We become what we behold

    An insightful and nuanced post from Stephen Downes, who reflects on various experiences, from changing RSS reader through to the way he takes photographs. What he calls ‘AI drift’ is our tendency to replace manual processes with automated ones.

    What I appreciate is that Downes doesn’t say this is A Bad Thing, but that we should notice and reflect on these things. For example, I’ve found it really useful to use AI with my MSc studies and to understand (and accelerate) some of the client work I’ve been involved with.

     This image depicts a person in a dimly lit room, surrounded by stacks of books and papers, focusing on a bright computer screen. The room fades from bright red near the screen to dark gray in the corners, with yellow sticky notes scattered around. The light gray walls are adorned with fading pictures, representing the neglected interests due to 'AI drift'.
    What's important is to notice what's happening. When I use AI to select the posts I read in my RSS reader, I'm finding more from the categories I've defined, but I'm missing the new stuff from categories that might not exist yet - the oft-referenced filter bubble. Also, I'm missing the ebb and flow of the undercurrent, of the comings and goings, of the stuff that seems off topic and doesn't matter - and yet, to someone who dwells in the debris like me, it does.

    This is what I’m calling ‘AI drift’ in humans. It’s this phenomenon whereby you sort of ‘drift’ into new patterns and habits when you’re in an AI environment. It’s not the filter bubble; that’s just one part of it. It’s the influence it has over all our behaviour. One of those patterns, obviously, is that you start relying on the AI more do do things. But also, you stop doing some of the things you used to do - not because the AI is handling it for you, because as in this case it might not be helping at all, but because you just start doing other things.


    AI drift isn’t inherently good, and it isn’t inherently bad. It just is. It’s like that quote often attributed to McLuhan: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” Recognizing AI drift is simply recognizing how we’re changing as we use new tools. We then decide whether we like that change or not. In my own case, it comes with some mixed feelings. But that’s OK. I wouldn’t expect anything else.

    Source: AI Drift | Half an Hour

    The 9-5 shift is a relatively recent invention

    As a Xennial, I have all of the guilt for not working hard enough — along with a desire to live a life more fulfilling and holistic than my parents. Generations below, including Gen Z and then of course my kids, think that working all of the hours is a bit crazy.

    This article is about a viral TikTok video of a Gen Z ‘girl’ (although surely ‘young woman’?) crying because the 9-5 grind is “crazy… How do you have friends? How do you have time for dating? I don’t have time for anything, I’m so stressed out.”

    It’s easy, as with so many things, for older generations to inflict on generations coming after them the crap that they themselves have had to deal with. But it doesn’t have to be this way. As the article says, the 9-5 job is a relatively recent invention and I, for one, don’t follow that convention.

    Someone sitting back in a chair with a BBQ in the middle of a cubicle office
    When the video – which has been viewed nearly 50 million times across TikTok and Twitter – first started to spread, the comments weren’t sympathetic. She was trashed by neoliberal hustle and grind stans – most of whom seemed old enough to be her parents. “Gen Z girl finds out what a real job is like,” one X (formerly Twitter) user sneered. “Grown-ups don’t prioritise friends, or dating. Grown-ups prioritise being able to provide,” another commenter wrote, neglecting the fact that if you’re young, single, and have no friends, there isn’t really anyone to “provide” for.

    But then the tide began to turn. People started to point out that “Gen Z girl” was right, actually. Work sucks! No one has any time for anything! Within days, she had become the figurehead for an increasingly common sentiment: We don’t want our lives to revolve around work anymore.


    It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say young people have been gaslit by older generations when it comes to work. As wages stagnate and costs rise, the generation that got free university education and cheap housing have somehow convinced young people that if we’re sad and stressed then it’s simply a problem with our work ethic. We’re too sensitive, entitled, or demanding to hold down a “real job”, the story goes, when really most of us just want a decent night’s sleep and less debt.


    It’s always worth reminding ourselves that the 9-5 shift is itself a relatively recent invention, not some sort of eternal truth, and hopefully soon we’ll see it as a relic from a bygone age. “It was set up to support our patriarchal society – men went to work and women stayed at home to cook and look after the family,” says Emma Last, founder of the workplace wellbeing programme Progressive Minds. “Things have obviously changed a lot since then, and we’re trying to find the balance between cooking meals, looking after ourselves, spending time with family and friends, and having relationships. Isn’t it a good thing that Gen Z are questioning it all?”

    Source: Nobody Wants Their Job to Rule Their Lives Anymore | VICE

    The inner world as the ultimate prison

    I wanted to quote so much of this article that it would have ended up being a Borges-like 1:1 map of the territory. Instead, I’ll simply share the part of Swarnali Mukherjee’s writing which resonated most with me.

    Do go and read the whole thing.

    (I discovered this via Substack Notes, in which I have no financial interest, but simply finding to be a chill and serendipitious alternative to other social media)

    The problem is simple: most of us have normalized and even glorified the hustle for success. The issue lies not in the hustle itself but in the often overlooked aspect of burning out. When success is defined in terms of societal parameters such as wealth, fame, and the emphasis on building an identity, life's entire focus becomes sustaining and amplifying this ego at the cost of our well-being, both psychologically and physically. We reinvent spaces in our intellectual worlds to serve this gigantic ego that we have conjured over the years but seldom find true happiness there. Our inner world becomes our ultimate prison, from whose window our persistent illusion of success resembles fireworks, promising that we can achieve them as long as we stay in the prison. This is a subtle deception of our social constructs; we humans have meticulously constructed these labyrinths of illusions to shield ourselves from the truth that even if we are in service to our desires, they are influenced by external factors. In that manner, doing something because the world expects it, that you won’t be doing otherwise is also a form of imprisonment.
    Source: The Art of Disappearing | Berkana

    Doing your job well does not entail attending more meetings

    There’s a lot of swearing in this blog post, but then that’s what makes it both amusing and bang on the money. As ever, there’s a difference between ‘agile’ as in “working with agility” and ‘Agile’ which seems to mean a series of expensive workshops and a semi-dysfunctional organisation.

    Just as I captured Jay’s observation that a reward is not more email, so doing your job well does not entail attending more meetings.

    Which absolute fucking maniac in this room decided that the most sensible thing to do in a culture where everyone has way too many meetings was schedule recurring meetings every day? Don't look away. Do you have no idea how terrible the average person is at running a meeting? Do you? How hard is it to just let people know what they should do and then let them do it. Do you really think that, if you hired someone incompetent enough that this isn't an option, that they will ever be able to handle something as complicated as software engineering?


    No one else finds this meeting useful. Let me repeat that again. No one else finds this meeting useful. We’re either going to do the work or we aren’t going to do the work, and in either case, I am going to pile-drive you from the top rope if you keep scheduling these.


    If your backlog is getting bigger, then work is going into it faster than it is going out. Why is that happening? Fuck if I know, but it is probably totally unrelated to not doing Agile well enough.


    High Output Management was the most highly-recommended management book I could find that wasn’t an outright textbook. Do you know what it says at the beginning? Probably not, because the kind of person that I am forced to choke out over their love of Agile typically can’t read anything that isn’t on LinkedIn. It says work must go out faster than it goes in, and all of these meetings obviously don’t do either of those things.


    The three best managers I’ve ever worked for, with the most productive teams (at large organizations, so don’t even start on the excuses about scale) just let the team work and were there if I needed advice or a discussion, and they afforded me the quiet dignity of not hiring clowns to work alongside me.

    Source: I Will Fucking Haymaker You If You Mention Agile Again | Ludicity

    Image: Unsplash

    Job crafting, identity, and fulfilment

    This article by Lan Nguyen Chaplin, a professor of marketing at a prestigious business school, reflects my own experience. Those jobs I’ve thought were ‘big’ and ‘important’ have been the ones that have drained me of energy, made me sad, and generally changed me for the worse.

    Instead, as Chaplin says, the important thing is to align your work your values and personal strengths. This (eventually) allows you to transform what you do into a sustainable, balanced, and purposeful career. Sometimes, though, you have to know what you’re willing to tolerate and what you’re not, which can involve going precipitously close to the fire.

    Outside of my fancy new title, I had begun to feel empty. In just a few months, my identity had quite literally become “my job” and I lost sight of the many things that fulfilled me outside of it. I didn’t have time or energy for family and friends. Activities that brought me joy, like running and lacrosse, went out the window. I traveled for work instead of pleasure. I had no time to give back to my community.

    Instead, I jotted down research ideas on bar napkins, replied to emails when everyone else was offline, and had a growing portfolio of projects in development. I didn’t know how to disconnect without feeling unproductive. For hours, I sat with my laptop in isolation, working on research that might never be published.


    The moment you have found your dream job is the moment you have stopped growing, evolving, and finding new ways to experience joy in your role. Remember, you were hired because you offer something the organization is missing. They need change. They need you to bring your whole self to work, and that means doing things differently with the added flare that is you. A job that inspires you and gives you the space you need to be your full self is the dreamiest job out there.

    Source: What You Should Chase Instead of a Dream Job | Ascend

    On the need to measure productivity

    I’ve long said that no-one really knows what knowledge work looks like. It’s easy to see whether or not someone is digging a hole in the ground, but it’s much more difficult to see whether the work that someone is doing on a computer is ‘productive’.

    This is, I think, partly because ‘productivity’ is something that is best thought about for things that can be systematised and made routine. A lot of knowledge work is fundamentally creative, and so quantitative metrics are meaningless. Who cares if you’ve made a million pull requests if they’re all to change a single character?

    This article discusses the complexities of assessing productivity in various fields, the issues with current interviewing processes, and suggests that future evaluations may become more tied to tangible accomplishments rather than arbitrary metrics. That’s presupposing, of course, that hierarchical evaluations are even necessary.

    [E]very potential metric we devise appears woefully inadequate in assessing this holistic outcome. Whether it's pull requests, lines of code, user stories, story points, or ship dates, it seems that every metric can be manipulated or gamed. Ship dates may be advanced, but quality suffers; story points morph in size depending on the project, and lines of code can be bulked up with a test suite. Even pull requests can be sliced and diced to skew the numbers. It's a frustrating conundrum.

    For more fuzzy fields, like product management or marketing or design, it becomes even more hand-wavey. Some fields tend to depend on getting other roles to execute better, but you can’t go rewind history and try things with a different PM to see if things would have been better. Same with design.


    If you give the most productive employee more work, presumably they’d be justified in asking for higher compensation? After all, they are driving greater outcomes for you. Would you be comfortable paying it?

    For example, would you pay a 3x more productive designer 3x the fully loaded cost of the average designer? If 10x engineers truly exist, why do pay scales intra company not cover a 10x spectrum?


    My suspicion is that, like in other fields where performance matters and is financially rewarded, there will be a surge in our capacity to measure and evaluate real-life work performance. Compensation will become more closely tied to tangible accomplishments rather than arbitrary levels or seniority. Interviews will transition to be more real-world scenarios, perhaps within the customer’s actual codebase, addressing a genuine problem the customer faces—possibly even compensating the interviewee for their time.

    Source: Why is it so hard to measure productivity? | fractional.work

    Image: Kelly Sikkema

    How does doing what I need make time for everything else?

    I can’t remember whether someone said to me or I once read that we should manage our energy rather than our time, but it made a big difference to my life. Having control over when and how you work is a huge privilege, and enables you to be the best version of you.

    People often smile or laugh when I talk about the SOFA philosophy, but giving yourself the freedom to start creative pursuits and not finish them is actually massively liberating, mood-boosting, and energy-giving.

    The point being that you don’t need to ‘make time’ to do things. You just need to prioritise stuff that energises you.

    I often find myself listening as someone talks about being out of time. Even the most progressive and thoughtful organizations regularly cultivate situations where the amount of work outstrips the capacity of the people in place to do it. Combine that with our appalling lack of support for caretakers, the administrative burden of accessing your healthcare, the often thankless tasks of keeping house and home, and it’s no wonder that even the people most trained in solving tricky problems run into a hard wall with this one.


    We all know that time can be stretchy or compressed—we’ve experienced hours that plodded along interminably and those that whisked by in a few breaths. We’ve had days in which we got so much done we surprised ourselves and days where we got into a staring contest with the to-do list and the to-do list didn’t blink. And we’ve also had days that left us puddled on the floor and days that left us pumped up, practically leaping out of our chairs. What differentiates these experiences isn’t the number of hours in the day but the energy we get from the work. Energy makes time.

    Here’s a concrete example, and perhaps a familiar one: someone is so busy with work and caretaking that they don’t make time for their art. At the end of the day they’re too tired to write or paint or make music or whathaveyou. So they don’t. Days, then weeks go by. They are more and more tired. They are getting less and less done. They take a mental health day and catch up on sleep but the exhaustion persists. Their overwhelm grows larger, becomes intolerable. The usual tactics don’t work..

    Then one day they say fuck it all. They eat leftover pasta over the sink, drop mom off at her mahjongg game, and go sit in the park to draw. They draw for hours, until the sun goes down and they’re squinting under the street lights. And, lo and behold, the next day they plow through all those lingering to-dos. They see clearly that half of them were unnecessary when before they all seemed critical. They recognize a few others as things better handed off to their peers. They suddenly find time for attending to that one project they’d been procrastinating on for weeks. They sleep better. Their skin looks great. (Okay I might be exaggerating on that last one, but only mildly.)

    It turns out, not doing their art was costing them time, was draining it away, little by little, like a slow but steady leak. They had assumed, wrongly, that there wasn’t enough time in the day to do their art, because they assumed (because we’re conditioned to assume) that every thing we do costs time. But that math doesn’t take energy into account, doesn’t grok that doing things that energize you gives you time back. By doing their art, a whole lot of time suddenly returned. Their art didn’t need more time; their time needed their art.


    The question to ask with all those things isn’t, “how do I make time for this?” The answer to that question always disappoints, because that view of time has it forever speeding away from you. The better question is, how does doing what I need make time for everything else?

    Source: Energy makes time | everything changes

    Image: Aron Visuals

    Note taking tools and processes

    Casey Newton delves into the limitations of current note-taking apps like Obsidian, arguing that they are designed more for storing information than for sparking insights or improving thinking. He suggests that while AI has the potential to revolutionise these platforms by making them more interactive and insightful, the real challenge lies in our ability to focus and think deeply — something that software alone cannot automate.

    This is partly why I write Thought Shrapnel. Not only does it force me to actually read things I’ve bookmaked, but I make sense of them, and often make links to my work and other things I’ve read.

    Note-taking, after all, does not take place in a vacuum. It takes place on your computer, next to email, and Slack, and Discord, and iMessage, and the text-based social network of your choosing. In the era of alt-tabbing between these and other apps, our ability to build knowledge and draw connections is permanently challenged by what might be our ultimately futile efforts to multitask.


    In short: it is probably a mistake, in the end, to ask software to improve our thinking. Even if you can rescue your attention from the acid bath of the internet; even if you can gather the most interesting data and observations into the app of your choosing; even if you revisit that data from time to time — this will not be enough. It might not even be worth trying.

    The reason, sadly, is that thinking takes place in your brain. And thinking is an active pursuit — one that often happens when you are spending long stretches of time staring into space, then writing a bit, and then staring into space a bit more. It’s here that the connections are made and the insights are formed. And it is a process that stubbornly resists automation.

    Which is not to say that software can’t help. Andy Matuschak, a researcher whose spectacular website offers a feast of thinking about notes and note-taking, observes that note-taking apps emphasize displaying and manipulating notes, but never making sense between them. Before I totally resign myself to the idea that a note-taking app can’t solve my problems, I will admit that on some fundamental level no one has really tried.

    Source: Why note-taking apps don’t make us smarter | Platformer

    Using semesters for goal-setting

    This article suggests using the academic calendar as a framework for setting and achieving personal goals, breaking life into “semesters” to focus on mini-goals that contribute to larger ambitions. It argues that this approach can aid in time management, motivation, and skill development, offering a structured yet flexible way to make meaningful progress in various aspects of life.

    As someone who spent a long time in formal education, was a teacher, and spent time working in Higher Education, it’s difficult to get out of the habit of the academic year and breaking your work into ‘terms’. Perhaps I should be leaning into it?

    While it’s important to set goals, the roadmap for how to attain them can be murky. Instead of embarking without a plan toward broad ambitions, there’s value in incremental objectives in service of a larger aim. Take a page from the educational system and divide the future into “semesters” — traditionally 15 to 17 weeks long at American colleges — in which to implement minigoals to help get you where you want to go. Use the traditional academic year as a guide to help you stay on track, says Rachel Wu, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside. Many community classes and educational opportunities are offered roughly on a quarter or semester basis. “At the very least, it will help people, maybe, feel young again. I think that’s a huge benefit,” Wu says. “They can think back to that point in their life when they had that kind of organization and that might be something that works for them.” (You don’t need to follow a traditional academic structure by any means, but having a firm start and end date within a few months’ span in which to focus on certain skills or activities can help keep you motivated.)


    Modeling your life after academic years allows you to adequately mark your process. It’s difficult to determine improvement with daily or even weekly goals, Fishbach says. But with a quarterly or biannual milestone, you’re more easily able to track your progress; you can more clearly look back on what you’ve learned after a 20-week intro to coding class as opposed to after a few days of instruction. The end of a semester allows for these report cards. “It just helps you feel that you’re growing as a person,” Fishbach says. “You’re not the person you were three months ago.”


    A self-imposed semester system also lends itself to increased motivation due, in part, to the fresh start effect, where people are more driven to pursue goals after a “fresh start” like a new year or semester. (Fully embrace the back-to-school energy and buy some new school supplies, Wu says, “and then learn something.”) With goals that have an endpoint, called an all-or-nothing goal, Fishbach says, motivation increases as you approach the deadline. Having a distinct cutoff to your personal semester can help you stay driven knowing there’s an end in sight.

    Source: Semesters for adults: How the academic school year can help with goal-setting, time management, and motivation | Vox

    Your personal time management strategy sucks

    Too many pointless TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) in this blog post, but it’s redeemed by having a core message that human beings are not cogs in a machine and have a finite time to accomplish their goals.

    Although there have been plenty of people I’ve come across in my career who are always “super busy” there’s one person in my orbit in particular at the moment who seems to carry the world on their shoulders. As this post points out, this is due to an inability to focus on what’s important.

    (The diagram below exudes peak 1990s management consultancy vibes, so I’m only including it for comedy value.) 

    People inform me they are busy as if it is a badge of honor. For me, it is a signal that they have a weak personal Playing to Win strategy.


    [T]o have an effective personal strategy, you need to be deliberative about choosing where to deploy your limited available hours in tasks that your particular set of capabilities enable you to generate a win by creating disproportionate value for your organization. And, since this doesn’t happen automatically, you need a personal management system for doing it on an ongoing basis — because on this front, eternal vigilance is the price of effectiveness.


    Remember that strategy is what you do not what you say. So, even if you don’t think of yourself as having a personal Playing to Win strategy, step back and reverse engineer what it actually is based on what you actually do.

    Source: Being ‘Too Busy’ Means Your Personal Strategy Sucks | Roger Martin

    Arc browser is pretty nifty

    I’m not going to gush as I’ve had it installed mere hours, but this article persuaded me to actually use the invite code I’d got for the Arc browser. First impressions were good enough for it to replace Brave as my default, for the time being, on my Mac Studio.

    My colleague Laura always has tabs for client projects to hand, as she has a Firefox extension which separates tab groups. Arc does this quickly, seamlessly, and by default. Also, I used to have my tabs at the side of my browser and I’m not sure why or how I got out of the habit of doing so.

    There are lots of other nice things about Arc which are mentioned in the review. It’s Chromium-based, so everything just works, including bringing across your bookmarks, saved passwords, and browsing history.

    I realize calling Arc “the most transformative app I’ve used in decades” is a bold statement that requires a lot of support. I won’t skimp on words in this article telling you why—it’s that important and requires new ways of thinking about how you work on the Web.


    If the sidebar is Arc’s most prominent interface element, Spaces is the feature that leverages it more than anything else in Arc. A Space is a collection of tabs in the sidebar. It’s easy to switch between them using keyboard shortcuts (Control-1, Control-2, etc., or Command-Option-Left/Right Arrow) or by clicking little icons at the bottom of the sidebar.

    You can assign each Space a color, providing an instant visual clue for what Space you’re in. For me, Personal is a green/yellow/teal gradient, TidBITS is purple, and FLRC is blue, while my fourth space—set to hold FLRC tabs for Google Docs and Google Sheets—is yellow. Each Space can also have a custom emoji or icon that identifies it in the switcher at the bottom of the sidebar.


    The most obvious part of Arc’s visual interface is its sidebar. As I said earlier, the sidebar provides access to multiple color-coded Spaces, each with its own collection of tabs. It’s easy to gloss over the importance of putting tabs in a sidebar, but that would be a mistake. Sidebar tabs aren’t simply a vertical version of tabs across the top of the browser window, they’re substantively better.


    But what the sidebar really provides is a sense of comfort, of familiarity. There’s a French phrase, mise en place, that refers to setting out all your ingredients and tools before cooking so everything you need is at hand when you need it. Arc’s sidebar, when populated with the pinned tabs you use and arranged the way you think, provides that sense of mise en place. I actually want to sit down at Arc because it helps me channel my thoughts and actions toward my goals for the day.

    Source: Arc Will Change the Way You Work on the Web | TidBITS

    The party's over for office-based work

    In-person working can be energising. But perhaps not every day, for most people? There’s a reason that lots of people have decided to continue to work at home after the pandemic showed them that a different approach was possible.

    Take Google. The tech giant threw a massive welcome-back party complete with a Lizzo concert. Sure, it sounds cool, but unless Lizzo will one day be my manager, what does a concert have to do with getting me to my desk day after day after day? Will there be daily concerts? Everyone was isolated for two years. How does attending a concert with people I’ve never met or barely remember better connect me to the company? Being alone in a crowd would actually remind me just how few friends I have at the organization.
    Source: Wake up, Corporate America: You can’t bribe, threaten, or feed people to get them back in the office | The Boston Globe

    Sixteen hours on, eight hours off.

    I do like posts about people’s routines and, in fact, I contributed to a website which became a book of them! This particular one is by Warren Ellis, who seems to live quite a solitary existence, at least when he’s writing.

    Being alone can bring an intensity to one’s work, I’ve found, which may or may not be relevant or welcome given on what you do for a living. Given Ellis is a writer of graphic novels, novellas, and screenplays, it’s absolutely fitting, I guess.

    I work until I get hungry. I’ll watch something – a tv episode, part of a film – while eating lunch, which is either cold meats and flatbreads or salmon with vegetables or something with eggs. I keep it simple and repeatable. Also I have constant access to eggs, as mentioned above. At some point in the afternoon I’ll have an apple with walnuts and cheese. Eight espressos a day, two litres of water. I mention the food because the one thing productivity notes tend to forget is that thinking burns calories, and the first things to kill thinking are thirst and having no calories available to burn.
    Source: Morning Routine And Work Day, January 2022 | Warren Ellis

    Level 3 busy-ness

    Discovered via Kottke, this ‘seven levels of busy’ makes me realise that I don’t really want to be beyond Level 3 most weeks. Level 4 is OK on occasion.

    It’s over a decade since I’ve experienced Levels 5 and 6, I reckon. And I’ve never let things get to Level 7.

    Level 3: SIGNIFICANT COMMITMENTS I have enough commitments that I need to keep track of them in a tool because I can no longer organically triage. My calendar is a thing I check infrequently, but I do check it to remind myself of the flavor of this particular day.
    Source: The Seven Levels of Busy | Rands in Repose

    Photo: Dan Freeman

    Walking around like Lionel Messi

    I didn’t get a chance to read this excellent article in The New Yorker about Lionel Messi until today. It was published the week leading up to the World Cup Final, which of course Argentina won, making Messi possibly the greatest player of all time (behind Pele? RIP.)

    What I like about it is that it shows that ‘work’ doesn’t always look like running around the place looking ‘busy’. In fact, the greatest people at a given thing are usually involved in the background while people are concentrating solely on the foreground.

    Messi is soccer’s great ambler. To keep your eyes fixed on him throughout a match is both spellbinding and deadly dull. It is also a lesson in the art and science of watching a soccer match. If you ask any astute observer—an experienced coach or player or tactically tuned-in analyst—how to understand the game, they will advise you to take your eyes off the ball. There may well be an analogous precept, with a German name, in philosophy or art history or mechanical physics. The idea is this: to apprehend the main thrust of the narrative, to really wrap your mind around what’s going on, you must shift your focus from the foreground to the background.


    [I]f you happen to be watching a match featuring Leo Messi, you’ll notice that something on the order of eighty-five per cent of the time, he can be found off the ball, strolling and dawdling and looking mildly uninterested. It is the kind of behavior associated with selfish players, prima donnas who expend no effort on defense and bestir themselves only when goal-scoring opportunities arise. Messi, of course, is one of the most prolific scorers of all time, with a career total of nearly eight hundred goals in club and international competition. His penchant for walking is not a symptom of indolence or entitlement; it’s a practice that reveals supreme footballing intelligence and a commitment to the efficient expenditure of energy. Also, it’s a ruse—the greatest con job in the history of the game.

