Status indicators and the nature of work

Replied to The Presence Prison by Jason Fried (

what does “available” and “away” really mean? Official definitions don’t matter, because here’s what they actually mean: “Available to be bothered” and “I’m running away and hiding because I can’t get any fucking work done around here.”

I really hate the status indicator. It’s a dumb system that guesses what I’m doing based on if my mouse is moving enough or my calendar says I’m booked. It’s a tool that doesn’t work for the style of work I do: largely unscheduled days I spend making things and making things happen, communicating primarily via email, and doing knowledge work that needs long blocks of uninterrupted time.

I especially hate away. I think of the description in Bird by Bird of what counts as writing – when she’s bouncing on her sitting ball looking out the window, it looks like she’s doing nothing. Only when she’s typing does it appear to be work. Yet the real writing happens as she’s sitting, thinking, looking out the window; the typing wouldn’t happen without the thinking part. (Scalzi too.) We only interpret the loggable, measurable action as work, when much of what we do and make would probably be improved by stepping back to think more before doing.

But the status indicator is dumb. It wants busy. Only production is fruitful.

And it’s true, process is important, and showing up is needed for forward progress… but the system isn’t smart enough to know when we’re doing something outside of the computer. Thinking, sketching, brainstorming, proofing, planning, making lists, taking calls… all things I do off the computer. Real work, made invisible by the dumb status light.

Getting Shit Done Work

Listened to Tender Discipline on Hurry Slowly Podcast

Listened Tender Discipline by Jocelyn K. Glei from Hurry Slowly

What if it didn’t matter how productive you were today?
In this episode, I take a deep dive into a concept that I call “tender discipline,” which is the practice of taking a gentler attitude toward your productivity.

  • Cognitive momentum – both directly after a task (leave a little buffer between tasks so you can keep thinking) and from day to day
  • List of things that make you feel good
  • Visually track progress and mood together
  • Recover from burnout by being more in the body and less in the mind
  • Take 3-4 days off of any input (reading, listening to podcasts, watching), and do journaling to see what thoughts arise

LARPing Our Workday

Quoted LARPing your job by Anne Helen Petersen (Culture Study)

A few weeks ago, I went on one of my favorite podcasts — The Ezra Klein Show — to talk about burnout, workism, and our relationship to labor. In our conversation, I invoke the idea of “LARPing” your job, a phrase my partner uses to describe the way we try and show evidence that LOOK, OVER HERE, I AM WORKING. (‘LARP’= Live Action Role Playing).

“We’re performing, in other words, largely for ourselves. Justifying to ourselves that we deserve the place that we’ve found ourselves. Justifying to ourselves that writing for the internet is a vocation that deserves steady payment. At heart, this is a manifestation of a general undervaluing of our own work: we still navigate the workplace as if getting paid to produce knowledge means we’re getting away with something, and have to do everything possible to make sure no one realizes they’ve made a massive mistake.”

Anne Helen Petersen

I have struggled with this a lot since working from home during the pandemic.


Work Mode as Protest

Quoted A Big Walk, Book Success, Work as Protest — Roden Explorers Archive by Craig Mod (

“One of the big fumbles (sort of) of my 30s was concocting a false narrative that went something like: We need someone on the outside (read: in a position of “power”) to bestow upon us the permission to be or be able to do X…”

“It was only once I hit a few dozen walls and failed to “publish” in the “way” I thought I “had” to publish, that I then — finally! — began to think more creatively around engaging with and owning my work and the space within which I was working.”

“…A certain kind of work, lifestyle, mode of living — in and of itself — is protest. That is, work that is curious and rigorous is implicitly an antipode to didactic, shallow bombastity. It is inherently an archetype against bullshit.”

Craig Mod

I feel like Craig’s got a point here that syncs with my feelings about just going for self-publishing and trying to build my own thing. Where I have such strong feelings about work and worker’s rights and capitalism, it’s pushing me towards an older mode of work, a more creator-centric approach to trade.