Tooth/Dollar exchange rate

imageIn Russian we have an idiom “Zub dash?” or “Zub dam!”, which means roughly: “will you bet your tooth on this?” and “I’ll bet my tooth on this!”, correspondingly (both ways, it’s not exactly posh). We usually ask the first question, when we want to know if our companion is serious about something. And usually the answer is “sure!”, without even shadow of doubt, so we go away, reassured that we’ve got the deal.

Sometimes, though, nothing happens. I’m not sure, why. It may be because no one thinks I’m going to pull out their tooth for this (they’re right, unfortunately). Or there is some other reason, but it seems like the answer “yes” to the idiom isn’t taken too seriously.

But I found a solution. I just changed the price: instead of tooth I ask for, say, $100. And now they’re thinking before the answer. Which is, if you think it over, rather strange, because a tooth is obviously more precious thing than $100. But then, I will definitely not go for you tooth (see the previous paragraph), as for the $100, there are chances I will.

Or maybe the question isn’t too familiar and wakes our consciousness.

Anyway, that’s the trick I use now a lot and if you have similar problems, you may use it too.

Free book: The one minute to-do list by Michael Linenberger

imagePlace all your actions in one place

The author

Just a short review of a free (yep, it is free) book on the productivity topic (the author: Michael Linenberger). I, somehow postponed it, though I read it several months ago, on my vacation.

Most productivity systems have some common ground (that comforts: I hope there is something to them if they agree on major points =) ), so I’ll just list some major ideas I like or dislike in the book:

·         Be careful while creating “Important” category. I always repeat, that there should be only “do it now” (the less tasks the better, the best result will be with just one), “do it someday”, “don’t do it”. Else you’ll find yourselves with a lot of “important” stuff on hand.

·         Once more: spend several minutes to plan your day. It is worth it. At least you won’t find out that despite your promises you won’t be able to spend 3 hours on a report today, because you have 6 meetings and one long call. And not achieving your daily goal may frustrate and demotivate you. I just wrote some thoughts about how bad it is to plan to do more than you actually can.

·         I also found in the book a very interesting idea about “magical” 10 days (which usually translates into 2 work weeks): the author’s observations show that most people “tend to relax their anxiety about a big task or project if its deadline is beyond one or two weeks out”. That’s interesting, because it somehow correlates with my own observations, from which I see that most people cannot make solid plans extending the same term. And some practices recommend start planning with two-week chunks. Coincidence? I wonder if there is some research on the topic.

·         A bit on what I call consciousness (Going home test as the author calls it). That’s not about meditation, rather about making some things being fully turned on, without autopilot. If I have something urgent, I should ask myself: will I be willing to stay at work overtime today to do that. If not, then it is not that urgent.

·         Also there are references to limiting work in progress. BTW, what to do with a manager’s tasks? A manager definitely has more tasks than his subordinates. At the moment I treat as my own tasks only those I do myself and do not delegate?

·         But there are stupid in the book, too. Like having your to-do list visually close to your emails. It’s a behavior which easily may lead you to spending all day in your mail without doing any tasks.

·         The book also would be twice shorter if not for description of some software. I don’t like such stuff in books: your tool is almost irrelevant, if you know what to do. But even so it’s quite short.

Usefulness: average. It will increase if you are just starting working with to-do lists.

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Is it easy to read? Yes.

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Get it here.

Time’s math

imageIt’s absolutely unavoidable to rest if you want to work.

Ok, I officially admit, that I’m not a hipster. I’m absolutely mainstream. They’ve been talking for years around me about how one should treat themselves better and give them more space and sleep well… Ok, here I am, after many books on anti-procrastination, getting things done, making yourself productive, you name it.

As a result, I understood some things, among them a very stupid one: you don’t have 24 hours a day. No, not even on Friday. And, no, you don’t have another 48 hours at weekends. And the more you act like you don’t know that stupid thing, the less good it does to you. Ok, say, you’re one of those mindless zombies, who sleeps 4-5 hours a day (you sleep less than that? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU!?). Like I was just several years ago. You still have 19 to 20 hours a day, do you? Of course you do! That’s the math, it cannot lie. Unless… Unless you’re eating, telecommuting, going to bathroom, drinking, just stalking around because you don’t have the slightest idea what you were doing right now (4 hours a day sleep makes wonders) and all other stuff. And you definitely don’t do fun. Just not to be forgotten: meetings. I know, they also are your job, but usually you have some work other than meetings, and when you say “job” you don’t imagine some meeting. Usually it is getting ready for the meeting, or writing a report, or investigating something. So, actually, you don’t have 24, 19 or even 12 hours a day for your job.

