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December Newsletter

This is the newsletter sent out to my mailing list at the start of December 2020. If any of these topics interest you and you’d like me to go more in-depth, let me know!

Portfolio Worker

There’s a lot to be said about how awful the freelance/gig economy is for workers, and about the evil forces that have created it. But I’m not particularly well equipped for that conversation, and the truth is that it’s already the reality for many people — especially now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. So how can we make the most of it and gain some semblance of stability in these chaotic times?

A few weeks ago I read Tiago Forte’s Full-Stack Freelancer article and began the process of reconstructing my own understanding of not only freelance work, but work and career in a more general sense. When it comes to this portfolio approach, the goal is synergy and the key is compatibility.

Synergy is defined as “The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.”

So, how do we choose different kinds of work that when combined are greater than the sum of their parts? How do we avoid instances where one type of work detracts from another or splits our efforts instead of magnifying them?

The key is compatibility. We must pursue the kinds of work that fit well together, that are related and feed into one another.

  • Same topic or content but in different forms such as articles and then videos of the same content.
  • Expanding or growing a single kernel (ie. a short story later developed into a full novel or even series).
  • The product and the process (ie. your finished content, as well as guides on the process used to make it such as lessons, product reviews for tools used, and advice and FAQs for people in the same field).

“Hacking” Activation Energy

One of the greatest struggles we face as Neurodivergent brains is gathering the energy to go from wanting to do something to actually doing that thing. This is sometimes referred to as “task initiation” or “activation energy.” It’s something most people have dealt with at some point, but while it’s merely an annoyance to some, to others it can be a truly insurmountable obstacle.

Like many things of this nature, acknowledging and understanding that obstacle can make quite a huge difference. Understanding why we struggle with something helps not only because it frees us from the thought that it’s our fault, but because it gives us a way forward.

Starting anything takes energy. Think of it as a little hump you have to get over. Depending on the task and your energy level it can be easy or difficult to get over that hump, but once you’re over it’s much easier to continue. So why not make it easier?

How high that hump is and therefore how much energy it requires is determined by how many changes exist between your current state and the actual “doing” of the task.

  • Does it require you to be somewhere else? A different room? A different location altogether?
  • Does it require special equipment or tools that need to be collected? Does that equipment need to be serviced in any way?
  • Does the task still have several undefined elements that must be decided on before you can act on it?

All of these “little obstacles” pile up quickly and can make an otherwise simple task seem incredibly overwhelming, especially if you’re already feeling anxious about it and only looking at it out of the corner of your metaphorical eye.

So the next time you have a bit of extra energy to spend, take a hard look at all those important things you want or need to do, and make sure you’re actually making it easy for yourself to do them. Prepare your lunch the night before. Plan your commute to that new place you’ve been wanting to go to. Put the book you want to read on your favorite chair or next to the coffee maker. Brainstorm for that project you’ve been avoiding.

GTD and Compassion

During the past month I’ve been doing a deep dive into David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Everyone has at least heard of it, and most productivity enthusiasts have opinions about it or have based their own ideas off of it, but there’s a few reasons why it’s still worth a read even two decades after it’s original publication.

First off, we’d be hard pressed to find another productivity system as complete as the GTD system. It’s very apparent just how much thought was put into the development of this system. And because each aspect is thoroughly explained, it is also modular which means each piece can be adjusted or modified to suit an individual’s needs.

More importantly, GTD has a quality that I always look for in any kind of “self-help” book, something I’d been looking for long before I was even aware of it. It’s what makes this kind of book worth my time and energy. And that is compassion.

Especially for those of us that have been burned by other “self-help” books, especially those that preach any kind of “tough love”, compassion makes the biggest difference in whether any of the advice actually sticks.

In GTD there’s an acknowledgment of where and how we find ourselves, the understanding that we never meant to end up in this mess, the offer to guide but not force, and the promise that growth is possible.

Where “tough love” tries to use shame and guilt to motivate, compassion assures as that no matter where we are, there are always steps we can take to make improvements in our lives. It’s not a matter of who’s “fault” it is, only that suffering can be alleviated, skills can be gained, and support can be built.

If you’re trying to figure out what direction to take your life in, take a look at the newly updated Intentionality Framework post!


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