Experiments in hacking my sleep patterns: Why I may never be a morning person

I’ve read in so many places over the years that the most successful people in history were almost invariably early risers. Over the weekend, someone challenged me to 7 days of waking up “stupidly early,” as a way to test if it would improve my productivity. I asked them to define, “stupidly early,” and they replied, “two or three hours before you usually get up.”

For me, that’s still a lie-in for most people–being self-employed as a freelance writer, I typically rise around noon (sometimes later if I was up very late engrossed in a book or a side project or…okay, usually Tumblr), work until 8 or 9 pm on most days, and go to bed around 2 or 3 am. It’s the same schedule “normal” people keep, except my brain apparently lives in a different time zone than my body. So when I replied to my friend, “ok, so I’ll get up around 9 am for a week?” they insisted I was missing the point.

“The idea is to wake up and have a couple of hours to do things before people will bother you,” they said. For me, that’s what late nights are for, though I’ll admit, with many of my closer friends living on the west coast these days, my typically uninterrupted creative time of 2 am and beyond has sort of evaporated, hence many of my late, late nights lending to my occasional rising at 1 or 2 pm.  Read the rest of this entry »

Creating and running the Information department at MomoCon: An unexpected journey

This post is part of my Extended Resume Project series. For all the posts in this series, click on the “extended resume project” tag at the bottom of this post. 

Don’t be fooled by how quiet it all looks…we were posing for this picture during setup. (Credit: MomoCon/James Garner)

Volunteer work is a tricky thing to put on a resume and cite as work experience. For some reason or another, when people say “unpaid volunteer work,” employers tend to hear, “non-serious, irrelevant hobby.” I’m not saying that’s always the case, and I know that many employers look favorably on the fact that people do volunteer work, but rarely does it seem that the skills required and the skills learned in the process of that volunteer work get recognized as part of someone’s larger professional skillset. After all, if you were really any good at doing what you’re doing for free, wouldn’t someone have paid you to do it by now? But therein lies the trouble–with volunteer work, no one really cares what your credentials are; they’re often just looking for people willing to work hard and learn as they go. And some really amazing and talented people surface when you just give them the opportunity. This is very much the case in convention volunteering.

If you’ve never been to a convention, particularly a non-professional/non-industry convention like an anime or sci-fi convention, you might not realize exactly what goes into, well, making it go. Pretty much no one who is instrumental in running the event is getting paid. The person you bought your badge from? Volunteer. The person who oversees everyone who sells the badges? Also a volunteer. The people who answer your questions and give you directions around the convention space? Volunteers. The people running the A/V equipment, coordinating security, managing crowd control, taking care of the guest panelists…all volunteers. And some of them do these sorts of things in their day jobs–some of the people in customer service roles work in customer service jobs; some of the people in security are off-duty police or former military. But most of the people volunteering at conventions are doing something that is nothing like their day job, and perhaps nothing like anything they’ve ever done before. I am absolutely no exception.

I accidentally a whole department*

There are two threads that led to me running a department at MomoCon, one of the fastest growing “geek” conventions in the country:

  1. I had already been volunteering in a variety of capacities for the convention since about their third year in existence. I did it mostly because several of my friends were doing it, and it was something to do together during spring break.
  2. As a favor to another friend, I signed on to work in the information department at Dragon Con, another much (much, much) larger convention in the area that was desperately in need of volunteers at the time. (My volunteer work at Dragon Con will be a post of its own, though probably not as long as this one.) Read the rest of this entry »

Taking a new approach to my employment search: The Extended Resume Project

I’m actually pretty awesome. I even fight Daleks on occasion.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I have been networking, doing daily job searches, setting up alerts, applying for jobs, and sharing my work experience in the same way for nearly four years with no success. So clearly, a different approach is needed, because this really is beginning to feel like insanity.

When it comes to my job search, I do have one massive flaw: when I’m out networking with people or I’m in a job interview and they’re looking at my resume, and someone asks me, “so tell me more about what you did while you were at [X],” I freeze. My mind goes blank. The night before, or even earlier that day, I could have written pages or expounded on many tales of my time spent here or there with friends over dinner or beers. But stick me in a situation where I feel like I have to be professional and on my “best behavior,” and it’s like a wizard snuck up behind me and whispered, “obliviate.”

