Screen Time & Copious Emails

One thing I would change about my life (and may if I actually make it a goal) is the amount of time I spend in front of a screen. It’s likely I will check my email and the weather before I leave the house in the morning. If I’m not reading a book on the train I am watching a TV show on my iPod.

Then – there’s work – which centers largely around the computer. My office culture doesn’t encourage much interpersonal mingling. Some managers seem to believe that if you aren’t at your desk, you aren’t working (I couldn’t disagree more about this by the way and this is a great example of generational office culture issues). So that’s roughly 7 hours of screen time each day, just at work!

But you all know I’m a gamer right? And I have a great love for horrible TV (i.e. Real Housewives, the Bachelor…I won’t embarrass myself further). So there’s night-time screen time (this is where I feel like I could reduce but not eliminate…it’s like wine at the end of a long hard day).

But back to that huge chunk of screen time during the work day – this is largely due to email right? Office cultures have shifted away from phone calls and personal chats and towards the far less personal email. In some ways this may increase productivity, helping you to multitask, communicate when you’re ready, etc. And I am on board with that – there are some things that are more easily communicated through email and some people with whom email is the best form of communication!

Fast Company’s Co.Design‘s shared an infographic (you know how much I love these) about whether or not you should send an email. Check it out:

They, like me, have a few issues with the tree:

We have some quibbles with the decision tree. The first question is “Are you at work?” and if you answer “no,” then the chart leads to “okay.” No! Not okay. Heartwarming PowerPoint forwards are never okay (confidential to our relatives: We love you very much). Further down, there’s weird ritual advice like implementing a “No Email Friday” policy.

But there are some good considerations there too. Poorly written subject headers remain the bane of our existence, to say nothing of the ongoing river of pain that is CC abuse. For a more thorough and thoughtful take on when to send email, we recommend Seth Godin’s checklist (forlornly titled “(maybe this time it’ll work!)”).

However, I love the real message of this image which is – think about an email before you send it and think about other ways to communicate like getting up and walking to your coworkers’ office (unless you don’t like them).

Is anyone else concerned with how much time they spend in front of a computer or a TV? They have just become so ingrained in our lives … Right now, I’m sharing this information and you’re looking at it on a screen!

At least I’m not sharing it by email  🙂

Happy Friday!


Twitter – It’s Not For Noobs

I was reluctant at first to use twitter.

When I first started writing My Orange Chair, Suzanne Grossman of Love Your Job Now told Big Sister to tell me to start a twitter account so she could tweet about a post of mine (while mentioning me). I thought, ‘hey, this could be cool, twitter, why not?’.

Suzanne’s tweets were great, and they brought me a little bit of readership so … that was good.

And then I left it at that. I wasn’t totally sure about how to optimize twitter usage so I would say a little blurb about each blog piece, essentially turning it into a RSS feed which, according to Twenties Hacker, is a no-no.

Yes, I knew it was bad, but maintaining a twitter account, and doing it properly seemed so hard (this is scary for me to admit because I’m afraid that’s how future older me will respond to future newer technologies)

But it’s not! Twitter, like any other social media tool, is really about having a conversation and directing internet traffic. Hashtags and RTs aren’t so scary if you just give them a try.

In fact, the first time I think I really used twitter appropriately was in January when I wrote about one of idealist’s blog posts, mentioned it on twitter, and had a little conversation with them. That day brought me more readership than My Orange Chair had ever seen. Yay readers!

And since then, twitter has consistently brought higher levels of readership (though maybe that’s in part to a larger base). So even if you’re a little scared of twitter, or you don’t know how it could work for you don’t worry – you don’t have to constantly update your life, where you are, and how you’re feeling – just have a little conversation with your followers and the tiwtterverse without letting the tool become RSS feed number 2.

Rules for Commuting

I thought today, a day when I am free the long commute (thanks President’s Day), would be a great day to talk about commuting and its rules. Maybe this will seep into the internets and my fellow commuters will read it and pass it on in preparation for the rest of this week and the long months to come – no three day weekend until May 😦

Oh commuting – how I loathe you. I hate the way you take so long and the way you sap my bank account (one month of just the commuter train costs $175.00, this does not include the metro fare).

I dislike how tourists want to commute with me – even though they could wait until I’m at work. They are loud and they are NOT actually quiet in the quiet car.

