Productively Managing Jealousy

We’ve all been there. We’re working on a craft, learning, practicing, and trying to reap some sort of benefit from all that hard work…only to watch others get noticed. Get the role. Get the contract. Get the acknowledgement. And sometimes, it keeps happening. It’s rough to watch and keep your own spirits up.

Some people hit this point and start blaming others for why they themselves aren’t getting where they want to be. It’s someone else’s fault you aren’t getting roles. The other person engaged in some insidious behavior to get whatever it was they got that you wanted, and you didn’t because you would never stoop to that level. The person doesn’t want it as badly as you did. The people making the decisions (who may or may not have ever heard of you) hate you because they know you’re so much better than them. Or even better, they sometimes transfer their anger. The other person needs to stop succeeding because it’s making you look or feel bad.

What’s really going on is that you are feeling jealous. And jealousy can be a fairly evil emotion. It’s certainly one of the more irrational ones. As in, it whispers irrational lies in your head, until you do something completely stupid and irrational, destroying things that were important to you. But it’s okay, jealousy tells you, because it’s always someone else’s fault.

Let’s make something clear right now: Your jealousy, and any actions resulting from it, are never somebody else’s fault. Your actions are always your own doing, your own choices. Get that into your head right now, because it’s going to make the rest of this easier.

Jealousy happens. No matter how nice of a person you are, there will come a day when jealousy will sidle up to you and tell you someone else deserves to have a cake dropped on their head because you didn’t get what you wanted, what you had been working toward. It’s startling natural, can look like a friendly voice, and can have some pretty negative consequences. But it doesn’t have to. It’s how you choose to respond to your jealousy that makes it a bad thing. If you act out maliciously against the reason you’re feeling jealous (because remember, the jealousy has told you it’s their fault you’re feeling this way), you’re doing it wrong and headed for trouble. If you stop for a moment and ask yourself why you’re feeling jealous, you just might learn something important about yourself.

Interrogating your jealousy can have a number of positive consequences. It can help you identify skills you’d like to learn or practice more. It can help you verbalize a challenge or obstacle you’re struggling with, giving you a better chance to confront and conquer that challenge/obstacle. It can help you verbalize a goal you maybe hadn’t been able to wrap your mind around before. It might even help you identify something you’ve been holding on to and help you release it. If you’re smart about it, you can actually use your jealousy to help you grow and improve in your craft and to help you find and focus on your goals.

So, the next time you find yourself upset at another person who’s just sitting there minding their own business, ask yourself what’s really bothering you. The answer might just surprise you, make you better at your craft, and save you within your industry or community of practice.


Participating in a Hashtag Community

Recently, we looked at participating in Facebook communities as part of our learning network. Other social media platforms are important to building your learning network, too, but not all of them offer a way to gather together easily. That’s where hashtags often come in. It’s easier to gather people on Twitter and Instagram around an event- or interest-related hashtag, and there are communities that make great use of them.

I’m part of a couple of hashtag communities on Instagram. One of them is led by a user with a crazy awesome level of understanding of how hashtags work and how to make them work. The overall community has a hashtag, and then each weekly challenge has a hashtag related to the community hashtag. So through the first, we can find everyone’s post in the community, and through the second we can find everyone’s posts related to a challenge. It’s great!

Another of these hashtag communities…has all but left Instagram for a Facebook community over the last year. (And it’s funny to watch those who recently joined the Facebook community start discussing moving over to Instagram.) The community centers around a series of daily challenges, organized by month, where the challenge’s name is the hashtag. At first, things went well. But then people who were practicing a similar craft, but didn’t understand that particular hashtag went to a particular activity, started using the hashtag. And they did it on all of their posts, regardless of what that picture was.  So the community altered their hashtag slightly in an effort to make the hashtag’s intended audience clear, but the same people jumped on that hashtag as well. The hashtag has effectively been ruined on Instagram by people who couldn’t be bothered to learn what a hashtag is, or what hashtags were relevant (or in this case, off limits) to their own work.

If you’ve read my Facebook post, you already know where this is going.

When you use an event- or interest-related hashtag for posts that have nothing to do with the event or interest, you’re hijacking the hashtag. And hijacking hashtags doesn’t help anybody, the hijacker least of all. Some hashtag hijackers are just trolls, out to ruin other people’s fun because they have no skills or interests to focus their time on. But others do it because they’ve decided the best way to show off their skills is to blast it out to anyone who might have even the tiniest possible interest in their work. I can think of people I will never follow (and in some cases have blocked) on Twitter and Instagram because they engaged in hashtag hijacking trying to get their posts more widely seen. I’ve even been known to mark posts as spam because they hijacked a hashtag.

So…if you are thinking about using a hashtag (and used correctly, they’re a great tool for meeting and interacting with people…or for just getting your snark on), research the hashtag first. Make sure your post will contribute to the discussion going on in that hashtag, or fit in with whatever is being showcased. Don’t just throw on a hashtag in the hopes you’ll gain exposure, because you will gain the wrong kind of exposure and might find yourself shut out or ignored.

Participating in a Facebook Community

One of the things I like to talk about around here (when I talk at all *wink*) is the importance of communities of practice. These are groups that come together to learn, practice, and share information around a given topic or skill. And one of the easier ways to accomplish this is to join related Facebook groups (unless you’re one of those who has decided Facebook is not for them, and that’s perfectly fine. You may not gain much from this post.) I’ve been joining a fair few groups lately, some related to my professional interests, some related to personal interests. Meeting a new group of like-minded people can be pretty exciting, but there are some things to be aware of to make the experience smoother.

Communities have the ability to lay out guidelines, and many of them take advantage of this feature. On the website, these guidelines will be in a box in the sidebar or on the About tab. On the app, there will be a link to them just below the cover image. Some communities prefer to use a Pinned post, so look at the top of the community. It’s your responsibility to find and familiarize yourself with the community’s rules. Some communities have little to no tolerance for those who cannot be bothered to read the rules and abide by them.

Once you’ve read the guidelines, take a few minutes to skim the group and see what people typically post. If the majority of posts are of one type (text, for example), do not think you are being clever posting a different type because you want to stand out. It’s quite possible the community makes the type of posts it does for a reason. If you see no self-promotion posts, do not think you will be clever for doing it first. There’s probably a reason why you aren’t seeing those posts (possibly laid out in the guidelines? *wink wink*).

If you don’t see any “Thanks for adding me” posts, do not think you will be clever by being the first. If you really, truly are incapable of stopping yourself from writing a nonsubstantive “Thanks for adding me” post, see if the community has an Introduction thread. Many do in an attempt to curb those pointless posts, and your comment will cause the post to pop up in the community, allowing existing members to know you’re there and what you have to offer as a member of the group. (Also, seek help…and maybe three or four hobbies. Because, honey, if you are that desperate to be seen and think it’s acceptable to only be seen by taking up space pointlessly, you have issues.)

Once you’ve read the guidelines and familiarized yourself with the content expected from community members, it’s time to write your first post. Think about why you joined the group, what you’re hoping to gain from the group, and then write a post that reflects that. In other words, add value to the group. Make sure your post conforms with the community guidelines, and ask yourself if your post is relevant. If it fails either condition, maybe don’t write the post. And if you’re posting just to post in a community, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Facebook communities can be a great asset to your learning and skill development, but it’s important to do your part to be an asset to the community.

Surviving Downtime When You’re Hopeful or Determined

I feel like I’ve been party to conversations around the struggles of chasing creative work a lot lately. This isn’t an entirely uncommon conversation when a group of people at various points in their creative journey hang out. And the people starting the conversation are at different stages in their career. Some are experienced, but not where they want to be (sometimes not getting anywhere). Others are new to the field, trying to figure out how to break in or at the very least determine what steps they can start taking to get into the game. At some point, all of us who do creative work find ourselves in this waiting space.

Something I’ve noticed in these conversations, and just in watching fellow creative types in general, is that people facing downtime tend to react in one of two ways: They either work on their craft and find ways to get themselves and their work out into the community (where they may or may not get noticed as much as they’d like), or they sit quietly and wonder why no one notices them and the work they’ve done. The thing is, it’s what you do when you have that down time that shapes how your career moves forward.

Those who spend their downtime working on their craft have it a bit easier. They’re taking action, they’re doing the legwork, and they’re finding (or making) opportunities. They’re doing a lot of things right. They may still be gathering rejection notes or making connections that don’t work out the way they hoped, but they’re getting their name and their work in front of people, which puts a possible light at the end of the downtime tunnel.

Some downtime advice for the experienced or the driven who aren’t as successful as they’d like to be (according to their own definition of success):

  • Take a class. This might be nothing more than putting together your own set of resources if your funds are tight, but do it. Work on a skill that’s been frustrating you. Maybe learn a new technique to increase your versatility, or pick up a complementary skill and see what doors that opens for you. You really never know what’s going to click until you try. (Classes are also a great way to meet others in your field and make connections.)
  • Create your own projects. Regardless of your medium, you can probably develop and create your own projects. If you’re a visual artist, set up a profile on one of the creative repositories and create for that profile. If you’re a writer, same thing. If you’re an actor or a video producer, same thing. It’s much easier to prove your skills when you can point to something and say, “Look at this thing I made with my own skills.” Developing your own projects while searching for other work also shows  just how dedicated you are to your craft.
  • Start working on the next project. While you’re auditioning, interviewing, submitting, pitching, always keep a personal project in development. It helps you stay in practice, keeps you focused on what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish, and creates a body of work that demonstrates your passion and your skills. You might even create something that you can sell (or sell access to).
  • Experiment and innovate. If you’ve been marketing your completed projects for some time without success (or with minimal success), find new, creative uses for your product or find ways to extend it with those new complementary skills you’ve been developing.
  • Meet people in your field and related fields. We live in a pretty exciting time where we can, with nothing more than a connected piece of technology and a basic understanding of how to search for things, find and connect with other people pretty easily. Power up your favorite search engine and search for your skill set. Go to your favorite social media platform and search for your skill set. There are very few creative industries that don’t have places where their practitioners can gather, and many of these groups are often newbie-friendly. Just remember your manners. If you’re introverted (like me), start small. Find one or two people to connect with and grow from there.

If you really enjoy what you’re doing, there are ways to find your path. But it’s up to you to take charge and shape that path.

Nest time, we’ll talk about those who are claim to be thirsty but are more inclined to sit and wait for rain.

Communities of Practice and Credibility

There’s nothing like finding what you really enjoy doing. It gives you a sense of empowerment, an energy that nothing else does. And that’s great. That’s exactly how it should be. But as the internet records everything, you now have to be very careful about how you present yourself to your new field.

A while back, I ran across a college student offering classes in her field. She was up front about being a college student. about her history working in the family business (which is a different field). She explained she had years of experience in her field, and it’s possible she spent time during her childhood pursuing the field. She claimed to be a communications major, but her website lacked design principles or readable copy. I appreciated her enthusiasm, but closed the tab. She just hadn’t inspired much confidence in her claims.

A couple of weeks later, she came into a LinkedIn group and, in an overly bubbly manner, introduced herself as being brand new to the field and just so excited to break in. Recognizing the name, I said nothing but went back to the website, which did in fact claim she was experienced at both the craft and managing other practitioners of the craft. I checked the Facebook groups for some of the other local industry groups. Her name was nowhere to be found in either membership or posts. Her website’s credibility was shot.

It’s something to keep in mind as we’re putting ourselves out there. Take an interest in something. Join local and online groups interested in the same industry. Contribute what you can, but never, ever represent yourself as something you aren’t. I didn’t bust this poor college student, but it won’t take long for others to uncover the same things I did, and then she’ll have to deal with the trouble of cleaning up her mess.

Habitica’s Game and Social Mechanics

The other day, we were talking about the game-based productivity system Habitica from the productivity aspect. Today, let’s look at how Habitica’s developers brought gaming into the mix to make a fun little productivity app. Keep in mind as you read this that I’ve long looked at gamification funny, both as a teacher and as a gaming enthusiast, because it’s so often implemented in a terribly shallow way.

