Bookmarked What’s Wrong with the Way We Work by Jill Lepore (The New Yorker)

Americans are told to give their all—time, labor, and passion—to their jobs, Jill Lepore writes. But do their jobs give enough back?

Reflecting on the death of Maria Fernandes while sleeping in her car between shifts, Jill Lepore reflects on the world of work in America. This includes looking at the history, as well as the place it serves in our life.

It is interesting to think about this at the moment in Australia where there is a lot of discussion about people working in quarantine hotel also having a second gig.

Replied to The Industry Standard Myth by Chris (

Turns out that, for the most part, a word processor is just a word processor, a spreadsheet is just a spreadsheet, a video editor is just a video editor, and so on. It’s their points of difference that make them interesting, but if you’ve never tried anything else then you won’t know what those difference are.

I enjoyed this Chris. It reminds me of an experience from a few years ago where we moved to Dropbox as a collaborative solution to fit with the ‘industry standards’, rather than grow and morph our expectations.

we can spend forever looking for the perfect fix. However, the fix is only part of the solution. In addition to going through the process involved in coming to a decision, what we actually do once we have made that decision to change is just as important. What everyone really needs to learn is how to overcome various hurdles and hiccups. So often people think that the answer to problem solving is to holla for the nearest technician. Although there are some issues which we can’t solve, there are many which we can with a little nous. No matter how simple the solution, there will always be a problem that needs to be overcome. We need then a change of mindset, not to simply change the program every time we have a problem.

It also has me thinking about my current work. I came into the role without any knowledge of the system we use. I begged, borrowed and listened my way through, tinkering and testing various pieces and processes. I actually think that it has been helpful in not having any knowledge, but instead having the right approach.

Replied to Weak Ties & Strong Intros (

When you first start out as an independent you won’t have a clear vision of the work you do and you’ll inevitably lean hard on your strong ties to generate clients. That’s fine! It’s how it’s supposed to work. But to succeed in building a sustainable practice you’ll need to learn how to cultivate a large surface area of weak ties and create a clear, memorable image of the work you do so that your weak ties can make strong intros.

Although I do not work as a ‘consultant’, this piece left me thinking about how other weak ties would introduce me in my current position, let alone the narrative I tell. I guess this is the difference between being the master of your own narrative, compared to being in a position where your narrative is often dictated by others.
Bookmarked The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done by Cal Newport (The New Yorker)

Cal Newport on the 43 Folders blogger Merlin Mann; the late productivity expert Peter Drucker; the author David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” method; and why G.T.D. doesn’t address the anxiety and inefficiency associated with e-mail overload, a phenomenon that knowledge workers experience in the office.

Cal Newport reflects upon the history of productivity hacks, from Druker’s management by objectives to Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero, and suggests that individual actions are not enough. As most of us lack the power and control of our processes, we instead require management intervention.

In software development, for example, it’s widely accepted that programmers are most effective when they work on one feature at a time, focussing in a distraction-free sprint until done. It’s conceivable that other knowledge fields might enjoy similar productivity boosts from more intentional assignments of effort. What if you began each morning with a status meeting in which your team confronts its task board? A plan could then be made about which handful of things each person would tackle that day. Instead of individuals feeling besieged and resentful—about the additional tasks that similarly overwhelmed colleagues are flinging their way—they could execute a collaborative plan designed to benefit everyone.

I think the biggest challenge with this is as much about mindset as it is about process. It is interesting to consider this alongside discussions around distributed leadership.

Bookmarked 10 ways to become Time Rich (Medium)

My fifth book, Time Rich: Do Your Best Work, Live Your Best Life, is now available!

Steve Glaveski goes beyond ‘stealing‘ time to being proactive about how you use your time.

Tip #10: When you say “yes” to something, you’re saying “no” to everything else, and that might include your own priorities and goals.

Tip #9: We are aup to five-times more productive when we get into the ‘flow state’, or ‘the zone’.

Tip #8: The amount of energy required to keep a ball rolling is less than that required to get it rolling in the first place.

Tip #7: 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes.

Tip #6: If it’s a step-by-step process-oriented task, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Tip #5: Human beings tend to work on things long after the point of diminishing returns has been reached — we’re kind of like Forrest Gump running into the change-rooms after scoring a touchdown instead of stopping to celebrate.

Tip #4: Stop defaulting to meetings for everything, and if you must, keep them short — 15 to 30 minutes.

Tip #3: If you value your time at $100 an hour, then why are you still doing tasks that someone else will happily do for $10 an hour?

Tip #2: Reflect often on how you are spending your time. Be objective — what’s adding value and what isn’t?

Tip #1: Do work that aligns with your strengths, values, interests and market opportunities.

Liked Working from home was the dream but is it turning into a nightmare? (

I’m picking up a distinct impression that the novelty of WFH has begun to wear thin as we realise that the pandemic might turn out to be a very long haul indeed. And the more we are obliged to interact with the technology at home, the more acute our perceptions of its implications and downsides are becoming

Replied to Weeknote 33/2020 by Doug Belshaw (

There are many people who don’t get what I do, or why I do it. Sometimes I don’t really understand either. What I don’t need to spend time doing is wasting my life interacting with random bad faith actors — i.e. the ‘dogs’ barking at things they don’t understand.

Glad to hear that things are on the up Doug.

It is interesting working in project which has the intent of making my work obsolete, that is creating resources and building the capacity of others so that I am not depended upon so much. The challenge I am finding is that you can make something ‘reproducible’ however if the person in question does not actually want to reproduce it and follow your recipe then you are in trouble.

