Johnathan.org

January 10, 2015

Half-Way There

This site has served many purposes over the last couple of years, and none of them have really taken off. Looking back on how my routines have changed and what I am spending more time focusing on, I can really tell that at some point in the future that I can’t determine (yet), this site will finally become a permanent and consistent place for me to write and share my voice and thoughts.

One thing I’ve always thought about doing is starting a full-on tech blog, but the work involved is greater than the amount of time I have to spend, right now. I’m sure that’ll change in the future, and when it does, I’ll revisit the idea. In the mean time, I’m content with this one property.

While thinking about how my routines have changed, I know I still have a small struggle with the weekends. Over the last few days, I’ve been writing early in the morning before I leave for work and it’s been helping me start my day in a more gradual and stimulating fashion. The weekend is still a struggle though because subconsciously I know I don’t have anywhere to be in particular so why should I bother getting up early? Since hindsight is always 20/20, I can tell my 8 hour-past self that I wouldn’t feel like crap for sleeping 14 hours and my day wouldn’t be half-wasted away. I could have done a ton of stuff in the 5-7 hours I could have had as extra if I stuck to the routine I set up during the week.

With any new habit, it takes time to break out of the old one and build up a new one, so tomorrow is always another opportunity to try again.

One of my end goals with this blog is to be able to write about one particular complete topic related to the previous day. I know there are so many different things that happen all the time that I could have enough content for years, but a lot of it I don’t keep record of or even remember. I can’t remember where I read it but a statistic stated that we only remember roughly 6% of what happened the day before. Maybe that number is higher, but I also remember that within a week, that number drops to 1%. I know I can agree on the second number because this time last weekend, I remember very little of what I was doing…

I don’t want to just write about a random smattering of things, though. I want to keep it to topics I find interesting and relevant… stuff that describes myself and my interests, not just what I ate for breakfast, yesterday (oatmeal). It’ll take a bit of time to build up, but I’ll get there. Keeping my self writing everyday will help do that.

January 8, 2015

The Space in Which I Craft

Updated: a lot of changes have taken place since I wrote this post over two years ago. My most current desk setup is here. One thing I’ve come to learn is that having a good writing space is important. For some, the room has to be just right. Darkness, music, closed doors. For others, like myself, I don’t need as much. I think it’s worth breaking down to a more manageable conversation.

Lights

Some folks like to keep the room dark, some like it brightly lit. I’m in between. I have a free-standing lamp from IKEA that uses two bulbs and the shades are a fogged white. The bulbs themselves are hybrid 75-watt-incandescent-20-watt-cfl. This allows the lamp to be immediately lit with bright, warm light from the incandescent bulbs while the CFLs are warming up. When they have, the bulbs automagically switch over and you notice little change. At first I thought this was awesome but I’ve come to find out that GE makes simple CFLs that don’t need any warming in 75w-equivalent sizes for roughly $7 bucks a piece. Future lights in that lamp will be of that variety, for sure. Until then, I’m content with my moderate lighting setup. It’s not too bright (like an office), which I hate, because I feel it’s distracting, and it’s not super dark, because that would put me to sleep. Plus, I feel staring at an LCD screen in the pitch dark is more traumatizing to my eyes than it’s worth, really.

Coffee

This is my first post in this challenge and on my blog in particular where I wrote it before 6AM. I decided yesterday to hack my morning routine and start getting up earlier, to the more natural rhythm of my sleep cycles. I’ve almost got it down, already, just need a few more tweaks. To assist in the morning energization of my mind, a nice hot cup of coffee from my no-fuss Keurig coffee maker is a must. I don’t have time to grind and crap.

Music

I like listening to classical music while I’m at work. It keeps me in a calm state, so I figured I’d give it a try while writing. As I write this post, I’m listing to a rather even playlist of classical music deemed for concentration on Spotify, the best $10/month investment in the world. Seriously, if you’re not in the market to spend a ton on music (classical is super cheap, anyway, so perhaps you should just go buy a few compilation albums for a couple bucks each on Amazon), Spotify is the way to go. I have so much classical music in several locations: roughly 4 days worth, end-to-end, from Amazon Music, that I spent a grand total of $6 on, a few albums from iTunes, and a half-dozen playlists on Spotify.

