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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts from the Work Category

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Over the last four years, journalism training has become a core part of how I make my living. Feedback on my course has always been very positive, and I have many repeat clients, happily. However, there’s always scope for more – especially with two growing daughters… 🙂

I’ve finally got around to building a page outlining the training courses that I’m offering right now.

Take a look. Let me know what you think. And if I can help you with consulting or training – just let me know.

Apples & blackberries

There’s no doubt that the thing I miss most about corporate life is the team camaraderie. I haven’t really had a team for three and a half years now. I work largely by myself, and that can be rewarding – but sometimes lonely. (The fact that I spend a lot of time training or lecturing goes a long way to balance that, though.)

However, Stowe Boyd makes a very interesting point: sometimes solo working can be more productive for some endeavours – like writing and analysing:

The case I am making is not that of the solitary genius laboring in a garret, per se. But actually the opposite: the strictures and costs of the modern-day model of teamwork provide a scant return on the investments those on the team have to make, individually. Yes, I am aware that all important and useful things can’t be accomplished by soloists, true. But we seem to have swung so far to the teamwork side of the equation that opportunities for individual work are routinely overlooked, or swept into the team to-do list, like everything else.

And, as we reshape our workspaces to encourage collaboration – do we lose something?

The open office combined with an obsession with teamwork make today’s office more of a minefield than a “mindfield”: It’s not a place to think deep thoughts for long periods of time.

Fascinating thoughts. Can we create workplaces that allow solo endeavour as well as group collaboration?

Working from home, versus corporate office life:

Discipline. Everyone talks about how much discipline you need to work at home. But how much discipline does it take to go to the same strange city office every day, for all the hours of daylight? To sit still for all the hours of the day, to accustom your body to temperatures you haven’t chosen, and gaze across wide dim expenses at faraway windows?  To listen to no music unless it’s on headphones, look at no pictures unless on a screen, smell nothing but the smell of office. That takes discipline too; just of a different kind.

Some great examples of what a home office can be.

I am having a deeply nostalgic day right now. Not only am I provisioning a new blog – just as I used to back in my days as RBI’s blogmeister – but today is a day of note, as this tweet suggests:

More on that later.

Of course, there are differences. I’m provisioning a WordPress blog on a WPEngine server, rather than a Movable Type blog. And I’m doing the work sat in my home office, with a cup of my own coffee, not the in-office Starbucks.

Beach working
And it’s for university work, not a B2B blog.

But it’s a brief, nice throw-back.

I’ve been staring at an unusual sight on and off over the last 18 hours or so:

Inbox Zero, Yosemite edition

Yes, I’ve hit inbox zero. And I need to keep as close to this as I can. Here’s why:

My working life is about as complex as it has ever been right now. I’m balancing a four day week with multiple clients doing different sorts of work for each. That’s a secure position – it would take a lot of clients dropping me at once to create a financial threat – but it’s hard to manage. Sequential “large jobs” are much easier that the rapid task switching I’m doing right now.

The only way I can keep on top of this is to let go of one of my worst habits: using my in-box as a “to-do” list, as Neil Perkin reminded me yesterday:

It’s easy to get into the habit of using your inbox as staging for inbound tasks yet conflating email and task management is actually a really bad idea – not least because inboxes are not designed to be to-do lists, and using it as such means that you have to reassess every time you look at your email and also that what goes onto your to-do list is effectively at the behest of other people, not controlled by you.

So that beautifully clean in-box does not reflect a lack of things to do – just that I’ve moved those things to do into a better system for managing them. (I’m using a combination of Evernote and Clear at the moment – but that’s fodder for a different post.) But it does mean that I’m feeling much more relaxed. I’ve got a lot to do – but I know what I have to do, and it’s clearly delineated for me. Opening my e-mail is no longer a short cut to guilt and stress – and that’s healthy.

We’ll see how long I can maintain this, but in theory, if I maintain discipline in the period when I address e-mail, it should flow reasonably easily from here.

This is the first of a series of unashamedly self-indulgent posts, looking back at my working year through 2014. It was the year that my work as a self-employed digital publishing consultant really took off, and I’ve done so much this year that I actually need to take stock of what actually happened over the year. Plus, I can share some great photos.

