Monday, 28 April 2014

Why You Shouldn't Fear Becoming Obsolete in the Post-Work World


I had an interesting discussion with a friend the other day about the "post-work world". 

There are a lot of factors and considerations that come into play with this concept (which you can read more about here), but part of the idea is that as technology continues to advance, more and more tasks will become automated and as a result vastly reduce the necessity for human workers to accomplish tasks. Now in theory this sounds great, but in an era where steady work seems to be slowly disappearing, it can also be really scary, especially for those of us working in technology-driven fields.

Last month I attended the film and interactive portions of the South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX and was completely blown away by much of what I saw on display in the gaming center. For example, I saw motion capture setups that no longer require extensive set ups and equipment, but merely a computer, a Kinect or comparable device, and free or reasonably-priced software that produced top quality animations almost immediately. I was particularly impressed with the fluid, real-time effects capabilities of FaceShift.


There were many other new products that automatically accomplish what would take me an absurd amount of time to accomplish manually, and that I didn’t even know existed. As an animator, I found myself thinking of that great exchange between Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park:

Dr. Alan Grant: We’re out of a job.
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Don’t you mean extinct?

I have been learning as much as I can about these modern miracles in my free time, but at 28 years of age I’m already an old man in my field. Already I’m comparing myself to the stop motion animators who feared their entire skill set had become obsolete following the release of Jurassic Park.

However, as it usually does, my brain tumbled down the rabbit hole and eventually I found myself reflecting on our early human and pre-human ancestors who for thousands and thousands of years did little but hunt, gather, and look for shelter. Then came the agricultural revolution and I started wondering, “What did Grog do when people started growing food around permanent settlements? Did he think to himself ‘What me do now? I are obsolete!’”

The answer, of course, is no, and I think the same still holds true today. Once freed from the shackles of previous requirements, mankind has always been free to pursue more interesting and creative endeavors. Until agriculture, we couldn’t have formed societies, and until societies we couldn’t have had art, and so on and so on.

Due to our species’ seemingly incurable addiction to taking ourselves too seriously, the things that didn’t exist yesterday are the things we need today, and we have a tendency to feel threatened by the ever-changing landscape. But it can be easy to get behind the times and feel lost when those darned kids start playing with their newfangled whatchamacallits and thingamajigs.

However, I'm optimistic, and unlike Dr. Grant, I’m feeling less and less like I’m going to go extinct. Soon, when many of the time consuming tasks of today will be automatically taken care of thanks to new technology, I’ll be free to focus much more on the aesthetic and creative parts of my work, which is really why I started working in this field to begin with. Just because painters are no longer the principal creators of visual media doesn’t mean that art is dead. On the contrary, art is thriving more than ever. Media is everywhere. As a result, there is so much more work to be done for those curious souls who are nimble of mind and playful in spirit.

And so, in conclusion, while change will always be dangerous, those who accept the constant flux of technology and nurture a desire to experience whatever is coming next have little to worry about. It seems evident that the principals Darwin wrote about apply not only to biology and sociology, but can be applied to occupational challenges as well. A common misunderstanding of the evolutionary theory is that “only the strong survive,” which isn’t really accurate in any of the aforementioned categories. A better summation of the idea is that the ability to adapt provides a significant advantage in the fight for survival. There will always be work that needs done, and it’s just getting more and more fascinating.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what’s next. (And I’m still holding out to see a raptor some day!)

What do YOU think? How does a willingness to adapt affect the market you work in? Have you gone through a similar experience of feeling obsolete before making the brave leap into the “next big thing”? 


Monday, 21 April 2014

5 Secrets to Mastering Time Management

Warning:  This blog post does not contain statistics, research data, or theoretical citations to support its content.  In fact, there may not even be bullet points!  

AHHHH!
Okay, okay, okay.  We’ll add a numbered list.  But no stats!

When it comes to time management, you are your own worst enemy.  Whether you run a Fortune 500 company or simply a blog covering the trendiest memes, the most important function you can bring to your venture is solid time management.  It not only affects your business day, but the schedules of everyone and everything that depends on your time.  Good time management means increased efficiency, punctuality, dependability, and organization.  This can lead to more business, higher sales, and a greater degree of effectiveness and satisfaction in your day.   Poor time management can lead to missed opportunities, perceived unreliability, decrease in business growth, or worse, going out of business if too many decisions are adversely affected.


So let’s dive into what I feel are the best ways to maintain solid time management and why they are important for not only staying organized, but also growing your business.

1. KEEP A DAILY CALENDAR


This is the easiest and most critical element of solid time management.  I use Google Calendar that sends alerts to my phone (they can also pop up on your desktop).  I schedule everything from conference calls to errands to reminders.  You can also create a different color-coded calendar to separate your business tasks from your personal tasks.  You shouldn’t feel locked in to them and can move things around as your day progresses, however it keeps you on task and helps you plan ahead to avoid double-booking your time or worse, missing important meetings/appointments.

2. MAKE A LIST


This correlates with your calendar but can also function as your daily/weekly/monthly/annual goals.  The key to this is keeping it handy and accessible.  I once again turn to Google Apps and use their Documents/Spreadsheets.  You can, of course, use any program, even Notes on your mobile device.  The idea is to keep a running (hopefully organized) list of all that you hope to accomplish, both big and small.  Daily items will be more granular (pick up your daughter, send an invoice, meet with the new client).  Monthly and Annual goals can be broader and aspirational (increase sales by 25%, open 2 new locations, publish an e-book).  The added benefit of keeping a list like this is looking back at your accomplishments over the course of the year and seeing all of your progress!

It's hard to be the king.

3. DELEGATE


Delegating tasks is a hard thing to do but ultimately one of the more important ways to grow your business and organize your time.   This could mean hiring an assistant, or it can involve a student or intern to help with areas that you aren’t an expert in (think website development) or simply need an extra hand (cleaning up your studio).  This frees up more time for you to focus on your core strengths and business development tasks.

4. FOCUS


There are many ways to improve your focus and de-clutter your mental brain (as my wife likes to call it), however the most practical and easiest is to limit the amount of time you check your email on a daily basis.  Once an hour is okay, however power users of this method prescribe to a twice daily regimen: once in the morning and once early afternoon.  This not only gives your more time to devote to your daily tasks/goals, it also has the added benefit of allowing problems to resolve themselves.  For example, if a someone needs an answer ASAP, your delay might force them to figure it out him/herself.   There’s a tendency to reward the quickest response to a query, however the slower, well-thought out response can allow you to focus on the question and avoid any knee-jerk or heated replies (not that ANYONE has ever done that before).

5. BE GRATEFUL


This is a big world full of magical things.  Every day that you wake up in the morning is cause for celebration.  Seriously.  No matter how much crap you have to deal with that day and how ANNOYING it is that Starbucks f-ed up your order, there are thousands of people who woke up that same morning facing a lot more adversity.  So be grateful.  When you become actively grateful, life slows down and you are able to focus on the big picture instead of mentally grinding away on the negatives that we all deal with day in an day out.  You will also find yourself to be a happier person, which thanks to mirror neurons, causes people to be happier around you and want to do business with you.  How’s that for ROI?

What do you think are the keys to time management? Or if you haven't quite mastered the art (like most of us), what typically stands in your way? We'd love to hear your feedback.