Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the category “Time Management”

Reasons to Quit: Questions to Ensure You’re Doing Work That Matters

Fried and Heinemeier Hansson in Rework suggest the following questions to ensure you don’t ‘throw good time after bad work’:

‘Why are you doing this?

What problem are you solving? – ensure it’s not an imaginary problem

Is this actually useful? – don’t confuse enthusiasm with usefulness

Are you adding value? – sometimes things you think are adding value actually subtract from it

Will this change behaviour? Is it really going to change anything?

Is there an easier way? – Problems are usually pretty simple. We just imagine they require hard solutions

What could you be doing instead? – what can’t you do because you’re doing this?

Is it really worth it? – can you determine the real value of what you’re about to do before you take the plunge’


Things Get Done When You Do Less

As a member of the human species, you are hard wired to achieve. You may not feel like that if you’re sat there: brain diffused from multitasking, web-thread-chasing and information channel hopping. The empty plate of cookies or pizza you can’t remember eating as you read about the latest thing you can’t remember reading on the screen five minutes ago: these things may feel a million years from hunting and gathering to achieve another day alive as your relatives did.

A counter-intuitive observation is that things get done when you consciously try to do less and have the will to stick to your commitment to do less. The more you even plan to do in an allotted period of time, the less you actually get done. Why is this? I often think of a computer to help me on this.

A computer has a hard drive to remember things – a bit like memories and knowledge in the human brain. A hard drive becomes fragmented when files and folders get broken down and spread out over the hard drive over time. This slows the computer down because it cannot process information as easily which is not held together. It has to read multiple places on the disk to piece together the information it needs. Defragmenting, or ‘defragging‘,  ‘reorganizes the hard drive by putting pieces of related data back together so that files are organized in a contiguous fashion’. Contiguous means any two or more objects that are very close or connected in space or time.

When you undertake multiple tasks – or even create a long ‘to-do’ list for the day, you similarly spread your mental processing power. Thoughts on other tasks get in the way of you having continuous thoughts on a subject, and thereby slow your ability to achieve your objectives of getting things done. Even if things do get done, often the quality isn’t there because you haven’t been able to hold your attention on one thing for a sufficient period of time to get to the really good or break-through thinking. Don’t confuse this with the use of the conscious to take in multiple inputs for the unconscious to percolate on. In this concept, you absolutely focus on related subject matter for a period of time to gather inputs or ‘ingredients’ for your thinking, and then deliberately turn your conscious attention away to something else to enable your unconscious to work away in the background.

The problem with spreading your mental processing power as a human is that you haven’t got a power cable. Read more…

The Change Planning Toolbox: 10 Initial Steps

This is intended as a checklist to start any personal or corporate change project. Just take a blank sheet/ screen and start answering the following:

Initial planning questions:
1. What are you trying to change?

2. Who is involved in the change?
2.1. Do they want to change?
2.2. What do they need to change?

3. What does the changed future look like?

4. What are the top 3 blockers to change that require specific strategies to overcome them?

Detailed Planning Steps:
5. Clearly articulate objective: what does the changed vision/ goal/ future look like?:
5.1. Write down in technicolour detail.
5.2. Use this as an initial engagement step with those involved in the change (i.e. facilitated brainstorm/ meeting away day)
5.3. Create a clear list of benefits that will be enjoyed when change is achieved

6. Go public with the change vision: be clear on how those affected by the change will be kept engaged and informed

7. Create a clear and detailed timebound plan with detailed sub-projects, tasks and next actions needed to achieve the vision in 5. above, whilst ensuring the blockers in 4. above are addressed:
7.1. The actions all need to be concrete and measurable.
7.2. They must include clear accountabilities and ‘sprint’ milestones that effectively breakdown the overall change project into manageable chunks capable of completion and celebration (see 8.)
7.3. You must also create specific sub-projects for overcoming blockers and resistance to change as well as communication and engagement steps included in this list

8. Communicate and celebrate successful achievement of change chunks.
8.1. Ensure these are timed to maximise the positive internal (and any relevant external) PR impact: you’re aiming to create change momentum here.
8.2. Ensure that real small rewards are earned/ enjoyed – even if it’s just a round of drinks with the people involved in achieving the sub-goal or giving yourself a small treat

9. Keep on reminding all involved (those identified in 2, 5.2 and 7.2 above) about the clear list of benefits that will be enjoyed when change is achieved (you created this list in 5.3. above). You need to treat this step as a communication sub-project in its own right

10. Take a planned action
10.1. Repeat 10.

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