#MNnptech Highlights

Mid-day highlights the Minnesota Nonprofit Technology & Communications Conference. (2015)

#30daysofbiking day 9 #30diasenbici dia 9

#30daysofbiking day 9
#30diasenbici dia 9

"we get this stuff that's not real words. that's not what you do."

Buzzwords = bullshit

what makes you remarkable?<br /> +<br /> who is your audience, really?<br /> =<br /> relevance

the internet is done with your extraprofessional fakeitude.

Focus on one thing

keep your eyes on the prize.

brainstorming according to @mstanionis

brainstorming according to @mstanionis

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Kitchen sink broth

This is the laziest, most delicious, amp-up-your-food broth I’ve ever made. I love lazy and delicious things. I love hands-off cooking that seems like you put a lot of effort in.

This is that.

Over a few weeks this summer, I stumbled across recipes for a few different kinds of broth — the regulars like chicken and vegetable, but then my mushroom CSA had a recipe for mushroom stem broth, and Food52 had a recipe for parmesan broth — and in the process of saving individual things for these delicious bases, I thought, “Why not just save everything?”

So I tossed all the food “waste” I was creating in a bag in the freezer. Mushroom stems, yes — but also every kind of cheese rind, the skins from roasted garlic cloves, peels from carrots, the bottom root bits of onions/leeks/cabbage, bones and skin from meat dishes, stems from kale. Anything that I might normally compost or toss, I smashed into this quart bag.

And then when I need broth, here’s what I do:

  • dump the contents of the bag into a stockpot
  • add 12 cups water and a bay leaf or two
  • simmer until reduced to about 8 cups (for me it takes about 2 hours)
  • salt to taste
  • the end.

It’s pretty amazing, and can be substituted for almost any kind of broth. (It’s a deep, multi-flavored broth, not a simple one — so if you really want a simple, clean flavor in something like chicken noodle soup, this might not meet that need.) My favorite part about it is that it varies with what you’ve been eating. For me, that means in winter there are a lot more onion and cheese-rind flavors; in summer the broth is a lot brighter and more green-tasting. (Sidebar: If you’re vegan, I would definitely make sure your bag includes mushroom stems, or it may come out lacking depth.)

After I empty the bag I just put it right back into the freezer to keep storing stuff. I find that one full quart bag usually packs enough punch to flavor 8 cups of broth; if you make bigger batches of soup or broth, you may want to use a gallon bag instead. I also use the broth when cooking rice, quinoa, or beans; it freezes well in mason jars.

You’re welcome.

P.S. Here are a few recipes where I like to use kitchen sink broth:

Escarole and Orzo Soup (if you don’t have escarole, dinosaur kale makes a fine substitute)

Shrimp & Rice with Gorgonzola Sauce (use broth to cook the rice)

Mushroom & Chorizo English Minestrone

Polenta Triangles Stuffed with Spicy Greens & Cheese (use broth to cook the polenta)

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Un-committing

The other day I rolled my left ankle while I was running. In 2012 I rolled it not once, but twice, and had first a mild and then a major sprain.

In 2012, that second sprain sort of hurt, but I went on. I was starting disc golf, and had committed to playing a full round. So I walked on it for another hour … at which point it was the size of a softball. It hurt for months, and I had to get special dispensation from my manager at my retail job to bring in a chair, as well as wrap and ice it daily, so that it would finally heal.

That moment was at the front of my mind a few weeks ago when I was just starting a run and tripped over a twig, rolling on the outside of my ankle. Initially, it felt okay, and I had made a commitment to myself (“I will run every other day, and always go as far or farther than I did last time”) — and I didn’t want to break that commitment. I wanted to keep running.

In 2012, I would have kept running.

In 2014, I turned around and limped home.

What changed? I thought about it all during my walk home, and during the early evening as my ankle was propped up on a pillow. As I reflect about how I made that decision — to carefully limp home, and hoard all the pillows and ice — I have three takeaways:

  1. Mistakes are easier to learn from than successes. As obvious as it was after the fact, in the moment I didn’t make time to consider “What could the possible consequences be?” and received daily reminders of that mistake for months while my ankle healed.
  2. There was no reward in this risk. Risk is necessary for a lot of things — for innovation, for creating change, for becoming a leader. Risking the long-term usefulness of my ankle to run a few miles one day? Not necessary. Not rewarding. Mostly stupid.
  3. Not all commitments are equal. It’s really important to me that when I say I do something, people have not only confidence, but evidence that I am true to my word. Breaking a commitment makes me feel like a big fat liar (even if it’s something small, like sending an e-mail a day late). But this commitment — “Run every other day, and go at least as far as last time” — is not nearly as important as my commitment to  nurture my physical and mental wellbeing.

