Work shy?

In defence of idleness
Our instictive aversion to freeloaders was an evolutionary response to pre-industrial times. But it is a maladaption in our present environment, an atavistic anachronism. There is now – and there is likely to remain – a shortage of jobs. In this world, the fact that some (few?) people don’t want to work should be welcomed, as it increases the chances of getting work for those who want it.

If the suit fits…

At last, the rules.

How to tell your suit fits
1. Shoulder pads end with your shoulders.
2. Your flat hand should slip easily into your suit under the lapels when the top (or middle) button is fastened. If you put a fist in, the suit should pull at the button.
3. The top button of a two-button suit — or the middle button of a three-button suit — should not fall below your navel.
4. With your arms at your sides, your knuckles should be even with the bottom of your jacket.
5. Jacket sleeves should fall where the base of your thumb meets your wrist.
6. Between a quarter and a half inch of shirt cuff should be visible.
7. One inch of break.

Turning regrets around

Coping with Career Regret
The should haves are hard to turn off. “I should have gotten that promotion.” “I should have never chosen Public Relations.” “I should have left my job long ago.” These should haves eat at you, particularly if you are comparing your career to the careers of others. …

The right approach is to replace the “should haves” with “what ifs.”

It pays to be pragmatic sometimes

“Do what you love” is not great advice
Not all passions match up with the realities of the job market. If you’re passionate about poetry or painting, you’re going to find very limited job opportunities for those things. Other people’s passions are their friends or their family, or home-making, or dogs, and again, there’s not much of a job market built around those things. But those are lovely passions to have. And in those cases, it makes sense to find work that you can do reasonably happily, while pursuing your passions when you’re not at work. And that’s completely okay.

Book making

Book making

That’s not a proper book
There’s only one copy of it, unlike a proper print run. Technically all I’ve done is printed one copy of the web page for personal use. But it feels odd. Books are usually mass produced. With a few clicks I could print off as many copies as I want with no additional work. Scaling atoms like you scale software. And it baffles the author when you ask them to sign it.

He’s made a book. Or just printed out an article from the web. Can’t tell which, but would love to give this a go myself.

Watching music

Or: Why listening to music makes me think of art gallery gift shop postcards and running down steep hills

Mr @robertbrook has an email newsletter and he recently shared with us a Michael Nyman Band youtube video, Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds.

I think Michael Nyman’s stuff for Peter Greenaway’s just brilliant, so resonant and immediate. The first thing I heard of his was the soundtrack to the first Greenaway film I saw, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (the whole thing’s on youtube!), with Memorial making a big impression. Apparently, “edits of Memorial appear throughout the film, with the entire twelve minute movement accompanying the final scene and end credits”. And then there’s the music from The Belly of an Architect, but that’s Wim Mertens. But anyway, here’s another one of his, Time Lapse, from A Zed & Two Noughts.

Those clips are just wonderful, but they got me thinking. About how I think about listening to classical music without seeing it, without having the benefit of seeing the musicians create this stuff, these sounds, out of thin air. It reminds me of art gallery gift shops and seeing all those fabulous, majestic paintings reduced to little postcard-sized rectangles of card. Actual postcards, really.

If you see a postcard of a Pollock or a Hockney or something, it’s pretty obvious that you’re not getting the full “picture”. You might be looking at a faithful, full colour reproduction, and it may well serve as a great reminder of the picture you’ve been staring at for about 20 minutes, but a ton of stuff has been lost. Not just in the scale, but in not being aware of the physicality of the painting anymore. You can’t see the brush strokes, you lose that direct link with the artist. (I love looking at brush strokes and pen marks, seeing that the artist was just there, his hand must have been just actually there, the same place, just a different time. Sometimes I even put my hand in the same place, the actual same place in space, relative to the canvas, obviously. I think I may have well have shouted out a little “Ah ha! Gotcha!” when staring at that Pollock and seeing where he had gone back over those strokes to touch them up and improve them. (Random? Not entirely.) Anyway, you don’t get the impact of the original’s presence, or force, with a tiny little postcard.

