Category Archives: 10Best

10 Best Excuses – Deadline Management

Last night I had some time to myself to really mull this over. I had mentioned in my session that there often is a great difficulty meeting personal deadlines. The likeliest candidate for that is due to needing to meet deadlines every day professionally.

This is one of my personal hurdles and one I struggle with. Here are some pointers;

1. Treat your personal work as a normal project. If you set a deadline, do your best to meet that deadline.

2. Be realistic with your self-set deadlines. If you are too aggressive and you really won’t make it, you’ve created a nearly 100% failure rate. “I can’t get this done, I might as well not do it.”

Finding that middle ground of being realistic while still reaching your goals is a difficult one. This is where being a project manager would be truly handy. Consider all the factors involved in your project. Try to include time researching, time developing, time co-ordinating (if there are other people involved) and time in QA. If you are able to break down your tasks logically, a reasonable timeline should evolve.

This situation is all too personal for me. I desperately want to finish my site, but I don’t want to be too aggressive in development that I’ll miss important things. However, I also don’t want to simply ignore setting a deadline or I’ll allow this project to linger indefinitely.

I am making every effort to be finished my site, TattooCapture, for my birthday on December 1st. A good present, if I do say so myself. I believe I’ve been reasonable with myself. I’ve worked a tremendous amount at the expense of my TattooCapture to provide a cushion so I can work in peace.

We’ll see how it goes.

10 Best Excuses – Flexibility

Possibly one of the hardest concepts to get a handle on is being flexible. Being dogmatic or inflexible takes a lot of practice to recognize. Namely because it’s generally something you believe. “I need to do A. If I don’t do A, I won’t accomplish anything.”

Sometimes, if you do B, A takes care of itself.

Here’s an example.

My wife, Elizabeth, was working on products for her first craft show. She’d planned on 5 products; Dresses, bloomers, stuffed owls, pants and blankets. As she came closer to her deadline, she realized she could get all 5 products done. However, she’d only have one or two of each item. To me, this made little practical sense. Why have multiple products but appear to have almost nothing in stock? My advice to her was concentrate on fewer products which would allow her to have more of each item. You can get on a roll working on one thing, thereby increasing productivity and progress. It worked really well for Libs. She ended up with 12 dresses, 9 owls and 9 bloomers. That’s a very good table at a craft show.

In the developer world, this applies itself thusly; (I always enjoy an excuse to use “thusly”)

Let’s say you’ve planned a site. You have multiple sections, multiple features. If, in concentrating on the whole, you start to run out of time. Can you identify features that aren’t required for launch? Post-launch mini-launches (otherwise known as staged launches) can actually be exciting for your users and provide a fresh experience. As long as you’ve correctly identified what is absolutely necessary for the correct user experience, you can launch initially with a complete (from the point of view of the user) site. Every additional element you add becomes icing on the cake.

It’s flexibility that’ll keep you from going mad and living with 2 AM bedtimes. That’s just an opinion. Maybe you enjoy 2 AM bedtimes.

10 Best Excuses – Common Sense, Explained

I received my feedback today from my session at Flash on the Beach.

There were some exceptions, but overall the feedback was very positive.

One comment struck me;
although he is a very inspiring person, and there were some real true facts in his seminar, had i expected more, some excuses everybody knows…

To be called “very inspiring” is something I’ve never heard before, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about. What this person ended with was “some excuses everybody knows…”

Something everyone knows is normally considered common sense. I think that’s why I chose to talk about it. Things that are common sense and things that should be common sense are night and day.

I don’t light my head on fire because common sense dictates that it will hurt, harm, scar and otherwise kill me. Common sense tells me if I choose to play a video game for eight hours straight, I won’t be actually working. Common sense also tells me if I am working on a project and start a new one, the original project will stop being worked on.

My talk and the excuses I explained occurred to me over a long period of time. I mentioned at the beginning that I have been a flash “guy” for over ten years. That’s ten years of ignoring work, focusing on one job over another, playing video games, not being inspired or being TOO inspired. The thing that matters is not necessarily whether or not everyone knows these things, the thing that matters is whether or not you’re solving your problems. My solutions weren’t going to work for everyone, either. They work for me. I still find myself a victim of my own head. But I’m working on it.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback! I really enjoyed reading the comments. Even the bad ones. To clarify;

  • I am NOT American. I’m Canadian.
  • I wasn’t hungover and never said I was. I said my voice was suffering due to flashonthebeach-itis. Otherwise known as, too much drinking, too much smoking, too much yelling and not enough sleep. But I was definitely not hungover for my session.
  • 10 Best Excuses – There's This Great Game

    One of the excuses I outlined I called “There’s This Great Game”. In the explanation, I mention that “Games are time”. To further the point. Games are time that could be spent working. Time that either you could be getting paid in using or spent furthering your knowledge.