On ‘Doug-shaped’ things, I have recently been engaging with a few things from cricketer, Justin Langer. He talks about continually recentring around what matters. It kind of left me wondering, to borrow your point, what is ‘Aaron-shaped’? I do stuff, but I am not always sure what shape it really is.

Bookmarked Our remote work future is going to suck by Sean Blanda (

Why are we always assuming a distributed workforce is a good thing for the worker?

Sean Blanda provides a different perspective on remote work. He discusses the focus on tasks, rather than time; the ways in which people can become forgotten; the creation of a culture of disruption; and a disruption to career growth. In response, Blanda believes companies should be encouraged to invest in the cities in which they are based, managers should trust employees to manage their own schedule, and remote work should be opt-in rather than required.

Some of this reminded me of Peter Ford’s Rise of the Robots, where he talks about offshoring as the first step towards automation.

As technology advances, we can expect that more and more of the routine tasks now performed by offshore workers will eventually be handled entirely by machines.

Replied to

Doug, what about when your desk/workspace is in the middle of an open planned living space 😱
Replied to by Colin WalkerColin Walker (

It seems likely I’ll be working from home until at least the end of September but this house really isn’t a good fit for that – the longer this goes on the worse it gets. I see so many pieces of advice detailing how to better organise your work day, separate your work area, work in sprints and take regular breaks, but there is no room to distinguish work from home while my role is predominantly reactionary and I must be available. I have next to no control.

And then we can add to that being bombarded by continual bad news despite trying to avoid it.
The world is a roiling sea o…

I remember being told early on that you need to draw lines. If only. I have had to support our daughter who has been learning from home, while our open-planned house is not easily ‘locked off’. It is a bit different with schools returning in Australia, but a part of me wonders if this will have a return to people looking for houses with a study/work space?
Liked On Running an Office Like a Factory – Study Hacks – Cal Newport (

This shift from push to pull is just one idea among many that could help make better sense of the chaos that defines modern knowledge work. As I argued recently, the time has come to start seeking these ideas. We can no longer allow the efforts in this sector to unfold as a haphazard cascade of email messages and hastily organized Zoom calls. We need to take seriously not just how much we work, but how this work is organized.

Replied to Weeknote 23/2020 (Open Educational Thinkering)

What I’ve been up to this week.

I really like how you framed your beginning Doug:

Note: these weekly reflections of mine are by their nature introspective. Any small hardships I experience as a privileged middle-aged white man are nothing to those experienced every day by those whose skin just happens to be a different colour to mine.

I wondered if I should even write (or publish) my recent newsletter, wondering if it were a case of privilage.

Congratulations on your choice to explore new beginnings. I was interested in your point about being good at something.

The past year has had me more in ‘manager’ role than ‘innovator’ role, which is another reason that I decided to wind down my role at Moodle. After all, just because other people tell you are good at something doesn’t meant you enjoy doing it.

It has me thinking about my own work. I have found myself good at far too much.

In an interview discussing life under lockdown, Charli XCX shared:

I’m in my house and I’ve walked around every room and noticed things about my house which I’ve lived in for four years, but I really do feel like this is the first time I’ve lived in my home and made my house a home.

This time has given cause to notice some spaces that have long been overlooked, as well as see others in a new light. After reading Erin Bromage’s breakdown of the different risks associated with the coronavirus, I wonder what work will look like moving forward? Will there be a move against open planned spaces? Will work spaces become smaller to diversify the risk? One thing I am confused about is how a back-up ‘secret’ space protects a business when the risk relates to who is actually in the room?

Virginia Trioli asked the question, what have you learned from living in lockdown? I have learnt that it is very difficult to do ‘deep work’ without a wife, especially when you are trying to work in a shared space. It can be easy to say you do not have the time, but I have found finding physical and mental space a bigger challenge.
One of the challenges to social distancing and working from home has been redistribution of space. Habits include particular expectations about the use of space. This all changes when you can no longer leave and go to the park or work. Open planned works until all of the sudden you want to commandeer the kitchen table to become your office. I was however left grateful after reading this account of a couple cooped up in a tiny house.
Listened The Jubilee: Fill Your Boots | Cory Doctorow’s by Cory Doctorow | Cory Doctorow’s from

My latest podcast (MP3) is a reading of my 2017 Locus column “The Jubilee: Fill Your Boots ,” about the nature of material scarcity, which is a subject of enormous significance at this moment as production has ground to a halt, and in which the use of the internet to coordinate our activity is at an all-time high. The essay’s thesis is that the answer to the climate change crisis might coordination, not privation — holidays when our renewable energy sources weren’t producing, work when they were. Making hay while the sun shines. Given the enforced time off so many of us are living through, the ideas are more salient than they were when I started thinking about them in 2017.

Cory, this was definitely interesting to reconsider with the recent move to working from home.

I also liked your closing message.

Maybe our challenge is to learn to live with pandemics and develop coping mechanisms that help us.

The coronavirus has brought about a change where I have worked at home this week. What has been interesting is that although the physical space is different, what has stood out has been the implied responsibility and autonomy. I have missed speaking w/ colleagues whenever required, however it has made me more mindful of how I communicate.
After a frenetic few weeks, I was discussing the challenge of change management with a colleague and how my current role differs from being in the classroom. He said that I was more than a teacher delivers prescribed material, that my efforts to not only solve problems, but also build confidence and understanding make me an educator. I think that is where the challenge is. Think kind of has me thinking about Solo Taxonomy.