Work Habits That Work

January 30, 2013

I wrote about unlearning a few months ago and so was interested to see a post on Lifehacker last week applying this approach to some common (unproductive) work habits. It highlights five major activities to ‘stop’:

1. Stop Thinking So Positively
This sounds a bit of an odd one this but just means thinking both positively and realistically.

2. Stop Trying to Fill Every Hour of Your Day
I have a tendency to do this even though I know it can (eventually) be counterproductive. They point out there’s nothing wrong in allowing time for being ‘bored’, in fact it’s quite important!

3. Stop Caring What the Internet Thinks About You
I like interacting with people so checking various accounts is very tempting (although often pure time-wasting). From the start of this year I’m building up the discipline of compartmentalising my time on ‘appealing distractions’. In particular, when I write I now turn off my email client, news feeds, tweets etc.

4. Stop Equating Rejection with Failure
It mentions that an ‘I’ll show them’ attitude can often be energising, which is true. However, in my experience, I’ve found it’s often better to try to understand another viewpoint even if it may be a bit alien to the way you think. In fact this can often prompt additional insights into what you’re doing even if you still disagree with the basic criticism.

5. Stop Spending More Time on Your Work
The recommendation is to align more with your natural rhythms and to do what you feel is right rather than overworking. On the topic of going with what you feel, I’ve found that this works really well for creative pursuits but isn’t so easy for routine and unavoidable ones!

On this ‘stopping’ theme, a post on the Zoho blog raises some more specific points:

  • Stop centering work around email
  • Stop the clutter
  • Stop staying glued to your computer for hours at a stretch

Anyway, certainly food for thought!

Some more info on writing and distractions here and here and a post on keeping a ‘no’ journal here.

Charting Apple’s Progress

January 24, 2013

From the BBC today:

Apple reported another set of record sales figures on Wednesday. The tech giants sold 47.8 million iPhones and 22.9 million of its iPad tablets.

But despite the numbers, investors were still disappointed. In after-hours trade, shares slumped another 10%, wiping $50bn off its value, after what has been a tough few months for the firm.

There’s a nice graphic at SplatF that charts the sales figures very effectively (compare with the dry numbers here):

Below, I’ve broken out some of the most important stats and trends in chart format. Note that all of these charts reflect Apple’s newly reclassified product segments, reported today for the first time. (Thus my delay in publishing.) Apple created Accessories as its own category, bundled Software and Services with iTunes, and removed Peripherals as a separate category. (It also stopped breaking out notebook vs. desktop Mac shipments, which have been split roughly between 70/30 to 80/20 for a while.)


Picture credit: here.

Welch’s Rules

January 21, 2013

Quote from the famous businessman Jack Welch:

  1. Control your destiny or someone else will.
  2. Face reality as it is, not as it was or wish it were.
  3. Be candid with everyone.
  4. Don’t manage, lead.
  5. Change before you have to.
  6. If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.

In my experience, these ‘rules’ are insightful whether you work in a large organisation or for yourself.

As always, the hard part is not in appreciating them, but in successfully applying them!

Do You Communicate Too Much Or Too Well?

January 18, 2013


Scott Edinger on communication:

In my nearly 20 years of work in organization development, I’ve never heard anyone say that a leader communicated too much or too well.

A nice opener! He emphasises three key ingredients for effective communication (which go back to Aristotle):

  • Ethos – credibility (demonstrating expertise, integrity and character)
  • Pathos – emotional connection (focused attention, active interest)
  • Logos – sense of reason (strategic thinking, problem solving etc)

On reflection, it’s interesting how different people tend to focus on just one or two of these factors (me included). The point is to take into account each of these aspects and aim to balance them:

These three elements of communication reinforce one another… And while all three are necessary to excellent communication, improving your ability to do any one of them will help you become a better communicator and so a better leader. Combining them is the path to achieving the greatest success.

It might be useful to try this out in your next presentation or meeting!

Doors Open Wide

January 15, 2013

Spotted in a recent post by Seth Godin:

“I don’t think the shortage of artists has much to do with the innate ability to create or initiate. I think it has to do with believing that it’s possible and acceptable for you to do it. We’ve only had these particular doors open wide for a decade or so, and most people have been brainwashed into believing that their job is to copyedit the world, not to design it.”

Abnormal Psychology

January 11, 2013

“As you go through life, you will discover that more and more of the subjects you studied in college are useless, with the exception of abnormal psychology” – Mark Bricklin (journalist)

Premortem Your Plans And Projects

January 9, 2013


Recently I was dipping into ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman; it’s an interesting but full read, coming in at over 500 pages.

Skimming through, I came across the idea of ‘(project) premortems’. I’m very familiar with project postmortems (and their variations), which take place after a project has finished. The hope being that insights and learning may arise that will be helpful in the future. Premortems, on the other hand, take place at the very beginning!

Here’s a summary of the idea by Gary Klein:

A premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem. A postmortem in a medical setting allows health professionals and the family to learn what caused a patient’s death. Everyone benefits except, of course, the patient. A premortem in a business setting comes at the beginning of a project rather than the end, so that the project can be improved rather than autopsied. Unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the “patient” has died, and so asks what did go wrong. The team members’ task is to generate plausible reasons for the project’s failure.

I was especially interested in the idea as it links to, although is different from, the idea of Discovery Driven Planning discussed earlier.

As a fresh way of communicating outputs, there’s an interesting post here that uses sketchnoting (see picture above).

Picture credit: here.