So I got to thinking that obviously my resume doesn’t tell the whole story. It can’t. That’s not what resumes do. And I’m clearly both unable and incapable of telling that whole story in an interview. I apparently have some deeply-ingrained context switching protocols that don’t allow for it. But I do have a blog. And my potential employers have my name. And Google. So the solution became clear: I will blog in my typical style about each of the jobs I’ve had and the work I’ve done. Read the rest of this entry »

A couple of quick thoughts on Atlanta’s Snowpocalypse

The following was originally a comment on Facebook, but I did my thing and went on way too long, so I’m posting it here, as well.

Traffic in Woodstock, GA. Photo by William Brawley via Flickr.

Ok, here’s what I see (and I’m not actually THERE at the moment, so I’m having to go by reports, so if I’ve gotten anything terribly wrong, let me know). They knew the storm was coming, but it was forecast to hit well south of the city. Atlanta was supposed to get a dusting of snow at worst–something that gums things up a bit, but isn’t a catastrophe. Nonetheless, the city proper had its salt trucks and plows ready (a combined fleet of about 70, I’m told), but because of the massive traffic jam, they couldn’t be effectively deployed to clear the roads.

And the massive traffic jam is actually where this story should really start. In the face of a winter storm that wasn’t even forecast to have too much of an effect on the city and its north suburbs, schools, governments, and most businesses took a calculated risk to operate as usual. But then, the snow started falling fast and heavy WAY further north than expected, and everyone had the same idea/reaction at once: “Oh shit, lets send everyone home before the roads get too bad.” Which, ironically, made the roads worse than any ice, rain, or snow possibly could.

How could this have been prevented? It’s difficult to say with certainty exactly when everyone realized that Atlanta was going to get much more ice and snow than originally predicted, but I’ve seen school cancelled and places close for even the *threat* of snow that never actually came. I know that when that happens there’s always a little embarrassment and there is a cost to that, as well, but this is certainly one of those cases where shutting things down in advance of the storm hitting would have been the wise thing to do. But hindsight being what it is, let’s just say, ok, it wasn’t done, so how could what happened have been managed better?

For one, some kind of plan in place for a staggered send-home schedule for inclement weather would be a wise move to prevent the gridlock that occurred. This does put some people on the road once conditions have become more hazardous, but it would keep traffic moving and prevent 30-minute commutes turning into 13-hour odysseys that end not at home but at a pop-up warming shelter in a Home Depot. (I do have to say, good on some businesses making the best of having stranded employees and opening their doors to keep everyone warm.) I’m not certain how this staggered schedule should function or what the best way to set it up to make it both efficient and fair, but we’ve got time before the next snowpocalypse to hammer something out.

Procrastinator? Gamer? Want to get things done? HabitRPG may change your life.


Screenshot of HabitRPG’s item inventory and market

HabitRPG is a web-based productivity tool that takes on the guise of an online role-playing game. You gain experience and gold by ticking off items on your to-do list, building good habits, busting bad habits, and more or less making yourself a better person. You take damage when you leave daily tasks undone, and you can reward yourself with either self-created rewards or new equipment for your character, which helps you defend against your own non-productivity as well as against bosses in quests. Yes, I said quests. HabitRPG’s party system allows you to join with friends or strangers into a party, which makes you eligible to do quests. The party and quest system creates a sort of group accountability, as when on a quest, one group member’s failure to complete items on his or her daily task list deals damage to the entire party.

HabitRPG has most of the things your standard RPG offers: parties, guilds, quests, items, pets, mounts, classes, drops…It takes the reward system of a game and applies it to something in real life that will help you grow as a person, in your career, or just be a little better about getting things done.

I’ve only started playing this week, so I’m still feeling out a lot of the game mechanics. But the to-do list system it provides, as well as those familiar XP and HP bars are enough to help me stay on track much better than I have in ages. Read the rest of this entry »