First Kiss

This a beautiful short film by Tatia Pilieva where she took 20 strangers and asked them to kiss. Simple. There is a bit of a discussion surrounding the authenticity of the strangers but don’t study it too much, just enjoy the beautiful awkward charm of it.

Be more productive with your email

This is a slightly amended guide to mastering your email, I wrote for some colleagues. I hope you find it useful and there is a link to a PDF version at the end of the post.

email2

Email is the double-edged sword of office productivity, it empowers us yet overwhelms us too. It requires discipline and rules to ensure that is doesn’t rule our workday.

The way we use email in our workplaces goes towards breeding certain behaviours and it’s influence can be seen in the way many of us speak at work. How many times have you heard references to email and its handling in meetings, in the corridor or when we ‘bump our gums’ aimlessly? Yet, email is just another communication tool albeit a powerful one. So, like a superhero with super powers we must yield it wisely or it will control our day, our behaviour and how we interact with others.

These are the guidelines I try to follow as I believe it is all to easy to become less productive, off-target and ineffective as managers because of email. And on a personal level, I believe that some of the email behaviours we follow at work are not reflective of our own personal values which should remain our over-arching guide.

1. Turn off notifications

More for Blackberries but just as applicable to desktop use. Unless you are running a nuclear facility you don’t need real-time email notifications to distract your working routine. Set up a more realistic approach such as every 30 minutes or so but importantly it fits into your work routine.

2. Delete it

There are a couple of facets to this for me. Firstly, we use email at the work for proof. Why? Do we keep all our phone calls with people? Is it really living our values if we need to keep emails as proof of doing something. Conversely, I refuse to send emails just to confirm what I have spoken about to someone so that they can keep it for the the same reason.

Secondly, we need to be honest with ourselves. If we are not going to do something with an email, will we honestly feel guilt ridden in a month and do so if it has sat in our inbox staring at us? Be honest, ditch it!

Keep any emails for reference in that project/personnel/audit etc file rather than in our email client.

3. Highlight important messages

Outlook has a great feature to highlight with a colour any messages directly to you. Switch it on! Other email clients have similar. It is likely that emails directly to you require your attention and this feature will stand them out from the CC noise. You can also use colour in your calendar to identify meeting categories so that you can apply personal rules such as ones where deputies can go, regular meetings etc.

4. Tweet it!

Twitter forces its users to be concise by constraining its messages to 140 characters. Why shouldn’t we follow a similar approach to email. Generally, anything more than a few lines should be communicated face-to-face or over the phone as it is open to misinterpretation or is just too complex for a simple typed message. It also invites emails back in the form of questions or people feeling the need to reflect the length of your message with one of similar length.

For very short messages such as a thanks or a quick notice, use the subject line. This means the recipient doesn’t need to open it but just glance at his inbox and delete it. Just be sure to end it with [EOM] to show that there is nothing in the body of the email.

email1

5. Use rules

I mentioned above highlighting important emails but this can be taken further with rules. Use the rules in Outlook to automate lots of tasks depending on your workflow practices. For example, I have a rule that automatically sends IT Helpdesk confirmations to my “@waiting for” folder. That way I don’t need to process them and I can do all my chasing up from my “@waiting for” folder according to my workflow. Be creative. Use rules to flag, action or delete messages.

Think about what messages do you really need to see, what can be forwarded, what can be grouped for later actioning and what can be deleted and set up rules around this.

6. Maintain an empty inbox

Maintain an empty inbox. Your inbox is a temporary landing-pad for all different types of inputs. How many times do we say that we ‘check’ our email? Lots. And how much of that ‘checked’ email is still in your inbox. What a waste of time. Your time is finite yet what is being asked of you will always be infinite so a better way of handling your inbox and maintaining the landing pad is to ‘process’ your email.

I have one inbox on my desk and one email inbox and I treat all that comes into it in the same way. My system is based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done1. Simply put my processes are;

  • Delete it (or archive)
  • Delegate it
  • Defer it (to a calendar or other system to be done at a planned point – not languishing in the inbox)
  • Do it (if less than 2 mins, do it or respond now)

With these processes it is much easier to maintain an empty inbox which is a list of items you still have to deal with and not a confused overwhelming list of things to delete, maybe get back to or waiting for some more information.

