The founder of Design*Sponge on creating an online business that withstands the test of time.
The conclusion of our guidance on what to do instead of multi-tasking.
We’ve said often on air that multi-tasking is a lie. We don’t mince our words, and we totally mean it. Multi-tasking is impossible for humans. It’s not even possible for computers. In the early days they just switched between tasks so quickly that it seemed as if they were multi-tasking. Nowadays they have multiple chips, so it can be argued they are multi-tasking, but you still only have one brain, so the argument doesn’t help you.
Yes, you can rub your belly and pat your head at the same time. How much concentration does that take though? If we do it, we can’t do anything else, because doing those two things simultaneously takes up our WHOLE brain.
We sometimes show this video at our conferences: Test Your Awareness: Do The Test. In it, you’re asked to look out for the number of passes the basketball players make. Something else happens in the video, which if you haven’t seen it before, you won’t see. Why? BECAUSE YOU CAN’T MULTITASK! If you are counting basketball passes (a relatively simple task) you cannot see the other things that happen.
And, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, old or young, computer savvy or technically barely literate. No-one can multi-task. It’s just not in our physiology. (Humans differ by .1% from each other, so we’re all a lot more the same than we are different).
Those of you who are thinking, but this isn’t me… I can multi-task, you’re wrong, but apparently not being convinced. Please try and experiment with us. Try these techniques for just a week and see if your output improves. If it doesn’t, you can go back to multi-tasking with our blessing.
How Not To Multi-Task - Part 2 (mp3)
Questions This Guidance Answers: How often should I update my voicemail?
What message should I leave on my voicemail?
Why is voicemail important?
This cast tells you how to manage your voicemail on a daily basis.
One of the most frustrating issues in the workplace is getting someone’s voicemail, leaving a message and then not knowing what’s going to happen next.
Often their message isn’t enough to tell you if they are in the office or out, when they are returning, when they might return your call.
It’s one of the reasons that voicemails are often followed in quick succession by emails and in-person visits.
The urge to reduce the uncertainty is stronger than any urge towards efficiency.
We can’t change the people around you, but we can help you get it right.
[Play in Popup]
Extra ContentUpdate Your Voicemail Shownotes (PDF)
Update Your Voicemail Slides (PDF)
Legend: Manager Tools Personal License Interviewing Series First Job Fundamentals
Debug is a casual, conversational interview show featuring the best developers in the business about the amazing apps they make and why and how they make them. On this episode Marco Arment joins Guy and Rene to talk about his new podcast client, Overcast, getting low level with Core Audio, writing downloaders, and many, many other things.
Support Debug: Go to lynda.com/debug to start your 7-day free trial. Go to igloosoftware.com/debug to try Igloo for free.
Questions This Guidance Answers: When should I not have my phone with me?
Why should I not take my phone everywhere?
Why is looking at my phone rude?
Our guidance on how to deal with your phone during different parts of your day.
When we make recommendations to limit the use of phones during the day, during meetings or at home, we get a lot of pushback.
All of us have grown used to our extra appendage and the novelty it constantly provides.
And, it’s not conducive to relationship building with people who are in your presence.
If you’re loath to not have your phone with you at every moment, prepare to be challenged.
[Play in Popup]
Extra ContentWhen NOT To Take Your Phone Shownotes (PDF)
Legend: Manager Tools Personal License Interviewing Series First Job Fundamentals
Not a two way street ?
I’m sorry, I don’t get the "not a two way street" thing.
Yes, I do understand that there are some questions that should not be asked.
Yet, how isn’t an interview a two-way-street ?
Why am I not interviewing them to see if I even want to work there ? - or if it will make me miserable to work there ?
It is too late to ask the questions I want to know after an offer is made.
And I may forget some of those questions out of context.
After an offer is made I would only be speaking to one person - only the hiring manager.
— Yes, for goodness sakes - Where will I sit ?
I asked that once and was shown a small closet with a desk in it !
If I waited until after an offer I would not have known what it looked like
During an interview I get speak to several people.
Where does everybody park ? Does it cost any money ?
Where and when do folks usually eat lunch - here or there ?
Could you please describe for me what an average day on the job would look like ?
What would you expect from me on a day-by-day basis ?
Please tell me how this department is viewed by other department in the organization. Does it have a positive reputation ?
To a member on the search committee that will be a colleague : So tell me about how folks get along around here. Are there many friendships ?
To the manager : Could you please describe for me your management style ?
To the Executive Director : Could you please describe for me the level and kind of support you get from the University president’s office ?
