Sunday, 28 December 2014

Getting ready for another (new) year

We are just a few days away from 2015 and people start talking about (and hopefully also thinking on) their resolutions.

'The master plan to-do list' by
the green gables under
a CC licesnse
For me that is a well known exercise that I try on any new period - not only on new year's day. Alas, I normally end up with moderate results, at best.

Despite that, I'm going to give it another try.

This time I'm thinking of writing things down in a more organised fashion. For instance I'm going to prioritise a few skills (e.g., a new programming language, improving a foreign language, etc.) and also a few qualities (e.g., being more patient). Although I don't have the list ready, yet, I can already sense that, whatever objectives I end up choosing, I'll be having to fight with my fondness for idle time in order to achieve any of them.

Let's how things will go this time :)

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Secret Santa

Secret Santa is a (western) Christmas tradition, where, within a group, people get each other presents. There are many variations of the custom but, in general, the recipient of the gift doesn't know whom the gift came from. Apart from that, the people in a Secret Santa group can set the exact rules. For instance, they may set a price range for the gifts or define a general gift theme to be followed, etc.

'Gift' by Joey Rozier
under a CC license
In some places, the Secret Santa custom is a big deal, with decent planning and implementation. I was a bit surprised to find  how-to guides online. I was even more surprised to see online Secret Santa planners, name-drawing tools, etc. Having seen those, it should come as no surprise that there are also apps on the topic (e.g., Secret Santa).

For people that work 8+ hours in the typical office environment, where human interaction is either office smalltalk or purpose-oriented collaboration and where a good 60-70% or more of the work time is carried out in front of a computer monitor, secret Santa is an interesting (and possibly a bit awkward) break.

Exchanging gifts, even low-cost ones, if done the right way, is fun. Looking at a deeper level, though, there is more to that. It forces one, for a little while, to shift their focus and think on the others. It is an opportunity for human contact that may even lead to durable relationships.

(Yes, true. People can take part in Secret Santa and be mean or indifferent but let's put that aside in this case).

Sure, Secret Santa is not amongst the bold or basic things the world needs. It is a small Christmas thing, which, for a short time, can make our lives a tiny bit smilier.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Revamping those to-do lists

'to do list' by Eamon Brett
under a CC license
To-do lists are nothing new. They are simple and humble yet, for some people, precious.

Personally, I'm not too much of a fan of such things. For that, I have paid the price at a number of occasions. However, having forgotten - a number of times - to get the all the things I need from the supermarket in a single go and having gotten things I didn't really need instead, I somehow convinced myself to ride the wave and install one of those 'to-do' list apps on my mobile.

I went for Wunderlist but I soon realised that there are numerous alternatives, such as Toodledo, Remember the milk (!), Asana and many. many others, including Google Tasks, which is tightly integrated with GMail and Google Calendar and the purpose-built Google Keep. Each of those has its pros and cons, some are simpler and more intuitive than others, etc., but all can, in some way, find home in your smartphone and replace that old-fashioned to-do list on a piece of paper.

(BTW, I won't be doing a review of those apps here. However, there are plenty of reviews over the internet, for example in LifeHacker, the Verge and PC World.)

I'm a bit surprised that some many people came up with an idea (or copied the idea) for an app to replace a simple piece of paper. I know, I shouldn't be. After all, this is a kind of useful app with quite some margin for extra features.

People have been creating to-do lists all the time and having them in a digital form does come with advantages, such as the possibility to re-use lists or list items, share them with others, collaborate around them, combine them with work planning, etc. It's just that such lists can easily exist on torn notebook pages and post-it notes and still reach their objective. In that sense, having such apps feels like an overkill but, at any rate, clearly, that will work, too. After all, smartphones are supposed to be much more besides a simple mobile phone and adding the to-do list functionality is another (small) step towards helping us in our daily lives.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Do social media work at the professional level?

'Cape Hatteras lighthouse'
by Cathy under a CC license
For me, that's a tough question to answer (something similar has been asked a while ago on Quora).

There are numerous services there that promise to do their networking magic and boost your profile at the personal or the professional level. But I don't know whether they actually deliver or not.

My personal experience is rather limited on that front. Yes, I have had accounts at various services, including Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. However I haven't really met any new contacts via those, not to mention come across any meaningful professional leads. To be fair, I haven't put any specific effort towards those objectives, apart from the obvious, i.e., setting-up a reasonable profile and keeping - for some time at least - a moderate-to-low level of activity.

There are some, however, that claim that social networking can do miracles. Others, advise caution and careful planning before committing time (and possibly money) into making a good social media profile, while some others identify social media as a means to find resources and learn and, possibly, as a path that - if used carefully - could improve career chances a bit.

I admit that, in theory, one's "right" presence in social media should be a additional plus in one's career efforts. I am also convinced that potential employers (including headhunters?) or, even, potential collaborators seek for information on their potential employees or partners in the social media universe, as well. Thus, a decent presence there is not a bad idea and may be of help to future career steps (but a bad presence is a terrible idea, much worse than no presence at all). However, I really wonder how many people amongst one's social media connections can actually provide one with a job offer or, at least, a job interview. The answer to the latter may be "very few" or even "none". But anything other than that would just make things too easy, wouldn't it? After all, if just a handful of one's social media contacts could offer some sound career advice that would be a welcome thing, too.