One Man and His Blog: Productivity Archives

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November 25, 2013

Lists: how we understand the world

There's more to lists than you think:

Umberto explained in an interview that lists are often seen as relics of primitive cultures--simplistic devices that don’t belong in our modern day and age. However, the simple form of the list prevails again and again over time, because, as Umberto says, it has “an irresistible magic.”

Until I read this, I thought a list was just a list, but t's actually a way we start to define reality around us in a way we can handle. I wonder if this makes blogging as a way of writing ourselves into existence a natural successor - or descendent, at least - of lists?

September 23, 2013

The importance of (mental) bandwidth

Christine has reviewed Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much:

To put it simply, one must have a lot of bandwidth and little-to-no financial scarcity to think about saving for college or retirement. The peace-of-mind expendable income brings allows a person to think about and build up rainy-day savings. The poor are too busy putting out budgetary fires to think about retirement. They have too little bandwidth, or “slack,” in their minds and their budgets to entertain such a long-term idea. They are worrying about rent and car repairs. Their tunnel-focus on those immediate costs render the poor unable to look far ahead or plan for the future. Anything that lies “outside the tunnel,” as the authors say, gets ignored.

This, coupled with what I've already heard about the book, makes it sound like a compelling read. I'll be grabbing a copy.

September 17, 2013

Managing your time isn't enough

Cognitive work One thing that's vital to bear in mind during busy periods is that managing your time and managing your ability to do cognitively-demanding work are two very different things. It's doesn't matter how well you chunk up your time, if it's all the same kind of work, you're on a slow slide to inefficiency. There's a great exploration of this on Time's Ideas blog, in The Mistake Busy People Make:

By bandwidth I mean basic cognitive resources — psychologists call them working memory and executive control — that we use in nearly every activity. Bandwidth is what allows us to reason, to focus, to learn new ideas, to make creative leaps and to resist our immediate impulses. We use bandwidth to be a good participant at an important meeting, to be a good boss to an employee who frustrates us and to be attentive parent or spouse.

For example, I've burnt most of my bandwidth for the day in completing, revising and re-ordering a major training schedule, that's based on a large piece of research and testing of the people to be trained. I'm pretty pleased with what I've got - but that's the end of the really demanding cognitive work I can do today. Indeed, with two days of training delivery ahead - which is very cognitively demanding - that's probably the last big piece I'll get done this working week.

Luckily, I'd planned for that…

July 3, 2013

Watch this before you start work

There's a whole load of genuine research behind these ideas. One thing I've done consistently since I worked on the Nokia project back at the beginning of the year has been designing my day in exactly this way.

I'm very time-constrained on two of my working days a week, with pretty hard start and end points based on nursery drop off and pick up for Hazel. I was completely unaware of how much I relied on being able to let my work expand into the evening to be productive prior to Hazel going to nursery. Designing my day has enabled me to be so much more productive in those tight, constrained windows of work - and then enjoy playing with my daughter, guilt-free in the early evening.

Designing your day isn't just about designing the working parts of it…

March 4, 2013

Experiments in designing your day

Want to make better use of your days? People Who Do are running a series of experiments in productivity that you can join in with.

(Full disclosure: this is part of the same body of work I'm involved with via Brilliant Noise)

Designing your online consumption

I really like this thoughtful approach to designing how you read, store and respond to online content.

I must do the same. 

October 9, 2012

Meaning - the man without e-mail

Luis Suarez

Nearly four years ago I liveblogged Luis Suarez talking about his nine-month old project to abandon e-mail. How's it going, after nearly five years? Well, he's still not using e-mail, and he hasn't been sacked yet, and he's lost a load of weight, based on photos from the two events...

His talk was as much an interaction with the audience as a talk, and not really a great opportunity to liveblog - but here are my notes:

  • 71% of the employee workforce is totally disengaged. 7/10 don't give a shit about you. Employees are not their to do your work, but their work. This is your problem
  • We're going to stop using e-mail to bully, to build power, to cover our arses. Half of some employees' workday goes to e-mail. What a waste.
  • By dropping e-mail, he's both challenged the status quo, and shown people a better way of working through being open on the network. Four years ago, everyone thought he would be fired. Now, he's featured in their video adverts for their social business offerings.
  • He believes in what he's doing, he owns his work. He lives in his networks.
  • He gives a shit about what he does.
  • Define how addicted you are to e-mail. Resist the urge to respond to e-mail. Inbox zero is bullshit. It doesn't exist. Break the fucking chain.

And that was that. Now I suppose I ought to write something about what I took away from the day...