To the office boy while I’m waiting in the hall : So, how’s staff morale around her ? Do most people seem to enjoy their jobs ?
Boy, I could tell you a few stories about poorly done interviews - and how glad I was that I asked some of these questions.
At just the right time - to just the right people.
Two times I called them back the next day and asked them not to waste any more time on me (in a nice way) I was no longer interested in the position.
Usually, I ask these questions in a casual way in-between interview sessions or during lunch.
Or When being shown around by a junior employee.
If we don’t ask these questions, how will we find out about the culture we are considering ?
A few podcasts back we are are asked to consider many factors before accepting an offer.
Many of these little factors - such as culture, and parking, and style will only be shown during an interview period.
MT - could you please explain more about how it is not a two way street ?
Where am I going wrong with the the two-way-street approach ?
Gabe and Erik are joined by Merlin Mann to talk about starting over, what you really should be doing with your life, verbing, inventors, and emotional petshops.
This week is the first of what will be monthly episodes with a guest and a slightly longer running time. We don’t think that anyone reading this or listening to the episode needs an introduction to Merlin Mann, but we do want to set the stage a little bit.
Just as this podcast is essentially Generational reborn, many of us have at one point reinvented ourselves. Sometimes this reinvention is more of a realization, and sometimes we make a conscious decision to make a change. When Erik and Gabe decided they wanted to talk about this together, they thought Merlin would be the perfect guest to serve as both foil and therapist. He graciously agreed to join them on this episode, and we think you will enjoy the result.
If you haven’t read Merlin’s own introduction in a while, you should take a look. It’s perfect.
Guest Spotlight: Merlin Mann
Kung Fu Grippe
As a connoisseur of select tree nuts, Merlin has developed a distinguishing palate of salty treats and healthy living.
Merlin is on Twitter but you probably shouldn’t follow him. Well OK, just follow him for a little while. Maybe until you start to understand his jokes.
Merlin is also on Vimeo.
Merlin’s interview on The Great Discontent is a wonderful introduction.
Merlin as Project Manager
Merlin as Podcaster
Roderick on the Line (a.k.a. RotL)
Unoffical Supertrain Trailer
John and Merlin are trying to help you . Especially if you think you don’t need their help. See: that’s part of the problem …
There’s really no excuse for missing the supplemental material over at the official Tumblr site.
Merlin has co-hosted Back to Work with Dan Benjamin since January 18, 2011.
You Look Nice Today holds a special place in every nerd’s heart. The trio of Merlin, Scott Simpson and Lonely Sandwich were proof that smart humor is timeless and that we all missed out on the potential for baby butlers.
Merlin’s appearances on MacBreak Weekly are some of the best episodes of tech podcasting and date way back to 2006. Just start in the archives and work your way forward.
Merlin has delivered many tutorials and application reviews through the, mostly defunct, MacBreak show. If you’re like us, it was a Merlin video in 2006 that introduced you to the power of Quicksilver and changed the way you used your Mac (also the first thing he ever did with Leo Laporte). At least until Quicksilver broke your heart.
The Merlin Show
This Week in Tech
Merlin’s most recent visit on TWIT was way back in 2011
Merlin’s been involved with OmniFocus since before the first public release. The application has benefitted from his unique influence and you can watch his most recent video about how he uses the tool.
The show notes you are reading right now take a lot of work. It’s work that we believe is worth the time and effort, thanks to Merlin. The Back to Work show notes are the inspiration that started us along this path. Merlin is very often the originator of the things I find valuable and interesting.
Merlin on Podcasts
Mac Power Users
Beyond the Todo List
Show Me Your Mic
Merlin was the first interview and appeared again later to discuss Inbox Zero on CMD Space.
MaxFunCon in 2008, 2009 and 2011
Merlin as Public Speaker
Speaking to ASAE Members
Fixing Broken Meetings
Merlin Mann on Time and Attention
Merlin as Educator
Merlin is a tireless philanthropist. He provides free Internet advice for the ordinary man in series such as how to use a fucking camera and which are the best pants for nerds.
Education in the United States
Say it don’t spray it
“I am mainly former things”
Listen to this section on SoundCloud: 0:00
Erik begins the podcast by preaching some Apple heresy, is named the Marie Curie of the podcast and is discovered to be the real world Mr. Burns.
“That doesn’t cancer your balls or anything?”
Merlin explains that he didn’t decide to do 43 Folders, but instead realized that he was already doing it and likens early life to a map primarily built around school. Deviations from the map build the resiliency needed to properly navigate the territory.
“I’m not saying go out and just be a hobo”
When you think outside the box, sometimes you realize that you’ve “entered a new” box only by looking backwards. Worrying too much about the box means missed opportunity.
