Category Archives: Being the boss

This is about work from the managing side. Freelancing, entrepreneuring, consulting: having to make the decisions as the person in charge. In charge of your work, in charge of your life — so work-life balance factors in, too.

Bien utiliser son temps hors de l’urgence

[en] How do you deal with making good use of your time when there is no urgency or looming deadlines?

Ça, c’est mon challenge de l’été. Il n’y a pas d’urgence, pas d’huile sur le feu. C’est le moment de penser un peu long terme (et je le fais) et donc de s’attaquer à des choses comme:

  • cette série de ebooks que je pourrais écrire
  • me lancer dans la production de contenus e-learning (dieu sait qu’il y a de la matière)
  • bosser sur mon site web “pro” (je suis en train de le faire, mais en-dehors de mes séances avec Fabienne je suis un peu molle du genou, par exemple pour la version anglaise)
  • préparer des formations de base et les proposer à gauche et à droite
  • réfléchir à mon positionnement

Et côté perso:

  • trier mes photos (argh!)
  • faire les nettoyages de printemps (je fais, suivant l’impulsion que m’a donnée la visite de Natacha d’adndeco)

You want me to do something? Really?L’été, c’est aussi:

  • regarder pousser les tomates sur mon balcon
  • faire de la voile
  • décrocher et déconnecter en partant en vacances
  • prendre le temps… pour vivre.

Alors là au milieu, je peine un poil à être aussi efficace que je le voudrais. Surtout qu’il y a beaucoup de choses qui flottent un peu dans mon paysage professionnel.

Comment je fais, du coup? J’ai des trucs. Reste à penser à les utiliser, à trouver celui qui va marcher dans cette situation précise, et… le faire.

Limiter mon temps de travail

Ça paraît paradoxal mais c’est un truc qui marche. Plus j’ai de temps, en général, moins je suis efficace. (Ça va avec mon côté un peu procrastinatrice, qui a besoin d’avoir un délai dans le viseur pour se bouger.)

Donc je bloque 2h ou 3h pour travailler. Le reste du temps j’ai congé.

Planifier à plus long terme

S’il n’y a pas d’urgences urgentes, essayer de planifier un peu quand je vais faire “toutes ces choses” que j’ai enfin le temps de faire me montre qu’en fait il n’y a pas tant de temps que ça à disposition.

Je commence par faire une liste de tout ce qui me trotte dans la tête “à faire”, j’organise un peu tout ça en projets/next actions, je sors mon calendrier et je pose des choses. OK, demain je fais ça, après-demain ça… Purée puis ça en fait ça devrait être fait dans 10 jours, donc entre les 5 autres trucs ça va être chaud… Idéalement, sur quelques semaines (plus j’ai un peu de peine encore).

Mettre des délais internes

La brochure pour la nouvelle formation, elle sera faite d’ici mercredi. Hop. Comme ça. Le problème avec ça c’est si on n’a pas tendance à tenir ses engagements avec soi-même. Impliquer une autre personne peut aider (par exemple, je dis à la chef de projet “mercredi prochain je te donne les textes”).

Ça va avec la planification à long terme, parce qu’on commence à placer des choses au moment où on se dit: “OK, je veux lancer les formations e-learning en janvier, donc…”

Tomates du balconFaire des tomates

Histoire de ne pas glander durant son temps de travail, la méthode pomodoro peut aider à rester concentré. “Je fais 4 pomodoro par jour” par exemple.

Rendre tout ça ludique

La “gamification”, c’est pas que pour les applications sociales. On peut aussi l’utiliser pour rendre certaines tâches moins ennuyeuses. Je me souviens de cet exemple que j’avais lu quelque part étant ado: pour faire le ménage, un couple se répartissait les tâches. Je fais l’aspi, tu nettoies la salle de bains. Une alarme est réglé sur 20 minutes (par exemple). Chaque fois qu’elle sonne, c’est la course pour l’éteindre, car le premier arrivé choisit s’il veut garder la même tâche pour le prochain round ou bien échanger.

Quand j’ai du mal à décider par quoi commencer, je mets mes différentes tâches sur des petits cartons. J’utilise une minuterie (15, 20, 30 minutes selon l’humeur et le genre de tâche). Je tire au sort un carton pour la première tranche — quand ça sonne, j’arrête et je tire un nouveau carton. J’ai aussi trouvé de l’inspiration pour cette idée dans le “Weekly Home Blessing” de Flylady.

Vous avez des trucs, vous? Là, ce que je m’en vais faire c’est un peu de planification “long terme” — je crois que c’est ça qu’il me faut juste maintenant.

