Intermental | Information is Beautiful

Something is broken because it won’t let me click on all of them.

Or maybe I’m what’s broken?

via Intermental | Information is Beautiful.

My truest self is sending GIFs to my friends, not cheerfully influencing strangers’ thoughts.

via My Paradoxical Quest to Build a Personal Brand | The New Republic.

My truest self is sending GIFs to coworkers so I’m probably definitely doing it all very wrong.

When Tey’s work was finished, she displayed an equally absolute devotion to indolence. “Next to chocolates, the cinema and racing, her favourite pastime was a day in bed, lying flat on her back, wide awake,” Caroline Ramsden wrote. After one of these epic lie-ins, Ramsden asked what she had been thinking about all day. “Nothing—absolutely nothing,” Tey replied. “I’ve had a wonderful time.”

via Decades After Her Death, Mystery Still Surrounds Crime Novelist Joseph | Vanity Fair.

Girl. You are amazing.

Another of the other big, quantifiable differences the researchers were able to find was much more of the top phrases in emails to colleagues or subordinates reflected cognitive processes — detected by comparing the phrase sets to a semantically-tagged lexicon — than the top phrases in emails to superiors.

via The Linguistics of Writing an Email Like a Boss.

That’s fascinating! But it also makes sense: emails to bosses are more likely to be about results (or should be I think) than about efforts. Emails to colleagues are more likely to involve needing some help resolving a situation or working out a process than announcing the end products of those efforts.

“Let’s discuss…” on the emails to superiors graph might have triggered an involuntary shudder down my spine.

Hidden costs of hellish schemes for claiming expenses

I am an inveterate consumer of podcasts, as is everyone else right now. I just found this very short business-y one and fell down the Lucy rabbit hole. As we too use iExpense* and it is indeed so unbelievably bad I especially related to her here: Listen to Lucy

(* how bad is it? It is so bad I am avoiding travel so I don’t have to deal with posting my expense reports afterwards)

This is really important. My own experience with kids aging out of foster care and trying to go to college was that they’re missing a lot of soft knowledge on “how it all works” – the sorts of things that if your family all went to college you’d have picked up my osmosis – around the dinner table or at Christmas break when your older sister came home. Without how it all works being made explict they have a much harder time both getting into schools that really want them and when they’re there, succeeding.

As an increasingly broad and diverse cross section of students enters higher education, knowing those rules matters more than ever. Without them, students stumble. They might miss the point of a paper, drift during discussions, or feel overwhelmed or aimless.

via The Unwritten Rules of College – Teaching – The Chronicle of Higher Education. (subscription needed)

Here’s the key part (it sounds simple and even in my own training I’m hoping to incorporate some of this):

Professors who have signed on to the project consider three questions when creating assignments: what, exactly, they’re asking students to do (the “task”); why students have to do it (the “purpose”); and how the work will be evaluated (the “criteria”). Then the instructors explain those things to their students. That’s it.

I’ve been chewing on how to create a workflow tracking system for my group. Right now that group is… me. So my own notes are sufficient. But shortly we’ll be expanding and at least one other person will be responsible for our customer onboarding and technical implementation processes. Being able to know where he or she is relative to any given customer and to see that across all customers is going to be key to our success at scaling. As an intensely visual person some kind of production board is ideal. Besides tracking where customers are in the process I also hope it can help us adjust that process and more quickly onboard new team members with a checklist-based approach. Our challenge is that we’re a distributed team and I very much want us to have a system that’s web-based so we can grow by adding staff where it makes sense geographically to better serve our customers and where we can find the best people. As far as I can tell our company doesn’t really have any systems purchased or used explicitly for this unless Confluence has a Kanban board?

Another organizational benefit of visual systems is the improvement in overall information flow. In most companies, information flow is hampered by sclerotic inboxes and flabby meetings. Valuable information gets trapped in inboxes filled with low-value, status update emails. Valuable time for analysis and decision is squeezed out of meetings in favor of tedious status update presentations that consume up to a third or even half of the meeting hour. (And let’s not even talk about the time spent writing those emails and preparing the PowerPoint slides.)

via How Visual Systems Make It Easier to Track Knowledge Work.

The most painful things are the most true.

Like being on every pre-sales call. Eventually you learn to just keep your mouth shut and nod. And of course deal with the fallout in the post-sale implementation.

How to Tee Up Choices: The Upside of Default Rules

the most desirable default rules are “informed chooser defaults,” which align with what most well-informed people would choose

Source: How to Tee Up Choices: The Upside of Default Rules

Decision-making Styles

From MSN Money is a piece on the 7 styles of decision-making. Since I can’t turn down a personality test I took the one on the author’s website.

My decision-making style? I’m ‘List Checking’.

Your number one tool for making decisions is creating a list of pros and cons. You move forward carefully in making decisions. All your friends know you as the one who does not miss a detail and has a list for every important event. If a decision is worth making, it is worth creating a list to decide how to make that decision. Lists help you research to be sure you are making the best choice. Decisions are best made when thorough research has been done. You may consult others who have made similar decisions to determine how their choices played out and what you can learn from their decisions. And then you add these opinions to your list. You may make a tree of possibilities to examine possible long-term consequences of each option. You believe the more written on your list, the better informed your choice will be.

I don’t actually make lists for decisions but mentally I do sort things into pros/cons a lot. I’m mostly just trying to backstop the ultimate decision against unanticipated negative consequences. “What’s the worst that can happen and how will I live with that?” is what I ask myself.

