My goals for 2024
Fewer apps, deeper work, faster admin, more troph!
Happy New Year, Dispatch readers! Your correspondents are back for another year of thoughts, insights, and fun. We’re honored that so many of you joined us in 2023, and hope this newsletter continues to bring a little surprise and delight to your inbox every Monday.
To kick off 2024, I want to share my goals for the next twelve months. While some of these overlap with the ‘SMART’ goals I’m setting internally at Mind Tools, others are more personal, relating to the place work holds in my life.
Part of my motivation for writing about my goals is to dedicate serious thought to them, in a way that I’ve perhaps neglected to do in the past. By committing to these goals publicly, I’m also hoping I’ll be more likely to hold myself accountable for achieving them.
If, like me, you view the New Year as an opportunity to reset, I hope the following goals spark some ideas for you.
🙅♂️ Establish boundaries between work and life
At some point in the past, I decided to download the Teams app on my phone. It’s possible that I was travelling for work and needed a way to stay in touch with the team. Or maybe it was the height of the pandemic, and I was desperate for any kind of human interaction. Whatever the reason, I never got around to deleting it.
Since then, I’ve developed the habit of checking Teams out of hours. It’s become one of the many apps I’ll open when I’m bored and mindlessly scrolling on my phone, and I regularly find myself responding to messages late at night or over the weekend. When I greet my colleagues each morning, I’m usually in the kitchen making coffee, not yet sat at my desk and fully in ‘work mode’.
The problem with the Teams app (and with Slack, Outlook, Gmail, etc.) is that it makes it too easy to be ‘always on’. Even though I work for a company where I genuinely feel trusted to do my job remotely, I still suffer from the compulsion to ‘LARP my job’ through Teams activity.
Deleting the Teams app from my phone is one of the ways I’m re-establishing healthy boundaries between work and life this year. While there might be some downside to this, I think the benefits of being able to disconnect and refresh will greatly outweigh the costs. And if there’s ever a genuine L&D emergency (maybe the first?), my colleagues can always just give me a call.
🧠 Protect ‘deep work’ time in my calendar
Of course, workplace communication tools don’t just distract us when we’re supposed to be resting. They also distract us when we’re supposed to be working.
Towards the end of 2022, I read Cal Newport’s Deep Work, and I preached Newport’s gospel to anyone who would listen.
One of the central ideas of the book is that the modern working environment – what work looks like – is set up in such a way as to prevent us from getting things done. This will ring true if you’ve ever attempted to achieve anything meaningful while jumping between meetings, emails, and instant messages.
To ensure I had time for ‘deep work’ last year, I tried blocking out Thursdays in my calendar. And for a while, it worked! Thursdays were the days where I tackled thorny problems and tried to get my head around complex ideas. They were even the days when I wrote this newsletter.
But after a few months, I started to treat Thursdays as a blank canvas, and filled them with the day-to-day tasks that consumed the rest of the week. Looking back, I believe this sacrifice of deep-work time partly explains why I wrote so many Dispatches over the weekend in the second half of 2023.
I’m still thinking of mechanisms I can put in place to stop myself from relapsing into bad habits, but re-committing to deep work is possibly my most important goal for this year.
🤖 Automate or streamline repetitive administrative tasks
Amongst my team, I am known (I like to think affectionately known) for my distaste for admin. This distaste has only deepened since I read Cal Newport’s book, which includes the insight that much of what we think of as ‘knowledge work’ simply involves moving information from one place to another.
I do, however, recognize that admin is a necessary evil, and that my life — not to mention the lives of my colleagues — would be easier if I were even a little more organized in this area.
To that end, one of my goals for this year is to explore opportunities to automate the tasks I habitually avoid because ‘I don’t have time’, or to find ways of streamlining them so that this excuse can no longer be applied with any credibility. Ross G would argue that we’re already well past that point, but I’d beg to differ.
🏆 Submit a project for an award – and win it!
Last but by no means least, I would like to work with at least one client this year to prepare and submit a project for an award. And I would like us to win it.
As goals go, this is the most ambitious of any I’ve committed to here, and I hesitated as to whether I should include it in this list. On the other hand, as I said at the top, one of my reasons for sharing these goals publicly is to hold myself accountable for achieving them.
So, while this may be the very definition of hubris, I’m putting it out there! If we’ve worked together in the last twelve months and we haven’t already discussed awards submissions, let’s chat. And, if we’re not working together yet but you’d like to collaborate on an award-worthy project, what are you waiting for? ;)
What are your goals for 2024? What topics would you like to see us cover in the Dispatch this year? Get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or reply to this newsletter from your inbox.
🎧 On the podcast
How much thought does your organization give to the Employee Experience? And what tools can you use to enhance it?
In this year’s first episode of the podcast, Ross G and Owen speak to Danny Seals about his new book, The Insightful Innovator: How to level up your Employee Experience. They discuss: i) The advantages of strengthening the Employee Experience; ii) How ‘designing a relationship’ can set your projects up for success; iii) Tools and techniques to enhance the Employee Experience.
Check out the episode below. 👇
📖 Deep dive
Last week, I attended the first session in Will Thalheimer’s ‘LTEM Bootcamp’, which I’ll return to in a future newsletter.
When he introduced himself at the start of the session, Will briefly summarized some of his research, including a paper with an eye-catching title: ‘Does e-learning work?’.
In the paper, Will compiles various scientific meta-analyses to examine the effectiveness of e-learning when compared to classroom instruction, as well as the value of different learning methods.
One of the key findings of this research was that learning methods (realistic practice, spaced repetition, feedback, etc.) not learning modality (e-learning vs. classroom) were key to learning effectiveness.
If you’re involved in the design or delivery of e-learning (or, for that matter, classroom instruction) the full paper is well worth a read.
Thalheimer, W. (2017). ‘Does elearning work? What the scientific research says!’
👹 Missing links
Long-term readers of the Dispatch will know that I often recommend episodes of The Ezra Klein Show, so I’m starting this year as I intend to go on! In this conversation with New Yorker writer Kyle Chayka, Ezra explores how we develop personal tastes in everything from music to coffee shops. How much of what we understand as taste is truly down to our individual preferences? And how much of it is determined by the algorithms that mediate the world as we experience it online?
Back in December, the Platformer team made fourteen predictions about what would happen in tech in 2024. These include Threads overtaking X/Twitter as the leading text-based social network, Google more or less catching up with OpenAI on the LLM front, and Apple’s ‘Vision Pro’ being just successful enough to revive interest in mixed reality and the metaverse. I’d buy all of those.
Last week, we recorded a podcast with Ross Stevenson on the application of AI to L&D (coming soon!). A few times during the discussion we looped back to the same problem: If ChatGPT is so great, how come our friends and family don’t seem to care? In this piece from The Atlantic, academic David Karpf points out that current users fall into four categories: Product people, cheating students, forward-thinking managers, and 'hypebros' (who have pivoted from NFT to ChatGPT). Ross G likes to consider himself a combination of all four. Karpf’s assertion is that while enthusiasm is high, ChatGPT really acts as a foundation layer for experiences that are still to be built. The example he shares? When FarmVille launched on Facebook.
👋 And finally…
For reasons that need no explanation, this LinkedIn post by our friend Don Taylor resonated with me last week.
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