E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Gran Canaria – A Mini-Continent to Rediscover

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes

 

If you have been reading this blog for a good few years already, you would know vast majority of articles over here have always been related to some of the main business topics I have been rather passionate about over the course of the last 20 years, whether it is Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Learning, Online Communities (and Community Building), Social Networking, Social Business and Digital TransformationProductivity, and, of course, Work / Life Integration. 

You may have noticed as well though how I hardly write anymore about one subject in particular that’s been so dear to my heart over the course of the last 13 years I feel it may well be a good time to kick it off today without any further delay. I may have waited for far too long on that one already. I know now I am ready to talk and blog about it and I will explain why shortly…

You know, people often say, when you decide to start a blog, you should always write about the stuff you are truly passionate about, so that, as the years go by, you wouldn’t get tired of writing about such exciting topics that would allow you to keep up with your blogging mojo for many many years to come. I’m only now starting to realise there is something else I have been rather passionate about over the last few years that I haven’t written much about, at least, in the length I would have expected. And, with that, I guess it’s time to do something about it. And change it. Today. That’s why I’m kicking off this new series of blog entries under the heading ‘Gran Canaria – A Mini-Continent to Rediscover’. 

I know what you all may be thinking about, that you are going to unsubscribe really quick and stop reading this blog, from here onwards, as I write these few words, and never come back. That was it, you are done. So long and thanks much for all the fish! Good-bye! The thing is the fact I’m starting a new series of entries over here to write about one of my other passions, Gran Canaria, that may not be very much related to work, does not imply, at all, I will stop writing about the usual subjects I have been writing about all along, let me be clear on that one. I still plan to write, at least, 3 blog entries per week about business related topics and then, over the weekend, I will write one other post about the island I have been in love with since early 2004. And all of that because of a very specific reason altogether I think it’s now a good time to put down for good. 

As I have mentioned already, I have been living in Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands, Spain, for nearly 13 years now and time and time again I keep meeting up tons of people, some of whom are good friends of mine, or become friends over time, or they are just acquaintances who come and go as they holiday over here in the island. More often than not, I keep hearing from them how there isn’t anything else much to do in the island other than lay in the sunshine, go to the beach (or the pool), have a swim, perhaps have a mojito (or two!), come back to the hotel, and enjoy perhaps one of the most disappointing dinners ever. And then repeat again for as long as the holidays would last. Ouch!

Well, that may well have happened a few years back, but it’s no longer, necessarily, the norm. If you ask me, that’s, definitely, not what a refreshing and re-energising holiday in Gran Canaria should be all about, I tell you. It’s got a whole lot more to offer, if you care enough to look for it. Yes, of course, you can still get plenty of sunshine throughout the entire year, go and enjoy some of the most stunning beaches in the country, and have a drink or two before dinner, but that’s just the beginning. There is a whole lot more than that. That’s just one of the many activities you can embark on while you are staying in the island. And that’s exactly what I am hoping to share with you all with this new series of weekly articles. 

The same goes for food. You know, I am a foodie myself. Those of you who know me in real life could vouch for that, I am sure. I have always been one. In fact, before I went and started working in the IT industry back in 1997 I was a already cook for a good few years. And I loved it, I still do every single day, which is what I find incredibly surprising, because, upon asking those friends and acquaintances about the places where they had awful meals I keep saying, ‘No wonder, you are just going to the wrong places altogether! Gosh, believe me, I have tried most of them all out myself already! I know’It’s what you get having lived over here for nearly 13 years and go out on a regular basis for a meal or a drink, which is something I really love doing, as it allows me to help a little bit with the local economy (I will share some more on what I mean about this one at a later time…) while, just as well, have a good time, too. Yes, indeed, getting the best out of both worlds. 

So when conversing with friends about this, I always get asked abut what nice places should they go out to for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or what kinds of other activities folks could do apart from laying on the beach whole day long, having a drink and getting some much needed sunshine. Over time, one realises I keep repeating, over and over again, the very same stories, that is, the very same recommendations and suggestions, year in year out, to the point where it gets a bit too repetitive. And BOOM! Here it goes: I will blog them then, why not, right? 

That’s exactly the purpose of this series of blog posts. They are not meant to replace TripAdvisor at all or whatever other app people may use at the moment to get around places. In fact, if I take TripAdvisor’s noteworthy suggestions about places to eat & dine in Gran Canaria they are quite a few (nasty) surprises I would avoid (Yes, I told you, I have tried most of them all out already! Yikes!). So my intent with these posts is to keep it very informal, very down to earth, nothing fancy, nor too complicated, just blog weekly about a place, or an activity, to go / do and include a couple of items as to why I’d be recommending it based on my own experience living here and then share some additional pictures I may have taken as well. And that’s pretty much it.

Sounds like good fun, don’t you think? I think so, too. More than anything else because the next time friends come over to stay in the island for a good few days (whether on holidays or for work, why not?) I could just point them into this blog and they could just read and digest all of the different suggestions and then make their own holiday / work plans, as they may see fit, based on their needs and wants. So when we meet up again for lunch, or dinner, or just for drinks to catch up with one another, the conversations may shift from ‘My gosh, that place was just awful’, to ‘My goodness! What an amazing place that was! We are definitely coming back! It was absolutely gorgeous!’ 

And who knows? If other people out there, who may be reading those blog posts, benefit from such stories, suggestions and recommendations, about what else you could do while you are in Gran Canaria, all the better, right? That’s what working out loud has always been all about in the first place, open knowledge sharing about the stuff that matters to you, or, better said, in this case, that’s what living out loud is all about. Now, in the moment, carpe diem, making the most, every day, of the place I now call home. My home. And share it with everyone out there who may be interested in doing something different, because if there is something I have learned over time is that Gran Canaria has got a lot to offer. 

Care to join me and find out?

Get in touch soon then! Let’s do it! 

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #10

A photo posted by @elsua (@elsua9) on


It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster week so far leaving me with hardly no time to go ahead and put together the usual round of weekly blog posts, but I just couldn’t let this week finish off without sharing another entry to add further up into the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series. Tomorrow I will be launching a new series of blog articles over here about something that’s been both in my mind and heart for well over a decade, but that I never dared it would come to light, and after giving it plenty of thought, tomorrow will be the day, at long last. So you can imagine how my mind, right now, is truly buzzing away which is why I need to do something else to keep me, well, … distracted. So what a better way of doing that than sharing this week’s set of recommended iOS Apps that you folks may want to have a look into and see if you would find them useful as well like I do. This week’s suggestions cover the following themes: Productivity, Photography, Traveling and Games.

Are you ready?

  • Reeder: In a previous post, I mentioned how my current favourite RSS news feed reader at the moment for iOS is Feedly. Yes, I know, I do still read RSS feeds. I am weird 😜. The thing is that Feedly is superb for when you are online, fully connected and everything, but when you happen to be offline you are out of luck, which is why I use in parallel another RSS news feed reader that allows me to read my favourite content from blogs and Web sites without being connected and that news reader happens to be the very same one for my iOS devices, as well as my MacBook Air. Of course, I’m talking about Reeder, my all time favourite app to keep in the know about what’s going on without having to hunt down hundreds of Web sites day in day out.I have tried out many feed readers over the last decade or so, whether on Windows, Mac or iOS, and Reeder has been the only one that I keep having installed in my various devices no matter what. It’s incredibly intuitive and very user friendly, it still works with OPML files, (Remember them?) and it allows me to help classify the different feeds based on folders / topics of what I’m interested in, which helps me keep things rather tidy while reading offline the various articles. So if you are looking for an offline RSS newsfeed reader for your iOS devices, walk no further than Reeder itself. It’s all you would need. Highly recommended, for sure!

  • Opera Mini: I think I have been using Opera, the Web browser, on my desktop machines for the last 15 years, if not longer, and all along I have been truly in love with that browser experience. Yes, I know, in the world of Chrome, Internet Explorer, FireFox and Safari as the main options, it’s kind of awkward to admit I use a fifth browser: Opera itself. The thing is that even today, 2016, it’s still my default Web browser and for a good number of reasons, although the main couple of them would not be very much politically correct to mention them over here. I would suggest you download it, install it, play with it, and then you would know what I mean … So when Opera announced they were doing Opera Mini for mobile devices I just couldn’t help it and install it right away and till today. I rely on it quite heavily, along with Safari, of course, but so far it’s the main Web browser I use on my iOS devices. Main reason why? Well, two of them: speed and performance. When you are on the move on a regular basis you get to appreciate both of them and Opera Mini delivers quite nicely on both of them! A keeper, for real, if you are looking for alternative Web browsers with a twist. It has it.

  • Prisma [iPhone Only]: Once again, and pretty much like the last few weeks of the series, one of the recommended iOS apps for the week would be one related to photography. In this case, one of the most innovative, creative and overall enticing apps you can bump into. I tell you, if you would want to apply some pretty funky filters to your photos and get your creative juices going, Prisma is as good as it gets, if not more! The overall user experience is just gorgeous and the outcomes are quite remarkable on their own. There is always a filter in the app that would fit everyone’s needs, regardless of your tastes, aesthetics, or quest for beauty. Prisma delivers and big time!As an example, I have shared a snap shot above of what it did to a picture I took of the London Eye a few months back when I was visiting there for a good few days. WOW! Just WOW!

  • Kayak: If Trivago is currently the main iOS app I use whenever I need to book a hotel for an upcoming (pleasure or business) trip, in terms of booking flights without going crazy in the attempt my choice has always been Kayak. It uses pretty much the very same principle as Trivago does: a single user interface to look into multiple airlines and Web sites and find the best deal for your flights. It also helps you search for hotels, rental cars, etc. etc. but, to me, it’s booking the flight the one option I always end up with when heading to Kayak itself, specially, on my iPad Pro, where the overall user experience is pretty neat. So there you have it, that’s my trick, whenever I am on the road, and need to embark on a flight to a city and stay there for a couple of days, for work, or personal, the combination of both Trivago and Kayak is what it does it for me. I just love both of those apps!

  • Threes!: And, finally, I thought for today I would include another game, next to Elevate that I wrote about a few weeks back. It’s the second game I play the most on my iPhone at the moment and for multiple reasons. It’s called Threes! and not only is it somewhat addictive (will entice you to keep playing game after game after game!), but it’s got a delightful user experience. It’s rather engaging, quick (as in you can play it anywhere!), not too complicated, but not too easy either, the mechanics are easy to grasp and within a matter of minutes, off you go, you are now playing it and you are doomed. You won’t be able to uninstall it anymore! It’s just that good!Oh, and it’s not as easy as it may seem at first sight, I tell you. It’s one of the main games I have now been playing for a good few months that I keep recommending folks taking a look into. And if you would want to learn some more about why, take a look into this article that explains a little bit more in detail why it’s a superb user experience and why you should install it in your mobile device(s) right away. Yes, indeed, design matters 😀👍🏻 heh

And that is it for this week, folks! That’s My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog entry. Hope you get to enjoy the recommended iOS Apps I suggested above and next week I will be back with another round of apps I’m hoping you may be taking for a spin and see if you like them, just as much as I do. For me, it’s now time to go and explore some more new apps I have installed in the last few days, thanks to your wonderful feedback and recommendations!, and see whether they would stick around, and therefore I will include them in this series, or whether I’d go ahead and move on and try out some other ones. Thus keep that feedback coming further along, please, and thanks ever so much for those wonderful suggestions so far! It’s greatly appreciated, if anything, to confirm you may find these articles as helpful as I do. Way too cool!

Hope you folks enjoy this week’s selection and till next time!

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Happiness at Work Starts with #NoeMail

Gran Canaria - The Monk

After nearly 9 years of actively advocating for #NoeMail I guess I can now say this pretty safely: doing #NoeMail all along (and still going rather strong at it, by the way, in case you are wondering!) has always been an excuse, a distraction, an icebreaker of sorts to entice people into stopping for a minute in whatever they are doing and ask themselves, and those around them, why certain things work the way they do within the workplace and yet, in our personal lives, they just don’t happen anymore? I mean, when was the last time you sent out a personal email to your kids, or your spouse, or a close relative, or even a good friend? I bet it’s been quite a while, isn’t it? Why is it so difficult then to challenge the status quo of corporate email and somehow accept its extended (ab)use as a necessary evil? Is it inertia? Is it because it’s hard to break away from our (good old) habits? Is it perhaps because it’s just too easy, pervasive and inexpensive, so that we can keep justifying how busy we all are, after all, despite the harm it’s doing to our very own health? Or is it, maybe, because, you know, changing the nature of work is really hard, so why bother doing it anyway in the first place, right? Well, there you have it. Just like that, all along, it’s been our choice to do something about it, and yet, are we up for the challenge? I think we, finally, might well be…

It’s been a long while, since the last time I wrote a blog post over here about the latest status of my #NoeMail journey, and very often nowadays, not sure why, I keep getting asked about how things have progressed further along over the course of time and whether I’m still doing it and what not, as more and more companies are starting to challenge that same status quo of corporate email I mentioned above and plenty of Messaging & Collaboration, as well as Enterprise Social Networking, vendors begin to market and sell their products as an opportunity to also reduce your inbox clutter. Not to worry, at some point in time I will write as well about all of those different companies and vendors that are starting to not just talk, but also practise actively as well #NoeMail, so you can see how we, true die-hard advocates of new ways of working, are no longer alone by ourselves out there. For today, though, I will just focus on giving you folks an update on how things have progressed since the last time, so you can see what I have been up to, even as I went independent nearly three years ago.

But before I go ahead and do that, I’m going to do things slightly different this time around. I will start by saying that I’m still, indeed, practising it every day. I am still keeping track of the incoming email volume and the great news over here is that when I was a salaried employee my weekly average of incoming emails usually was around 16 emails per week. Fast forward to 2016 and that weekly average is at 2,8 emails per week, as we speak. Yes, you are reading it right: 2,8 emails per week, which I guess is not too shabby, right?, more than anything else, because it confirms you certainly can live without work email either as an employee of a firm (no matter how small or large it may well be!), or if you decide to go and do freelance work. Remember, currently, 2,8 emails per week and still going down…

Ok, since I mentioned how I got things started with A World Without eMail as a rather unique, thought-provoking and somewhat mind-boggling opportunity to open up the conversations and start the dialogue about what I have been really interested in all along, that is, Social Business and its Adaptation Framework, I think it would make sense to put it together into the larger context and start connecting the dots as to where it fits in that Digital Transformation journey itself, so instead of updating you all on what’s been happening around it in isolation, I’m going to start, with today’s blog post, putting it into a larger context of a number of different conversations I have been having over the years with other people on this very same topic and see where we ended up eventually. That way you can see how I have used it as an initial conversation starter to then converse and learn plenty more about other related aspects of that transformation process, and the corresponding change initiatives, that have emerged over the course of time.

