You like how I rhymed that and everything for ya?

I still can’t believe that summer’s here already – it honestly feels like we were just getting over the Christmas hump yesterday, so you mean to tell me that in another six months it’ll be time to do it all over again?! Well, I do love me some Christmas, so as long as I can manage to get a few … well, a lot of things done by then!

Even though I’m still a day or two away from finally closing the book on that gigantic, ridiculously demanding project that managed to derail the first part of 2012 for me, in a way I’m already looking ahead to the weeks to come and trying to plot out what I’m going to focus on next once this thing is finally in the books. It’s something that I normally try to avoid because I have a bad tendency to hop around between projects a lot and as a result, I might get 50% through three or four things instead of just all-out finishing one or two…

…but this time I’m feeling a little better about it, I think because the next few things on my list are orders of magnitude more manageable than this last one was, so when I put down a few tasks to do each day, that’s literally the entire project as opposed to being part #37 of section C of BIG PROJECT X that just seems to have really no end in sight! Which I’m hoping will be a nice change because I should see things start to pick up just a bit and getting more things out the door as opposed to simply churning the same over and over is definitely preferable.

I’ve also got several things in the pipeline that are relatively new for me, whether it’s something completely new that I’ve never even dabbled in before or even something that I’ve been away from for so long that I guess it just feels like a fresh face. It can be tough when you work on one single thing for such a long time that you kinda start to get sick of it and just yearn for anything else in the world to focus on instead of that thing that you’re supposed to be doing! Hopefully there won’t be too much of that vibe as I launch this new site in the next couple of days because I do still need to write for it on a weekly basis, though not having the huge list of article backlogs and features to develop will be a welcome change!

So anyways, I really wish that I could say more about specifically what I’m looking forward to working on in the next couple of months, but at least know that I’m pretty excited about each of them and that more importantly, their development cycles should all be a lot shorter so you’ll actually get to start seeing stuff that I’m creating throughout the summer instead of waiting 18 months like has been the case as of late…  😳

Busy busy summer, but let’s bring it on!

I’ve kind of been in a bit of a rut lately.

If you’re a fan of my creative works, you may have noticed that some of them haven’t been updating lately as they should. Basically, I let myself fall behind on some stuff over the last month or so in order to focus on some other entirely different projects, and now that said projects are officially behind me, I’m just having a really hard time getting back into the swing of things again.

In a way, I am glad that I did it because it was a project that I really needed to get done earlier in the year so that it has time to build momentum on its own, though I wish I hadn’t had to sacrifice my timeliness because now it feels like I’m underwater with my other stuff, which I think sometimes makes it even harder because seeing a dozen columns to work on is a lot more daunting than saying, “I guess I’m a week behind or so…”

I just need to power through it – quarantine off one or two things at a time and just focus on those, then keep going until I get through the entire pile. It’s tough to tune out all of that background work because sometimes it makes it that much harder for me to get into the creative mindset that I need to be funny, but it’s really the only way! I need to get going and I need to plow through the things consistently so that I can actually finish up and move on to other stuff before the next week’s column just adds itself to the pile! A little at a time, but a lot at the end of the day and even more by the end of the week…

In fact, I could probably be working on one of those things right now!  😕

Progress & Productivity

March 26, 2012 4:51pm
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Even though it feels like it flew by way too fast, I feel like I had a pretty productive weekend.

We were going to go over to Disney again, but bailed at the last minute due to concerns about the weather and just ended up staying home. My wife picked up a copy of The Hunger Games and read it pretty much cover-to-cover, so I had loads of time to catch up on various creative projects and clear out some things that have been bogging me down for a while. I ended up finishing off two specific projects that have been on my list since god knows how long, and as I look ahead to what I want to tackle next, something very apparent hit me square in the face – I am absolutely horrible at setting timelines for my creative tasks!

Take the two that I had just finished up this weekend, for instance:

  • Task #1 – originally estimated to take “1-2 weeks” … final result: 4 weeks!
  • Task #2 – originally estimated to take “a few hours” … final result: 10-12 hours!

