Friday, April 1, 2011

Setting up shop

I waved my diary, receipt book, notes-book, computer towards the class.  “This is all that I need to run my business,”, making a virtue of simplicity.  “I can be productive in life’s corners and the day’s spare moments”.

Good in theory. 

I can set up in a pub, in the Starbucks, at the mall, in a library


and I often do. Convenient, but I’m wondering if it might also be making iit harder to work rather than easier.

Two things are missing in this scheme: unbroken time and purposeful space.

PBS ran a series called The Astronomers, interviewing scientists pondering the limits of what we see and know.  They talked with Kip Thorne at his Oregon beach house, far from his students, colleagues, and laboratories.  “I need large blocks of uncommitted time to follow a thought and to compose insightful answers,” he shrugged: his beach house held the world back for hours or days while he got his head around disparate data and unified theories.

A doctor commented on the way that the ‘always-on’ internet interfered with, rather than facilitated, patient care.  “Patients used to come to my office: we’d sit in a room, talk about their problems.  It was committed space.  Now, health questions come by e-mail, people talk with the nurse from the supermarket.  The space reserved for the doctor blurs into the rest off the spaces in their lives, and something is lost.”

My portable office and fragmented day may be similarly blurring spaces and truncating thoughts.  Can we work while moving, think while interrupting?  Sure my lists get completed, tasks finished as I fit them, Tetris-like into the gaps in the day.  But I increasingly feel like I am missing the big issues: what is the vehicle for Stone Bridge, how should the remote monitoring project move atelier-paul-cezanne-01ahead, what is the best way to determine whether a muscle is properly anesthetized, how do I apply MVC architecture to organizing patient data?  Those answers only come with blocks of time in purposeful spaces, a  business atelier or academic workshop.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cambridge spring

Another whirl of a week, ‘looking forward to a bit of a break at the weekend.  With spring in full bloom now in Cambridge (as it was in Charleston and Savannah), I’m looking forward to getting out to see the Fellows Garden’s and the riverbanks, daffodils blooming and trees in flower.


 DSC03416 Stitch

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On the computer

On the computerI did a spring cleaning of my office last night.  Over the past few months project folders had become disorganized, papers hadn’t been filed, receipts and vouchers were unlabeled.  As a result, it was getting harder to find things, work was being duplicated or lost, and there was entirely too much time spent searching rather than doing.

So I laid into the task in late afternoon, wrapped up about midnight.  The result feels great: more space, better organization, lots shipped to the recycle bin.

My office is my computer, supplemented by a date book, a receipt boo, and a notes-book.  So, to outward appearances, I was simply, obsessively, ‘on the computer’ from mid-afternoon until well past a reasonable bedtime.  This prompts comments about how I was isolated and immersed in unreality for far too long, both an unhealthy and asocial practice.

Yet if someone saw me doing identical tasks, filing, binning, and annotating the  clutter of a messy physical office, the result would be laudable.  What’s different about the computer?  I have three theories:

My activity is private when I’m on the computer, so it’s not apparent what’s I’m doing.  Skype or Facebook tell people that I’m logged in, but nothing Theory xabout why.

There is a ‘”Theory X”  bias in people’s thinking (McGregor),  seeing people as inherently lazy and tending to avoid work if they can.

Computer time equates to time spent on games and social networks, frivolous pursuits akin to watching television or chatting on the phone.

But the computer is a wonderful tool for learning new topics, for exploring ideas, and for creating original work.  It connects to knowledge, experts, and resources.  I spend 15 minutes updating Facebook status each day: I spend an hour listening to a lecture on consciousness or learning the Ruby language.   I don’t see the time as wasted or asocial: it’s working or enriching for the most part.

I’m not sure how (or whether) to justify time spent on the computer as real or productive.  I used to have the same problem with reading: my mother forever accused me of “going through life with my nose in a book”.  Maybe this is just the updated version?  Harmless.

the-social-networkStill, I am a bit haunted by The Social Network: Mark intense, unsmiling, hammering keys late into the night.  ‘Not a good archetype for me to reflect on, either.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Personality typing

INTPIn psychology, “personality” is the set of behavioral traits that distinguish us from one another.  These can have many dimensions, behavioral, emotional, temperamental, mental, but they tend to be pretty consistent for a given person over time. 

Personality is a complex thing to try to describe: the most common classification is Myers-Briggs Indicator.  If you’ve never tried it, you can have a go here.  The result describes you as one of sixteen types based on a combination of four attributes, Introvert / Extrovert, Sensing / Intuitive,  Thinking / Feeling, and Judgmental / Perceptive.

I first encountered it in a group dynamics session where our research group interactions were being analyzed to improve our performance.  I typed as INTP (Introvert / iNtuitive / Thinking / Perceptive).  In fact, everyone in our group did, which turned out to be the main reason why nobody could get along.  Leavening the group with a few other types (less controlling, more feeling) improved life considerably.

As I move from job to job, I’ve found that I need to overcome some innate traits in order to succeed.  Schmoosing with investors, for example, requires more extroversion than is typical for me, but I’ve learned to adapt (or so I believe).

An interesting question is to what extent our personality is expressed through our daily writings.  A blog analyzer called the Typealyzer purports to do just that.  Enter your blog URL, and it analyzes a selection of postings to return a Myers-Briggs classification.  Mine was…INTP: The Thinker

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

A bit of a horoscope, but at least I’m consistent…