Yes, indeed, this means, from now onwards, I am planning to start sharing some additional insights about presentations, interviews, recordings, vlogsvideo clips, etc. etc. I may have done in the recent past on this topic and link to them accordingly adding, hopefully, some additional input into the mix from when I last did them. That way, it will help me keep you folks in the know, so that you can see how close, eventually, #NoeMail is to the overall Social Business journey, to the point where, sometimes, it’s even a tad scary how deeply ingrained it is into the overall transformation process.

So, let’s get down to it then. I shall start today with one of my all time favourite interviews I recently did around mindful social marketing, (and mindfulness, in general, for that matter) and happiness at work. Now, who would have thought both of them would be related to #NoeMail, right? Well, they certainly are! Hang in there for a minute …

Back in July, Janet Fouts kindly invited me, as a guest speaker, to her wonderful #MindfulSocial interviews to talk about a good number of different topics over the course of one hour: employee engagement, mindfulness, happiness at work and, of course, A World Without eMail. Those of you who may be interested in going through the full interview can start playing the recording shared below:

 

For those of you though who may not want to jump into the recording itself just yet and may be looking for a teaser or two, I have also taken the liberty of re-listening myself to the entire interview and take some copious notes about some of what I think would be interesting and relevant insights worth while mentioning in this article as well and share them across, so that you can judge for yourselves how #NoeMail is all tied in to those same topics I have mentioned above and many more! At the same time, and where appropriate, I have added additional links and reading materials that hopefully will contribute to enrich the actual conversation itself I had with Janet as I keep reflecting on what we talked about back then. See? That’s one of the many reasons why I quite enjoy as well going through the rich media recordings I may well have done over time, because I can remember then other interesting thoughts and reflections I can add into the mix, but that I forgot to mention during that time. Yes, I know, my short term memory is not very good sometimes. Thank goodness we’ve got blogs, right?

Like I said, the interview itself with Janet lasted for a bit over one hour and it was mainly divided in three different blocks of conversations covering #NoeMail, Happiness at Work and Mindfulness. So here are some of the highlights on some of the things we touched base on:

  • #NoeMail: We talked extensively about the main three reasons as to why I got started with it back in February 2008 in the first place, as well as explaining some of the tricks that still help me today go rather strong at it; we discussed as well plenty of the scientific research coming out as of late about some of the different health risks associated with processing email; what current digital tools do I use the most often at the moment (Hint: IBM Connections, Twitter, Slack, Telegram); the importance of filtering; BACN, everyone loves BACN!; the loss of critical knowledge for good once your mailbox gets deleted confirming the good old mantra from Bill French ‘eMail is where knowledge goes to die ; the importance of building bridges between the old world and the new, that is, between email and whatever ESN option(s) you may have at your disposal, etc. etc.We conversed as well about the much needed transition from knowledge stocks into knowledge flows; about the ever increasing importance and relevance of networked driven, open knowledge sharing (That is, from ‘Knowledge is power’ to ‘Knowledge SHARED is power’); about the additional perks (visibility, digital footprint, stronger personal brand through blogging, etc. etc.); about exposing one self and one’s work out there in the open for everyone else to benefit from it through working out loud, narrating your work or observable work (#owork) techniques.We also mused about the many benefits of relinquishing control into your social networks to then regain it back at a later time a whole lot more amplified when you realise your knowledge is no longer yours alone, but your network’s; we listed some of the main use cases for #NoeMail (Finding experts, embracing the power of networks, answering questions, etc.); we talked about the power of #notknowing; about the perils of the Cult of Busyness; about how our perceptions of how people work define what we expect from them, something email has been really good at all along (Remember ’I sent you an email 5 minutes ago and I still haven’t got an answer from you just yet. I wanted it yesterday already, by the way!’?).
  • Happiness at work: From there onwards, we switched into the topic of Happiness at Work citing one of my all time favourite presentations ever around employee engagement. A presentation done by Alex Kjerulf (Chief Happiness Officer at Woohoo inc) at #MeaningConf back in 2012 where he talked about what employee engagement is all about: Results and Relationships.From there onwards we talked about how we are currently going through a time where we have the lowest number of friends at work than ever before; how, more often than not, we work nowadays with total strangers, with no attachments; how we have stopped talking to people, conversing with them, learning from them; how trust needs to become, once again, the defining factor of fostering personal business relationships at work, which is why networking is so critical when nurturing relationships through conversations; how it’s much tougher to leave a company behind while your good friends are still there, rather than with total strangers, due to that natural, stronger sense of belonging, of bonding together, of connecting with one another. Eventually, we mused, further along, about how we can improve our relationships at work; rediscover why social capital still matters in the 21st century, and how, now more than ever before, it’s really important that we get  to know closer the people we work with.
  • Mindfulness: The last block of our conversation was perhaps the most exciting and re-energising one, because we ventured into potentially defining what the present of work may look like over the course of time. So we discussed how we may need to start fighting that Cult of Busyness I mentioned earlier on; how we need to live AND work in the moment, without having to worry too much about the future of work; how just being busy kills the conversations right there, right at the start, way before you even attempt to engage. Somehow, we should start growing the need to slow down; does mindfulness help employees become more engaged, motivated, involved in the work they do? Probably. What do you think?That’s probably one of the many reasons why we are witnessing a renewed focus around the wellbeing of the employee, about the overall employee experience itself, understanding happy employees = happy customers; how we seem to be transitioning from assets and resources to people and relationships; how meaning and purpose become the key drivers of re-engaging the employee workforce; what’s your purpose, after all? When was the last time you asked yourself that question?From there onwards we pondered about how multiples generations have different expectations, and how businesses need to meet them all up accordingly, as they may see fit. We talked as well, again, about an important topic, the perils of email inflicted upon our very own health, regardless of the mindfulness initiatives you may have in place so far; examples like Germany and France are just a couple of many attempting to forbid the use of email after office hours and do something about it. It’s just that bad, really.

    At the end of the day, we concluded we need to redefine work to respect people, and their own time, by regaining control of the interactions and the conversations; we also needed to stop appearing to be busy, because otherwise people think we are lazing about, even though productivity has been tanking already since the early 1980s!; working out loud can help out a great deal in showing your presence, showing you are there, available to help, caring for everyone’s time respecting each other’s, even your own. All under a pretty simple guideline, often either ignored, or neglected: if you care for me, I’ll care for you; if you don’t care for me, I won’t care for you (why should I?).

    At the end of the day it’s all about being more empathic about your colleagues while facing the situations they go through; ’how can I help my colleagues be less stressed out?’; ‘when did we stop caring for people?’; ‘What do you care about?’; ‘what’s your purpose?’; that’s where it all starts, challenging the status quo of how certain things operate and how we seem to take them for granted without questioning them. We need to shift focus and treasure the good habit of evaluating one’s strengths vs. our weaknesses and focus on what we would really want to do, following our passion(s).

    At long last, after such wonderfully inspiring conversations, we convened change is all about providing the right conditions for people to decide for themselves, one at a time, as a personal transformation journey, whether it’s worth it changing one’s mindset and behaviours, for their reasons and theirs alone, or not; change is a personal endeavour while traditional change management is all about control by keeping people in little boxes, which is why social business adaptation plans fail big time, because the focus is more on managing change than in creating change; yet, control still is an illusion; we should focus, instead, on influencing (people) by mastering the art of persuasion; HR needs to step up their game in terms of treating people as hard working networked professionals instead of treating them as immature, incompetent jerks (or sheep); we need to get better at asking questions and it all starts by asking even more questions, tons of questions; how are we connected to the experts who may help us solve our business problems? It’s no longer about finding out who the experts are, but also about how we may be connected with them, and, if not, why not? What’s stopping us? How could we get connected? Bridging networks; be willing to always learn, live life in perpetual beta; the moment we stop learning, that’s the moment we start dying. 

    It’s our means of survival by frequently questioning what we know, why we do certain things the way we do, who are we connected with and for what purpose?; we need to, constantly, challenge ourselves on how we learn, or we will have a problem; in this day and age of machines and automation, what do we need to learn (as new skills) to make ourselves *not* redundant?; machines should augment the human capability, not necessarily replace it (and us!); need to redefine a new social contract: what would we do, if we no longer need to work?; can we transition successfully from homo sapiens into homo ludens? It becomes a bit ironic how we now have got an imperative to re-humanise ourselves, once more, but this time around through technology itself as the key enabler. An example: if billions of people become unemployed over time because of that automation, then what?; can (or will) work turn itself into a voluntary task, a hobby, a passion, perhaps even a calling, not necessarily something you just do, you know, to keep paying the bills…? 

     

You can see how the conversation ended up eventually … Whoahhh! I was completely jazzed up altogether! Pretty amazing to think that all of that happened as a result of that icebreaker of doing #NoeMail, don’t you think? Now you know why I got started with it back in 2008 and why I am still going strong at it. More than anything else, because it gives me an opportunity to keep learning, and iterate again, by always questioning and challenging the current status quo of how businesses operate while we get to redefine what open, transparent, engaging, meaningful, purposeful, caring, empathic, autonomous, motivating and involved organisations should be all about and if that means I will need to continue living in a world without email, so be it!

We are just getting started!


[A big thanks to the wonderful, very talented and incredibly smart Janet Fouts for the kind invite and for the superb, delightful and very much inspiring conversations!]

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #9

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves

Week #9 of the series of My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog posts and here I am, once again, ready to share further along the next round of iOS Apps I would be recommending for this week. And this time around with a bit of everything as the themes would be Productivity, Social Curation, Social Bookmarking, Photography and, finally, Traveling. I think I recall reading somewhere how the average number of installed iOS is roughly around 40, although I couldn’t find any recent statistic to confirm that, but if I judge by the number of blog entries I have shared over here recommending apps and based on my own user habits I would venture to state that figure is slightly higher for me. Probably, around the range of 60 to 70 apps that I use on a regular basis. How about you though? Are you on that range of 40 apps installed or a lot more than that like myself? 

There interesting thing though is that, for myself, there are also a few dozen more I use on occasion, or to check something more specific for that time around, and then there is a final third round of apps that I may check two or three times a year, but that I still find them useful at some point in time due to some very specific contexts. But I will talk about those other blocks of Apps in the near future. At this point in time in the series though we are still into the first round of apps, the ones I use on a rather frequent basis. Thus without much further ado, here’s this week’s Top 5 iOS Apps: 

 

  • Bear: I think at this point in time, you may have noticed how I have a slight addiction towards note-taking apps. I love them. I just can’t have enough of them, of playing around with enough of them and to then see which ones, over the course of time, would make it on my landing page regardless of the iOS device I use and stick around with them. In the past I have already talked about Ulysses and Scrivener, hugely impressive note-taking apps, specially, on an iPad Pro. Well, there seems to be another one coming up rather strong and it’s called Bear. 

    I have only just gotten started to work with it in the last few days, after reading some rather interesting and noteworthy reviews and already I can see it has got a lot of promise! The markdown capabilities are incredibly powerful, and easy to grasp right away. The ability to switch in between devices, whether iOS or your Mac, is par to none, specially, the ability to start a note in one device and almost immediately continue working on another as if you have never switched. However, my favourite capability at the moment is how I can make use of hashtags to categorise the documents I create, so instead of using folders I can rely on those tags themselves, in the moment, to then be able to refind my own notes pretty easily, giving me a whole lot more control of how I organise things, as well as a bit more versatility in creating across the board connections of different notes based on the hashtags I use. Like I said, a pretty interesting and rather helpful addition into the note-taking app space. If you are into looking for some other alternatives, Bear may well be it. Worth a try, for sure!

  • Flipboard: Do you remember Zite? Yes, I know, I too, miss it. It was my favourite online service, and by far, to be able to curate content across the board and fine tune the experience to match both my needs and wants while it kept learning over time what I’d find interesting and what not. Gosh, it was really good! I wish it would have continued, but, alas, Flipboard bought it and it started incorporating some of its amazing capabilities. So I started to rely more heavily on the latter from there onwards.

    While Flipboard is not Zite, it does a pretty good job in terms of helping you curate different streams of content according to your interests, ways of consuming links from different sources and other recommended sources. All of that put together in a rather enticing user face that resembles pretty much plenty of the gestures of reading a newspaper. It pretty much feels like that. However, my favourite two capabilities from this app at the moment are the fact I can create my own magazine from Twitter lists I may follow and you know I’m a huge fan of Twitter’s Lists and the second capability I enjoy quite a bit is its widget that allows me to access interesting news items without having to unlock my devices, which is rather helpful while on the go to get a glimpse of what’s happening out there. 

  • Refind: I have always been a huge fan of social bookmarking! In fact, it’s one of my favourite Web 2.0 capabilities from back in the day, right at the time when Delicious.com was just getting started. Over the course of last few years I have been using a number of different social bookmarking tools like Dogear, Delicious, BlinkList, Ma.gonila, Diigo, Pinboard, Inoreader, etc. etc. but for one reason or another they kept falling off my radar due to different reasons I won’t go into much detail today (to save you from the pains I have gone through losing thousands of saved items). Till I have found Refind. 

    It’s my favourite social bookmarking tool at the moment and for a good number of reasons going from a delightful mobile user experience that just works, to an easy to use functionality to fine tuning your own interests on what you are aiming for, sharing capabilities, ability to save items for later reading, as well as a superb integration with other services like Twitter and Pocket, which are my two favourite apps to curate content and links I will be reusing later. Refind has got a lot of promise and it’s quite an interesting service for social bookmarking, but perhaps one other last thing that would be noteworthy would be how it learns tremendously well from your reading habits making the timeline incredibly useful and relevant for vast majority of cases, which is something I just can’t say from other curation sites. Refind would be worth while a look if you are looking for a social bookmarking service out there that still works. 

  • Snapseed: I think I’m building the good old healthy habit, with this series of blog posts, to every week share an iOS app around photography that folks may be able to check out and see whether they may find it useful. I mean, for my own case, I only use my iPhone 6S Plus as my camera, which means vast majority of my editing of photos happens either on my iPhone or, while importing it, in my iPad Pro. At this point in time I have an entire folder of Photography Apps, so I guess that’s going to keep me busy for a little while longer. This week’s suggestion though is perhaps one of the most popular apps out there for iOS photo editing: Snapseed. 

    It’s perhaps the most user friendly app out there you will find to edit your photos without giving you the feeling you need to be a pro to get a good result out of it. The in-depth capabilities to give your photos almost any kind of effect is outstanding and the wide range of filters will keep you busy for a good while deciding which one you would apply and stick with it. That, one its own, is going to be a tough, although equally fun, dilemma that will entice you to spend a good amount of time within the app trying to figure out which one would be your favourite pick to share elsewhere on digital tools. Of all of the photography apps I use Snapseed would probably be, easily, within the Top 5. It’s that good. 

  • Trivago: And, finally, last iOS recommendation for this week. Now, I don’t get to travel as much as I used to back in the day, but whenever I’m off on a business trip, or on holidays, my number one app (by far!) to check for hotels at the best prizes knowing I will get it all without having to go through multiple sites would be, without a single doubt, Trivago. Even more so to the point where if I know which city I will be going to and I’d have a favourite hotel to stay in there, I will still make use of Trivago itself to find me the best prizes for me for that particular hotel as it does check multiple Web sites for me and lists them all nicely. I just need to browse through them, find the one I like the most and make the booking directly from there. That simple.

    In the past, I have tried out a good number of other different apps to find good hotels at great prizes and time and time again Trivago keeps beating them all up as I always end up there. The granularity of specifications it gives me makes it a very personal, engaging experience, which is, eventually, what I’m always after when finding a hotel I’d want to stay at. Thus, if you haven’t tried it out just yet for you upcoming trip, allow me to recommend you have a look into it, please. And then let me know how it went … 

 

And that’s it, folks, for this week! That’s My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog entry. Next week I will be back with another round of 5 iOS Apps I’d recommend you give a try, and if there is any app out there you’d want me to give a try, play around with and share some thoughts about what I think about it over here, let me know in the comments or in Twitter via @elsua and I will be more than happy to check them out!

Hope you folks enjoy this week’s selection and till next time!

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Writing Ourselves into Existence through a Choral Act

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's surroundings

 

Earlier on this morning I spent quite some time going through a good number of the different posts I have put together in this blog over the course of the last three months and, to my surprise, it looks like I have been posting more entires in that three month period than the entire 2014 and 2015 combined! Whoah! How did that happen? Even plenty of readers of this blog noticed that as well as they decided to unsubscribe for new updates by the hordes explaining I have been sharing just too many of them to keep up with everything else that is going on. I think I know why there is just such a disparity between those couple of years and the last few months. It’s all got to do with my own mindset and how it’s shifted back over time into something I’m very familiar with, but that, somehow, I left it behind a few years ago. It looks like over the course of time I’m shifting away from social media first into blogging first. It’s as if I am longing for, once again, ‘writing myself into existence’.

Indeed, I remember very well the time when I first started blogging (internally, behind the firewall) around end of 2002 and all I could think about, while reading or conversing with other folks on a wide range of different work related topics, was along the lines of ‘Oh, I need to blog about that idea’, or ‘I need to respond to that blog post with another one as well to add further up into the conversation’, or, just simply ‘I need to write that down somewhere to reflect on it further along, so I don’t forget to come back to it later’, to name a few. Yes, indeed, I realise now how I was writing myself into existence as my good friend Euan Semple wrote a few years back quoting David Weinberger himself on what blogging was all about: ‘Writing ourselves into existence’.

Somehow, and over the course of the last 3 to 5 years I lost track of that while my mind switched automatically from blogging first into social media first, as I was spending a whole lot more time in several of those so-called social media tools while ignoring and neglecting my good old blogging mojo. However, at one point in time, this past August, to be more precise, I got too tired with just being the data, I mean, with always being the product no matter what. Frankly, I just got too tired with the surveillance state we are, apparently, creating with the current pernicious polarisation that keeps growing faster and faster than ever as we have confirmed that transition from making use of social media tools into just media tools, where we have become that, the media.

No, I am sorry, that’s not how I would want to spend plenty of my online time anymore. As Euan mentioned on that blog entry, I just need a space where I can be a whole lot more aware of my own thoughts and feelings, and of the world around me for that matter, without having to jump into everyone else’s throats out there every time they are not politically correct agreeing with me anymore on absolutely everything I categorically state because, you know, I am always right and they are not. That’s how things seem to be rolling out there for everyone at the moment. I can, we all can, do so much better than that altogether, don’t you think?

How about blogging as a choral act?, as Bonnie Stewart wrote beautifully in a recent blog entry a couple of weeks back. A superb article, by the way, in case you may have missed it about the healing powers of digital writing. To quote her: 
 

Blogging is a choral act. Posts are commented on; ties are formed. Stories and backstories become known. As I connected with other bloggers and found community first with other parents and then with those whose writing, like my own, unpacked identities in various forms, I stumbled into something extraordinary […]

 

This is just too funny, and perhaps a tad ironic, too, because my last three months of blogging over here in this blog have helped me, once more, finally, comprehend (and come to terms with the fact of) how I no longer crave for attention, at least, as much as I used to back in the day. How I seem to have departed from me, me, me land into the we, we, we land. It’s helped me, at long last, understand as well how most of the times it’s the long-form reads with your own thoughts, opinions and emotions the ones that are the most powerful components towards building, nurturing and sustaining long term (online) communities, where you are just one of the community members, connecting, sharing, learning and collaborating together with others as equals, as a choral act.

Yes, indeed, that’s the underestimated power of blogging. It’s no longer about the self per se, but more about what you could bring forward as part of an already existing conversation that’s taking place in multiple blogs and blog comments from different people who have got a long term common goal: connect, share and learn more about a particular topic with other online partners. Now, when was the last time you had that wonderful sensation while interacting through media tools? Something tells me it may well have been a while. Is that how you see yourself continuing to make use of those media tools in the medium, long term? Think about it… Think closely. Where do you think you will be online in the next 5 or 10 years? Someone else’s home or your own? Hopefully, your own, right? 😀

I realise you may be thinking one of the several reasons why you are still making use of those different media tools (apart from just being there so you don’t appear to be the awkward one, the weirdo) is as an opportunity to showcase and promote some of your thought leadership and expertise on a particular topic by pushing messages out there about the stuff you may have shared or published elsewhere (like your blog) and therefore help others become more aware about what you do. That’s a good reason, indeed. I have used it myself a few times, but only to realise it no longer works. Over the course of the years I have noticed, I’m pretty sure you may have as well, how we hardly ever read anything else on media tools anymore other than our very own broadcasted messages. We are just too busy doing all sorts of other things to then have to stop and read what other people publish, share or would want to converse about. Well, here’s the thing, if that’s how we all feel AND behave, that attention you are craving is then long gone and pretty much dead by now. No-one will read your posts, never mind respond to some of them! And then what? 

Keep posting multiple times during the course of the day adding further along into the already existing noise, so that your audience? may, pontentially, see it and drop by skimming through it rather quick before they head back into their timelines? Yikes! No, no-one would want to have that, so why do we keep sustaining it? We shouldn’t. No-one reads our marketing messages anymore. Somehow, it feels a little bit like a waste of time, resources, energy and good effort. That is one of the many things I have learned myself, through trial and error as well, over the course of last three months where I, along with several dozens of other people, have used different media tools to share some of the blog posts I have put together over here that others may find somewhat interesting and relevant for what they do and, yet, vast majority of my blog traffic still comes through search engines like Google or Bing and not a single one of those media tools despite the thousands and thousands of people we tend to broadcast to. Quite revealing on its own, I tell you, as it reminds me of the long tail of knowledge: as long as you get to write good content, or comment on other people’s blog posts, care about what they post, or take a genuine interest in what they do, etc. etc. they will always find it, with or without making use of media tools no-one stops by anymore to read, accordingly, more in depth.

