Blackberry-Specific Habits

This is a great article written by a friend of mine – Ian Price – for the Guardian newspaper in the UK.

One of the startling statistics he quotes is the fact that Blackberry users spend much more time checking email on weekends than those without.  It backs up an argument I have been making:  an employee with a smartphone is better for a manager than one without… at least in the short term.

It might be worse for the employee, their families, their friends and also for the company in the long-run, but managers who require their employees to check email on weekend needn’t worry.

Ian also makes the point that those who like to appear busy have found the perfect companion in their smartphones, but this frenetic attention comes at a price — lower productivity via less quiet, reflective time that’s needed to do deep thinking.  It echoes the words of the book “Flow” perfectly.

Here is the link to Four-Day Working Week? Three Cheers!

Balancing Your Life

A interesting article over at the LifeHacker website.

Penelope Trunk is a great writer and in this article she talks about the power of creating a balanced schedule and sticking to it.  Also, she talks about the difference between working lots and lots of hours, and instead trying to put in high quality work at all time.

This is the very opposite of jumping to answer your cell-phone whenever it rings or checking email whenever it beeps because it just might be something more important than what you happen to doing at the moment (like reading my blog.)

Click here to read:  Find Time Your Personal and Get a Handle on Your Out-of-Control Work Schedule.”

Top 10 Ways to Use Your Down Time More Effectively

istock_000010092262xsmall.jpgBy Emily Thomas

If you feel pretty confident with your time management skills, you may already use to-do lists, calendars, goal-tracking charts and alerts or alarms to keep you focused and driven during your work or school day.

But what about your down time?

If you leave your productivity skills at the door as soon as you check out of the office each day, you’re not maximizing your personal time. And while staying productive after hours when you’re supposed to be relaxing may seem counterintuitive, there are ways that you can use your down time more effectively without giving up the fun.
1.    Watch the clock. One of the easiest ways to manage time, especially if you’re not worried about deadlines, is to keep track of what time it is. You’ll be less likely to spend hours in front of the TV if you’re aware of the time that’s slipping away.
2.    Stick to a regular sleeping schedule. Avoid oversleeping and napping when you don’t really need it by sticking to a regular sleeping schedule, even on weekends. You can sleep in an extra hour or so, but don’t stay up all night and then sleep until lunchtime the next day if you want to use your time effectively.
3.    Multi-task. The next time you settle down to watch a movie, go down your to-do list and find a task that you can accomplish while sitting in front of the TV, like wrapping birthday presents, sending thank-you cards, or cooking dinner.
4.    Make the most of your commute. If you use public transportation or a van pool, use your commute to catch up on reading, e-mails or sleep.
5.    Stay plugged in. Just because you’re not at work doesn’t mean you have to turn into a vegetable. Staying plugged in to the world around you means that your creativity, memory and intellect or still operating, even if it’s just in the background.
6.    Visit friends. Being social keeps you “checked in” emotionally and mentally and helps you stay in a good mood, which also leads to better productivity.
7.    Eat right. Weekends usually mean that diets witness a little leniency, but remember to eat healthy so that you can keep your energy up.
8.    Dream. Daydreaming usually seems like a bad idea if you want to manage your time more effectively, but it encourages your mind to be creative and set new goals for yourself.
9.    Get a hobby. If you’re not fully satisfied with your job, get a hobby that stimulates your creativity and intellect, and could even turn into a second job or new career in the future.
10.    Exercise your brain. Help your body prevent cognitive decline by playing crossword puzzles, reading the newspaper and mixing things up.
This post was contributed by Emily Thomas, who writes about the best online universities. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

Multitasking Peaks During the Teen Years

This is a great article that makes the point that our ability to multi-task increases during our teen years before it starts a steady decline in our mid-30’s.

Interesting, because as far as I can tell, most professionals develop their first time management systems during that time.

This might explain why White Belts proliferate in most companies, and get into real trouble when they either get older, or have to deal with a rapid increase in the number of time demands that they must manage.

There are some other cool links at the site, including a reference to a series on Multitasking recently broadcast on NPR.

Here is a link to the post:  This is Your Brain on Multitasking.

Software Managed Interruptions

As I mentioned in prior posts, it’s quite important for a user of the 2Time approach to appreciate the goal of getting into the Flow state as often as possible.

This requires a minimum of interruptions, and luckily for us, there are some companies that are thinking about ways to manage email so that only the most urgent messages are presented as interruptions to whatever task we are doing.  For example, I am writing this article and don’t want to be interrupted, unless an email comes in that tells me something that requires urgent attention.

(Although, honestly, it would have to be life-shattering to stop me from completing this task.)

This line of thinking is shared in the article I found at BusinessWeek entitled May We Have Your Attention Please?

