weekend reading

Weekend Reading #8

It's Friday so you know that means it's time for some Weekend Reading (and in this case Listening and Watching) goodness. Every week I like to share a couple of my favorite pieces of media from the last few days. Let's get to it!

How to Take Control of Your Indie Work Career - Sam Spurlin on en*theos

I hope you can forgive the self-promotion inherent in my first link. en*theos is a company that is all about optimal living. They asked me to write an article and record a class for them awhile ago and it's now live! In it I share my top 10 ideas around improving work when you work for yourself. I then riff on these ideas via video for a little over thirty minutes. I start a little nervous but I think I hit my stride a few minutes in. Anyway, you can get a 10-day free trial to check out the enirety of the site and after that it's $9.95 per month. It's kind of like Netflix for personal development. Pretty neat, right?

The History of Rome - A podcast by Mike Duncan

This is an old podcast I was just introduced to thanks to a starter pack in the new podcast app, Overcast. Mike does an awesome job breaking up the history into bite-sized chunks that are easy to take in during little breaks throughout my day. I've always been a huge history fan but I never really learned as much about ancient Rome as I should have. This podcast is helping fix that. And considering there are well over 100 episodes I think I'll be occupied for awhile.

Oyster - "Netflix for books"

I recently did a one month free trial of Oyster (thanks for the nudge Robyn!) and decided to actually pay for the service once the trial ended. A true rarity for me when it comes to entertainment outlets. Anyway, I've been pretty impressed by the available library and very impressed by the iPad app. I'm currently reading Michel de Montaigne's "Essays" as well as the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson (I'm in some kind of weird essay mood, I guess). Anyway, I highly recommend the service as well as both of those books.

A Band Called Death

This is an excellent documentary about an all-black punk band from Detroit in the early 70's. It's a story about a band well ahead of its time, falling into obscurity, and then suddenly rocketing to critical acclaim nearly 40 years after recording a single album. Perhaps I'm biased because of my Michigan/Detroit connection, but I thought it was definitely worth my time. It's available in lots of different places online (I caught it on Netflix).

What have you been up to this week? Read/watch/listen to anything good?

Photo by Melanie

Weekend Reading #7

It's Friday afternoon and you're shutting it down for the weekend, right? Good. Throw these links into your read later app of choice (or bookmark them if you like to roll old school) and enjoy them over the weekend.

1. The End of the Day Philosophy - Zen Habits

"What are you going to do next, after reading this? Will you be happy with that, at the end of this day?"

Simple metric for deciding whether to do something. It's simple but not easy to actually successfully implement.

2. Swami Vivekananda on the Secret of Work: Intelligent Consolation for the Pressures of Productivity from 1896 - Brain Pickings

"Good and bad are both bondages of the soul… If we do not attach ourselves to the work we do, it will not have any binding effect on our soul… This is the one central idea in the Gita: work incessantly, but be not attached to it."

This article is crazy good. I haven't been in the habit of reading Brain Pickings so I don't know if this is an aberration or if I've just been missing out on tons of good stuff.

3. The Absolute Fastest Way to Remind Yourself to Follow Up on Something You Find On Your Phone - Less Doing

I used to think IFTTT was stupid. Then I started seeing examples of how people actually use it and I realized it could be super helpful. This is the first recipe I've seen in a long time that I've needed to steal for myself (although I modified it to send the screenshot to Evernote instead of my email). My specific recipe is embedded below.

IFTTT Recipe: Send a new iOS screenshot to Evernote connects ios-photos to evernote//ifttt.com/assets/embed_recipe.js

I hope you had a good week and if you enjoy what you're reading here I recommend you sign up for The Workologist monthly newsletter. It goes out on the first of every month and it always has an article with my best idea of the previous thirty days. You can also get every article I write here (three of them each week!) sent directly to your inbox if you check the box when signing up. I may be biased, but I think that's a pretty good idea.

Photo by Steve Corey

Weekend Reading #6

Please excuse the slight lateness on this edition of Weekend Reading. Fridays are either super chill or super insane for me when it comes to work. I try to get as much work "out the door" and into other people's hands before I wrap up the work week so in the last two hours I've sent out two projects that have represented several hundred hours of work over the past few months.

ANYWAY, you're not here to listen to me ramble about my work. You want links to the best things I read/watched this week. Here ya go!

Thirty years of projects - Seth's Blog

Somehow, I always thought of my career as a series of projects, not jobs. Projects... things to be invented, funded and shipped. Sometimes they take on a life of their own and last, other times, they flare and fade. But projects, one after the other, mark my career. Lucky for me, the world cooperated and our entire culture shifted from one based on long-term affiliations (you know, 'jobs') to projects.

This is almost exactly how I conceptualize my own career. The world is moving away from titles/professions while turning toward the actual verbs of work. "What are you doing?" rather than "What are you?" I love this change in how we think about work.

Aloha from the Hala Kahiki - The Distance

I love this side project from Basecamp. If you aren't familiar with The Distance, the idea is to share stories about businesses and the people behind them who have been around for a long time. In a world where the start-up is glorified it can be easy to look past the less glamorous examples of good business. This issue is about a tiki bar in the suburbs of Chicago that has been open since 1966. The other issues (this is the 3rd) are worth checking out, too.

Divide and Conquer: How the Essence of Mindfulness Parallels the Nuts and Bolts of Science - Google Tech Talks


This is a pretty old talk but it's one of the best I've heard in terms of giving a very clear and simple description of why meditation is such a powerful force for people who practice it. I've read quite a few meditation books and have a fledgling meditation practice of my own, but this talk helped me understand why it's so worth doing this incredibly difficult activity.

As always, I want to know what you've read or watched recently that has had an impact on you. Shoot me a link at @samspurlin on Twitter or email me at sam@theworkologist.com. I also recommend signing up for the Monthly Newsletter in which I share more ideas like you see here on The Workologist and in which you receive a free copy of my e-book, Work Better.

Photo by Neil Conway

Weekend Reading #5

As usual, here's a dose of the good stuff for you to digest over the weekend.

Hacking Happiness: Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking it Can Change the World - John Havens

I read a lot of books about happiness/positive psychology so I'm a pretty critical (I want to say "consumer" but if you read this book you'll know why I hesitate at that word...) reader. John has done something with this book that is a much more refreshing and interesting look at what it means to strive for happiness in a world soaked in technology and data. Also worth checking out is the non-profit John has started, Happathon. I had the pleasure of having a phone call with John earlier this week and he is working on a lot of great stuff to make the world a better place. Check out this book and keep John on your radar -- he's making good things happen.

The Ancient Wisdom Project

I'm not sure who turned me onto this site/project, but I'm glad they did (I think it might've been Cal Newport?). Anyway, the basic idea is that the author does a series of 30 day experiments in which he commits to "practicing, studying, and reflecting on a single philosophy or religion with the hopes of personal growth." I love the concept behind the project. I've only read the first couple of his articles on Stoicism but I'm looking forward to getting further into it.

It Was Me All Along (available for preorder) - Andie Mitchell

I had the pleasure of meeting Andie a few months ago when we invited her to speak at the TEDx event I was co-organizing. One of our planning team members recommended we reach out to her because she knew Andie from college and was familiar with her story (thanks Susan!). Turns out, Andie is a phenomenal speaker. Her talk ended up being one of my favorites of the day. In addition to being a great speaker her upcoming book, It Was Me All Along, is now available for preorder. If it's as good as her talk then it'll definitely be worth your time.


What was the best thing you read this week? I'd love if you'd share it with me on Twitter (@samspurlin) or in the comments below.

If you like this stuff -- books about happiness, articles about personal development, and inspiring talks -- then you should consider signing up for The Workologist Newsletter. Once a month I send subscribers a recap of what happened on TheWorkologist.com over the past thirty days and an article expanding on the best idea I had this month. As a thank you, I also give you a free copy of my e-book that shows you how you can work a little bit better by paying attention to some of the research that has come out over the past few years.

Photo by Katherine Lim

Weekend Reading #3

As usual, here is a smattering of what caught my attention on the internet this week. Throw these articles in your read-later app of choice and enjoy them with a cup of coffee this weekend. That's what I do.

The Light Therapeutic: What Light Does to Our Health - Intelligent Life

Of course I start my picks with one that I don't think is actually available to be saved to any read-later apps because it's locked into some kind of weird Adobe magazine viewer thing. It comes from The Economists companion magazine called Intelligent Life which I just started reading and have so far thoroughly enjoyed. This article made me think carefully (as someone who can easily spend an entire day indoors) about the role light might be playing in my health.

Why We Humblebrag About Being Busy - Harvard Business Review

PhD students love to tell everyone how busy they are. It has become a (perceived) sign of importance or value to be so busy that you can't get enough sleep, take care of yourself physically, or have any hobbies outside of research and work. It's messed up. I've fallen victim to that mindset in the past but have been trying to consciously make choices that both minimize how busy I truly am and how I talk about the work that I'm doing. Answering, "Busy!" to the question, "How have you been?" is utterly devoid of useful or interesting information. We are all more useful and interesting than to be "busy", right?

Create.Learn.Live - Jeff Fajans

Jeff is a colleague here at Claremont Graduate University (and Outlier Consulting Group) and he has just revamped his personal site. He does awesome research around creativity/innovation and utilizing the quantified self movement for personal development. He has a couple of great new articles up (I'm particularly partial to this one - Work On Yourself First). This is a site that you'll want to keep an eye on.

If you want to stay up to date with everything that's happening here at The Workologist might I recommend you sign up for The Workologist Newsletter? You'll get a free e-book that focuses on using positive psychology to improve your work and you'll always be on the cutting edge of the work I'm doing here.

