Be all you can be, you complex little soldier you

I like quotes. I am genuinely inspired by certain quotes. There’s this one from Steve Jobs –

Great artists steal

Though actually what I find inspiring about it is that Jobs stole it from Picasso.

Then there’s this from Cervantes:

Translation is like reading the back of a tapestry

Though actually what I find most inspiring about this one is that Cervantes presumably said it in Spanish.

What I don’t like are quotes that seek to inspire. That seek to be a touchstone for your life. I’ve written before about the worth of finding a line that encapsulates the piece you’re writing – such as a sentence about its real theme so you don’t keep wandering off – and as ever and always, what works for you works for you.

So maybe you’ll take this new free app more seriously than I do. Maybe you’ll find it helps. In which case, go grab it: Daily Productivity Quotes is out now on the iOS App Store. It’s an iPhone app so it looks a bit ugly on an iPad but I’m not very likely to be opening it often.

Working for yourself is harder and better than you think

Lifehacker has a smart post about what it's really like when you go work for yourself. Some of the details are very USA-specific – naturally, since Lifehacker is an American site – but the principles are the same here in the UK:

Often, people want to freelance or start their own business because they're lured by the freedom of working from home. If that's what you care most about, you're probably better off trying to convince your boss to let you telecommute and learning about the downsides of working from home rather than leaving your employer to work for yourself.

List articles – 5 things to eat, 10 things to sell or whatever – are usually quite lazy pieces of writing that are also pointlessly empty. And I'll give you seven reasons why. But this one is simple and straight and practical: I'm not sure I've ever read it all put so well as Lifehacker does.

I've been freelance since the mid-1990s but I also had an enormous crutch of a regular client for a dozen years so I felt I eased into this life. Can't imagine going back now, but I can imagine doing this freelancing an awful lot better: when you've read that article, follow its many links out to further advice. It's a smart collection.

A four-day week with pay

If you’re British and are old enough, the phrases three- or four-day week are not happy ones. They were borne of bad times when the economy was rough and companies were in trouble. That never happens now.

But it’s a term with bad connotations because it was a time when firms couldn’t afford to pay people for a whole week so they had to work three or four days instead. And there’s another way.

Hopefully there’s another way. Ryan Carson of the technology firm Treehouse proposes that maybe we can work four days a week and do more with it. He’s not trying to save money: you get paid your full, normal salary, you just don’t work five days a week. It sounds like he’s a productivity guru looking for a startling yet appealing angle, but the fella has his reasons and he’s put them to work: this is genuinely how his company is run.

What’s more, he wrote about it in his company blog, The Naive Optimist, more than a year ago and they sky hasn’t fallen under the weight of all that pie. I learnt of this through 99U which singles out his particular post about why he does this and specifically what has happened because of it.

There is a part of me that shudders at the notion. I love working, I don’t understand how to relax. But I am also very much an advocate of spending the right time on something: working for the sake of it is a waste of time, time that you could be spending working on other things. So I’m drawn to this and I admit you that I am persuaded by his reasoning and his results.

Complaining does not work as a strategy

Via the always excellent Swiss Miss design blog:

“If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out… Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”


― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture