Blog Posts

Really? You’re gonna be like that?

imagine-i-cared

I have a generally affable disposition and placid demeanor. A long fuse, if you will, and the ability to get along with many types of people. But there are a few things that get under my skin.

Arrogance

Unless God cut you out of the herd and told you that you are special, get over yourself. Or rather, just be yourself and lose the posturing. If we acknowledge that you’re a big deal, can we move on to building something together instead of stroking your ego?

Apathy

If you really just don’t care, would you please choose a job where your lack of enthusiasm is irrelevant? There’s a good lad. Oh, and try not to infect those who believe that their work matters.

Laziness

You can revel in stillness and do nothing if you want to. Just not here, where people are doing actual work. Take your inaction and work-shifting down to the unemployment line where it belongs. If you can still move, that is.

Obfuscation

Your dream of working for the CIA is admirable, but until they return your call how about sharing what you know with the rest of us working stiffs. Secretive kingdom-builders are neither appreciated nor long endured in a value-oriented culture.

Do you mean Style or Functionality?

old-door-lock

My lovely wife and I own about half of the vintage (old) cedar-sided house where we live in Lilburn. Like an idiot, I painted it a nice chocolate color, so it virtually screams, “Chew on me!” to every nesting varmint in my neighborhood. Decisions have consequences and, yes, I digress.

In the master bath we have a shower stall with sliding doors. It’s a simple affair with chrome trim (aluminum, I’m being generous), a towel bar that doubles as a handle, and semi-frosted glass. Not the fancy frosting they have today but the old warped glass they used circa 1980. You know — the kind that looks like the glass maker messed up? No clear section at the top. No laser-etched roses. Just your basic two sheets of glass that move back and forth, hanging from little plastic rollers at the top.
Do you mean Style or Functionality? Click To Tweet
The doors work pretty well now, but they’ve had issues. Did I drop the vintage hint already? A couple of years ago they were sticking rather badly when you tried to roll them and the results were not stellar. Sometimes, I would come into take a shower and find that the doors were completely jammed — as in pulled off the track and immovable. This was the result of my charming bride (remember her?) getting frustrated with the sticky doors and jerking them upward. Now a semi-violent upward motion, as you might guess, is not the “as designed” movement for a sliding glass door. This pulls the rollers out of their tidy little groove at the top and causes them to, well, not be rolling any more. Instead they are jamming. This is good for guitar friends but bad for shower doors. After a short sigh, I would reset the door by hoisting it up and gently guiding the rollers back into their familiar groove. Somewhere around iteration ten of this cycle, I decided to look more deeply into the matter.

Turns out the rollers, and not the dirty track at the top that I had wiped out several times, were the issue. Obtaining new ones from my trusty Amazon account (any fans in the crowd?), I installed them in about twenty minutes and rehung the doors. Problem solved.

If you toured my home as a potential buyer, and overlooked the clarion call to birds and squirrels, you would eventually look in the master bath. Correctly, you would deduce that the shower stall is quite out of style. The chrome trim is old and starting to corrode around the edges. The glass is boring and there are no special touches to remember fondly to your spouse upon your return home. If you closed your eyes, however, and slid the doors back and forth, you would think these are brand new doors, so smooth is their operation. They are highly functional, but not stylish.

Which brings me, at last, to my point. If you are half as persistent as the birds dwelling in my siding, you are still with me and the payoff is at hand.

Suppose I replaced my shower door frame with something in a nice bronze color, and updated the glass to be clear at the top with a pretty laser-etched drawing in the middle. The shower would look very different. That is, it would have a more modern style. But it would work exactly as it did before. That is, the functionality would be identical — sliding doors hung from plastic rollers. If I changed the doors out to use hinges instead of rollers, the door would then work differently, even if I kept the same style.

Now for the application. You knew there would be one, right? This isn’t a fine art site, after all. The next time you’re in a conversation about software, whether it is a website or an accounting package, and someone confuses you with talk about changes or new features, ask them this question: “Are you talking about the chrome or the rollers?” When they cock their head at you like the RCA dog, clarify with this: “Are we talking style or functionality?” Are we changing the way it looks or the way it works?

  • Look = Style
  • Work = Functionality

Programmers and User Experience experts make things work the way they should. They make software useful and efficient. Graphic Designers and style experts make it look beautiful and be consistent with your brand. Occasionally you will find people who do both.

Hopefully this little trip through my antique animal sanctuary will help you use the right words in your next debate about style vs functionality. I wish you smooth rolling.

 

Photo credit: Atelier Teee via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

14 Ways to be More Productive

wp-productivityInbox overload, chain meetings, and constant distractions can leave you feeling like you accomplished nothing. Here are some tips from  productivity hackers to help you cut through the everyday noise and get stuff done.  We all have our own work style. That trick that helps your colleague demolish her to-do list may not  work for you. Experiment with different methods to find the most potent blend for you.
14 Ways to be More Productive Click To Tweet

  • Get enough sleep. Unlike a machine, you need to recharge. Unless, of course, you think that health, good perception and judgment are overrated. Insufficient sleep has consequences.
  • Target realistic goals. Don’t stare at your massive project list every day. Instead, write two or three must-do items on an index card or sticky note. Your focus will improve, as well as your satisfaction when you crush the list you’ve made for today.
  • Rule your Email. You can probably wait to check email until later in the morning. Get something important done first. Don’t spend your highest energy time reacting to others. Take action on your own priorities. Check email when you want input on that channel. Also, turn off the alert noises and pop-ups, checking email on a schedule that you decide.
  • Don’t schedule tiny tasks. Things that you can do in a minute or two become a source of stress if they stay on your list. Knock them out to keep your task-list manageable.
  • Optimize meetings. Decline if you have a higher priority or don’t think you will add value by attending. Ask for an email summary if the subject is relevant to your work. Is it your meeting? Publish the agenda in advance and drive toward decisions respectfully but efficiently.
  • Leverage your sense of smell. Buy an air freshener or light a candle. A lemon scent can boost concentration. Jasmin can calm and give energy. Peppermint can promote clear thinking. Can’t shower the office with your favorite scent? Use a scented lotion or hand sanitizer.
  • Exercise at the right time. There is no best time to exercise, but there is a best time for you. Use your highest energy hours to create and produce. Pick a different time to exercise. You can’t do without exercise, but you don’t have to give it your prime time.
  • Clear your desktop. Clutter offers distraction and impedes clear thinking. This is true for your digital desktop as well. Give your eyes room to breathe as you work.  A splash of color and/or a plant can provide a boost.
  • Know when music helps or hurts. Research finds that people perform high-focus tasks better in silence than when music is playing. It can relax you but can also impair focus when reading and writing. Exceptions include monotonous tasks like data entry, driving, and other boring tasks. Others suggest nature sounds or music that you are not strongly drawn to.
  • Change the scenery. Looking at nature or just moving to a novel location can improve your focus.
  • Protect your posture. Use an ergonomic workstation and get out of your chair more.
  • Meditate. The rising awareness of mindfulness and its benefits among the productivity elite cannot be ignored. Giving yourself even a few minutes of private head space will help you feel better and be more effective.
  • Are you taking enough breaks to stay productive? Click To Tweet
  • Take breaks. Studies show that the human brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes at a time. If you’re not deep in the zone on a critical task, try the 52-on, 17-off balance used by the most productive people. Refresh yourself by unplugging on the weekend. Check out the Fōkasu timer.
  • Suppress temptation.  Keep your snacks in the kitchen, not at your desk. Resist social media binges, checking your smart phone 221 times (that’s just average!) or general Internet surfing. Tools like Self-Control and Cold-Turkey can help.

Bonus material: 8 TED Talks to make you more productive.

Image by Jaume Escofet.

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