I understood that, when I tried to map my own day on work (and, mind you, I worked more than 10 hours a day at the time). Actually, I was trying to find out, how much continuous time I do have throughout a work week. I started with jotting out my lunches. Then I took some time every day for doing my emails (quite a chunk of time, I dare say). And a bit more for the weekly reviews of my productivity system. And for my weekly report. After that I put into the schedule (and removed out of my life!) some regular meetings: with my direct reports and my boss, change advisory boards, and Change Management Post Implementation Reviews. And some more things. And it looks like from 40 hours a week only 19 are available for anything what haven’t been planned yet. Wow.

Now I’m taking my calendar and peek into it looking for non-regular meetings, which arise ad hoc, or are necessary to move some tasks forward. I’m counting how much of them do I have on average week and I remove them from my budget too. What I’m left with is mind-boggling 8 hours a week. Yep. 8 hours.

What should any sensible guy do after such a discovery? Of course work MORE. That solves the problem, doesn’t it? Work more – do more. It’s actually, self-explanatory and self-evident. Well, I don’t know. There are times, when one should work 20 hours a day. I’m a lucky man, last time I did it for some time was last year. I even found out, that during such times you need to take proper care of your body and your mind and thus it wasn’t worthless. So, it is a solution, sometimes. But what if we don’t take it to the extreme, if we just add a couple of hours to our work schedule. It’s just 10, not 20. Like, “I’m not ruining anything everything, I’m just working a bit more”. But then, stop and think about it again:

·         You work 10 hours

·         You sleep 8 hours (lucky us)

·         You commute 2 hours a day (in my city it’s counted as good time)

·         You eat, say, an hour (three meals a day, one at your office’s canteen with a reasonable line)

·         You have to spare at least an hour to your hygiene

·         And after all that you scarcely have ego left to miss your chance to “just look” at your social network. For two hours if you were counting with me. And, even more, if you decide, that this particular “tomorrow” will be ok with just 6 hours of sleep.

How’s that for “I need to fix this plumbing” or “I’d like to draw at least an hour a day”?

As far as I understand from my own experience, some forums and books, it is a common problem: people just don’t leave themselves time to live. My own problem was greatly diminished by what I pictured in the previous lines. I haven’t resolved it completely, but I sleep 7 to 9 hours a day, I do sports 3 to 6 hours a week, I write my blogs more or less regularly, I read (and not only in a bus), I play games, I doodle, I bake sometimes and even do my home chores. I’m not yet into something dramatic, as you see, but it is much more than what I had just a couple years ago. So, it worked for me and why don’t you try it if it is a problem for you too?

If you want to make even more impact on yourself, you may follow Neil Fiore’s approach (he calls ithappy-o-meter счастьемер Unschedule) from the book I read just recently. He says that putting all your day-to-day activities into your schedule is not enough. On contraire: you should start from putting there all you want to get from your life and what’s absolutely necessary to have one (no, it is not you weekly report): sleep, sport, fun, games, meditation, food, leisure and everything else. And only after that start with all your job activities. That’s almost my idea, I explained earlier, but in its ultimate form. Start with that if my idea doesn’t work for you. Live for several weeks with such unscheduled. And then just look back and compare your emotions, your physical state and your level of happiness to the previous levels (it may be necessary to keep a diary for some people to make real comparison). I hope, you’ll like new you better😉

A book: The Now Habit by Neil Fiore

clip_image002Now, let’s talk about the last book about procrastination, I’ve read to procrastinate other stuff😉 Why the last? It seems to me, that I’ve seen the major ideas behind the topic. Now it’s the time to just reflect on them and tune my own life so that not to have to procrastinate anything.

What were we talking about… Ah! The book. Ok, Neil Fiore seems to be a big guy in the field, but, to be honest, the book was to me less appealing than the book of Peter Ludwig. I haven’t written about it in the blog, because the English version hasn’t come out yet (it’ll come out soon and you can subscribe to the news about it at the page linked above, though). Anyway, the reading got me some fresh ideas to think about, so it is worth looking into some of it.

The core idea as I got it is that the more discomfort you are anticipating from your job, the more active will be your evading of it and finding your salvation in something more pleasant. The more you feel that endless work deprive you from pleasure and amusements of life, the more active you will be your run from the work.

So, the author just tells you to make room for what is worth living for first, and then fill everything else with the “bad” work. And to put up with the latter, probably even trick yourself into liking it. That’s the spirit. I somehow approve, actually, but believe that working on what you really like may be even better. Why? Because some approaches, the author suggests don’t exactly work for me. Say, rewarding myself with something pleasant after doing something I procrastinate, make the reward even more attractive and the job itself even less so.

 However, there is a revolutionary (for me) thought in the book: procrastination isn’t a problem itself. It’s a manifestation of other problems. Their visible and palpable trace and consequence. One of the most problematic chain from the author’s point of view is something like: wanting an ideal result (THE ideal result!) -> fear of failure -> procrastination -> self-criticism -> anxiety and depression -> loss of confidence -> ever enlarging fear of failure -> PROCRASTINATION! It seems obvious now, in retrospective, but I swear, I somehow didn’t happen to word the thought so exact and clear.

That’s how perfectionism and feeling that everything in our life is important makes us not doing anything in time. And yes, I strongly believe that in everyone’s life not everything is ultimately important. And, the worst thing which happens if you fail fast is not this:

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No, this never happens because you’ve failed at something (I hope I’m not being read by any nuclear country’s president). Mostly, if you fail fast you recover fast and learn even faster. But isn’t it hard…

What even more important (for me, at least), is to understand, that not only fear of failure is the problem in some cases, but also fear of success. That kind of fear stopped me at least couple of times in my life. And probably, I postpone some things right now because the success will mean I will become someone else. And I will have to change. And nothing will be the same again. It’s scary as hell, but it’s, at the same time, exciting. And it’s being procrastinated, nevertheless.

The book, sure, offers some instruments, I like, and some approaches I’m not so sure, are worth to employ.

Say, “Unschedule”. The idea I’ve been using for a while, but in an ultimate form. I’ll describe it in more detail in some later blog, here I just say that the instrument will help you to stop thinking that you have 24 hours a day and, if you somehow need it, 48 hours a weekend. Such concepts are ultimate “procrastinagenes”, because no, you don’t have that much time. You’ll be surprised how little, comparing to those figures you really have for your work.

Another instrument – “Reverse calendar” – is to map al your activities from the finish to the beginning, so that you know when you have to start something to have at least some chances to finish in time. It’s also self-obvious, but the idea here is to map the same instrument to the bigger activities, projects, etc.

And sure enough, there wasn’t a chance to miss out Pomodoro techniques and other “power hours” which, after reading at least two or three books on personal productivity and anti-procrastination just become what you expect in a decent book😉

What I’m not sure about are methods which, in general, just make you believe that your job is more pleasant than it is. Well, I’ve mastered the behavior myself, that’s normal when you don’t like what you don’t know how to do at the beginning, but later, when your proficiency at the stuff increases – you start loving it. But, as far as I understand, Neil Fiore suggests some tricks to like what you still don’t. Not sure, it’ll work every time, but probably it could at least mend some situations.

Anyway, if it’s not the 5th book on the topic you’ve read, I would rather recommend it, though my absolute favorite, as I already said, is the book of Peter Ludwig.

Usefulness: slightly above the average. But I had read some books on topic before it.

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Is it easy for reading? Sure.

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Book: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

clip_image002Not sure – throw it out.

Pascal Dennis.

What should I eat to lose weight?

Usual dietary question

The next book is not about doing stuff. It’s about not doing stuff. Yep. The author tells us that the only way to be really successful is to choose what not to do. You know what? I totally agree.

WE

CANNOT

DO

EVERYTHING.

Like in “quit saying yes”. Because if you take on every challenge you meet, then you face “priorities”. And it is quite new a word: you haven’t seen much of it before, say, XV or even XIX century. Before that it was only one priority in every situation. That’s very close to what I believe my tasks may be divided on:

· Do it right now (only one task).clip_image003

· Do it one day (many other tasks).

· Don’t do it (the more tasks, the better).

So, chose what you want to do, set your priority and don’t touch anything else.

Brilliant idea, isn’t it? Of course there are some tough spots. Say, I decided to sell something I don’t need. And 5 years later the spot shows the Fountain of Youth in it. Wouldn’t it be awful?!

But still, I see application for this. Moreover, some things I do in my job (though, I definitely need to improve the practice). Say, if I’m working on something and someone is requiring my time, but cannot say that his deal is urgent, then I’m just saying “I’ll call you later”. There is, for sure, one important ingredient in this: I will really call them. =) And your “no” shouldn’t translate into “get lost”. It may, if you wish, but it’s usually unnecessary.

So, I definitely approve the approach. I just need to think of what and how to do with it, because the book isn’t a text book. It’ more a manifesto, then a manual.

There are useful things, like zero-based budgeting: you don’t look what you planned yesterday to do today, you just gather as many commitments for today as you possibly can do. First – what is more important. And if all the important stuff doesn’t find the room in your day – you must not plan for it (remember: 24 hours a day minus 8 hours for sleep minus 8 hours for work minus 2 hours for food minus several hours for commute minus… your day is one small amount of time!). You may plan as your next absolutely important goal (only one priority, remember?) increasing your performance, but never try to do twice as much as you really can.

Yep, important stuff is all over the book. But remember how I just told you it’s not a textbook or manual? The structure of the book is weak and it has little instruments to start with. At least, I see it this way: you’ll have motivation from the book, but it’s up to you, how to apply this motivation to your life. There are some advices, but they either don’t have anything to do with essentialism, or are trivial, or plain impossible to do. Example? Easy. Suppose you are a perfectionist. You’re trying to make a report, and, sure enough, the report must be perfect. And you have dozens ideas how to improve it. But right now you have to do at least a draft to start with. But you cannot, because “draft” is opposite to “perfect”. And you’re just stuck! What should you do? Greg suggests that you just change your motto from “perfect or nothing” to “better something than nothing”. Easy like that! Just change your core idea, what you really are to the opposite and it will solve everything. You have two minutes, I believe it will be enough.

And one exceptionally bad in most corporate environments advice: put at least 50% time buffer in everything you do. Ok, the task should last a day. I’m adding a day more, to create the buffer, my boss adds 1 more day for his buffer and his boss adds 2 more days “just in case”. Now we have 5 days for the task which lasts a day. And, considering the student syndrome, it’ll probably last 6 to 7 days, actually. I’m far from saying that buffers are unnecessary, but in complex environments they should be controlled so that no such chain effect occurs.

So, the book is ok if we consider it a motivational manifesto and not trying play it as a textbook. The author even put some Theory of constraints passages into it, and it’s nowadays almost a quality sign😉

Usefulness: slightly above average. I’d prefer more instrumental book. Still it’s the vNext idea for me.

книга полезность выше среднего

 

 

Is it easy for reading? Yes. There is a bit more pathos then I’d like, but it’s ok.

книга нормально читается

Book: Lean production simplified by Pascal Dennis

imageLet’s start from the end: I haven’t reached it. Yep, one more book I haven’t read cover-to-cover. I’ve just made a new category for such books in the blog.

I’m interested in the Lean Manufacturing topic, and I heard something about it, but still, I don’t know how to DIY. That’s why I started reading such books. But this one – I failed with it. Why? Well, the book seems awkward to me. It creates questions but doesn’t answer them. Probably, I just don’t know enough, or I know too much, who knows. Anyway, I still see what’s different in my job from what’s described in the book, but don’t see what’s similar.

The book is not a 101 course, because it’s full of details and lacks some “executive overview”. Say, we now know about using sensors in some situations to control production flow, how to place them and what algorithm to use. And in the same book we just use some terms without explaining them. Explaining, what we can do if our situation is a bit different (say, we spent little time producing the product, but do it rarely) – ha! – no way. That is – a lot of details, but little rules of the system.

The book isn’t a reference book either, because it’s not detailed enough. Or details aren’t in the place we’d like them. Say, we’re talking about obligatory 5S learning course:

·         Team members: 2 hours

·         People, accountable for 5S: 1 day

·         Masters and managers: 1 day.

What is the course agenda, what this time should consist of – never mind, you won’t find it. We know only that it’s “5S intro” and “5S implementation”. As a result, the whole piece of information is absolutely useless.

I also find it funny, that we should learn some Japanese words. Like in “Muda is a Japanese word youimage have to learn”. How sweet. Since that’s what I definitely can live without, it’s… How you name it? Ahhh – Muda! =)

Long story short, I had been trying for almost 2/3 of the book, but then I quit and some of my questions still lie unanswered:

·         What’s supplies and overproduction in work of system engineers?

·         What are machines in my case?

·         Probably, machines are my servers and production is just fulfilling users’ requests (http for web, JSON or some other stuff for other services, etc.)? And then my guys are really engineers who just readjust the equipment. Each release is a readjustment. And so is plain reconfiguration?

·         How do we use 5S for servers?

·         What is our product?

·         What is transportation for me?

And many others. Just like I said: too many questions about how are we different. So, what should I read next on the topic? And what books I shouldn’t waste my time on? =)

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Usefulness: low. Books should not only question you, but answer some questions, too.

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Is it easy for reading: no, I never finished it.

Pikachu on the Iron Throne

clip_image002[4]All of a sudden I found plenty of people in my social networks who brag that they haven’t seen an episode of Game of Thrones series or have never played Pokemon Go. That is, they say they have never done something and are proud of it. There are also multiple conspiracy theories (at least in the Russian segment of the internet), which aren’t a subject for this discussion even though some of them look credible enough for the first look. I’m Interested exectly in the fact that the people are proud of not knowing something.

Well, yes, if you think a little, it’s that: they are bragging that they didn’t embrace some parts of the culture around them. Yep, culture. It’s not only Dostoevsky and Monet, but also memes and someone’s little pony’s.

And no, I haven’t played the game yet and saw barely a couple of episodes of GoT (the book is better, is my usual excuse ;)) But I have watched through all the available to me Doctor Who episodes and play other games, and all that other stuff.

What’s important with that: I’m aware that I missed some part of the world culture. I will never understand some jokes, or analogies. And I don’t see what is here to be proud about not knowing something. You don’t know it. That’s the fact. Probably you don’t need it, like tensors or jacobian, but no point to gloating about it.

And now I’m leaving to find at least one pokemon and watch some of GoT😉