On Sight, Blindness, and Stretched Metaphors

Today’s snippet is brought to you by this article from CGP Grey, Daredevil, and a long walk.

Daredevil is a blind hero. After being blinded in an accident as a child his other senses grew to sensational levels of sensitivity. He could no longer see but he could hear heartbeats from hundreds of feet away, know someone’s emotional state by the way they smelled, and could move through his environment as deftly on his non-sight senses as he ever could with vision. What initially seemed like a handicap promoted him to grow in new ways.

I’m looking for a little of my own Daredevil-ness. I’ve decided to “blind” myself from easy distraction by unfollowing everyone I used to follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I erased my RSS reader and moved Apple News to the back of a folder. I unsubscribed from every podcast I used to listen to. My hope is that the energy that used to go into these activities will be productively rerouted into other outlets, namely the creation of awesome stuff.

Drastic measures? Probably. Although, it feels like it’s necessary to take drastic measures if I want to make a drastic impact on the world. Working in a start-up and finishing a PhD at the same time isn’t something that can be considered doable under “business as usual.” It requires honesty with myself. If I want do what matters I can’t do it all.

Silly metaphor? Certainly. Hypocritical to follow nobody on social media when I want others to follow me? Yep. Do I feel like extremely uncomfortable that I’ll somehow miss something important? You bet.

After cleaning out all the accounts I mentioned above I went for a walk. I noticed and felt things that I haven’t in a long time. Parts of my brain that used to be preoccupied by the low din of constant connection started wandering to new places. My other “senses” (creativity, motivation, discipline, and diligence) started to feel more energized.

My powers won’t let me beat up bad guys or be awesome at martial arts, but they just might help me do something awesome in my own areas of interest. At the very least, it’s worth a shot, right?

Turning Off the Informational Deluge

Today’s snippet comes from realizing the connection between news, gossip, bite-sized nuggets of information, and doing my most meaningful work is tenuous. And this article by Jason Fried.

I recently embarked on an experiment where I opened the informational floodgates and let the world of news, think pieces, and “thought leadership” wash over me.

That experiment is now over.

I’m back to my cozy world of following basically nobody on Twitter (it’s not personal), Facebook (sorry high school friends), and Instagram (I can like you as a person even though you take terrible photographs). I’ve re-built my minimal RSS reading experience where I follow only a handful of extremely high quality sources. I’ve stopped trying to teach Apple News that I don’t want to read articles about celebrities or basketball. I’ve been exposed to some new ideas over the past few weeks, realized what I’m not actually missing out on much, and developed a new appreciation for silence, reflection, and wrestling with my own thoughts.

The nice thing about this little experiment is the fact that I’m really not feeling any anxiety about missing out on anything. I was super on top of everything for weeks and I don’t think I did any particularly great work or had any awesome ideas. I mean, I wasn’t a bump on a log or useless during that time but it’s not like I was crushing it. It just reinforces to me that feeling connected and plugged in to what’s going on in and around my areas of interest is not necessary to do great work. Without the time and attentional space provided by turning off the informational faucets it probably actually prevented a lot of great work from happening.

I’m not disappearing. I’m not turning into a hermit. I’m just committed to trying to do more awesome things.

The World Is Your Hard Drive

Today’s snippet is brought to you by the thoughts stimulated by episode 244 of the excellent podcast, Back to Work and the concept of stigmergy.

The world around us contains tons of information, some of which we placed into it and some of which we didn’t. I don’t mean newspapers or websites. I’m talking about a more basic type of information. The light is red so you stop, the sidewalk is crumbled so you step around it, and the sky looks cloudy so you grab an umbrella. Simple and obvious stuff, right?

These are all examples of things that happen to us and then prompt some kind of action. However, that’s not the only way the environment can prompt action. There’s no reason we can’t be the one who puts something into the world to prompt us to take a certain action later. We all do it already, actually. When you set an alarm to remind yourself the coffee is done brewing you’re taking action because of something you did to your environment in the past (setting a timer). You didn’t sit around and fret about when those three minutes were up. Once you set that alarm you were able to continue moving through your day without any extra psychological weight.

You can take this to an even higher level, though. This is when we start to get into the realm of Getting Things Done and #lifehacks. We can deliberately offload certain responsibilities and reminders into our environment in order to lift that burden from our already information overload ravaged and besieged brains. The classic trick of putting something you absolutely positively must not forget in the morning on top of your car keys falls firmly in this category. By doing this you’ve removed the constant tug of, “Don’t forget this, don’t forget this, don’t forget this…” and placed the only reminder you need into the physical world. You’ve offloaded your psychic worry into the physical world.

Looking back to the micro-transitions I discussed yesterday, does your environment support or hinder the action you want yourself to take? As Merlin says in Back to Work, do you “make the right thing the easy thing”? Here are some examples I’ve tried or am trying from my own life:

  • I’ve installed a “lightweight distraction blocker” into my world by moving distracting apps on my phone to a folder instead of keeping them front and center.
  • I’ve installed a “motivation booster” into my world by starting every work session with a specific playlist I always listen to while working.
  • I’ve installed a “morning routine aid” by making sure everything I need to make coffee the way I like it is clean and ready to go every night.
  • I’ve installed a “reminder app” by putting every idea I have regarding anything I’m working on into a trusted bucket (my Things inbox).
  • I’ve literally installed a shared task management product into my world (Trello) so I don’t have to try to keep track of what my coworkers are working on.

On a basic level what I’m trying to do, and where I think I’m only just scratching the surface, is to leave imprints on my environment from when I’m feeling intelligent and inspired that I can follow later when I’m feeling tired or overwhelmed. The more I can craft my environment to nudge me in the “right” direction the more willpower and attention I can save for things that matter (like solving difficult problems and thinking creatively).

Clean up your working drive (i.e. brain) by trusting more of it to the gigantic external hard drive that surrounds you every day (i.e. the rest of the world).

On Micro-Transitions and a Sense of Momentum

Today’s snippet comes from my desire to figure out how I work best.

A micro-transition is any time during my day when I’m shifting from one state to another. For example, the transition from waking up to starting my morning routine or the transition between finishing lunch and getting back to work. There are a handful of these transitions that happen throughout the day that when handled correctly often have an inordinately huge impact on how productive I feel.

Focusing on these micro-transitions makes it less daunting to try improving larger aspects of my life. Instead of feeling like I have to nail the 4–5 aspects of my morning routine everyday I’ve learned that if I simply focus on the micro-transition of minimizing the time between my eyes opening and me standing in front of my coffee maker everything else tends to take care of itself. Once I’ve got the coffee process going I know the rest of the morning is going to be okay. If I wake up and then fiddle around with my phone in bed then I know I’ve messed up.

Another micro-transition I’ve been practicing is how I spend the first ten minutes after lunch. My inclination is to open Twitter or Reddit and find something to read. However, if I instead take those ten minutes getting organized or writing the rest of the day tends to go much better. It’s when I get sucked into a mindless browsing spiral immediately after lunch that I get frustrated with myself.

I may have buried the lede here but I think this concept can be extrapolated to organizations and teams, too. Obviously, each person in an organization has to deal with micro-transitions similar to the ones I described earlier but there’s a version of these that collectives experience. How does a team manage the transition from being in a meeting to getting back to work? How does a team manage the transition from the end of the weekend to Monday morning? Or from the end of a workshop to the first day after a workshop? There’s a line that needs to be traversed between celebrating feelings of progress (“That was a great meeting,” or “We crushed phase one of this project”) and keeping the momentum going over time. The most successful projects I’ve worked on have a steadily increasing level of momentum (often with a final spike right at the end) whereas the worst projects experienced extreme variations in momentum with often a final burst of panic at the end. Teams who manage their micro-transitions keep momentum building whereas teams who do a poor job optimizing transitions don’t.

We can experiment with creating structure in our environment or developing habits within our own minds to take the actions we know we need to take. The key is to focus on the micro-transition (just open our eyes and get to the coffee) and not the overall intention (have a killer morning routine). It may take some time to land on the behavior that unlocks this shift but it doesn’t have to be a mystery — it just needs to be uncovered through experimentation and self-reflection.

Clarifying and Pursuing Greatness

This snippet was prompted by a great article from This Is Going to be Big… called The Nature of Greatness.

The reason I’m so drawn to working with organizations is because there’s a huge opportunity to help people figure out their definition of greatness and then show them the tools and practices that will help them along that path. Making work great is a lot like making your health great — as much as we wish we could do it overnight or with one intense retreat it only ever works with consistent effort over time.

There aren’t many truly great athletes and there are even fewer truly great organizations. But every professional athlete, every professional sports team, and every organization should be on the path toward greatness. If you’re not — why are you even in the game (please note I’m not defining greatness for you)? Every decision, from mundane to monumental, is an opportunity to take a step on the path toward greatness or an opportunity to wander astray.

Good leaders, managers, and self-organizing groups setup guardrails, prompts and cues to encourage continued progress down the path of greatness. Bad ones either actively dissuade their employees from making the best decision or complicate matters to the point that the path toward greatness is diffused and impossible to detect.

What does greatness look like for your organization? For you? For your team? What’s one thing it seems like nobody else is doing that would set you on a path to be truly great?

In the Name of Focus, a Hiatus

It has been a tumultuous couple of months. In early July I drove from California to Southeast Michigan and then got on a plane to New York City. Shortly after arriving in NYC I started my dream job. A couple weeks into that job, while still living in a sublet in a city I barely knew, I travelled internationally for a week with some colleagues. The day we returned, along with the rest of the company, we were laid off. Every day for approximately the next month I split my time between cold emailing people at companies I wanted to work for, having coffee with more people than I can remember, doing countless interviews, and working full-time on an organizational design project as a freelance consultant with a Fortune 100 company. Like I said, crazy times.

Finally, finally, finally it looks like those crazy times are coming to an end.

Last week I started work as the first employee at a new organizational design consulting firm called The Ready. I love it. I love what we’re doing and I love that I can finally pull in the reigns of my time and attention to focus on one thing. I’m finally getting an opportunity to catch my breath, buy some furniture for my apartment, take stock of what's working and what's not and, most importantly, regain some focus. 

Somewhat understandably, I think, I had been letting some things slide while moving to a new city, starting a new job, losing that job, working as a freelancer, and then finding a new job dominated my attention. My PhD work has sputtered along with nary a substantive sentence or p-value calculated since the middle of the summer. My physical fitness and meditation practice — both aspects of my life I value and know play a huge role in keeping me grounded and feeling halfway decent about myself — have mostly laid dormant. My website, as you may have noticed, has mostly gone quiet as well. My monthly newsletter sits untouched and averaging a decidedly un-monthly release record. 

I think focusing on a limited number of activities and truly diving into them as deeply as possible is the only way to do something that matters. In the past, I’ve counteracted this belief with my own skills in being productive and organized. Because I’m good (usually) at self-managing I’ve always taken on a bit more than I can comfortably chew. This time around, though, I need to truly take some of my own medicine. I’ve met my match productivity-wise. I’m simply trying to do too much and worst of all…

I can feel my PhD momentum slipping away. 

I’ve always told myself that I wouldn’t be one of “those” people who gets ¾ of the way through a PhD, gets a job, and suddenly gets completely stuck on making any academic progress. I study self-management for God’s sake — how sad would it be if I couldn’t self-manage myself into a completed degree? The past couple months have shown me how this happens, though. Just keeping my life moving in the right direction and my head above water required me to set my PhD progress aside. Not a huge problem in itself, but I’ve realized that every day my PhD work stays on the shelf it becomes even harder to get back into it. The guilt builds to the point where it feels like not only do I need to get started on it again but I need to make sure the next time I sit down and work on it I knock a serious chunk of it out. But… that sounds time intensive. And tiring. And I don’t have time and I don’t have the energy. So, it continues to sit and get scarier and scarier.

I refuse to let this happen. I have spent too much time and too much money (sunk costs, I know, I know) to let this fall apart. More important than the time or money, though, is that I’m sticking my foot into an area of research that I think truly matters. Organizations are changing rapidly, the future of work is going to be crazy, and I’m doing research that will help people and organizations be better.

So, here’s the plan:

SamSpurlin.com, TheWorkologist.com, The Workologist Newsletter, and my personal coaching practice are all going on indefinite hiatus.

I’m officially releasing myself from the expectation of maintaining these sites or businesses. I mean, I haven’t been writing anyway but I’ve basically felt consistently bad about it since about June. That ends today. TheWorkologist.com archive will stay up and if I’m moved to write something at any point in the future I will do so but for now The Workologist and the newsletter are indefinitely paused.

I can already tell that there is a weight off my shoulders by making this decision. This is one small step that allows me to focus a little bit more. I won't have to feel badly when I'm working on my PhD work because I'm also neglecting this website. My capacity to feel bad and do good work can only be pushed so far. I’ll revisit this decision in a couple months once I see what kind of progress I’m making on my degree.

You can still find me on TwitterInstagram, and on my nearly weekly podcast I do with my buddy Eric, The File Drawer. Keep an eye on TheReady.com as well because it’s likely that will be evolving with my input. 

It has been a wild ride! Here's to a newfound focus and to finishing this damn degree!

The List #24

Photo by Len Matthews

After a bit of a hiatus I'm bringing back my weekly link roundup, The List. Kick back with a tasty beverage of your choice and enjoy the best of what I've read recently.

P.S. Did you know you can see everything I love in Instapaper? I only share a tiny segment of everything I thought was pretty great each week. Check out that link for more great stuff to read.

To Stop Procrastinating, Start by Understanding the Emotions Involved - The Wall Street Journal

"Dr. Sirois and Dr. Pychyl also have focused on short-term mood repair as an anti-procrastination strategy. They teach people to recognize that they might have strong emotions, such as anxiety, at the start of a project but to not judge themselves for it. The next step is just to get started, step by step, with a narrow focus."

Amazing how most advice regarding self-development is some flavor of, "Feel the fear and then do it anyway." It's the simplest yet hardest advice to actually use.

Oliver Sacks: Sabbath - The New York Times

"And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest."

With Dr. Sacks recent passing I've been devouring his writing across the internet (and plan to dive into his books soon). This article is profound.

Commuters, unite! Why cities around the world need to design better routes to work - Quartz

"Poor or lengthy commuting has been linked to (in no particular order): weight-gain, neck pain, unhappiness, anxiety, lower life satisfaction, lower sense of worth, divorce, depression, stress, mental health issues, and other health issues from increased exposure to air pollution. A 2014 study of 60,000 UK commuters correlates commuting with depression and anxiety."

I've been extremely lucky in my career so far to avoid lengthy commutes (not hard to do when you are a full-time graduate student living near campus or working for yourself). I've done enough driving in Los Angeles traffic, though, to have my heart go out for everyone who has to sit in that day after day after day.

A Big Little Idea Called Legibility - Ribbonfarm

"Here is the recipe:

  • Look at a complex and confusing reality, such as the social dynamics of an old city
  • Fail to understand all the subtleties of how the complex reality works
  • Attribute that failure to the irrationality of what you are looking at, rather than your own limitations
  • Come up with an idealized blank-slate vision of what that reality ought to look like
  • Argue that the relative simplicity and platonic orderliness of the vision represents rationality
  • Use authoritarian power to impose that vision, by demolishing the old reality if necessary
  • Watch your rational Utopia fail horribly

The big mistake in this pattern of failure is projecting your subjective lack of comprehension onto the object you are looking at, as “irrationality.” We make this mistake because we are tempted by a desire for legibility."

As someone interested in organizational change this made me pause and think about my assumptions. Meaningful organizational design and change needs to avoid this trap.

A Look at the Painstaking, Intricate Art of Globemaking - The Atlantic: City Lab

"Ask Peter Bellerby, one of the few people left who still makes globes by hand. Nowadays, globes are mostly made by machines, and Bellerby says he knows why. “It’s horrendously difficult. You have to retrain your body to work in a much slower and guarded way,” he says. “They’ve got to want to do it and not be beaten by the process.” It took him more than a year to learn the art."

I never realized I wanted a globe. Now I do. Also, in the realm of people making awesome things by hand, I'm not sure how I wasn't aware of Anthony Bourdain's little web series, Raw Craft. Ignore the product placement and enjoy these short little episodes of craftspeople doing their thing.

Creating An Organizational Design Consulting Firm for the 21st Century

Photo by Chris Ford

I had been on the lookout for a company like Undercurrent for many years, was aware of Undercurrent for about a year, courted Undercurrent to hire me for about 8 months, and worked for Undercurrent for three weeks. Ever since its demise I've been thinking a lot about what the next truly influential organizational design consultancy of the 21st century should look like. Undercurrent wasn't perfect but I think they were doing a lot of great and new things along that path. Now, there's a huge gap in the market for a company to rethink what it means to do organizational design consulting. Given the state of the market, here is my opinionated take on what a company who wants to be the next big thing in the world of organizational design consulting should focus on.

The Goals

The organizational design consultancy of the 21st century is essentially tasked with helping organizations navigate a world that is rather hopelessly unpredictable, chaotic, and exceedingly quick to change. Organizations are increasingly relying on people who are highly-trained, expensive, and creative who likely have many job options and an increasingly greater expectation to be given opportunities to do meaningful work. These organizations need to become more like living, evolving, learning, and resilient organisms or networks and less like top-down, oligarchical, and brittle machines. They need to be able to make things happen quickly and entice their expensive talent to stick around while bringing their entire creative and motivated selves to the audacious challenges they face at work. Simple, right?

I believe we are seeing the limit of the gains pure organizational restructuring can accomplish. In a company where physical products need to be created and moved from place to place there’s much to be gained from restructuring organizations to amplify efficiency. In a world of knowledge work the key competitive advantage resides more in the ideas of employees and the ability to bring those ideas to fruition quickly. The growth of self-organizing principles we are seeing many companies adopt today is merely the initial forays into a tectonic shift looming in the near future.

How do you prepare for that?

How do you cut through bureaucracy so your most motivated employees feel like the organization is there to amplify their good ideas, not cover them in bureaucratic leeches until they are bled dry? How do you create an environment that facilitates the highest level of performance from employees not because you're standing over them with a stick or dangling a carrot in front of them but because you are giving them opportunities to exercise some of their most innate desires -- to do meaningful work in a supportive environment? How do you create a culture of knowledge workers who view themselves as craftsmen/women on a path of increased mastery over time where personal development and professional development go hand in hand? Oh yeah, and how do you keep making money so the company continues to exist?

The organizational design firm of the 21st century will necessarily have to be selective about the types of companies they work with. The consulting firm who gets this right will not only select the companies who obviously "get it" but will be able to teach and convince those companies who are tottering on the fence between a more traditional way of viewing business and the more responsive, humane, and ultimately more successful way of working.

This may sound fluffy and overly “soft” but I wrote all of the above with the goal of the company's economic health front and center in my mind. In a world where a company needs to grow and evolve like a living organism it is unreasonable to expect it to thrive when its individual parts are being damaged, restricted, or poisoned. A healthy organism has healthy internal components and a healthy sensory system that allows it to navigate it's world. Organizational design in the 21st century will be all about the care and feeding of that organization -- both internally and helping guide it through it's ever changing world.

The Approach

The organizational design firm of the 21st century is going to have to actively work toward resolving (and even embracing) a set of paradoxes internally (with its own existence) and externally (with its clients):

  1. Long-term perspective vs. short-term focus: As a company how can you break outside the market-driven forces that encourage a short-term focus on economic outcomes in order to make long-term decisions for the company's health? How often do companies that claim to be trying to tackle problems of truly epic proportions get sidetracked by the next quarterly earnings call? At the same time, can you have a truly long-term focus but also adopt a mindset of constant iteration and rapid short-term sprints toward a goal?
  2. The power of scale vs. the power of the individual: Software has unlocked the possibility of complex data analysis in a myriad of domains. At the same time, organizations are comprised of individuals. How do you embrace and understand scale while also embracing and respecting the individual (employee and customer)?
  3. Being responsive vs. being proactive: To what extent should an organization be able to respond to the rapidly changing external forces it faces versus to what extent should organizations focus on creating the environment in which it resides? Can an organization be reactive and proactive?
  4. Using data vs. embracing humanity: Is it possible to both be data-driven and also in touch with the "humanity" of an organization? To what extent can or should data be used when talking about meaning, motivation, and inspiration of human beings? How can an organization find useful avenues for data and an understanding of the "softer" aspects of an organization?

In addition to these paradoxes, I think there are a few foundational questions that this new type of consulting firm should obsess over asking:

  1. To what extent can we help organizations enhance the psychological & human resources they already have to meet the challenges they can't even predict?
  2. To what extent can we help organizations identify and tweak their components (team dynamics, environmental factors, culture etc.) in a systematic and holistic way to drive positive change in how they function?
  3. To what extent can we identify points of friction in the way an organization works and then offer truly foundational advice about removing that friction, not just treating the symptom of that friction?

The Services

What will the organizational design firm of the 21st century actually sell? What will be delivered? How will impact be measured? I think it goes without saying that every client engagement would be a highly unique and specialized affair starting with an intense discovery and sense-making effort. What's next?

A few ideas:

  1. Coaching around “new ways of working”: On a one-on-one basis across the entire scope of the organization, from executive, to managerial, to front-line workers there could be coaching on new ways of working. Coaches would emphasize the habits and behaviors that allow individuals and organizations to work more effectively (i.e. anti-procrastination techniques, self-leadership strategies, the development of psychological capital, etc.). A good coach should be able to help individuals develop the meta-cognitive skills and self-reflective behaviors that can drive long-term habit change even after the coaching engagement ends.
  2. Embedding teams/individuals within organizations: Consultants would shadow teams and individuals within the client organization. While this would provide opportunities for formal coaching sessions or workshops, it would also allow for a much more nuanced understanding of how things actually get done in an organization. With that more nuanced understanding the recommendations and interventions could be much, much, smaller, accurate, and simpler. I believe many of the friction points that exist within organizations are so embedded or subconscious that they never appear during interviews or surveys. Only by embedding into an organization will these friction points become visible, and therefore addressable.
  3. The setting and behavior change facilitation of strategy: Strategy consulting is not new. Helping leadership teams articulate and set strategy is a time-honored role of consultants. However, I view this 21st century organizational design firm taking it a step further and pushing, facilitating, and evaluating the action/behavior change that should emerge from a strategy session. What are the behaviors that should change based on our strategy and to what extent can we as consultants find avenues to help people (leadership and otherwise) practice these behaviors?
  4. Organizational development: This new firm will have to be adept at all the more traditional outlets for organizational development (and perhaps this is where some specialization may occur across the industry). Hiring, culture change, compensation, onboarding, physical space ... the list of possibilities is long. In each case, this firm should be able to both dive deep into the latest and best organizational psychology, sociology, industrial psychology, and other relevant academic fields, make sense of what is useful, and then carefully bring that knowledge to bear on the stated problems of the organization.
  5. Organizational re-design: There are new ways to organize companies and the organizational design firms of the 21st century need to be able to facilitate the adoption of those new ways of organizing if that is what the client wants or seems to be the best approach to improving the client organization. These can be self-organizing principles or wholesale adoption of systems like holacracy or Spotify's guilds. No system is a silver bullet and the organizational design consultants of the 21st century will both build our understanding of the contexts in which these systems work (which is an area of knowledge we are woefully lacking) and accurately facilitate the development of these systems at the appropriate time and in the appropriate situation.

Conclusion

No consulting firm is doing what I just laid out -- not even Undercurrent at its peak. From what I can tell there are some firms that are trying to do bits and pieces of it but nobody has really made a concerted effort at uniting it into a cohesive whole. The opportunity to embrace the uncertainty of this new type of consulting and possibly be the early dominant force is truly staggering. It's going to take people who aren't wedded to an old style of organizational consulting or design consulting or anything else that may poke around the edges of a true organizational design practice.

For what it's worth, I'm still looking for my next gig. If I just a.) inadvertently described your company or b.) described the direction you're trying to go with your company -- we should talk.

Otherwise, tell me what I'm missing. Where am I wrong? Where am I right? Let's push this way of thinking forward together.

I Was Just Laid Off From My Dream Job... After 3 Weeks

Photo by Glyn Lowe

UPDATE - I have since found a new job working for The Ready, a new organizational design consulting firm. 

---

When I started graduate school in 2011 I was intending to build my own boutique coaching and consulting firm. I wanted to take positive psychology and figure out real ways to bring this stuff to people and organizations who could benefit from it. Looking around at existing consulting companies I didn’t see anybody doing anything remotely close to what seemed interesting and worthwhile to me. I wanted to get into the nitty gritty of how groups and individuals actually do their work. I'm fascinated by what I call the "moment-to-moment reality of work" and I knew there had to be ways I could use this fascination to bring about real change. I figured the only way I was going to get what I wanted to do was to create it myself.

That was until I was introduced to Undercurrent.

The first time I sat down and read their website I realized that this was a group of people doing the exact work I wanted to be doing on a scale I’d never be able to accomplish on my own. A huge part of Undercurrent’s business was literally called “Ways of Working.” Anybody who knows me in real life should realize why this company and what it does is so exciting to me. Literally the same day I read the website for the first time I emailed them inquiring about how I could possibly join the team. I had finally found my people. Now, I just needed to convince them they needed someone with my background and experience on the team.

That process took a long time and I’ll spare you the boring details, but in early July I moved across the country (Los Angeles to New York) and started working for Undercurrent.

Unfortunately, Undercurrent was acquired by a larger company, Quirky, in April. Quirky is not a consulting company and apparently didn’t have much of a plan for how acquiring Undercurrent would be beneficial to both sides. Instead, Quirky has slowly, and then very rapidly, been circling the drain as they failed to secure additional fundraising. I knew about Undercurrent’s situation when I decided to move across the country to join them. I knew Quirky’s fundraising situation was not good. I knew that morale was low at Undercurrent. I knew that Undercurrent had faced a ton of turnover recently. I decided to take the plunge anyway. And today that plunge ended with the end of Undercurrent.

