Do Your Best Work by Rescheduling Your Workday

Recently my workdays have fallen into a rhythm. Email and meetings in the morning, followed by any urgent tasks. In the afternoon, I work on design projects for a couple hours then complete the day by responding to email, checking my calendar and scheduling events for the week ahead.

But research suggests that 1pm might be a better time for a nap than web design. In fact, there’s an ideal time to do just about everything, according to your body’s natural timing.

Here are some interesting tips I’ve run across on how to best schedule your day:

Take a nap (1pm – 3pm)

That’s right — the siesta is legit! Researchers tell us that your body temperature dips in early afternoon, causing a natural grogginess. A quick nap can help you stay more alert for the rest of the day.

The key is to limit naps to 10 or 20 minutes. Any longer and you’ll get into the deeper sleep cycles, making it harder to fully wake up.

If your boss doesn’t approve of sleeping at your desk, you can reduce afternoon haze by eating plenty of protein at lunch (for sustained energy) or having a moderate amount of caffeine. Read more »

Everyone can be creative

Too many people have given up on creativity. We leave imagination to the artists, musicians, authors…people with a “natural” gift for thinking outside the box.

But creativity is not an immutable personality trait. It’s a skill that can be learned and nurtured over time. It just takes some experience with the creative process, a few helpful role models, an adjustment to how we think about problems and a bit of time to let our ideas simmer.

To improve my creative output, I’ve recently been watching talks by the experts. These folks have helped me reconsider my approach to creative work and given me some new strategies and methods to adopt along the way. Read more »

CSS for Huge Apps

During the last six years of SAGrader development, our small team has constantly battled our style sheets.

With every new feature comes questions like: Is there an existing class I should be using for this element? Is this supposed to be a H1 or an H2? What color should this border be? How do I put a sidebar here?

In practice, every new feature we built included another 100 lines of specific CSS classes. This made development more difficult for our developers (who should be concentrating on building magic functionality not redesigning our app) and left us prone to inconsistent styling (left up to the discretion of the developer).

One solution has been to use a CSS pre-processor like LESS. At the very least, LESS allows us to use variables for commonly used elements like colors and typography.

But after doing some research, we found that LESS is only a band-aid for a systemic problem. It turns out that many other groups have the same problem we do, and the solution is to re-think our approach to CSS. Read more »

Beyond themes

By default, qualitative analysis often means presenting common themes and supporting them with representative quotes from participants.

This is a great starting point, but typically fails to capture the true complexity of the data. More importantly, this simplistic strategy can provide weak support for your argument.

Pat Bazeley, a qualitative and mixed methods data analysis expert in Australia, believes we can do much better.

In her paper “Analysing Qualitative Data: More Than ‘Identifying Themes’‘” Bazeley suggests using theme analysis as a starting point for more complete modeling and theory building.

To begin, says Bazeley, we should “describe, compare, and relate” our data. This means outlining the characteristics of the data, then describing how people are addressing certain themes. Who is talking about this? Who isn’t? Read more »

Make Data More Human

Jer Thorp gives a great talk at TEDxVancouver about looking at data in a human context.

Big data is big business. But as I’ve written about before, you’re missing the full story without humanizing your data in a historical context.

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