You work for yourself

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You work for yourself You do. I don’t care if you report to a manager and you turn up every day to the Acme factory line, you work for yourself. Act like you do because it will help your productivity – and act like you do work for yourself because you do work for yourself.

The good thing about fulltime employment – I’m guessing here because I’m freelance and haven’t had one fulltime post in 20 years – is that you do get to relax a bit. Don’t. You’re there to work and you are there to learn, to get value out of your company and be of value to it.

Nobody employs you because they’re nice. Hopefully they are but you earned your job there and it is costing them. A rule of thumb is that your salary is about half what it costs a company to employ you. (On top of the money you take home there is that much again the cost of hiring and tax and insurance and health and providing the equipment you need to do your job. The figure falls down the more you get paid but on average, roughly, kinda, that’s the sum we’re talking about.)

If you’ve done enough today to make you a bargain for them, then barring calamitous company misfortunes, your job is safe.

What I’m concerned about is how much you’ve got from the company. Firms don’t owe you anything but your salary and presumably they’re paying you that. But is what you’re doing valuable to you? Are you enjoying it and is it stretching you, growing you? We are not in a world where you can just walk out of a job if it isn’t, but you can look to see if it is and you can change things if it ain’t.

Don’t wait to be told what to do by a manager. Do what you’re there for and what you know how to do, then look for more. They’ll love you for all those words like initiative and discipline but you’ll love it for how it makes your job more interesting.

Plus, taking charge of what you do at your job helps you take charge of your career. And remember, you work for yourself. I’ve mentioned this. You’re just choosing to work with this firm for now. You have to keep earning your place there but the firm needs to keep earning its place having you.

This is all on my mind because I read some article saying that employees today need much more reassurance and appraisals than they did before. It’s on my mind because I had to make a fairly big business purchase decision and I realised that after 20 years I am still looking for permission from someone to do what I need to do.

That’s the curse of being a writer, though: we secretly believe someone is going to come along and stop us.

Windows version of 1Password updated

You know PCs better than I do: does this sound good to you? Aside from the odd hiccup, I am very much a fan of 1Password so updates are automatically good. It’s just that I read this list of new features and I’m not exactly arrested:

I don’t get to pull ‘chock’ off the shelf very often, but this is a special occasion. 1Password 4.2 for Windows is here with all sorts of new goodies to help you work and play better.

You can use the View menu to hide the Wallet and Accounts groups from the sidebar
Wi-Fi Sync is now clearer about what it’s up to
The password strength meter is much strength-ier
We added Secure Desktop buttons to the Change Password window
The Auto-Save dialog now allows adding tags
We improved how we log into non-web-browser apps

1Password 4.2 for Windows is chock-full of perks and improvements – David Chartier, AgileBits(3 March 2015)

Read the full blog post for more.

Better copy-and-paste: the simple things that speed up everything

They’re called clipboard managers and suddenly I have the image of a time and motion person scribbling down notes about how slow I am. A Clipboard Manager, let’s give it initial caps and explain a bit more, is a type of software that makes your copying-and-pasting better.

It’s hard to see what you could really improve there. You copy something, you paste it. Not a lot of room for technological innovation.

Except there is.

With any such app, you can copy something, then copy something else, something else. An hour later, something else. And then tomorrow paste each of those into an email. Paste them all in one big go. Paste the third thing first, the second thing second, the fourth third, anything you like.

I’ve been aware of these for a long time and paid them no attention at all. But I’ve recently reviewed two apps that happen to include this feature amongst their many others. It was the many others that made them worth reviewing but it’s this clipboard management that was most important in making me keep the software on my Mac. Here’s why. If I got to paste something, it pastes like normal. But if instead of pressing Command-C, I press a slightly different keystroke – with what I’ve got it’s Alt-Command-C – then this is what I see:

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 10.19.00

Click on that to see it full size and to also see exactly what I’ve been copying and pasting for the last few minutes. I’m hoping there’s nothing private in there.