    If you’re playing games as a way of ignoring your work, you’re doing yourself a disservice. However, if you’re playing a game as a way of disconnecting momentarily and clearing your head, play away.

    I just got myself out of the former reason. I bought Halo ODST last weekend. Not surprisingly, I sat down and played it immediately. Work be damned. It’s now Wednesday and I haven’t touched TattooCapture in that time, beyond some minor modifications.

    It’s timely I ran into this issue again. My point in the session involved World of Warcraft, the great time-waster, but any game is applicable.

    Moderation is key. If you know me personally, you know I am not a moderate person by any stretch of the imagination. However, when it comes to games, I rarely fall into the trap of hours spent playing because it’s happened so often I can recognize the problem. You might say, “But you just admitted to ODST’ing yourself for four days.” True. I am not playing it right now, am I?

    There are two approaches I use when it comes to games. One is as a break reward. I’d like to take an hour because I accomplished something and will move on to something else after the hour. Two is at the end of the day. You’ve accomplished what you set out to do in the day and are finished. Go ahead and play.

    What I do not do is use a game as a way to get over a hump. ie. “I just can’t figure this out, I’ll just go play Fable II.” This never works. You get into your game and keep playing. You forget why you started playing. As a means of distraction, a game is extremely effective. So what to do when you are in a jam if you can’t play a game? Get up and get away from your computer. I’d recommend writing out your problem long-hand in your notebook. I’ve mentioned having a notebook, haven’t I? A lot of problems can be solved by spelling them out for yourself.

    If this doesn’t fix the issue and you like being a lone wolf? Google. Seriously. I cannot tell you how many times my problems have been solved with a simple Google search.

    If this doesn’t fix the issue? Contact your peers. Your peers are a wealth of knowledge waiting to be tapped. Get to know your peers. They will become invaluable resources in the log run. Besides, more friends are good. Don’t be a pain in the ass and bug them for every little thing.

    I digress. Suffice it to say, a video game doesn’t teach, doesn’t give back and doesn’t earn you money.

    10 Best Excuses – One Complete Thought

    Last night I had an interesting conversation concerning the process of how I work. I talked a little about the idea of “one complete thought”. That phrase didn’t actually form until this morning, but it’s stuck with me now.

    When I set out to work, I specifically say “This is what I want to get done.” Sometimes that task is difficult, sometimes it’s easy. It doesn’t really matter. The fact of the matter is, it’s a task. When you set yourself a task and concentrate solely on that task, you can then feel you’ve accomplished something. One of my previous issues was moving on before completing my task. When I did that, the started but uncompleted task starts to hang over me. I begin to ignore it until finally I realize I have painted myself into a corner. This doesn’t happen every time. Some of the time it’s fine. I get distracted, work on something else, and come back to the original task. But occasionally I forget my intentions and can’t regain my train of thought concerning the original task.

    Back to the point. What I wanted to accomplish was to build a form and have it hook into a webservice so a user could register for my site. I spent an entire afternoon and half the night doing this. I wanted, desperately, to move on. Every error, every bug pushed me to give up. However, I knew that if I relented and allowed my .NET dev (John Breton) do as he suggested and “Just build the form in ASP” I would never get back to my flash form. I’m obstinate that way.

    Sure it took longer than I wanted. That isn’t an issue. When I was finished, I could stand up and step away from my computer. The next day I would start something else. The fact is that the next thing on my list took 1/3 the time. Because I had the knowledge of hooking into the webService from my form. The time I spent the night before directly affected how much time I needed to spend the next day.

    My advice is don’t move on. If you set yourself a task, complete that task. There is something utterly satisfying about completion. That’s “One Complete Thought”.

    I realize that this won’t work or be applicable for everyone. Some people can multi-thread their efforts. However, I know myself and I can’t.

    10 Best Excuses – Distraction & Recognition

    Now that the rush of speaking at FOTB has lessened, I thought it relevant to expand on some of the things I said on stage. As I write these posts, I’ll be sure to tag them 10Best so you can click on the tag in the post and have all the pertinent posts lined up for you.

    To start with, I’d like to talk a little about recognition. Typically, the most difficult thing to do when you’re avoiding work is realizing you are avoiding work. If you haven’t done any work in a while, it might all of a sudden hit you, “Why am I still not working?”

    I’m here to tell you, recognition is extremely important. Once you can see from outside yourself what you’re up to, you can make the effort to move on. If you’re not avoiding work, per se, but simply taking a break, that’s something else entirely. Let’s pretend you’re not taking a break.

    So how do you do something introspective when it’s not immediately in your nature? This actually requires effort. However, once you’re used to doing it, it’s difficult to stop. Besides that, you might start blaming procrastination on things that really aren’t. LOL.

    Anyway, let’s figure out how to rejig your thinking.

