!

(Photo by Fernando Hernandez on Unsplash )

If you are suffering from the Sunday Scarries (with some extra thoughts from me)


If you have those feelings of dread and anxiety at the thought of work tomorrow, then read this:What are the Sunday scaries and how can you banish them?

Lots of good advice in there on how to get rid of them.

Some other things to consider:

  • If you can, on the Friday before, try and leave something positive to work on or do for the upcoming Monday. Try and fill Monday (or at least Monday morning) with positive tasks and meetings.
  • Another thing you can do on that Friday is outline what you plan to accomplish the following week and then stay focussed on that as you ease into Monday. If you can focus on things you want to achieve over the week, it helps dilute the dip into cold water that Monday leaves you feeling.
  • Acknowledge that other people feel that way and make sure that on Monday you fill their day with positive thoughts and feelings. Doing that will pay you dividends as they will likely reciprocate that positivity. It’s a win-win for all, and your Mondays will take on a more positive vibe, which should help lessen the Sunday scarries.

(Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash )

It’s Monday. Here’s some advice on how to work hard EFFECTIVELY. (Think Marathon training)

Marathon event

It’s Monday. You have a work week ahead of you. Here’s a good essay by Paul Graham on: How to Work Hard – Paul Graham

I often disagree with Graham on Twitter and you may too. However don’t be put off by that: his essays tend to be well thought out and worthy of a read and your consideration.

As for me, where I learned how to work hard effectively is during marathon training. Training for a marathon is a form of hard work. I would argue it is the best form of hard work. Here’s why.

For marathon training, you need:

  1. a clear goal. For many people, it is to finish the marathon. Or to finish it under a certain time. There are subgoals too: not get injured during the race, or to race easy, or to have a negative split. To work hard effectively, you need goals and subgoals
  2. a well thought out plan. People who train effectively for a marathon have a well thought out plan to achieve their goal. These plans can be anywhere from 12-20 weeks and describe what you are doing each day. The plan is often broken up into phase: a phase where you build up your mileage, a phase where you work to get faster, and a tapering phase. A good training plan gets you much closer to achieving your goal.
  3. A mix of hard and easy training. No one goes hard every day in marathon training. You will fail if you do. Overall the training is hard, but there are many days where it is easy. Days your body gets to recover. Some days you may not train at all. The most effective way to work hard over a long period of time is to mix in easy periods.
  4. A good amount of fun and variety. Yes, good marathon training has fun and variety mixed in. It’s not the same every day. It’s not all a grind. Good marathon runners will run fartleks for fun or run with friends to help keep their spirits up. They might mix in some cross training. They rarely run the same distance every day.
  5. Passion and vision. More than anything, you need these. You need to have a strong desire to get through the training. A desire that gets you out of bed for those long runs when you really don’t want to. You need to have a vision of where you will end up when you complete the training. Successful marathoners see themselves reaching that goal most days of their training. It’s the thing that gets them excited to run the same routes over and over again. It’s the thing that gets them pumped when they have to charge up hills. Preparing for a marathon can’t feel like a job if you are going to do it well.

Now ask yourself about hard work that you have to do? Do you have those things. That hard project you have in front of you: are you passionate about it? Do you have a vision of what completing it looks like? Do you have a clear goal and a well thought out plan? Do you have a practice of taking breaks, or is it full tilt all the time? Is it merely a grind, or do you have fun and variety in it? If you have all the features of marathon training in your plan, chances are you will be able to work hard, very hard, and be successful.

Do work hard poorly is to waste yourself, to waste your life. Don’t do that. Work hard effectively and  make the most of your life.  Good luck!

(Photo by Capstone Events on Unsplash )

It’s Monday. The best time management tool you have is the word “No”

I was reading this piece, Time Management Won’t Save You, and thinking about it a lot. Some of it I agreed with, other parts of it I thought dumb. However, I did do some thinking after I read this:

In all of these instances, the solution isn’t to become more efficient to accommodate more tasks, more decisions, and more distractions. The imperative is clear: simplify. Reduce the number of tasks you take on, replace decisions with principles, and put structure in place to eliminate distractions.

He is arguing that the goal is simplifying. I agree. But I would be more assertive: if you have too much to do, the goal is to say “no”. You have to say “no” to many things in order to say “yes” to the things that matter. Saying “no” gives you more time to do the things you need to do.

You might find saying “no” hard, but you are doing it all the time. If you choose one task to work on over another, you are saying yes to one and no to the other. If you interview 5 people for a job, you have to say no to the others. It goes on and on.

Part of the reason we think saying “no” is hard is because it implies a judgment on what you said no to. For example, if I hire one person over 4 others, it doesn’t mean the people I don’t hire are bad. It means the person I hired is the best fit for this particular job. If I buy a medium size shirt, it doesn’t mean the large shirt and the small shirt are bad: it means the medium fit best. That’s all.

Likewise sometimes we say “no” when we really mean “not now”. For example, I love chocolate cake, but I might say “no” to it because I am full. I still love the cake, it just isn’t the right time for it.

Indeed, if you find say “no” hard, try “not right now” or  “not this week ” or “not until my next review period”.

Saying “no” is like weeding your garden. Weeds aren’t bad: some are beautiful. But your focus is on what you are trying to grow. That’s all you are saying with the weeding you do. Likewise, that is all you are doing when you are saying “no”. You are maintaining your focus in order to have the best outcome.

Go through all the things taking up your focus. Dump most of them into your “no/not now” list. Enjoy the time you now have to do the things that matter most.

(Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash )

Work is not good for working parents. The pandemic exposed that.


If you are parenting small kids (or in my case, single parenting a large teen), you know how hard it has been during the pandemic to be a good worker. You know it was very hard to be a good parent, and it was basically impossible to take over the job of support staff for your kid’s teacher. Yet even before the pandemic it was hard to do all those things.

If you agree, I highly recommend this article.

If you are young and planning to have a career and have children, you should especially read it. At many firms, you should expect your career to take a hit if you have to beg off to do parental thing. Plan according.

(Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash )

Does work leave you feeling exploited, exhausted, and alone?

Do you look to work to love you back? To make you feel valued, energized, part of a big family? Instead, do you feel “exploited, exhausted, and alone”? If so, you will want to read this.

It is a piece aimed at creative workers, but really, it can apply to anyone.

There is a lot to be gained from work besides a paycheque. But sometimes the expectations set are well beyond what work can do. If you feel your expectations are too hard, read that.

What do you do if you want to keep working from home

While many of us have been forced to work from home during the pandemic, that time may be ending some time this year. Many people will be delighted to go back. If this is not the case for you, then read this article.

That article contains good advice for either finding a new job that is full time remote, or finding a job that can be a hybrid. Either way, if you want to continue to work from home, I recommend you start thinking of how to achieve that now.

(Photo by Collov Home Design on Unsplash )

 

It’s Monday. Here’s how to link your days together to make for a more productive week


Often times we start the week productive, but then things unravel midweek, until we are saying thank god it’s Friday and we are left wondering how things went so off track.

To avoid this, build bridges from one day to the next. To do this, at the end of your work day, leave aside a task or an activity that you can start on immediately the next day. This task bridges the days. Hemingway did it and Tharp did it and you can too.

By bridging like this, you already know what your work looks like tomorrow. This helps give you focus when you start your day and it will make you productive for the rest of the day. If you do this daily, it will propel you effectively through the work week too.

Bridging can be hard to do that on some teams. Some team leaders will not let go of a problem on any given day because they are worried that it won’t get done tomorrow. But here too, a bridge can be good. At the end of the day, summarize what was done today and what the next step is and how you plan to tackle it first thing on the next work day. This will give them confidence it will be done, and it will give you assurance you know what your priority on the next day.

For more on this, read this article: The Super Simple End-of-the-Day Hack That Makes Every Morning More Productive | Apartment Therapy

(Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash)