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:


Reading List from March 25th

This week’s reading is posted up on Readlists. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, including making trips to the library (haven’t been to the public library in so long they changed the entire check out system and completely confused me). Libraries are little miracles where you go in and then walk right out with free books, basically on a promise you’ll bring them back. How do I keep forgetting this?

Yes, please, just pick up the phone.

Let’s talk about the phone.

No no no! Don’t panic, I didn’t say “Let’s talk ON the phone” just… well, let’s talk about talking on the phone. I know you hate it. Everyone seems to hate. I hate it too, kind of (I mean, I will open a computer and fire up a browser to order a pizza rather than phoning the order in) except… I actually secretly kind of DON’T hate it. Not really. Not all the time at least.

I do hate just chatting on the phone. It’s hard for me to call people like my family or my boyfriend and chitchat. I just would rather do that kind of social communication in person – or even via videochat. I like seeing people’s faces whenever possible. I’m an introvert who really likes people. Go figure.

But then there’s the other extreme: I really prefer written communication. Email is my jam! IM is awesome! Post-its: totally acceptable. Some of that is because I’m a visual learner which means that when I see something written down I tend to remember it better than if someone just tells it to me. And in the workplace I like having a history of decisions or actions that I can refer back to in, say, years to understand why we might have done something that now, so much later, seems … kind of stupid.

Then there’s the middle: sometimes, it’s better – SO MUCH BETTER – to just PICK UP THE PHONE

Building a relationship (or, repairing one?): pick up the phone.

Building consensus around an issue and need to resolve it: pick up the phone.

Talking past someone: pick up the phone.

So many things could be sorted out if we just talked to one another. That isn’t to say that sending a follow up “Just confirming what we discussed in our call” isn’t necessary – it often is. And sometimes you get off a call worse of than when you started. But relationships are so important in any business and talking to someone remains the best way to build them and if you can’t do that in person, please pick up the phone every once in a while.

But let’s also be clear: my god there’s no excuse for leaving a voicemail.

Put On Some Real Pants and Get to Work.

I work at home (for the day job) so rarely that when I recently did I might have gotten a little carried away.

When I said I was taking a little break, I didn’t really mean to be gone for a month. I had a lovely little weekend away (lovely little weekends away are what makes life worth it sometimes) but then came back and have been head’s down working non-stop since. I’ve been one of those people saying “How is it March already!?” and the year is just flying by.

One of the things I’ve missed is the big Yahoo! “work at home, no actually, don’t do that” blow up. Though I guess it’s still happening to a large extent, with news in the NYTimes today that the policy was an attempt to boost morale. And of course, being that my main extracurricular fascination is the way that we work today know that I have been following each twist and turn with complete interest.

The problem there, as with most of the problems the new Yahoo! policy seems designed to solve, is enforcement and the expectations set around results. What really matters, or should matter, at every place of employment is the engagement of employees around setting expectations, measuring results and enforcing standards and the meeting of those expectations. HOW and WHERE the work gets done seems unimportant to me. And allowing employees flexibility in that should be part of a healthy workplace where leadership provides the vision and goals, management provides the expectations and clears barriers to achievement for their employees and the employees work productively and honestly to produce the results that meet those expectations and feed into the overall goals. Now of course, in some places and in some roles that means a close-in, collaborative team environment. And in some cases it doesn’t. And AND, it varies so much person-by-person.

I don’t agree that everyone needs an office or that everyone could work at home. Whether those environments are productive places depends on a combination of the environment itself, the roles involved and, most importantly, the individual people. I think that everyone thinks working at home is super great and it’s the future of work. But that’s not always true – some people get around a pair of sweatpants and a sofa twenty feet away and they are truly called only to their deepest, slacker-ist selves. Other people sit in an open-plan cube farm and feed on that energy and make great things happen. It’s so individual and when we have companies that want flexible workforces (contractors instead of employees, freelancers on demand but not staffers, outsourcing to whatever region currently offers the cheapest price for their PHP skills) I think it’s also not too much for employees to ask for their working environment to also be flexible around their needs as well.

And then this, from the Times article, which is a whole other can of worms/ball of wax/metaphor of choice:

Although they collected Yahoo paychecks, some did little work for the company and a few had even begun their own start-ups on the side.