Because Habitica is based on game mechanics, there’s a lot going on. The Dashboard is laid out to really help you make sense of most of it, though, so even as a low-level player, it’s not too hard to manage. The mechanic surrounding completing tasks is probably the most familiar to gamers. When you complete a Habit, Daily, or To-Do, you receive XP (experience points) and gold appropriate to that task (determined by how strong or weak that task is). You can also receive drops. In Habitica, that pretty much amounts to eggs and potions you can combine to create Pets, and food to feed those Pets so they’ll grow into Mounts. If you’re in a party and they’re doing a quest, you may also receive a drop related to your quest. Little notifications will pop up to tell you what you’ve gained when you complete a task.

On the Dashboard, you have a Rewards column (that fourth column I mentioned in the other post). You’re working hard. You can choose to reward yourself. (I used to keep a list of things I could watch when I completed the right task or set of tasks.) As you’re developing your list of rewards, keep in mind what your tasks are worth to you, and think about our recent discussions on external and internal motivation. Some of your rewards will cost you to take advantage of (I have a couple that allow me to blow off a Daily so i won’t take damage when it doesn’t get completed.); others might be free.

At the beginning of the game, you’re a Warrior. But when you reach Level 10, you’ll be invited to select a class. You can remain a Warrior, or choose from Mage, Rogue, or Healer. Each class has its own gear (which will be available for purchase in the Rewards column) and its own class abilities (which are also available in the Rewards column). Choose your class carefully; it’s expensive to switch.

Being a good little online roleplaying game, Habitica has its own social structures that you can join straight off, great for finding like minded people who will help keep you accountable. Guilds are chat areas where you can hang out with other people with similar interests. You can generally find these through the Tavern Chat (also where you go if you need to pause your character for a bit because Real Life got in the way). Guild leaders can create Challenges to help their members develop skills and habits. These are just added to your Dashboard if you accept one. You can join as many Guilds as you can manage.

Parties are much smaller groups with their own chat area, their own ability to create Challenges for members, and the ability to do quests. Quest scrolls (what you need to launch a quest) are earned through events and major activities (like beating an earlier Quest in the sequence), but you can also buy them from the Market. The party will then work together to collect the items or beat the boss by completing their own tasks. When a parry member fails to complete all their Dailies, the entire party takes damage from whatever you’re fighting. You can only join one party at a time.

So, there you have it. A somewhat brief overview of the game-based productivity system Habitica. If you like gaming and need a little fun push to get yourself motivated or just want to meet other people working toward similar goals, definitely check it out.

An Introduction to Habitica – Gamified Productivity

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a game-based productivity system called HabitRPG. Given how much I enjoy gaming and playing with to-do list systems, I jumped in and gave it a try. While it was fairly charming, it did not work well with how I run my own to-do list, and I ended up abandoning the system before I hit Level 3.

A couple of months ago, Mary Robinette Kowal wrote a blog post on how she had been using a game-based productivity system called Habitica, and had created a writer’s guild. So, I followed the link, only to find HabitRPG all grown up, renamed, and well-developed into a robust system marrying game elements and to-do lists. I reactivated my account, found myself suddenly at Level 7 (which was weird), and now use it as part of my daily task management.

So, let’s get into this. What is Habitica? It is, as suggested above, a gamified productivity system. You add in tasks you need to get done. You earn XP (experience points) and gold for completing them. You fight monsters and collect dropped items. You even get a cool little avatar you can dress up in class or special gear that you earn as you go. It’s actually a bit more complicated than that, so I thought we’d look at the productivity side today, and then we’ll look at the game elements another day.

The Habitica developers are clever folks who understand that most people have different types of tasks they’re trying to keep track of at any given point in time – habits, regular tasks, and project-specific or one-shot tasks – and so your Habitica dashboard is designed to facilitate that. There are four columns on your dashboard; we’ll cover three of them in this post.