Ultimately, it was surprisingly simple decision to pack up my life and make the trek across the country to join this company. My dream job was literally dangled in front of me. How could I have not taken it, even given the uncertainty of the situation? If there's even a 5% chance that Undercurrent would make it through this incredibly shitty acquisition I had to take it. I wanted to join this company and meet all these people, even if just for a very short time. It was easy for me to take the plunge, take the risk, and hope for the best. Sure, I think I was optimistic that there was no way this highly profitable, highly desired, extremely capably staffed organization could be destroyed by external forces. I was naive. I thought Undercurrent would somehow, miraculously, pull through this incredibly unfortunate situation and emerge victorious, if not battered, on the other side. 

It looks like I was wrong.

Four weeks after moving to New York, three weeks after starting my dream job, I'm now unemployed, living in New York with a brand new apartment lease, sitting on some debt from moving across the country, and dealing with a hell of a lot of uncertainty about what I’m going to do next.

I know some of my (now former) colleagues probably think I’m insane for voluntarily joining this shipwreck in its late stages. I came into this with clear eyes about what might happen and even though it’s incredibly frustrating to have a taste of my dream job before having it ripped away, I’m glad I got to experience it at all. 

Thank you to Undercurrent for the opportunity — I wish it could have been during better times.  I’m going to miss everyone at the company I only just met. I hope our paths cross again in some capacity and I’m excited to see what everyone goes onto next.

P.S. If you want to work with someone obsessed about making business, work, and life better shoot me an email.

Getting 1% Better

Sometimes work sucks.

Your colleagues can be morons, your bosses seem incompetent, your clients are clueless and... wait, no, not again, NOT AGAIN... someone finished off the coffee in the break room without starting a new pot.

Competence, let alone excellence, can often seem like a lost cause. In many cases, it can seem like the only way to get your organization from whatever it is today to something resembling excellence is to (figuratively) burn it to the ground and start fresh. While that path may be potentially cathartic I’d like to suggest a slightly different approach that starts with a simple idea that has the power to transform organizations of any size.

I often worry that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that organizations are comprised of people. Individual people who face a multitude of decisions everyday about how productive, engaged, and motivated they're going to be. Individuals who have their own intrinsic interests, motivations, quirks, pet peeves, conscious and sub-conscious desires, and proclivities for growth, challenge, security, and tolerance for ambiguity. What would happen if organizational improvement was re-framed in such a way that these individuals with all their strengths and weaknesses took center stage? Instead of being cogs that help run this system or follow that process individuals become the drivers and agents of positive organizational change.

In a nutshell, here's my basic idea -- if you have 1,000 people in your organization what would it look like if all 1,000 of them got 1% "better" (more productive, more inclined toward action, more reflective, more thoughtful, more engaged, more motivated, more empathetic, more whatever it is that you need more of in your organization)? And not only 1% better one time, but 1% better everyday. For years.

A traditional take on getting the organization to "work better" often includes one or more of the following: restructuring, arbitrary rules or guidelines from "the boss", requiring the use of a new piece of software or process for doing something, and threats. Each of these approaches ignores the fact that we're dealing with human beings. Human beings who have a remarkable ability to adapt, a desire to do meaningful work, and powerful intrinsic motivation toward feeling autonomous, competent, and related to each other (e.g. see Self-Determination Theory).  These approaches can be attractive because they have the appearance of making broad change very swiftly. A memo here, a decree there, some newly installed software here, some training, maybe a workshop or two and voilà, organizational change!

Not so much.

What would encouraging your people to get 1% better (whatever that looks like for your organization) look like? What barriers would need to be lifted? What changes would need to be made to the organizational environment or culture to encourage people to push themselves to get better? How do you facilitate the trust among a group of people that makes someone feel safe enough to take the step outside their comfort zone that growth requires? What kind of leadership does that require?

Answering those questions for your specific organization and context takes time, experimentation, and effort. What works for your company may not work for someone else's. A good starting point, though, are some examples of what 1% better in various areas might look like at your organization:

  • Everybody developing the habit to constantly ask "what's the next action?"

  • Encouraging people to keep a log of what they've worked on to help build momentum and a sense of progress (with iDoneThis, perhaps?)

  • Developing the expectation that you will leave a meeting crystal clear about the decisions that have been made and who is doing what

  • Starting and ending meetings on time as a matter of course

  • Being vigilant in finding and rooting out friction and small annoyances borne of inattention

  • Cultivating the ability to concentrate when working on a tough problem

  • Developing a healthy relationship with information overload and digital distractions

  • Not sending unimportant/non-urgent emails to colleagues on evenings and weekends

  • Giving a coworker the benefit of doubt when hit with unpleasantness from them

  • Leaving work each day with a plan for tomorrow

  • Not being afraid to ask a question versus toiling in uncertainty

I think you get where I'm going with this. None of these ideas have anything to do with mandates "from the top," new systems, new processes, or mass organizational upheaval or restructuring. In fact most of these may seem asininely simple. That's what's so beautiful and maddening about this entire topic -- all of our work lives would be so much better and our organizations more effective if everyone took the asinine, the simple, and the obvious more seriously. Each of these ideas are about individual people being a little bit courageous and a little bit driven to make their immediate experience at work a little bit better.

I've experienced this as a virtuous cycle, a positive upward spiral inspired by the people around me. I notice the people in my team getting a little bit better, being more on top of their game, and pushing themselves a little bit more and it causes me to do the same. Nobody likes the feeling of being left behind. I stop showing up to meetings late after the fifth meeting in a row a key decision was made without me in the room because I was late. I stop turning in projects late when the norm in the department becomes promptness. Social comparison can be a powerful force (and not just for keeping up with the Joneses). I get better, my team notices, and they get even better. And then I get better. And so on.Oversimplification? Perhaps.I'll admit, I make it seem simpler than it is. How do you handle social loafers, out of touch management, or a scarcity of resources that precludes any thought of getting better because it takes every bit of effort to simply survive? How do you go about hiring, retaining, and promoting the type of person who is energized by the idea of getting a little bit better every day? How do you cultivate the culture that supports this mindset? All of these are tough, honest, and relevant questions.

But, for now, let's just sit with the idea of what everyone in your organization getting 1% better in whatever metrics matter to your organization would look like. We’ll tackle those challenges in time but we can’t do anything if we’re not on board with the idea that we can each be a little bit better and that the idea of getting better isn’t insane. Not saying it won’t be difficult, just that it’s possible, right?

Making your organization better is going to have to start with you. Here’s a couple ideas to get you started:

  1. Assess your typical day/workflows and figure out what is less than optimal in whatever manner matters to you. Make a list.

  2. Take one item off that list and figure out a couple ways you could address it. Hate the weekly staff meeting? See if you can figure out a way to make it a tiny bit better. At the very least, you have control over your portion of the meeting and how prepared you are. Try to set a high bar for everyone else.

  3. Before you leave work today take a look at your calendar, your to-do list, and everything else you have going on and make a plan for the first 90 minutes of your day tomorrow. What can you do to ensure tomorrow will be a tiny bit better today?

Have other ideas? Share your thoughts about how you plan to get 1% better in the comments below!

My Research Needs Your Help

[youtube=://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2f26X2fwo4&w=854&h=480]

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If you've been reading this website for a while you undoubtedly know I'm a PhD student. As such, I'm expected to do research. Today, I'd like to invite you to participate in that research.

This project is aimed at better understanding the world of work, particularly in terms of what makes work meaningful, enjoyable, and desirable. To participate in this study you simply need to be an adult and be involved in some kind of employment (full-time, part-time, self-employed, student, or some combination thereof). The study consists of two 10-minute surveys. One you take immediately and the second one you will be emailed a week later. After you've finished both surveys you will a.) be entered in a raffle to win a $50 Amazon gift card and b.) have the option to participate in a second study involving the opportunity participate in an online training course (and the potential to win another gift card).

-- SURVEY CLOSED --

EDIT - This survey has been closed. Thank you to all who participated! If you'd still like to participate in future research you can join my research mailing list here and be notified of future opportunities.

Photo by janneke staaks

On Being Less Persnickety

Photo by Szoki Adams

My strengths can sometimes manifest as crippling weakness. 

I have strong opinions about things. Many things. Things like the freshness of the coffee I'm drinking and the method in which it was brewed (roasted no more than two weeks ago and brewed via Aeropress or Chemex, please), what I listen to while working (an instrumental playlist I've been curating for years), what I want my work environment to be like vis-a-vis the type of work I'm trying to do, the location I'm working vis-a-vis my current mood, the software I use to complete my work (I've researched everything I use to death), the pens and notebooks I use (Black Pilot G2 .07 and a hardcover Moleskine), and so on. I think you get the point.

I like this about myself. I think being discerning about the areas of your life that affect important things, like how well you're able to work, is a good idea. I know all my tools inside and out. I know I like everything I use and this helps flatten the runway to getting good work done.

On the other hand... damn, I'm persnickety. 

When do "being optimally discerning" and "being debilitatingly persnickety" start to overlap?

There's another way of working and being that appeals to me and it's the complete opposite of everything I wrote above. It's the idea of being completely unflappable regardless of what's going on around me. Of being able to use anything to do great work because my ability to do great work has transcended the quality of the tools available at my disposal. That my ability to sit down and concentrate is equally likely in a secluded writing nook as it is in a bustling café. The idea that I need nothing except my brain and the crudest of tools to get my work done.

The situation I want to avoid is needing a pristine environment and tools to get meaningful work done. I don't want to let less than ideal situations become an excuse to doing great things. 

I need to take some steps in the opposite direction so here are some ideas I'm going to start baking into my work routine more often to make sure I'm not letting my persnickety-ness take over:

Deliberately practicing working in distracting situations. Going to the café to work without my headphones. Sitting in the noisier part of the library. Working in a different location than I'm used to. 

Taking breaks from coffee. Drinking tea instead. Or maybe nothing. Or maybe just water. Show myself that I don't need a specific beverage to be awesome.

Deliberately break my morning and evening routines. Getting up late! Going to bed late! Getting up absurdly early! Going to bed absurdly early! Not to bed at all! It's time to get (occasionally) crazy with how I conduct my daily routines. Working in my pajamas. Working in a tuxedo. Working naked (that'll have to be a work from home day, I think).

Using less than ideal tools. Only working from my iPad for a few days! Using a public computer! Writing an article in long hand on the back of scrap paper with crayons! Writing an article in Microsoft Word! Using first party apps only!

Setting some process goals. Committing myself to a specific goal like writing 1,000 words per day and sticking to it no matter what. My personal feelings of inspiration and motivation become irrelevant if my commitment is to create a certain number of words every single day.

Man, even writing some of these out is giving me the heebie jeebies (which is probably proof that I need to do it). 

The key balance I need to learn to strike is that it's not bad to have standards or preferences for how I do things but it is kind of bad to confuse preferences with requirements. Uncovering preferences is fun and often quite meaningful but confusing them with requirements is a quick way to stop making progress on the projects and goals that matter the most to you.

Where do you stand on this equilibrium? Could you benefit from figuring out some preferences that will support the way you like to work or are you like me and perhaps need to take a step back and re-calibrate your persnickety ways?

Rethinking The Growth and Care of Organizations: A Proposal

As The Workologist Newsletter subscribers know, I recently "gave myself permission" (it's complicated) to look for a full-time job in addition to continuing to run and develop everything I'm doing with The Workologist. In a nutshell, I've been entirely entrepreneurially focused since quitting my high school teaching job and coming to graduate school in 2011. There's nothing wrong with that kind of single-minded focus but I've realized that it has limited me from other potential opportunities that might be just as rewarding as trying to develop my own company.

All that is to say I've been perusing cyberspace over the past few weeks in an effort to see what kind of job opportunities are out there and even dipping my toes in the water when I've seen something I like. There are a handful of positions with companies I admire out there but unfortunately I have seen nothing that 100% matches what I'm visualizing someone with my skill set (or a similar one) could bring to an organization.

I'm writing to propose a new position that companies should be hiring for. I don't have a good name for it yet (I'd love to hear your ideas.) I'm also 95% sure this position doesn't already exist in most companies but if it does exist in yours then props to you. From what I can tell not many companies are thinking about what an organizational development/positive psychologist/coach/personal productivity expert/researcher could bring to the table.

Firstly, let's lay out what someone in this position would need in order to do this job well (in no particular order): insatiable curiosity around what it means to do great work on an individual, team, and organizational level; a deep knowledge of productivity best-practices and the contextual factors that limit or enhance each; coaching expertise; a working knowledge of foundational positive psychology, organizational psychology, cognitive psychology, and leadership theories and concepts; the interpersonal skills to facilitate small group discussions, workshops, and one-on-one conversations; a deep appreciation for the power of scientific experimentation and the willingness to use those principles in the quest for more efficient, meaningful and productive work; and a dedication to uncovering the best processes, systems, and approaches to helping an organization operate as efficiently and meaningfully as possible.

Easy as pie, right?

I think the benefits of having someone on the team who is constantly thinking about how to amplify everyone else's impact on an individual level ("making people better"), at the group level ("making teams better"), and at the organizational level ("making systems and processes better") would be huge. That's not to say this is the only person who would be thinking about these topics. However, hiring someone whose express job it is to think about and act on this stuff not only ensures that someone is thinking about it, but it frees up everyone else to use more of their cognitive ability for the substantive work that justifies the organization's existence. The pace of work in most companies is accelerating and being responsive, agile, and innovative may be buzzwords but they also ring true for many companies striving to make an impact in the world. Someone in this position not only frees people up to become more fully engaged in their primary work tasks, but also ensures that everything else that can be done to amplify the effectiveness of the organization is being done.

This isn't a general HR position or a short-term consulting gig or even a training and development specialist. I'm talking about someone who is much more baked into the everyday processes and interactions in an organization and whose only job is to make sure everyone else can be even better in their roles. One person could cover a ton of ground if their primary responsibility was to simply ensure that the organization was firing on all cylinders (and to maybe find cylinders that aren't even firing yet). Obviously, a small organization needs everyone to be operating at full capacity at all times in order to be successful. However, small organizations and startups often quickly grow to the point where questions need to be answered about organizational structure, norms, culture, etc. that often get (not) made by default (to everyone's detriment) instead of being consciously and deliberately decided. The person in this role would be expected to notice when this is happening and step in to facilitate the process of making these decisions consciously.

Hopefully I've been somewhat clear for what this position might entail. To make it even clearer, here's an extremely partial list of job responsibilities and actions this person would need to do:

  • Figure out what training/development/support individual employees need and either develop or find the appropriate resources.
  • Figure out what training/development/support teams need and either develop or find the appropriate resources for them.
  • Assess communication (how we email/text/Slack) and operating norms (how we schedule meetings, run meetings, do our daily routine work, make time for non-urgent but important work, how we keep track of who is doing what and by when, etc.) of the organization and suggest/facilitate tweaks where necessary.
  • Work with managers to develop their ability to successfully coach their employees.
  • Work with employees to develop the psychological resources (self-efficacy, hope, optimism, resilience, grit, self-leadership, etc.) to thrive at work (and beyond).
  • Work with members of the leadership team on developing leadership capabilities.
  • Assess and facilitate tweaks to physical workspaces given the best environmental psychology evidence.
  • Stay up to date on organizational psychology research that may be relevant to the organization and translate/synthesize findings into useful information for all members of the organization.
  • Be constantly thinking about how the organization goes about getting it's work done and note areas for improvement.
  • Support all members of the organization in the quest to make work a meaningful growth experience through the way each person approaches their work and makes sense of their role in the organization in an effort to support job satisfaction, engagement, and ultimately organizational performance.

Many of these responsibilities are currently offloaded to a hodgepodge of training and development specialists and consultants or thrust upon already overworked managers. The psychological health of an organization is too important to spread across disparate departments and individuals. It needs to be treated holistically and managed intelligently. I'm convinced bringing a positive organizational psychology trained, personal development and personal productivity obsessed, experienced coach and generally insatiably curious person into the fold of an organization would have huge ramifications.

The best way I can think of to describe this position is as a catalyst that is constantly circulating through an organization to make sure all the chemical reactions that need to be happening are happening. That areas that need a little boost are being boosted, that areas needing a little cooling get cooled, that by coordinating all the disparate reactions that are happening across the entire system the overall effect can be more explosive and productive than anyone ever expected.

Photo by Marcus Peaston

The Emotions of Meaningful Productivity #2: Fear

In the first article of this Emotions of Meaningful Productivity series we took a look at the idea of whether "being a productive person" was a personality trait outside the realm of our control or more like a skill that can be learned by everyone. Now, I'd like to move into the realm of fear.

Fear and its various incarnations could probably be a series of articles in itself. For our purposes I'm going to focus on three primary types of fear that we often have to wrestle with when deciding to get organized or try to become more productive. There are certainly many other types (and they may make an appearance in this series later).

Last time we talked about the desire to do meaningful work broadly whereas this time I'd like to focus on the feelings of fear that can emerge when implementing some kind of productivity system like Getting Things Done. The specific system doesn't matter. What I'm talking about is the desire and effort to get a complete handle on everything going on in your life -- responsibilities, commitments, goals, aspirations, and day-to-day minutiae. Systems like GTD are great for that but they require us to come face to face with some pretty intense fears.

Fear of Completion

A huge component of GTD is getting your mind to 100% empty and relying on your external system to hold reminders of everything that's going on in your life. For many people, this imperative to get to 100% complete is extremely daunting. Not only is the sheer amount of information often intense but the emotional component of seeing the entirety of your life on paper can be unexpected. For some, looking at a complete record of everything going on in their life evokes feelings of, "Oh my God, how am I ever going to do all of this in one lifetime?" It's utterly overwhelming. However, some people often have the exact opposite reaction. They see the representation of all their responsibilities, commitments, and goals in front of them and think, "That's it? My entire existence has been reduced to a few pieces of paper?"

If you've ever experienced resistance to getting to 100% complete with any kind of productivity system then you might be wrestling with this type of fear.

Fear of Routine

GTD has always caught flak from a certain type of creative professional who argues it's incompatible with their type of work because it's too structured. People fear systematizing the various components of their life because they think it'll cause them to lose the spontaneity and serendipity they think they rely on to be effective professionals.

If you've ever felt this fear when contemplating some kind of overhaul around how you think about and organize your work I encourage you to dig a little deeper. Are you using this fear as a crutch for why you're surrounded by discord? Is it possible that there are better ways to nurturing and developing your creative career than by letting administrative details and other "boring" parts of your work and life fall through the cracks?

In fact, is it possible that when you have a complete organizational system or approach to running your life you'll free up attention, energy, and space to do truly creative work? Does having a handle on everything going in your life truly lock you into a soulless routine or does it potentially allow the mental space for more spontaneity and creativity?

Fear of Being in the Moment

A byproduct of being truly organized and on top of your game means you can give your attention to one task or activity at a time. With less chaos floating around in the background of your mind and environment there are fewer and fewer excuses for not diving deep into what you're trying to do. It becomes easier to truly be in the moment with whatever you're doing. Whether that's writing a report, hanging out with your spouse, or paying the bills.