I’m just really bad at estimating how long these things take, sometimes even to the point where I think it might be hurting me in the long run because I’ll build out a timeline for the next six months and then find myself increasingly frustrated as I pass deadlines where I’m supposed to be moving on to other things and instead am still only halfway through the first. I’ve thought about just taking my original estimate and doubling it, but that seems a bit drastic when I’ve got some that are expected to take months, though I’d prefer them not to take up my entire year…

Then again, a big part of productivity in general, I think, is really a sanity factor and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about improving the quality of my work by means other than just dumping loads of time into it (i.e. getting more rest and relaxation), and so to an extent I guess part of me wonders if stress could ultimately play a role in that process, too. I remember hearing a story once about an auto repair shop who would always quote its customers as much as double the amount of time that they needed to do the actual job. The reason they cited was expectations – if you call a customer and tell him you need another hour, he’s probably going to be disappointed, however if you call to say that you finished the work early, that’s something to be excited about and ultimately helps to better promote their business because then they’ve got customers walking around saying that this shop always gets their car in and out ahead of schedule!

Granted, it might take a little getting used to – especially if you’ve got other shops to compare the work to, but in something like my case when it’s all just in my head, why not add a little extra padding to my own expectations of time spent? Worst case scenario, I end up needing every bit of that time and just make it at the buzzer, but admittedly it always feels good to finish early!

*Ahem* – almost always…

…perverts…

…I think I’m just going to go ahead and get back to work now…  😛

I came across this interesting article today that really resonated with me regarding productivity and the idea that more time worked doesn’t necessarily translate directly into more work completed on a one-for-one basis.

It’s a problem that no doubt anyone in the professional world has had to face – bosses pushing people to work overtime more and more regularly instead of hiring additional workers to keep up with demand – although I can say without a doubt that I’ve seen it with my own personal creative work just the same. And if you strictly look at the input and refuse to consider the ultimate output, it seems like it should make sense – more time that has already been paid for (i.e. salaried workers don’t get overtime) results in more work for the same cost to me!

Or in my case, I’m only one person, so my own time is the only currency that I have and the more that I pump into creating my work, the better … right???

Up to a point, yes.

The studies cited show that for pretty much any type of work (but even more so for knowledge/creative-type work), one’s productivity steadily decreases after you surpass about 8 hours per day/40 hours a week, so as to say that if each day in a week is worth 20% of your work, adding an extra workday on the weekend doesn’t automatically result in 120% productivity for that week. In addition, if sustained over longer periods of time, the overall productivity in general starts to drop, in that 48 hours of work might only yield 60-80% of what a standard, 40-hour work week once gave you in the past because, well, people are only human and most of us need things other than just work in our lives, be it family time, exercise, recreation, sleep … and if you deprive a person of those other things for long enough, his overall quality of life starts to suffer and as a result, the piece that you as an employer actually care about takes a hit, too…

In particular, the two that I run up against with my writing most often are #1 – sleep, and #2 – family time, because I have a ton of things that I need to get done trying to get my business off the ground and thus it just eats up ridiculous amounts of my time, although after reading this study it almost makes me want to re-evaluate the pacing of my strategy just a bit to see if ultimately I would end up being more productive by spending less time actually working. Re-reading that sentence, it sounds absolutely bonkers, but it actually kind of makes sense – if I spend 4 hours spinning my wheels trying to solve a problem one night that on a clear head I could’ve tackled in half the time, it’s actually a net gain for everybody because my problem still gets solved and my wife and puppy get a few hours with me instead of me staying locked in the office all night by myself running on empty. Of course, it’s tough to quantify those types of gains even in hindsight, but just recently I can think of at least a couple examples where I was fighting a problem literally for hours on end, only to come back later with a fresh look and realize that I had actually solved it long ago and just didn’t realize that my results had actually been correct the whole time!