Take the test here: Yes or No Book

Rethinking Work – The New York Times

A bit distressing that this is the kind of idea that needs advocating STILL. If you’ve ever worked for a living of course you know this. It’s the holy grail of employment but its hard for organizations to manage and measure and control.

“…workplaces that offered employees work that was challenging, engaging and meaningful, and over which they had some discretion, were more profitable than workplaces that treated employees as cogs in a production machine.”

Source: Rethinking Work – The New York Times

File Under: It could have been worse, I guess?

Lapham’s Quarterly provides a matrix of historical Worst Jobs. So I guess it could always be worse? I would have just been your bog-standard scullery maid I’m pretty sure. Which sounds way better than most anything listed here except maybe Leech Gatherer. Which yes, totally disgusting, but maybe not so bad? The modern equivalent is probably social media marketer, amirite?

How Hard Could Just Sitting There Be? Turns out…

"Petal", Agnes Martin (1964)
“Petal”, Agnes Martin (1964)

You know how when you’re into something you suddenly see it everywhere? Maybe it was there all along and you were (and this is particularly apt) unaware of it? Or maybe it’s just that you stumbled onto something trendy at just the right time that you accidentally trend-set yourself? Or something like that anyway.

Mindfulness meditation. It’s a thing. And it’s everywhere.

Meditation is not new, of course. It’s an ancient practice. And the whole “mindfulness meditation as a science-based health-assisting practice” goes back a few decades. But here I am, sitting in a weekly MBSR class trying to learn it for myself. And when I open my eyes from one of our sitting meditations, I now see it around me so much.

For a while in the early 2000s, I had a daily meditation practice. I didn’t call it that, because that is way too close to using crystal deodorant and “sprouting my own” for me. I didn’t even really think of it as a “daily” “meditation” “practice” in any sense of those three words. Instead, most evenings, just as I was going to bed, I’d sit on the edge of my bed (or sometimes lied down, but mostly sat) and focus on breathing and trying to relax. I’d start at my head and just work down, trying to consciously relax each part of my body as I went. It took maybe 15-20 minutes and it basically just helped me sleep better. I guess I thought of it vaguely as “cleansing” in some way. I didn’t think of it as reducing stress or have any thoughts about it at all during the rest of the day. It just let me breathe out my tension.

And then, for some reason that I don’t even recall because it probably wasn’t a reason so much as just a change in my routine, I stopped. I knew about formal meditation, of course. I mean: I live in California so it’s impossible not to know about things like meditation and hemp and VC pitching and Burning Man, even if they aren’t things you ever want to actually engage in yourself. But I’ve done a few evenings at the local Buddhist meditation center doing a more formal meditation sitting and listening to their dharma talk. I’m not at all religious or even spiritual, but I enjoyed these and I felt a bit lighter afterwards. So I was predisposed to think there was something in this sitting and breathing for an hour or so stuff after all.

A few months ago, shit got rather real in my life. I’m a naturally anxious person at the best of times. On a 1-10 scale I’m probably operating around a 7 or 8 just being alive. But some other stuff, none of which I’m going to get into on the internet, started piling up and I was not coping well. In the grand tradition of “I just don’t believe in…” that exists in my family I also did that thing where you just try to ignore something is going on and hope it goes away? That didn’t work. Neither did the other option I felt I had which was just to “steer into the skid” and work ever harder. When things are truly out of your control and your photo is in the dictionary next to the definition for “control freak” something’s got to break. Turns out, when I get over-anxious I get hostile. I get angry and lash out and it’s never at the people who truly deserve it. Something really had to give after I would react to someone saying the wrong thing with hysterical crying and losing all the feeling in my hands.

So I signed up for a 10-week class for MBSR for women. Once a week, about half a dozen of us meet and are lead by two instructors through a combination of mediation exercises and some general group discussion. Two months, and one full day in silent meditation later, I can say: it’s helping. I guess? It’s hard to know exactly but I feel better in general so why not ascribe it to this?

I’ve had a hard time with the sitting meditation, which I didn’t expect. Based on my previous experiences I thought I’d pick it back up easily but I really struggle with doing it for any length of time every day. But what I’ve picked up and really started to love and crave is a walking mediation practice. For about 30-45 minutes each night I just… pace pretty much describes it, but leisurely-like, back and forth in my living room/office. The cats think I’m completely insane and probably if anyone else saw me they’d think so too. But it’s actually the opposite of insanity – it’s giving me my sanity back.

I know I’m not the first to the mindfulness party. But like converts anywhere, I feel I need to share what I’ve learned (and am still learning) about a simple-to-learn but not-so-easy-to-really-do practice that might work for others. When I work with coaching clients I’m very clear that I have no training in, nor intentions to deliver, any kind of personal or psychological advice or counseling. I’m focused on their actions and processes around their work, not really their feelings about it but it’s also clear that sometimes there are truly psychological barriers holding us back from achieving what we truly want and have all the best intentions to achieve. For some people those require personal counseling, but for me at this time I seemed to require a whole new way of approaching what the world was delivering to me.

Next week is our last class and I’ll miss that formal reminder/setting. I do well when there’s homework and a structure of reporting to someone else. There are options though, SFMOMA is doing a Slow Art Day tour. Can I look at art for 10 minutes straight? Yeah! Easy! I stared at the Agnes Martin piece here for nearly an hour once.

When Amazon acquired Goodreads

So today we learned that Amazon has acquired Goodreads. My feelings can most properly be expressed in a series of animated gifs, as per modern times dictates.

At first, I was:



And then I was:



But then I thought, yeah, it was probably inevitable:



And now, there’s just this: