Monday, June 20, 2011


I have a busy back half of the year already on the calendar, so I'll be taking the next three weeks off from the blog to finish some long-delayed projects, get myself organized, and squeeze in some R&R.

In short, I saw a window of opportunity, and I'm taking it. If you have the chance to do the same, you should.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Know Your Presenter

Excuse the political message of this piece- watch for three things:

-Simplicity of message. A bunch of complicated ideas are boiled down to easily understood bits;
-A clarifying visual is used to illustrate each one;
-An understanding of who the presenter is, and what his strengths are.

"The Truth About The Economy in 2:15"

Robert Reich is 4' 10", but you have no hint of that in the video. The camera is below his eyeline, making him appear tall. The easel is at his height, keeping the perspectives right. He is well lit, and uses a mic so the audio is clear.

He also has art skills- which provides the visuals that move the piece along. The whole thing is well crafted.

Too often we allow our messages to be overwhelmed by the details. Step back, look at the big (possibly cartoon) picture, and simplify.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I'm working with a busy, talented vendor who does great work. The biggest drawback is they struggle with communication.

A work request goes on their To-Do list, but they can't or won't estimate when it will be finished. The work is brilliant when it comes in, and deadlines are met, but the awkward silence during the development process can be disconcerting. You have to decide whether the level of work is worth the silence.

If you do awesome work and your dance card is full, you can let customer service slide. Most of us don't have that option.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Time For Each Tool

We have a universe of communication tools at our fingertips, but I see little consistency in how they are used.

How I like to operate:

Twitter: Great for general broadcasts, but you can't be hung up on who will and will not see it. Too much is outside your control.

I hate trying to have a private conversation via Twitter DM. Too little space, too easy to broadcast the private to the public.

Email: Much better for specific information and thoughts longer than 140 characters. Odds of your email message being seen? Pretty high, especially if the person you are emailing wants to hear from you.

Phone: Gotta know something right now, or i know a two minute call will replace a twenty email chain. Get the answer already.

Skype: Better than physically traveling, but often just a phone call with pictures.

Facebook: Not for work communication. Between you and customers, sure, but not between you and vendors or colleagues.

For both of you who are trying to get a hold of me, you now have the ground rules. Your mileage may vary

Monday, June 13, 2011


We are all too close to our work, and things slide by.

I just noticed a typo on this blog that had been there for months. How embarrassing.

But I brought it on myself by not asking a friend who is good at that sort of thing to take a look at the blog and help me rid it of the mistakes. I assumed my work is solid.

Solid is not bulletproof. Get someone to ride shotgun with you.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Occasionally I start projects too quickly.

Just dive in, head first, let's get to the fun part of creating.

As a result, sometimes I go rushing past the important foundations the creative is built upon, and end up backtracking to make things right. Time and money are lost. I feel like a dork.

I see this on large projects, too. The group rushes to get things built without fully fleshing out what the end needs will be. Costly adjustments have to be made on the fly. Time and money are lost.

The concept of premortem is appropriate for situations like this. At the start, the team visualizes all the ways the project can fail, then attempts to mitigate the various risks. The chances of success rise as a result.

The end should always influence the beginning.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I love sarcasm and snark in general. Guilty pleasure.

But it can also be a barrier to others, and I have to pick and choose when I roll it out. You have to understand whether those around you are going to get the joke the way you intend it.

Understanding sarcasm requires understanding the context behind it- without it, the joke is lost. Self-deprecating sarcasm can come across as arrogance, which will immediately separate one from their listeners.

If everyone is in on the joke, it can be wonderful. Anything else will be awful. Use sparingly.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


It doesn't apply to every workflow, but there is tremendous advantage to doing work in batches.

My work often arrives in bunches, where I will have 10 individual projects within one big project. There are a variety of ways to attack the work.

Some would do Project A start to finish, then dive in on Project B. If each project is different or requires customization, that's the best way to go.

But if each of project is a variation on a theme, or 90% similar but get painted a different color, batch all the work except the painting. (I would paint all at the same sitting, too, but you see where I'm going.)

Even though I'm reasonably good at each of the steps in my workflow, I notice that I'm better at each step if I do all of the action in that step at once.

This can be expanded lots of work that we often do on an individual basis, especially if we generate content. I often write a week or two worth of blog posts in one sitting, and let the software ship a new one each morning. I scribble notes during the week, then sit down and write, often on Sunday night. I feel that my writing is better, and that I do it in less time. When I add more content streams to my professional life, I will develop a batch method to them, also.

I've also cooked multiple entrees on a Sunday afternoon, then reheated each night during the week. I cook when I have the time for it, reheat when I don't. One big kitchen mess beats five little ones.

Some things don't lend themselves to batch work- like mowing the lawn. Batching my writing and cooking lets me mow when the lawn needs it, not when it's convenient to me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Have you ever watched someone spend 20 minutes scrolling through the Netflix menu looking for something to watch? You can almost hear their brains freezing up at the options.

In this case the "cost" of making a bad choice- losing an hour to a film you don't like before giving up- is almost zero, yet the endless choices raise the perceived cost. With so many choices, the "perfect" bit of entertainment must be there, so anything less may be perceived as a failure.

The restaurant menu gives your options, but also your limits. We need the limits to begin to narrow our choices.


Monday, June 6, 2011


I'm assuming the term "Rolodex" has gone out of fashion, and thus we need a new term to use.

As in:

"Do you have a good accountant in your Rolodex?"

The question is both literal and symbolic. I need a name from you, but I trust your recommendation.

"Address book" and "contact list" doesn't have the same cache. Submissions please.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Off The Grid

It doesn't have to be "off the grid" in the literal sense, although it helps to divorce one from the electronic tether back to the office, but unplugging from the daily info stream is an important part of my mental processing.

I've found my productivity has bumped up a notch simply by turning off email notification. The steady "Ping" was enough to drag my workflow down during the day, while simply checking in once I've finished the task of the moment is quick enough to satisfy everyone on the other end of the email. One or two hours of steady focus is drives far more value than instant response to queries.

In a similar way, turning off the electronics for a day or two and doing anything else- a nice walk, a chapter of that 500 page book you've been working on, a chat with your spouse- brings more focus to the job wen you return on Monday than stringing it out mentally all weekend.

Summer is a good time to develop the unplugging habit. Start tonight.


Thursday, June 2, 2011


I'm the first to admit that there is too much to know today.

Too many software tricks to cram in. Software updates that come at you too quickly. Changes in tax law you must account for. A client list that needs constant nurturing. The new hot social media platform all the cool kids are talking about. The app that is turning heads. A Kindle full of interesting ebooks, a mailbox full of trades, an RSS feed with 500 updates a day.

Plus a family that wants to say hello on occasion.

Editing the list of demands becomes more important each day. Prioritize, delegate, lean on the specialists in your contact list. Hiring someone to do something in 2 hours that would take you 10 is probably money well spent.

Nothing insightful here- just a reminder that we all have reason to feel overwhelmed, and that it's okay not to know everything. You can't- but be sure to admit it.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Eating Frogs

There's a school of thought that if you do the thing you dread the most first thing in the day- like eating a frog- you get the dreaded thing off your plate and the rest of the day seems easy.

There's a good plan, but what if the thing you need to do first is something you actually like to do?

If you come in early because you are eager to start, is it still a frog?