I know what you are all thinking, but ‘blogging is hard work’. It takes an awful lot of time, effort and energy to put together a blog post versus writing a tweet or sharing a short status update and you may be right. But then again we ought to realise we should never be too busy to blog. It’s just a matter of habit, really; in fact, it’s a matter of (re)building the habit of writing further along about the topics we are very interested in and are passionate about and see what comes out eventually (remember? Blogging is personal), as if no-one else is reading, just for you, perhaps even if you decide to start using rather helpful techniques like writing 750 words per day, you name it. What matters at the end of the day is whether we are willing to write ourselves into existence in a space we own AND partake in the conversations, all of us, as equals, as a choral act. As ever, it’s our individual and collective choice and ours alone. No-one, not even any media tool out there, should interfere with that decision. Ever. We are the ones who need to decide and define what our digital footprint should be like

That’s why I have now, finally, decided to spend more time blogging over here than craving the attention in media tools from an audience we no longer have, no matter what the numbers of followers may well say. They have now become redundant. Instead, I much prefer to crave the wonderful conversations I have been having over here already in multiple blog posts, because they help me learn and grow accordingly over time by caring even more about the topics that are dear to my heart (and mind!). To me, that’s what blogging has been all about all along for the last 20+ years and still going strong: an extended part of our reflective brains about what’s going on around us, and the world at large for that matter, and how do we make sense out of it all.

Why not make the most out of it then, right? Blog on!

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The Downsides of Freelance Work

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés Beach

 

Last week, if you would remember, I wrote a blog entry on the topic of ’The Perks of Freelance Work’ to describe some of the things I have enjoyed the most, so far, from being a freelancer over the course of last three years. While that post did not include an exhaustive list of perks, it gave me a pretty good opportunity to reflect upon what I have learned over the course of time, now that I’m getting pretty close as well to my 20th year anniversary in the IT industry. In it I also mentioned how I’d be writing another article where I would share across a number of other different advantages that didn’t make it into the first entry of this series, but I also wrote about creating a couple of different blog entries where I would be musing about the downside(s) of freelance work. Yes, that’s right, the ones no-one talks to you about, nor cares to admit they are going through themselves, mostly because of the lovely, rosy words we seem to impregnate freelancing with as the next big-thing (Remember the gig economy?), when, in reality, it might be everything but… 

The overall purpose of these blog posts talking about the perks and the downsides of freelance work is for me to try to share across a somewhat balanced view around my overall experience in an effort to, perhaps, help you folks understand whether freelancing might be something of interest for you, or not, who knows. At the same time, it’s also a unique opportunity to confirm for myself whether I am alone experiencing and going through some of these ups and downs of freelancing or whether it’s just me. There is that possibility as well. That’s why, with regards to the downsides of freelance work, I am putting together this first blog entry where I would like to explore ten of them and then over the course of time I will be picking each and everyone of them and describe in length how I get to overcome them eventually.

Thus, without much further ado, here are some of the downsides of freelance work, in no particular order, I’d want to share across for now and let’s see how much other folks can relate to each of these, if at all:    

 

  • Uncertainty: If there is anything I have learned over the course of the last three years, as a freelancer, is money doesn’t like uncertainty. It runs away from it like the plague. So when we are going through this exhilarating, nerve-wrecking roller-coaster of tumultuous times, provoked by either global or political turmoils, you know you are bound to learn, and pretty quick, how to live with the uncertainty of not knowing what tomorrow is going to bring forward.

    Making plans ahead of time is not only a waste of time, effort and energy, but also a rather distracting activity, because, in most cases, you just don’t know what’s going to happen next week, month, or year! So, very early in the game, you realise that uncertainty helps you, through the hard way, to pretty much live in the moment, focusing on the tasks and work at hand without having much of an opportunity to focus on anything else, because, you know, it’s just not certain. The ever so much more complex times we live in will bring forward such uncertainty that will pretty much scare your customers away, specially, those with the budget to kick off your projects. But here is the thing about uncertainty that I like the most: it forces you to keep moving, constantly, without excuses, nor regrets, into striking the next lovely project work you will be doing with a potential client at some point in time. Now, I will be talking a whole lot more about it, but here is a tip of advice I learned about coping with the uncertainty: the moment you stop thinking about the what next that’s the moment when uncertainty wins. Don’t let it win. Keep moving! 

    [Like I have mentioned above already, I will be putting together a number of different blog posts in the near future where I will explain with much more detail how I get to tackle each and everyone of these downsides of freelancing, so you folks may learn some more about how I try to cope with them and how sometimes I succeed and how, in others, I don’t. But one step at a time …]

  • Insecurity: With this one I’d want to encourage you all to think of it more as in job security than anything else. And here is a short story on what I mean with that. Three years ago, when I had already decided I was quitting my job at my former employer to start my own advisory firm around Social Business and Digital Transformation, I remember having a conversation with one of my managers where he was asking me what I was thinking about doing next as a freelancer. Back then, and without much thinking, I ventured to state I suspected plenty of the work I would be doing would be rather similar to the work I was doing for him, that is, advising and helping businesses make the most out of their Enterprise Social Networking platforms while embarking on their own Social Business and Digital Transformation journey, but do that work on my own. Going solo. 

    His response, after a long silence, was something along the lines of ‘Hang on, but where is the challenge in that? I mean, you would be doing pretty much what you have been doing for the last 14 years, so there wouldn’t be anything new for you to learn and enjoy in your new job and therefore you would still be stuck within your own comfort zone’. I remember how my initial response was fulminant and somewhat categorical. Alas, it had to come out. I remember I mentioned how, while I was working for him, I would be working really hard to my abilities (or not so hard sometimes) and still have the certainty at the end of the month there would be a paycheck. There always would be a paycheck.

    However, I told him, when I start my freelance work I will be working just as hard, if not harder, day in day out, week in week out, and, unfortunately, I would not have any certainty I would be getting paid for that work. How is that for a challenge to shake your own comfort zone of having received monthly paychecks for the last 17 years without not knowing whether there will be a cheque anymore at the end of the next month? That is the kind of insecurity freelancers are constantly being exposed to. It’s not an easy downside to deal with I can tell you, as most other people would confirm as well, but, unfortunately, it’s going to be there from the very first day you decide to go independent and become a freelancer.

    How can you overcome it? Well, I will be talking about it in more detail at a later time on what I do myself to tame it, but my first piece of advice I have always shared with folks has been to have a substantial financial cushion that would allow you to live comfortably those months where either things are slow, or just not happening at all. And keep moving. The important thing though is not to live for too long under the assumption things will be all right as you deplete that cushion month after month hoping it will all turn around eventually. Well, it might not. At one point, you will need to decide what you may need to do to stop the bleeding, before it’s just too late and you end up in a whole lot of unwanted and perhaps unnecessary trouble. 

  • Client Prospects: I know this may sound a bit weird, I mean, the fact I’m adding searching for client prospects as a downside of freelance work. Well, it is and those who may tell you otherwise may not be telling you about the untold costs of client prospecting. Because it does pay a toll, a huge one, actually. While you are doing client work (either with one client or multiple of them at the same time), your mind will always be worrying and preoccupying itself about the next client. Where are they? How can I find them? How can I reach out to them without sounding too aggressive, too desperate, too cheesy? How can I influence them to start working with me when there are millions of other freelancers out there? Will they be interested in the value add I can provide? What do I have to offer to that client that may be unique and no other people may be providing? How am I going to end up finding new clients when I’m terribly bad at marketing or selling my product? Where do I start? Jeez, why is it all so difficult? 

    I’m pretty sure plenty of the questions, concerns and uncertainties I have just shared in the above paragraph have gone through the minds of any freelancer over the course of time. Why is it a drawback? Well, because of focus. It’s a distraction. It’s a massive distraction from the work you are currently doing for your client(s). And here is the frustrating tidbit, that while you know you will want to work really hard for your clients and deliver 100% of your value add, that distraction, that lack of focus on finding the next client is going to neglect you giving that 100%. Ouch! It will hurt. You know you can deliver effortlessly, but the distraction is a killer.

    And while you may be wondering how to get around it, I can share with you all that the way I have done it is by creating in-between blank spaces where I’m not working with a particular client and, instead, do the prospecting. In short, that means I focus 100% on the client work I’m doing in the moment, delivering with the highest quality I can provide, and once the work is done, I will be spending some time (it usually depends, but it ranges from a couple of weeks to a full month) doing that client prospecting, knowing that there will be no income coming through, but it will help me focus on a single task at a time: serving my client(s) first, looking for new ones afterwards. 

  • Trust: This is perhaps one of the downsides of freelance work that has hurt me the most over the last couple of years. And I don’t think it would apply only to people doing freelancing per se, but everyone, in general, whether you may well be in a salaried job or as an independent. Trust seems to be running very low all over the place at the moment, whether we like to admit it or not. And that lack of trust is causing infinite more trouble than one could have ever imagined. The thing is that if you are going solo trust is an even more critical component towards your own success working with clients achieving your various different goals, because, you know, you are on your own. There is no-one else out there supporting you, at least, initially. That’s what most clients would think about you and the work you do. 

    But there is also another component of trust at play, as a freelancer, which is when you connect and build personal business relationships with your ‘peers’, those people who, over time, eventually, become an integral part of your social networks, till you realise that what you thought of, and advocated for all along, as coopetition (i.e. collaborate openly to compete in a healthy manner) is just plain good old vicious competition. By the time you find out, the damage is already done. The horse has already left the building, indeed, at lightning speed.

    I never thought I would be talking about this, but, like I have blogged a couple of months back, trusting people in this social age is a tough job, specially, when there is a lack of coherence between what people talk, preach and advocate for AND what people really do, letting hypocrisy, therefore, run the show while abusing your own good will. What did I do about this one? That’s a great question! I decided to move on with my work life, understanding I may need to work ever harder from there onwards towards building better, more effective, relevant tight social networks where the primary goal may well not be being poached around left and right. See why it hurt back in the day? Onwards and upwards! 

  • Remoteness: This is one of those drawbacks you may not be able to see coming up front early in the game, till it’s, perhaps, too late and you may have experienced it firsthand already. What I mean with remoteness is, essentially, working remotely while freelancing and how, depending on the industry and the kind of work you do, it will become an issue that’s rather tough to overcome on its own. In this day and age of hyper-connectivity, of remote enabled collaboration, of networks and online communities as the new operating model, of digital technologies allowing you to transform work from a physical space (i.e. the office) into a mental state, it’s hard to believe that remote working in social business is pretty much dead, unless, of course, you would want to re-locate or work on-site 24x7x365. Then again everything you may have endorsed throughout your entire working life is bound to collapse on its own, because, you know, your words and your actions will no longer match. Two completely different worlds colliding with one another and you sitting right in the middle about to experience the clash. 

    That lack of coherence will eventually be your dead end, because how can you dare promote a different kind of working together? How can you state you are designing the ultimate new way of working while promoting an emerging set of digital technologies when you end up working in exactly the very same way you have done it in the last 15 to 20 years, if not longer? Why bother? Seriously. Why bother at all? It’s like as if you were heavily promoting the extensive use of all of these digital technologies at work to help improve the way you connect, learn, share and collaborate with others and yet your number #1 tool you still heavily use on a daily basis is *cough* email *cough*.

    I tell you, if someone would have told me, ahead of the time, what a huge challenge would be working remotely in the realm of Social Business and Digital Transformation I think I would have probably switched off a long long time ago and moved on to better things. That lack of coherence and dishonesty to our core beliefs are just killing us, social business evangelists, big time and, somehow, we just don’t seem to want to wake up and do something about it. Don’t worry, in an upcoming blog post I will let you all folks know what I am doing at the moment to overcome this particular drawback. Can you already hint what it is? 

  • Lack of Discipline: Ok, let’s now move into the more down to earth, mundane downsides of doing freelance work and see what’s out there. Remember when I mentioned free time in a previous article around the perks of freelance work? Well, lack of discipline is one of its worst enemies altogether, more than anything else, because, unless you do something about it, it will manage to destroy your focus and dedication to your client work with a multitude of distractions that will be hard to beat till you realise it’s just too late. 

    That’s one of the reasons why I think plenty of freelancers are so keen on coworking spaces in the first place, because somehow there is a specific discipline in the air to get work done together but still separate, if you know what I mean, and therefore eliminate the urge for any kind of distraction or goofing off. The fact that others are working around you in the same space makes you give in to that thought of not wanting to slack off nor lazy around, to just go for coffee breaks whenever everyone else is having one (GREAT opportunity to converse and connect, by the way!) and to put similar amounts of work like everyone else is doing and eventually conform to an office-like environment where you know lack of discipline is no longer welcomed, nor encouraged.

    You may be wondering by now whether that’s how I have overcome that lack of discipline while freelancing, right? No, I don’t use any coworking space at the moment, even though there are a couple of them right where I live. What I have done instead is build a number of different routines I have developed over the years to help me focus on what I am working on at the moment. That’s why I depend so much on the Pomodoro Technique. That’s why I also rely quite heavily on the effective power of music, for instance, to help me eliminate distractions and really focus on what I need to do in the moment. And the list of routines goes on and on and on. I think I could probably write an entire blog post just on this subject, so I’m going to park it over here for now and come back to it with a follow-up entry at a later time. 

  • Procrastination: Oh my, talking about writing an entire blog post on a specific subject! How about on procrastination itself? Yeah, I know, I bet plenty of you folks out there could write another article about it and how you try to beat it successfully. And yet, it just doesn’t happen. I think it would be silly at this point in time not to realise and acknowledge we all are professional procrastinators. The thing is that while you can certainly bump into dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of articles, blog posts and whatever other publications about how you can stop procrastinating and keep working further along, over time I have learned about something else that works for me way way better: embrace it! Yes, that’s right! If we are all chronic procrastinators having mastered its art over time, why not try to make the most out of it?

    This may sound a bit too weird, but mastering the art of procrastination has helped me, over time, become much more effective and creative altogether. If anything, it’s helped me understand how there is good and bad procrastination and how, over time, I have become a huge fan of learning ‘how to procrastinate well’. Have you tried it out yourself? Believe me, it just works! 

  • Self-pity: You know those times when things are running far too slow in terms of clients asking for your help, support and guidance or when freelance work just doesn’t come up often enough and you start wondering about whether you really have it or not? You know those times when you are on the brink of giving up on freelancing because you keep thinking you are not good enough for it, or you don’t have the right skills, expertise, mindset, networks (to help out and assist where appropriate), etc. etc. Or perhaps you even thought you made the wrong decision about going freelance in the first place and you should be doing something else elsewhere? Well, folks, that’s when you’d know you are entering the world of self-pity. Welcome to the club!