Being in the moment can be a vulnerable experience. It can be mentally taxing. It can rile up emotions that are normally tamped down by layers of mental and emotional detritus. A lack of organization can result in a reality where you're comfortably numb with everything you're doing. You don't necessarily feel great about it but you certainly don't feel too badly about it either. Being in the moment can be like moving from the bland middle bit of the emotional continuum and toward the poles. That's not to say you'll swing from mania to depression but that what you're feeling will be clearer and more intense. Like cleaning a dirty lens or removing a filter between you and the world. Scary, eh?

It's not my goal to psychoanalyze you via the written word or give exceedingly general advice that may or may not apply to anyone reading this piece. The process for working through each of these fears looks very different and chances are not all three apply to every single person. Therefore, all I can say at this point is to try to spend some time in quiet reflection if you've ever had trouble "getting organized" and see if any of these three fears resonates with what you've experienced. If so, how did it manifest? What did it feel like? What might be a first step to overcoming that fear?


I love connecting with readers via Twitter or through email. Feel free to reach out and ask questions or leave comments via either of those channels. You can also sign up for the Mailing List where I send out a newsletter each month with a new article just for subscribers, announcements about upcoming projects and products, and an ongoing discussion about what's going on at The Workologist. You also get a free copy of my 53 page workbook about using positive psychology to make your work life better.

Photo by Alyssa L. Miller

Workologism #10: Start from a Place of Strength

If you're trying to "get organized" or declutter an area of your life, instead of tackling the gnarliest possible project, start with something super easy. Find one area of your life where you're already very organized and build out from there. For example, try starting with one of your hobbies.

Let's say you enjoy fishing. Presumably, if you enjoy fishing you keep your equipment in a relatively orderly state. Now, what is another area of your life that slightly intersects with this hobby and needs some attention? Maybe your car (I'm guessing you drive to wherever you go fishing)? Now your fishing gear and your car are in good shape. What's next? Garage? The dresser where you keep your fishing clothes? Keep radiating outwards until you encompass more and more of your life.

Once you get a handle on these physical spaces it may be easier to begin wrapping your arms around the more ephemeral aspects of your life (work commitments, goals, aspirations, responsibilities, etc.).

Photo by tunnelarmr

Thoughts on my Imminent Vacation

What are the emotions at play that make us want to stay connected to work and our normal everyday routine when we're supposed to be on vacation? Why do we seem to be unable to separate ourselves from this often stress-inducing expectation to operate as we always do while on vacation? Why do we feel the urge to check in with email, Slack, Twitter, and the other tools of our normal day-to-day life when we've explicitly traveled to another location ostensibly to remove ourselves from our day-to-day reality?

Part of it is that we like this stuff. At least, I know I do. A notification represents a positive (even a microscopically positive) change in my equilibrium. Somebody likes a thing I did, somebody posted an article I'm interested in reading, there's a nice photo, here's a new opportunity, there's a positive update on a project. We are all buried under an avalanche of nearly imperceptibly positive inanity.

That's not to say there aren't overtly negative aspects to our biggest online time wasters, too. In my own life, though, these are far outweighed by the positive (and if they weren't then I probably wouldn't have as hard a time as I do shutting them off). Does this onslaught of mildly positive affect dilute us or maybe distract us from something worth experiencing?

I think so.

An unrelenting haze of micro-positive interruptions and outlets may take the place of boredom, curiosity, and the uninterrupted time they used to come out and play together – with potentially powerful results. I wonder if my vaguely positive but usually entirely dull digital life prevents me from having insights, ideas, and emotions that never get to see the light of day? What areas of my life requires a recipe more refined than unrelenting mild positivity, interruption, and constant stimulus? What might be hiding under the warm and admittedly comfortable blanket of my mundane usage of modern technology?

Self-awareness? Creativity? Deeper relationships? Mental clarity? A willingness to dive deeper into a single subject or experience?

I don't have any answers but I do often wonder I might be giving up to support my addiction to the steady stream of retweets, text messages, listicles, faves, likes, gifs, and faux antique digital photos I allow into nearly every moment of my waking life. Why not use this vacation to peel back that familiar layer of my life and poke around beneath it?

When I wake up Monday morning to get on the train that will take me to the bus that will take me to the plane that will take me to a beach across the country I will be trying to live by a couple rules:

  • No email. I am not an important enough person doing important enough work for anything to break, blow up, or die if I don't respond to email for a week (most of us aren't -- we just like to think we are). 
  • No Slack. See above. The world will go on without me.
  • No Twitter. Twitter is both a pleasant distraction and a useful work tool. I need neither of these during my vacation. Tweetbot (along with Mailbox and Slack) will be removed from my first page of apps and all notifications will be turned off.
  • No Facebook. No Instagram. I will be in the midst of my own relaxing and rejuvenating experience. I don't need to see others' good times'. I will try to take some pictures but they will be for my own creative expression.
  • No RSS feeds. RSS is a normal part of my work day routine. I have no interest in propagating my normal work day routine to my vacation location. All the interesting articles will be waiting for me when I return.
  • No podcasts. While I have nothing against podcasts I view them almost as audio candy. They are nice to ingest during the busy times of a typical work week but I'm looking to make this vacation a rejuvenation experience. I have no room for candy in this rejuvenation attempt.
  • The same logic applies to what I have saved in Instapaper. This vacation is a time for me to dive into something longer and meatier – not blast through a series of articles about tech, psychology, and everything else I read and write about everyday.
  • Needless to say, no Mendeley or Evernote or Things or anything else that helps me run my hectic and productive life. Hectic and productive are not my buzzwords for this vacation.

That's a whole lot of things that I'm NOT going to do. Almost makes you wonder what I AM going to be doing, right?

  • Reading on my Kindle. I'm not sure what, yet, but I will be reading copiously. I'll probably read some kind of fiction because that's what I'd be most likely not to do during my everyday life.
  • Writing in Day One. Each day (or whenever the mood strikes me) I want to pull out my iPad and write in Day One. This won't be a log of what I'm doing but simply a place for me to do any stream of consciousness writing that seems appropriate.
  • Listening to an audiobook.
  • Nothing. About three days in to this weeklong vacation I will probably hit a point where the first twinges of boredom will arrive. My hope is that I'm successfully able to do nothing instead of looking for some mental stimulus in the form of one of my no-nos from above.
  • Walking/wandering.
  • Conversing with loved ones, strangers, sea gulls – who knows.
  • Taking pictures.
  • Writing in my analog notebook whenever writing in Day One doesn't seem appealing.
  • Thinking.
  • Simply being outside as much as possible.
  • Meditating.

Hopefully I come back rejuvenated and ready to conquer another couple months of doing meaningful and challenging work. At the very least, I know I'll at least have a tan and an overflowing inbox. 

I'm okay with both.

Photo by espos.de