It is worth pointing out here that your archive should be one folder. Only one. It is common for people to have lots of folders as their email archive; people, areas of responsibility, factories but this is the 21st century and we should be using the search facilities within Outlook which is actually far more effectual than any manual filing system.

1. Allen, David. Getting Things Done. Paitkus 2002

You can download a PDF fact-sheet of this post here.

Why I’m leaving Facebook…… Sort of.

Facebook is the undisputed king of the social sites. There are many princes and pretenders, some of which are better looking, more effective, more fun, but through all the concerns of privacy and time-sucking effects of Facebook, it remains king. And for good reason, but that is not for here. I have decided to leave it, and what I mean exactly I'll explain, but not because it's king. Not because of privacy. Not because of some principled cause, but because it's boring and I'm getting used to that.

Firstly, I'll explain what I mean by leaving as some of you may be reading this on Facebook or have come to this from my Facebook profile and wondering what's going on. I will still have a profile and friends will still see posts, but they won't originate there. They will be posts from my blog or Twitter or Instagram. Maybe some others. This maybe sounds a little pedantic but if you bear with me and I explain the 'why' then perhaps you'll see my reasoning.

When I unlock my phone, FB is there front and centre. When I start my browser, my home tabs are; Gmail, Feedly and Facebook. Now, I know this is how I set it, but it's symptomatic of how FB was becoming the basis of my online time. After staying away from Facebook for a few weeks, I found my online experience was much more satisfying. I was reading material I enjoyed; having proper interactions with friends rather that trawling through rafts of pictures of an old school-buddy's night out; and really felt as if I wasn't wasting time (although some of my Twitter followers may disagree!). Now, I am not saying that all that goes on on Facebook is worthless, but for me I plan to shift my focus to creating what I want on my blog, Twitter and so on and work from there and use Facebook as just another avenue to get comments on what I do elsewhere.

My time online is much more rewarding this way and seeing Facebook in this way is making it more enjoyable for me. So really this is more of a shift in focus rather than abandonment and I have some very good friends on here that I truly enjoying seeing what they are up to and hopefully my renewal of vows with Facebook will allow me to really enjoy that and what Facebook offers.

So after all that, I'm not leaving, I'm just refocusing – God, I sound like some business trainer from The Office! So the drivel from me continues but in a slightly different but important way. And if you see the way my profile looks, don't read too much into it beyond what I've written here.

 

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone. I am sitting about to embark on the task of devouring a traditional festive banquet and I am looking forward to what the future holds. Not what the year ahead looks like for me but a little less profound and shorter term.

Will my diet survive the festive period? It is worth noting that in the 10 weeks I've been doing it, while I've only lost 6kg, I've not put on a single pound. And I'm also using the almost forced hibernation and solitude from work colleagues over the festive holiday to see what happens, without fear of ridicule, to see what happens when I grow my hair. At the moment, I look like I have a blonde Afro.

Sorry if you expected some profundity about my musings of the future, and they may come, but for the moment it is all about weight and hair. Oh, and stuffing.

Merry Christmas.

Xx

 

Self critical

dream

Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved – CR Artist

It seems ages since I posted anything here, and looking at it, it has! It is not the fact that there is nothing to post about – trust me, there is if the amount of ranting I’ve done lately is any measure. It is a combination of being overly self-critical in what I write and also that I have been very busy of late.

The business could be construed as laziness, in that I could make time, however that is a debate for another time and I am sticking with the business reason. Getting out of the blocks seems to be the challenge that is really stopping anything of quality or my views being truly explored or expressed in that I censor them before they get near to being published here.

This is the first post I have ever written where I have vowed not to use the delete key (except for spelling mistakes) and I have promised to publish exactly what I have written – no less. Please bear that in mind when being critical here. And here I am again, making excuses for the writing. And so, I am going to set myself a challenge; the next few posts, irrespective of content or length, I will publish with more confidence and less of a self-censoring hand. This may sound like a pretty feeble aim but in getting some momentum on this blog it is essential. I want to look back on this and want to keep what I see rather than delete the disparate mess of posts.

That may or may not have made sense but it was typed straight to publishing without any editing or thought for that matter!

Virgin launches the best safety video you’ve ever seen

sharkletpresspage_hires_closeupFor most people flying when the pre-flight safety video comes on it usually means time to read the airline magazine or SkyMall. Virgin America aims to change that with their new video that launched this week. It will be hard to ignore and is something that had to be done very well to be able to pull it off. I will let you see if you think it has.