Also they don’t follow your well-known rules:

  1.  Don’t talk on your cell phone the whole time. Or talk to other people at loud volumes. Most of us are sleeping, or reading, or trying not to cry because we hate our commutes so much.
  2. Don’t put your luggage on the seat next to you. I will ask you to move it and you will have to or the conductor will make you. Not cool.
  3. Walk on the left side of the escalator. This is well-known. It is international even and it is courteous!
  4. Don’t stop in the middle of the hallway in the train station to look at the train schedule – they are posted all over and you could stop in a less ‘in-the-way’ place.
  5. If you can avoid it, don’t bring children on the commute and don’t be offended when we scowl at you. Children tend not to be quiet – see rule number 1.
  6. If you are in DC (or probably anywhere) MOVE TO THE CENTER OF THE CAR. The metro-lady will say it multiple times but you can’t seem to hear it. Take out your ear buds if you have to, listen to her, and then follow her instruction.

I hate to sound bitter, even though I am, I am terribly bitter, but these are fundamental rules that would vastly improve my commute (that takes about 1.5 hours one way) and encourage me to write about WAY more interesting things than  commuting rules.

Images of V-Day

Feministing did a round-up of Romantic Industrial Complex (RIC) infographics for spending on Valentine’s Day.

In a very meta way, the Romantic-Industrial Complex is putting a lot of time, money and energy into cutesey infographics demonstrating how much time, money and energy we put into cutesy commercial and materialistic expressions of Valentine’s Day. I should do an infographic on it, but I don’t have the time, money or energy to do so. So, I’ll just show you them.

Here are some of my favorites:

I actually genuinely like this first one because it gives you a little history of different love practices (not making love practices) in different parts of the world. At least this one isn’t trying to sell me something – or sell the men-folk something.

Now – what DO men buy? And which men buy it? I think what this really says is, which countries spend the most on advertising and focus on RIC guilt?

What!? 86% of men buy noncommittal pieces?? The HORROR! At least they’re buying jewelry – and as you know, the goal of giving jewelry is always jewelry face.

This next gem shows you how you can best ‘cash-in on the day of love’. You definitely need to target the men-folk because they’ll spend the most $$.

This year V-day was a great excuse to drink champagne and bake a cake on a Tuesday! So here’s my infographic:

*Champagne with a splash of Chambord + Vanilla Bean Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce and Mango Sorbet*

Check ‘Em

I have recently gotten in the habit of double checking my receipts after checking out at the grocery store. Big Sister started a while back and told me that she was finding all kinds of errors – at first I was hesitant to believe her, I mean, how many issues do you really find? and isn’t that just penny pinching?  Well, maybe, but mostly it’s protecting your money and only paying for what you buy. Most times I just catch products being rung up without their advertised sale. But…

In the last two weeks we’ve had two pretty major errors show up.

  1. We were charged for 12 heads of lettuce (@ $2.79 each) when we only bought one. That’s an excess of $30.69
  2. This weekend it was 23 oranges (@$.79 each) and we only purchased 2. That’s $16.59 added to our bill.

So now I’m wondering how much money I’ve just WASTED at the grocery store due to errors like these. If I hadn’t caught these two, I would’ve been out $47.28 and that’s just in the last two weeks!!

What could you buy for $47.28? Why, a new pair of shoes, lunch for 3, a really nice bottle of wine, 6 pretty good bottles of wine .. you get the picture.

Get in the habit of checking your receipts – it’s not penny pinching, it’s just smart.

Leadership Development in Nonprofits

YNPN recently released a great document called “Good in Theory, Problems in Practice” that touches on leadership development in nonprofits (and whether or not its actually happening). YNPN tested five recommendations for developing non-profit leaders and found that there’s a significant gap between theory and practice – this is not surprising!

The recommendations the report examined were:

1. Nonprofits should offer more competitive compensation

2. Nonprofits should invest in building “bench strength”

3. Nonprofits should engage in inclusive succession planning

4. Nonprofits should prioritize diversity

5. Nonprofits should explore new organizational structures that are flatter and more nimble

YNPN tested these recommendations to find out:

  • Are young nonprofit professionals excited about the strategy’s potential for impact
  • Are nonprofits implementing the strategy?
  • Are the strategies having their intended impact?
  • And, how involved are young professionals in this process?

Here’s what they found:

Finding #1 Ideas are great but only if they’re implemented (effectively).

Less than 40% of surveyed nonprofit professionals stated that their organization had undertaken a diversity initiative. Fewer than 20% of respondents stated that their nonprofit had made a change to their organizational structure or chief executive role or conducted some form of succession planning.

Finding #2 Structural change is underrated.

Only half of survey respondents rated structural change as potentially high-impact, a stark contrast to the rave reviews the other four strategies received. Yet when this strategy was implemented, structural change was the most effective strategy we investigated.

I think this finding is so interesting – I never would have thought of structural change as such a positive force for good but the results are pretty cool.

Finding #3 Competitive compensation is key…but a good manager can help.

Finding #4 Being left out is not uncommon.

It was disconcerting to find that only one of every five survey respondents
whose organizations implemented one of the strategies we explored
reported that they were not involved in the development or implementation of that strategy.

