Archive for the ‘Theory’ Category

Looking for Problems

April 4, 2008

findergladwellsmiling2.jpgI was listening to an interesting interview the other day between 2 authors, Malcolm Gladwell and Joseph Finder. The former is the author of the Tipping Point, while the latter is the author of three or four novels, including “Killer Instinct” which I happen to be reading.

They made the following points:

  • Email is driving people crazy. Email is beginning to swallow people’s lives and they don’t quite know what to do about it. Malcolm Gladwell
  • If you are not awake at 2:00 a.m. in the morning when a discussion is going on among your colleagues, you lose. Joseph Finder on the use of Blackberry’s

I make an outrageous claim in this blog – that every issue of Time Management can be resolved by improving the practice of one or more of the 11 fundamentals.

Of course I could be very wrong, but I am willing to be proven wrong, and perhaps in the process discover a new fundamental!

Anyone have any problems that are just plain intractable? I’d love to test out my theory in this regard.

Microsoft Outlook Team Blog

March 26, 2008

outlook-team-blogs.jpgI mentioned in a prior post that I have been looking for someplace on the internet where I could find a serious discussion about the philosphy behind Microsoft Outlook. I hoped that it would include those who developed the software.

Well, I found a website that might be serious.

Check out this link: http://blogs.msdn.com/outlook/default.aspx

I also found the following mesage board, again for serious discussions on Outlook:

http://www.office-outlook.com/outlook-forum/

Time Out of Mind

March 21, 2008

franklin2.jpgI think that this New York Times article is an interesting one. It makes the case that there is no such thing as “clock time” and that there is only time that is experienced in the mind of human beings. We treat time as if it were money – something that can be saved, stored, invested and wasted, but our language is quite mis-leading.

Here is an excerpt:

Time Out of Mind

In 1784, Benjamin Franklin composed a satire, “Essay on Daylight Saving,” proposing a law that would oblige Parisians to get up an hour earlier in summer. By putting the daylight to better use, he reasoned, they’d save a good deal of money — 96 million livres tournois — that might otherwise go to buying candles. Now this switch to daylight saving time (which occurs early Sunday in the United States) is an annual ritual in Western countries.

Even more influential has been something else Franklin said about time in the same year: time is money. He meant this only as a gentle reminder not to “sit idle” for half the day. He might be dismayed if he could see how literally, and self-destructively, we take his metaphor today. Our society is obsessed as never before with making every single minute count. People even apply the language of banking: We speak of “having” and “saving” and “investing” and “wasting” it.

More Space = Better Code

March 5, 2008

I had the good fortune to attend a training course conducted by Tom deMarco and Tim Lister. (I may be swapping an “i” for an “o” in their names, and my apologies go to them if I am.)

Tom and Tim were experts in software productivity back in the early 1990s, and their research revealed a stunning finding: software productivity was most strongly correlated with the space of one’s office.

Not experience. Not programming language. Not age. Not education.

Space. As measured by square feet (or metres). The more space programmers had, the better they performed.

The reason was profoundly simple. (more…)

Are There Other Fundamentals?

February 29, 2008

A question I have been asking myself is whether or not there are other fundamentals aside from the 11 that I have identified in the 2Time system.

I believe there may be, and I am wide open to any ideas that others might have with a few caveats that the fundamentals share:

  1. They must be observable repeatable actionable practices. They cannot be mental, psychological, spiritual or philosophical.
  2. They must be shared by every professional. So far, the 11 fundamentals are actions that everyone undergoes, albeit unconsciously and without pre-planning. Even the Advanced practices are undertaken by everyone, although they may happen only in emergency situations.

As I said before, I am wide open to new ideas… do let me know!

The Big Questions in Life

February 29, 2008

faster.jpgOne of the aspects of 2Time that I wonder about is whether or not it should deal with the BIG questions of life – Purpose, Values, Vision, Mission etc.

Should I also be in the business of helping people to define their goals in life, and have them become aligned with the loftier themes? After all, my thinking goes, so what if someone is more effective if all they are able to do is to do more nonsense… but just do it faster?

Is it a mistake to disregard these “more important themes?”

In short, I worry that the diagram on the left will come true for 2Time users – making them a bunch of people who are trying to speed things up for no good reason.

Yet, I also often think that people spend more time trying to recover from the mistakes they make in time management, than they do in writing out their top five New year’s Resolutions. In other words, they are more burdened by the time demands in their lives that they think they might have forgotten, than they are by existential questions regarding their true destiny.

Another way of saying this is – the bigger questions don’t matter when you have lost the grocery list for the umpteenth time in the supermarket. In fact, they become very, very insignificant. (more…)

Level 1 and Level 2 Components

February 20, 2008

I am fortunate to have gotten an excellent idea from a reader of this blog to change the way I look at the 11 fundamentals.

In a prior entry, I split the 11 fundamentals into 2 groups: major and minor. The reader made the point that thie unfortunate language made it seem as if some were more important than others, when that was not my intention.

He or she recommended that I use “Level 1 and Level 2” instead. This makes perfect sense and thanks for the suggestion, as it’s a great one.

Major and Minor Components

February 13, 2008

While I was developing the NewHabits-NewGoals pilot offered in January, I realized that there was a difference between what I called the major components and the minor ones. In this way, the 11 components can be neatly split into 2 groups for easier explanation.

The difference is easy to understand.

The Major components are Capturing, Emptying, Tossing, Acting Now, Storing, Scheduling and Listing. The Minor components are Interrupting, Switching, Warning and Reviewing.

The Major components are the ones that preoccupy users who find themselves at the lower belt levels. Their time is spent mostly in mastering the practices and habits in those components.

The Minor components naturally become more of a concern at higher belt levels, when users have gained a certain level of proficiency in the Major components.

Of course, this rule is not hard and fast, but only an observation that I turned into a teaching tool to help students concentrate their energies in the right place.

2time’s Time and Motion Basis

February 11, 2008

time-and-motion.jpgOne of the key inspirations behind the 2Time way of thinking happens to be the time and motion techniques I learned as an undergraduate in Industrial Engineering.

The idea behind the technique is simple – observe each physical motion taken by a person performing a task of some kind. Record it, and analyze it using some common sense, then experiment with improvements. Use metrics to determine whether or not the improvement is a valid one.

When I look at someone’s time management system, I naturally have an inclination to see what they are trying to do in “time and motion terms”, coming from my formal training in this area. This might be why the 11 components are observable, and when I think about habits I don’t think of principles like “Put First Things First”. Instead, I think of “brushing your teeth” or “smoking cigarettes”.

Seeing people’s habits broken down in this way makes things much easier to understand, and to appreciate. It also makes comparisons between different systems much easier to make. (more…)

The Email Inbox as a Mouth

February 8, 2008

mouth-3d_model_anat_openmouth_web1.jpgThe email in-box is nothing more than a mouth.

Huh?

Well, the mouth is an ideal capture point. It allows for temporary storage of a certain amount of food, and performs its function perfectly as a “staging area” for the process of digestion, and sending essential nutrition to the rest of the body.

When food stays too long in the mouth, trouble breaks out. The teeth, tongue, breath and gums all suffer when bits of food don’t make it out of the mouth. Clearly, it’s not intended to be a storage device.

In much the same way, the in-box was never intended to be a permanent storage area. It was only meant as a staging area, and when it gets abused, a user’s productivity instantly falls. If you have ever seen someone hunt through 4000 emails for a single piece of information (or if you have done it yourself), you know the frustration that comes from being buried by the result of having weak practices. (more…)