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Posted in Being the boss | Tagged gestion du temps, idées, procrastination, productivité, productivity, time management, tricks, tuyaux | 1 Comment

Refaire sa job description

[en] As a freelancer, one gets to redefine and rethink one's job description. The social media landscape here in Switzerland has changed dramatically since I started out in 2006 as a "blogging consultant", and the Cluetrain girl I am at heart sometimes struggles to find her place amidst all this excitement for social media marketing.

I recently realised that I need to distance myself a little from this social media pigeonhole I'm in -- not that I'm going to stop doing what I've done until now, not at all, but I find the label keeps dragging me a little too close to social media marketing for my comfort, and keeps me away from gigs which are more productivity-related ("use technology better to do what you want to do"). This can cover strategies for dealing with e-mail, discovering Evernote, Google Docs, managing one's digital content, etc.

Bright ideas welcome, as well as cluetrainy and productivity gigs!

Je me suis mise à mon compte en 2006 — j’avais déjà des mandats dès début 2005. A l’époque, les blogs pointaient juste le bout de leur nez sur le radar des médias romands. Twitter et Facebook n’existaient pas. On parlait à peine de web 2.0, et j’étais déjà allergique au terme et à toute la hype qui l’accompagnait. (Brigitte m’a d’ailleurs rappelé tout à l’heure que c’est à l’occasion de ma conférence sur le sujet qu’on s’est rencontrées.)

Aujourd’hui, 2013. Tout le monde sait ce qu’est Facebook et Twitter (même s’il reste encore un peu de flou autour des blogs et des wikis). On parle de médias sociaux à toutes les sauces, et quand les entreprises s’y intéressent, c’est la plupart du temps pour y faire le même marketing et la même comm’, mais sur de nouveaux canaux. On ne compte plus les consultants, experts, et agences qui affichent les médias sociaux au centre de leurs activités. Les formations sur le sujet se multiplient (celle que je co-dirige au SAWI était la seule il y a quatre ans).

Il y a quelques années déjà s’est amorcée une réflexion qui est à mon avis en train d’aboutir cet été: dans ce marché qui a tant évolué depuis mes débuts, comment me positionner en tant que professionnelle? Quelle est ma place? Où est l’intersection entre ce que je veux/peux faire, les gens avec qui je veux travailler, et le truc qui fait toujours un peu mal, l’argent?

Après m’être retrouvée étiquetée de façon un peu limitante “Madame Blogs” (ça date), je commence à me sentir un peu à l’étroit avec ces “médias sociaux” (appellation dont je n’étais pas fan non plus quand ça a fait surface).

D’une part, vu le climat “marketing” actuel autour des médias sociaux, ça rend les choses un peu pénibles parfois pour la fille du Cluetrain que je suis. D’autre part, ça bouche tout un pan d’activités que je cherche à développer, autour de l’utilisation des outils numériques pour améliorer sa productivité et rendre son travail moins stressant. Trop souvent, l’email, le smartphone, et même un simple moteur de recherche sont perçus comme des obstacles à ce que l’on cherche à faire, alors que, bien maîtrisés, ils peuvent être des alliés précieux.

En tant qu’indépendant, on est responsable de sa job description. C’est à nous de la faire évoluer (ou non) en fonction de notre propre évolution ou de celle du marché. Ce n’est pas toujours aisé, surtout quand on navigue dans des eaux (numériques! haha!) où il n’existe pas de nom simple et un peu englobant permettant au moins de cerner un tant soit peu le domaine de notre expertise. Je ne suis pas “développeuse”, ni “informaticienne”, ni vraiment “coach”. Je ne donne pas des cours de “bureautique” (enfin oui, mais ce n’est pas limité à ça) et “médias sociaux” est à la fois trop large et également limitant.

En fait, je coince sur deux trucs: mon “domaine” et mon “profil”.

Ce que j’appelle mon profil, c’est relativement simple: en plus des mandats où j’ai un rôle clair de consultante ou de formatrice, j’ai aussi (et je cherche à développer) des mandats où je fais une sorte d’hybride formation-coaching-conseil que je ne sais jamais trop comment appeler.

