Tuesday, 30 April 2013
Monday, 29 April 2013
On Wednesday, May 15, 6:30pm, at the Loft Literary Center I’ll be joining Kaeti Hink, Steve Laliberte, Kate Parry, and Dan Haugen on panel discussing e-books and how journalists can leverage them for longer form, in-depth work. It’s a free event open to the public sponsored by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. See you there.
Monday, 22 April 2013
“But when skeuomorphs get in the way of how we actually use something or build something, they demonstrate a lack of imagination or even cowardice on the part of the designer.…Yes, it’s far easier to get understanding or buy in quickly (from investors, in-laws and users) when you take the shortcut of making your digital thing look and work just like the trusted and proven non-digital thing. But over and over again, we see that the winner doesn’t look at all like the old thing. eBay doesn’t look like Sotheby’s. Amazon doesn’t look like a bookstore. The funding for AirBnB doesn’t look like what it took to get Marriott off the ground” – Seth Godin
Above, Seth Godin nicely articulates my feelings about the skeumorphic design popularized by Apple’s iOS applications. It’s an admittance that the UI design teams (Apple’s in particular, since they started it) don’t know what to do. That they haven’t actually spent the time to think about how a calendar, address book, et al are different, let along how they can be different when they’re on a such a new, futuristic, imaginative device like pocket-sized touch-screen computer.
Selling out is usually more a matter of buying in. Sell out, and you’re really buying into someone else’s system of values, rules and rewards.…
Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.
You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.
To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.… – Bill Watterson
Thursday, 18 April 2013
“The [Facebook Home] ad is an apt, if sanguine, depiction of what I’ve been calling ‘present shock,’ the human incapacity to respond to everything happening all at once. In a rapid-fire, highly commercial digital environment, this sense of an overwhelming ‘now’ reaches new heights. Unlike computer chips, human beings can only process one thing at a time. Whatever succeeds in attracting our attention only wins it at the expense of something else. Joke as we might like about it, our efficiency, our accuracy, our memory and our depth of understanding go down when we try to multitask.” – Douglas Rushkoff
Here are six:
“Let’s look on the bright side: we’re having an adventure, Fezzik, and most people live and die without being as lucky as we are.”
Adventure. That’s exactly why we go independent. For some adventures you’ll need a team. Maybe not right away, perhaps down the road. Ad hoc is fine, in fact it’s preferred. Sometimes members of your team will start out as competitors. Keep your mind open to creating ad hoc teams as projects and adventures warrant.
“Look! He’s right on top of us. I wonder if he is using the same wind we are using.”
Independence removes much of the weight of other organizations allowing you to move much more quickly towards your goals, as well as identifying smaller, more unique opportunities that larger teams don’t see the significance in. It’s worth mentioning here that just because someone is traveling in the same direction you are doesn’t mean you have shared goals or intentions. It just means you’re traveling in the same direction.
“Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.”
You’re exhausted and you feel like your projects are taking the life out of you. Stop and take care of yourself. If you’re not taking care of you – you can’t take care of your clients. Only you know what you need to perform at your best – and it likely starts with eating well, exercising at least every other day, and every night getting a full night’s sleep.
“You just wiggled your finger. That’s wonderful!”
Sometimes you feel mostly dead. In these times, celebrate the small victories. Remember, you’re working towards a larger goal. Progress towards a goal, no matter how minor – is still progress.
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously selling something!”
Yes, selling. Dedicate time each week to gaining new business. As an independent, people are buying you – or more specifically – they’re buying access to you. In return you relieve some pain on their side. Identify their pain, how you can ease it, and your sales process will be much more straight forward. Thought, it still may take twice as long as you expect.
“Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”
There’s no such thing as job security. Even in piracy, and honestly, your current salaried position isn’t nearly as glamorous as storybook piracy. Maybe, just maybe, you’re the one person your boss will have replace him when he retires. Far more likely: he’ll go down with the ship.
Saturday, 13 April 2013
Thursday, 11 April 2013
It’s good. Though I think Anil overestimates the social value of Facebook, Twitter, etc. But, on the flip side, you won’t know I said this because I don’t have a presence on those places – and I want to be the kind of person that does. Blah.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Monday, 8 April 2013
TL;DR: The calendar is the vessel, not the inbox.
According to my email service, I receive approximately 1 non-spam message for every 4 spam messages. Everyday 400 obviously unwanted messages are destroyed for every 100 allowed through. Many of those 100 are easy enough to delete as well. Over the course of any given day, it’ll take me around 2 minutes to process 98% of those messages. That leaves 2. Two messages that for whatever reason – I can’t just immediately delete. Two messages I actually need to think about.
What do I need to do? How do I respond?
I have a daily goal of clearing out my email inbox. Just as I have a daily goal of cleaning out my physical mail box daily. Most days, both are easily achievable. In all honestly, the hardest messages, the ones I’m really truly avoiding aren’t sitting unread in my email. The ones I’m avoiding are partially written drafts – or worse – not yet started (except they have been – a thousand times in my mind) drafts. But that’s a different conversation – this conversation is about processing the email inbox.
Notice, we don’t really have 400 – or even 100 – messages to deal with. We really only have 2. Two messages that require our response. You might be thinking, “oh, Garrick – 2 messages is so cute. I’m a very serious high powered executive – and I have hundreds of messages daily requiring my response.” Two, I say. Two. Any more on a regular basis and you may be using your unread count as a status symbol. So, for the next 1500 words we’ll agree there are only 2. Cool? Cool.