And I think it’s the same with listening to classical music, especially orchestral. (Well, not just orchestras, it’s exactly the same with things like string quartets. I loved watching the Tippet Quartet thrash out that Piazolla piece, not Libertango but something else. Can’t find it now, but it was that evening they were playing music inspired by Hitchcock and Herrman, including some of these. It was fantastic watching the music bounce from one player to the next, whirling round and back again, quicker than your eyes could follow.) If you’re only listening to it, you’re not fully experiencing it, you’re missing out on all this. If you can’t see all the performers really going for it, busting a gut to get all their notes in, exactly in tune, exactly in time with the conductor and the other players (do you remember as a kid running down steep hills, going so fast you were sure you were going to fall arse over heels, but you couldn’t stop, all you could do was keep going, all of your energy and determination going into just trying to keep up with your legs, taking all of your strength to maintain control whilst your legs independently propel you forward faster than you thought possible, the crash only ever moments away, but you manage to keep in control, keep it together till you get to the end? Speaking as a complete non-musician, I imagine playing Bizet’s L’Arlesienne might feel a little like that. I certainly feel like roaring “Come on, come on, you can do it!” towards the end at them, and jumping up “Yeeaah!” when they finally get to the end, like some desperate football fan at someone who’s just been sprinting up the wing, full pelt, to bang it in the net), if you can’t see all that rush and energy, you’re missing out on loads of stuff. You’re only seeing half the picture.

Project management, psychoanalysis, and hell

A very timely little piece from contentedmanagement.net (great name) on the dangers that lurk within our projects

Project hell is others
L’enfer, Jean-Paul Sartre tells us, c’est les autres. This is so commonly and simplistically mistranslated as “hell is other people” that it’s become something of a fallacy. Hell for Sartre is not other people; it’s others. It’s about our faulty relationship with others and most particularly our psychological other, our id: the basic, instinctual drives that motivate us to seek out pleasure or avoid pain. Those instinctual drives are very much at the heart of every project.

Read the rest of this post to understand how a more psychoanalytical approach to our projects, combined with project management frameworks, can stop us making an infernal mess of things.

It’s January! That must mean blog posts about motivation!

A couple of things I’ve found about everyone’s favourite topic this time of year, motivation. (Ok, everyone except Charlie Brooker.)

Common sense advice dressed up as another ‘hack’ on how keeping a daily log of your achievements can help you stay focussed on your goals.

Keep a diary of your achievements to stay on course in 2012
Once you’ve started, it’s important to ensure that you remain on course and the actions you take on a day-to-day basis are steering you towards to the ‘Promised Land’ known as Success. Writing down your achievements at the end of the day, rather than just crossing them off a to-do list as you go along, has more benefits than you might think.

Read the rest of the article and see for yourself. Sounds like just another thing to add to the list, to me.

Compare that with this, from the real world. A fascinating insight into the meh mind of Dave Seah, as he attempts to write himself out of the doldrums through a better understanding of what motivates him, and how.

Plotting for motivation
I’d hoped to do a lot of work done this weekend, but I came down with a bad case of the blahs. Instead of going to sleep at a responsible time, I stayed up late and consumed a lot of television and Internet in an attempt to drown out a growing sense of malaise. And instead of getting up early, I slept-in and then berated myself ineffectually. Apathy ruled the day. Zonked out in bed very late Sunday morning, I started to trace through the likely causes of my unproductive bout of ill humor, establishing a preliminary framework of understanding to help realign my attitude.

Read the rest, and see if the framework he comes up with rings any bells with you. Very interesting.

Should I be here?

Presenteeism
Presenteeism or working while sick can cause productivity loss, poor health, exhaustion and workplace epidemics. While the contrasting subject of absenteeism has historically received extensive attention in the management sciences, presenteeism has only recently been studied.

Certain occupations such as welfare and teaching are more prone to presenteeism. Doctors may attend work while sick due to feelings of being irreplaceable. Jobs with large workloads are associated with presenteeism. People whose self-esteem is based on performance, as well as workaholics, typically have high levels of presenteeism.