Mon domaine d’expertise “technique” c’est plus épineux, je trouve:

  • les médias sociaux (sans le pan marketing) à usage plutôt individuel qu’institutionnel
  • la bureautique et les logiciels genre Lightroom, iMovie…
  • le web et les moteurs de recherche
  • WordPress comme outil de blog ou de CMS, y compris dans les aspects techniques (+ suffisamment de HTML/CSS/PHP/MySQL pour aider quelqu’un qui débute à s’y lancer/retrouver)
  • des outils pas principalement sociaux comme Evernote, Prezi, Google Docs, Dropbox
  • la gestion des comptes, des mots de passe, des backups, des documents
  • l’e-mail
  • … (je dois en oublier, et je zappe exprès les “soft skills” et les tas de “petits trucs” genre les raccourcis clavier et autres bons conseils)

Je travaille depuis quelques temps avec Fabienne Bogádi (coworkeuse à l’eclau et rédactrice/traductrice extraordinaire) à compléter mon nouveau site professionnel (le design, c’est la non moins extraordinaire Corinne Stoppelli qui s’en est chargée). Et ça commence à prendre forme. Et j’essaie d’intégrer ces nouveaux développements de ma job description, par exemple dans cette page. Mais c’est pas tout simple :-)

Idées de génie (et clients potentiels) bienvenus!

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Posted in Being the boss, My work | Tagged cluetrain, Consulting, definition, efficacité, job description, médias sociaux, productivité, productivity, recadrage, réflexion | 3 Comments

Value-Based Pricing: Breaking the Time Barrier

[fr] En tant qu'indépendant, il faut absolument s'éloigner d'un modèle où l'on facture pour son temps -- et facturer en fonction de la valuer qu'apporte notre travail au client. Cela implique une toute autre approche de la relation client et du travail de l'indépendant, très bien expliquée dans le ebook Breaking The Time Barrier. Une heure de lecture en Anglais, un peu plus si vous êtes moins à l'aise. Mais elle va vous faire gagner de l'argent.

Today I read Breaking the Time Barrier. It’s a quick read, an hour or so if you take your time. If you’re a freelancer, you should read it. If you have an hourly rate and are selling your time, you should read it even more. Thanks a lot to Claude for sharing this e-book on the Going Solo Discuss group.

I was first introduced to the concept of value-based pricing by Martin Roell on the occasion of his introductory workshop on consulting at Lift’07. It made perfect sense: if your expertise can solve a client’s problem in 3 minutes, should you really be paid only for three minutes of your time?

As I was explaining to a prospective client of mine Monday morning, when you spend half a day doing an exploratory workshop with me (to try and figure out what the f*** to do with social media, if anything), you’re not paying for four hours of my time. You’re paying to have answers. You’re paying to know what to do. Why would I charge you less if I can help you get there in just four hours than if I dragged you along for two whole weeks?

Since way back when, I’ve tried as much as possible to price my services based on their value to the client, and not based on how long it takes me. Time-based fees make my skin crawl: the client wants to keep the number of hours down, the consultant wants them to go up. It’s a really stupid system. It also implicitly encourages an “employee/employer” relationship, with the client possibly breathing down your neck to make sure you’re making good use of this time of yours he’s buying.

After reading Breaking the Time Barrier, I’ve understood one of my missing links: not putting a number on the value my client will get out of my work — which is a necessary element to pricing my service as an investment.

I’m also always a bit torn about my exploratory workshops: I charge for them separately, because too many times I ended up doing a workshop, writing up proposals, and end up with the client walking away. I realize now that on some of the occasions my proposals were not adequate because I had not understood the monetary value what my client was hoping to get out of the investment they would be making with me. One of my issues is also that a lot of the value I bring is advice, and that is sometimes all my clients need from me. Sometimes all they needed was that initial workshop. I still haven’t really decided how to deal with this, but I realize I need to think about it.

I also find it hard to stand firm sometimes with clients who insist on counting in hours. Business is so formatted to function like this that even when you tell people that you have no hourly rate, also because all your hours are not worth the same, and how many hours you spend on something is your problem and not theirs, and that what is important on their side is the result and value they are going to get, the conversation still ends up drifting back to “ok, sure, but how much will you charge for a day a month?”

I’m also having trouble applying this model to training. Training typically is something with a day rate. How do I provide value-based training? Focus on competencies and outcomes — but then, there is the unknown: how well the student learns. It does not take a fixed effort to teach something to somebody. Some people learn fast, and with others… you can start again from the beginning next month.

So there we are… my questions-in-the-guise-of-musings to Karen in the story.

Do you still have a day/hourly rate? Do you apply value-based pricing for your business, or part of it? Do you have any answers for the points I still struggle with after all these years?