Perhaps this is a disconcerting find but are you surprised? I am not! Key generational differences are likely playing a role here. Survey participants weren’t surprised either:

This finding did not come as much of a surprise to YNPN members during focus groups. In Washington DC, members understood the reasons nonprofit executives took on much of the strategic planning, but felt disconnected from leadership because they were not a part of the conversation that occurred before plans were made. Rather than providing clarity, after-the-fact, top-down communication from leadership just added to young professionals’ frustration. Focus group participants thought that simply implementing an open-door policy would offer staff the opportunity to learn about or even add their two cents on the path their organization is taking.

Finding #5 Despite systemic challenges, we remain mission driven.

Although many young nonprofit professionals seem sector agnostic, they are just as mission focused as ever. Of the professionals that were hesitant to commit to a nonprofit career, 57% stated that they required their job to have an explicit social mission. This means over 70% of our full sample remains committed to building a mission-driven career.

I don’t believe that you need to work in a non-profit in order to affect social change. I think that nonprofits need to be aware of this and start to really invest in their employees, not only through compensation (though obviously that’s important!!), but also through inclusion, modernization, and development.

But again, my issue with this is how can we affect change as young professionals? How do youput a document like this in a supervisor’s hands and communicate the importance of these changes? Go read the report.

And I’m curious to see what you think is most important:

Leaving a Job (No…not me!)

I know, I know, I just started a new job! But I think it’s never too soon to be prepared for this career eventuality (for the absolute majority of people). I don’t plan to stay in this job forever and it’s becoming more common for young professionals to change jobs frequently – According to a recent study, 55% of college graduates only expect to stay at their first jobs for 1-3 years. This statistic doesn’t surprise me at all given that my generation seems to be focused on getting the most broad range of experiences  possible (and the pay bumps that come from moving out instead of up)

But in the same way that applying to, interviewing for, and starting a new job is scary, so is leaving a job, especially if you’ve never done it before. Whether you’re thinking about changing your work up soon or not, these tips from Jessica Lawlor seem pretty useful –

1. Your immediate supervisor should always be the first to know. Out of respect, be sure to break the news to your immediate supervisor first, and preferably in person. Depending on the type of office environment you work in, you may need to request a meeting or simply ask if they have a moment to talk in private.

I’d recommend giving notice in the morning, to give your supervisor the chance to absorb the news and get the ball rolling on the resignation process. Also, have your resignation letter drafted and ready to submit.

2. Break the news to the rest of your colleagues in person, if possible. In person is always better. Avoid sharing the news of a new job in an email. You’ll find that most people will be happy and excited for you, and will appreciate the fact that you took the time to tell them personally.

3. Create a “how to be me” document. My first order of business once I gave two weeks notice was to create a master document of every single project I was working on, outlining point people, processes and deadlines. This document ended up being close to 10 pages long and extremely detailed, but it was worth spending the time; I wanted to offer a resource for whoever would take over my responsibilities. *I love this idea and have found my predecessors’ “how to be me” document VERY useful* 

4. Do what you can to make the transition as smooth as possible. After creating the “how to be me” document, I set up a meeting to review the document and allow my colleagues to ask questions and get clarification about all of my duties. I purposely scheduled the meeting mid-way through my final two weeks to ensure there was time to schedule a second transition meeting, if needed.

Additionally, if your supervisor is looking to fill your position quickly, do everything you can to help replace yourself. Spread the word on Twitter and LinkedIn, help review resumes, recommend people you think could be a good fit. After you leave the job, let your supervisor and colleagues know that you’re still happy to answer any lingering questions they may have about your responsibilities.

5. Show your gratitude.Buy a big box of thank you notes. And prepare to have your wrist hurt after handwriting multiple notes of appreciation for colleagues.

6. Keep in touch. This is perhaps the most difficult tip to follow, and one I’m still trying to figure out. We all know that staying in touch is key to creating a lasting connection and maintaining your network.

I have to admit, as a young professional in my first job, I wouldn’t know the first step to leaving a job. I would probably just run over to Big Sister and plead for advice which I know she would willingly give. [also…wouldn’t it be great if I could link to Big Sister’s blog when I mention her!? Tell her so in the poll on the left sidebar].

As an intern I’ve taken many of these steps before – it’s always a good idea to hand-write thank you cards and to make efforts to keep in touch. I’ve found these to be key parts of maintaining my network…but I was never in danger of burning bridges at the time because I was just moving on at some agreed upon time.

After reading this advice though, I still have some questions:

  • As a young professional in your first job, how soon is too soon to leave?
  • If you have a lot of a lag time between this job and the next, when should you notify your current employer?
  • Are resignation letters fairly uniform?
  • How can you repair a network relationship that may be damaged by your leaving?

Any advice readers? Perhaps some words of wisdom from a resignation gone awry?