This piece, How to Do What You Love by Paul Graham, should be something we all read from time to time. It’s especially good to read if you aren’t happy with your job and you are about to make a career change. It will give you the necessary perspective you need to make the right and difficult choice. For example, it is tempting at times to take on a new role because of the prestige that comes with it. Graham outlines the dangers of that. He’s also realistic about the fact that work is still work, and there are times when you won’t love it. But if you are rarely loving what you are doing, I highly recommend you read Graham.
(Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash )
In this good piece by James Clear, he talks about three ways we fail and how we can fix it. The three types of failure are:
.. a Failure of Tactics. These are HOW mistakes. They occur when you fail to build robust systems, forget to measure carefully, and get lazy with the details. A Failure of Tactics is a failure to execute on a good plan and a clear vision.
… Failure of Strategy. These are WHAT mistakes. They occur when you follow a strategy that fails to deliver the results you want. You can know why you do the things you do and you can know how to do the work, but still choose the wrong what to make it happen.
…Failure of Vision. These are WHY mistakes. They occur when you don’t set a clear direction for yourself, follow a vision that doesn’t fulfill you, or otherwise fail to understand why you do the things you do.
Really good piece. I recommend it as something you schedule yourself to read at least once a year to help you do better both at work and elsewhere.
In the piece he doesn’t focus on failure of opportunity, but it is huge. For people living in the right place and born into the right segment of society, success is much easier because opportunities abound. Sometimes you can change that (e.g. emigrate) and sometimes you cannot.
Despite that, read the piece and reflect on how you can address the things that cause you to fail.
According to this, the way to have a good relationship with someone is to have five (at least) or more positive interactions with someone for every one negative interaction: Use the Magic 5:1 Ratio to Improve All Your Relationships | Inc.com.
While the focus for that study was on spouse or partner relationships, I think it is likely a good rule to follow for any relationships you have with people. That goes for people at work. Think about the people you work with: how often do you have positive (vs neutral) interactions with them? If it is infrequent, consider increasing that. Especially if you are a leader. If you are a leader and you find the only time you interact with people is to criticize their work, you likely have many unhappy people under you.
Think about when you interact with your people and be conscious about making more of your interactions positive. After time you will find you have a better relationship with others, and that will lead to other benefits too.
(Photo by Ralph Hutter on Unsplash)
It’s tempting to think that colleges and universities will start to see a major decline as a result of the pandemic. I think they will take a hit as a result of it, but I don’t think their demise is anywhere near. As this piece argues, people will take great lengths to take part in post-secondary educational experiences, pandemic or not: Why Did Colleges Reopen During the Pandemic? – The Atlantic
More than ever, the pandemic has made clear that major changes are required for post secondary education. Even before the pandemic, too many people waste their time and money going to university just so they can get a job. That’s wrong, but many employers demanded it. Fortunately, that is changing, as this piece shows: 14 companies that no longer require employees to have a college degree
Going to university is a good experience. Ideally I think university programs should split bachelor programs into 2. After two years, students could get some form of completion certificate. From there, they could go on to two more years of university study and complete their bachelor program, or they could switch to a vocational school and get something applied. (Or skip university all together.)
University isn’t for everyone. It should definitely not be something you need to start a job. A vocational school is fine for that. Indeed, most workplaces train people on the job once they hire them. Why wait for people to study something irrelevant to your profession?
P.S. Employers need radical rethinking of how they hire people. To see what I mean by radical, read this: This Company Hired Anyone Who Applied. Now It’s Starting a Movement.
(Photo by Changbok Ko on Unsplash)
Until recently, I was working like I always did: get up, get coffee, start work around 9 and finish work around 5 while sitting in the same place for the whole time. Then I read this:Working From Bed Is Actually Great – The New York Times.
After reading it, I thought: why am I working like I used to? Why not take advantage of being at home to work better? For example, last week I was working on a hard problem and I was sitting at my desk and getting nowhere. I decided to go out for a walk. After about 20 minutes of walking the solution came to me. I went home and wrote it up!
Likewise I have weights next to my desk now. When I get stuck I get up an do a microworkout. Other times I will take a break and do a drawing. Or stretch. Anything to get my brain going.
Consider shaking up your own work routine. I know for some people, that’s impossible. End of story. But if it is not impossible, try doing what I did. Or work from a different part of the house. Even the bed.
We are going to be working from home for some time. Let’s make the most of it.
(Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash)
Let’s face it: Monday is a good day to deal with tasks you’ve been putting off. So you write them down, say: this week I will deal with these! And then….you don’t.