3rd #back2blog challenge (9/10), with: Brigitte Djajasasmita (@bibiweb), Baudouin Van Humbeeck (@somebaudy), Mlle Cassis (@mlle_cassis), Luca Palli (@lpalli), Yann Kerveno (@justaboutvelo), Annemarie Fuschetto (@libellula_free), Ewan Spence (@ewan), Kantu (@kantutita), Jean-François Genoud (@jfgpro), Michelle Carrupt (@cmic), Sally O’Brien (@swissingaround), Adam Tinworth (@adders), Mathieu Laferrière (@mlaferriere), Graham Holliday (@noodlepie), Denis Dogvopoliy (@dennydov), Christine Cavalier (@purplecar), Emmanuel Clément (@emmanuelc), Xavier Bertschy (@xavier83). Follow #back2blog.

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Posted in Being the boss | Tagged client, consultant, day rate, earning, freelance, hourly rate, money, price, pricing, relationship, value, value-based pricing | 8 Comments

Vacances annuelles de Noël à mi-février

[en] Annual vacation coming up, from Christmas to mid-February.

Ceux d’entre vous qui me connaissent le savent: je prends depuis quelques années un “gros break” en hiver. Ça me permet de me ressourcer pour être plus productive et créative le reste de l’année. Et ça m’évite aussi de passer un mois de janvier en Suisse à déprimer dans la grisaille.

Concrètement, cela signifie que je ferme boutique entre Noël et mi-février — je reprends après la conférence Lift, qui a lieu du 6 au 8 février.

Je vais consacrer les deux semaines qui restent avant Noël à mettre de l’ordre dans les divers dossiers en cours. Certains d’entre vous attendent des réponses à des e-mails, et vous devriez les avoir d’ici là. Pour tout ce qui peut attendre mon retour, on verra ça dans deux mois!

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Posted in Being the boss, Personal | Tagged announcement, holiday, india, vacances | 2 Comments

Life and Trials of a Social Media Consultant

[fr] Le marché et l'industrie des médias sociaux a beaucoup changé depuis que j'en ai fait ma profession (c'était en 2006, pardi!). Petit regard en arrière sur le chemin parcouru et où je me situe par rapport à la pléthore actuelle de services tournant autour des médias sociaux. Un profil de généraliste avec deux domaines de prédilection, les blogs et les indépendants.

Since I went freelance over six years ago, a lot has changed. We weren’t talking of social media back then. I was a “blogging consultant” and what I told people about was “the living web”. At some point what we did was “social software”. Somewhere along the line “social media” showed up (who still speaks of “web 2.0″ nowadays?), and it’s become a pretty well-accepted umbrella term for all sorts of stuff from “viral videos” to “facebook marketing” to blogging to digital strategy to online communities… And all the rest.

At some point here in Switzerland, the social media industry matured. I went from being one of the very few people in the French-speaking part of Switzerland who could come and give a talk on “blogs and the living web” (when I started out) to one of the many fish in a larger and larger pond (including, sadly, some sharks). In other words, there are now people who specialize in creating marketing campaigns for facebook pages, others who are experts at Twitter, yet others who are full-time community managers.

I realized a couple of years ago that there was no point in me trying to compete with marketing/advertising agencies. Or community managers. I’m not a marketing expert. Or a community manager. Or many of the specialized roles that have appeared over the last couple of years. Today there are people who have full-time corporate jobs with “social media” in their job title — good luck finding any of those in 2004-2006.

You might remember my specialist/generalist series of articles. In today’s industry, I have a generalist profile (it’s a question of point of view of course, I’ll always be a “social media specialist” to the outside world). That makes me a great person to bring in during early stages of social media adoption/development (one reason I work with lots of freelancers and small organisations) and in situations where a wider view of the field is necessary to break through what are becoming the social media silos. It also makes me a good social media course director, because I have this global overview :-)

There are, however, areas that I am specialized in — or have specialized in, over the years. I started out being a web standards advocate (Pompage.net and the associated mailing-list live on). I gave a whole bunch talks (and wrote some code) around the question of languages and multilingualism online. Until recently (and still sometimes, actually!) another area of expertise of mine was teenagers and the internet (I’ve lost track of the number of talks I’ve given in schools, but it’s probably somewhere around 50).

Today, the two areas I “expertise” in are blogging and freelancers/freelancing. I’ve been doing quite a bit of soul-searching as I prepare the much-needed revamped version of my professional website, which I won’t even link to here, it’s so horribly painfully out of date. Maybe once the new version is up I’ll come back here and add all the relevant links ;-)

Blogging: I’ve been blogging since July 2000. Blogging is my thing. It’s in my DNA. I’ll probably never stop, even though I am blogging less than I used to, because there are now other channels of communication and self-expression that were not there in the early days of blogging. I’m a blogger. Professionally, that means it’s a tool I love, and that if you need somebody to get you started in the world of blogging, or help you progress along the way, I’m your person.