    A famous aphorism, usually attributed to the Spanish manager Vicente del Bosque, sums up the subtly visionary play of the midfielder Sergio Busquets this way: when you watch the game, you don’t see Busquets—but when you watch Busquets, you see the whole game. Something related might be said about the great Argentinean: when you watch Messi, you watch him watching the game. Another manager, Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, who coached Messi for four years at Barcelona, has described his walking, especially in the early stages of a game, as form of cartography—an exercise in scanning and surveying, taking the measure of the defense, noticing where the vulnerabilities lie, and calculating when and how opportunities might be seized. “After five, ten minutes, he’ll have a map in his eyes and in his brain,” Guardiola has said. “[He’ll] know exactly what is the space and what is the panorama.”

    Source: The Genius of Lionel Messi Just Walking Around | The New Yorker

    Preparation is everything

    I used to have a quotation on the wall of my classroom when I was a teacher that has been attributed to various different people, but reads: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

    The point of the quotation is that to have any kind of success in life that isn’t luck-dependent, you have to be ready. That looks different depending on the situation, but (for me at least) involves thinking about different scenarios, what could play out, etc.

    This post, found via HN, is from a developer thinking about software projects. But the point he makes is universal: preparing effectively means that you can get on and focus on delivering without having to keep stopping.

    Motivation is the willingness to want to do something. This is of course an important first step in potentially being productive. We are better at things we want to do, rather than things we’re forced to do by others, or by our own self discipline.

    But motivation is nothing more than that. It helps us start, but it doesn’t mean we’ll finish, or even produce half of what we want to. Even when we are motivated, if we don’t make enough progress our motivation has a way of epically [sic] disappearing.


    Knowing how to make progress and making progress are two different things, but we often conflate them and treat them as the same thing. We basically jump into the task and start.


    Productivity doesn’t come from feeling motivated, it comes from knowing what you need to do in enough detail that you can complete it without continually stopping and losing your focus.

    Source: To Be Productive, Be Prepared | Martin Rue

    Image: Brett Jordan

    A cluttered desk is a sign of genius

    Perhaps it's because I'm not a designer like the author of this post, but organising your desk space like this leaves me cold. My space looks like this.

    Minimalist desk

    I’m proud of what I’ve done with my desk setup over the last five years. Through careful observation of what’s working and what’s not, I’ve continued to improve how it serves my creative pursuits. Still, when I look at it in the morning, I get a rush of creative energy and optimism.

    Source: The Evolution of the Desk Setup | Arun

    Quotation-as-title comes from a plaque my father had on his (spectacularly untidy) desk...

    Presenteeism, overwork, and being your own boss

    I spend a lot of time on the side of football pitches and basketball courts watching my kids playing sports. As a result, I talk to parents and grandparents from all walks of life, who are interested in me being a co-founder of a co-op — and that, on average, I work five-hour days.

    This wasn’t always the case, of course. I’ve been lucky, for sure, but also intentional about the working life I want to create. And I’m here to tell you that unless you at least partly own the business you work for, you’re going to be overworking until the end of your days.

    Hidden overwork is different to working long hours in the office or on the clock at home – instead, it’s the time an employee puts into tasks on top of their brief. There are plenty of reasons people take on this extra work: to be up to speed in meetings; appear ‘across issues’ when asked about industry developments; or seem sharp in an environment in which a worker is still trying to establish themselves.

    There are myriad ways a person’s day job can slip into their non-working hours: think a worker chatting to someone from their industry at their child’s birthday party, and suddenly slipping into networking mode. Or perhaps an employee hears their boss mention a book in a meeting, so they download and listen to it on evening walks for a week, stopping occasionally to jot down some notes.


    However, for many, this overwork no longer feels like a choice – and that’s when things go bad. This can especially be the case, says [Alexia] Cambon [director of research at workplace-consultancy Gartner’s HR practice], when these off-hours tasks become another form of presenteeism – for instance, an employee reading a competitor’s website and sharing links in a messaging channel at night, just so they can signal to their boss they’re always on. “We’re seeing… more employees who feel monitored by their organisations, and then feel like they have to put in extra hours,” she says.

    As such, this hidden overwork can do a lot of potential damage if it becomes an unspoken requirement. “If there’s more expectation and burden associated with it, that’s where people are going to have negative consequences,” says Nancy Rothbard, management professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, US. “That’s where it becomes tough on them.”

    Source: The hidden overwork that creeps into so many jobs | BBC Worklife

Older Posts →