Social, Plural of Personal (or When Personal Scales) [en]

[fr] Grâce à JP et sa série d'articles, je viens de me reconnecter avec ce qui fait la fondation de ma passion pour le web et les médias sociaux: qu'ils mettent les gens en contact direct, et dans le contexte de l'entreprise, humanisent celle-ci. A lire.

Today I am going to send you to read JP Rangaswami, after my latest spree of ranty pots. JP is writing a series of articles around the idea that social is the plural of personal. And he is so spot on.

I was so happy when I read JP’s first article, because it made me remember what attracted me to social media in the first place (at the time, “blogs” or “social software”) and helped me understand the growing dissatisfaction I have developed about the field over the past years.

What I find interesting about social media in a business setting is how it helps humanize the organisation/company. How it puts human beings back in touch with human beings. And how in the context of an authentic relationship, you need to care for things to work out.

I am so frustrated that French does not have a good word to translate “care”.

I had a revelation when I went to the very first Lift Conference, in 2006. Here are the posts I wrote during the conference (see how blogging has evolved since then — this was before Twitter and Facebook). My memory tells me that I owe this revelation mainly to the talks of Robert Scoble and Hugh MacLeod, and the conversations we had during the conversation. I remember that it was this pivotal moment which made me understand what use blogs (at the time) were in a business context, and therefore that there might be a way to earn money with what was fascinating me.

Update: link to lift06 videos.

Six+ years later, well, you know the story.

I’m trying to remember if I also met Euan Semple that year at Lift, or if it was somewhere else, or later. Do you remember, Euan? Anyway, a few weeks before reading JP’s post, I had ordered Euan’s book, “Organizations don’t tweet, people do”. I haven’t yet started reading it but I’m really looking forward to diving in. Same thing: it’s all about putting people, and personal, and relationships, and trust, and authenticity back in front of the scene.

Somewhere along my business life, with all my freelancer insecurities, the pressure to actually earn a living through my activities and interests, I seem to have lost touch with the core of my passion for the living web. Not to the point where I’ve sold out to some ad agency and started spewing out viral videos or whatnot. Not so much in my actions — more just that I forgot.

But I remember now.

Thanks, JP. Thanks, Euan. And thanks to all of you along the way who have not let go and are not letting go, and are working to make our organizations more human-friendly.

#back2blog challenge (7/10):

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Stuck Reorganizing my Professional Web Presence [en]

[fr] Où Stephanie se prend la tête avec le contenu de son site professionnel et se demande comment elle va bien pouvoir faire.

I’m itching to try WPML and clean up, my professional site. It’s a mess. Worse than that, it’s an out-of-date mess.

Each time I start thinking about how to reorganize it, my head starts hurting. What belongs here on CTTS, and what belongs there? How do I present what I do to potential clients, when I’m not even sure what to call myself? I do I deal with the fact that I’m talking to very different clients (schools, individuals, freelancers, small and bigger businesses, conference organizers…)?

How do I keep it simple when I do so many things?

Should I change radically and do blog-like? In that case, does it make sense to keep it separate from CTTS?

Here is a feeble attempt to try and think this headache out loud. Help is very very welcome, as long as it’s not along the lines of “stop doing so many things and pick one”.

So, first there is the “about me” stuff. Bios, CVs, about stuff. Here’s what I have:

A contact page (this is not too much of a headache):

Stuff I’ve done:

Stuff I do: the big headache. Maybe I should use three entry points:

  • delivery mode (training, speaking, consulting, doing)
  • theme (teenagers and social media, social media as communication and marketing, improving one’s online presence, blogging, events, freelancing, coworking)
  • audience (individuals, businesses, schools, non-profits, freelancers, events)

I’m not sure how useful this is… Also, my francophone audience and my anglophone audience have different interests, so my content does not overlap perfectly in both languages (not a problem, but it probably means I have to think the FR and EN sites separately).

