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My typical day includes 2-5 types of work, with the majority being Reactionary Work. I hate to admit it, but I find that Reactionary Work constantly bleeds over into my efforts to schedule myself (Planning Work) and the deep thinking required to solve problems (Problem-Solving Work).
I also find that, between nearly any type of work, I usually slip into a period of Reactionary Work that may include surfing the top of my email inbox, or a period of Insecurity Work, which usually comes in the form of scanning Twitter messages about our business.
Here are a few realizations that might help as you do your own work audit:
Problem Solving Work is best done when you are fully engaged with the challenge you face. For many, this means working in a zone free from distraction and the flow of social media. Within groups, the best Problem Solving Work is done when staffing is voluntary and topics fall into the overlap of each person’s genuine interest, skills, and opportunity. Without a real sense of engagement, results suffer.
Procedural Work, meanwhile, is best done with the help of technology. Wherever possible, technology should be used to automate systems for managing projects and increasing efficiency. With Procedural Work, you want to minimize the time spent on it and optimize accountability. For those of us that manage teams, Procedural Work should be delegated when possible. Legendary managers recognize that they should spend time on Planning Work, setting up the systems that their teams will use to work, and then minimizing their time spent doing the day-to-day administrative (Procedural) work.
Reactionary Work can often crowd out all other types of work; it needs to be controlled by limiting the time you spend on it to distinct blocks throughout the day. Thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices, Reactionary Work seeps into every opening of your time – walks between buildings or a free hour that results from a canceled meeting. The biggest mistake we make is prioritizing Reactionary Work over everything else. Planning Work, in the form of proper scheduling, can help minimize the gravitational pull of Reactionary Work. Similarly, Procedural Work can help you identify stuff that should be delegated, thus reducing your flow of Reactionary Work.
Insecurity Work should be compartmentalized into designated periods of time every day (or every few days if you’re disciplined enough to manage it). Perhaps allocate 30 minutes at the end of every day to run through all of your Insecurity Work at once – checking stats, how many hits your blog received, how many new followers you gained – whatever calms you.
Planning Work is, for most of us, too circumstantial. You do it when you get stuck, rather than proactively. But if you believe that organization is, in fact, a competitive advantage (as I do), you need to allocate time for Planning Work and learn methods to optimize it. You should leverage existing systems but then customize them for yourself. After all, making your mark on your system breeds attraction, which in turn breeds the loyalty required to stick with that system long enough to achieve results.
FF CHARTWELL is an astonishingly clever hack of font technology, which allows you to build stunning graphs without spreadsheets.
Excel is my worst enemy, as I’m a firm believer that spreadsheets should be a punishment mandated only by the federal and state government tax code. And that’s a shame, because you can make some robust graphs in Excel.
FF Chartwell is like a graphing tool for the rest of us. There are no cells to highlight or windows for values. Instead, you simply type the values you want in a graph, separated by plus signs. Then, as easily as you would swap a font, you can highlight the numbers and instantly transform them into several different, sharp-looking graphs.
“If you want to get picky, FF Chartwell’s not really a typeface in the traditional sense,” explains creator Travis Kochel. “However, everything exists within a font file. Each possible chart shape exists as a separate glyph. When the OpenType features are activated, the numbers [are] automatically swapped out with the corresponding shapes. Much in the same manner as a ligature.”
Ligatures are not traditional characters. They’re actually cheats that prevent glyphs (letters) from crashing into one another and mucking up the text (they’ve actually been around since the advent of written language, but have only been popularized again more recently on digital platforms). So where an “f” and an “l” would naturally intersect, a properly spaced single unit “fl” may take its place, and none of us are any the wiser. Kochel illustrates the principle well on his blog. And the only way Chartwell was possible was by exploiting these ligatures.
So if a bar replaces the number 55, know that a bar of that exact length was pre-rendered by Kochel long ago–it’s hiding within the files of your computer, along with a bar for 54 and 56. Because of ligatures, these complex graphical symbols can be swapped in just as easily as any letter is typed on your screen. You type 54+55+56 and you get three bars (or wedges, rings, radar chirps or lines) of corresponding bulk. And making graphs–even those that get extremely abstract–really does become as simple as typing.
FF Chartwell is available as a full pack for $125, or broken into individual fonts for $25 apiece. A web font version should be available soon.
Jared Fanning is a designer who likes making maps, illustrations and a few other things too. Recently relocated from Chicago to western Michigan, he plans on spending the summer on the beach with his talented photographer wife and their 1 year old daughter.
Urban life is multifaceted and complex. But, sometimes you need to just go with the flow and this chart may (or may not) show you if you’re really an urbanite.
It’s been a decade since America’s children had the chance to watch Mr. Rogers change into sneakers and a cardigan and take a trip to the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe.” But PBS certainly hasn’t forgotten the beloved educator or the lessons he taught about ideas, imagination and curiosity. This video remix that they’ve produced with YouTube mashup king John D. Boswell is an inspiring reminder of all that Mr. Rogers stood for.
The song, aptly titled “Garden of Your Mind” features footage of all the things those of us who grew up with Mr. Rogers love—the trolley, Mr. McFeely, and the castle with King Friday and Queen Sara Saturday. And of course, it has Mr. Rogers singing lyrics like “Do you ever imagine things?” and “It’s good to be curious about many things. You can think about things and make-believe. All you have to do is think and they’ll grow.”
The video is a sweet—and tear-jerking—homage to a man who devoted his life to those ideals. It’s sure to make you reflect on your own life and figure out how you can get some more imagination and curiosity in it.