It seems to me, given what I’m being sent in newsletters, that this is the time of year to give some thought to improving personal habits. The end of the year brings time for reflection on the year we just lived through and January is the perfect time to put in place new goals or plans for the coming year.
I like to discuss the articles I read with those who are closest to me at work and in my personal life, but in going through the list, I can’t see why these wouldn’t be of interest to a much larger audience. Here’s my list:
Five Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012 by Dorie Clark
I was drawn to this article by the title. Usually we think about what we’ll do better in the coming year, but doesn’t it make sense that you’ll need to drop something that you’re currently doing to fit in something you want to start doing. Face it, we only have so many hours in a day, so adding more to an already impossibly booked calendar makes no sense at all.
For me, email is becoming less relevant, so checking every 90 minutes makes sense to me and will allow me to focus on things that need full attention. I regularly unsubscribe to newsletters that are no longer interesting to me. I used to mail cards, but stopped a few years ago. There are still a few traditions that I take part in that could be dropped.
Dorie’s article points to another article that I liked:
Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning by Peter Bregman
The lists Peter is talking about are 1) Focus list and 2) Ignore list. Doesn’t that make a lot of sense? I’m more of a social person than a gadget person, so Peter’s first story would never have happened to me. I’m more likely to make eye contact with everyone around me rather than giving my attention to my Blackberry. Figure out where you want to spend your time and consciously decide what you’ll ignore in order to focus on what you want to be focusing on.
Improve my Blogging Skills.
This one will only relate to those who are interested in blogging, but might actually coincide with the points above. Do you find that you repeat yourself over the course of a day or week, answering the same question, or giving the same advice to multiple people? If so, perhaps this content belongs in a blog where it can be shared among multiple people at once. If someone again asks the question, you can simply say.. read my blog!
Serge Rielau recently did this with his SQL Tips blog. Serge will benefit from writing this blog since he can put his effort into creating a well-written and thought out article about a topic that will benefit everyone who finds his blog and reads his tips. This is a much better use of his time than answering questions via email on a one on one basis.
If you are interested in blogging and want to learn how to do it the right way, the first time, I highly recommend this new book by Antonio Cangiano: Technical Blogging: Turn Your Expertise into a Remarkable Online Presence. I’ve been blogging for easily 6 years now and read this book as an official reviewer. I can tell you in all seriousness… that I learned a LOT. I haven’t put all the tips into practice yet, but I’m sure you’ll see my improvements over the coming year. Antonio has just created a blog about his book that you’ll want to subscribe to in order to get tips as he is able to share them: Technical Blogging.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it in my blog or not, but I’m a huge fan of TedTalks.com. If you haven’t run across these videos yet, you’re in for a huge treat. TED is an acronym for Technology, Education, and Design. Three of my favourite topics in one. There are many recorded TED talks for you to find and watch that cover a huge range of topics. Here are a few of my all time favourites:
Jim points out a bad habit that most of us have: treating people as objects. He explains why this is not the way you should treat people and gives examples to make the point clear. I would suggest that this is a video we need to re-watch many times over the course of a year to keep ourselves on track.
The main thing I like about this video is the message that we need to master basic skills before we can try more complex ones. How many times do people try to jump ahead? Salman’s example about learning how to ride a unicycle after only a week on a 2-wheel bike shows the difficulty in not mastering lower level skills first. I also like how he’s developed something that is appealing to young children everywhere and makes learning seem like a game. I hope as a result, we’ll have a highly educated future population!
There are many TED videos for you to watch and enjoy. Warning: once you start, you may want to watch these videos all day long!
These tips are pretty basic and we all know them very well. Unfortunately, we tend to forget or ignore them. Do yourself a favour. Take these tips seriously and see if they make you happier.
There are two other books that I regularly mention that are related to professional development.
1) Sam Lightstone’s Making it Big in Software. I found this book to be a good read and very helpful in thinking about the direction your career is taking. Here are a few of the blog entries I’ve written since the book was published:
2) Roger Sanders’ From Idea to Print: How to Write a Technical Book or Article and Get It Published. Writing, presenting, and communication are the soft skills that are required for all of us to succeed. I remember writing a blog entry about these at one point, but can’t find it now. I’m hoping to work with a colleague in the coming year to pull together a comprehensive list of how to improve communication skills for technical professionals.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list and are able to have a productive and healthy new year!