It’s ok. Procrastination is a complex thing. If you don’t believe me, read this:
‘Why Do I Spend Weeks Avoiding Tasks That Will Take Me 10 Minutes to Do?’
So much of our culture rewards us for meeting deadlines, so we are encouraged to do things at the last minute. That can encourage our use of procrastination. Likewise, many of us do not acknowledge we have ebbs and flows of energy as well as ebbs and flow of mood. If we were to acknowledge that, we would schedule tasks when we know we have energy and in a good mood.
Read the article and pick out the things that contribute to your putting things off (e.g. mood). Then schedule and do those things that have been on your todo list for so so long.
(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)
Hey, if you are really really really missing your office cubicle (why?) and you want to recreate that at home (why??), you can, with this:
It’s called the Hug desk, and you can read about it, here.
Please try and make a nice work place in your home instead. I wrote about home offices to die for, here. These are much better to recreate, imho.
What, you say? That makes no sense. Procrastination is a thing to be avoided, not perfected.
But let’s face it: some of you — us! — will always be procrastinators. If it is something that will be always with us, why not make the best of it?
That’s what this piece argues. By structuring your procrastination, you can still get important things done…it just not the thing you really ought to be doing.
So take a lesson from that piece on structured procrastination and go do the second most important thing on your list. Or third. Whatever.
I’d like to add that if you do that, you might get some wind in your sails and find that after you’ve effectively procrastinated, you can go back and work on the thing that you really ought to be doing.
Procrastination: make it work for you.
P.S. Yes, I wrote this as a way to avoid some things I should be doing.
One is analog and one is digital.
The analog one is to declutter the space you are using to work from home. Apartment Therapy has a plan to not only declutter it but to make it better. (I find it easier to declutter if you can image the space looking good at the end).
The second decluttering plan is for your phone. Let’s face it, you have tons of digital clutter. Here’s another Apartment Therapy plan to tackle that.
(Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash)
Because as this piece argues: Your To-Do List Is, in Fact, Too Long.
I know mine is. Yours likely is too. And if you are using your inbox as an organic todo list, I am sure it is too long.
That piece argues for one way of dealing with it. To me, I think there are several ways. Here are some:
- Write down 1-3 things on your list that you can definitely accomplish today. Meetings count. So does research and education. Lunch too.
- Write down 1 hard thing and 1 fun thing to do from your list. Do that hard thing, then reward yourself with the fun thing.
- Park your old todo list somewhere. Come up with a new list. On the bottom of it, write down: revisit my old list later in the day. You will discover two things: one, you did things on it even if you couldn’t bear to write them down now; two, the things you actually did were more important than the things on your list.
- First thing on your todo list: create two new lists. One list is all the things on your todolist you can avoid doing for a month; the other list are things you have to do this month. Second thing on your todo list: for the second todo list, write down the least amount of things you have to do to push all the items off until the next month. After you do this, your list will shrink considerably.
- Don’t write anything down first, just start working. Every time you get something done in a period of 15 minutes or more, write it down. That was your todo list all along: you just couldn’t write it until you started.
Image via Donald Giannatti
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.
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.
Here’s something to ponder on a Sunday:
The rich were meant to have the most leisure time. The working poor were meant to have the least. The opposite is happening.
That is extracted from this: The Free-Time Paradox in America – The Atlantic
It’s a fascinating study of work and leisure and why it is not what many expected.
The notion of retirement in the Western world has been changing since the mid 20th century, and it will continue to change as the population increasingly gets older. To get an appreciation for what that means and what can be done, these three articles are worth reading:
- It’s Time to Say It: Retirement Is Dead. This Is What Will Take Its Place | Inc.com
- Baby boomers delaying retirement: It’s a myth, because retirement is inevitable, and bleaker than ever.
- This Is What Life Without Retirement Savings Looks Like
Not fun reading, but essential.
If you don’t feel like working this Monday, you can at least read some pieces about work that might help you get motivated.
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.
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. 🙂
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
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
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.
As someone who is in the maximalist camp (as opposed to the minimalist camp) I love this idea: Why I Use 3 Monitors to Boost Productivity (And You Should, Too) | Inc.com. It’s hard to pull off at home, but I have such a set up at home and it really does work. I have a monitor off to the side for messaging systems and email, I have a second monitor attached to my laptop which I use for what I am focused on, and I have my laptop screen I use for supporting my focus work.
True, if you have a Mac, you can have multiple Desktops and easily swipe from one to the other. I do that in workspaces where I can’t have multiple physical monitors. When I can have them, I like the multiple physical monitor approach. Frankly, I would like to have even more!
