The Cross-Posting Effect

A lot of my friends on Instagram are also my friends on Facebook. They, like myself, tend to cross-post photos from Instagram onto Facebook and Twitter. I noticed a funny effect from that cross-posting – you end up missing a lot of posts from your friends.

Mindless scrolling. We all do it. Facebook was made for it as well as Instagram. Your brain is bored so you grab your phone and start scrolling through posts. I think we’re sort of zombies when this mode clicks in. I usually end up snapping out of that zombie scrolling mode when I see posts I’ve already remember seeing. Semi-conciously I feel I’ve reached the end of any content that I may want to read or view.

Cross-posting images from Instagram to Facebook sort of breaks this zombie mechanism of knowing when you’ve reached “the end” of new content. I’ve found myself scrolling through Facebook and seeing a photo I recognize and stopping. Chances are I didn’t actually see that photo on Facebook first, but rather on Instagram. The reverse applies as well. My brain stops me when content starts repeating but in essence that’s new content in that specific app.

I’ve also noticed this effect happen with publicizing new blog posts onto Twitter and Facebook but not to the same effect. I use the WordPress.com Reader to track blogs I like reading. Sometimes I do see friends’ posts on Facebook that I’ve already seen in the WordPress.com Reader. The content looks different enough that it doesn’t trigger the same effect all the time.

The thing I wonder about is if the effect causes some sort of mental fatigue in your followers causing them to potentially classifying your posts as noise rather than signal. I know how my brain tends to work and I can see that happening already with some accounts I follow in multiple apps/sites.

Bicycler’s Quiet

Bicycling is my meditation. I use it as part of my toolset to calm my brain and to train my mind to take in a lot of input and focus on important things. I recently realized that there’s a moment that doesn’t happen very often when biking. It sometimes takes an entire summer for me to have it occur. I call it the Bicycler’s Quiet.

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Bicycler’s Quiet is the sudden loss of wind noise in your ears when you’re cycling with the wind. It doesn’t happen very often because you need to be cycling at roughly the same speed and direction of the wind. Biking on days with very little to no wind doesn’t do it because your movement creates wind across your ears.

I love when it happens. Everything specific to the bike becomes quiet and you hear the world around you like it’s the first time. Super surreal and it’s a moment I live for. 🙃

Another Year Around the Sun

37th Birthday

I turn 37 today. It’s been an amazing journey through life so far and I can’t wait to see where the next 37+ years lead me.

In the past five years alone things have changed so much. I finished my master’s degree, we got a place “up north” for the weekends and met so many fun people, I’ve had amazing jobs doing what I love – software development, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak at a number of conferences about the things I’ve done. I’ve also learned a lot about myself listening to my brain and figuring out this thing called ADD/ADHD.

My goals for the next five years? Meet more awesome people. Do more awesome things. Be an even better human and husband.

I am a procrastinator.

I have always believed I was a procrastinator. I tend to put difficult tasks off until when they are due. I always believed it was the pressure of the deadline that forced me to complete the task. College gave me a series of structured deadlines to learn new things. Procrastination can also add undue stress onto your system. Over time it will make you feel like you’re stupid and can’t get anything done. ADHD and procrastination seem to go hand in hand as well.

I’m sort of done with procrastination. It sucks and I know I’m smarter than this.

This month I’m speaking at two conferences and giving two different talks. The first is on remote working (a “soft” topic) and the other on an introduction to RxSwift – a fairly complex programming topic. I’ve known I needed to prepare these talks for several months and I have been doing the work. The remote working talk went off well. The RxSwift talk is upcoming and I’m sweating it. I want the people at my talk to get something significant out of it and not walk away feeling something was missing or it was a waste of time. When I finally made this statement to myself I realized something significant:

It’s not procrastination – it’s a failure to start.

I didn’t dive into the demo project for the talk because I felt like an imposter. How could I give a talk about a topic I am not an expert in? The reality is I needed to dive into code to incrementally learn the topic better to give people a leg up on their first try at RxSwift. This fear of being an imposter kept making me lose focus on simple things and putting them off.

I seem to have an enhanced behavior of finding something else to do instead of the “real work” when I encounter mental resistance. Mental resistance can come from not knowing a subject or the task feeling remedial. I tend to find other things to do instead like opening up a Facebook tab or checking the 14 different Slack instances I’m in for new messages. I know it is time to step back and re-center myself when I notice that my brain starts derailing like this.

When you find yourself slipping on a task or unable to commit to get something done I suggest doing the following:

  • Break the task down into smaller bits and just get started on the first one. Just get started.
  • Walk away. Literally – walk. Exercise is my number one tool to combat attention and focus issues. Grab your headphones and take a short walk around your office or neighborhood. Don’t actively try to think about your problem at hand – just take in the different atmosphere. You’ll be surprised how often an idea comes to you seemingly randomly during this process.
  • Prevent the distraction by blocking the thing you’re using as a mental crutch. In my case it was logging out of Facebook and blocking the site on my machine. The behavior broke after several months on my work computer. If it’s something like wandering and cleaning your house, close your office door and leave a note to yourself to focus. Maybe try the Pomodoro Technique for 20 minute focus sessions.
  • If all else fails stop committing to things you can’t get done. You’re not a failure if you don’t have time or interest. Dig deep in your head to see what’s important to you and your future.

