DYI random coffee catch up app

Is your business or organization losing social cohesion with remote work in the pandemic. Do new staff feel totally disconnected from your workplace?

Here is an easy, no programming required, way to allow staff to stay in touch and get to know each other that I created at my organization Oxfam Australia and has been a success for the last 6 months.

Step 1. See if you have enough interest to make it viable – propose the idea to all staff email or socialist email or general chat channel. You probably need at least 6 people to sign up to make it viable.

Step 2. Create a google form to capture registration it should specify staff use their work email (this is your validation) and name. Send out the invite and give people a week or so to sign up.

Step 3. Create a new tab on the Google sheet that the form backs onto call it “matching” this sheet is your “system”.

Step 4. Copy all the people on the first sheet to the second sheet. Add a mark on the first sheet to indicate all the staff you have added to your “system”.

Step 5. Divide the list on matching in half and put them next to each other so they make up 2 even columns. This is your table of matches.

Step 6. Copy all the emails on the first sheet into a new email message TO field then copy the table on your “Matching” sheet into the email body. Add some text for your organization and a subject and add a link to your signup form that your staff can pass along to anyone else who wants to join up. Send. Congratulations you just created your first weeks match ups. Here is some sample text I use:

“Check the table below for your matches this week, email your match and organize a time for a 15 minute catch up.

If you don’t want any more matches please send me an email.”

Step 7. For the next week you will need to do a little “System” work. Firstly choose a direction of flow for your matching lists I choose counter clockwise. This means that each week I add a cell above the left list of staff that pushes that list down and move overflow to the bottom of the right list so it creates a circular movement and each person gets a new match and will rotate through all the other people. Note I also need to move people from the top of the right column to the top of the left column if they overflow. Keeping this direction consistent is the most important part to making sure people matched to someone new every week.

Step 8. Remove any staff that have emailed you to be removed from the first sheet and the second sheet. After removing someone from the flow sheet make sure to move people upstream around in the direction of your flow. For example if you are doing counter clockwise and someone is removed from the left column all the people above need to move down. If they are in the right column all the people below need to move up. Adjust matches accordingly.

Step 9. Use the marker in your first sheet to identify newly added staff. Add new staff to a column on your “system” sheet at the point they will fall over to the other column. For counter clockwise I add new staff to the bottom of the left column then split them as needed to make the columns even again. Remember to update the mark on the first sheet to remind yourself who has already been added to the “system”.

Step 10. Go to step 6 just copy the template you created for the email last time and replace the table and the TO field. Repeat steps 6-10 each week.

Congratulations you now have a manual “random” coffee matching app to help your staff stay connected!

Other notes: It takes about 10-15 minutes a week to process. It only works when you make it work so if you are sick or away there won’t be any matches! Sometimes there is an odd number of people, you can let them know they don’t have a match this week in the email or you can add or remove yourself to make the list even! It only works up to a certain number of staff as people need to scan to find their own names. I’d say this would be too much of a hassle if you have more than 100 staff signed up!

If you try this I’d love to hear how it went!

Mornings

Recently I discovered a simple but powerful life power-up! Morning routines!

I mean it isn’t a new idea at all. But I never thought it would be so effective at changing my life trajectory to one I love!

Basically when we wake up our brain is like a blank slate. What we put into it is what we run with for the rest of the day.

Every day is a new beginning. Take a deep breath and start again.

Ain Eineziz

If we have a bad habit like I used to do with playing computer games this will be the first thought that pops into our heads. Many mornings I found myself in front of my favorite game for “just a quick hour of play before work” This more often than not led to thinking about games all day, grabbing another hour at lunch and doing a lot of game related browsing online instead of getting stuff done in my day.

If it works so well for bad habits it makes sense it will work just as well for good habits, after setting up a new routine and habit in the mornings this last month I will tell you it really really does and it has shifted my day from a total waste to doing something production 99% of the time!

Now every morning routine will need to be tailored to each of us as we are all unique with different life goals and priorities, different skill sets. But we can certainly tailor our mornings around a few key concepts.

Here is what I think are the most important key concepts and why.

Get present to your current energy levels and what you can do to improve them. This gets you present to the now and your body and gives you a grounding in reality. Some days you start with a bang, sometimes you have to work to get the magic to happen, sometimes you really are in a bad way and need to take care of yourself.

Set your mindset for the day – what is your big goal in life, something that you want to move forward with today, remind yourself why it is important, write down one small step you will take. This gives you forward momentum and a sense of achievement, by focusing on your big goals and dreams you get in touch with what motivates you, your passion for life. By choosing a small step you pretty much guarantee success and like with me playing computer games for an hour that one step will likely bleed into the rest of your day and before you know it you are running towards your goal effortlessly. Even better every success adds confidence even if it’s just a small step you will feel even more confident tomorrow and the day after!

Be grateful for things in your life. This helps build up your positive mindset, a positive mind is more creative and better at problem solving than a negative mind and it helps you feel great as well!

Get some movement. You’ve just been in bed for 7+ hours your body needs to remember it’s alive!

This is my morning routine take it as an example:

  1. First thing I do is try not to get distracted
  2. I take three deep breaths with my eyes closed to get into my body.
  3. I journal a set of questions related to the concepts above. How energized I am, why I feel that way, what I might adjust in my morning routine to improve the energy, what my big goal for the day is, what one task I can do to take a step towards it, what I’m grateful for, when I plan to stop working. What skill I want to improving today, what is my word for the month
  4. Exercise for at least 20 minutes while learning something from a video or podcast
  5. Mindfulness meditation and or visualization depending on the questions I answered about energy which will change the type of meditation and the things I’m visualizing. For example if I’m feeling stressed I’ll do a de-stressing mindfulness and try to get in touch with where that is coming from or if I’m feeling vulnerable I’ll do a visualization on self love and courage.

Once I got in the habit it became a priority so if I wake up late or get interrupted and can’t do my routine I just schedule it for the first moment I am free. It doesn’t feel like my day really started until it’s done!

The 3 components of transformation

Have you ever stumbled on something that changed your life for the better? I did recently and I want to share about it because I hope everyone I know can find something like this.

Despite the poor quality video, the technical problems and unplanned interruptions this course introduced me to a dozen or more really simple techniques and ideas that have been like the missing pieces to the puzzle of my life.

I found the course while looking for something on courage up popped Mel Robins Ted X video – How to stop screwing yourself over. This is one of the most popular Ted X talks ever! This led me to do some more digging, who was Mel Robins? It turns out she is a best selling author and has a ton of free YouTube videos including a series called Mindset Reset.

After watching Mindset Reset one of the biggest revelations for me was the idea of the subconscious mind running most of our lives. How we often live on autopilot but that we also have the power to program that autopilot to work for us not against us. If we never reprogram our autopilot it will just keep running the programming it was set with from biology and from our early life experiences. This program is often very sub-optimal and can include things like being constantly guilty about something we do like buying nice stuff or constantly scared to do something like making friends. In fact when we dig deeper we find nearly everyone has this negative self talk where we repeat criticisms endlessly all day until they become part of who we think we are.

But the big revelation for me was when she introduced the final component to the framework of transformation I’d been missing – visualization. I mean I’d heard of visualization before and had some affirmations already but without understanding why they work it is hard to do it right. I certainly wasn’t. If we don’t do visualization right it either doesn’t work or only works a bit.

So now I have these three key components to self transformation and becoming who I want to become. To learning the ability to change how my mind works to letting me live the kind of life I always dreamed of.

The first component is mindfulness or meditation, this gives us a key skill in becoming aware and learning how to disengage from our thoughts so they are no longer who we are. This also gives us our first glimmer of recognition as to who we really are. This one is also becoming more and more recognized by psychologist as a key technique to helping with depression and other disorders. If you need some tips on where to start you can try the Headspace app.

The second is unlearning or resetting our default programming both biological and that we picked up at an early age before we had any processes in place to filter out unwanted instruction sets. This is likely to be the hardest of the components as we can have layers of bad programming and generally we can’t see it ourselves because we are used to living in it. This is were your mindfulness helps, you can use it to connect pain or tightness in your body with feelings and the thoughts that trigger them.