Books, productivity

Wired UK article about Anobii, “a virtual book club”

“Amazon is the destination for purchases but not necessarily for inspiration”, explains Anobii’s CEO.”‘What am I going to read next?’ is the question we want to answer.” Fair enough, but how many of these social-media-book-clubs do we have now? And they all want to be the only one, the Amazon equivalent.

Leo Babauta, from zenhabits.net, summarises what he’s got up to in 2011. Loads.

His “don’t procrastinate, stay in the moment” message is behind all his blogs posts and has led to several productivity and llfe-coachy ebooks. This productivity-through-present-centred-awareness thing comes up often on the web, with Mr GTD Allen being the most prominent I guess, but these Zen Habits posts cover this area very well too.

Chronodex

Start the New Year with a new kind of calendar and download the Chronodex Weekly Planner 2012

Very intrigued by this calendar template with its unusual radial design. It looks very appealing–complete with instructions on how to bind the PDF pages together to make a proper calendar in book form–but I can’t help wonder how practical this may prove to be, day to day. Might give it a whirl though.

How users of this new Chronodex calendar system have customised it to make it their own

With its white space around the circles to encourage ‘radial thinking’, a number of people have taken up this new calendar format and customised it to suit their setups better. Follow the links to Flickr and Facebook pages for more.

Productivity, charts, students

The Done Manifesto Lays Out 13 Ground Rules for Getting to Done
The Done Manifesto is a set of working rules based on a sense of urgency. No time for careful deliberation, move on.

Liking Rule 4 a lot:

4: Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.

Preventing Cancer – Chart Porn
The key is a bit complicated at first, but there’s lots of interesting information here.

Why ‘students as customers’ is bad for policymaking
Are students becoming more like customers? Do they consider themselves consumers? In the abstract, it is a philosophical question, except that it is so emotive in the higher education context that it is rarely approached with philosophical objectivity.

Introversion

Caring for your introvert
Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

Worrying, meditation, SharePoint

Scheduling ‘worry time’ may help you fret less
First, patients must identify and realize when they are worrying. Second, they must set aside a time and place to think about these worries. Third, when they catch themselves worrying, they must postpone worrying, and instead focus on the task at hand. Finally, patients are told to use the time they’ve set aside for worrying to try and solve the problems their worries present.

A guide to meditation for the rest of us
“Why meditate, especially if you’re not planning to drop everything you’re doing and Google for the closest mountain retreat? If you’re anything like me, meditation will help you realize just how far, and how fast, your mind can wander from what you’re supposed to be doing at the moment. In an age of multitasking, hyper-scheduling, and instant internet distraction, that alone can be a huge help. Beyond just anecdotes, it’s also been suggested that meditation can actually exercise your brain’s “muscles” to increase focus, and has been shown to lower stress and increase forgiveness among college students who take up the practice.

What is SharePoint good for?
Rob Koplowitz said that SharePoint was a Swiss army knife of a product that had a huge array of different features. A service like Box.net was like a screwdriver – it did one job (filesharing). But if you only want a screwdriver, why buy a Swiss army knife?

Overseas students, FOI, productivity

Colleges lose licences in immigration crackdown
More than 470 UK colleges have been barred in the last six months from accepting new foreign students from outside Europe, the Home Office says. They either had licences revoked or did not sign up to a new inspection system – part of government efforts to curb abuse of the immigration system. It estimates the colleges could have brought in 11,000 students.

Universities UK response to Home Office update on student visa changes
Beyond the substance of these arrangements, it is essential that the government considers the way in which the rules are communicated externally. It’s important that the UK appears ‘open for business’ to those individuals who are genuinely committed to coming to the UK to study at one of our highly-regarded universities. We must also be conscious of the impact that cutting down on pre-degree courses is having on our universities. Many universities operate pathway programmes with a range of providers. It is estimated that more than 40 per cent of all international students arrive through this means.

Tweets could now be considered valid FOI requests
According to recent guidance published by the ICO, tweets addressed to an institution may constitute valid Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

What kind of worrier are you?
And this list actually made me feel better because, while I checked off the majority of them, I realized I still have plenty of things to worry about that I hadn’t even thought of! Score!