I should also note that I’ve actively seen this ring true specifically when I’m trying to write things, too – the creative part of my brain doesn’t do well at all on little sleep … until it reaches a state of fuck all and decides to just crap any old thing out for the sake of letting me go to bed, anyways … but as for real quality work, I not only need to be rested to be able to write well, but it also actually helps when I’ve spent some time recently doing other fun things that aren’t work because it actually makes me look forward to writing as a release instead of just seeing it as another tick on my checklist of things to do. Besides, if I stay locked away too long, chances are I start to run out of things to write about altogether, which is really no good, either…

Granted, it’s an unfortunate truth, both for the creative entrepreneur juggling to do everything all by himself and for managers the world over who’ve got budgets to meet and find it easier to tell Johnson he’s working over the weekend than tell his boss that they can’t meet such-and-such arbitrary deadline, but at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding and if your workers are still face down in said pudding when you come in the next morning, I suppose that’s probably a sign that something somewhere needs to change! 😉

Creatively Blocked

February 12, 2012 8:33pm
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Today has been a horrible day for trying to be creative.

I don’t know what it is, but I spent most of this afternoon just staring at the keyboard trying to get out an article that should’ve taken me a fraction of the time that I actually spent on it. I finally did get it done, for the most part, but it almost seemed comical to try and start another one because sometimes I feel like sometimes you’ve got it and sometimes you don’t and it feels a bit fruitless to keep plugging aimlessly at it if there’s just nothing there to draw from in the first place.

I need to come up with a solution of things that I can do when I find myself in a zone like this so that I can still be at least somewhat productive. When I can, I’ll try to change pace and just do busy work instead that doesn’t require much creative effort as just time to knock out, but unfortunately I just don’t have any projects on my plate with those kinds of things … and I’ve already cleaned off my desk and paid all of our bills for next week… 😛

Is it worth continuing to search for ways to beat this horse back into submission when it clearly just wants a day off, or am I better off just turning on the TV and calling it a day from a creative standpoint? Granted, I certainly understand that sometimes everyone’s brains literally do just need a break from all of this stuff, but in the same vein, you take enough breaks and you get to the end of the year having not actually gotten anything done!

Hmmmm…

Hyundai’s Super Bowl Ad – Gonna Fly Now!

February 3, 2012 4:48pm
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I’ve got to admit, this one definitely made me smile…

Merry Stressmas

December 14, 2011 10:55pm
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This holiday season has ended up being a lot more stressful than I was kind of hoping for!

For better and for worse, it’s pretty easy to pinpoint where I went wrong – months and months ago, my original plan for the holidays was to have all of my big ticket writing projects done by the end of November, thus leaving December free for just my regularly scheduled columns & posts on top of also celebrating the season. Instead, however, just about every single one of those projects has taken considerably longer to complete … a couple of which I honestly haven’t even started yet … so sadly I’ve been spending far more of my time this last couple of weeks scrambling to try and preserve these impossible deadlines instead of just kicking back and really enjoying the season…

That said, for what it’s worth I think I’m finally starting to come to terms with the fact that no matter how hard I push myself, there’s just no possible way to get it all done at this point, so I’m almost better pulling back and finding a way to get some stuff done while also not completely letting the entire holiday season pass me by. And it’s going to mean some major changes to my new plans for January as well – originally my plan was to be able to start fresh in 2012 and really focus more on writing after wrapping up a bunch of design and other non-writing projects in 2011, so admittedly there will still be a bit more work for me to do on that front in the new year before I can really shift gears and focus on the words for a change, but it’s kind of a cart before the horse-scenario if I tried to just jump straight to that other stuff, and of course, it’s not like the 2011 projects aren’t important, either.

It’ll be ok – I just need to find a happy balance between personal time and work time, putting side the thought that I may not have gotten quite as far as I would’ve liked in 2011.

I swear, though – next year, ALL OF MY SPECIAL PROJECTS WILL BE DONE BEFORE CHRISTMASTIME!!! 😛

Holy crap – not to spook anyone, but do you realize that Christmas is going to be here before we know it?! For those of you who are juggling projects like me, that’s a mere 12 weeks before 2012 is upon us … and boy, do I still have entirely too much stuff to get done in such a short period of time…

…but that’s not what I wanted to post about today.