AND HAD EVEN BEGUN …! Oh no! Look, lord knows we probably don’t need another start-up in the SillyBubble Valley right now but this seems to imply that having a side start-up is not compatible with having a full-time job. Sure, it isn’t always and working on the side gig in lieu of actually producing work for the company that employs and pays you for a full-time job is absolutely out of the question, but it is possible to produce good work for your W-2 employer while still having a side gig. In fact, I think side gigs can help you produce good work elsewhere but allowing you to expand on little-used skills, provide an outlet for autonomous decision-making and creativity, and boost your self-confidence. So let’s not conflate people who clearly took advantage of a work-at-home policy and were never called on it, which is just plain bad management full stop, with people who are working on side projects. These are not overlapping circles on the Venn here.


Reading List: February 8th

Your weekend reading list is here, on Readlists.

It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’m going offline for a couple of days and heading up the coast. A much needed break!

Reading List

Sadly, doesn’t allow the kind of embedded link that Readlists uses, so for this week visit my Readlist there at:

Maybe I’m not Liz Lemon afterall?

With the end of 30 Rock today there’s a lot of words being spilled online about what Liz Lemon meant for women or what Tina Fey’s female-lead show means for women in show business, etc. Maybe some of it is true, I think that’s something we’ll only know in hindsight. I do really admire Tina Fey’s general approach to her work and to her fellowship with other women.

One of the more interesting parts of watching 30 Rock for me was that while Liz Lemon was so scarily like me in enough respects that I would get emails from people on Fridays asking if I was SURE I wasn’t sleep-being-Tina Fey (but so did every late-30’s single professional women), it was Jack Donaghy who was the real teacher of valuable lessons. Whether Liz Lemon was really a thoughtful, if kind of insane, depiction of single professional women, the depiction of her work world was often painfully, dysfunctionally, true to my own and many others I’ve seen.

But the more I’ve thought about it the more I think… I’m not really the Liz in these professional relationships. I’m… the Jack! Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you never to go with a hippie to a second location because I trust that you wouldn’t even be around a hippie in the first location to begin with, right?

Some of Jack’s best business lessons:

Ambition is the willingness to kill the things you love and eat them in order to stay alive. Haven’t you ever read my throw pillow?

Jack maybe (probably… definitely) meant that literally but it’s true in a metaphorical way. Sometimes you fall in love with your own ideas or plans and they get in the way of forward progress – of meeting other ambitions. So you have to kill them and you have to eat them to move on or up.

There are no bad ideas Lemon, only great ideas that go horribly wrong.

Every idea is a great idea! At least to start out with. That’s why brainstorming and allowing yourself to at least entertain these thoughts is important. Don’t censor until you have to, which is really about the execution of your ideas not just the idea itself.

Working with creative clients, I guess I do often feel more the Jack to someone else’s Liz, than as Liz herself. As Jack said:

I’m not a creative type like you, with your work sneakers and left-handedness.

And when you need a pick me up, you could do a lot worse than this self-motivational speech:

donaghy-winningtime-1 donaghy-winningtime-2

To Do List: January 21st

Last week I said my To Do List was “manageable”. And yes, I do think it was. It was just the wrong list. I had a very productive week but not the one I had planned. Here’s how it went down:

Here’s my To Do List for the week of January 14th:

_Not Done!_ Jot down ideas for posts in my various editorial calendar categories

_x_ Evaluate Neatworks Cloud for a bookkeeping client

_x_ Outline quarterly reporting system/process for a bookkeeping client

_Not Done!_ Test run of QB Mac 2012 on Mountain Lion (could be okay, could be disaster!)

_Not Done!_ Re-write bookkeeping service description for the website (I’m working on a big update, which will take longer than this week. All the service descriptions need to be re-written so I’m starting here).

So I’m left with these carry-over items this week:

__ Test run of QB Mac 2012 on Mountain Lion

__ Jot down post ideas in editorial calendar categories

And I’m adding:

__ Finish round 1 of quarterly report for bookkeeping client. We’re meeting next week to go over it and I have about 4 more hours of work to put into it. This is actually my top priority.

__ Re-write bookkeeping services section of new website. I think this is going to be punted, if I’m honest, but I’d like to keep it here anyway. Maybe I’ll get it done in the end.

Weekend Reading List

One of my favorite blog features are weekly link lists, especially those published on Fridays. There’s always something interesting and fun in them that I’ve not seen elsewhere. So hopefully my own reading list here will be interesting to you, too!

>> ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Get’: How to Fix the Gender Gap in Salary Negotiations (from The Atlantic*)

Schroth urges female students to vie for larger bonuses and salary increases and offers several strategies. In her experience, women have proven more successful with off-cycle requests, meaning they seek opportunities to negotiate outside of year-end reviews. The best time, Schroth strongly believes, is in the wake of an achievement. Instead of looking for a new job outside the company, where the same problem may come up again, look within. Women should focus on developing skills, which might mean switching departments internally. Regardless of the means, Schroth argues that listing achievements not only makes a woman’s case stronger, but allows her to feel more comfortable in the discussion.

Okay yes, definitely seek out internal opportunities to develop skills and ask for performance bonuses tied to specific achievements. No arguments there. But some of this also makes me uncomfortable because I think a key skill to develop is to be your own advocate and ask for what you need and want.

>> How My Blog Went From a Hobby to a Job (from Making it Lovely)

I really appreciate how open Nicole has been here. It’s enlightening for me and I’m sure for many readers who are considering how to make a blog their job. That she shows both how her income has transitioned over time, and the corresponding events, but also how she currently diversifies her income is astonishingly open. What’s clear here is that she’s a very savvy businessperson, not just a good designer and blogger. And I love the pie charts!

>> How to Express Empathy – Avoid the Traps! (from agilitrix)

The HUGE PROBLEM is that we are really good at BLOCKING EMPATHY to protect ourselves from feeling.

Imagine someone is in emotional distress. By blocking their emotions from our reality, we can avoid acknowledging and connecting to their pain. In the short run, this is great – we avoid pain. In the long run, we destroy the fabric of our relationships and our environments.

This is something I have to work hard at all the time and it’s a really critical skills for a coach of any kind. I tend to fall into the “Problem Solving” trap which is mostly what you want a coach to help you with, right? But maybe not quite yet: you still need to get to problem solving through empathy. So I work at it.

>> My 3 Words for 2013 (from Chris Brogan)

Think of three words that sum up what you want to work actionably on changing/improving in the coming year. It works best when the words are positive in spirit and not negative.

My own spin on this is to have a yearly Theme. It’s bigger than goals and more expansive. It’s a framework for decision making over the course of the year, so I can apply it more broadly and to new situations and opportunities that might not have been part of my goals. Since I haven’t yet had my 2013 new year, I haven’t come up with my Theme yet but I’m thinking about it. Do you have one? Do you have 3 words? What are they?

>> Zingerman’s simple email survey (from Signal vs. Noise)

The Zingerman’s survey feels like it’s written by someone who’s curious about the answer.

How many times do you ask questions because you think you should and really don’t care that much about the answer (or only care about the answer if it’s the one you wanted to hear)? And how often do you ask for feedback in a way that makes the person you’re asking it from do all the work?

>> HR Mistake of the Week: This Nauseating Job Posting for an ‘Office Host’ (from The Grindstone but I think Gawker’s version of the same sort of post is hilarious too)

Office managers are critical parts of any highly functional workplace but this job description is gross. None of their other job descriptions reads like bad fan fiction. Is “Office Host” like calling something a Ninja/Rockstar/Superstar? Ugh. It’s not a professional job title (can we PLEASE go back to having professional job titles?) and I wonder how much they want to pay this person? This is the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl of job descriptions and the mocking Medium is taking is rightly deserved.

>> Here is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie (from the NYTimes)

I know everyone read this last week but I wanted to include it because isn’t this basically just like so many workplaces the world over? There are about a dozen Silicon Valley startups who basically operate not dissimilarly to the set of The Canyons as far as it’s described here.

* Yeah, I KNOW, what was up with that this week? Bad marketing ideas executed badly.

To Do List: January 14

One thing I wanted to do was make a public To Do List of the things I need to accomplish this week in making BrightLight better. I am crazy about to do lists (and will talk more about them this year) but maybe less crazy about the public accountability (to all of the… no one reading this right now?). Still, I think it’s an important step so I’m pushing myself to do it.

Here’s my To Do List for the week of January 14th:

__ Jot down ideas for posts in my various editorial calendar categories

__ Evaluate Neatworks Cloud for a bookkeeping client

__ Outline quarterly reporting system/process for a bookkeeping client

__ Test run of QB Mac 2012 on Mountain Lion (could be okay, could be disaster!)

__ Re-write bookkeeping service description for the website (I’m working on a big update, which will take longer than this week. All the service descriptions need to be re-written so I’m starting here).

That’s manageable. If I run through those items, I’ll work on re-writing other parts of the website.

If you don’t do anything else this week please remember to pay your quarterly estimated taxes if you’re a freelancer or small business! They’re due TOMORROW.

I’ll check in again next week!