I’ve been playing around with WordPress since forever (even written a bunch of plugins). I’ve been the editor of the French-language ebookers travel blog for three and a half years. Last year I helped get the Paper.li community blog off the ground (not even mentioning the countless others amongst my more “modest” clients). I’ve advised and coached companies as varied as Intel (2007), Fleur de Pains (2008) or Solar Impulse (2010) on their blogging, and developed services in blogger relations for Web 2.0 Expo Europe, LeWeb, Solar Impulse, and now Orange. And how could I forget Bloggy Friday Lausanne!

Enough with the list. I’ve been doing this blogging stuff for a long time, and doing quite a lot of it.

Freelancers/freelancing: the freelance ride has not been smooth for me, though I’ve made it. I’m somebody who self-analyzes a lot, and so I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how to manage one’s life and job when one freelances. The first outcome of this trend was the Going Solo conference (now a group on facebook), and then the eclau coworking space in Lausanne. For many years I have also had lots of freelancers amongst my clients: people who have little or no web presence and want to get started, or learn how to blog, or use social media to make themselves more visible. All this ties together nicely, and I appreciate it goes beyond social media: business strategy, productivity, negotiating and dealing with relationships, work-life balance…

So, there we go. I initially wanted to speak about the wisdom (or not) of specializing in “blogging” nowadays, but the introduction of this post took on a life of its own, so there you are! I’ll keep that question for another post.

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Posted in Being the boss, Blogging, My work | Tagged blogging, evolution, freelancing, industry, Social Media and the Web, switzerland | Leave a comment

Indépendants, lisez (et faites lire) le blog de l’eclau!

[en] I'm writing about freelance life in French on the eclau blog.

Vous le savez, j’ai ouvert en novembre 2008 un espace coworking, l’eclau (premier de Suisse!), après avoir organisé en mai de la même année une conférence pour indépendants, Going Solo. (Oui je sais, le site est plein d’avertissements, faut que je règle ça. Oups.)

En tant qu’indépendante, la façon dont on mène sa vie d’indépendant est un sujet qui me fascine. Comment on s’organise, comment on gère sa vie et ses clients, comment on se construit en tant que professionnel…

J’écris sur ces thématiques assez régulièrement sur le blog de l’eclau. Il faut lire le blog de l’eclau, oui oui! Et dire à vos amis indépendants de le lire! Le compte Twitter de l’eclau est un peu moins actif, mais il tweete chaque article du blog à publication, ce qui vous donne une chance de les voir. Sinon, il y a toujours la possibilité de s’abonner par e-mail pour être sûr de ne pas rater d’article.

Pour vous mettre l’eau à la bouche, voici les articles un peu “vie indépendante” que j’y ai publié:

Sur le feu: une réflexion sur comment se positionner en tant que “patron” face à ses clients, et une autre idée pour donner un bol d’air frais à son cerveau (faire du troc de temps avec un collègue).

Bonne lecture!

 

 

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Posted in Being the boss | Tagged blog, eclau, écriture, freelance, indépendants, vie indépendante | Leave a comment

Structured vs. Freeform Work

[fr] Paymo et la Technique Pomodoro me sont super utiles pour être productive et faire ce que j'ai à faire. Malheureusement, ces deux outils ont complètement changé ma façon de travailler, et je crois que j'ai perdu quelque chose en route: me laisser porter par mes impulsions du moment, passer d'une chose à l'autre librement... un liberté que j'aimais dans mon travail, somme toute.

Solution? Un mix des deux. Travailler "librement" le matin (j'ai créé un client "divers" dans Paymo exprès pour ça) et faire des tomates l'après-midi pour m'assurer que les choses importantes avancent.

Et vous, vous travaillez plutôt de façon très structurée ou libre/improvisée?

Thanks to the endless “how we work” discussions my friend Steph and I have, I’ve understood that more than simply hanging out online less, one of the things I’ve done since I started trying to be more productive and focused with my work (through Paymo and the Pomodoro Technique) is turn everything I do for work into “must do” tasks.

I’m somebody who has impulses to do things — I’ve mentioned it in passing about blogging, but it’s valid for other things. I suddenly feel it’s important to prepare this or that document, or get back to such-and-such, or clean my desk. And — this is the important bit — I think I enjoy doing things more when they are born of an impulse or an urge rather than because they are on the list of things I must do today.

I’ve learned (with my failed experiment at having readers vote on what they wanted me to write about) that I can turn something I really want to do into something I really don’t want to do by simply putting it on a to-do list or planning a time to do it. It sucks, and in an ideal world I would function differently, but that’s obviously how it works for me. I can kill my enthusiasm by turning something into a task.

So, what to do?

I’d like to make it quite clear I don’t blame Paymo or the Pomodoro Technique. If anything, what has happened to me shows how useful these two tools are at focusing on stuff that must get done.

The problem is that I have reduced my work to “stuff that must get done”. I need to find a balance. Balance! I keep saying that. My big quest of the year seems to be balance.

Paymo is really useful for me to know where my time goes, but its negative side-effect is that it prevents me from freely drifting from one thing to another, and just following my impulse of the moment. What I’ve done for the moment is created another “client” in my list (“various”) which only has one project (“freeform”).

This allows me to put myself in “freeform work mode”, set the timer so I still have an idea of how many work hours I put in each week/day/month, but not have to worry about what I’m doing. I’m going to lose track to some extent of how much time I spend doing certain things, but at this stage I think it’s more important that I find more pleasure in work again.

The Pomodoro Technique is great for knocking down tasks, or making sure I do “maintenance work” on long-term projects where nothing is urgent right now, so I don’t fall behind. It’s great for fighting procrastination. It’s great of doing what really has to be done. But it’s too structured for me to spend my whole work time using it.

So what I’m going to try doing is work freeform in the morning — do what I feel like doing, without obsessing about productivity — and do tomatoes in the afternoon to make sure the important stuff does get done.

I’ll try to remember to report back after a few days.

Do you have any experiences or thoughts to share on working in a structured vs. freeform way? Do you need both, or favour one style? I’m interested in hearing from you about this.

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Posted in Being the boss, Personal | Tagged balance, freeform, paymo, pomodoro technique, structured, working styles | 5 Comments

Hanging out Online: Why it’s Important for me

[fr] Aux abonnés absents: le temps passé à trainer en ligne sans but précis. La faute à trop de travail, peut-être, à trop de structure dans mon travail, et à une fuite de l'ordinateur lorsque je cherche à me détendre. Il y a un équilibre à retrouver -- parce que trainer en ligne, c'est quand même fun, et c'est ce qui m'a amené à faire le métier que je fais!

One thing I realized shortly after writing my article on downtime is that I have stopped “hanging out online”. And I think that “downtime” activity plays a more important role in my life balance than I’d realized until now.

I think two or three things led to this.

First, I’ve had lots of work this spring (nothing new, but I like to keep repeating it). I managed to preserve most of my “off the computer” downtime, and I realize now that what I sacrificed was the aimless tinkering-chatting-reading-writing-hanging-out online.

More importantly, I started using Paymo in April to give myself an idea of how much time I’ve been spending on what — and how many hours of actual work I was doing. It’s been really useful and has helped me gather precious info on my work, but it has had a side effect: I have started thinking more about what I spend my time on, and being more “monotask” in the way I work.

When I know I have the timer running on preparing my SAWI course, for example, or working on LeWeb blogger accreditations, I don’t feel free to drift off into something else, or read an article or check out Tumblr while I’m working. This is kind of twisted, because the only person who cares how much time I spend on something in this case is me.

So, I’ve changed the way I work, and I’m not sure it’s entirely a good thing. I think I’ve lost my balance.

Using the Pomodoro Technique has made it “worse”. I mean, it has accentuated this trend. It’s been really good for my productivity, it’s been really good to help me be less stressed, and it’s been really good to help me beat my procrastinative tendancies. But I think it hasn’t been good for my overall satisfaction about my work. Something is missing — that’s what I’ve been telling people all these last months. Everything is fine with my work, I have enough of it (more than enough!), it’s interesting, but something is not quite right.

And I think that part of this “not quite right” is that I’ve become too focused on just getting the “work work” done (the one that pays), and I’ve neglected the fun part of work, which is my interest for the online world and the people who inhabit it. I also suspect this can have something to do with my lack of blogging — there hasn’t been much to feed that part of me recently.

So, maybe I have to come back in part to how I was working before. Find a balance. This is not a new preoccupation of mine: for a few years now I’ve been lamenting the fact that I’m not managing to set aside enough time to tinker online, write, do research. But I think it’s become more extreme since I started focusing more exclusively on my client work.

