This Email System Makes Me More Productive and Responsive

If you’re like most people, email is a necessary evil in life.

Even reading articles about email causes your to slump in your chair. What is there to be said? We all deal with emails, and every email we get is minutes–hours–off the clock. In fact, 55% of workers attribute excessive emails as a barrier in getting work done.

Let’s make email sexy again.

Email can be better. Email can be a system, a way of life. Email can help you increase productivity. It can help you to shine, to make you look responsive and organized, to empower you with a reputation of being on top of things.

I’m going to share the system I use for organizing my communication. The key to this system is distilling messages in a layered fashion through a combination of automation and easy rules of thumb. This means I’m left with an empty inbox and emails that I can immediately act on or moved to a place where I can more efficiently manage them in the future.

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When Employees Have Nothing To Do At Work

I see this problem pop up many times on forums. Every week it seems there’s someone out there who has little to do at their job. I read how they spend the day watching movies at their desk, how they ask for more work to be assigned, and how frustrating it is to have no responsibilities at their job. People dream for this situation, but I don’t know why—I  imagine these people haven’t had a job with little or no responsibility. It’s a miserable experience. You feel useless and alone; you fear your job is unimportant and thus your employment a temporary existence. You could be fired at any moment when your managers realize you’re the “do-nothing” employee. Having little to do at work is not a dream situation. It’s a nightmare that no one should have to endure for sustained periods.Keep Reading

3 Common Web Project Failures and 3 Ways to Fight Them

Project failure is not a matter of “if” but “when.” Failure will always occur, and it’s almost never pleasant. This is an unfortunate fact of projects–especially web projects. But knowing what types of issues might creep up in a project, and devising ways to prevent or alleviate them, can help soften the blow.

What are some of the common project failures? Let’s take a look.Keep Reading

Do a Little Instead of Nothing

There are a few things I didn’t want to do today. Things I felt I didn’t have time for; things I felt were not big enough priorities. I didn’t want to continue my ReactJS training. I didn’t want to work on a client project after my regular day job. I didn’t want to write this blog post.

Not wanting to do something is a common feeling. We procrastinate with the justification that our time is better spent doing something else—maybe even nothing.

But we’ve always been told procrastination is bad. And that’s true in most cases. Every time I delay working on a task I know needs to be completed, it sits at the back of my mind, eating away at my more productive thoughts.Keep Reading

How I Develop New Skills

The mid-2010s have led to an age of enlightenment for me. I left the web agency I had helped found, started freelancing on the side, and have been employed by two different companies as a full-time front-end engineer. In all of these positions, I’ve experienced what is now becoming an apparent skill curve.

The curve is not good.

The curve shows how my desire to acquire skills ramps up during times of change (i.e. getting a new job) and declines into a sad plateau of comfort (i.e. happily employed for more than a year).Keep Reading

Lessons Learned From My Time Running a Web Agency

I have never written extensively (or really at all) about my time as a web agency owner. Partly because I’ve never been a boaster, partly because it wasn’t all fun and glory—but mostly because it’s in my past and something I’ve been moving on from.

I make it sound great, don’t I?

There were phenomenal aspects to running a web design shop. I miss the days of being in complete control of projects, from the client kick-off meetings to designing and developing websites to managing meaningful relationships with small, local businesses. Those are the awesome parts of running a web agency. You help others grow their businesses and organizations, and you can see the direct impact your work has on your local area.

However, behind all that devotion is a business. And a business can be a nasty beast, waiting to claw at your heels. As a sort-of long-procrastinated post-mortem, I wanted to highlight some of my key takeaways from running that business.Keep Reading

How I Turned My Life-Draining Commute into Quality Time

I was talking to my wife last night about a lunch she had earlier that day. She told me something her lunch companion had said. Something that made me sit up with shock strewn across me face.

Her lunch companion had said he enjoyed commuting.

As I slid back down on the sofa, I realized myself that commuting—gasp—isn’t really that terrible. Yet we all complain about it. Studies are constantly churned out that show the negative impact our car culture has on health, happiness, the environment, and productivity.

Given I live in Northern Virginia, my commute probably meets all of those negative marks. But my commute is necessary for my livelihood, and it’s something I’ve learned to accept—and it’s an opportunity I’ve undertaken to improve myself.Keep Reading

Goals for 2018

I like the idea of having a fresh set of goals for the new year. It’s like a reset, a clear starting block from which I can jump back into the race. With some goals already in mind for 2018, I thought it’d be effective from an accountability standpoint to share some of them on this blog.Keep Reading

The Imposter Syndrome Must End

The “imposter syndrome” is one of those industry terms we’ve all probably encountered—that over-sensationalized claim that people feel a degree of falseness within their jobs; the idea that we’re just winging it, unqualified, waiting until we’re discovered as fakes.

I first discovered the imposter syndrome early in my career. It was an eye-opening experience. I exclaimed to myself, “that’s me!” I felt validated that my internal sense of incompetence was normal. I could continue down my path, discarding any negative thoughts as just another bout of that pesky, self-loathing imposter syndrome.

The imposter syndrome served as my safe haven for a long time. It was my excuse, my reasoning, my blanket I could hide under when my mind was venturing into negative zones.Keep Reading

Switching to Puma-dev from Pow for a macOS Rails Environment

Last week, I posted my notes on dropping MAMP in favor of a native environment for my local web development setup. Since I run Rails apps on my local machine, I covered the process for making Apache and pow work side by side.

Well, of course things change. And pretty fast.

That change is the removal of pow and the installation of Puma-dev, a more recent and better maintained Rack server for Rails. Puma-dev even self-describes as, “the emotional successor to pow.” Who am I to argue with that?

Below are my field notes on making the switch. All in all, it was a painless process. The biggest advantage to Puma-dev I’ve noticed so far is its SSL support, getting around the annoying Chrome .dev https issue.Keep Reading