Reminders For a Reason

I don’t know about you all but I really use Siri as a personal assistant. “Siri, remind me to text Marcus tomorrow morning at 8:45.” “Siri, remind me to take out the trash when I get home.” “Siri, what’s 37 divided by 847?” She’s my best friend (and she has a British accent so that she sounds smarter than the average American).

But how often do we tell Siri to remind us in an hour when we could accomplish the task at that moment? We’ve grown desensitized to that tap that Siri gives us. We don’t see urgency in getting something simple done at that moment. Eventually, we have a mountain of reminders that seems insurmountable.

This post isn’t about anything super deep. Just stop pushing “Remind me in an hour” or “Remind me tomorrow” when you don’t have to. Knock out that small accomplishment. It’ll pay off.

 

Make checking off that box a priority.

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APPL’s Stock Struggles, NFLX’s Bandersnatch, and Where We Go From Here

Yesterday, Apple’s stock closed at a major deficit, causing the overall market to take a hit. If you want to know more about the stock side of things, check out the NYT or WSJ. They can explain it better than I can. What I’m here to talk about is the trajectory of American business and the role we, as young professionals and creative minds, need to be focused on playing.

Innovation is the name of the game but how do you innovate when everything you thought could be done is being done. Seriously, we just reached Ultima Thule (no, that’s not a car by Nissan) and a manned SpaceX rocket could take off as soon as 2019 (Oh s***! We’re in 2019!). Smartphones (or smartwatches or tablets or whatever other piece of tech you always have with you) are extensions of ourselves, essentially making us cyborgs, minus the inserted chip. It is an amazing time to be alive. But it’s also a confusing one. What is the final frontier? Where do we go from here? What are humans if we’re not continuing to push the society around us forward?

That is an issue that Apple is obviously struggling with. Yes, trade issues between the East and West were pinpointed as the reason for Apple’s terrible finish on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (yes, I looked up what NASDAQ stood for so you wouldn’t have to). But, Apple users, let’s be honest: the advancements we’ve seen lately are disappointingly underwhelming and increasingly overpriced. Why does a new iPhone XS, at $999, cost 77% of what a Mac Book Pro does? (I intentionally chose the least expensive versions of these items. Bells and whistles cost more, of course.) I know, I know… I can do almost everything with an XS that I can with a MBP but it still doesn’t change the fact that I’m paying so much for cellular phone. And, not to mention, the new features to the phone aren’t that great. I wasn’t inclined to upgrade my phone this time and I probably won’t be unless A) some major changes come out or B) the updates stop working (which usually happens after a few generations).

What does this have to do with Bandersnatch? I’m glad you asked. Bandersnatch is Netflix’s movie version of the extremely popular show “Black Mirror,” a show that didn’t have enough episodes to satisfy my interest but hopefully they’ll bring it back. The good thing is I cannot give anything of substance away about Bandersnatch because I’ve only seen one scene so far but I will say this: even if the movie isn’t good, the concept is simultaneously out of this world and eerily nostalgic. Remember, as a kid, reading books where the ending was up to you? I want to say Goosebumps and Animorphs had some like this but I’m sure a ton of other series did as well. Bandersnatch is that in movie form. I can only imagine the planning and time spent in shooting, editing, and coding that had to go into making this movie work but, once again, Netflix has set a new standard. Only, this time, in order to look forward, it first had to look back.

Innovation is the name of the game but, as Netflix has shown us that the answers are sometimes behind us. Brands like Apple have spent so much time pushing the bar forward that they’re starting to hit a brick wall. So, why not look back at something pre-modern technology that changed an industry and reformat it to improve our modern lives? Just a thought for Apple, General Motors, and any other company that is having a hard time being innovative.

You may have a hard time teaching an old dog new tricks but maybe you can teach a new dog a few old ones.

 

Make innovation a priority.

I Know How But You Could Learn

I’m beating a dead horse. But, and I say again, stop asking millennial employees to be your office’s tech gurus. Outside of those of us who are in I.T., we do have things on our plates that do not involve helping everyone figure out how to set up an out of office e-mail response.

Google is a beautiful thing. Before going to your younger counterpart’s office/cubicle/desk, take advantage of your search bar. If you’ve done that, then feel free to ask I.T. or even one of your more tech savvy coworkers. But please don’t waste time asking for help if you haven’t made an effort.

–MGMT

(This post was inspired by yet another of many conversations with my peers.)

Make continuing education a priority.

The Problem With Automation

Automation is amazing. I was just telling my pastor about the perks of the Twitter timer I use. I love being able to schedule my engagement. It decreases my screen time and still makes sure that I’m properly branded.

Ok, now that I’ve sang it’s praises, let’s look at the problem with it: human error. I suppose that’s not a problem with the technology but, because we fail to factor humanity into our great technological enhancements, we’re always going to fall short of perfection. One example is the time I set my coffee timer, put the coffee in the maker, added the water, and woke up the next morning to grainy brown water. Why? Oh yeah, I didn’t put the filter in before the coffee.

Or, an example from this morning is the e-mail I got from a non-profit that I’ve supported letting me know that today is the day to make my Giving Tuesday donation. Ummm… sir, as someone who spent half a decade in the field of development, I can guarantee you that Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. And I’m sure the solicitor knows that too. What the automation system he used doesn’t know is that his hand slipped when he was setting the auto-timer and there was no failsafe to catch the mistake. That probably cost the nonprofit some money, caused some embarrassment and, if nothing else, in the hour and a half since I got the e-mail, I’m willing to bet he’s gotten at least 5 e-mails letting him know he’s wrong (I’m not one of them but I thought about it).

Automation is great but, as long as humans have their hands on it, things will still mess up. Sometimes it’s better to do things the old fashioned way. Or, another great option is to couple the two when you can. Write the e-mail, sit it in your draft folder and have Siri remind you when to hit sent. Just an idea.

 

Make managing human error a priority.

Don’t Be Mad at the Comp…etition

I just got an e-mail from one of my numerous photography newsletters. The headline said “Social Media is Ruining Photography.”

Let’s face it: We have a love-hate relationship with technology. We enjoy the ease with which we can maneuver through the day but we abhor the fact that simple jobs can now be done without us, meaning we have to work harder to make ourselves valuable. I even catch myself hating on Siri and her smart-sounding self (I set mine to have a posh British accent). She has never touched an encyclopedia, yet she knows almost everything. And she’ll tell you a joke if you ask her to. It’s almost like we don’t need humans anymore for 87% of life’s functions.

But we do need humans. We need humans to be better. This morning, I pulled up on a deadly train accident and wanted to photograph all of the yellow tape and flashing lights that surrounded the intersection. Issue is, because it was raining heavily today, I had resolved to leave my camera at home. Big mistake. I refuse to take a photo I have an intentional vision for with my iPhone. Sure, it’s fast and the image will be decent but it will always leave me wondering what my own human ingenuity could’ve created without the automatic lighting adjustments iOS makes.

No one really feels like lighting candles every night. And I’m not trying to light a fire to cook my dinner. Technology makes life easier. But the touch we place on life makes it engaging. So, don’t blame social media or technology for ruining art or taking your jobs. Art is a derivative of emotion. Creativity and problem solving comes with human empathy. Without an emotional experience, those things are as good as a forgery.

 

Make being better than technology a priority.

Manipulate the System

I’ll kick it off by saying that being a young professional in today’s society is a double-edged sword that most Baby Boomers do not understand. I talk with my mom and grandma often and, when I am looking for a new job, they think it should be easy for someone with my skills and experience to find employment. And it would be very easy were it 1980 or before. Shoot, before 2000, you could walk into a company, shake someone’s hand, and make an excellent first impression when you handed a crafted résumé and cover letter to a receptionist or, if you were lucky, hiring manager.
That was then. Now we have to navigate through automated systems that often fail horribly at selecting the right person for the job. There are so many qualified candidates that human beings don’t put their eyes on applications until they’re sifted through by A.I. That’s the system, that’s the way it is, maybe we will be able to go back one day but, today, that’s reality.
Boom. I’ve covered myself. So what do we do now? We manipulate the unfair system to our advantage. We use the tools that do help us develop as young professionals to make ourselves stand out. We take the time to throw industry jargon into our LinkedIn profiles. We add key words from the job description to our résumé and cover letters to make sure our applications are selected by the A.I. systems. We go to the networking events so we can get in the rooms that the decision makers are in and, when in those rooms, we have something to say.
Technology makes things easier but it makes truly connecting more difficult. No one understands that more than those of us who learned with both a pencil at the first half of our childhood and a keyboard during our adolescence. We went to college, got out weighed down by debt, and the jobs weren’t there. Many of us are within 3 years of 30 on either side and we wonder why we haven’t made it to where The Wonder Years and The Cosby Show said we should be by now. Well, it’s because of tech. No one was ready for it. But, unless The Walking Dead is a premonition, it’s here to stay. So let’s hedge our bets and learn this new system. Take full advantage of apps like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Monster. Invest in your professional development and personal branding. It’s the only way we’ll advance.
Oh… and don’t let Boomers or anyone else shame you for not “having it together” yet. You’ll get where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there.
Make trusting the process a priority.

Bro, The E-Mails Keep Coming!

E-mail can be a beast during a regular hour/day/week, depending on how busy you are. So imagine being away for 2 months with no connection except during the hours you’re either in your Airbnb or at some coffee shop that has complimentary WiFi. iMessages stack up but I’m at a point in life where I’m more apt to look for e-mails from clients, recruiters, and professionals who want to connect and make magic happen. And let’s not forget the awesome newsletters I get daily and actually try to skim (there is some valuable and inspiring content in those things!). Then there are the junk e-mails I signed up for to get free stuff. Before you know it, my inbox is overflowing and it’s only been 36 hours since my last thorough purging.
So, how do I combat this? Well, first, I go through and DELETE the junk that I know I’m not going to need. It’ll just take up valuable space (y’all know you can run out of free Google space) and I know I’m never going to want to reference the expirational“BOGO 🍔” from a favorite chain at home. And the “70% off Swimming Trunks For the First Day of Summer” from my go to inexpensive retailer? I’ll pass (this time). You get the gist.
After digitally tossing the useless stuff, I archive the daily newsletters that are more than a day old (but I keep those from the last 24 hours incase I need to something fresh to read). I may actually go back and peruse them sometime but it’s going to be when I’m either on a plane/train or searching my mail for something specific and that newsletter just happens to relate. (By the way, Instapaper is the way to go if you identify an article you want to read at another time. Thank me later.)
Lastly, I meticulously go through and try to respond within 24 business hours* to those e-mails that actually look like they’re either:
A) from a loved one;
B) Going to add immediate value to my life;
or C) Require a timely response.
I really suggest that, if you’re on an actual computer, you save time by selecting all unread e-mails and moving through the bulk stages (deletion and archival) that way, in that order. Then pick through the important ones. My goal, when all is said and done, is to keep the inbox with 15 or fewer e-mails after each purge. I’ve been hanging around 20 or 25 this trip but there’s no time like the present to fix that.
✌🏿
How do you manage e-mails when you’re away? Any additional tips? Let me know in the comments.
Make keeping a clean(er) inbox a priority.
*Just because you see an e-mail doesn’t mean
you must respond right away. Take time if you
need to (and can) to craft an appropriate response.