Past Struggles

In the past, I’ve had bouts where I haven’t written in months, and this point of this exercise is to reflect on wether my environment is the reason for it. In my case, I’m pretty happy with where I’m sitting, in my 2nd-bedroom-turned-office. My struggle hasn’t really been with my environment, but more with my dedication to writing, and just doing it more. I get bored with things, easily, if I stop having motivation to do them, including writing. I’ve written several things in the past that I thought were really good but shortly thereafter, I stopped feeling like writing, in favor of doing other things. This time around, writing will be a part of my daily routine, no matter what I haven’t quite figured out what time of day yet, as this morning I started this at 5AM, but yesterday I started at 5:30PM. I guess so long as I’m writing every day, I can hammer out the finer points of my routine as I find a rhythm that I like. Until then, I just need to keep putting words to paper.

January 7, 2015

Why I Write

Part of this newfound journey I’m on to blog better is to look inward at myself and try to figure out why I write. It’s more difficult than it sounds because I feel I have two thoughts that form some sort of answer. I have a thought, maybe two.

Sometimes there are topics and ideas that just sound interesting. Sometimes things are utterly stupid. Certain situations make stupid stuff interesting. I like to look at writing as me telling you what I think. By reading these words, you’re telling me you have at least a small interest in what I think.

Making money from blogging is a fine line to walk.

People don’t get rich off of blogging. People make money from ads. There’s a little part of me that hopes that some day I’ll strike it big, become famous, and my words will carry weight in the form of money bags, to the bank. I know this is a long shot and in the grand scheme of things, this is a terrible idea and hope to have as it might skew my writing. I want to be honest. Now that it’s out there, perhaps I’ll change my ways… only time will tell. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have mashed potatoes calling my name…. get your own you damn dirty ape.

January 6, 2015

You Really Just Would not Understand!

Screenshot 2015-01-06 20.14.21

I’m hoping that someone can explain to me why in the literal hell I would think this is something I would wear.

It’s just a Johnathan thing. You wouldn’t understand!

Are you sure? At what point did I become such a pompous @$$ that everything I do, every action I take and word that comes out of my mouth raised to such a level that nobody on God’s green earth would understand it, even to a fraction of a degree?

At least they spelled my name right… spammers have a tendency to misspell my name at least a dozen times a day, according to my spam filter. Perhaps it’s time to make a new rule to filter out those who just don’t understand: If you email me, tweet me, or otherwise try to talk to me and you don’t spell my name right, I’m going to wear this god-forsaken sweatshirt, take a photo, send it to you, tell you go pound sand, and then run away laughing.

That sounds crazy, right? Well it’s a Johnathan thing… you wouldn’t understand.

January 1, 2015

Poor Planning on Your Part Does not Necessarily Constitute an Emergency on Mine

While some would call him a tool, Bob Carter‘s famous statement above rings truer than ever in my world. This post shall kick of a new series on project management faux pas. I’ll be tossing in my every so slightly jaded views and perhaps a rant or two where needed. Enjoy!

