So today is Day 2 (or is it really Day 1?) of my RSS Blackout. So far, so good. Although I’ve gone a few days without checking the reader before (as on vacation), so not a big deal. I figure things should get interesting after a week or two.
Jay Thompson, also known as the Phoenix Real Estate Guy, and someone who I consider a friend (not just a colleague), left a comment that really struck at the core of this whole RSS Blackout adventure of mine. From his comment (emphasis is mine):
But I don’t want to miss anything! I’ve learned so much reading other blogs I’m afraid I might.
That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Fear is a very simple and basic emotion; yet it is perhaps one of the most powerful. Fear can make you do some things, and stop you from doing others. Fear can be good, and fear can be very, very bad.
The thing about fear is that we all possess it. At one point or another, we are all afraid of something. Those who deny that are probably doing so out of a fear of being perceived as weak (funny how fear works like that sometimes).
The interesting thing is that the vast majority of the fear that we feel is a learned reaction. It is not, as you might think, entirely instinctual. We are explicitly taught to fear certain things, and we learn to fear other things. The issue is that some of this teaching and learning is false, or at least based on false understandings.
I am certainly not immune to fear. In fact, I encounter it fairly regularly on the basketball court as a referee, in one form or another. Any referee who tells you that he or she wasn’t nervous or a bit fearful that first time out on the court is a liar. In fact, the officiating community even has a little maxim that we learn very early: “if you are afraid of what is going to happen when you blow your whistle, then you might as well just put it in your pocket.” Eventually, the fear of failure, the fear of being yelled at or berated, the fear of making a mistake, gets smaller and smaller and you progress and work more games and gain more experience. At some point, all those things you feared in the beginning are no longer scary, and you begin to officiate from a place of security and confidence.
That is what I hope will happen to me during the RSS Blackout. I completely agree with Jay’s comment. I, too, have been afraid that I would miss something important, or that someone else would benefit from knowledge I could have had first.
That’s just the ugly side of the voice inside my head trying to mess things up (I can’t always control him). Turning off my RSS reader isn’t going to put me out of business. The sun will still come up tomorrow (and if it doesn’t, then we all have bigger problems). In fact, I’m hoping that turning off the RSS reader will actually help me see things that I might have overlooked before.
That’s my story. But what about you? What are you going to do when that ugly little voice inside your head starts planting fearful little seeds?
Perhaps you should do what I did. Ask yourself this:
What are you so scared of?
This website is like Pinterest for WFH desk setups
(OPINION / EDITORIAL) If you’ve been working from home at the same, unchanged desk setup, it may be time for an upgrade. My Desk Tour has the inspiration you need.
Whether you’re sitting, standing, or reclining your way through the pandemic, you’re most likely doing it from home these days. You’re also probably contending with an uninspired desk configuration hastily cobbled together in 2020, which—while understandable—might be bringing you down. Fortunately, there’s an easy, personable solution to spark your creativity: My Desk Tour.
My Desk Tour is a small website started by Jonathan Cai. On this site, you will find pictures of unique and highly customized desk setups; these desk configurations range from being optimized for gamers to coders to audiophiles, so there’s arguably something for everyone—even if you’re just swinging by to drool for a bit.
Cai also implements a feature in which site users can tag products seen in desk photos with direct links to Amazon so you don’t have to poke around the Internet for an hour in search of an obscure mouse pad. This is something Cai initially encountered on Reddit and, after receiving guidance from various subreddits on the issue of which mouse to purchase, he found the inspiration to create My Desk Tour.
The service itself is pretty light—the landing page consists of a few desk setup photos and a rotating carousel of featured configurations—but it has great potential to grow into a desk-focused social experience of sorts.
It’s also a great place to drop in on if you’re missing the extra level of adoration for your desk space that a truly great setup invokes. Since most people who have been working from home since the spring didn’t receive a ton of advance notice, it’s reasonable to assume that the majority of folks have resigned themselves to a boring or inefficient desk configuration. With a bit of inspiration from My Desk Tour, that can change overnight.
Of course, some of the desk options featured on the site are a bit over the top. One configuration boasts dual ultra-wide monitors stacked atop each other, and another shows off a monitor flanked by additional vertical monitors—presumably for the sake of coding. If you’re scrambling to stay employed, such a setup might be egregious.
If you’re just looking for a new way to orient your workspace for the next few months, though, My Desk Tour is worth a visit.
10 tips for anyone looking to up their professional work game
(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s easy to get bogged down by the details, procrastinate, and feel unproductive. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track and crush your professional goals.
Self-reflection is critical to a growth mindset, which you must have if you want to grow and improve. If you are ready to take your professional game to the next level, here are some stories and tips to help you remain focused on killing your work goals.
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy, as the quote goes. And, in the workplace it’s bound to make you second guess yourself and your abilities. This story explains when comparison can be useful, when to avoid it, and how to change your focus if it’s sucking the life out of you.
2. Burnout is real and the harder you work, the less productive you are. It’s an inverse relationship. But, there are ways to work smarter and have better life balance. Here are some tips to prioritize your workload and find more ease.
3. Stop procrastinating and start getting sh@t done. The reason we procrastinate may be less about not wanting to do something and more about the emotions underlying the task. Ready to get going and stop hemming and hawing, you got this and here’s the way to push through.
4. Perfection is impossible and if you seek this in your work and life, it’s likely you are very frustrated. Let that desire go and learn to be happy with excellence over perfection.
5. If you think you’re really awesome and seriously deserve more money, more responsibility, more of anything and are ready to drop the knowledge on your supervisor or boss, you may want to check this story out to see if your spinning in the right direction.
6. Technology makes it so easy to get answers so quickly, it’s hard to wait around for things to happen. We like instant gratification. Yet, that is another reason procrastination is a problem for some of us, but every person has a different way/reason for procrastinating. Learn what’s up with that.
7. Making choices can be a challenge for some of us (me included) who worry we are making the wrong choice. If you’ve ever struggled with decision making, you know it can be paralyzing and then you either make no decision or choose the safest option. What we have here is the Ambiguity Effect and it can be a real time suck. Kick ambiguity to the curb.
8. If you are having trouble interacting with colleagues or wondering why you don’t hear back from contacts it could be you are creeping folks out unintentionally (we hope). Here’s how to #belesscreepy.
9. In the social media era building your brand and marketing are critical, yet, if you’re posting to the usual suspects and seeing very little engagement, you’ve got a problem. Wharton Business School even did a study on how to fix the situation and be more shareable.
10. Every time you do a presentation that one co-worker butts in and calls you out. Dang. If you aren’t earning respect on the job, you will be limited in your ability to get to the next level. Respect is critical to any leadership position, as well as to making a difference in any role you may have within an organization, but actions can be misconstrued. There are ways to take what may be negative situations and use them to your advantage, building mutual respect.
You have the tools you need, now get out there, work hard, play hard, and make sh*t happen. Oh, and remember, growth requires continual reflection and action, but you got this.
The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it
(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.
Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?
This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.
It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”
It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.
More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!
The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.
1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.
2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!
3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–
4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.
Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.
Ergo, fact number five…
5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.
That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.
The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.
To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”
Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.
I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.
Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out. And even as we enter 2021, there is still more to be aware of – we’re not out of the woods yet.
I’d like to end this on a more positive note… So let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.
Keep your heads up, and masked.
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