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Entries in Observations (73)



Blurry GreenToday I came across an interesting paper on Infomania — the deadly combination of email overload and constant interruptions. It's a challenging piece, which really got me thinking about Infomania's impact in my work and personal life.

Written by Nathan Zeldes, David Sward and Sigal Louchheim, the paper describes the severe effects of Infomania on productivity and quality of life for knowledge workers, as well as its impact on businesses:

In this work, we show that this phenomenon places knowledge workers and managers worldwide in a chronic state of mental overload. It exacts a massive toll on employee productivity and causes significant personal harm, while organizations ultimately pay the price with extensive financial loss.

Lately, I've been much more aware of interruptions and how they work against my productivity. I've spent about a month setting up my new home office, trying to establish a regular work pattern after the move — It's been difficult. In this in-between state I can see how damaging interruptions can be.

Fortunately, my office and work patterns have now stabilized, and I'm eliminating interruptions and distractions. Even so, there are always temptations to allow interruptions to steal my focus.

Solving this problem would have a positive and immediate impact on organizational results, while restoring computer–based communications technology to its rightful role as promoter of personal and organizational effectiveness.

I have more recently felt the need to physically avoid my office on weekends and evenings. I just want to be somewhere else, so I can recharge for the next day's work.

It's not for a lack of loving what I do — design work, my clients, and the company I work for — there is something deep within me that yearns for separation.

Time away from the computer during the workday is refreshing. I'm fortunate that a large portion of my work is research, thinking and sketching with pencil and paper.

What about your situation?
Do you feel the pressure of Infomania at work, at home? Do you have established times away from technology for refreshment? Have a journal you can write, sketch and get away from technology in?

I recommend Reading the paper and pondering the evidence.

Thanks to Dave Gray for the Infomania link!


"Trying to look good limits my life." — Stefan Sagmeister

I love that quote from Stefan Sagmeister.

It questions concerns with looking good, in context of being real and taking risks. Trying new things. Doing something that may not exactly fit your image.

Why are we so concerned with looking good?

Of course, I understand why on one level. You want to look good for your friends and family, your employer, customers, prospective clients, and people in general. That's not what I mean.

I mean maintaining "appearances" rather than letting down your guard and being real.

I mean sharing weaknesses with your family and friends now and then.

Trying the sushi, kimchee or flaming cheese, exactly because eating those strange foods is both scary and exciting.

One thing for me it's not always letting others know what bothers me.

I'm getting better about being assertive and sharing these things, but it's hard. I don't want to hurt feelings. What might people think?

On the other hand, I need to be real and honest. It's limiting my life.

I'm working on it and will try to let go of looking good in exchange for being real.

How does trying to look good limit your life?

Here's Stefan's TED talk, in which he talks about happiness and how it relates to design. This quote is mentioned near the end of his 15 minute talk.

Check out more information on the design piece "Trying to look good limits my life" on Sagmeister's company website.

I've also found a Hillman Curstis short film on Stefan, sponsored by Adobe.

Finally, Stefan's interview at DesignBoom.


The Starbucker Meme: What's in Your Glass?

shotglass2.jpgMy friend Terry Starbucker, whom I met at SOBCon07 a few weeks ago, has tagged me with his new Starbucker theme.

His questions for me are:

How full is your glass?

75% full.

What kind of glass is it?

A hand-made ceramic coffee cup.

What's in the glass?

Strong, delicious coffee of course! :-)

Reasons for #1, #2, and #3

I have a wonderful wife and son and supportive family, great friends, and I live in a wonderful place: Milwaukee. I have a job that allows me to help small businesses define their identities, which I love to do every day, and I'm living and participating in one of the most exciting times in history.

There are certainly challenges, but I'm realisticly optimisitic. I know that there is good and bad in this world, yet I choose to have a positive attitude toward life by loving God and loving others.

As for type of cup and contents — I'm a coffee fan, so what else could I say? :-)

Thanks Terry!


SOBCon08 Suggestions

sobcon08.pngNow that I've taken a little time to unpack my thoughts about SOBCon07, I felt it would be a good time to share my suggestions for SOBCon08:

• More Workshops — I would love to see more workshop sessions, like we did with the "Iowa Caucus" of Mike Sansone, Mike Wagner and Drew McLellan. The ideas and collaboration from this session was energizing, but we ran out of time.

• Longer Breaks — I wished for more/larger gaps between sessions, to congregate with others and get to know them better. I just popped out to meet with people to solve it, but I'd prefer not to choose between sessions and meeting others.

• Free WiFi — T-Mobile WiFi was available for individual purchase, but I'd prefer a free, SOBCOn WiFi service to encourage more blogging during the event. I think 3 or 4 WiFi base stations would have been about right to avoid a saturated network.

• SOBCon Speaker & Attendee Page — I'd love to see an official speaker and attendee page on the SOBCon site, with names, photos, bios, 5 favorite posts and blog links. This would help new attendees "meet" other attendees before the event.

