Personal Productivity Requires Focus Not Time Management

Personal Productivity Requires Focus Not Time Management

This excellent essay in The New York Times takes us on a journey of personal productivity. I’m a Getting Things Done guy. Capturing ideas and notes, sorting them, making to do lists. I even have an affiliate link to a GTD app called Nozbe on my site.

In this article, psychologist Adam Grant talks about attention, or lack thereof, as the culprit that steals your time.

And I admit, I fall prey to the seductions of things that steal my attention. You wonder what some word means. By the time you’re through chasing squirrels through Google, you’ve blown an embarrassing amount of time.

You do have to decide what the important thing is to work on. But then you must direct your attention to that problem and focus on the work.

Fill Your Mind Intentionally This Year

Fill Your Mind Intentionally This Year

You become what you think about. (Ancient Wisdom from many traditions.)

We begin a new year leaving behind a tumultuous one. If you were a news junkie, your mind must be close to mush.

I don’t recommend New Year’s Resolutions or any of a variety of goals.

Better is to review last year and decide what new or replaced habits will make me better as a human and contributor this year.

One I suggest if you have not already done it is to go on “news fasts.” Filter your news sources and pare them back. Check news like you would email–just a very few times a day.

Instead fill your mind with new learning and ancient wisdom. Always be learning. Always aware of opportunities coming toward you. Ready to act when opportune.

This way of life has changed me.

What will I learn this year? How will I contribute this year?

Here’s a wish for a good 2019 for you.

Make Healthy Habits

Make Healthy Habits

Go ahead, admit it. You’ve already started your list of New Year’s Resolutions.

You know you will forget them by January 15.

I’m preparing for a jump in attendance in my Yoga class next week.

Of course, by the end of January attendance will be pretty much where it has been.

Resolving that “I will be healthier this year” or “I will weigh a health 1XX pounds” won’t do it.

Deciding on one or two new habits will make the change permanent.

Tomorrow morning I will make a breakfast of oatmeal with fruit. And the next morning. Maybe even laying out the bowl the night before. Do that for 30 days, and you will be moving on your way to a healthier and slimmer you.

Tomorrow morning I will get up and either go to the gym or the park and run/walk for 30 minutes. Do that for 30 days along with one change in eating, and you will have new habits and be on your way to health and fitness.

After a couple of months, you could say, for example, “since I am already at the gym to run or walk daily (maybe skipping weekends or something), I will add using the weight machines to firm up my muscles.”

Apply this to business. We never say, “I resolve to fail.” But perhaps you could change one habit. Maybe in how you compliment people. Maybe, if you are in sales, make it a habit that every day at 9 am I will make 10 sales calls. I don’t schedule meetings, I make calls. I add it to my calendar. Make it a habit.

Habits are a nice way of talking about disciplines. Rather than saying “I will grow spiritually,” say, “tomorrow morning I will get up 15 minutes earlier and read from the Bible (or other spiritual book) followed by meditating on the thought for 5 minutes.” Have a chair with the book on the table beside it. Get up, brew your coffee or tea, and sit down to do your spiritual work. After 30 days you will have a habit that everyone will notice.

Warning: Don’t try too many new habits all at once. You’ll be overwhelmed. One habit change can noticeably change your life.

George Raveling On Reading, Life

George Raveling On Reading, Life

What you fill your mind with is what you become. You can spend your life listening to bubble gum for the brain or stuff designed to stir up your emotions–or, you can fill your mind with positive thoughts and material designed to teach and expand you.

I listen to podcasts. At least an hour a day. I just finished one that is a must-listen. (Of course, other than mine 🙂

This is the podcast of Tim Ferriss (4-hour Work Week, Tools of the Titans, etc.). He just interviewed George Raveling in the most fascinating conversation I’ve heard in years.

Learn about his reading habits and how he takes notes. He gifted Ferriss with a number of books including one of my favorites–Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer-Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. I read it in the mid-60s and the ideas have formed much of my outlook. He wrote it in 1951, but it is just as relevant today.

Raveling was the first black basketball head coach in the PAC 8 (later PAC 10) at Washington State and then the first black head basketball coach in the Big 10 while at Iowa. Later he coached at USC. He became Global Director of Sports Marketing at Nike and was instrumental in signing Michael Jordan and beginning the Air Jordan dynasty.

He was born in Washington, D.C. and essentially orphaned at age 13. He tells the story of getting into a Catholic school, his many mentors, and how he wound up on the podium during Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

For your own personal growth and development, you need to listen to this.

A couple of quotes:

“I’ve always had this theory that, if you help enough people get what they want, you’ll always get what you want.”

“If it has to be, it’s up to me.”

Predictive Tool to Improve Human-machine Interactions in Digital Manufacturing

Predictive Tool to Improve Human-machine Interactions in Digital Manufacturing

As manufacturing shifts towards smart factories, with interconnected production systems and automation, engineers at the University of Nottingham are leading a £1.9m project to develop a predictive toolkit to optimise productivity and communication between human workers and robots.

This research fits in with much other reporting I’ve done including the work of Dell Technologies on “human-machine partnerships.”

DigiTOP is one of seven national projects to create novel digital tools, techniques and processes to support the translation of digital capabilities into the manufacturing sector, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

It comes following the industry-led Made Smarter review, chaired by Siemens Chief Executive Juergen Maier, which stated that industrial digitalisation could be worth as much as £455bn to UK manufacturing over the next decade.

DigiTOP officially started on 1st July with the first month dedicated to project set up activities culminating in our internal kick off meeting at the end of the month, after which we should have a more outward focus. The project will take 39 months and complete on 30 September 2021. The twitter account @DigiTOP_Project will be regularly updated, and they are in the process of setting up a website to aid dissemination of progress.

A digital toolkit for the optimisation of operators and technology in manufacturing partnerships, DigiTOP will be led by Professor Sarah Sharples at the University of Nottingham in collaboration with Loughborough University, Cranfield University, University of the West of England, BAE Systems, Babcock International, Synertial Labs Ltd, Artinis Medical Systems B.V., High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult and Jaguar Land Rover Ltd.

The toolkit will focus on using human factor theories and data to digitally capture and predict the impact of digital manufacturing on future working practices. Demonstrators will be used to test the implementation of sensing technologies that will capture and evaluate performance change and build predictive models of system performance.

The project will also provide an understanding of the ethical, organisational and social impact of the introduction of digital manufacturing tools and digital sensor-based tools to evaluate work performance in the future workplace.

DigiTOP’s findings will help companies that are planning to implement digital manufacturing technologies to understand how it will alter working practices, and how to optimise workplace designs to take these changes into account.

The tools developed within DigiTOP will help industry to design future work which might take place with a human and robot working in collaboration to complete a task or help with understanding how to design a data visualisation which shows how current parts of the factory are performing, and where maintenance or systems change might be needed in the short or long-term future.

Professor Sharples said: “The manufacturing industry, with the drive towards ‘Industrie 4.0’, is experiencing a significant shift towards digital manufacturing. This increased digitisation and interconnectivity of manufacturing processes is inevitably going to bring substantial change to worker roles and manual tasks by introducing new digital manufacturing technologies to shop floor processes.

“It may not be enough to simply assume that workers will adopt new roles bestowed upon them; to ensure successful worker acceptance and operational performance of a new system it is important to incorporate user requirements into digital manufacturing technologies design.

“New approaches to capture and predict the impact of the changes that these new types of technologies, such as robotics, rapidly evolvable workspaces, and data-driven systems are required,” adds Professor Sharples, who is Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange for Engineering at Nottingham.

“These approaches consist of embedded sensor technologies for capture of workplace performance, machine learning and data analytics to synthesise and analyse these data, and new methods of visualisation to support decisions made, potentially in real-time, as to how digital manufacturing workplaces should function.”

The EPSRC investment arose out of work conducted by the Connected Everything Network Plus, which was established to create a multidisciplinary community focussed on industrial systems in the digital age.

EPSRC’s Executive Chair, Professor Philip Nelson, said: “The adoption of advanced ICT techniques in manufacturing provides an enormous opportunity to improve growth and productivity within the UK.

“The effective implementation of these new technologies requires a multidisciplinary approach and these projects will see academic researchers working with a large number of industrial partners to fully harness their potential, which could generate impact across many sectors.”

Creative People Seek Routines

Creative People Seek Routines

You know the stereotype of the creative genius who it spontaneous, keeps odd hours, disappears for a time. Let us blast that stereotype. This weekend I leave for Germany and another trip through the labyrinth of Hannover Messe. Typically at trade fairs, we are exposed to the fruits of a year’s labor developing new products. These will be touted with words such as creative, ground-breaking, unique, Few, in reality, will be that extreme. Many will be useful. Maybe a few will push a boundary. Maybe a couple will break new ground. I will be in search for the creative.

Curious about creativity, I read through Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown Sunday morning. By the way, the pursuit of less (simplicity) is itself a fruitful discipline.

He quotes Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit), “Routine…In fact the brain starts working less and less. The brain can almost shut down… And this is a real advantage, because it means you have all this mental activity you can devote to something else.”

Ah, routine. I glanced at the clock as I depressed the plunger on the French Press this morning. 5:51 am. That is plus or minus five minutes from every day as I prepare the morning’s coffee for Bev and me (except today it’s all mine–she’s traveling). Then I sit down with a light breakfast and gather my thoughts for a couple of posts.

Back to McKeown. He cites Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his classic Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, said, “Most creative individuals find out early what their best rhythms are for sleeping, eating, and working, and abide by them even when it is tempting to do otherwise. They wear clothes that are comfortable, they interact only with people they find congenial, they do only things they think are important. Of course, such idiosyncrasies are not endearing to those they have to deal with… But personalizing patterns of action helps to free the mind from expectations that make demands on attention and allows intense concentration on matters that count.”

Maybe try:

  • Get adequate sleep
  • Rise, drink water, move a little
  • Meditate, read something spiritually oriented, pray
  • Light breakfast with some protein
  • Exercise
  • Get ready for the day

Go with the flow! Decide many things ahead of time so that more energy is available for real work–Deep Work as Cal Newport describes it.

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