Productivity Future Vision
In 5-10 years, how will people get things done at work, at home, and on the go. Watch the concept video to get a glimpse of the future of productivity, then explore the stories and technology in more detail.

Take a more realistic approach to your to-do list with the 3 + 2 rule
At the morning you think you can do a, b, c, d, e. But then something goes wrong with b and you spend much more time on it than you anticipated. Subsequently you can’t finish c and d and you feel like you haven’t done enough. Let it be. Instead of having unrealistic expectations, just acknowledge that you can do only 3 big things and 2 small things. Do them and call it a day!

From scroll to screen

The Mechanic Muse — From Scroll to Screen
The codex also came with a fringe benefit: It created a very different reading experience. With a codex, for the first time, you could jump to any point in a text instantly, nonlinearly. You could flip back and forth between two pages and even study them both at once. You could cross-check passages and compare them and bookmark them. You could skim if you were bored, and jump back to reread your favorite parts. It was the paper equivalent of random-access memory, and it must have been almost supernaturally empowering. With a scroll you could only trudge through texts the long way, linearly.

Over the next few centuries the codex rendered the scroll all but obsolete.

Meetings, sketchbooks, stress

The experience must be finished to enjoy the fruits of the effort
Disorganized meetings with no well defined goals inhibit positive communication and lead the participants to wonder if the organizers of the meeting really know what they are doing.

Pretty obvious really, but useful prompts nonetheless.

David Cameron has banned the use of mobiles and Blackberries in his meetings. The BBC asks what would happen if our workplace did the same.

Certainly, fiddling with your phone in a meeting doesn’t look good, but perhaps what people are doing on them is only what other people are doing on their laptops. They get to look all keen as mustard and productive and whatnot, typing away notes (or looking like they are), so why are we mobile phone users not equally given the benefit of the doubt and assumed to be working appropriately too? (I think in my case it would be fair to assume I’m tweeting and not working, but THAT’S NOT THE POINT.)

Some photos of Irina Vinnik’s wonderful sketchbook. This is how you’re supposed to fill a moleskine.

I’m very jealous. The doodles I make in meetings never come out as good as this. I need to go to longer, more dull meetings, I guess? I’m compelled to dig out my old moleskines and bring them to work next week.

Stressed staff can’t get no satisfaction
People working in higher education are “dissatisfied with their jobs and careers” and are “stressed at work”, according to new research. … Staff were asked questions about job satisfaction, well-being, work-life balance, stress at work, control at work and working conditions using a Work-related Quality of Life (WrQoL) scale devised by Darren Van Laar, a Portsmouth psychologist.

Twitter strategies, visualising data, managing projects

Template Twitter strategy for Government Departments
You might think a 20-page strategy a bit over the top for a tool like Twitter. After all, microblogging is a low-barrier to entry, low-risk and low-resource channel relative to other corporate communications overheads like a blog or printed newsletter. And the pioneers in corporate use of Twitter by central government (see No 10, CLG and FCO) all started as low-profile experiments and grew organically into what they are today. But, having held back my JFDI inclinations long enough to sit down and write a proper plan for BIS’s corporate Twitter account, I was surprised by just how much there is to say – and quite how worth saying it is, especially now the platform is more mature and less forgiving of mistakes.

50 great examples of data visualization
50 of the best data visualizations and tools for creating your own visualizations out there, covering everything from Digg activity to network connectivity to what’s currently happening on Twitter.

University of Edinburgh Records Management Section – advice on freedom of information, data protection and records management
The Records Management Section provides help and advice to all units of the University on information management issues including records management practices and procedures, data protection and freedom of information.  We are also responsible for the Central Records Registry and the day-to day management of the records of the central administrative areas formerly known as Policy and Planning.

University of Edinburgh Projects Web Site
A one stop source of information about University IT projects – Templates and methodologies to assist in the successful management of projects – A filing system and repository for project related documentation – A communication vehicle for keeping stakeholders informed about project progress.