Great, let’s take a look at those 2 messages.
One of them is sneaky. By all appearances, it looks like it shifts huge obligation onto your back and that you need to respond immediately to accept this obligation. But re-read it. Do you see it now? That’s right, the whole reason you weren’t able to process this message in the first round is that you’re scanning brain didn’t notice that a key bit of information was missing. In my client work, the things frequently missing from these sorts of emails are: attachments, targeted dollar amounts, dates and locations. Once you’ve figured out what was missing – hit reply and ask for it as apologetically as possible. For missing attachments, I like to use something like, “I’m sorry, the attachment didn’t come through on my end. Please re-send. Thanks.”
Some people enjoy using various auto-responders and snippet extenders to even more quickly reply in these recurring scenarios. If that works for you – excellent. This is more about realizing you haven’t received the information you need to confidently move forward and are replying appropriately. Of the two – this is actually the easiest to deal with. So reply and get it out of your inbox. Don’t fret, when the original sender replies with the requested information – the new message will be unread. Beauty.
When this message returns, it will be that lone message sitting in your inbox keeping you from the clarity of doneness inbox zero brings. So, what do we do with this sole, haunting message. First off – stop. Yes, stop, and ask yourself this one questions: “Are you in a state of mind to actually approach this email in a clear meaningful way?”
Yes, I’m serious.
Up to this point, you’ve been making ruthless, kneejerk decisions to hundreds of messages – rightfully so. None of those messages deserved your full attention. This one does. Stop and breathe. You need to be in the right frame of mind to meaningfully address this message. Clear your mind of any stress, bias, or intonation. This will prevent your kneejerk self from interfering with the thoughtful, calm, deliberate planning stage you’re about to enter. Always start from a place of clarity. If you need a quick, easy way to get there – step away from your devices and take a short 10 minute walk outside. It’s February in Minnesota as I write this – do not doubt my seriousness.
Now that you’ve the energy and clarity to look at this message, what’s likely the very next action you need to perform? Is it; review the proposal and provide a recommendation? schedule an interview with the candidate? prepare monthly progress report for the board?
It’s likely something similar, which means it belongs in your calendar as a commitment – just as a doctors appointment, team meeting, or the board meeting itself. Look at your calendar and schedule when you’ll actually do this thing. Yes, weigh all the constraints, deadlines, and other commitments, move things around if you must. But this first step isn’t really answering ‘what’. It’s answering ‘when’. If you look at your calendar and can’t find a 90 minute block within normal business hours over the next 5 business days where you can dedicate the mental energy to this one task – you’re the wrong person for this one task.
The goal is to move the message from your inbox to a scheduled time on your calendar with all the appropriate information moved into the calendar appointment. The calendar is vessel, not the inbox. The calendar knows your limits and your capacity. The inbox knows nothing of either – it only knows how to receive. To achieve inbox zero reliably and consistently – you must trust your calendar.
If you are the right person, and are unable to find 90 minutes for this task, case, look at all the commitments across your calendar and this new one – and as quickly and ruthlessly as you deleted those 98 emails earlier – identify the commitment you’re going to break. Now draft the appropriate message to the person whose commitment you’re breaking – the key thing here is to gracefully hand over the reins to someone more appropriately skilled.
Even after multi-week stretches of inbox zero, the right message will sit ‘read’ (though marked ‘unread’ repeatedly) while I contemplate the next action. Sometimes, it takes hours to figure out what the missing piece of information was that I still needed (like I said, these #2 messages can be very sneaky). For these messages, I quickly scan my calendar make the appointment and reply something to the effect of: “From your message, I assume X, Y, and you’re ready for me to get started.” More than once the reply has been – “Oh, no. We’re not ready for you yet.” Great. Suddenly I have 90 minutes available on Tuesday.
Either way, I can now focus on my calendar and not on my inbox.
Notice, we still haven’t reached that message where you are actually obliged to work on something. About that lone message that you’ve scheduled time to do. Immediately after scheduling a 90 minute block on your calendar – start a draft reply. Now you won’t need to be search for the original message to initiate a reply – it’s already started in your Drafts folder.
It’s always amazing what can be accomplished in 90 minutes of deliberate effort. In most evenings it’s the time I have for my discretionary activity – watch a movie, read a book, fix a bug, add a feature, write 1000 words. All these things take about an hour and half. Ninety minutes of deliberate effort is more than enough time to do something of significance. Commit to it. During this 90 minute block you’ve dedicated to start working on this task, fully focus on the task. This is the only time you have committed to it and you need to move the project forward. Get to work.
After you complete this first 90 minute session of work, it’s likely that the task is done and the drafted message can be completed or an additional 90 minute session should be scheduled. Do what’s appropriate. Then, instead of reviewing your inbox – do the next thing on your calendar.
Your work is in your calendar – not your inbox. Schedule your days as if every obligation is a it-takes-months-to-get-reservations-at-this-place appointment. It is. Nature abhors a vacuum. Especially when that vacuum is your iCal. If you don’t block off time to do your work – it will be quickly eaten up by pointless meetings, inane conversations, and trolling Facebook. Mapping your day on your calendar – especially a week or two in advance will give you greater confidence, more control over interruptions, and a stronger sense of what is important.