Insights of the Week – 39th week 2020

Remarkable Images of London Show its Evolution Over Nearly 2,000 Years
London is a little bit bigger now.

This week has been exciting week. My first week living in London and made my first sale of our 1.5kg Brownie Mix to a cafe. I’ve also been thinking about (and have written about) Pret’s new coffee subscription. I was tempted to say that this week’s summary is short because of how busy my week has been, but I’ve realised that this is just the way life is, and I can’t use the excuse of “I’m busy”. If you are pushing for something, whether that is a side-hustle, a promotion, a job, or learning something new, then you are busy. As I’ve always said, your time allocation will follow your priorities. It’s not that you don’t have time, just that you haven’t made it a priority. And now, onto one of my weekly priorities, these are the highlights from the past week.

Managing yourself

This week I found a name for something I’ve experienced in the past: an “ugh field”. Ugh fields happen when you have a task to perform, but you put off the task on the first day. The next day , you start to feel guilty when you think about the task, because you haven’t done it yet. This forms a self-enforcing loop – you get reminded of the task, you feel guilty, you avoid thinking about it, the task still doesn’t get done.

For some people this can have debilitating effects, ruining days, weeks, and even months. But there is a way out of this, and there are ways to limit the damage. The first step is labelling it. When you know that you are experiencing and “ugh field” moment, you can act before the task becomes too painful to think about. Other possible escapes include thinking about whether or not the task actually needs to be done. Often the importance of the task in our mind is exaggerated, and doing it now wouldn’t be that much worse than not doing it at all. You might be able to just cross it off your to-do list without acting on it. Finally, worst case scenario, you can get someone else to do the task. Ask a friend or colleague to write the email or give the news or do the analysis, as they won’t have the same association.

Coaching others

This week I came across an article on how to be helpful online. There are some useful hints on how to help people in a tech forum setting, but I think that some of the tips can also be very useful in any setting where you are trying to coach someone else:

  1. Say yes. If someone asks a question and appears confused about the context, try to answer with a yes answer. Instead of correcting their context and chastising them, help them understand what is right and where they are mistaken.
  2. Take the blame when someone doesn’t understand. Instead of “you don’t understand” try “maybe I’m not explaining this well”. A little bit of compassion goes a long way.
  3. Meet them at their level. “An inefficient solution they understand is better than a golden solution they don’t.” I can’t say it better myself.
  4. Know when to step back. Whether it is because the conversation starts to go above your head, or because you realise that you aren’t able to effectively coach this person and someone else might be better, knowing when to step back and let someone else take the lead is very valuable.

Designing for…

Slides – Picking colors that look good together on a graph or graphic isn’t easy. This guide intends to help. Key points – try to use HSB (hue, saturation, and brightness) rather than RGB (red, green, blue); don’t dance all over the color wheel, try to use a harmonic of some kind; avoid pure colors and bright colors; and try to pick colors from an image you like (if the colors look good in a photo, they’ll probably look good on a graph).

Writing – Reading on paper is fundamentally different from reading on a screen, so here are some design guidelines on how to organise text on a screen, whether it is for a report or a webpage (skip to the end for the tips in a concise form).

Application design – Some application designers treat users as lazy or stupid. This is disrespectful. Instead, users should be treated with compassion. They might be tired or in a hurry, so won’t read everything on the screen for these reasons, instead of them being lazy or stupid. Think about the user with compassion, and help them to complete their task.

Long Reads

This week I have three long read recommendations. The first is a long story of a bike and a truly incredible/interesting man, Tom Pritchard. The second is about how Mormons are building the next Silicon Valley, and the struggles they are facing. Finally, and controversially, is ESG investing as good as it promises?

As always, contact me on LinkedIn or at with any recommendations (I’m about to start Limitless by Jim Quick based on a recommendation). And give the LinkedIn post some love, it really helps the algorithm and helps other people to see the helpful notes I post here.

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