Monthly Archives: July 2013

Doing dangerous work

We’ve all done dangerous work. Some of us do it more than others. I’m struggling a bit with it at the moment.

It’s work that you do to not do more important work.

I blame myself, and the method I use to do it is seeing other ‘want to dos’ on a list. The painful noticing has happened because the put-off tasks have turned red in Habit RPG. That is not to say I was unaware of putting them off…

Many articles about productivity encourage you to do your most important work first, minus distractions and minus small tasks. I admit that I’ve not put a lot of effort into working this way so far; I have an ‘addiction’ to minutiae that lets me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Then when deadlines creep up, I am forced into the biggest, scariest task.

I don’t really know the way around this yet. Have you ever used a tactic to get around that ‘slow to start’ feeling?

Advertisements

Making public commitments

Committing to something is eeeeasy. When you don’t tell anyone about it. Or do anything real about it. Sheesh!

I’m working on committing, at the moment, to a whole lot of things, and identifying what I’m committed to.

And our difficult homework this week was to tell 3 people what we’re committed to. I went a step further, and told about 30 people… by emailing them about doing an interview with me for my Masters research. And told my boss. And my supervisor. And various friends.

So I guess that homework’s ticked off…!

My supervisor, on chatting with her about the research, said that all that’s left to do is actually *do* the work. She’s right. This is proving the hardest thing, and also why you’re getting a blog post right now.

It’s exactly why so many student houses get reeeeeally clean around exam time.

The only thing that I can think of to keep my anxiety-ridden mind off the enormity of it all is to break it down into smaller and smaller pieces. Which HabitRPG helps with, incidentally.

Next post, I think, will be reactions from a 2 weeks (or however long it’s been) of using HabitRPG. Fun kinda tops the list, oddly enough!

Planning communication: what’s so exciting about it?

How boring and positively UNspontaneous. How staid. Planning communication! Instead of being off-the-cuff and free, and truthful. Right?

Wrong.

But how is planning communication exciting? Firstly, valuable context: at work, we’re getting ready to do a communication planning workshop for an organisation that works in a tricky space.

To outside appearances, it’s a pretty simple process. We get some info from them, run a workshop with people, then come back with a plan.

Wrong!

We do a whole lot of work in the meantime to make the workshop work. We research before working with the organisation, do more research after, do a plethora of interviews and thinking and analysing beforehand.

In some ways, I would argue that the communication plan, the shining ‘holy grail’ of the process, isn’t even the final product. I think the shared understanding that comes from people in the organisation sitting around and thrashing out all the issues is the ‘shiniest’ benefit of the process.

The other thing is, the whole process appeals to my perfectionist, comprehensive nature. See, we get to go over so much material, gather each item’s small gems, interview everyone and make sure all the issues are covered off, then analyse it and dump it (carefully) onto a proverbial table at the workshop.

Before having done this process, I would never have guessed one could get so darn much out of talking. But each issue and possible solutions are sifted through, and the most important parts are picked up. And if it’s done well, most people are pretty happy with the result. And everyone goes forward on the same page.

Now, my boss would say that that’s not the end, and that a communication plan lives and breathes on, but that’s for another day…

What power does the mind have?

Running is a new, perhaps short-lived addiction of mine. Cold mornings, cold evenings, tired – I’m still doing it. This is big news, given my dislike of running.

With a bung knee, not only do normal joints and muscles protest, but my right knee whines and stiffens in protest, many hours after.

And yet – I’m curiouser every day about what my mind can do [can I use the word against?] against my body. This is probably well studied and much used in sports circles, but not often have I experienced this. Pushing further than one thought they could. Pushing harder. Keeping on going when all.you.want.to.do.is.STOP.

It’s a new feeling. And not one just mitigated by the YOULOVEEXERCISING chemical haze of endorphins – it can happen before those suckers kick in.

Why can I make myself keep going until, say, the next song or the next telephone pole?

Do you have fantastic or fanatic experiences with pushing past physical limits?

Can we make every science story interesting?

I worked with a colleague to teach students about the 3 Minute Thesis today – condensing a PhD into an engaging, exciting, simple 3-minute explanation. There were some tough topics – all were interesting when we got into them, certainly – but it got me thinking about whether every topic can be simplified, can be engaging. My initial gut reaction is that yes, anything can. An inner cynic then scrunches its nose up and whines, ‘Really?’

It’s often a case of finding that one story, that one spark that really grabs someone. Perhaps it’s the right example, the right zoom-in to a problem, or a zoom-out. Even finding, despite a complex topic, some humour.

I can see the incredibly interesting topics peeking out from underneath ‘solid’ language and a pattern of how we’re taught to speak academically. There are so many quirky and fascinating stories to be told about research and the passion of the people looking at that work. We’re lucky to spend this time with the students, bringing those stories out and helping them find their confidence to tell them.

Writing often, writing much – another try

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted ‘fur realz’. I’ve got a wackydoo new ‘system’ – as often lurks behind spurts of motivation – that I’m trying. One of the daily goals is to write very short blog posts to get back in the habit of writing often, writing much.

Understanding audience and making posts relevant to readers certainly does not make the process easier – doubts creep in, insidious as air. ‘What have I got to say that anyone will find interesting?’ But I press on. 200-ish words is the aim. Perhaps I can, in the last half, share with you the combination of tools I use to manage my time.

To-do lists? My favourite is Todoist (and no, that’s not a spelling mistake). I love this one – click and drag, keyboard shortcuts, printable lists, again with the simple/elegant layout. Love it.

The only problem is… actually doing the things on the list, right? As always! For this I’m trying Habit RPG. I will update on my progress on that soon.

And lastly, keeping track of what I do work on: I work in a consultancy – so time tracking to individual projects is essential. Toggl gets me there. Simple, simple, elegant interface. Reports I can download anytime I want, or weekly to do my timesheet. Mobile app, web-based or offline software.

And now I can check off one more thing for the day!