Sometimes we don’t have a choice and we just have to buckle down and get something done. Reward yourself. Check off that box and celebrate! Sometimes the little successes are more important than the big ones.

Just Get Started

I tend to set myself up for defeat with how my brain works when trying to accomplish a task. I overthink things.

When I pull a task from my list of things to do a process starts in my head. I visualize the task and then try to figure out what the solution is and how it looks at the end. Smaller tasks with a clear goal seem to start just fine. Tasks that are a bit more nebulous or aren’t clear how to do everything end up stalling. I end up wasting time misdirecting myself so I don’t have to face the fact that I don’t have an immediate solution.

I also tend to misdirect myself with tasks that have a clear solution but aren’t terribly exciting. It takes a serious conscious effort for me to keep a grasp on things that tend to be mundane but are a part of my day.

While my focus on this post is generally around my job it applies to how I approach things with my personal life too. Unimportant or difficult tasks tend to get stalled and I will find myself doing other things (like cleaning, checking out Facebook, the weather…) just to not face the task at hand.

So … Just Start.

So how do I get over this fear of working on a task?

Just start.

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Sounds simple, right? It boils down to these things:

  • If this is a larger task admit you can’t see the end and just find the first small chunk you can work on. Smaller tasks are easier to finish and it lets your unconscious noodle on the entire project in the meantime.
  • Turn off the distractions and be cognizant of when you misdirect yourself. Try to figure out a pattern to what causes it and stop it before it happens.
  • If this a task that’s just not engaging or not exciting but its something you need to do, just start. Once you get moving and you prevent the misdirection you’ll finish and feel good.
  • Celebrate the finished tasks.

 

The Power of Five Minutes When Working Remote

Minutes can make a difference. This is something I quickly discovered early on when I started working remote.

The granularity of a usable block of time was much bigger when I worked in an office and had a 20 minute commute each way. Unconsciously I believe I felt 15 minutes was the smallest unit of time I could use to create or do something effective. Since I started working remote, I’ve discovered that unit of time has decreased to something even smaller which is closer to five minutes.

I can get a lot done with five minutes. I can wake up, let the dogs outside, get the coffee started, and then be at my desk working. I don’t have the normal rituals to adhere to in the morning – getting ready for work, driving, going up the elevator, saying hi, putting my lunch away, and then putting my mind into work mode. I end up starting on my treadmill desk right away in the morning with my coffee (when it finishes). If you’re lucky to video chat with me in my morning I’ll have bed head and workout clothes on. 😏

Once I realized how much I could actually get done in those five minutes I discovered other longer tasks were less efficient uses of my time. Driving to get a cup of coffee from Starbucks took easily 20 minutes. That’s 4 times the amount of time I need to do something useful! OMG THE HORROR!

Working remote, to me, means working more efficiently. I try to use my time wisely and keep on track with my goals for the day. It’s easy for me to get off track (especially for me dealing with ADD) so I have to break down my tasks into smaller achievable tasks. I also love checking off boxes when I finished something.

You can get a lot of things done in five minutes. Just don’t forget you can also take a five minute break.

Featured image courtesy of http://scrutiny.deviantart.com/art/Time-is-Slipping-Away-177781756

Teachers, Students, Learning

Sometimes the hardest part of being a teacher is figuring out what your students DON’T know. It’s relatively easy to teach a subject to an entire group when you’re following a prescribed curriculum. The problem comes when the teacher doesn’t realize everyone is learning at a different rate or figuring out what some students may already know. Maybe the needed skill is empathy – knowing when students are lost/misdirected – and to foster less resistance to ask questions.

Students also have to realize that sometimes teachers don’t know absolutely everything. Just because they’re not understanding something doesn’t mean they’re stupid – the teacher may have simply missed some details you’re not aware of.

The lonely little cottage

My husband and I visited an area of northern Wisconsin today to look at a little cottage down the road from where my grandmother had a cottage growing up. The pictures online showed it needed some work, which we expected and planned ahead for. Sadly when we saw it in person we discovered it needed a bunch more work.

We’re going to keep looking for the right place. For now the campground we’re in with our travel trailer gets us the “away place” during the summer. However, while we stood outside the lonely neglected little cottage, I fell back in love with the peace, quiet, and serenity of the north woods.

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edit – This post was supposed to be published yesterday but evidently it didn’t.

 

Committing to a no-commit Saturday

I wasn’t trying to accomplish this but it looks like I don’t commit code on Saturdays all that often. I like it.

screenshot of my GitHub profile showing a visualization of commit history with barely any activity on Saturday

I am a geek through and through but even I need days to switch gears. Always doing the same thing all the time gets old. Saturdays are usually filled with non-tech things like knitting, visiting with family and friends, bike rides and a ton of camping in the summer. 🙂