Usually being an undeclared major isn’t about being open-minded.
Nouns and Verbs
Listen to this section on SoundCloud: 15:34
Merlin talks about our obsession with naming things,
and verbs, and prevents us from ever not-imagining a pimply, pudgy, masturbating, 13-year-old version of him.
“…you need a good noun”
Beyond just the nouns and verbs, we are obsessed with labels, but sometimes they can only be applied when the work is done. Maybe it’s chunking, but we need to beware othe lack of creativity that this connotes. We also discover that Merlin’s presentation may be a MacGuffin, but in the end, you’ll still get to pal around with him and have a steak.
Because nothing says Serial Entrepreneur like a good business card.
Quit on 5by5
Full Stack Developer
Swiss Army Knife or Generalizing Specialist
“Nouns and verbs, nouns and verbs, nouns and verbs”
Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson
Elon Musk is known for many things, but he may just be screwing with us now. Perhaps he is just trying desperately to avoid having a label.
“We’re not even on iTunes”
I… I… I don’t even know what to say… pic.twitter.com/Dy9anfc3Tr— Technical Difficulti (@techdiffpodcast) November 14, 2013
Success vs. fame
Doing this Other Thing
Listen to this section on SoundCloud: 27:39
While nearly returning once more to the nouns-and-verbs well, Merlin helps up know when to un-pot ourselves, even though learning to take risks and thinking orthogonally may land us in a Mississippi chain gang.
“That’s a really, really big question”
Gabe channels Cal Newport, reacting strongly against passions, but Merlin points out the limitless career potential abroad.
What Color is your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles
Running Away from Discomfort
Listen to this section on SoundCloud: 35:53
Gabe talks a bit more about why he made his change and another way he is like a cowboy. Merlin problematizes all the way back to Roald Dahl
Chemistry Job Market Outlook
Listen to this section on SoundCloud: 44:45
Whether or not achieving quality of life is a #firstworldproblem or not, sometimes we have to shift into emergency mode and reinvention isn’t a choice. Merlin cautions us that this emergency mindset can taint our decisions long after we have reattained stability. Also, emotional pet shops.
The concept of three worlds is a carryover from the Cold War. It came into being after World War II as a way to describe the split of the globe in to two large blocs, Communism and capitalism. The First World represented the capitalist West, democracy, moonbeams, and unicorns. The Second World represented, communism, socialist, industrial states, red stars, and evil. The Third World represented everyone else not aligned with the First or Second Worlds.
This idea was also formed when everything was seen to be evolving, and the First World was defined as the bright and shining light that the other “worlds” would eventually become. Unsurprisingly, this opinion wasn’t universally held, and Mao Zedong’s alternative Three Worlds Theory divides the globe into superpowers (First World) and the superpowers’ allies (Second World), with the leftovers as the Third World.
This term no longer has its original clear definitions, and the First World is now used as a pot-and-kettle shaming technique on Twitter, and the Third World as a convenient “bin” for the aforementioned shamers and politicians to put poor foreigners. Fortunately, First World folks have now defined a Fourth World in which to put the weird people from their own countries.
“They seem to have pretty steady access to the internet”
Did Erik create Ping-pong Inception by specifically marginalizing the East? I also found out about Ping-pong Diplomacy. What.
“I’m going to stop with the whores”
“The talk where I cried” Merlin Mann Webstock 2011
“We really have an emotional petshop, not a life”
I don’t think transference is the right word.
“It’s better to be dead than look stupid, but it is possible to do both”
Erik revisits fear and failure, and he and Merlin talk about meditation while Gabe silently judges them.
“It’s called therapy”
Therapy for whom?
What Happens After Reinvention
Listen to this section on SoundCloud: 55:00
Merlin ponders how we change, what our personal admixture might be, and why feelings of incompetence can be a good thing.
“You’re going to spend a lot of your cycles just trying to figure out what you should be learning”
Merlin’s reference to William James is likely the result of the epigram often attributed to him: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” This quip, which runs parallel to Occam’s Razor, has also been attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte and Richard Feynman referred to as Hanlon’s Razor, but the James tie seems most common on the internet due to a Jargon File Entry. I have more about why “Hanlon,” but you’re just here for Merlin anyway….
“My daughter punches me in the nose and says, ‘you’re full of it.’ Very good, grasshoper”
Well, that’s all for this week. If you have anything that you’d like to add to or correct in the show notes you can find me on Twitter @potatowire or feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Download Gabe’s iThoughts mind map on this week’s topic.
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