Soon, however, the same kinds of social networking software and communications technologies that make it deliciously easy to lose concentration may start steering us back to the tasks at hand. Scientists at U.S. research labs are developing tools to help people prioritize the flood of information they face and fend off irrelevant info-bytes. New modes of e-mail and phone messaging can wait patiently for an opportune time to interrupt. One program allows senders to “whisper” something urgent via a pop-up on a screen.

Hmmm…. that sounds promising.

It sounds like a big challenge, and I think these scientists are headed in the right direction.  After all, they are implicitly acknowledging how important it is to preserve the state of flow, and are trying to find ways to preserve it as much as possible.

However, I don’t know it if it’s more valuable than teaching a user to be more disciplined, and all the reasons why.  After all, users need to understand why Flow is important, and that it’s more efficient to check email a few times each day rather than every few minutes.  An effort spent to teach discipline would probably do more than new software would, especially as a user can ruin all the benefit of this new software with bad personal habits.

In other words, software might fix a problem that users have in the future, but it’s better to focus one the fact that they don’t understand the problem they have now.

Speechus Interruptus

giuliani-speech.jpgDuring a speech to the National Rifle Association during the Presidential campaign of 2008, Rudy Guiliani stopped to answer a cell phone call.

Obviously, from the tone of the conversation he had with his wife, it was much less important than the speech he was giving. Like many professionals, however, he has developed the bad habit of stopping what he is doing to do something else that just might be more important.

This flies in the face of the principle of focusing on the task at hand so deeply that one enters the Flow state. You can see from the video that he mind takes a moment to return to the task at hand, and if his wife had just told him that there was “an emergency at home,”  for example, he would have shot himself in the foot by taking the call and possibly ruining the speech.

Click here to be taken to the video of Rudy Giuliani interrupting his speech to the NRA to take the call.

A Summary of Flow – the Goal of Time Management

5182bhk90ml_sl160_.jpgThe book, Flow, is one that I refer to often in my thinking about time management.

I recently heard a wonderful presentation of the author of the book on the Ted website, given by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

It’s a great summary of the ideas in this book, and I thought that this summary slide was particularly useful.  Of course, reading one of his books on the subject would be an even better idea.

The flow state summarized below is a great description of the goal of any time management system.  It’s one that allows the user to remain in, or attain the flow state of often as possible.

How Does it Feel to Be in Flow?

1.  Completely  involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated.

2.  A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality.

3.  Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.

4.  Knowing that the activity is doable – that our skills are adequate to the task

5.   A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego

6.  Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes

7.  Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes it own reward

A good summary of the book, Flow,  can be found at this link.

Rudeness or Poor Time Management Skills

please-don-t-interrupt-me-while-i-m-ignoring-you-posters.jpgIt’s happened to all of us… we are in what we think is a useful conversation, when the person we are talking with, suddenly  switches over to their Blackberry, or cell phone.

In the moment, they  make a decision that the unknown call or email that has just come in is more important than the conversation they are having with us.

We think to ourselves “How rude!” as we get that partial-attention that is now commonplace when the person we are talking with is giving us “just so much” of their attention and no more.

I have been on the giving and receiving end of this poor habit.

I know that when I do it, I trick myself into thinking that I can get away with it, and I know that I don’t intend to be rude, but in that  moment I am engaging in a habit that undermines my productivity as I attempt to multitask my way to greater accomplishment.

One of my clients, a phone company, had executives who had developed a habit of answering their cell phones at any moment, even in mid-sentence.  Another company had a policy of answering their landlines each and every time they rang, and refused to put in place a voicemail system.

The result in each case was very long meetings and a generally frenetic pace, as anything took precedence over the task at hand.   Even the unknown caller.

When an unknown caller or sender of email has that much power over our activities,  it destroys our productivity and peace of mind, as we eventually never really commit to getting anything completed without interruption.

That is the same as having a mindset that the thing we are working on in the moment might be important, but we are always on the look-out for more important things to whisk us away.  Of course, after the switch has taken place,  nothing has changed, as the new task is also only as good as the next interruption.

Those who suffer from this affliction never, ever have enough time go get anything done.

It’s not that they are rude — it’s just a sign of their unconscious ineffectiveness.


Where Did the Day Go?

On yesterday’s “Obama post” the article mentions what it’s like to get to the end of a day wondering what the heck just happened.

I didn’t make the connection until now, but it’s exactly what happens when we complete a day without what I called “Awakeness” in this post from last week.

It’s the kind of busy-headedness that we can fall into in which all we are focused on is the task in front of us, at the cost of the bigger picture that really should be a part of our consciousness at all times.

I read an article a few months ago about the power of being able to maintain2 or more opposing thoughts in one’s mind at the same time.  The article can be found here.

It strikes me that this quality of Awakeness has something to do with being able to maintain a focus on the small and big picture at the very same time.  If we were to do so, we would never get to the end of the day and wonder what happened — we would know that happened.