For the .001% of you who have never operated a seatbelt before: Really?!?

Steve Vai – Live

Steve Vai 2013

Steve Vai 2013

On Sunday, 1st September 2013 I fulfilled one of my life’s goals – seeing Steve Vai play For the Love of God. And boy, did I get a whole lot more!

I managed to knock this musical aim off my bucket list at the Cardiff show of the Story of Light tour and it has been with me for the last two days, swirling around my head like some twisted space-age sound from Vai’s Ibanez. The first surprise of the night was my seat – not in the gods at all but only a few rows back from the front. I really should understand the seat plans better. I am looking at the stage and there are tall amps to the side; the drums raised behind some more amps with Vai’s logo across them; a huge drape behind the stage with the new album artwork; and then there is the homely rug with pedal array in the middle of the stage. Am I really going to see Steve Vai? This close? For real?

Then the lights go down and a beam of light from the eye on the drape at the back of the curtain starts searching the audience. Then a red glow, smoke and a bass rumbling that vibrates the seats and floor. It should be noted that at this point I am now grinning like a fool. With that a distorted scream, unmistakably Vai’s handiwork, and then with a seat shaking crash of drums, Steve Vai lands on his rug with flowing coat, multi-coloured trousers and a wide brim hat, immediately doing things with his guitar that are not natural and could never be annotated on any musical paper.

What came after was nearly three hours of the most technically impressive, emotive and at times, humorous, musical experience I have ever witnessed, which if I tried to describe, would take about 10 pages and still not get close to expressing what happened. What is difficult, is trying to describe the technical and expressive mastery that Steve Vai has without sounding clichéd but this man is a genius. Not a very talented person, but a genius.  He sings through his guitar and what a voice he has.

Then, after over two and a half hours it happened. There was a brief audience interaction with the drummer, lights dropped, silence. And the opening notes of For the Love of God meant this was it. It didn’t disappoint. Not one note. A wonderful song; superlative musician; a magical experience.

This is the first time Steve Vai played For the Love of God to an audience – Guitar Legends Concert 1992 – and when I decided I had to experience this.

Cargo – A zombie short

Screenshot by Scott Kuperus

Screenshot by Scott Kuperus

Cargo is a short film (7mins) that will break your heart. And it’s a zombie movie. If you think that zombie movies are all about gore and mindless killing, then that is even more reason to watch this. It is a moving account of what a father will do to protect his child all the while knowing of his demise and shows that the genre is also for profound and emotive subject too. Without sound too snooty about it, it is a great watch on many levels. Enjoy!

World War Z

world-war-z-poster-600x938I went into watching World War Z with low expectations. I had heard mixed reviews and read about the production problems that seemed to have dogged the movie. With all that dampening down my anticipation, I sat back (in a partially full cinema) on opening night, donned my 3D glasses and watched World War Z with an open, if somewhat less excited, mind.

Let me get my main problem with World War Z out of the way. The 3D experience. The opening credits looked great and from then on the 3D was either distracting, disorientating or just plain awful. The breakfast table towards the start of the film was too well rendered in 3D that the milk in front of the cereal, but behind the coffee, was too distracting, yet a cityscape that could have benefitted from 3D to enhance the vastness seemed to have it missing. Anyway, enough of the 3D. I’ll move onto the film in itself.

Let’s be clear from the start; this movie is not a zombie film in the Romero or Walking Dead sense. World War Z is a cracking, boys’ own, adventure movie. Don’t watch this expecting to see new and inventive ways of despatching the undead. The movie kicks off pretty quickly and is effective in sending Brad Pitt from set-piece to set-piece. There is no real tension or horror, and at no point, which is one of the main attractions of apocalypse movies, do you think, “what would I do?” All that being said, this movie is very good in being the adventure movie with awesome set pieces. It does loose its way occasionally. Particularly, David Morse’s character and scenes seemed to have missed the point they were intended for and the finale did feel as if it was just crammed in with time running out. Brad Pitt stands out however, without resorting to the gung-ho hero nor the implausable geek/doctor/sciency guy who ends up saving the day.

My recomendation is to go see this movie (in 2D!) and sit back for a great adventure and marvel in the effects, which really are a joy to watch.

3.5/5