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
The pomodoro approach to work seems smart. You set a timer for 25 to focus on a task. When the timer goes off, you take a 5 minute break. Then you repeat this process.
When I first heard of it, I thought: what a great idea! I tried it a number of times and failed. The reason I failed, and why you may be failing, is that I cannot focus for 25 minutes. It’s sad, but true.
The simple trick that works for me is to adjust the times from 25:5 to 15:5. I find I can focus for 15, and a 5 minute break is just enough.
I find that even though I take more breaks, I also have more focus time throughout the day, which means I still benefit. Plus, once I get on a roll, I skip some of the breaks.
If you want to get on and stay on the pomodoro bandwagon, adjust your focus time until you find your sweet spot. Your overall productivity will go up, I’m sure.
Don’t believe it? Read this: I Built A Bot To Apply To Thousands Of Jobs At Once–Here’s What I Learned. Not just to see what not to do, but what you want to do instead.
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)
Remember: There is Always a Plan B.
Always. Don’t believe me? Take a read.
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
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.
You can use Spotify to listen to music while you work. But sometime music can be distracting. Sometime all you want is to drown out the sounds in your work environment. During those times, a good alternative to music is rain sounds. Spotify has a lot of different rain sounds to choose from. Well worth trying for those noisy work spaces that you need to be productive in.
Another good way to be productive is to use the Flow desktop app for the Mac. I’ve tried many a timer app and I like this one best. It is simple to get started with. It reminds you when to take a break and when to work, but let’s you chose if you want to get back into the flow. It can block out certain apps that might prevent you from being productive, like your browser. Also worth a look.
(Image from pexels.com)
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.
Worth reading: Senior Citizens Are Replacing Teenagers as Fast-Food Workers – Bloomberg.
- 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.
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.
Possibly, but as this article argues, there are at least three areas where robots and suck at:
Creative endeavours: These include creative writing, entrepreneurship, and scientific discovery. These can be highly paid and rewarding jobs. There is no better time to be an entrepreneur with an insight than today, because you can use technology to leverage your invention.
Social interactions: Robots do not have the kinds of emotional intelligence that humans have. Motivated people who are sensitive to the needs of others make great managers, leaders, salespeople, negotiators, caretakers, nurses, and teachers. Consider, for example, the idea of a robot giving a half-time pep talk to a high school football team. That would not be inspiring. Recent research makes clear that social skills are increasingly in demand.
Physical dexterity and mobility: If you have ever seen a robot try to pick up a pencil you see how clumsy and slow they are, compared to a human child. Humans have millennia of experience hiking mountains, swimming lakes, and dancing—practice that gives them extraordinary agility and physical dexterity.
Read the entire article; there’s much more in it than that. But if your job has some element of those three qualities, chances are robots won’t be replacing you soon.
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)
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.
We all get in ruts where we use the same tools every day for our office work. When that happens, what we need is someone to come along with a new list of tools and what makes them great.
Here is such a list. I didn’t create it, but I have used 3 of the 11 tools here and I can say they are key to making me more productive every day. I plan to use the rest of them too, based on the description of them.
Sure, you can do fine with Microsoft Office tools. This list will help you do better: 11 Most Used Tools & Apps Essential to my Work – DESK Magazine
(Image via pexels.com)
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.
Posted in work
Tagged cliche, jargon, work
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.
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.
- Why Workers Are Losing to Capitalists – Bloomberg– Not promising
- How to Maintain Your Sanity (and Be Productive) When You Work Alone • Jocelyn K. Glei– Those who work at home, take note.
- 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
- Motivation is Overvalued. Environment Often Matters More. | James Clear – on the other hand, there’s this.
- Pocket: I Quit My Job to Live in a Tent and Write Code – more on working in difficult situations.
- The pursuit of loneliness: how I chose a life of solitude | Society | The Guardian– more for those who would rather work and be alone
- 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.
- I’m Ira Glass, Host of This American Life, and This Is How I Work – Glass provides some inspiration here.
- Can a company innovate without working its employees to death? – The Washington Post– You would HOPE so.
- 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.
- The Simple Technique To Fit A 40-Hour Workweek Into 16. | Fast Company– and here is the opposite extreme.
- 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.
- Working with the Chaos Monkey– help for those dealing with chaos monkeys (I have recently).
- The secret to success: take risks, work hard, and get luck– obvs.
- The Shame of Work – New Rambler Review– hmmm.
- Final Frame: Office Propaganda | Apartment Therapy – Finally, a light link after all that.
(Image from the last link)