Instead, below is just a quick list – mostly for my reference – of some relatively minor things that I keep meaning to do, but somehow still haven’t, because earlier today I was thinking, “Boy, it sure would be nice not to carry over that list into the new year in addition to the regular, big stuffs that I’m already plenty paranoid about getting wrapped up in time!

Setup a Backup System
I’ve been saying that I’m going to setup something on my PC to backup essential files for a long time, and I think I’ve been stalled as of late because, ironically enough, the PC that we use as our home file server has a bad hard drive. Whenever I think about this, I always get caught up in the complexities of it because on top of about 70 GB of photos to backup, I’ve also got at least twice that in music and those two items alone typically pushes me into the insanely expensive category.

Eventually, I’d still love to have a fancy, multi-tiered approach where our home server does its own internal backups for EVERYTHING using an array of terabyte drives, and then the more essential stuff (photos, writing, personal documents) would also get backed up redundantly to the online backup as well. In the meantime, though, I really just need to take the hour to setup Mozy or something on my regular PC to get the photos and other essential stuff safe, and go from there. I’ve already almost lost all of those pics once – why wait for stupidity to strike the same place twice?!

Finally Finish Unpacking
Yeah, yeah – from when we moved into our new house back in the springtime…

So here’s the thing – we only have a couple of random boxes left, and we can’t unpack those just yet because there’s somewhat of a leak in our living room near the shelves where all of this stuff would go. The landlord said he’ll pay for it, however we’ve just been having a hell of a time finding somebody to actually do the work because the particulars I guess make it kind of a pain in the ass. So this one is kind of a two-parter then – a) fix the leak, b) unpack the stuffs.

Design My Own Business Debit Card
Well, at least this is more of a fun one. I used to have my business checking account with Wachovia, who recently got acquired by Wells Fargo earlier this year. I guess they have this neat feature where you can create your own artwork to put on your debit card – not just choosing from their stock imagery, but actually uploading your own photos and stuff, too, so I thought it might be kind of neat to customize the card that I have for my business transactions.

Get New Stuff for My Fishtank
So my bigger fish died a couple of weeks ago, and all that’s left is a couple of small frys and a relatively empty tank. I know that I want to take this opportunity to spruce things up a bit, however it’s been almost a month already and I have a feeling if left to my own devices this is something that’s going to end up slipping through the cracks.

Now rather than spending a bunch of extra money on fake plants and rocks, I realized today that I should have a bunch of old accessories from a previous tank still stashed around somewhere, so that might be a good start. It just needs … something new.

Buy Rental Insurance
At this point, I guess it’s really bad that we still don’t have any! I mean, we’ve had entire leases that specified how we were required to have renter’s insurance to protect our belongings, and we just never really got around to it. The worst thing is, I’ve heard in the grand scheme of things it’s really not even that expensive – maybe a couple hundred bucks for the entire year, so this is a gap that really need to finally be closed!

‘Nuff said!

Did I miss anything???

I haven’t been very good about keeping my writing deadlines this summer.

Which admittedly is a little weird because although I technically only have about two of them right now, but the end of the year my goal is to have about 8-10 regularly scheduled writing gigs on my plate at a given time. It’ll be a mix of mostly monthly, but also a couple of weekly and even one daily project (this blog, in fact), but the point is, if I can’t even keep up to date on two assignments, how in the world am I going to not just absolutely drown once I bump things up five-fold in 2012?!

I kind of made a sad, but obvious observation last night when I was finally catching up a couple of embarrassingly old humor columns that I had neglected to finish from back in July. Basically, I need to be more diligent about just sitting down and working and not letting 1,000,001 distractions pull me away from actually being productive. Because the funny thing was, when I spent a good portion of yesterday morning stuck in a waiting room while my wife was at the doctor’s, I actually got a lot of stuff done! I’ve noticed the same thing when I fly on airplanes – as much as I absolutely hate the whole flying experience in general, I’m actually really productive on airplanes where I have limited internet access and other distractions, and it’s not uncommon for me to have half a dozen notebook pages filled with stories and notes to show for it when we land at our destination.