Some other strategies include drawing up a life score where you split your life up into major areas like finance, relationships, friendships, health and well-being and score each area to get an idea where to look deeper. What really helped me make some major breakthroughs into the unknown areas of my mind was The Landmark Forum, I’m sure there are other courses for this as well and would love to hear what courses others have done for this.

Lastly a good hypo-therapist or psychologist can help you go deeper and find the causes of many patterns. I’ve used these as well as Landmark and mindfulness and feel so very blessed that they all exist!

The third component to transformation is visualization. This one is still fairly new to me but makes perfect sense with my current understanding and with my practice so far. The idea is you can create new programs because your brain doesn’t know the difference between something you visualize (correctly) and something you remember doing. The key is to visualize the image and the feelings together to create a new destination “memory” then visualize overcoming all the challenges you are likely to meet on the way again with images and positive feelings. This creates a new program or pathway to where you want to be and your brain will now automatically help you get there instead of following older fear patterns that stand in your way. I know Mel Robins outlines how to do the practice of visualization in some of her you tube videos which is where I first learned the detailed steps so that might be a good place to get started – Mel Robins YouTube channel.

All these components I’ve outlined above are areas that require continual learning and practice and it’s vital to have some kind of daily habit to do so consistently to fully realize the benefits. There is a lot more depth than I’ve touched on in each of these components. I’ve found doing this habit every day has unlocked all the potential and finally broken me out of the loser (fear based) mindset. I’ve been low energy for years and unable to follow my dreams until the last month or so when I solidified my habits of daily practice and learning and added the visualization techniques in. Then bam it has been truly energizing, I have purpose to my life and feel I can overcome any obstacles.

Democracy 2.0

Questions of improvement

Democracy and the current decision making process of democratic governments was created centuries ago. Over generations it has become fairly well refined within the constraints of its original purpose. The core concept behind decision making in modern democracies is for a group of people elected to represent the people to parley (parliament) to talk about how to run the country and come to a majority decision democratically.

One of the biggest issues with democracy and why we have settled on representation is it does not scale well. The more people added the harder it is to each have a voice, the longer decisions take and the less coherent and focused they become.

There have been many papers and articles written as well as many projects started to bring this ancient process into the modern age, after all intuitively it makes sense that there should be some kind of digital solution that could allow everyone to be involved in at the very least the most important decisions that affect us but potentially any decisions we are passionate or possess useful knowledge about.

Here are some links that talk more about how digital technology could be used with democracy:

https://www.goinvo.com/features/redesign-democracy/

https://medium.com/@AlastairParvin/democracy-as-a-platform-b27d900e956d

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-democracy

It is now digitally possible to give everyone a vote on every issue – of course there are so many issues it would be a full time job to try and keep up with them and we might need a team working behind us to help us keep up to date with exactly what is going on (this is what we have now with politicians having departments and advisory groups working with them)

So even though it might be technically possible for everyone to vote, unless we all want to be politicians and not have anyone actually doing the work in society we need to survive, it isn’t really a viable option.

Adding liquid democracy

One of the ideas I really liked was liquid democracy/representative hybrid – this is a kind of representative democracy like we have today but at any time we can change which politician gets our vote and all votes in parliament would be counted as the total of all voters by adding together the votes each politician had behind their vote.

This would probably be an improvement, for example if we voted for someone who it turned out did not keep their promises or did not follow the philosophy we thought we voted for we would be able to transfer our voting power to a different sitting politician. This still requires everyone to keep track of what is happening in politics and what their nominated politician is voting for as well as having to work out which other politician they may want to transfer their vote to if it turned out they were not happy with the original one chosen.

In reality I think a lot of people may not bother or be interested enough even to do this much work. Sure it is less than making every vote ourselves but still a fair chunk of effort to make our vote more relevant.

A better way forward

But the power of computers gives us another even more powerful option that allows maximum (but not perfect) alignment with our values while allowing a minimal effort in terms of being actively involved. This idea is a combination of liquid democracy and personas.

It would work like this – at voting age everyone would need to review at least 5 past decisions that resulted in a vote and choose the way they would have voted for those decisions. This will seed our digital persona, our persona is a digital system that knows what our values are based on what we valued in the past and (if we choose not to vote) will automatically try and match our values against the values of people as they vote allowing the most compatible voter to get our vote as well.

Any votes our persona makes for us that we do not actually agree with gives us a chance to improve our persona by setting it to follow the kind of choices we actually wanted it to make.

Also if our values completely change we can go back and change the past votes in our persona to allow it to follow our new values going forward.

Even better with this system it is possible to open up parliament in a fluid way to allow anyone who wants to be a politician to join in or drop out of the decision making process at any time and if their values are mirrored by other non voters their vote will be amplified by those peoples personas.

By having more people involved in the decision making process hopefully we can gain more wisdom and have more varieties of value sets represented.

Taking it even further

Now let’s add representative democracy back into the mix. Because we can trust that our vote is likely to go where we want it to go even if we don’t cast the vote ourselves we can split the people that do want to be part of the decision making up such that we basically have multiple parliaments each that represents the range of values in the country to a fairly fine grained level so we can be confident that our voice most likely matches one of the participants – say 200-1000 members chosen randomly. 

This would work like a jury in a way but on a larger scale for better representation. This way we could run multiple decision making processes in parallel while still keeping all our votes mostly falling where we wanted them to fall. It would allow us to be vastly more responsive and accelerate our countries ability to make decisions, likely allowing our decisions to be much more fine grained. 

Who knows what else could be enabled by having more decision making power that is more representative of our values? Maybe it would also give us much more capacity to do things like review existing laws to see if they are still relevant and respond to a range of issues in a much more timely manner instead of only working on one at a time.

Reigniting my spark

Person holding flame in the snow

Why am I starting to blog again after almost 10 years?

In one of my posts from that time I wrote: “To this end I created Debug Reality which is an attempt through programming and the internet to foster positive patterns.”

This is almost identical to where I am picking up again now!

So what happened to me that caused me to stop pursuing my dream for 10 years and how did I find my way back to my passion?

Meta comment: Writing and reflecting on this really pushed my “i am a loser” negative self talk and stopped me continuing writing this for a day.

“I am a loser” is one of many different thought distortions or defense mechanisms or superstitions that a lot of people have about themselves. It is also one of a number that I had not got to the bottom of or was unable to handle 10 years ago.

10 Years ago I was able to follow my dreams because I didn’t have anything in my life triggering those parts of myself that always get in my way. That is the negative self talk or superstitions like that I am a loser or I am a lone wolf.

But then I started a serious relationship which blossomed into starting a family and resulted in ton of triggers pushing all my negative self talk buttons!

There was buying a house which is a pretty big responsibility and not just any old house this one was a fixer upper. Then getting married. Then having a baby who turned out to have special need.

My wife suffered from post natal depression. I had issues around work. My relationship almost ended. My wife suffered from clinical depression. More issues around work. COVID happened and we were one of the most locked down cities in the world.

But all of this made me want to be better, before this happened I thought I was good but this opened my eyes to just how fragile and how much growing I still needed to do. I got help from psychologists, Landmark training, mindfulness, hypnotherapy and finally Mel Robins mindset reset.

Now I feel a lot more aware of who I am, of my limiting thoughts and have the tools to move past them. I feel more humble and less focused on myself. More compassionate to others and myself. Less harsh on myself. I have shared and improved my relationships with friends and family.

So here I am back where I started in a way, but stronger, move compassionate, more aware, less arrogant and less selfish and separate.

So instead of listening to my negative self talk and feeling like a loser for not having made progress on my “dreams” I actually feel accomplished and more capable than ever. So next time you feel like you haven’t made any progress and your mind says “loser” give yourself a moment to actually reflect on what you went through what you survived and learned and what strengths you now have. Life is a journey even when we appear to be back in the same place the reality is we can never go back to the past so that idea is itself a lie.

The future is suddenly bright and I plan to blog more about all the lessons I learned in that 10 years and the lessons I learnt before then. I plan to write a book or two and start a business that can help others through the power of software – apps that do good.