Although I may still feel awful when I send e-mails a day late, I have a clear example of choosing not to follow through, and  having that not be a bad thing.

And my ankle? After a day or two of taking it easy, I was lacing up my shoes.

What big realization have you had from something small? I’m sure everyone has moments of experiential clarity like this, but I’ve never had one that’s so easy to recognize before.

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Productivity Notes: Bullet Journal

Bullet JournalI’ve been trying out Bullet Journal, a system that’s taking the productivity-nerd corner of the internet by storm.

The Basics

Check out the Bullet Journal website to get a better idea of how the system is designed, but it’s basically as follows:

  • The pages of your notebook are numbered. The first is the index, where you note what is on each page. You update the index as you add stuff to pages.
  • Everything you write is one of three kinds of data: tasks (actionable items), notes (non-actionable information), and events. Items of import are denoted with some sort of additional symbol of your liking.
  • The journal is organized by month. When you reach the month’s end, you migrate items to the next month (crossing off items that are now-irrelevant and crossing off forwarded items as you move them).
  • When you have a grouping of items you’d like to have together (such as items that end up being part of a larger project or plan), you migrate them to a collection instead of a month, and add it to the index like you do everything else.

I really do recommend watching the video — it gives you a really solid grasp of the system almost instantly.

The framework is incredibly useful, but over the last month of testing, I’ve had to make some adjustments. Like every system, it’s designed with the creator’s workpace and work-style in mind.

The Big Con

Future tasks/meetings are not accounted for in this system. It’s not a planning system: it’s a get-things-done-immediately system. If you want to plan for future events, you need to put them somewhere else. I’ve seen several other blogs suggest using the Bullet Journal system within a planner that has blank pages.

The Effective Parts: Migration & Tasks

I love the clear separation of tasks and notes. Migration — making time to decide what is and isn’t relevant for the future — is the system’s biggest asset.

My current boss once noted that “once things are on your to do list, I get the sense that they’re there until they’re done.” It’s my biggest strength as a subordinate (things always get done when they are my responsibility), and my biggest weakness as a manager (things can never not get done, and even tasks I reassign aren’t off my list until complete).

Migration is a great way to get a sense of my entire workload, and handle it appropriately as I move into the next week (which is, of course, filled with new things to do).

Speaking of weeks…

The Other Con: A whole month of to-dos

The first thing I did while experimenting with Bullet Journal was to change the migration timeframe from months to weeks.

The year is (relatively) cleanly divided into weeks, and my to-do lists in any given day are long enough that they span most of a page for the notebook I picked (A5 size). Forwarding a whole month of items — much less keeping track of a month’s worth of important items when each day spanned nearly a page — was overwhelming, so I decided to forward my to-do items each week.

Accordingly, my index is also numbered by weeks. (I used the back page for reference, and put the dates of each week there to ensure I wouldn’t have to try to maths them when I was migrating.)

One more note: Events are useless

As I process information, I tend to only ask one question: “Is this actionable, or not?” For me, notes are basically the same as events — it’s all non-actionable information that should be recorded. So I eliminated events.

All in all, I love the system — it immediately reduced the post-it clutter that was all over my work and personal life. It also allows for seamless integration of personal to-dos and professional to-dos.

Do you have a favorite way of tracking what you’re doing personally or professionally? How often do you try new systems?

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Maker’s schedule

This post from Paul Graham of Y Combinator is a few years old, but reads like it was written yesterday.

The basic management structure — some people supervise, some people do — will never really change. As someone who is not a supervisor, but rather a believer that the best thing I can do with my day is get things done, this post helps me put into words why I hate being invited to meetings, and why last-minute tasks thrown at me with an imminent deadline throw off my whole day.

The article offers no remedies, but I can think of only one that suits my work style: partition my days into 2-4 hour blocks, and if my block is compromised, schedule in as many meetings as I can. It’s a way to take back a little bit of control, and empower my schedule.

Are you a maker, or a manager? Is what you are what you want to be? I can’t imagine being anything but a maker.

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"For the worthlessness of this life did strike Richard pretty forcibly — buying necklaces for Evelyn."
Elissa Y. Schufman
That's me. I write stuff.