The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Coffee talk: Denise Jacobs, creativity evangelist and speaker — September 14, 2015

Coffee talk: Denise Jacobs, creativity evangelist and speaker

Denise Jacobs is a teacher, author and powerful speaker who will discuss processes and techniques for dramatically enhanced creative productivity at this year’s Sydney-based Web Directions Conference. While talking with Denise about her inspiring professional journey, we learned how to overcome speaking fears and procrastination. Read on for her tricks and story about finding her true passion.

How did you get to where you are today?

It feels like a long story, but I started making handmade soap in 1997 to get back in touch with my own creativity. My friends really liked it, and people kept asking if I sold it. At first, I found it baffling and kept saying, ‘no, no, no!’. But when people started asking what was in it, I started offering to teach them how to make it themselves. I had two small classes of about five people each at my house.

From there, I started teaching at an adult extension school. I discovered that I really loved teaching! Though I was working in the web industry on project management projects, I found myself without the passion I felt when helping people. I was knowledgeable about web stuff and had built some experience teaching, so I thought I’d combine them to teach web classes at Seattle Central College. About five years later, that job ended and I coincidentally went to my first web conference. I saw Molly Holzschlag, an open web evangelist, speak. What we were doing was so similar – but she was speaking in front of thousands. I instantly knew I wanted to do the same.

About four years later, I finally broke into the web speaking circuit. I had just authored my first book, The CSS Detective Guide, and it gave me the confidence to pursue opportunities. I took it by storm, applying everywhere, building a reputation as a good speaker. Now I get invited, which is a dream come true!

When did you realize that you had an ability to help others be creative and produce great work? 

It totally came from teaching. Through the soap classes, I realized that I was good at explaining, at helping people learn about the things they found interesting. Once I started at Seattle Central Community College, I knew I had found something that I was passionate about and wanted to do more of.

Today, you’re an accomplished public speaker. What tips do you have those with fear of getting up in front of people?

Two things. The first is to know that if you have one more piece of information to share than someone in the audience already knows, then you are helping. I find that people are afraid to speak because they feel like they don’t have anything new to offer. Remember, the lens of your experience is unique and people always need reminders. You are valuable!

The second piece of advice I can offer is to remember that people are rooting for you. Attendees aren’t sitting and casting an evil eye – they’re there to learn and be entertained. Think about this when you get in front of people. Know that everyone is supporting you.

You’re a featured speaker at the upcoming Web Directions conference. What’s special about this event? What are you most excited about?

I met one of the founders of Web Directions, John Allsop, at SXSW in 2006. I had long admired his work and used it in my classes, and he proved to be one of the best people I met! I’ve been wanting to speak at Web Directions for years, and was finally invited to do so this year.

Sydney, Australia: home of the 2015 Web Directions Conference

I’m also really excited to go to Australia – I’ve never been – and a lot of my industry friends like Hannah Donovan and Daniel Burka are taking part. The crowd is sure to be amazing, and I know it’s going to be a great time.

A frequent traveler, how do you stay connected when moving around? How do you stay focused?

To stay connected, I make a conscious effort to see people I know when I travel. This includes friends, or in new places, digital contacts. Connecting with people makes places more feel meaningful for me. One thing I like to do is shop for groceries wherever I go – it’s an everyday, self-care thing. Restaurants feel less grounded.

For staying focused, I concentrate on the thing that is in front of me. If I can, I don’t think about things that are too far out. I use an email auto responder with my upcoming schedule, Calendly for meetings, and airline apps like Tripit to help take care of little details.

What was your proudest, professional moment?

This past June, I was the closing keynote at a conference in Columbus, OH (an hour from where I was born/grew up). It was the first time I was able to have my Mother at a conference. As if that wasn’t enough, my 91 year old Grandfather also came from Detroit to hear me speak, and friends from my hometown, including my favorite high school teacher, were also in the audience.

This was one of my best speeches as I was really on and felt an amazing connection with the audience.

I had structured my talk in a way that helped me really speak to technical attendees, and made it a point to tie in the opening keynote with several other earlier talks from the conference. I was so honored to receive a standing ovation from that crowd, and in awe over audience feedback. It was a really special, magical milestone in my career.

How do you maintain work/life balance?

I bracket my time carefully when I’m home, and make myself stop working by using alarms. I deliberately don’t work on weekends. I also recently decided to start imposing a ‘mandatory beach day’ for myself after each work trip. This comes after a recent four-day staycation in Palm Beach (my backyard) which left me asking myself, “why don’t I do this all the time?!”

How can someone overcome procrastination to be more productive?

Instead of focusing on doing the task, trying just getting ready to do it. Open your app or document, get your notes together, maybe jot down a couple of ideas. By just getting ready, you may be inspired to do it. Another trick to try is the Pomodoro technique — block off a small amount of time for the thing you don’t want to do, knowing you only have to work on it for a limited time. You’ll be surprised how easily it can kick you into gear!

What, if any, events/workshops/classes do you regularly attend or recommend?

I can’t recommend Improv classes enough. Not only do they teach you how to be creative, but they’re great for building self-trust. They also help you realize that you don’t always need to plan ahead, how to collaborate and rely on others.

BATS in San Francisco offers classes, along with IO in Chicago and Gotham City in New York City. Find a place and go!

Where can we find you online?

My website, Facebook page, and Twitter are all good places to keep up with me.

Last, how do you like your coffee?

I actually prefer a chai tea latte with soymilk over coffee (chai tea is the best!), but if I get a coffee it’s usually a decaf almond milk latte.

5 Tips for Creating The Right Workspace — July 15, 2013

5 Tips for Creating The Right Workspace

chairs-etsy

The type of workspace you choose has a direct impact on productivity, creativity, and overall happiness in the workplace.

Most workers are offered a desk or office and just stick with it. But even if your company has assigned seating, it’s worth it to assess your space to make sure it’s maximizing your work efforts and discuss alternate options with your HR manager if needed.

Before you take a seat, ask these questions about the work environment you’ll be visiting each day:

1. Does it expand your network?

As some people (Porter Gale) have said, your network is your net worth. You never know who you’ll meet, sit next to, or bump into, so choose a workspace that optimizes the “right place, right time” effect. Look for opportunities to build relationships with potential clients, business partners, referrers, and mentors – even if you’re just leasing a desk for a day or two.

2. Does the environment bolster productivity?

The energy and layout of a workspace affects the quality of your work, both positively and negatively. Are you someone who needs a window seat to tap into creativity? Do you get more done in a private office than an open floor plan? When you feel empowered by your surroundings, your work inevitably improves.

3. Can you easily focus on your work?

It’s no surprise that distractions can sabotage your success. Sure, the spare room at home or the local coffee shop might seem like a productive workspace because there’s constant activity around you, but is it really a place that is helping you to concentrate and grow? You might have subconsciously chosen that seemingly “safe” space because it allows you to slack on your work goals.

4. Does it complement your work/life balance goals?

Don’t just book a desk or office and expect the productivity to flow – make sure the space has attributes that encourage your best work. Does it cut down on commute time? Can you book space on a whim to fit your existing schedule? (Coincidentally, we have a great app for that.) From your workspace, can you easily access gyms, cinemas, libraries, or parks that offer other activities you enjoy? To keep your work/life balance in check, create an agenda or checklist for yourself so you can maximize your time in the workspace each day and leave the office at a reasonable time.

5. Does it match the image you want to convey to the world?

Depending on the type of business you’re in, first impressions can be very important, and this extends to the workspace you choose. A polished space that’s industry-appropriate significantly improves the impression you leave on clients, potential business partners, and employee candidates. Whether you’re using a temporary space for a meeting or leasing an office for a longer term, your space should convey the same professionalism you strive for in your work.

Now, it’s your turn: What has your workspace experience been like? What has worked and what hasn’t as you’ve grown your business? Tell us in the comments section below.

About our contributor // Michelle Regner is the founder and CEO of Desks Near Me, a platform that is revolutionizing the way professionals find and book workspace. 

Image credit: Etsy

5 Tips for Using Mindfulness to Calm Your Day — February 1, 2013

5 Tips for Using Mindfulness to Calm Your Day

Elise BialylewMindful in May creator and Fetch ambassador Elise Bialylew

Mindfulness is the new black. It is an effective mental technique, borrowed from the two thousand year old Buddhist contemplative practice and adapted to suit non-religious contexts, including board rooms, corporations, hospitals, schools and sports teams.

It is a practice that supports the capacity to stay focussed on what you are doing as you are doing it, a powerful antidote to the distractible nature of the mind and the information-rich digital world. When practised regularly, it can bring more calm and effectiveness into everyday life, reducing stress and enhancing capacity.

Google has now trained over one thousand of its employees in mindfulness, recognising it’s capacity to improve wellbeing and innovation in the work place.

It is initially practiced through meditation, but can also be applied to daily activities such as eating, walking or working. It is simply the discipline of noticing what you are doing when you are doing it and becoming master rather than slave, to the impulses of the mind.

Five tips for using mindfulness to calm your day:

1. Tune in to the breath

It may sound like an irritating cliche, but there is scientific rationale for this advice. The breath is not only a powerful indicator of one’s state of mind but also a helpful modulator.

During a busy day, take a few moments to consciously tune in to the breath. Feel three breaths move in and out of the body. Then slow down the exhalation which helps to trigger the relaxation response. Extending the breath in this way sends a message to the parasympathetic nervous system (the system that opposes the stress response) to calm down the body.

2. Use your surroundings as a circuit breaker

Take moments in the day to disconnect from the flurry of to do lists and direct your attention externally by tuning in to your senses. Listen to the sounds in the room, feel your body in space, see the space you are in, notice the temperature and smells. By tuning in to your senses, just for a few moments, you give your mind a micro break from the stress of thinking.

3. Use technology with awareness

Sitting at a computer all day? Bring awareness to your posture and breath. It has been noted that email apnea, the temporary absence or suspension of breathing while doing email, means we are inadvertently creating stress in the body. When we breathe irregularly, the body becomes acidic through retention of excess carbon dioxide. This acidity may contribute to stress related diseases.

4. Simplify your to do list

Bring attention to the top three priorities of your day. Break your work time into smaller blocks for higher levels of efficiency, and take short breaks between blocks. (see the pomodoro technique for further details).

5. Use your lunch as a mindful practice

Rather than eating whilst working on the computer, or missing out on lunch altogether, use your lunch as a way of practicing mindfulness. This means, notice you are eating as you are eating, intentionally tasting your food, bringing awareness to the act of chewing. This will give your mind an opportunity to rest from the whirlwind of the day, allowing space for mind and body rejuvenation.

About our ambassador // Dr Elise Bialylew is the founder of Mindful in May, a one month mindfulness meditation challenge to support people to learn about the benefits of mindfulness and help raise money to bring clean water to the developing world. Follow @mindfulinmay. Clear mind for you, clean water for others.

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