- by Alyson Shane
Regardless of how much you love what you do, there are inevitably doing to be times when you're feeling down, or uninspired, or are simply suffering from a lack of motivation (I know those feels).
When I'm feeling down I like to find a fun project to work on (like doing some writing, editing photos, etc) and put on a good TED Talk to listen to while I work. I love hearing other people's thoughts and stories, and have actually been using TED Talks to get inspired since 2007, when I worked a mind-numbingly dull job as an accounting assistant in a government office. I hated my job, and listening to people with big ideas, dreams, and goals made me feel a little less crazy for being underwhelmed with my current circumstances.
These days I certainly feel a lot better about what I do day-to-day, there are still times when a little verbal pick-me-up is required to get those creative juices flowing again. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of my favourite talks to help you stay motivated:
*I also happen to have ASMR, and for those of you lucky enough to experience the same lovely sensations when listening to people speak, I've put a little asterisk next to the ones that give me the best kinds of brain-tingles.
I'm a sucker for a good cheesy talk, and nothing snaps me out of a funk faster than listening to a few talks about dreaming big and going for it. In particular I'd recommend checking out Amanda Palmer's talk; hearing hers was pivotal for me in learning to ask other people for help and admitting that (gulp!) maybe I don't know everything.
Business & Success Talks
I've been listening to talks about business since... well, long before running my own business ever crossed my mind. In particular I'm drawn to talks that tackle issues like healthy workplaces, finding work that matters to you, and spreading your ideas successfully.
Creativity & Happiness Talks
Two of the talks in this category are ones I've been listening to for several years. They're always good to come back to when I need a refresher that creativity isn't something that just disappears (though sometimes it feels that way) and that I have to actively work at being happy.
General Interesting Talks
Below are a few of my favourite talks that didn't really fit into any of the above categories, but I find myself revisiting again and again because they're just that good.
Do you have any favourite videos that you play to stay motivated and find inspiration? Tweet them at me or tell me in the comments!
- by Alyson Shane
I read an interesting article on Lifehacker today called "The Company You Work for is Not Your Friend" which really struck a chord with me based on an experience that I had right out of university.
I started working for a "business incubator" taking care of their marketing and B2B advertising. They had created the position, which supported the Director of Sales, shortly before hiring me and as such my position didn't have clearly-defined work parameters. This was one of the things that excited me about the position: the ability to use it to grow and make it into my own.
I had spent time and effort pouring myself into the position; trying to help the company and it's clients become more organized and streamlined in their processes. I sat in on extra meetings, just so that I could gain a better understanding of the process. I showed up early and stayed late.
As such, when they let me go after a mere 30 days my starry-eyed, newly-graduated self was caught totally off-guard. Actually, to put it more truthfully, I was devastated.
Clearly something had gone wrong here, but what? What had I done that had led to this decision?
I decided to reach out to my former boss to get some answers.
I called him and left a friendly voicemail thanking him for giving me the opportunity to have worked for him, and asking for a quick chat to clarify what I could do better in my future roles. After a few days I followed up with an email, which was met with even more silence.
In the meantime I found a new job, but I was still distraught. How could I move on from this past experience without learning what I could have done better?
Eventually, close to two months after I was let go, my former boss sent me a terse email making vague excuses about not getting back to me (he lost my phone and his email also stopped working for two months) and essentially stated that he hadn't thought out the parameters of the job before hiring me, and felt that it was in his (and his company's) best interests to let me go rather than work with me to develop the position, despite the fact that this was the original goal when I was hired.
It was then that reality really sunk in: no matter how hard I had tried, no matter how much effort I had put in, it wouldn't have worked out. Not only that, but my ability to learn a lesson and to grow from the experience mattered so little to this person that he put off getting back to me for an egregious amount of time.
This flew in the face of everything that I had grown up thinking. My parents, and to some extent my formal education, had taught me that if I busted my ass my bosses would always see it and I would always have a safe, secure place within the company I worked for. As such, I went into the situation blindly, assuming that if I just worked hard and did my best, that the fruits of my labour would be rewarded with a long and happy employment.
Obviously this was not the case, and it isn't for many people.
In a way, though, I was lucky to have learned this lesson right out of the gate; many people spend their lives working for a company, only to be laid off during tough times or let go because of personality conflicts with new management. No amount of dedicated work can change the economy or stop someone from being an asshole. You have to cover all your bases.
In the years since, while I've continued to be employed full-time at a 9-5 job, I've made a directed and deliberate effort to maintain my professional network, to keep my resume updated, and to continue to pursue things like freelance work and speaking opportunities which add to my professional portfolio.
Not because I expect to get fired anytime soon, but because I want to have control over my own career and the direction that I want my life to take. Part of that requires being prepared to do so.
Because at the end of the day the only person who is truly dedicated to making your career a successful one, is you.
- by Alyson Shane
My 9-5 is a great example of how to get nothing done. I'm the Marketing Manager for two RE/MAX agents and I can't count the amount of times that I've sat down with every intention of getting a ton of work done... only to find that four hours have passed, I've answered the phone fifteen times, and I'm nowhere on my project.
This is magnified when I sit down to do any of my freelance work, because having all of those other tabs is sooooo tempting and I'm not only managing my own creative projects, networking, planning and administrative, but someone else's, too! It's so tempting and easy to get sucked in to doing something, anything other than what I'm doing. But, every time I switch to a new task my brain has to engage, disengage and reengage somewhere else and I lose precious work time that I could be spending
As such, I've had it with trying to multitask.
Sure, we might feel productive while simultaneously checking our email, social media feeds, taking phone calls, writing, etc, but what we're actually doing is diving up our attention and energy and actually half-assing all of it instead of being really, really good at one of those things, and studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50 percent longer to accomplish a task. Not only that, we can make up to 50 percent more errors.
Here's what I do to stay focused and fight the urge to multitask:
Work uninterrupted for designated periods of time. I plug in headphones so there are no external distractions and put my head down and just get through it. Hours will pass in the blink of an eye and my productivity skyrockets.
Set alarms for checking emails & alerts. Especially when I'm waiting to hear back from a client, or working on a social media project. I can't ignore them.
Put my phone face-down. Usually I put it to my side, or underneath something, as the little alerts drive me batty and fill me with that "must respond now!" urge. Some people recommend putting your phone in another room, but honestly I'm way too attached to mine to ever do that. Plus I like it's pretty Dalek case.
Stretch. I find my attention starts slipping if I start getting uncomfortable; it's kind of like my mind is trying to convince me to continue to sit still by going "oh hey, check out what's happening on Twitter!" If I find myself slipping into this mindset I'll get up (without checking my phone!) and do a standing torso twist stretch (this also cracks my back, which feels amazing. Don't judge!).
Get some damn sleep. I'm terrible for this. I'll work until well into the night without realizing it; or, I'll realize that it's 11:45pm and think "just a little more work" and then it's almost 1am. It doesn't help that I happen to date a workaholic who is just as bad as I am, but we're both slowly trying to form habits that make us more productive overall, not just when it's crunch-time.
Cut back on caffeine when I'm working. This is the hardest of all. I love coffee and my 9-5 is conveniently located near Little Sister and Thom Bargen (my favourite haunt) is a short walk from my house. Not only does caffeine consumption mess up your sleep patterns (see above, we already know this is an issue for me) but that little kick-start to my heart that a cup of strong coffee frequently is counter-productive because my mind starts racing too much to focus on a single project.
The moral of the story is this: we didn't evolve to live our lives this way, looking at a million things a minute. We walked long ways and focused on singular activities, so it's important to be mindful of the ways that our contemporary lifestyles go against what's natural, and how we can curb those behaviours to actually be productive and happy.
Do you have any tips for staying focused? I'd love to hear them!
- by Alyson Shane
While out for coffee I read a great article by one of my favourite writers, Paul Graham, called "What Doesn't Seem Like Work?"
In it he talks about how his father knew at 12 what he wanted to be which he admits is unusual and is something that I can't relate to at all because at 12 I don't think I was thinking much farther than the test at the end of the week or when the next Zelda title was coming out.
Anyway, Paul Graham's dad wanted to do something involving maths (he is a mathematician) and he said that he used to consider the quizzes at the end of textbook chapters as rewards, and that the text was just advice on how to solve them.
Which is just... crazy. That sounds like the exact opposite of anything I want to do, ever.
Which is exactly the point.
"The stranger your tastes seem to other people, the stronger evidence they probably are of what you should do."
Most people that I talk to dislike writing. Or they tolerate it as something that they have to do, maybe for work or a project, but by and large most people that I know don't want to spend hours writing posts, monologues, rants, poems etc and honing their "voice" as a writer.
I've always been a passionate reader and writer but it took me a long time to figure out that writing should be a big part of how I make my living, largely because I grew up thinking that the only options for a writer were publish a book or become a journalist, but that's a post for another time.
I love writing and would happily do it all day. It's what I live and breathe, even though to a lot of people it seems like a boring, uninteresting task.
Which is what sets me apart from other people, and what makes me so good at it.
But it's taken me a long time to figure that out.
What's something that you love to do that other people hate doing? Have you made it a part of your professional life?
- by admin
Because I advocate writing as a therapy.
I always say things like "if you don't bear yr soul nobody will give a damn about what you had to say" which I still think is true.
If I expect people to give a damn when I'm at my highest, they need to know me when I'm at my lowest.
Right now I'm at my lowest.
The past few months, however, I was at my highest: I was working somewhere amazing and I loved the shit out of my job.
I loved the people I worked with. I loved the work that I did. I even loved our clients, as much as they drove me crazy on occasion.
I walked into work every day happy to be there.
But good things don't always last.
Challenges exist to teach us lessons
the trials we face in life help us grow
and all that stupid bullshit people say to try and save face when their heart is breaking.
So now that you know that my heart is breaking
let me say this:
I'm going to miss that place. I'm sad that I've left.
But I wish everyone there all the best, because they deserve it.
Rock on, DF.
yr girl Shaner
- by adminOur internet was down for most of the morning today which meant that besides a really kickass meeting with a new client I was unable to get much done.
It's sad how much we rely on teh internets to get our work done. Wow.
Anyway Joseph and I used it as an opportunity to go on a field trip to get some plants from the office, which are now happily living in our space:
(so much better than before -it's crazy what a difference a few plants can make)
To help with carting everything over we used Frogbox, which were provided to us by one of our amazing clients and were super helpful in moving all the plants, pots and soil into the office -way better than cardboard boxes, which would have been an awful experience considering that it's pouring rain in #Winnipeg right now.
Frogbox is also running a contest right now which you can enter to win money and free stuff (who doesn't love free stuff?) which you can check out here.
We also brought in a wonderfully green plant which completely changed the atmosphere of the workplace and is now our mascot.
- by adminThis morning some of the coolest kids you know (three of which work for the coolest company around and one of which is a kickass #CreComm student) got up early and participated in the Habitat for Humanity Amazing Foot Rally.
It was an amazing time, thanks to all of the volunteers and organizers who organized such a fun and unique event!
Images and Vine via @MoskalElectric, @JackieDoming and yours truly.
- by admin
while fixing the printer today.
part of my job is performing some basic IT services even though I'm not terribly good at it. I mean yes I can do entry-level, first year of college type maintenance but anything that requires more than the knowledge I acquired while constantly de-virusing my parents computer I make my boss call a technician whose job it actually is to do that sort of stuff.
anyway today apparently there was a problem with the printer. except there wasn't.
but that's not the point in this story.
the point is the person trying to do the printing, I think, is a bit on the crazy side. I've come to this conclusion because she had me check and double-check the stuff she was printing and it was these letters to someone at the CBC about how the Commies are coming into her house at night and stealing her thoughts. her ideas.
she said that they were coming in and putting straws to her ears and sucking them out and she knew because she could hear them talking in her dreams. their voices were magnified into the straw and into her ear, she said.
I didn't ask any questions. just handed her the letters and went back to my regular job. I was actually kinda convincing myself that maybe she was writing some sort of fiction novel, or something like that. it was just so weird.
except just now she came down and wanted to use the photocopier and took out a book with the word 'TRANSFORMATION' on the cover and started making photocopies of the front and back cover. like, six or seven copies each.
since non-office personnel have to pay for photocopies 'round here I casually asked her what she was photocopying and she looked at me over her shoulder and said
I need to mail these to some people
in a voice that I swear would give alfred hitchcock goosebumps.
I think I was wrong about the fiction book-writing. I think she thinks it's for real.
I wonder what that book is about. and who is she sending all those copies to?
and, mostly, I'm kinda sad. because her made-up life is probably way more interesting than mine.
- by admin
one of the good things about my work is that I get to do a lot of cool stuff like go on lunch excursions and help throw massive 500-person events and bring in entertainers and stuff.
today we brought in a group of improv performers who would 'act out' a story that an audience member told. it's pretty cool, actually.
except when it's my turn.
most people I know wouldn't believe me but public speaking freaks me out.
especially when I'm unprepared.
(mostly when I'm unprepared)
like when I'm sitting in a room with twenty people and they're all urging me to tell a "funny story" and I'm trying to politely decline and they're all going
alyson yr so funny. tell us a funny story alyson.
so on the spot I ramble some lame and completely unfunny story because who can come up with a funny story on the spot?
not me I tell you.
and halfway through I realize 'shit this isn't funny. this isn't even a good story'
and I feel the shakes and redness and wobbly voice kick in
and of course the woman running the improv group is doting on me because she can tell that I'm getting anxious and telling me what a good job I'm doing and
she keeps focusing on me and putting her hand on my shoulder which is making it worse because her weird clammy hand is on my skin and
they're going through the motions improv-ing this horrible story which is just making it worse because it's not funny and I can feel myself getting redder and redder and I'm playing with my rings and my fingernails and anything I can pick at or twist
and of course I can't just leave. getting up and walking out would just make it worse so I tell myself
just sit through it. it'll be over soon.
and then omg the woman is kneeling in front of me telling me how it's okay and how I'm 'such a sport' for sharing and just
no. fuck off. you're making it worse. go dote on someone else
I want to yell. but I don't because it's work and it's not polite to yell at the improv lady so I don't
I sit there twisting my ring and my hair and feeling my face flush bright red
waiting for this horrible experience to end.
now I remember why I hate improv.