The first column is dedicated to Habits, those actions you’re either trying to build into or beat out of your subconscious routine. You add the habit to this column, and then tick it off every time you do it. If you’re looking to replace a bad habit with a good habit, you can set up the task so that you toggle the positive habit or the negative habit. Every time you complete the good habit, it increases the value of the habit, making you stronger. Every time you complete the bad habit, it decreases the value of the habit, weakening you. (As this affects your progress and your ability to complete quests, it really encourages you to work toward those positive habits.) Habitica includes tools that allow you to see how you’re doing on your habits, so you can literally watch yourself struggle and see where you could focus your efforts a bit more.

The second column is dedicated to Dailies, which are really just those tasks that repeat on a regular schedule. You can actually schedule a task to only show up on your dashboard on certain days of the week every week. It’s a great way to keep focused on what needs to be done today, without being distracted by what will need to be done tomorrow. What’s really cool about Dailies is that you can add checklists. So, if you have a regular task that has multiples parts to it, you can create a checklist within the task of those components. For example, my voiceover practice task has a checklist that includes study time (reading or watching training materials, listening to audiobook clips and audio dramas, etc.), basic skills practice (breathing, articulation, etc), and then practical practice (reading out loud, working on voice modifictation, etc.) Once I’ve checked off everything, I can check off the Daily itself. (Because i’m mean, I don’t let myself check it off if I don’t complete every single part.)

How do you decide what is a Habit and what is a Daily? Well, start with asking yourself if the task has to be completed only on certain, predictable days. That’s a pretty good sign it should be in the Daily list. But you can also look to Habitica’s game nature. While Habits can strengthen or weaken your character, unfinished Dailies can deal your character direct damage at the end of the day. In my own use, I set up my Tiny Habits as Dailies, because not doing those hurts me in real life and therefore should hurt my character in game. It’s more effective than you realize, especially because your character only has 50 HP (hit points) and doesn’t gain more as you level.

The third column is dedicated to To-Dos, those tasks that are either a one-shot (email a client) or a small project (like writing a short story). Like Dailies, To-Dos can have checklists. So, a small project might have an embedded checklist to help you make sure you complete each part. (My short story checklist most often includes prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, publishing. It helps keep me from trying to move back a phase, which is a huge problem for me sometimes.)

Large projects can be completed using Habitica, too, but for reasons that will become clear below, I handle it a bit differently. Most large projects can be broken out across stages, which can then be treated as smaller projects, loaded only as each stage is reached. For example, when I’m working on an audiobook, there are three stages – prep, record, post-production. Each of those stages has its own tasks that have to be completed. The prep stage might have a checklist that includes reading the book, making notes about characters, digging up old reference files if it’s a book in a series, and creating the book’s cover. The post-production stage’s checklist includes editing, mastering, and submitting the files to the publisher. It’s kind of a combination of systems, but it keeps the overall project from becoming really menacing in the dashboard.

Like Habits, incomplete To-Dos do not deal direct damage. (They might if you set a deadline and then don’t meet it. I haven’t tested that yet.) While To-Dos don’t damage you as they sit there, they grow in strength. When you finally complete them, they can grant a lot of XP, gold, and really good drop items.

All right, so that’s the productivity side of Habitica. Next time, we’ll look at how the developers included game mechanics to make reaching your goals more interesting.

The Power of Tiny Habits

We all know developing good habits is a happy thing, so much so that we make promises to ourselves at New Year’s and at our birthdays that we’re going to develop habits…only to break them days, weeks, or maybe even months later. Not because we consciously decide to break them, but because we lose track of them, or we don’t feel like it one day, or life happens and throws off our schedule.

However, there’s a growing trend of making and keeping tiny habits. A tiny habit is that one singular thing you can do daily that will benefit you in the long run. If you’ve set a goal for yourself of running a marathon, and you know your most common excuse for not getting out and running is wardrobe-related, you might set a tiny habit of putting on your running shoes before breakfast. If you’ve set a goal of writing a blog post every single day, you might set the tiny habit of reading your news feed the moment you sit down at your desk. If you’re looking to grow your audience or network, you might set the goal of responding to one social media post every morning.

I started using tiny habits last year, and have now amassed a small army (two or three for each key area of my life). My inner writer responds to a writing prompt every morning and listens to writing podcasts every other morning. My inner voice actor listens to voiceover podcasts every other morning, and either narration clips or audio drama episodes every morning. They’re small. They get me moving and thinking. And they give me something I can take with me as I work through the day. (Days when I don’t get to listen to my podcasts in the morning are easily my least productive.)

The point is to choose tiny habits to will help you move closer to a goal in some way. They can help you build skills, get in some practice time, connect with others working toward the same goal. Whatever you choose, it has to benefit you. When it stops benefiting you, drop it and move on to a tiny habit that will.

If you find it easier to complete a tiny habit when you’re accountable, there are many ways to go. There’s the tried-and-true calendar method, where you mark off each day you complete your tiny habit. (Markers and stickers are delightful tools.) If you like the idea of a calendar, but haven’t thought about paper in forever, set up a specific calendar on your digital calendar and record every day you accomplish your habit. Some sites, like Sparkpeople and Joe’s Goals, have a simple tick system to help you track when you complete a task. When you want to see how you’re doing, you can focus the calendar to see what days are marked, or use built-in streak tools to monitor your progress.

You can even choose to monitor your success in implementing your tiny habit just by monitoring how much easier you’re moving toward your goal. If you’re diligently practicing your tiny habit, you should be seeing steady progress toward your goal. If not, you should probably keep a closer eye on your tiny habit.

Give it a try. Select one small, singular thing you could do to move yourself closer to a goal, and then make it a tiny habit. See if it doesn’t help you keep your toes pointed forward.

Learning to Develop Information Architecture

I know what you’re thinking: What the heck is information architecture? Don’t worry. I wouldn’t have thrown out the term if I didn’t think you could handle it. You see, information architecture is just how we put information together so it can be found again by the people who need it. Or in the case of most of us, using categories and tags, maybe some additional metadata, to organize notes, writings, pictures, bookmarks, etc.

I’ve mentioned the need to develop useful metadata for organizing your design notebook to make it truly useful. Today, I thought I’d share some of the more important things I’ve learned while developing my own design notebook and personal learning environment. I should preface this by admitting I was a museum professional for several years and worked in libraries before that, so I had some training and experience with collections management and metadata before I started creating materials on the web.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the basic nuts and bolts of information architecture (for our purposes) are categories and tags. While we can develop and use other metadata, these two are the ones we’re the most familiar with. Categories are the broadest organization structure, and they can center around topics and projects, although those in a situation involving many authors or creators may find it useful to create author-based categories as well. Tags would seem to be a drill-down from the category, perhaps breaking entries down to resources, notes, prototypes, and images. But tags are much more open minded than that, perhaps to their own detriment. Implementing tags, like genres, categories, themes, or media, can be helpful for cross-referencing between projects and maybe sparking new directions of thought. But they can also open up rabbit holes that can distract you from your actual task.

For the record, there’s nothing wrong with letting yourself give in to the occasional rabbit hole, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work. 😉

What’s really funny about the not-unusual use of tags to further organize a category is that there is currently no off-the-shelf product available that allows you to easily isolate only those items that have the same category and tag. (Evernote’s come close a few times, but every time they overhaul their system, they change the Notebook/Tag functionality.)

The challenging part in starting a new organization (or classification) system is deciding how to plan it out. You can work top-down (starting with the must-have categories and then drilling down from there) or bottom-up (figuring out the most granular tags, and then building related groups up from there). Regardless of which way you choose, you have to develop both your categories and your tags during the process. Keeping both in sight actually gives you a better feel for what really needs to a category and what really needs to be a tag. If you get this initial design wrong (or if something significantly changes after you implement your system. It happens.), fixing this is a time-consuming, frustrating process. (You’ll be tempted to use built-in converting tools. Don’t do it unless you’re absolutely certain you know what will happen. Even the smoothest systems require you to go back through the affected labels and catch any stragglers the system missed.

While it’s important to remember what’s being organized as you build your information architecture, the most important thing to remember is who are you creating the system for. Who’s going to use it? You can create the most pristine, shiny, differentiated system in the world, but if the user can’t find things in your system without resorting to a search tool, your system needs a good tweak.

Building a Learning Platform on Pinterest

Disclaimer: I do not use Pinterest in the full sense. For reasons that will become clear in the post, I no longer use the main feed, topics, or subtopics.

A while back, I did a post on how to incorporate YouTube into your personal learning environment. I also wanted to cover Pinterest, which has a lot to offer the motivated self-directed learner.

Pinterest is, for all intents and purposes, a social visual bookmarking platform. Each post is called a “Pin”, and you collect them by saving them to a group called a Board. You can also upload your own Pins or save them from websites that allow pinning. Your boards can be public or private, and you can invite other people to pin to your Boards. You can also Like pins, which adds them to a special area without adding them to your boards. Your Likes are always public.

Pinterest offers many ways for users to find new Pins to save. The site offers a keyword-based search engine and encourages users to file their boards under a set of predefined categories you can surf.  You can follow friends, family, and coworkers, allowing you to see what they pin, or you can follow people and groups who post Pins you enjoy. You can subscribe to the person themself or just the boards you’re interested in. Pinterest also allows businesses to pay to promote Pins, so sometimes you’ll see clearly label Promotoed Pins in your feed. When you see a Pin you like, you can save it to your own boards. Over time, Pinterest’s algorithm will get a feel for what you’re likely to Pin and try to tailor your main screen to show you what it thinks you like. (Fair warning: The algorithm is poorly programmed.)

Last year, the site implemented topics and subtopics that you could follow, meaning pins that were identified as being related to the topic would show up in your main feed. This is where my troubles with Pinterest started. The algorithm believes that if you interact with a Pin, regardless of the reason, that means you want to see more Pins like the one you interacted with. Shortly after I subscribed to a relatively harmless subtopic last year, I had to flag a couple of pins from that subtopic that violated Pinterest’s terms of service. But to flag a Pin, you have to interact with it, so the algorithm dutifully served me more Pins like the ones I flagged until my main feed was no longer interesting or useful. Even better, Pinterest blamed me for flagging the offending Pins. (I have a business account. I was not amused and left the site for several months over it.) Moral of the story: Don’t subscribe to topics or subtopics, especially if you use Pinterest in an area where young children play.

Using Pinterest to get things done is pretty easy. You can curate a board on a favorite topic, be it a hobby, an interest, a skill set, recipes or patterns, or a favorite book or movie. You might gather ideas to help yourself plan an upcoming project or event. You might gather resources while learning a new skill. You might create a mood or inspiration board, gathering images, quotes, music, and color chips that speak to you on some level. You can create a wish list. You might create a board dedicated to your work, be it as a portfolio or as a product marketing tool. You can do this uploading your own pins, or pinning your work from around the web. Thanks to the map tool, you can even create travel albums, travel planners, tour guides, city guides, and location-based stories.

So, the possibilities for incorporating Pinterest into your PLE as a personal organization or professional development tool are vast and flexible enough to support any project you may have going. It’s a great bookmarking system. It’s an easy way to create motivational triggers. It’s a creative way to show off what you know, your interests, and your professional and personal focuses. It’s pretty easy to keep professional, personal, and planning efforts relevant, and because of the Public/Private board set up you can keep the right things facing out while still getting to use the same space to get things done.

I said at the beginning that I don’t fully use Pinterest. I stopped using it all together for about six months after Pinterest dismissed my complaint about the algorithm. And then I realized I could just use the boards, which I have ever since. Many of my projects have secret boards with all kinds of articles, tips, and inspirations to help me through. My audiobooks and audio dramas have their own boards, as do different skills I’m learning. I don’t even look at the main screen anymore, and I don’t receive notifications. It works well, and I get a lot done.

Give it a try, but be mindful of what you’re potentially inviting onto your main screen.