If this is something that comes up for you — I highly recommend John Gardner’s “Personal Renewal” essay (via John Maeda). Powerful and resonant piece; one of the best I’ve ever read. Though written in 1990, it resonates with me today as if the words were spoken in my ear this morning.
Radical renewal is personal renewal — it means you’re ready for impactful changes.
Posting this as a personal bookmark because it comes up often in conversations with new leads. When I talk to people new to management I highlight the mindset change from “just you” to “the team.” The context of an outward mindset is important — you don’t own your time when you manage more than your own time. Keeping track of everything changes drastically when you start paying attention to more that just your own time and tasks.
This explains the frustration of a work day gets cut short — which can happen if something comes up unexpectedly or you’re continually interrupted. The resulting “short period” of time for making or creating is essentially lost. The big project, like the essay or talk you need to start on, don’t get attention because you don’t have the time for deep work.
Another clue for discovering the maker-vs-manager mindset is how you view your calendar. By month — and not by week or day — means you could be in maker mode. If you care more about every hour or 15-minute interval, you’re likely in manager mode.
A visual note to illustrate this concept:
Meetings can be disruptive to makers, says @phil_wade on Twitter. This ties into the concept of “flow state” made famous by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and others. If you’re curious to learn more, search that name (hard to spell!) for his talks and books — and read my thoughts on the flow fallacy.
Some days my normal task list doesn’t cut it. To easy to be distracted, and not stick to the task at hand with 100% focus. At its worst, the more pressure I feel, the slower I seem to move. The end of the day looms with zero progress on important projects.
Wouldn’t I rather just get things done? GTD. Yes, ideally I’d move everything even a tiny bit ahead.
On the most productive and successful days I look back to see that I’ve advanced 8-10 tracks forward. This is positive for two reasons: 1) I want to spend time in more than one area, and 2) I’d like to start something in each track to unblock and gain momentum.
To systemize the day I often throw out my GTD software (closing the Things app) and go back to simple paper tools plus a timer.
Index cards or a printed list. Write one task per card, or one task per line on the big paper. Start the timer. When it ends, flip to the next card or list item. Repeat.
A timer. Could be the Clock app on the phone, or something like BreakTime.
The use of time intervals to organize work is commonly known as the Pomodoro Technique (Wikipedia).
I alternate between 20 minutes on, 5 minutes off — or longer intervals of 50 minutes on, 10 minutes off. The length depends on criteria such as urgency, amount of items to get moving, and other obligations and distractions.
In short: I turn to simple paper tools plus a timer to systemize the day when I need to focus. To get many tasks moving, I close my task manager and other apps to remove distractions. Maybe mute or turn off the phone. Bring out the paper tools, start the timer, and get to work.
A mental model that keeps coming up for me is “the unscripted dance.” This captures the idea of going into a situation knowing you can rely on your skills to adapt to the other party. Even without knowing ahead. Even without preparing for each move, each step, or each word you’ll use.
In a work setting, this could be a 1-1 chat with a direct report or a quarterly check-in with your boss.
When you’re dancing with an accomplished partner, you may allow the moment to unfold because you trust that a script is not necessary. If you’re dancing with an unaccomplished partner, you may use a script to start with because it helps guide the dance until once again, it becomes unnecessary.
Conversations at work can be like a dance when you are there “in the moment” — so attentive that you are aware of yourself and your partner at the same time — moving in and out of sync. My mind says, “When I don’t have to mold the conversation, it leads to nice possibilities.”
My leadership coach, Akshay Kapur, calls this “Listening” with a capital L. It can be quite fun, but also scary, especially if you’re used to always having things planned out ahead of time. The “Listening” also means not allowing other thoughts to take over my mind; those next questions or points that need to come up in the conversation. When that happens, I’m no longer listening — I’m just following my original plan. That’s when I miss out on insights and understanding.
The unscripted dance helps to improve my communication. To be more open and aware. Especially in established relationships with long-time colleagues where we can naturally move across topics.
I used to try to move the conversation in a certain direction, or get something out of it — my agenda for the conversation. Now I try my best to let the other person drive it. If they don’t have anything to share or ask about, I’m ready with a short list of topics or questions, just in case.
Tide, a project started here at XWP and supported by Google, Automattic, and WP Engine, aims to equip WordPress users and developers to make better decisions about the plugins and themes they install and build.
Tide is a service, consisting of an API, Audit Server, and Sync Server, working in tandem to run a series of automated tests against the WordPress.org plugin and theme directories. Through the Tide plugin, the results of these tests are delivered as an aggregated score in the WordPress admin that represents the overall code quality of the plugin or theme. A comprehensive report is generated, equipping developers to better understand how they can increase the quality of their code.
Once up and running these automated tests would update the plugin and theme description with a status and score so everyone knows whether they pass the tests or not, from PHP version compatibility to the quality of the “front-end output.”
The Tide project is now officially moved over to the WordPress project. See the related story on WP Tavern for a longer history. And, if you’re curious like me about the tech “innards” — take a look at the source code on GitHub.
I love the genesis of the name:
…inspired by the proverb ‘A rising tide lifts all boats,’ thinking that if a tool like this could lower the barrier of entry to good quality code for enough developers, it could lift the quality of code across the whole WordPress ecosystem.” Rob Stinson
One key to success: Tide makes it super easy for developers to identify weaknesses in their code — and learn how to fix them. It’s not just about getting a high score or to ranking better against a minimum requirement. It’ll teach us all to improve. I love that.
As you ride the currents of your day-to-day work — entering in and out of conversations with your team and with customers — or with your family and friends as your navigate your way through the world?
What’s the “surfboard” made of that you ride from wave to wave? The ups and downs.
What drives you?
For me, the surfboard is a perfect metaphor for describing the core value or the key ability that grounds me. What helps me stay consistent, open, and aware as I navigate my day and underlines my conversations and my relationships.
Another way of phrasing this is, “Coming from a place of _____ (fill in the blank) and then listening for the rough and smooth spots.”
Starting from that place, I’m open. Open to continue finding out what grounds me, drives me, and is the one thing that I fall back on as I navigate change.