Fewer, better notifications

One of my focuses for this year is to reduce my anxiety levels. I wouldn’t class them as out of control, but I do have periods where they’re concerning.

I spent a little time recently looking at what triggers anxiety for me. Although I came up with a fair list, the reasons I see as simplest to deal with are ‘fear of missing out’ and feeling overwhelmed.

It doesn’t take much imagination to quickly link these two triggers back to mobile phone notifications and app badge counters.

For me the obvious change to make is reduce the triggers in terms of quantity and invasiveness.

On the other side of the fence are mobile applications who’s very life-blood is to regularly pull you back into their world. The reasons aren’t always sound, and when you accept notifications for those apps, you don’t know how vague those reasons will be.

Will allowing notifications mean you’re alerted to triggers purely designed to draw you back into the app?

The only notifications I want. to receive are those which are time sensitive and genuinely important.

I use my phone enough that just displaying an app badge can be enough to show me there is something to be aware of. I don’t need anything to pop-up on my phone or in my notification feed.

So I’ve essentially had a cull of all the apps I never want to hear from. Adobe are allowed app badges, but many are not. Those who can send me notifications are under review. If an app abuses the permissions I’ve allowed it, I just remove them.

Very few notifications I was was seeing were something I couldn’t do without. Monitoring of banking and web services are possibly the only exception.

Initially it was a strange calm. Now it feels like a pleasing silence.

Plug hunting

Why digital nomads no longer care about free wifi

Many moons ago, enterprising coffee shops and bars looking for a unique selling point would have wifi installed and post ‘Free Wifi’ in big letters on their doors, windows or boards outside.

It was rare and revolutionary at the time. As a remote worker looking for places other than your own home to work, you suddenly had choices which weren’t libraries or large public buildings.

Coffee has also come a long way since those days. Most coffee shops now have the ability to knock up an acceptable cappuccino, latte or flat white.

But fast forward to recent years and the same remote workers now have power hungry laptops, and use far more battery saping applications to do much of their work. These remote workers are also carrying phones and other usb devices which won’t withstand heavy usage and survive the day.

And so the plug hunt was born.

Unlike the remote working crowd, it doesn’t feel like many businesses have cottoned on to it yet, but some coming through the door will circle around looking for seats where there are easily accessible plugs. If there aren’t any, they may just walk staight back out.

As a remote worker, I not only maintain my own list of places who have plugs, but also whether the staff are happy for you to plug your own equipment in, and where the seating with plugs is situated.

A key part of planning my remote days is to review my list for where I’ll work, how long I can go between charges, and which tasks will use most power when I’m not connected.

The next logical step is for businesses to install, and promote plug socket access to go along with their free wifi and coffee.

There is a downside to this. If you offer remote workers free wifi, good coffee and plug sockets, your business is likely to be full of remote workers. They aren’t the highest value customers, and don’t spend anywhere close per hour to those coming in for a meal and then immediately leaving.

A one off or hourly charge for plug access might go some way to making the revenue side of the promotion work. A limit on free power to quieter times of the day might also help.

For now the plug hunt continues.

Anxiety

This post is part of my plan to write at least 300 words a day on tech, wellbeing, productivity, agile methods and a little about me.

For me anxiety comes in two flavours. Both are equally impactful in their own attention grabbing ways.

In the last twelve months, since I returned to working for myself, they’ve made themselves known at least ever couple of weeks. Reducing anxiety is a focus for me in 2019.

The first flavour of anxiety I experience is a spike. An chest-tightening worry which can last up to two hours. It makes doing anything very difficult.

The second is a mild background anxiety which continually pulls my attention back to it and has been known to ruin time with family, friends and even my sleep.


I’ve got a good idea of the different triggers for the two.

Spike anxiety is caused by a sudden realisation, or discovery of something I didn’t do, or didn’t get quite right.

If you’ve ever experienced the “heart-sinking” feeling of forgetting something important, then it’s just like that, but doesn’t stop after the usual second or two.

Mild background anxiety comes at me slowly. It builds up as I dwell on something that wouldn’t be a problem if I weren’t to build it up in my head.


Dealing with them is less of a science than I would like.

Spike anxiety comes from nowhere, and the best defence I’ve found against it is to take action on the thing causing it as quickly as I can.