    I tell you, I don’t know a single freelancer out there (me included as well for sure!) who may not have gone through that phase of self-pity, specially, when there is no paid work coming along for an extended period of time. It usually comes in the most unsuspicious ways: thinking too hard too often. Thinking about your current situation; about why you are not getting enough client work any longer; about why hardly anyone comes to you anymore and asks you to speak at an upcoming conference event or to write an article for an online publication, for example; about why no-one asks you to help them, where you can, with their own projects collaborating together; finally, about why, all of a sudden, it feels as if you have disappeared entirely from the scene as if you never existed. My goodness, self-pity can have such a destructive flair to it, can’t it? Well, it doesn’t end up there. 

    Then there is the doubt. That same doubt about whether you may have made the right decision in the first place when you decided to go freelance, as I have already mentioned above. Or when you start questioning your own skills, experience and expertise thinking that perhaps you may not have it after all and that it may well be a good time to move on to other things whatever those may well be. Or when you think you are living in a bubble that has got its days numbered and it’s about to burst, if not already! Or even when you think that some of your most innovative, refreshing, new, profound radical thinking just ends up in the same gutter as everything else. Or, even worse, when you start questioning whether loneliness is harming you more than whatever you may have  thought of in the past. Loneliness as in ‘Who is going to hire this person who goes solo?’ Why is he / she not working with an agency? We only do work with consulting agencies anyway, right? So why bother? 

    Gosh, I know what you are thinking, self-pity can have such a destructive power of the self that it’s just mind-blowing. And while I surely agree with that sentiment, doing some self-pity every now and then shouldn’t necessarily be something negative. On the contrary. It helps you to constantly question AND challenge what you do, to confirm whether we feel we are on the right track, whether we have made the right decisions, or whether we need to perform a number of different changes before we move on. The issue with self-pity though is when you dive into it for far too long that you give up on either moving on or making some changes. Well, whenever that’s happening, the best thing one can do to revert course, move on and get back in business is to eventually rely on your own social networks, more than anything else because they know you better than anyone else and at the same time there isn’t anything more satisfying than relying on their power to get you out of such black hole as self-pity. So handle it with care and whenever you feel you are just going down on a spiral of negativity, reach out to your trusted networks, because, if anything, they are the ones who care the most about you. One conversation at a time. 
     

  • Payment Methods: This particular drawback of doing freelance work may not necessarily apply to vast majority of freelancers out there, at least, as far as I can see, since most of them have got a very clear payment method based on either an hourly rate or a daily one. If you work under either model I don’t think payment methods would be an issue other than, you know, getting paid on time, which certainly can be one of the most poignant disadvantages of freelancing by itself as well, as I keep reading different reports on taking between 60 to 90 days to get paid. Ouch! 

    However, that’s not the main downside I’d want to highlight in terms of payment methods. To me, it’s slightly different. You see? I don’t usually work with either the hourly or daily rates. I much prefer to set my fees based on the overall outcomes of the project or its different deliverables, but also within a timeline manner. The drawback is that most firms are not very much used to that kind of payment method resulting in a good number of unnecessary bureaucratic paperwork that sometimes can delay a project for a certain amount of time. And while I usually explain straight up front why I don’t work with hourly or daily rates (mostly due to time constraints, which I will develop further in an upcoming blog entry to explain more in detail how I work through payments), it’s still a bit time consuming helping folks understand new ways of doing work and getting paid accordingly. 

    How do I break free through this downside? Usually, through one or two additional conversations with the client explaining the advantages of the pricing I enjoy using the most, which is the one that allows me to focus on the work to be done for the client without not necessarily worrying too much about the time constraint, but, instead, focus on the quality of the overall outcome(s). If there is anything I have learned over the course of time in the area of Social Business and Digital Transformation is that you just can’t hurry things too much, because, after all, we are running a marathon here, not just sprints, and some times you need to allow enough time to take place before you can show and demonstrate the real impact of the work you are doing. A single week, month, quarter won’t cut it, I am afraid. So why the time pressure of working through the ruthless law of either hourly or daily rates when we could instead focus on change programs where the quality of the deliverables becomes much more important than the time spent executing on them? I wish I were more effective in being able to communicate why I prefer this payment method over others … Still tons of room for improvement on this one, I can tell you. 

  • Free work: And, finally, the last, but not least important, of the downsides of freelance work for this time around. One that I am pretty sure would come up on the Top 3 pet peeves for most freelancers out there. One that annoys plenty of people to no end, if anything, because of the lack of respect for one’s rights to get a decent payment for the work one gets to deliver on. Of course, I’m talking about the constant requests to work for free for other people. Yes, I know, 2016 and it still is a thing. 

    Somehow there seems to be that expectation that whether your are in pursuit of cheap, or whether you are just getting started with your freelance career, or whether you would want to ask for a few minutes of someone’s time or pick someone’s brain, you name it, you will always get asked about working for free for people, even if you know things just don’t work that way anymore.

    The exposure economy can only take you up to so far, I am afraid, before you realise you can no longer pay the monthly bills. At that point, and thanks to those many many requests still coming through to work for free, you know you are in (big) trouble, because people would still expect you to work for them for free, as it will be good exposure for you, while the unpaid bills tend to accumulate. And before you know it, you are doomed. Freelance work should not be like that. We should pretty much respect and treasure people’s time, hard work, effort, energy and, overall, their own lifetime work experience and get paid accordingly. It’s the least we could all do to recognise and appreciate both people and the good work they do. Anything else is an open call for even bigger trouble.

    Of course, I, too, have been asked to work for free as a freelancer in numerous occasions, although things have slowed down a fair bit at the moment with perhaps two or three requests per week. Mind you, I fully realise it’s very difficult to break the chain of working for free. And don’t take me wrong, it doesn’t necessarily imply I won’t be doing any kind of free work, on the contrary, I’m rather keen on doing it as long as there is a single premise in place that would give me the heads up: that is, I know you really really well and I truly love what you are doing. Anything else would need to be discussed and settled down for payment. No exceptions, I am afraid. Just like everyone else, there are plenty of bills to pay month in month out and that’s something that we all ought to respect and acknowledge for everyone, even freelancers. 

    There is a blog draft I’m putting together to talk at length about this particular downside on its own, more than anything else because it’s an important topic we only keep hearing about from one side of the story without getting the other and I feel, as I am getting closer to my 4th year of freelancing, it needs to get the word out and have a conversation about it, as opposed to just take things for granted. We shouldn’t. We should just take a moment to understand the context and the circumstances as to why people do the work they do and eventually appreciate and recognise it accordingly. It’s not that difficult, nor challenging, right? 

 

And that’s it! Those are some of the downsides I can think of at the moment about doing freelance work. And while I fully realise this blog post may be coming across as somewhat negative, it’s not meant to be. By far. It’s more about exposing some of the issues, the drawbacks, the disadvantages, the challenges, but also the opportunities about freelancing we all have in order to start the conversations on how we can all improve the state of the present of work today to then perhaps still have a future tomorrow, specially, if we all keep claiming the so-called future of work is the gig economy. Is it? If so, we still have got plenty of good work to get done! So let’s get down to it, please!

Here is a final, open reflection for you folks out there who may have been reading this article thus far: What’s the main downside of doing freelance work you may have experienced yourself in the last few months? Or to put it in other words, if you could address a single disadvantage of freelancing, which one would you choose right now and why?

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