I have never travelled as far – or as often – as I did in 2014. One single trip – to Hong King – probably beat my previous biggest year for travel in one fell swoop. I have, without quite noticing it, become a jet-setting consultant and trainer, and I’ve been really enjoying it. My work has taken me all over the world, and I’ve even roamed a little for pleasure, too.

There are downsides, of course: jet-lag ate me alive in Hong Kong, for example, and that trip cost me nearly a week away from my daughter. But, all in all, it’s been a hugely positive experience. For various reasons 2015 is likely to be less traveled, so it feels right to memorialise a busy year.

Here’s where I went, when and why…

1. February: New York (work)

GridIron in New York

The first of two trips to New York, where I flew in on the back of a storm, and flew out before another blizzard hit. Two days in New York is great fun, the people I was training were lovely – but a six hour red eye flight, surrounded by gaseous teenagers, is no way to get a good night’s sleep.

2. April: Back to NYC (work)

New York Skyline

A few months later, I was back for the second half of the same training course. By then, spring had firmly taken hold of New York, and I was able to enjoy some lovely artisanal coffee in the sun. There were plans for another couple of trips to New York later in the year, but they were eventually abandoned – a shame. I’d really like to spend some more time in the city in the none-too-distant future. These couple of tasters really gave me an appetite for more.

3. May: Berlin for NEXT (work)

Berlin

This was such a joyful trip. I love Berlin, a city (as my colleague Martin Recke says) without a business model. But it’s also a city having a world of fun trying to figure one out. My reason for being there was to attend NEXT, a conference I’ve worked for since early 2012. I love the gig – it’s an under-appreciated conference, whose team are superb at genuinely bringing you the future, rather than an examination of what’s happening now which most tech conferences do. I’ll certainly be back at NEXT in 2015, but there’s a chance I won’t be returning to Berlin during the year – and that makes me sad. It’s the city I’ve visited most in the past three years, and I’ve fallen a little bit in love with it.

4. June: Hong Kong (work)

The skyline of Hong Kong's Wan Chai

Almost exactly three years after I failed to get on a long haul flight, due to an extreme fear of flying, I strapped myself happily into a metal tube, had a nice meal, a glass of red wine, and slept deeply for the majority of the 13 hour flight. So far, so good. However, I’d made a mistake in not pushing hard enough for an extra day to acclimatise to the time difference. The combination of the massive jet lag, and the rampant humidity of the city – it felt rather like being slapped in the face with a fish-scented sauna every time I stepped outside – made this the hardest trip I took this year. Still, it was compensated for by an especially lovely bunch of trainees, who I loved working with. The afternoon we shot video together was one of my working highlights this year.

5. August: La Belle France (pleasure)

Gate in the Woods

Just over a week at my brother’s place in France, not terribly far from Poitiers. A week when I didn’t have to cook, barely worked, and indulged in swims and long walks in the woods. It took me a long way to recovering from the major wobble I’d gone through earlier in the year. (More on that later in the week…)

6. August: The Cotswolds (pleasure)

Calm in the Cotswolds

Another week’s holiday in August, this time with my wife’s half of the family. Lakes, walks, and mediocre food. But Hazel had a huge amount of fun, and so did I, so I can’t really complain. All in all, I took half the month off, which was probably one of the best decisions I took all year.

7. December: Paris in the winter (work)

Christmas at Galleries La Fayette in Paris

Rounding out the year was my annual pilgrimage to LeWeb. It’s been nine years on the trot now, and I’ve come to really enjoy Paris in that time. It’s a city that rises above the worst things levelled at it – the disdain and hostility of its residents – while not quite living up to the most positive things people claim – the whole “city of romance” business. The real city is so much more interesting than either of those extremes.

Morning Tom Foolery

I sometimes underestimate just how different the life I choose to live is. I can often work where I want – like the coffee shop I’m sat in right now. I have a lot of freedom to pick and choose the people I work with – and have taken satisfaction is severing ties with people who proved unpleasant as clients. I don’t have a boss, or a full-time job. My time is pretty much mine to manage, but that comes with choices. For example, I’ve just spent four solid days looking after my toddler daughter, picking up some of my wife’s days, so she can get a handle on her work as term really kicks in.

And I always, always, always underestimate how tired I’ll be after a day looking after that tiny bundle of explorative energy. “Oh, I’ll do some blogging and catch up on e-mail after she goes to bed,” I say. Hah.

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And so I find myself tearing through a Tuesday, trying to catch up on the work I haven’t been able to do for over half a week. It’s at times like this that I almost – almost – feel like going and getting a proper job again. The eternal problem with working for yourself is that there’s no such thing – mentally, at least – as office hours. Your income is completely dependent on how much you work, and thus any time where you could work can lead to you feeling guilty for not doing so. Frankly, I’m the most demanding boss I’ve ever had.

And then I remember that little rampager, and remember she needs time with her parents far more than she needs more toys, and I try to settle down and live comfortably in the choices I’ve made.

As a sort of addendum to yesterday’s post, I am seriously considering looking at joining a co-working space or renting a small office, so I can potentially put some distance between myself and my work at the end of the day. Working largely from a home office does create very significant boundary issues, with lurking guilt as you see the office door on the way to bed…

Any solo workers out there doing that?

How do you find it?

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So, here’s a question. Why am I putting myself through the horror of trying to write something substantive for this blog every single day in March?

Leaving aside the possibility of an unexplored masochistic streak, the fundamental reason is because I want to. I like blogging. I love it, in fact. It’s been nearly 13 years since I discovered it as a medium and it shifted my world around completely. I’m a busy man, though, trapped between a hectic four-day-a-week consultancy career (long may that “hectic” last) and the demands of being 50% of the available parenting resource for a little girl who has hit the toddler years fast and hard, and is accelerating towards the terrible twos as quickly as she possibly can.

The 40s are a problem for modern couples:

The modern 40s are so busy it’s hard to assess them. Researchers describe the new “rush hour of life,” when career and child-rearing peaks collide.

Sell, Sell, Self

This blog has got pushed to the sidelines repeatedly since I became a free agent and a Dad, and the closest thing I have to a New Year resolution this year is to rectify that. There are prosaic, financial reasons behind that: my blog remains my showcase, the source of much of my work, and without it I’m essentially doing very little marketing right now (my workload is leaving little room for the round of coffees and lunches that make up my self-promotion). The busy period will end – and I need something there to keep me in people’s minds.

However, it’s also the place where I crystallise my ideas about the subjects I follow. Some of that “writing myself into existence” has transferred into my lecturing and training, where I’ve been forced into developing a new language around some of my areas of expertise just so I can communicate them effectively – and that’s a subject I intent to return to this month – but my blog still remains the most compelling way of doing so. Why? Well, because I can expose my ideas to the criticism of my peers – and that’s incredibly useful in making sure I’m talking something that approximates to sense.

Blogito Ergo Sum.

The Inspiration

Also, some people have been doing something similar, and that lodged the idea in my head. MG Siegler kicked off the year doing something like this. The Man Mayfield pushed me into subscribing to Dan Hon’s current experiment in daily mailings (leading to his probable nervous breakdown given the volume he produces) has been a daily(ish) prod to my own conscience.

Besides, a couple of recent posts which have garnered good engagement (and I feel dirty using that word) have reminded me that it’s the personal stuff that makes a blog fly. Be it photos from the US, or an insight into an advert I ended up appearing in, that kind of material makes a blog engaging and human in the way some links and commentary doesn’t.

I seem to need to relearn – or, at least, reinforce in myself – these kinds of lessons every few years. That’s no bad thing, because it also forces me to check and re-evaluate what I know in the light of changes that have happened over that period. After over a decade’s blogging, it would be horribly easy to get into a rut – and I don’t want to do that.

The Rebellion

Somehow, over the last six months, I’ve slipped into being predominantly a trainer. The majority (but not the entirety) of my work has been teaching other people stuff. That’s great, as far as it goes. It pays well – very well, at times – and is something I seem to be good at. There’s also a pretty evident gap in the market for someone with my particular skill set, which works well for me.

I don’t want too walk too far down that path, though. I enjoy both the strategic consulting and the content creation aspects of my work, too, and I’m going to be putting some more effort into landing that kind of work in the coming months. In the meantime, though, it’s important to do as well as teach. And this blog is the place where I can do whatever the hell I want – even a stupid writing project when I’m far too busy already.

This is the second in a series of one-a-day substantive posts I’m going to try to write through March.