August 13, 2012

Office tyranny in the Theme Park

Lay of Pages
I wrote an essay for the good people of Theme Park on the tyranny of paper and wires on office work - and our future liberation from them:

Like so many tyrants, paper was overthrown - by the digital age. And, like so many revolutions, we just exchanged one tyranny for another. We took the wire as our new ruler, and it bound us tightly to our desk. The electric cables to power our computers; the ethernet jacks connecting us to the internet; even the twisted copper of the phone line all conspired to keep us on the office's side of the window.
Theme Park is a great, interesting attempt at doing a deep, thought-provoking blog. Well worth a few minutes of your time. 

March 8, 2012

Dreamworks: building a creative business - #ftmedia12

Dan Satterthwaite, head of human resources at Dreamworks Animation gave a fascinating talk about how they've built a company that has coped with three major technology shifts, and fosters a creative work environment.

The first shift, of course, was from the hand-drawn, photographed and transferred to film workflow that dominated early animation, through to a CGI-dominated company. The transformation needed to backup that process was revolutionary at the time. It was 20 years ago, but the effects are still being felt. We had 1000 employees, now we have 2200 - but half of those started in the last three years.

60% of the employees made the transition from hand-drawn to CGI animation. It took an extraordinary amount of training and effort. They'd previously partnered with PDI that did CGI for adverts. They bought PDI, and a set of competancies with them. Animators essentially have to have acting skills to animate these characters.

The generational shift has happened lightening fast - and it left some people behind. There are a set of people doing different work now, because they weren't able - or willing - to make the shift.

Then they had the new wave of 3D. It's vastly different from the old 3D, because things are authored in 3D, so the wrokforce needed to be retrained in 3D thinking.

Now, they have multi-core processing in chips, which means they can do more, faster. They have models which know how the characters "function" and so can animate on an iPad-like device, just by tweaking the face rather than manually shifting numerical values about.

Stage 1 and 2 was seven years. Between 2 and 3? Three years. Maybe the next one will only be two years away?

Continue reading Dreamworks: building a creative business - #ftmedia12.

March 6, 2012

Finally: My Perfect Writing Environment

Not much time for blogging today; between meetings, travelling, and doing some paid writing work, this old blog has been sadly neglected. (And yes, I'm aware I owe you a "redundancy two months on" and a "nine years of One Man & His Blog' post.) But I have learnt one very important lesson from use of my iPad as my main computer for the last 30 hours or so: I've found my perfect combination for long-form writing:

  • iPad in vertical orientation
  • Keyboard (in my case, the keyboard dock)
  • iA Writer

It's such a clean, focused writing environment that my attention stays focused on the job, and the words just flow out of me. Honestly, I wish I'd had this combination back in the days when I was bashing out 5,000 to 10,000 words in a day to hit a deadline on a White Wolf book. It would have made life so much easier.

In an odd way, it's the closest thing to a typewriter I've seen modern technology produce, combining the basic proportions and aesthetics of that writing experience with all the comforts of spell-checking and immediate access to the web for research that modern technology brings.

I suspect I'll be using this combination for much of my writing, even once the MacBook Pro is back in play.

(I suspect I owe Mr Belam some credit for introducing me to iA Writer. But he's my arch-enemy, so I won't give it to him... ;-) )


March 5, 2012

Goodbye MacBook, hello iPad

My  iPad on its keyboard dock, being used to write this post.

Well, if I wanted a good opportunity to test out the iPad as a primary work tool, I have it now. My MacBook Pro is off with the Apple doctors at Brighton's Genius Bar for a brain transplant. And it could be gone for up to 14 days...!

While I can grab some time on my wife's iMac, it means that my iPad is going to be my primary working tool for the next few days at the very least. Perhaps that's apposite in the week that Apple is due to launch the iPad 3. :-)

All posts for the next few days will be coming from Blogsy, the rather lovely iPad blogging app I've talked about before. Should be a fun little experiment, especially with some event liveblogging coming up later in the week...

February 8, 2012

O2 employees go free range

The Next Web:

O2 is today launching what’s it’s calling “the biggest flexible working initiative of its kind,” as it lets a quarter of its 12,000-strong workforce work remotely for the day.
Employees at the UK mobile operator’s Slough HQ will carry out their daily duties as normal, except they’ll be working from home – or another suitable ‘remote’ location, as O2 closes the doors and switches off the lights at its 200,000 sq ft offices near London.

It's an interesting experiment. Most knowledge workers can work from anywhere with WiFi, so long as they have a laptop and a mobile phone with them. Personally, I think home working is over-rated. Nice for a day or two a week, but no more than that. I'd rather be out and about, working amongst my contents, clients and the industry I'm part of. Journalists - to my mind - spend far too much time in the office, and not nearly enough out and about in the industry they're reporting on.


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