Maybe what I need to do is do tomatoes in the morning, and work more “loosely” in the afternoon (or the opposite). Tinker, get stuff done, write, whatever I feel like doing (including dealing with emergencies or “too much work” if I feel the daily rythm of morning tomatoes isn’t cutting it). Maybe I need to have “tomato days” and “non-tomato days”. Maybe I need to watch less TV (haha!) in the evening and spend more time hanging out online on Google+. Maybe I need to find a way to allow myself to multitask more (!) when I’m working. I’m not sure what the answer is yet.

What hanging out online does for me is the following, as far as I can make out:

  • gives my brain time to wander around (cf. Downtime post)
  • allows me to keep in touch with what’s going on in the social media world, and the people who are part of it
  • gives me food for thought a something to do with those thoughts (if all I do is work and consume fiction, chances are I won’t have much to blog about, right?)
  • it’s a space to tinker with tech and new toys (something I like doing per se)

And more importantly (this is something I think I’ve already written about somewhere regarding blogging and its relation to my work), “online” is a space I enjoy. I like being there. It’s part of the reason I made my job about it. So, just as it is a warning light if my job prevents me from blogging, it’s a warning light if the way I organize my work life prevents me from hanging out online.

Now, as I’ve already said: it’s all a question of balance. Spending my whole life tinkering online and working does not work either.

But these last months (and maybe years), the balance has been off. And right now, I think I’m starting to get unstuck, and am on my way to finding (building?) more balance.

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Posted in Being the boss, Connected Life, Personal | Tagged downtime, free time, hanging out, inspiration, My work, online, relaxing, tinkering | 2 Comments

Trying to Get Organized (Again)

[fr] Je m'organise: pas de nouveaux mandats de formation ou de conférences avant mi-mars 2012 (priorité à mes engagements existants, l'agenda est plein!), utiliser la Technique Pomodoro sur la semaine pour mieux évaluer la charge de travail que représente les affaires courantes et mes mandats existants, et travaillers sur des conférences et formations "standard" plutôt que de tout faire à partir de zéro à chaque fois!

I’m trying to figure out how to get organized over the next six months to do everything I need/want to do without working myself into the ground. Or behind the sofa, cowering.

This is part of the ongoing “how to improve the way I run my business” thinking.

One thing I have clearly pinpointed is the following:

  • almost all the work I do (including training and talks) is bespoke
  • when the financial means of my clients are limited (e.g. many schools and small companies) I need to find a more rational way of using my time

This means I need to get to work on the dirty little secret of successful businesses and freelancers: reduce, recycle, reuse (thanks for that one, Suw). I need to work on preparing a certain number of “standard” talks and training sessions, rather than doing everything from scratch each time.

Until the end of the year, I already have a significant amount of commitments (or commitments-in-the-making, because we’re still hashing out details or agreeing on a formal proposal). The good news around this is that I’m not too worried about paying my bills (I still have a way to go before I can relax completely about finances, though… but who can?). The bad news is that looking at my calendar for September/October/November is already making me feel stressed. (That’s the calendar including future and probable gigs, though, it’s not that bad.)

The other thing is that (probably overcompensating for too many years with almost no holidays) I am actually taking a large number of weeks off this year. I’ve counted, and I will not release the number, because it is somewhat indecent. It makes me feel a little better about being overworked when I’m here, though. And it does bring to my attention the fact I probably need to seek a little more balance between my “working time” and “holiday time”.

Holidays play two roles for me:

  1. allow me time off from work to recuperate
  2. allow me to see people I love and who don’t live in Lausanne or nearby

The first type of holiday clearly requires no working while I’m away. The second doesn’t. There’s no reason I can’t go and spend a week in London with Suw and Steph, work while I’m there and hang out with them. This would also have the advantage of giving me a week clear of meetings and phone calls and visits, where I can concentrate on “office work”. So, I’m going to plan some of those for 2012.

So, all that considered, if I look at my calendar now it’s pretty clear to me I don’t really have space for new speaking/training engagements until mid-March 2012 (except if they’re paid well enough to make me happy to sacrifice my week-ends — never say never).

That’s the wide-angle view for the year ahead.

On a more micro level, I’ve mentioned elsewhere (and in another language) that I’ve been using the Pomodoro Technique recently and it’s really helping me. Here’s how it helps:

  • it gives me a clear amount of time to put my head down (like my “dashes” do)
  • it makes me take breaks
  • as I write down my Pomodoros, it helps me plan what I’m going to get done in the day/morning and adjust my expectations

The last bit is crucial. Specially when I have lots to do that is not deadly urgent, I have trouble setting priorities and get frustrated at how slowly I make progress. Now, if I know that during a 9-12 morning session I can do 5 pomodoros (= 5 times 25 minutes of actual work), it allows me to plan what I’m going to use them for. I might use one to make progress in my accounting backlog, one to make progress in a report I really don’t want to write, two to write a blog post, and one to deal with some e-mail, get back to people, and plan the next day.