Photo by Zach Inglis

Weekend Reading #2

Every Friday I aim to share a few of the more interesting things I've been exposed to over the past few days so you can load up your reader of choice and enjoy some top notch writing over a Saturday or Sunday morning coffee. Here's what caught my eye this week:


Aaron Mahnke (co-host of the Home Work podcast and Wet Frog Studios) launched a resource for freelancers earlier this week called Frictionless. Aaron has been doing the freelance thing for a long time and has a lot of experience to share through his guides and blog posts. I highly recommend you give it a look-see if freelancing is your jam.

100 Time, Energy, and Attention Hacks to be More Productive - A Year of Productivity

I have a love-hate relationship with lists like this. On the one hand I think they oversimplify the complex issues at hand when we talk about "productivity." On the other hand they provide so many good ideas for potential self-experiments. This is a pretty huge and exhaustive list so I'll let you judge if any of these might be useful for your life.

Employee Satisfaction Doesn't Matter - Jim Clifton, CEO at Gallup

At first I saw this headline and was like, "What..." and then I read the article and was like, "Duh." Seriously though, this is a good read if you run any kind of organization or oversee other human beings in a work capacity.

Fortune 1000 executives often come up to me and say, “Our company culture is robust -- our employees have an 85% satisfaction rate.” Good for you. You have ruined your workplace. Ask any employee, “What will satisfy you?” and the answer is easy: free lunches, more vacation time, latte machines --- and don’t forget a ping pong table.

Clifton is laying it down hard in this piece. High five to him. High performers want opportunities to grow and be challenged -- not "be satisfied."

Don't Fight Distraction, Make It Irrelevant - Cal Newport

I'm probably the biggest Cal Newport fanboy on the internet and it's because he has such a way with telling it how it is.

Distraction...is not the cause of problems in your work life, it’s a side effect. The real issue comes down to a question more important than whether or not you use Facebook too much: Are you striving to do something useful and do it so well that you cannot be ignored?

I never think about distraction when I'm doing something I really care about and can get fully engaged with -- it's only when I've lost site of why I'm doing something does distraction suddenly become a big deal. Thank you, Cal, for the great reminder.

As always, please don't hesitate to contact me via Twitter or email. Signing up for The Workologist Newsletter is a good way to stay in the loop if articles like these strike your fancy. You can sign up by scrolling down and filling out the form or clicking here.

Photo by Ella Phillips

Weekend Reading #1

Each Friday I'm going to share a couple of the links that caught my eye over the previous seven days. This week, two articles from the Wall Street Journal and one from the thought provoking (like usual) Rands. Throw these into Instapaper (or your read later app of choice) and enjoy them over a Saturday morning coffee, eh?

How to Avoid That Sinking Feeling When in a Fishbowl - The Wall Street Journal

Steelcase is creating "quiet spaces" to sell to organizations looking to provide work environments for their resident introverts. Ignoring the fact that introversion seems to be a hot topic nowadays (Sean Blanda has a good take on it), I like the movement toward diversifying workspaces. It doesn't make sense that every person in an organization (given their strengths, preferences, and working styles) should complete every type of task (from brainstorming, writing, communicating, etc.) in the exact same environment. For employees this means management has to do things like providing different spaces for different types of work and types of worker. For indie workers, it means you have to think deliberately about what you're trying to do and the best environment in which to do it (more on this coming in an article next week).

Work Creates Less Stress Than Home, Penn State Researchers Find - The Wall Street Journal

"In a new study, published online last month in Social Science & Medicine, researchers at Penn State University found significantly and consistently lower levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, in a majority of subjects when they were at work compared with when they were at home. This was true for both men and women, and parents and people without children."

This study didn't include people who work for home which makes me wonder if this means indie workers who work from home experience work to be more like home-life (i.e. more stressful) or if they experience work to be more like home (i.e. less stressful). My guess is that indie workers who have developed routines and norms (for themselves and their family) are able to bring some of the stress reduction of work into the home. Otherwise, and this is probably more common, I imagine indie workers are experiencing greater stress at home and at work.

Chaotic Beautiful Snowflakes - Rands in Repose

"I am actively watching zero leadership experiments in progress at Medium, GitHub, and Zappos, but I am a firm believer that you need a well-defined leadership role to deal with unexpected and non-linear side effects of people working together. You need someone to keep the threads untangled and forming a high-functioning web rather than a big snarl of a Gordian knot."

The experiments currently happening with holacracy are interesting on both a practical and academic level (at least for an organizational theory/structure nerd like myself) but the leadership coach in me is siding with Rands regarding the importance of leadership. A good leader serves to amplify and organize the work of those he or she works with -- not as a bottleneck. It'll be interesting to see how these experiments work out -- especially in highly complex environments.

Photo via Sameer Vasta