There is also content on which I think does not belong there. It’s more CTTS-like, and might have been good at the time, but it’s a bit dated. I might retro-publish it in the blog so it doesn’t just disappear. And there is content on CTTS which is a little “business-oriented”

Right, so, how can I make sense of all this? Although with most of my clients I feel like a site architecture and content wizard, I’m aware that I’m really not that good at it (particularly with my own content, unsurprisingly).

So, help welcome. Thanks in advance.

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More Thoughts on Weekly Planning [en]

[fr] Planifier mon travail sur la semaine me rassure sur le fait que je vais faire le travail "obligatoire" qui est sur ma liste durant la semaine, et que je peux donc me permettre de prendre du temps en cours de route pour des tâches qui me paraissent moins cruciales (mais qui, au fond, sont tout aussi importantes à mon activité professionnelle que le travail payé).

So, enter my second week with a weekly planning, after the first. I spent a good part of my Monday morning getting organized.

I’ve understood how having a weekly planning is helping me make progress in the neglected departments of my “work”: bizdev, research, more writing, etc.

When I work as I normally do, day-by-day, I am only digging into the pile of “things I must do for others”, or “urgent things”. I do not feel I can afford to devote time to less urgent tasks, because there is always this feeling that I should be doing more important things.

With a weekly planning, laying out my week means that I have an overview which reassures me that the “urgent/important” stuff can and will get done, and that it is in fact OK for me to stop and read an interesting publication for an hour or two even though I still need to upgrade some WordPress installations for a client or write a blog post for another. That’s why it works.

The challenge, for the moment, is that I still overestimate what I can do in a day. Or I underestimate the amount of time I need to set aside for the unexpected. And I still have trouble prioritizing, which means that I spent yesterday morning agonizing in front of the rather long list of client work which absolutely had to be done this week.

Yesterday worked out well, but today is being a disaster. Too many rocks, and one task in particular that I completely underestimated: it took me the better part of the morning (granted, there were interruptions and emergencies) to sort through my 350 photographs of Troyes — which I needed to do as I’ll be using some in an article I’ll be writing for a client.

I’m starting to see how longer-term planning (it’s not for straight away, mind you) will come in to help me be better at determining how many projects or how much client work I can take on for a given time period without getting “swamped” in the end.

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Weekly Planning, First Attempt [en]

[fr] Cette semaine, pour la première fois, j'ai réparti mes tâches sur la semaine au lieu de travailler au jour le jour comme j'en ai l'habitude.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I felt the next step to take in my “work life improvement” series was to plan beyond the day, and start looking at my weeks so that I can start building in time for long-term projects. I’ve done this for the first time this week, and overall, the result is pretty positive. Here’s roughly how I did it and what I learned.

1. Define office days and meeting days

This has to be done in advance, obviously, or the calendar fills up. I usually have either two or three of each in a week (minimum one). Every now and again exceptions slip in and an office day turns into a half-baked errand/meeting day, but I try not to. I think I can still improve the way I plan and manage these days (for example: errands vs. meetings, laundry days, exceptions for “immediate” paid work…).

2. Define “areas” that next actions fall in

I’ve refined the list I brainstormed in my “balance in the office” post and come up with these four areas:

  1. things other people expect me to do (paid work, projects involving others, getting back to prospects…)
  2. longer term business development (taking care of my sites, creating documentation, direct marketing…)
  3. stuff I want to do more of (blogging, research, fooling around with cool toys, write ebooks and fiction…)
  4. admin and daily business (personal and professional, checking e-mail, emptying physical inbox, accounting…)

These are my areas — yours might be different. Suw and I chatted about this on Skype on Monday and hers are slightly different from mine. Just find something that makes sense to you.

Looking at my areas, it’s easy for me to see that “bizdev” and “stuff I want to do” are the two areas which will easily be left aside if I just work day-by-day doing things as they become urgent (in bad cases, call this the “Fireman Syndrome”). If you don’t do stuff people expect you to do, sooner or later they nag you or you get in trouble. Same with admin: forget your taxes or invoicing long enough, and you’ll get in trouble.

As there were almost no tasks in these two areas, I realised that to fill them up, I probably need to do a little longer-term planning. For example, what are the things I want to do in the “bizdev” department over the next 6 months? Over the next month? That will help me generate next actions. Otherwise… I’m just flying blind.

3. Sort upcoming next actions in those defined areas

The way I’ve worked these last months I would have one “master” next action list (in EvernoteI love Evernote) and I would regularly “pull out” the 3-10 next things I was going to deal with, under headings like “today”, and then “next”, or sometimes a specific day.

What I did this week is that I first sorted this “master list” into the four areas I defined. I just made four big headings in my list, and that was that.

4. Plan the week!

This is the fun bit, actually. I just made another 5 “day” headings at the top of my list (Monday to Friday) and then started moving items to given days, making sure the urgent stuff was in there, as well as a certain amount of less urgent stuff (specifically from my two “left aside” areas, bizdev and stuff I want to do more of). Two things to pay attention to:

  1. don’t plan to do stuff on errand/manager days, even if you see you will have some office time (a weekly plan is for the “minimum to accomplish” — if you have too much time you can always grab things to do from your master list or even… take time off!)
  2. remember that a fair amount of what you do in your week is going to appear during the week, so leave plenty of buffer time for the unexpected and the unplanned.

5. As the week rolls on…

One of the reasons I like having my tasks in an Evernote note is that they have these neat little “todo” checkboxes (keyboard shortcut: alt-shift-T) that I can check as I go along. Sometimes I’ll do something that wasn’t planned for precisely this day, or that is still on the master list. Well, I check it, and it feels nice. It’s also nice to see a day with a list of completely checked tasks by the time I leave the office.

My Tuesday was a meeting day, but I made the mistake of planning quite a lot of stuff to do on that day because it looked as if I was going to have enough time in the office. Big mistake. So halfway through my Tuesday, I grabbed nearly all the items I had placed under the Tuesday heading and dumped them under Wednesday (a full office day).

On Wednesday, I didn’t manage to do everything I had planned (unsurprisingly, as I shifted the “Tuesday problem” to Wednesday). So I checked the actions I did accomplish and left the others unchecked. This meant that Thursday, in addition to the rather modest list of things I had planned to do (buffer time, remember? specially at the end of the week) I was able to go back and check tasks that were leftover from Wednesday. But I didn’t move them over to Thursday — somehow it felt better to be able to start Thursday with a “clean slate” and catch up when I felt like it.

So, Monday morning, I’ll be wiping the slate clean and planning next week — looking forward to it!

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Getting Back on the FlyLady Wagon [fr]

[en] Après un peu de relâchement dû à une période de gros stress, j'essaie de me remettre en mode "FlyLady". Routine du matin et du soir, 15 minutes de débordélisation de l'appart, etc.

Earlier this year I discovered FlyLady and immediately started following some of her advice, quite successfully. I went through a phase of feeling really on top of my life: I had an eye on my finances, I was sleeping, eating, and exercising sufficiently, I had quite a lot to do at work and I was doing it well, and my flat was getting uncluttered, 15 minutes at a time.

Then I went through a hectic few days applying for a consultancy at the UN, being interviewed for it and completing an assignment (which I overdid). I dropped everything to get it done (the deadlines were short) and I realized recently that I never quite managed to regain my balance after that.

I’ve been feeling an itch to get things back in shape these last weeks. I still clean my sink every evening (almost) and make my bed in the morning, but a lot of the rest of my morning and evening rituals has gone through the window.

Here’s my plan:

– morning: get up, 30 minutes on the exercise bike, shower, get dressed, breakfast
– evening: clean sink, plan the next day

Next things I’m going to add are:

– 15 minutes of uncluttering per day
– regular book-keeping (have to figure out what frequency is good, but I suspect once a week or a fortnight)
– plan my laundry days better to include time to put dry clothes away the next day
– regular creative writing slots (50 word stories etc)
– regular “self-promotion” project slots
– weekly “quick flat clean”

(Not all in one go, of course, but those are the next goals on my radar.)

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Maker Days and Manager Days [en]

A few months ago I wrote an article called Office vs. Errand Days, where I explained that I had started grouping my errands on certain days and making sure that I had meeting-free office days on others.

I’ve just finished reading Paul Graham’s excellent essay Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, and realized that what I have been doing is separating my days into “manager’s schedule days” and “maker’s schedule days”.

As a freelancer, I am both: I’m the manager who meets people, has speculative meetings, receives new clients or gets interviewed by journalists. But I’m also the maker: a whole bunch of what I get paid for has to be done quietly in the office. And a whole bunch of what I need to do to get paid work also happens in the office.

So, if I’m not careful, I let the manager’s schedule take over my week, I’m super-busy but I don’t really get any paid work done, or proper prospecting.

So, here’s to grabbing my calendar again and making sure I put enough “maker days” into each of my weeks. And here’s to saying “no” firmly but gently when asked to interrupt one of my “maker days”. Even if I’m the person I need to say no to.

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How I Made my To-Do List Fun to Use [en]

This is just a simple way I made my to-do list a bit more fun, with a sheet of paper, a ruler, and coloured pencils. Give it a try, if you’re tired of to-do lists!

[fr] Au lieu de faire une bête liste de choses à  faire, j'ai fait un grand tableau sur une feuille. J'ai ensuite mis chaque chose à  faire dans une case (ou deux, si c'est une "grande tâche"). Quand j'ai fait quelque chose, je colorie la case. C'est plus amusant que de biffer des choses sur une liste, et le résultat final est bien plus joli!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve found yourself more than once in front of a very long and depressing to-do list. I’ve given up on to-do lists. I’ve given them another chance. I’ve given up again. I’ve done them on paper. On the computer. On my phone. I’ve tried sticking individual post-its for each task on my front door. Nothing really works for me.

I had an idea yesterday afternoon. I’m at a point in my life where I’m realizing that I need to find other drivers for my actions than my old friend fear. (Oh my God, I’ll never have time to finish on time, Oh my God, I’ll be late and they’ll be mad at me, Oh my God, I’ll get in trouble, Oh my God, they’ll stop liking me… you know the chorus.) Anyway, the point is I had a sudden idea for making my to-do list fun and getting some pleasure out of maintaining it, rather than just seeing it like a long list of “things-I-must-do”.

My first idea was to get rid of the “hierarchy” that a column-like list imposes. Compare this:

  • put clean laundry away
  • correct maths tests
  • call doctor
  • clean cat litter-tray
  • pay the bills
  • write blog post

with the following:

kitty litter pay bills
call doctor write blog post maths tests
laundry away  

First, notice that the table layout supresses the “first do this, then do that” implied by the column-type list. Trying to decide what to put first in a list is usually a very efficient way for me to avoid writing anything down. Here, I have a whole page I can fill up in any order I like.

Second, I use up one, two or three table squares for each task. This is just a gut-like evaluation of the “size” of the task. “Size” comprises the time it will take, but also how much energy it will take me to get it done. A longer task that I find easy might fit in one square, and a shorter one that I’ve really been putting off for a long time might use up two or more squares. I don’t try to calculate this, I just use up the number of squares I feel like using when I write my task down.

Where is the fun? Well, I thought that instead of just crossing things out when they were done, I would colour the square(s) they are in. This means accomplishing a task allows me to choose a pretty colour pencil and colour part of the page. When I’ll have done lots of things, I’ll end up with a multi-coloured mosaic of things accomplished. Not much, maybe, but enough to make me happy.

Get started! You’ll need:

  • a sheet of paper (preferably squared)
  • a ruler
  • coloured pencils, or markers, or whatever you enjoy colouring with.

Then do the following:

  • draw lines on the paper to separate it in “task-sized” blocs (I did something like 3cm by 1.5cm)
  • write down your tasks in the squares you have drawn, anywhere on the paper; use colour! I also go over the outline of each task square in colour (useful for multi-block tasks)
  • when you’ve done something, rejoice and enjoy the colouring!

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