That could mean contacting somebody, putting a reminder in my diary or writing some notes to help make sense of the worry.

Mild background anxiety is more of a battle. To halt it I have to stop my brain from dwelling on the thought for long enough to bring the focus of it back down to size. So a good positive distraction is required.

That might be a good tv program, singing along to music I know well, a phone call which requires focus.

Long term, I think it’s possibly to reduce my general anxiety by changing things in my life, and working to be calmer and more considered when things do come along.

For me, this might mean avoiding some situation, and even people. Beyond that possibly meditation or other mindfulness techniques.

300 words

I’m keen to continue improving my writing in 2019, both quality and quantity. I’d like it to become something I do daily, and something I lean on to fill gaps in days that I have, rather than defaulting to social media browsing. It’s right up at the top of my list of focuses for 2019.

I’ve decided on 300 words as it seems a fair target. A target I can hit on a commute, on a lunch break, between pieces of work, before heading off to bed in the evening.

I’m not setting any boundaries when it comes to subject matter. That being said, I’ll likely mostly stick to tech, wellbeing, productivity, agile methods and a little on me.

I’ve written fairly frequently over the last ten years. The destination for the content I was writing were pretty broad and the length very varied. I’ve written short tech blog posts detailing a process for completing something technical. I’ve written marketting pieces sharing the benefits or details of a product or service which I was involved with and wanted to sell. I’ve written for social good campaigns that I’ve supported. I’ve even written some pretty heavy lifting specification documents.

I want to get away from all of that. The writing I do in my 300 word pieces is likely to be opinion focused, and a way to voice my thoughts without spending a huge amount of time on the data and the detail.

If conversations are triggered, then that would be great. Occassionally the 300 word articles may lead to more detailed writing on the same or similar topics.

Just enough process. As few rules as possible. Learning as I go. A great outlet for my thoughts, and possibly placeholder for projects or longer form writing. A great way to just practice my writing, often.

A fresh start

In the first quarter of 2018 I stepped back from the comfort of my full time role at a medium sized software development agency to take on a new challenge.

The proverb ‘A change is as good as a rest‘ is one I’ve quoted regularly to colleagues, friends and family during my career in the tech industry, and once again it proves itself to be true.

As 2018 draws to a close and 2019 is almost upon us, I’m looking to continue building new relationships which allow focus on my strengths supporting development teams with productivity and well-being. Especially those struggling to sell or deliver agile projects, or suffering with capacity issues and challenged by the onboarding process of juniors or inexperienced new starters.

Although now more broadly experienced, my history started with freelance development shortly before the millennium, and software—web and mobile and cloud—have been regular focuses of my time ever since.

In recent years I’ve been a teacher of web best practice, Scrum Product Owner, line manager and mentor to those in development teams, and this ability to see projects and priorities from both the business and delivery angles, while supporting the actual nuts and bolts development work, puts me in a bit of a niche position when it comes to helping teams be great.

What I’m looking for in 2019:

I’m now looking to spend more time focusing on the following areas and would love to hear from you if you’re looking for support personally, with your business or to help your team be happier, better and more productive:

  • Improving agile teams – Working with development teams and their managers to implement or improve agile processes. This includes the client facing aspects, the estimation struggle, the software itself, building velocity and ultimately helping the team enjoy the challenge of creating more value in the same amount of time.
  • Getting immediate value from new starters – Mentoring juniors and inexperienced new starters using pair coding, code review and coaching to build their confidence, autonomy and consistency, as part of a larger team. This allows an immediate growth in development capacity from the early days of a new hire.
  • Consultancy – Advising on and implementing process and technology strategy. Making people the best they can be through management and developer coaching and mentoring. Creating better outcomes with product management, agile and business process support.
  • Speaking – Taking a spot on diverse tech panels. Speaking to groups about small business advice, the technology landscape, diversity & inclusion challenges, developer wellness and development topics.
  • Product and service design – Helping ensure that when you have an idea or a client requirement, your first steps aren’t in the wrong direction.
  • Non-exec / board chair roles – Offering regular support to your board have better meetings, make data based business decisions and accountability for actions.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter.


If you’d like to know the full story, check out my review of 2018