What you see there is how the software Alfred 2 displays its clipboard manager: you get very much the same thing in LaunchBar 6, the other app I was reviewing that has this. There are others and while all of this is Mac-only, there are PC apps that do it too. Do spend some time havering over LaunchBar 6 or Alfred 2, but don’t spend any time hesitating over buying a clipboard manager. It’s that useful. I am that converted.

The Alfred 2 official website is here; LaunchBar 6’s home is there.

Droptask comes to Android

It’s a To Do manager especially for visual thinkers – and as of today it is on Android as well as iOS and the web. Droptask does this:

DropTask is a powerful productivity tool enabling you to visualize your workload in a unique and engaging way. Simply drag and drop tasks for all your essential to-dos, and organize them within larger colorful circles to truly see the bigger picture. With powerful functionality delivered intuitively to the user, DropTask adds simplicity to even the most complex projects and provides effortless task management for teams and individuals alike.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 17.18.39

Take a look at the official site or go straight to the Google store for the new Android version.

Alternatively, wait for me to get my finger out and review the iOS version like I’ve been trying to do for two months. There is an irony in how I fail to do a review of a To Do app, but it’s not an irony that helps you much. But if you like Droptask on Android or the web, do take a lookout it on iPhone and iPad too.

“Why I Left iCloud Reminders for Todoist”

I’m just after telling you that Things is briefly free now on iOS and I was thinking of saying it’s the second-best To Do app on Apple gear. But there is this: Todoist. I’ve used it and haven’t in fact got one single pixel of a memory of what I thought about it. But MacStories writer Federico Viticci is a fan and a compellingly persuasive one.

In a three-biscuit long article, he talks about how Apple’s Reminders turned out to be much better than he’d expected yet eventually he had to move on:

Reminders isn’t built to scale for people who manage dozens of projects and collaborate with others to assign tasks and keep track of due dates. It’s not Apple’s fault – it’s right there in the name: Reminders. It’s not called “Projects” or “Todo Pro”: Reminders is a lightweight list system with support for dates, alerts, and lists shared with others.

I guess it was naive of me to think that, with a growing business and changes to my personal life, I wouldn’t face an increased amount of responsibilities. Reminders couldn’t keep track of the new complexities and people in my life. I started forgetting about things I needed to do; sometimes I forgot to mark tasks as done so other people wouldn’t know what my status was; and, other times Reminders wasn’t working for them but I was forcing them to use it because “iCloud never had issues for me”. Both the Reminders app for Mac and Fantastical for iOS were overflowing with assignements and notes that were hard to find and that just kept piling on each other day after day.

Why I Left iCloud Reminders for Todoist – Federico Viticci, MacStories (19 November 2014)

Read the full piece.

Take that, email-as-To-Do-list people

Previously on The Blank Screen… Cult of Mac writer Charlie Sorrell argued that you should stick to email (and a few other things) for your To Do list. I shook. I had to have tea. But in the same spirit of showing you Sorrell’s arguments when I don’t agree with them, I want to show you other people saying much the same as I do about how this is A TERRIBLE IDEA AND THEN SOME.

A to-do list contains only items you put on it. Your inbox, on the other hand, is like a spout with no spigot. You have no control over incoming items, except to consider them one by one and delete them—a highly ineffective way to cultivate a to-do list. Messages turn up at all hours of the day. They can come from anyone with no regard to the hierarchy that may determine your actual to-do list. And more likely than not, only a fraction of them will reflect what you need to get done.

Jill Duffy, PC Mag (12 March 2012)


If you’re conflating email and task management, then the job of simply communicating–reading and replying to your messages–gets bogged down by all the emails you leave sitting in your inbox simply so you won’t forget to address them. (And there are probably a few to-do reminders in there that you sent to yourself!) This approach also makes managing your to-do-list problematic: when you need to quickly identify the right task to take on next, nothing slows you down like diving into your inbox to scroll through old messages.

Alexandra Samuel, Harvard Business Review (7 March 2014)

There. I’ll shut up now. Probably.