    Look at what you’re doing right now. Maybe not right now, since you’re reading my post. No wait, yes, right now. Are you reading this post because you’re geniunely interested in what you’re reading? Or are you reading it because you don’t feel like working? Either way, thanks for reading my post, but if your reason is the latter, stop reading and go back to work.

    Are they gone? Good. Good for them. If you’re still here, it’s the former. Please read on.

    This applies to everything online. We can get distracted, often, by links that lead to other links that lead to other links. That’s the wonder and the curse of the interweb.

    Turn yourself around, it’s fairly easy. Schedule distraction time. Give yourself a half hour or an hour a day to just tool around looking at links. Copy and paste links into a text file for later perusal. But do not go immediately to the links you’re given. You’ll find you discriminate more in what you look at when you wait to look. Sometimes it helps to even copy whatever the description that your friend or the referrer provided with the link. For instance, “LOL. HILARIOUS. http://randomLink” You know, and I know, that that’s a link that can wait.

    It’s not intentional but getting distracted from what you’re doing and losing your train of thought (or as I started to say “My train of thought’s derailed”) is really, really easy. Since we’re social animals by nature, we don’t like saying “Just give me insert # of minutes minutes and I’ll get back to you.” Even if it’s in IM. I say social and distracted can be two different things. Be polite, but keep your momentum.

    Now, this doesn’t apply only to monkeying around looking at links. Do you get up from your desk to have a smoke? Do you refill your coffee and find yourself standing at the carafe chatting with someone about their weekend, wedding, trip, kids, itch? You need to figure out why you’re not working. If you genuinely need to take a break, take your break. Look at your reasons. More often than not, I left my desk because I simply didn’t want to deal with what was on my screen. Avoidance is procrastination, by the way. Thought I’d share that.

    This mindset has paid off incredibly for me since going freelance. When I stand up from my desk now, I ask “Why am I getting up?” If I look back at my computer and see something that’s been hanging me up, I sit back down. If there isn’t, I get up and take five minutes of free thought, stretching, smoke, coffee, water, bathroom, whatever. But I don’t let myself get in my own way anymore.

    Don’t discount the value of taking a break to reset your head. You can bang your brain against a bug for hours and never get there. Sometimes the only answer for it is to stand up, step back, blink the stupid out of your eyes and breath.

    FOTB 2009 – My Presentation

    This will be the first of two blog posts; My presentation and then the conference experience.

    This was the first time I’d been invited to speak by John Davey. It was my top-most priority to do a good job and not let him down. I chose what I thought was a subject useful to me, procrastination and how to steer away from it. I titled it “The 10 Best Excuses to NOT do Amazing Work”. Here’s the opening slide.

    The first three days I was there was really me freaking out about my preso and dry-running it repeatedly. Removing Slides, adding slides and removing them again. Hammering out exactly what I wanted to say because I didn’t want anyone to feel that their time was wasted.

    Josh Davis was kind enough to let me borrow his laptop. On wednesday, I transferred my files, tested it out and we had some laughs at the expense of my poor, beleaguered voice. Turns out three days of too much drinking, too much smoking, too much yelling and too little sleep wore out my throat.

    We headed over to Stacey Mulcahy’s talk Can play well with others and caught the last half. I’ve never seen Stacey speak and she really did a great job. Funny, engaging, comfortable and smart. Besides, a picture of a giant bottle of liquor on screen with a suggestion of “If all else fails, get drunk with them.” Thumbs up, Stacey.

    When it came my turn to get on stage, the fact that I was on stage for the first time in a year and a half hit me and I had the worst case of stage fright I’d ever encountered. Then as people sauntered in, it hit me “Fuck it. Too late.” So I felt myself relax slightly and I stepped off the stage to chat with my friends who decided to forgo Seb Lee-Delisle and Colin Moock, who were both presenting at the same time. The support these people gave me by coming to my talk was really appreciated. As the seats filled and I got back on stage, and time was creeping up on me, a volunteer came forward to let me know he was introducing me.

    The hour went quickly. The audience was top-notch; helpful, attentive and communicative. They laughed when I hoped they’d laugh and didn’t when I hoped they wouldn’t. So if you were in attendance at my presentation, you should know that a presenter feeds off their audience as much as an audience feeds off their presenter. Not in a creepy vampire way, but a buffet kind of way. No… wait… not like that, either. A good way. My throat held out and the applause was boisterous at the end.

    If you’re looking for the presentation, I’d used Keynote to build it, and exported the slides as jpegs. There are some fundamental things missing, but it is my presentation. You just click on each image and you’re off to the races.

    The response since has been gratifying, to say the least. I wasn’t really thinking that my own procrastination and excuses were universally understandable. It’s been a whilrwind of compliments and I’m truly pleased that y’all liked it.

    Next post, when I have time, will be thoughts on the everything that wasn’t above.