Category Archives: sketches

What’s on your back burner?

It’s easy to get discouraged by the vague feeling that you’re ignoring lots of things that you wanted to work on: hobbies that fall by the wayside, projects gathering dust on your shelves, Someday/Maybe lists that grow and never shrink. I’m learning that thinking about what’s on your back burner can help you make your peace with it, deliberately choosing what you want to work on during your discretionary time and letting go of the rest.

I’m focusing on consulting this October and November. Assuming all goes well, December will be taken up by a vacation: wrapping up consulting, going on vacation, and recovering from the whirlwind. I’m going to be less “retired” than I thought I’d be at this point, so I want to be deliberate about what I’m putting on the back burner and what I should keep doing.

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Consulting leaves me with one or two days a week when I can focus on other projects. I also have little bits of time here and there, and some time in the evenings. What do I want to fit into those opportunities?

Daily drawing: I really like this practice of thinking about ideas or questions on paper, and I plan to continue doing this. Since I’ve made it a warm-up and cool-down activity, I don’t need a lot of separate focused time for it. I draw to start and end my day, and I spend a little time filing new sketches. Decision: Continue doing this in small pieces.

Visual vocabulary: Someone asked me if I could share my visual vocabulary with people. I had figured out a good workflow for building my visual vocabulary using other people’s sketches, but I didn’t want to share my 1,000+ term collection because it’s based on other people’s sketches (copyright, you know!). So I started building a new visual vocabulary using only my own sketches. So far, I’ve processed all of my sketchnotes from 2013.

The next step is to process my personal sketches (including my daily sketches) from 2013, and then start going backwards in time. Although the work was simple and not challenging, it was a lot of fun reviewing my past sketches and remembering what the talks were about. Decision: I’ll spend a little time on this each week. I thought about outsourcing parts of it, but it’s probably going to be easier, faster, and more useful if I do this myself.

Topic-focused blog/book: I’ve been playing around with the idea of spinning off a separate blog focused on a small set of topics. The poll results were tied between learning/writing/notetaking/etc. and visual thinking/mind mapping/planning/etc., so I’m planning to focus on learning/writing/notetaking/etc. first because that will let me do all the rest even more effectively. Decision: I probably won’t split it off into a separate blog yet, though. I’ll use some of my daily drawing time to explore topics and flesh them out into a series of blog posts – possibly hitting two birds with one stone. =)

Quantified Awesome: I have bugs to fix, features to add, analyses to run… Well, the bug fixes come first. I’m going to set aside some of these focus days or weekends to get token authentication and a few other things working again. I’m curious about my groceries data now that I have more than a year of it, so I’m looking forward to crunching the numbers. Just how much rice do we go through in a year? How can we organize our space to allow us to stock up even better? Decision: Coding benefits from long periods of focus time, so I should use my free days for this. Once I get past the bugs, though, I’m okay with scaling back on this a little.

Server administration, learning new tech skills: My web server isn’t set up optimally. It’s probably slower and more conservative than it needs to be. There are configuration options I haven’t dug into, performance limits I haven’t tested, and so on. Still, my server hasn’t fallen apart recently, and it should be fine for now. Learning new programming languages, frameworks, or platforms might also help me in the long run, but that’s something I can guiltlessly postpone for this quarter. Decision: Postpone, revisit next year.

Delegation and automation: I keep wondering about how I might be able to take advantage of other people’s skills and experiences in order to learn more or do more, but I’ve been slacking off in terms of actually delegating things to people. I’ve been digging into why that’s the case (what are my excuses? am I missing some quick wins?), so you’ll probably see a blog post about that shortly. Still, I don’t want to delegate for the sake of delegating. I want to make sure that I specify work clearly and can pay enough attention to give good feedback as well as learn from the experience. This takes time and brainspace. I’ll dig into this if the opportunity comes up, but I don’t mind waiting until later.

As for automation, I’ll probably learn more about that on the way to doing other things. For example, AutoHotkey looks like it will repay further study. I’ll use some of my focus days to tweak things here and there, but I don’t need to push too hard on this. Decision: Postpone or do opportunistically.

Sketchnote lessons: This is where I teach myself (and other people!) more about sketchnoting by drawing different variants of common techniques. It helps broaden my visual vocabulary. I currently publish a sketchnote lesson every Thursday. If I make it less formal and more playful, I might be able to fold it into my daily drawing / doodling sessions. For example, I might try drawing people in different professions or in different situations as a way of expanding my visual vocabulary. This does require a bit more research, though, because I need to look at other people’s sketchnotes and reference photos. If I relax my expectations of publishing and make it, say, once a month, then I don’t have to worry about scraping the bottom of the barrel. (I should do one just about metaphors… =) ) That way, if I end up ramping up my drawing/doodling so that I have something publishable once a week or once every two weeks, that’s awesome. Decision: Scale back a little, and focus on doodling different categories?

Wrap-up

When I started thinking about what’s on my back burner, I felt a little overwhelmed. There was too much to fit into my week, not to mention the stuff on my Things I want to learn list that I haven’t gotten around to even starting. As I thought about what I could fit into small pockets of time, what needed more focus, and what I could postpone, things felt more manageable. Now I have a few things I can focus on, and I don’t have to feel bad about temporarily letting go of some of the things I was curious about. We’ll see how this works!

There will always be more things you want to do than time to do it in. You can get stressed out by your limitations, or you can exercise your ability to choose. Good luck!

Sketchnotes: Conversations About Social Business (Jennifer Okimoto, IBM)

Jennifer Okimoto spoke about social business at yesterday’s Canadian Women in Communications (CWC, @cwcafc) meetup in Toronto. Since she’s a friend, former colleague, and all-around awesome person, I just had to catch up with her while she was in town. I was amused to turn up in a couple of her stories. =) Here are my notes from her talk. Click on the image for a larger version.

20130917 Conversations About Social Business - Jennifer Okimoto

Feel free to share this! (Creative Commons Attribution License) Like these? Check out my other sketches for more. You can find out more about Jennifer Okimoto on Twitter (@jenokimoto) or LinkedIn.

For your convenience and ease of sharing, you can find this page at http://sach.ac/socbizjen .

Sketchnoter’s notes: I did these sketchnotes on paper because I didn’t have my tablet PC with me. I used a black Pilot V5 Hi-Tecpoint on a legal-sized sheet of paper. It turned out that my flatbed scanner can’t handle legal-sized sheets of paper and my margins were too small for the sheet-fed scanner, so I cut it in half (hooray for plenty of whitespace!), scanned the pieces, overlaid them in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, erased the overlap, and desaturated the layer to get rid of the slight greenish cast. I added the blue colour by drawing a separate layer in “Add” mode. Since I drew in ink, I decided to leave the contrast as varying instead of redrawing everything digitally. Drawing on paper makes me miss working digitally (those nice, clean, confident lines!). <laugh> Next time!

Sketchnote Lessons: Having fun with words

This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series Sketchnote Lessons

In addition to drawing icons, you can also play with the forms of words in order to make them more fun or visually interesting. Here are some examples. Click on the image to view or download a larger version that you can trace or doodle on, and feel free to share this with others. (Creative Commons Attribution License)

20130909 Sketchnote Lessons - Playing With Words

See http://sach.ac/sketchnote-lessons for the other tips in this series, and check back next Thursday for more!

Sketchnote: Reboot Your Business, Reboot Your Life: Your Future Depends On It – Mitch Joel (Third Tuesday Toronto)

Here’s my sketchnote of Mitch Joel’s talk at Third Tuesday Toronto. Click on the image to view or save a larger version, which should also print out nicely on an 8.5×11” paper in landscape.

20130910 Third Tuesday Toronto - Reboot Your Business, Reboot Your Life - Your Future Depends On It - Mitch Joel

Feel free to share it! (Creative Commons Attribution License)

For more information, check out:

Want more? Take a look at my sketchnotes category. Enjoy!

For your convenience, this page is available at sach.ac/reboot . Share away!

Sketchnote lessons: Stick figures

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series Sketchnote Lessons

Stick figures are fun to draw. Click on the image to view or download a larger version that you can trace or doodle on, and feel free to share this with others! (Creative Commons Attribution License)

20130904 Sketchnote Lessons - Stick Figures

See http://sach.ac/sketchnote-lessons for the other tips in this series, and check back next Thursday for more!

Sketchnote: Managing Oneself (Peter Drucker)

Xiaoxiao asked me to sketchnote Managing Oneself, a classic article by Peter Drucker. Here are my notes. Click on the image for a larger version.

20130822 Managing Oneself - Peter Drucker

Please feel free to share this! (Creative Commons Attribution License)

In addition to sketching a visual summary, I thought I’d reflect on the points discussed in the article.

What are my strengths?

I’m happy, optimistic, appreciative, and resilient. I reflect a lot on what I do, how I do it, and why. I learn quickly, thanks to speed-reading and note-taking skills.  I know how to adapt to many of my characteristics, such as introversion and visual thinking. I’m comfortable with numbers, words, and drawings. I embrace deliberate practice and continuous improvement. I’m good at setting up little experiments, taking calculated risks, and finding ways to improve. I’m frugal and I’m decent at questioning assumptions. I work on being more rational and compensating for my biases, and I’m not intimidated by research.

Feedback analysis: I periodically review my decisions through scheduled decision reviews, blog archives, and other reflections. I’m good at breaking decisions down into smaller ones that I can try out or test. I can get better at involving other people in my decisions. I tend to discount things that are unscientific or that seem dodgy, but that hasn’t really gotten in my way. The main thing that gets in my way is my tendency to flit from interest to interest, although I’m dealing with that by learning how to create value in smaller chunks. I’m planning to improve my feedback analysis process by scheduling more decision reviews.

How do I work?

I learn primarily through reading, writing, and trying things out. I find it difficult to absorb information by listening to lectures or talking to other people. My preference for team or solo work depends on the project: for most development project, I prefer to work with at least one other person whose skill I respect, because I learn a lot more that way. I’m also comfortable working on my own. (I’m learning how to delegate, though.) I’m more comfortable making decisions than giving advice. I prefer some order and predictability in my daily schedule, but I minimize commitments. Routines give me a platform from which I can go wherever my interests take me. I enjoyed working in a large organization, but I’m also fine working on my own.

I know that it’s easier to make things happen if I adapt to my idiosyncrasies rather than wish I were someone else. I’m good at passing opportunities on to other people, and helping people see what might fit me.

What are my values?

I value learning and sharing as much as I can of what I learn with as many people as possible, which is why I prefer to share information for free instead of locking it down in order to earn more. I value equanimity rather than excess.

Where do I belong?

Where I am. (Yay!) This experiment is going well, and I’d like to continue it.

I know I worked well in large corporations too, and I think I’d get along with small ones. I definitely don’t belong outside my comfort zone (that time I had to do some Microsoft SQL Server admin? Yeah…) or in high-stress, high-travel, workaholic environments. (Which, fortunately, consulting wasn’t – at least for me.) I do better in situations where it’s okay to ask forgiveness instead of always asking for permission, and where 80% is okay instead of trying to get to 100% the first time around. I do well with some discretionary time to work on useful projects or help people outside my typical responsibilities.

What should I contribute?

I think people could use more examples of this sort of smaller-scale life, because it’ll help free people from assumptions about what they need or how much they have to sacrifice. I’d love to make it work and to share what I learn along the way.

I also care about helping people learn and think more effectively. Visual thinking is one way to do that, so I want to help people who have the inclination for it discover tools and techniques that they can use.

I care about learning in general, which includes learning about different topics and then creating resources or mapping concepts so that other people can learn them more easily.

Books, blog posts, drawings, presentations, and coaching are some ways I can make progress in these directions.

In addition to those five questions, Peter Drucker also gave these career tips:

Taking responsibility for relationships

One of the things I learned as a kid was that you can take responsibility for the way you interact with people and you can help them get better at interacting with you. (Yes, I was the kid reading Parenting Teenagers for Dummies and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.) At work, it was great explicitly discussing communication styles and motivational preferences with my managers, who helped me tweak things to play to my strengths.

The second half of your life

… why wait until your forties? Winking smile

I’m a big fan of having at least two good things on the go at any given time. I learned this as a software developer. That way, when you run into a setback or delay, you can always work on the other thing in order to keep yourself moving forward.

For me right now, there’s writing, drawing, and software. In the future, who knows?

How about you? What do you think about managing yourself?