• Unified SOBCon Page & RSS Feed — What about a single Page and RSS feed, where any post with "SOBCon" and "SOBCOn08" tags would be included? Attendees could follow a single feed, and see every related post before, during and after the event.

• All Day Coffee — In the afternoon on Saturday, a couple of attendees and I were searching for coffee but found only stacks of soda bottles. It'd be great to keep hot coffee available all day, for those of us who like the rich, black brew. :-)

I hope these suggestions will encourage the '07 attendees to suggest some ideas in the comments, and be useful for SOBCon08 next year.


Unpacking SOBCon07

SOBCon07I'm not surprised to find myself still brewing and unpacking the reverberations of this weekend at SOBCon07. The conference was a concentrated burst of energy, community and challenges, that I haven't been able to completely process.

Part of it for me, and I think for many attendees, was diving headlong into something completely new, without any expectation of what to expect, or what we'd get out of it.

I didn't know anyone but my buddy Phil Gerbyshak, so I had to step out and meet some new people. That's the wild thing though — people were stepping out to meet me, treating me as an old friend.

Some of this must be chalked up to knowing Phil, but much of the warmth and friendliness of other people seemed to be at the very core of the SOBCon vibe.

Here are some observations after much brewing and pondering:

We all came to give and take. Everyone present came ready to give something away, while being confident they would receive that much and more in return. Everyone I met was sharing energy, which encouraged me to keep sharing my energy.

This was our conference. Bloggers dreamed it up, handled the logistics, showed up and then created it like a barn raising. We connected and encouraged each other, challenged each other and made it happen. Two nights in a row, I witnessed people spontaneously gathering to talk, pulling chairs into circles until no chairs were left.

We are brands, like it or not. One thread running through the Saturday sessions was how we're all projecting a brand (ourselves), whether conscious or unconscious. From our writing to our blog design, everything we project and communicate is our brand. The challenge for everyone was how to sync your brand with who you really are.

We're communicators, not bloggers. David Armano challenged us to stop calling ourselves bloggers, and instead consider ourselves “conversation architects.” I'm a communicator — whether with words, sketches, graphics, sound or video — I aim to communicate with others through this space on the web. Rohdesign is now operating without "Weblog" in the title to reinforce this idea.

Conclusion: I had a great time at SOBCon07!

It was more powerful than I expected, and the people were wonderful. I've already established relationships with several people I resonated with, and plan to build more relationships as the week goes on. Relationships really are at the heart of SOBCon.

I was also challenged to step my communication to the next level. After 4+ years of writing at Rohdesign, I'm energized to keep on sharing, encouraging and learning.

I can't wait for SOBCon08!

SOBCon07 Attendees:
Liz Strauss
Wendy Piersall
Andy Sernovitz
Phil Gerbyshak
David Armano
Mike Sansone
Drew McLellan
Mike Wagner
Terry Starbucker
Christine Kane
Rodney Rumford
Ben Yoskovitz
Chris Cree
Robyn Tippins
Diego Orjuela
Vernon Lun
Jonathan C. Phillips
Sandra Renshaw
Brad Shorr
Timothy Johnson
Tammy Lenski
Sean Rox
Muhammad Saleem
Lorelle VanFossen
David Dalka
Todd And
John Yedinak
Joe Hauckes
Tim Draayer
Jeremy Geelan
Carolyn Manning
Sheila Scarborough
Steve Farber
Dawud Miracle
Doug Mitchell
Jeff O’Hara
Dave Schoof
Jamy Shiels
Adam Steen
Hannah Steen
Chris Thilk
Barry Zweibel
Eric Bingen
Ellen Moore
Cord Silverstein
Jean-Patrick Smith
James Walton
Sharan Tash
Vernon Lun
Tony Lee
Scott Desgrosseilliers
Mark Murrell
Kammie Kobyleski
Easton Ellsworth
Mark Goodyear
Ann Michael
Kent Blumberg
Ashley Cecil
Robert Hruzek
Sabu N G
Mazur Krystyna
Lisa Gates
Franke James
Chris Brown
Troy Worman
Karen Putz
Jesse Petersen
Terry Mapes
Andy Brudtkuhl
Lucia Mancuso
Peter Flaschner
Derrick Sorles
Thomas Clifford
Rajesh Srivastava
Claire Celsi
Jason Alba
Alex Shalman
Cristiana Passinato
Brad Spirrison
Ari Garber
Dr. Rob Wolcott
Cheryll Cruz
Sharon Scherer
Jason Wade
Jill Pullen
Doug Bulleit
Wendy Kinney
Brenda Friedrich
Ella Wilson
Chelsea Vincent
Ayush Agarwal
Paul Mangalik
Premchand Kallan
Xochi Kaplan
Michael Snell
James Bergstrom
Raj Majumder
Keith Levenson

Special thanks to Jonathan C. Phillips for providing this extensive list of attendees. :-)

Photo: Vernon Lun

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