Used this way, the Pomodoro Technique is a very simple planning tool that takes a lot of stress away from me and allows me to put my energy in actually working.

There is less overhead than Getting Things Done, too: even if you want to do things well, reading the free ebook that explains the Pomodoro Technique takes about an hour. And you can dive right in: just get a timer, set it on 25 minutes, work non-stop on something, then take a five-minute break, and start again. It’s deadly simple and is designed to be implemented in progressive steps (instead of degrading gracefully it upgrades gracefully). Check out the cheat sheet if you’re impatient.

I should be able to fit 12 Pomodoros in a full day of work, but to play it safe, I’m counting on 10 right now. That means I have 50 Pomodoros available on a five-day week. The Pomodoro is a unit of time that my brain can work with, specially after a few days of working in Pomodoro-length bursts. It’s much simpler than the hour, which is (a) longer and (b) divisible. (There is a rule that says “The Pomodoro is indivisible.”)

This is helping me see what I can get done in a day, and therefore, a week. For example, I might estimate that I need on average one Pomodoro a day to get organized, do my accounting/invoicing, pay bills, sort through e-mails. Not the same mix every day, but roughly one a day. Right, five a week.

Then, I estimate that on one of the projects I’m working on, I need 3 Pomodoros a week. On another, two. Another might take up a day of my time each week, which means my weeks actually have closer to 40 Pomodoros than 50.

If you do project planning, you’re familiar with this. It’s nothing new. But in my case, the ability to think “in Pomodoros” has been the key to allowing my brain to do this kind of exercise. As I write down my Pomodoros in advance and check them off as they’re done, within a few weeks I’ll be easily able to see if my estimates are off and adjust them.

One thing I’ve been terribly bad at this last year is protecting a sufficient number of “office days” where I’m not interrupted by errands and meetings.

So, in summary, what’s the plan?

  • plan “working abroad” visits for 2012 to reduce the number of non-working holidays while still seeing non-local friends and family
  • moratorium on new speaking/training engagements until mid-March 2012
  • continue working in Pomodoros and gain a better sense of how much time I need for my regular “ongoing” tasks and projects so that I have a “weekly framework of Pomodoros” to get organized from
  • work on standard talks and training offers (which will in the long run allow me to be more proactive and less reactive about finding clients)
  • block an “office day” per week (monthly average)

Off I go!

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Posted in Being the boss | Tagged calendar, getting organized, gtd, holidays, My work, pomodoro technique, travel, vacation | 1 Comment

From All to Nothing Doesn’t Do it

[fr] Quand on a couru durant des mois, c'est une erreur de s'arrêter net, au risque de se retrouver complètement déséquilibré. Mieux vaut lever le pied et continuer à un rythme tranquille, comme je suis en train de le faire avec mon horaire d'été "9-12".

It’s a secret to nobody around me that I’ve been pretty insanely busy these last months. Now the summer is here, I have holidays planned, and I need to regain my balance.

When I came back from Paris (I spent a few days there with Solar Impulse for the blogger breakfast we held there) I was pretty much done with deadly rythm of late June. You know, when you have things piled up on top of one another and hardly any breathing space between them. Yes, there were a few crises.

Anyway, when I came back from Paris, I decided to rest. For three-four days, I didn’t work at all. I lounged around, caught up on all the appointments I needed to take (hairdresser, dentist, osteopath and the like), and left the computer behind.

Unfortunately I still felt as stressed and tired. I wasn’t sleeping well. I wasn’t feeling well.

Sometime last week, I headed back to the office to get a few things done, ended up using the Pomodoro Technique and buddy-working with Steph to try and salvage my motivation.

I realized that I had made a mistake by stopping completely after my return from Paris. If you’ve been running like mad for two hours, and you reach the end of the race, you don’t lie down on the ground straight behind the finish line. You keep on going, gently, for a bit, walking. Once you’ve cooled down a bit you stop.

To make things worse, though I don’t have anything really terribly urgent to take care of (well, compared to what the last 3 weeks looked like), I have quite a lot of important stuff to move forward on. Making no progress at all was stressing me out.

I’ve therefore settled into my summer part-time schedule (from 9 to 12), maintaining the healthy mix of pomodoros and buddy working, and it’s doing wonders for my mood and my tiredness.

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Posted in Being the boss, Personal | Tagged balance, rythm, stress | 1 Comment