‘Help Me Be Better’ Meme

I have an idea for something that I think could be a fun little meme. I would like to encourage all of you to join in. All you need is a blog.

Let’s face it, none of us are perfect. We all have areas in which we can be better people and learn ways in which we can do better at what we do. From my experience we get better by being honest in our weaknesses and learn from constructive suggestions from our friends and colleagues. Our communities are a great place to experience this learning…they are filled with a wealth of experience and wisdom…so the meme is:

  1. Blog about three things you feel are your weaknesses and summarize them. Express how you would like to improve.
  2. As a reader, when you see one of these blog entries leave some constructive and encouraging suggestions for how the poster might be able to improve in that area.

The most important thing here is that we should all be nice and friendly in providing our suggestions to help the blogger improve in those areas.

So, to kick things off, here are my three areas in which I feel I have weaknesses:

  1. Cope with all my email better – I have three different email INBOXes; my Ubuntu and Canonical addresses, my personal email address, and my Severed Fifth mail. Without wishing to portray myself as some kind of über-popular member of the glitterati, I get a lot of email. Frankly, more than I can handle. I have put together a fairly comprehensive process for handling email in which I read it, mark it for replying to, have filters for my team and closest colleagues, have calendared appointments for me to process email and more, but it still just keeps piling up. Some INBOXes I prioritize more than others, such as my Ubuntu/Canonical email, but this means the other ones suffer more than they should. I hate replying late to emails, but only have so many hours in the day, and I feel this is an area in which I could do better.
  2. Widen my approach to the community – the Ubuntu community is a pretty huge place with lots of different teams covering lots of different types of contributions. In each release cycle myself and my team focus on a common set of teams. Unfortunately, I get so wrapped in my work with those set of teams that I often end up neglecting other teams. As an example, in Natty I worked with the accessibility team, Ayatana, developer teams, Desktop Experience team, Ubuntu One team, Ubuntu Women and some other teams, but I barely spent any time with the docs team, forums community, LoCo teams, Ubuntu Beginners team, testing teams and many others. If this happens to the same team for a few cyles I can end up going for quite some time without getting to know those communitty teams and what they are doing – I want to be able to spread my around better in a way in which I can still deliver on my commitments, but be less of a stranger to these other teams.
  3. Better multitasker – I am the kind of person who starts to work on something and then I really get into it, and sometimes it is hard to break out of that mindset and multitask. As an example, I will really get into organizing an event or campaign, and throughout this period I will need to do some paperwork for something else. In some cases I will keep putting off the paperwork as I am pre-occupied with the bigger projects I am working on. This results in generally well delivered big projects but then a big pile of non-critical loose ends, and I don’t like having this pile of things left. I think I need to have a better mental capacity to multi-task; not the daily multi-tasking betweek email, IRC, calls, blueprints etc, but between different types of work and tasks.

Of course, I have many more weaknesses, so it took me a while to pick and choose. :-)

Suggestions for improvement welcome, friends!

  • duanedesign

    “Cope with all my email better”

    This book helped me with email: “Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload” by Mark Hurst

    That book coupled with: “Getting Things Done” by David Allen

    These really helped me deal with the overwhelming amount of information and tasks we must process everyday.

  • Jeremy Bicha

    Well, you know the Ubuntu ecosystem is expanding. Maybe we need more community managers. Thanks for what you do!

  • Ryan

    I had multiple email inboxes for a while, and it drove me insane. My current solution is to forward all my mail to a single account, and then if I care about which account a message was sent to, I use the To: field. The whole idea is that most of the time, you don’t really care which account an email was sent to, so the default should be to merge all inboxes. (I guess Thunderbird now does this virtually by default.) You can also set up automated filters in your email client. For example, you could copy all the email sent to your work account into a Work folder. This way you have a single inbox by default, but you can focus on the mail for just one account if you need to.

    Also, if it matters what the other person sees in the From: field of your replies, there are ways to ensure that each reply is sent from the same account that the original was sent to.

  • Ryan

    As for better multitasking, you could try establishing a set interval at which you will take a short break and re-evaluate your priorities. Maybe every hour, or twice a day, or whatever granularity works for you. Set a repeating alarm to help remind you.

  • http://decafbad.net Craig Maloney

    I know it may be cliche, but David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” has really helped me with the email / productivity piece. Unfortunately, my biggest “help make me better” is procrastinating on the things that I’ve marked as stuff that I want to do. I guess I have something to blog about. 😉

  • http://solosysad.blogspot.com/ Mister IT Guru

    I will follow your example, and think of my own weaknesses, and what I’m going to do to combat them – Any write a blog entry about it. I really believe in “Help Me Be Better!”

    My number 0 task is – Clean up my blog!

  • http://www.artofcomplaint.com Alistair Munro

    Why not get help? All three of your clauses suggest two strong themes to me. The first, that things are generally going well in your life. But Secondly, that you run out of time to tie off the details that are important to you.

    So why not employ a good PA? It need not be a full time thing. But somebody looking for a flexible, informal job who has a keen eye for detail, who could take a general instruction on how you’d like various things sorted and finished off, so you could focus on the the grander picture?

  • http://www.artofcomplaint.com Alistair Munro

    Just as an afterthought to my earlier post. If the cost is a problem, why not hire an intern? Inturnships are hard to come by these days.

  • ben van ‘t ende

    i follow zenhabits.com that has a lot of productivity suggestions. really great suggestion to post about your weaknesses. i am also thinking about mine.

  • Skeptic

    Hey kids!

    Posting about your weaknesses in public will hurt you when you go to get a job!

    Future employers don’t care why you do something. They only think “ooh, weaknesses – well, the other candidate didn’t have any.”

    By talking publicly about your weaknesses, you are only making yourself weaker in the eyes of your enemies and competitors.

    If this were the United Federation of Planets and everyone was psychobabbled into enlightenment by Deanna Troi, Jono’s idea might be a good one.

    The real world isn’t rational. Protect yourself.

  • http://stormyscorner.com Stormy

    I second the idea of forwarding all email to one account. When I did it that way, I always had less than 20 messages in my inbox. Now that I have 3 inboxes, I have 30-50 emails in each. (There are other reasons for having separate email accounts.)

    As for multi-tasking, no one multitasks. You are just context switching quickly all the time and keeping track of which things you are working on. So focus on context switching …

  • http://www.oil-portraitpainting.com Portrait painting

    No Best, Just Better, everyone have some weaknesses, hope we can become better day by day.

  • jono

    I disagree: when I hire people for my team, I think an open acceptance of weaknesses and willingness to improve on them is a good trait and not a bad one.

  • Alex Lourie

    Hey Jono

    I still think you need a PA, it’ll get you around quicker.

    Just copy yourself and paste. This way PA will know exactly what you need.

  • http://blog.vantende.net ben van ‘t ende


    it was very challenging, but i also put the help me be better meme to the test and wrote an article on my own blog. i had some pretty good feedback also privately. see you in portland.