So I guess the trick is figuring out how to employ that same work ethic when I’m not stuck in a waiting room or flying 30,000 feet up in the air to allow myself to get back to actually posting my humor columns as scheduled on Fridays, as well as daily blog posts here and even more fun stuff to follow. I want to start small – namely with just my humor column, and then eventually work up to writing the shorter random blog posts that appear here every day as well (secret: sometimes I actually write a week’s worth of posts and backdate ‘em when I feel bad for not posting for a while…).

My column is usually actually the worst anyways because a lot more goes into the writing than just throwing stuff down like I tend to blog, but in general, I have a feeling if I can just dedicate single night each week to making that column happen (Mondays?), not only will that open up the rest of the week as far as editing and punch-ups to add some polish, but it should also make things a lot less stressful because I can certainly vouch that 9 times out of 10 my work isn’t nearly as funny when I’m pressed doing it at the last minute.

So hold me to it, Internet! Starting with this week, new humor columns at comedic-genius.com each and every Friday, on time and ready for your engaged laughter. And while my Monday goal isn’t going to happen this particular week, I do think that I’ve got a fantastic topic that’s going to make it a little easier to put together than most … and for what it’s worth, I’m really looking forward to writing it, too!

2012 will be the year that this writer finally learns to conquer his deadlines, and we’re starting a few months early just to be sure…

If I would’ve had any idea that the project I’m working on would be this intensive … I still would’ve started it anyways, but boy, am I sure going to be happy when it’s finally done!

I know I’ve been a little hush-hush about it, although I think I’ve dropped enough clues here and there that you could probably stumble upon it if you really wanted to. I just don’t want to officially point people to the site until it’s completely 100% done, and for what it’s worth so far I am extremely happy with the way that it’s been turning out. It really isn’t as much of a blog as a whole network of different types of content to highlight my passion for the thing, and even though it’s unfortunate not to mention quite tedious to think that I’m a month and a half behind schedule and it’s still going to be one hell of a push to get done by August 1st, it’s exactly what I’ve wanted this new site to be since I first started brainstorming concepts back in 2008.

Maybe even 2007???

Wow – I just checked my notes back to some early renditions of articles that won’t be appearing on the new site and it was indeed 2007 when I made my first attempts at crafting this new project, albeit at the time if I recall it was going to be simply a new feature incorporated into my main site whereas now it’s basically a stand-alone project all by itself. It’s going to be some work to keep the content up to date – basically doubling the amount of writing I do for The Humor Column each month, but it’s a fun topic and from what I’ve already written to date I think it should flow pretty naturally because it’s a little different writing style than what I currently use for my other projects.

So anyways, the original theme of this post was intended to be about designing because I basically spent the majority of my weekend figuring out a couple of minor, but not insignificant design issues. I’ve definitely learned a lot about WordPress and PHP in general throughout the course of this project, and I’ve been trying to share my experiences for the greater good as I’m able to work through them. It’s truly been a great example of “Don’t let code limit your design – decide what you want and then figure out how to make it happen…” and I really hope that the final product shows it. I really wanted to create something unique that every other blog isn’t already doing, and I think I’m on the right track.

Now whether anyone else will actually want to visit this unique site once it’s completed, that’s another story altogether … but in the end, all I can do is create something that I enjoy and hope that others like it, too, so all joking aside, we’ll see what happens!

Anyways, hopefully by this time next month I’ll finally be posting a little blurb here directing everyone to come check out the new site and it’ll be a smashing success, but between now and then I’ve still got a lot of work left to do to get there. So many late nights, long weekends, and time secluded away from the wife hunched over a keyboard – all I can hope is that at the end of the day it’ll all have been worth the sacrifice.

Until then, I guess here’s one more clue for the curious, little monkeys in the crowd…

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