A Fire Drill is an Emergency Preparedness Tool, Not A PM Buzzword

There’s a boat load of buzzwords used in the corporate workplace that make me want to punch babies. I hear quite a few of them daily and it makes me glad I don’t have kids right now. If you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, good for you. You haven’t been tainted by middle-management’s eternal goals of making projects as convoluted as possible while wrapping them up with sleazy-marketing-colored paper and ribbon. It’s a common occurence to hear at least one of the well-known words or phrases on the list such as synergy, vertical, circle back, or the one I absolutely hate the most: fire drill. Any time someone says something’s a fire drill, I want to tell them “there’s no fire, go sit the fack down.” Typically, Fire Drills are products of poor planning on someone’s part, and they’re trying to cover their own @$$. Everything will subsequently be an emergency and whatever you’re doing, however important it may genuinely be, will no longer be of relevance. This makes the Project Management part of me absolutely rage with hatred so hot, the Seven Circles of Hell have seen nothing like it. The effect is compounded when you don’t have any visibility into the back story or even the entire project. This is where things can get ugly. The takeaway here is this: do what you can with what you have, and that’s that. Don’t be afraid to say “no” because at some point, you as a project manager, lead, or other member of leadership in your team has to draw a line; your team is important and playing along with someone’s failure to execute will only harm your team more. When you do say “no,” also be prepared for an alternate solution. While you may want to just flip the bird and drop the mic, coherence between teams is crucial lest a company completely fall apart because teams are literally at war with each other.

How to Triage a Last-Minute Project

Here’s the scenario: you’ve arrived at the office at your normal time, and team lead Joe from the Development team at XYZ Corp (the company you work for) rushes to your desk and says they need all of your staff to drop whatever they’re doing and do A, B, and C tasks by the end of the day, then scurries back to whatever hole he came out of. You, the PM and leader of your team of elite superhumans, knows very well how quickly a project can go sideways and understands the need to make sure the pieces all fall into place in a timely fashion. Here’s where you have three options:

  1. Automatically say yes without any second thoughts.
  2. Say No with an asterisk (a.k.a: “I need more information”).
  3. Say No and give a reason.

Let’s cover those three options in detail and determine which will create what outcome, starting with the worst-possible choice.

Automatically Say Yes Without Any Second Thoughts.

Of the three, this is the worst idea and here’s why: you just arrived. You have no idea what the status of your own team, is, yet. How on God’s green earth can you assume you can pull a rabbit out of your hat if you don’t even know you have a hat? Your team may be okay with pivoting for a small period of time to assist, but don’t expect last-minute mandatory overtime to go over well. Your team members have lives outside of the company at which they work and other responsibilities. The work-life balance that’s been established already should be adhered to as much as possible. Those who can stay, will. Those who cannot, won’t. Accept that. Be careful, though. If you press too hard or pull the last-minute card too often, you’ll start building resentment and once your team starts resenting you, either they’ll leave, or they’ll become bitter and cause more problems for you in the long run.

Say No and Give a Reason.

This is a bit better of a choice, though not the best of the three for one good reason: your reasons may not be good enough for those above you. In some corporate structures, management doesn’t care that your team is already neck-deep in whatever projects they’re working on and can’t be pulled. Sometimes management does understand and accept that such is life. Joe, our friendly drive-by emergency crier won’t like it, for sure, but that’s not your problem. Setting boundaries is key to establishing proper inter-team relationships. It should be made clear who does what, who can cover for whom, what each team’s limits are, and the like. The last thing you need is to accept a last-minute project you can’t follow through on and end up causing more problems and setbacks and having management bear down on you even more than they already may be. Your team will appreciate that you’re standing in front of them, taking the brunt of the force that is everyone else’s problems, especially if they’re already swamped and don’t have the resources to add more to their respective, metaphorical plates.

Say No with an asterisk (a.k.a: “I need more information”).

This option can be described as one where you’re basically saying “I need more information before I can make a decision.” This is the best of the three responses but not one others may necessarily like. While it will vary from company to company, some may expect a blind following and anything short of that is insubordination. Watch out for that. If you’re in that situation, you’re probably best getting out and finding a new gig. You don’t need that pressure on you at all times, it will wear you down. When you basically say “wait a minute,” you’re telling them that you’re not opposed to helping, you just need to know the whole picture so you can make not only an informed decision, but make sure you can allot the resources necessary. This is where triaging of current tasks comes into play and it’s a learned skill. Make a thorough assessment of what’s currently going on in emergency land, then asess what’s going on in your own yard. Gather as much detail as you can:

  • The end goal?
  • What phase(s) has/have already been completed?
  • Remaining phase(s)?
  • Why is this now an emergency?
  • What can we do to prevent whatever happened from happening while we’re working to “put out the fire?”
  • How many people are needed?
  • What is the deadline?
  • Why is that date the deadline?
  • Are there alternate deadlines available?

While not every one of those items is rock hard crucial to helping complete a last-minute project, it’s important to be able to assess if the project converted to “last-minute” status because of some sort of blocking issue that needs addressing or someone dropped the ball. If it’s the former, then do what you have to do, soldier! Rescue and win the battle with glory and honor. If someone dropped the ball, you need to make sure you’re covered if you start assisting; the last think you need is to go down with a sinking ship that you don’t know is sinking. I’m not saying that you should automatically peace out if you find out that someone oopsed or neglected to do their part. I’m saying you need to cover yourself and your team before you go in. Don’t dive head first into a shallow pool. If you can provide alternate solutions to the problem that is bringing with it buckets of doom, then go for it. It’s entirely possible someone missed something or has been neck-deep in whatever they’re struggling with and failed to see the solution from another angle. While nobody loves a pompous @$$, everyone loves a hero, so go be that hero.

When All the Options Make Things Worse

There’s an invisible line that once crossed, there’s no going back, and you’re better off elsewhere. You might find out that you crossed the line when you get let go because you chose the wrong option and now management wants your head because reasons (i.e. “corporate synergy”). Times like this suck and can be rather chaotic. The effects are longer lasting because it doesn’t just affect you in the short term, it affects those around you who may have depended on you, like your family. All of a sudden, the mortgage is on the line. It’s a tough line to walk and a lot of people aren’t willing to walk it so instead they choose to make whomever they have to happy no matter what the cost. This is a decision you’ll have to make on your own. I can’t tell you what to do or what would be the best option. I can however tell you to be confident in whatever decision you make. Your team will look to your for guidance and if you’re not sure of anything, they won’t be sure of you. On the flip side, if you’re always willing to bow and kiss feet at the drop of a hat, your team will look at you as nothing more than a butt kisser. Don’t be that guy. I’ve seen a lot of that in my travels and my experience tells me that being a kissass is like doing heroin: once you start, it’ll be damn hard to stop. Not only that, but whomever’s metaphorical backside you’re planting your metaphorical lips on will get addicted to it, too. They’ll start to realize they can manipulate and basically come to expect that when they say “Jump!” you’ll say “How high?”, regardless if you’re already smacking your head on the ceiling just standing up straight. Several militaries have a mantra called the “Seven Ps” (“7Ps”): Piss Poor Planning Promotes Piss Poor Performance. There are variations such as “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance” and the six-word version “Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance” which is more along what I belive in on a day-to-day basis.

Don’t Forget, You’re Still a Team-Player

It’s not a bad idea to understand that the nature of working with multiple teams is that from time to time you’ll have to step in. I want to make a disclaimer that all of what I said above should be taken with a grain of salt. A lot of it comes from personal experiences and trials and tribulations. I’ve been in the scenario of the Project Manager where I had to determine if my team really could help out or if I’m just going to send them to the butcher as well as being a member of a team where the PM blindly accepted all requests for emergency assistance that really wasn’t an emergency nor was it appropriate to drop everything and run into the burning building that was a very poorly planned project.

Another Disclaimer

Don’t get mad at me if you get fired over anything I’ve written. These are my opinions and you’re chosing to act on possibly unfounded information. If you value my opinion at all (which I think you do if you made it this far), be careful when sailing in uncharted waters. Don’t be rude. Don’t get angry. Don’t ruin the vibe of the office, either. People will just hate you. Being professional is key to being respected. Even if you say no, a quality inter-team relationship will survive the decline or modification of a request. Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you have any comments, suggestions or questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. If you’d like, hit me up on twitter. I’d love to have a conversation with you. I’m always open to hearing what other’s think about various topics. There’s never just one way of doing things and something can always be improved upon.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
 
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography