Jeremy Hiebert

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Crunch Time

A great report on overwork in IT and the gaming industry: Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work: 6 Lessons. It's so good to see compelling arguments that show how crunch-time development is ineffective, expensive and demoralizing. This study is loaded with great quotes and links to all sorts of goodies on the topic.

I can't remember where I found this, but it was probably from one of the two work-related sites I've thankfully rediscovered: The Future of Work and The Work Less Institute of Technology, which also recently linked to the excellent well-being manifesto.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Don't Want to Be People

This lifestylism project often looks at work with an undercurrent of ambition, even when I might advocate an ambitious approach to minimizing how much time you spend working. I have no interest in being a manager or team leader in the company I work for, even though I have more seniority and experience...but I don't either want be on somebody else's "team" if the department needs a new layer of leadership. I just want to solve interesting problems and work with good people.

Another crossover from my work in educational technology is a philosopher named Stephen Downes. He recently started a blog to explore ideas outside of his professional interest and it's already full of gems. Here's his take on my conundrum:
"So now I work alone. On the bottom rung of the organization chart. I don't have people because I'm not willing to make that trade - to give up what's important to me in order to be given people. The flip side, of course, is that I don't want to be people either. It's not simply that I don't want to be the quarterback - I'm not willing to settle for being a linebacker either.

So was thinking about all this today as I read Fast Company and watched coverage of the Pope and listened to stories of the Gomrie enquiry and our aspirational Prime Minister and grumbled about the tightening grip of my employers, thinking about this and I asked myself, what changed? It wasn't so long ago that I wanted people - and while I haven't lost my ambition, my drive, my desire to make a difference, I don't want people any more. And it's not just the cost of getting people, it's more than that."

Check out the whole post for a great meditation on the concept of power.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Working Poor

I've sometimes been critical of this lifestylism concept because it seems so bourgeois. Do we all have the luxury of self-actualization? I found this CBC series on the working poor in Ottawa this week and it's another good reality check.

Circadian Madness

I know Brian Lamb from my "other life" in educational technology, but I enjoy all of his writing on all kinds of topics. This week he had a great post on the hard-driving folks who are willing to sacrifice sleep in an attempt to achieve work and life goals, and I heartily agree with his analyis: "A tyranny of the obsessed. If this sort of circadian madness is posited as a miracle cure to boost productivity, then we know our culture of work has gone off the rails."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

More Living Without a Net

Jory is consistently putting out gems, with fabulous writing about her transition from employee to self-employed. Highlights for me from her last bunch: In Defense of the Free Agent and more reflecting on living without a net. The latter yields some great personal insights into the post-corporate lifestyle:
"I also took more time to walk to places, cafes, to the park in the middle of the day, to stimulate thought. I also didn't clockwatch until meal times. In fact, I've often been so engrossed in projects that I forget to eat (thank God, the b-friend likes to cook and reminds me). I suppose, in spite of the Grande addiction, my solo lifestyle is having a healthy effect on me.

I worried that becoming a solo would mean becoming a recluse, but that hasn't been the case. After a day of self-assigned and self-defined work, I feel satisfied at the end of the day, like I deserve to sit down with a friend and catch up. By month two of solohood I even considered myself deserving of meeting with other solo friends in the middle of the day. We didn't need to justify ourselves and convince each other that we would work for twice as long later that night. We knew that now that we were doing our unique brand of work, it would get done."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Remainders

Great post from Christopher about life's priorities and how we fit them into our days: A Person Divided Leaves a Remainder. There's a nice discussion going there too, and I encourage others to join in the fun.

Lifestyle Decoration

No, I don't consider home improvement to be an important part of lifestylism. In fact, I think people tend to obsess over meaningless details of their lives (like endlessly redecorating interior spaces) to distract themselves from the difficult work of aligning their lifestyle choices (how they spend time, money and energy) with their real values. That said, let's go into the wonderful world of paint for a moment.

Click on the Colour Game on this page for a personalized virtual painting experience. You do a series of little activities and answer questions that creates a sort of customized colour preference profile. You can then choose different colour schemes and see how they'd look in different rooms. It's less sophisticated and offers fewer options than the virtual decorator (Flash) they also offer, but it's still pretty neat. Anyone with a taste for these things could kill hours in there.

What fascinates me about this model is the idea of applying the same sort of simple immersive experience for life planning. Why not let a person do a series of little activities and answer some questions, then let them play with all kinds of variables in their future lifestyle? I love the concept. Just need to build it.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Satisfying Work

I really like David St Lawrence's principles of satisfying work. Please go read his post, but I wanted to also duplicate the main ones here:
  • Almost any work is satisfying if you can do it at your own pace.
  • The most interesting work in the world can be made unbearable, if you are forced to do it in a sequence and at a pace that is not of your own choosing.
  • Job satisfaction is actually more important than the money you take home. That is why acknowledgement from your peers and managers can easily make up for a lower salary.
  • Any job that requires you to lie for others will eat you out from the inside until you are no longer able to look at yourself in the mirror.
  • People will work unbelievable hours for little or no pay if they know they are helping to make the world a better place.
  • People will perform miracles working for a manager they trust.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Home from Nowhere

Where we choose to live (region, neighbourhood, type of housing) is a huge part of the lifestyle equation. I've been doing a lot of thinking along those lines, but never seem to post about it.

Home from Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler rocked my world in the last few weeks. Read this article to get a sense of his vision for towns and cities that would work infinitely better than the suburban sprawl currently dominating the landscape. He's aligned with the New Urbanism movement, which is basically aiming to create beautiful urban places where people can live, shop and work without needing cars. I was introduced to some of these ideas by reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and it just makes so much sense, both for quality of life and long-term sustainability.

Kunstler also recently wrote about what the future might look like when the price of oil becomes unaffordable across entire economies. It's classic doomsday stuff, but much of the crystal-ball gazing has a ring of truth to me. I wonder how it will affect our aspirations and sense of what is important in life. His take:
"The circumstances of the Long Emergency will require us to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from the kind of communities we physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the way we work and trade the products of our work. Our lives will become profoundly and intensely local. Daily life will be far less about mobility and much more about staying where you are. Anything organized on the large scale, whether it is government or a corporate business enterprise such as Wal-Mart, will wither as the cheap energy props that support bigness fall away. The turbulence of the Long Emergency will produce a lot of economic losers, and many of these will be members of an angry and aggrieved former middle class."