Thoughts

It’s not about the document

What proportion of your working life do you spend working on documents? Reports, specs, plans, presentations, etc. The routine paraphernalia of knowledge workers. Paperwork.

It’s a trap. Isn’t it?

We become caught up in the trivialities of layout preferences, wrestling with MS Word settings, and distracted by inane presentation animations. And then there’s the dreaded group approval/sign-off process:

Can you change the font here please? I don’t like the grammar, a diagram, this detail, etc, etc…

We try to manage documents but they end up managing us.

Continue reading It’s not about the document

Try something new for 30 days

Think about something you’ve always wanted to add to you life and try it for the next 30 days. ~ Matt Cutts (TED video)

I really recommend the video. It’s only 3 minutes long and pretty inspiring and persuasive.

TL-DR: the usual “thought -> action -> habit -> character -> destiny” progression logic. 30 days is apparently long enough to form new habits; be they exercise, diet, a photo a day, write a novel, avoid Facebook, TV, etc.

Something new

Inspired, I thought I’d give it a go. I picked doodling. A bunch of people like Sunni Brown have been championing the learning, creativity, problem-solving and innovation benefits of doodling recently.

So I began drawing. Very simple things and shapes. The sort of thing you can scribble on a whiteboard as a visual aid. Not Turner prize material. Using a free app on the iPad with one-click publishing to a free basic Tumblr site: Dreadful daily doodles

So far so good

20120911-145520.jpgI finished the 30 days and am carrying on with my new habit as I’ve learnt loads: cats can easily look like rats, dogs are really hard, our brains override what our eyes see with preconceived ideas of what something looks like, outline and shape can imply movement much better than detail, less is more.

Continue reading Try something new for 30 days

Customer service win

Bad news may drive sales and traffic but, to build exceptional businesses, we need to understand good news and good service.

Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.

~ Douglas Adams

My laptop screen hinge made a horrible sound and dislocated itself a few days ago. It’s only 4 years old, I’ve looked after it well, and it wasn’t cheap so I had a scratch around online.

20120911-140411.jpg

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An idea garden

I read a lovely post today that has made me reconsider my previous post bemoaning my growing list of draft blog posts.

Charlie Gilkey describes his blogging workflow using the gardening metaphor to discuss the tension between incubating ideas and dwelling too upon them long. Essential reading for bloggers and those interested in the process of generating and developing ideas.

The post, Do You Have an Idea Garden? is worth 5 minutes but I will summarise my thoughts too (I may get a bit carried away with the metaphor):

  • Ideas are delicate seeds that need love and attention to grow
  • Create a safe place to plant your seeds (an idea garden)
  • Your idea garden must:
    • Be easy to access for planting (minimal faffing with tech)
    • Keep all ideas in once place to allow for cross pollination
    • Be tended / weeded / pruned regularly

What this looks like and what tools you use is up to you: the principles count.

The metaphor has helped me understand that my rather scruffy weed patch of draft blog posts is in fact an undervalued fertile ground that just needs some gentle tending. Thanks Charlie :-)

The optimism bias: Was Eeyore right?

Attempt at E H Shepard's Eeyore by Rob Tatman

A. A. Milne’s downbeat donkey is the poster-child for part 3 in the series about cognitive biases.

Eeyore had it right, we’re overconfident and too optimistic. Some evidence from the US:

95% of our teachers report that they are above average teachers.

96% of college students say they have above average social skills.

Time Magazine asked Americans, “Are you in the top 1% of earners?” 19% of Americans are in the top 1% of earners.

David Brooks: The social animal (TED Talk)

Continue reading The optimism bias: Was Eeyore right?

Email experiment

I reached a mini-milestone today. A simple setting change with a long history:

Like many, I’d turned off new email notifications years ago. No annoying “You have mail!” pop-ups, no sudden sounds, no nagging envelope icon, no barely-perceptible mouse cursor changes, no tiresome fade-in text, no irritating iOS badges, nada.

I was managing email on my terms.  Except I wasn’t…  Using my inbox as a to-do list integral to my workflow meant that I was susceptible to distractions when going in and out of the mail app.  Even though I was only checking to batch process new mail three times a day (morning, lunch, evening), www.rescuetime.com (free trial) revealed the truth of my app usage.

So I’m going to experiment with pulling emails manually only three times a day from now. Why not?  We’ll see…

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Update- 1st October:

Habit formed. This really works! With one adjustment:

Mac Mail users may also want to disable the nagging red count badge that lives in the doc via Mail Preferences: