Tying Productivity, Methods and Tools

Your Hump Day Success Edge Post #3

Productivity is a loose word as it may mean a lot of different things for different people. As per the Oxford dictionary, productivity is the state or quality of being productive, that is to be able to achieve a significant amount or result. If I need to deliver 10 actions in the course of the day, I want to deliver as fast as possible with the required quality. Therefore, productivity is generally linked to a form of time management (method) and to tools we use.

Make your own productivity methods

A good productivity method makes thing being created

https://unsplash.com/dakotaroos

Unfortunately for any human being, there are plentiful time management, goal setting, project management methods, just to name a few “buzzword”. The most important method is the one that works for you. I’ve seen many failed attempts to fit a square peg in a round hole. The only way to make any method work is to adapt it to our own existence and adapt our own existence to the method. This means making a conscious effort, but not a too steep one. It needs to make sense for you. If the method does not make any sense, change it!

Make your productivity tool work for you (not the opposite)

Adapt your tool to get optimal productivity

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As a professional, I keep track of my goals and what I need to do in Microsoft Outlook, because it replicates to all my devices and is easy to capture any new task. But I’m not a classical user of Outlook, I’m a deep user of Tasks and Calendar, on my own terms. However, Outlook may not work in every situation, particularly for team work, for which I am using my own version of Scrum in simple Excel spreadsheet. Because my motto in productivity tool is: Keep It Simple, Stupid! If any tool requires more that one hour to master, I throw it away.

Does this make sense? Let me know!

The one behavior that makes a huge performance difference

Recently Inc.com published a post entitled The Productivity Secret Behind Bill Gates’s Incredible Success. The title entices you with the idea that Bill’s success is a matter of just a productivity secret, which is, of course, not really true. However, it puts the finger on something that has now been demonstrated numerous times: intensity of focus is a game-changing behavior and increases performance.

Monotask

https://unsplash.com/negativespace

https://unsplash.com/negativespace

For peak performance, the first to get rid of is distraction. Second, you need to concentrate on the one task you have to do. If you’ve ever been totally absorbed in what you do, like coding or painting, or any pleasurable activity, you should have been amazed at how time flies fast and how much you have done. This is the power of dedicating all your energy to one activity and one activity only. Of course our brain and body are multitasking: we breathe without thinking about it, we digest, we do all sorts of things without being conscious about them. However, dedicating our conscious energy to one thing only is what I’m calling monotasking here.

Concentrate

https://unsplash.com/asthetik

https://unsplash.com/asthetik

When you are about to do something difficult, you often need to concentrate. This moment of deep thinking allows to focus our mind and energy on what we are about to do. Unfortunately, with all distractions, many people have lost the ability to concentrate and dedicate oneself to deep work. If you are prone to distraction, you may need to start with short period of concentration, like 10 minutes, and increase slowly to be able to sustain an hour or more of deep concentration. Concentration will bring you to the next performance level.

Meditation can help you reach your concentration goal. By bringing back focused monotasking in your daily work, you will soon be amazed at your results!

The ideal decision making process

https://unsplash.com/samuelzeller

https://unsplash.com/samuelzeller

Day 706 This idea is not mine but Andy Groove’s former CEO of Intel. In his book High Output Management, written in the 80’s, he describes how to create a successful organization and goes through all aspects of management and leadership. For a long time, it has been a model and still is in many aspects, whether you are in manufacturing or not. On all the concepts he describes, the decision-making one is so elegant and simple, it’s the best I came to see. It is described through three steps:

  1. Free discussion. This is probably the most important step. All parties that need to come to a decision need to speak up. They need to provide their concerns and ideas. Free speech is essential and everyone needs to go as deep as possible. Nothing should be left on the table. If the ideas exchange is too shallow, the decision risks to be not that well accepted.
  2. Clear decision. Because the discussion has been to the right depth, consensus is reached with the right balance, having heard all parties.
  3. Full support. Once again, because a consensus has been found and a decision made, all parties need to support the action following the decision. If something has not been said, or things have been left on the table because somebody did not spoke up, it may be necessary to go back to the free discussion step. Pay attention though to not end into an analysis-paralysis infinite loop. Trade-offs have to be made sometimes.

The interesting piece about this process is the first step. Free speech is essential, therefore the leader of the discussion has to ensure all parties are heard and has to establish a trust environment. If trust is not present, some persons may not feel right to speak up, they may fear retaliation if they disagree. The leader does not have to impose his/her idea but let all parties to talk. It may end up by a decision that is at the opposite to what the leader of the discussion thought at the beginning. So be it, if it’s the best consensus found.

I am not sure though all companies or group of leaders are ready for this kind of decision-making process. However, to evolve into a growth mindset, this kind of behavior is essential and will contribute to better decision and a more pleasant work environment. Once again, simple, not easy!

Polémique stérile, logiciels libres et « privateurs »…

Jour 703 Microsoft signe un partenariat avec le Ministère de l’Education Nationale français et c’est le monde du logiciel libre qui s’émeut, le qualifiant « d’indigne des valeurs affichées par l’Éducation Nationale ». Mon point de vue n’engage que moi et pas la société qui m’emploie, à savoir Microsoft, mais là je ris devant cette polémique stérile et inutile. On veut opposer le logiciel « libre » qui donne la liberté, je cite : d’utilisation du programme, d’étudier le code source du programme, de modifier le programme et de distribuer des copies du programme original et modifié, au logiciel « privateur » qui privent les utilisateurs de leurs libertés et les maintient, je cite toujours, dans un état de division et d’impuissance.

J 703 - 1

J’adore les ayatollahs du libre ! J’en connais d’ailleurs qui utilisent des Mac ou des iPhone, heureuse ironie, pour un des systèmes les plus « fermés » et « privateurs » du monde. Evidemment, certains achètent leurs machines sans système d’exploitation et y mettent Linux ou se débarrassent de l’affreuse installation de Windows qui s’y trouve pour aussi y installer Linux. Parfois en souffrant longtemps à la recherche des bons pilotes vidéo ou autre, mais c’est pour la bonne ultime cause de la liberté. D’ailleurs quand ils n’utilisent pas d’iPhone, ils ont un téléphone sous Android, open source certes, mais quand même financé par toutes les informations que récupèrent Google à l’insu de leur plein gré.

J 703 - 2

Le logiciel libre c’est un peu comme l’anarchie, tout le monde est pour, mais au final seule une poignée d’irréductibles s’y soumettent, parce que la démocratie, le Mac et Windows, c’est loin d’être parfait, mais ça fait le boulot. Comme disait Churchill, « la démocratie est un mauvais système, mais elle est le moins mauvais de tous les systèmes. » Pas faux ! Libre et propriétaire ne s’opposent pas, ils se complémentent. Ils obéissent à des logiques différentes. Vouloir les opposer, c’est ignorer l’innovation, c’est tourner le dos aux bonnes idées, c’est tout simplement faire preuve d’un manque d’intelligence. Démontons rapidement les quatre pertes de libertés susmentionnées :

  • Utilisation du programme. Je me gratte la tête, mais si j’acquiers un logiciel qu’il soit libre ou propriétaire, je suis libre de l’utiliser. Évidemment, si je m’abonne, je peux perdre cette liberté si j’arrête de payer. Je récupère une voiture, je veux qu’elle roule en toute sécurité.
  • Étudier le code source du programme. Pour une vaste majorité des gens, le code source n’a aucun intérêt et qui plus est même avec un peu de compétences informatiques, peu de gens sont capables de lire du langage C, du Python ou du Perl. A quoi bon savoir comment fonctionne un moteur à explosion quand tout ce que je veux c’est une voiture pour me déplacer.
  • Modifier le programme. Idem à précédemment. Une vaste majorité de personne n’ont aucune envie de modifier le programme. Je ne mets pas les mains dans le moteur de ma voiture…
  • Distribuer des copies du programme original et modifié. Je me fiche pas mal, comme une très grande majorité d’utilisateurs, de distribuer le programme, ce qui m’importe généralement c’est de distribuer le résultat de mon travail avec le dit logiciel, comme par exemple un texte ou une feuille de calcul. Et pour ce qui est des logiciels dits de bureautique, ceux de Microsoft permettent de partager dans à peu près tous les formats possibles y compris ceux de l’Open Source comme OpenDocument (ODF) ou Office Open XML (DOCX).

Personne n’enferme personne dans une technologie, à part ceux qui veulent s’y enfermer, comme généralement les ayatollahs du libre, non par souci réel de défense des libertés, mais par posture contre l’industrie du logiciel propriétaire. Les deux peuvent cohabiter harmonieusement et vivre ensemble sans s’opposer en permanence. Pour preuve la coopération entre Red Hat et Microsoft, par exemple, ou le support de Linux sur Azure, mais c’est un débat qui dépasse le novice. Alors oui je préfère que mes enfants s’habituent à Microsoft Office, car il y a 99% de chance que c’est ce qu’ils trouveront dans le monde du travail. Je leur donne aussi la compétence pour se faire une opinion de Google ou d’Apple par exemple. Le monde n’est ni libre, ni propriétaire, il est ce que l’on veut bien en faire. Libre ou propriétaire, c’est comme faire le choix entre vin blanc et vin rouge, il est un temps pour tout !

Embrace modern tools or be doomed to disappear

Day 700 Have you flown a commercial flight recently? If so, you probably noticed it’s a non-smoking flight. I think I have not flown in a plane where smoking is permitted for 20 years. Every time, the flight attendants remind that “this is a non-smoking flight, smoking is not permitted in the toilets…”. However, back in time, smoking was permitted, just not during take-off and landing. This is why we had the no smoking and fasten seat belt signs next to each other.

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But in 2015, soon to be 2016, why keeping the no smoking sign? Times have changed and there is something we cannot do only during take-off and landing phases: having our electronic devices on. So modern airlines have started to change their signs with an “electronic devices off” sign, replacing the no smoking one. It makes perfect sense. I started to notice this trend a year or two ago. The interesting point though I noticed is there seems to be a correlation between the new sign and the way the airline takes care of its passenger. In other word, if the airline embraces the new sign in its planes, the meals are better, the service is enhanced and the flight attendants feel more caring.

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But it reflects a deeper change: embracing modern tools. Those are the same airlines equipped with modern devices, both for the pilots and the flight attendants. Those are the same that provides power to the passenger at their seats. They have understood that if they want to be a trusted brand, they need to embrace new tools at the same pace as their customers. Companies who will not make the necessary decision to be modern are doomed to disappear not by going bankrupted, not necessarily. They will just become irrelevant and will be swallowed by larger ones and forced to change. Darwin was somehow right.

Things you can do simultaneously…

https://unsplash.com/nabetse

https://unsplash.com/nabetse

Day 657 If multitasking is bad for productivity, it happens that some things can be done simultaneously, here are a few I could think of :

  • Running and listening to music
  • Driving and listening to an audio book
  • Cooking and learning a foreign language
  • Walking and looking around with deep attention
  • Talking while talking (walking meeting are awesome)
  • Working out and watching you favorite series
  • Hiking and thinking
  • Painting and singing
  • Reading your emails while having a coffee…

Actually all that you can do on autopilot, without deeply thinking about it, can form the base of another task that will require more attention. This is not multitasking, this is real parallel processing.

Discipline and Time Management, the no-shortcut theory of ultimate productivity

https://unsplash.com/sonjalangford

https://unsplash.com/sonjalangford

Day 655. A friend of mine asked me over the week-end how I was doing all that I am doing: blogging, working out, travelling, doing my CTO job, etc. I told him there was no extravaganza here, just simple and powerful discipline. I revealed him that I was actually defining how much time an activity was to take me and therefore was finding ways to go fast, as fast as I can, without taking any shortcuts or compromising on quality. Having thought about it over the week-end, here are the early thinking of my “no-shortcut theory of ultimate productivity”, or “how to do all you have to do, without compromising on quality”

First and foremost, let me qualify what do I mean by not compromising on quality. It’s actually meaning two clear things:

  • Content quality. If I ever have to product something, it has to be of top quality. Cheap is low quality, cheap is crap, and cheap has to be avoided!
  • Time quality. We all have 24 hours every day and we all have/want to do a sum of things every day. Ask yourself how you want those to be done and to consume the allocated time. Then do them in the allocated time.

Time quality also means that I need to take time to take care about myself (health, physical quality) and my relationships with others (people who matter, friends and family). None of my professional or personal activities should put my health or my relationship at risk. And this means, that I had to learn to say “no” to some activities. Superman does not exist and No is the most powerful word when it comes to keeping your commitments.

With this baseline, the no-shortcut theory of ultimate productivity comes to my six simple and proven axioms:

  1. What’s not planned does not get done. Every morning, take 5 to 15 minutes to plan your day and ensure all your activities are aligned on your short, mid and long term goals.
  2. Every activity has to have a time limit. If you do not put a stop sign, you will eat into the next activity and your schedule will get sidetracked.
  3. What’s not finished needs to be planned again. If you reach the stop sign and your activity is not finished, reschedule it for the next day or for the next available slot. Some activities are shorter than expected, others are longer.
  4. Never, ever plan back-to-back activities. You will need bio breaks, unexpected events will happen or you will just need to breathe and go for a walk.
  5. Plan no more than 80% of the day. A little bit like axiom number 4, you should always keep buffers between activities or sometimes free slots. This will allow some mundane tasks to happen or unexpected phone calls/emails to answer. Eventually, if everything works flawlessly, you’ll have free time to do more things or to go for a walk.
  6. Do not tolerate interruptions. Multi-tasking has been proven counterproductive time and time again. When you do something, do it with 100% focus. Unplug the internet, silence the phone and close the door.

Now, this is working for me and has been working for many years now. It goes down to being disciplined to follow them every day, starting the day with your planning activities. Now, do you have to read your email first thing in the morning, wake up at 5 or practice meditation? The choice is yours. I know the same activity may mean different things for different people, and each needs to define his or her own routine. But, with these axioms at play, I can deliver 100%, sometimes more, of what I planned to deliver, day in, day out. As you can see, it’s not rocket science, it’s pretty basic, actually, very basic, but efficient, actually, very efficient!

Touch or not, 5 reasons the question is one of the past

Day 641.

(c) Microsoft, 2015

(c) Microsoft, 2015

Whether your next PC should have a touch screen is not even a question. It becomes obvious. Whether it should have a keyboard is although not a question. The ubiquitous tablet is the new PC. Said I as I type on my Surface Pro 3. The holy trinity of IT, Microsoft, Apple, and Google have all their offerings, each with its benefits, apps, ecosystem and user interface. But let’s see why touch has become an obvious choice.

  1. Moving from one apps to the other has never been so fast. Swiping from one app to the other is a natural gesture.
  2. It’s faster to point directly to the screen that to scroll the mouse to the point you want to reach.
  3. Swiping to read through a document is natural.
  4. The day you have a screen that is not “touch” you will regret you cannot touch it.
  5. Why carry a PC and a tablet when you can have both in one device.

Of course you may want a lot of processing power to do picture or movie editing for instance or require a bigger screen. Not all applications will be 100% adaptable to the tablet world, I bet though first that a vast majority of usage can be fulfilled on a tablet and second that processor power will increase in the coming years to make the choice even easier. The tablet PC will be one of the few segments that will grow as well, allowing Original Equipment Manufacturers to come with creative designs. The future is just wonderful, don’t you think?

Observer, s’Orienter, Décider, Agir… 4 mots simples et puissants

J 633Jour 633. La boucle OODA est un concept inventé pendant la guerre de Corée par le pilote de chasse américain John Boyd. Trouvant ses racines dans la stratégie militaire, elle trouve son application dans de nombreux domaines civils. OODA est l’acronyme de Observer, s’Orienter, Décider et Agir. Chaque élément est important et se trouve à la base de tout processus de prise de décision.

Théorisée et utilisée dans de nombreux ouvrages militaires et civils, sa simplicité et son élégance en font un système dont il est simple de se souvenir. Mais ce qui en fait, à mon avis, sa force est la dernière lettre : Agir. En effet, dans combien de réunions se trouvent-on parfois où on observe, on oriente, on discute, sans rien décider ou en décidant timidement, mais sans jamais agir et sans jamais vérifier qu’une action a été entreprise et terminer.

Avec OODA, de toute décision doit naitre une action, puis, on réitère. Cela permet de mettre en place un cercle vertueux de petites actions qui s’enchainent. Une méthode bien préférable à des cycles nombreux de réflexion sans qu’aucune action concrète ne soit mise en place. John Boyd en avait fait la base de son enseignement au combat aérien. L’élégance se trouve souvent dans la simplicité, OODA fait partie de ces choses simples, utiles et élégantes.

5 questions essentielles pour une communication efficace

https://unsplash.com/ptrikutam

https://unsplash.com/ptrikutam

Jour 625. Cet article, publié dans Inc.com, fournit les 5 questions à garder dans sa besace pour améliorer grandement communication et productivité. Vivant dans un environnement multiculturel, dans lequel l’anglais est une langue commune mais rarement la première, beaucoup de choses peuvent être perdues ou mal comprises. J’ai donc pris l’habitude de faire reformuler et de poser des questions sur les points de détails, pour être certain que rien se perd, ni ne se crée, ni ne se transforme. Cependant, parfois même entre locuteurs d’une même langue, les mots n’ont pas la même définition, la culture fait une intrusion et la compréhension disparait. Les cinq questions qui suivent, directement traduites de l’article de Inc.com, vont vous aider à garantir que rien ne se perd, que tout le monde est sur la même longueur d’onde et au final qu’aucune incompréhension n’est laissée sur la table.

  1. Ce que je vous entends dire est…

    La phrase de clarification par excellence qui permet de reformuler ce que votre interlocuteur a dit avec vos propres mots pour éliminer toute incompréhension. Elle permet aussi de faire préciser les détails de la conversation. Crucial quand il s’agit d’une négociation par exemple.

  2. Aidez-moi à comprendre…

    Voilà qui vous permet de faire préciser comment votre interlocuteur est arrivé à une conclusion, quel a été son cheminement intellectuel, ou ce qui s’est placé sur son chemin pour l’empêcher, par exemple, d’atteindre un objectif. Cela a l’effet de mettre l’interlocuteur en position de guide, de coach.

  3. Seriez-vous prêt à considérer la possibilité de… ?

    En introduisant une demande de cette façon, vous augmentez les chances d’un oui et en tous les cas, rendez possible la discussion. Certes la question peut paraitre un peu longue et pompeuse, mais elle place votre interlocuteur dans le mode discussion.

  4. Ma demande est la suivante : …

    Il ne s’agit pas que d’être d’accord ou pas, il s’agit de faire avancer vos besoins, vos demandes. L’avantage de cette phrase est sa simplicité et sa clarté. Vous pouvez aussi dire « Voici ma demande : ». De cette façon, aucune ambiguïté possible !

  5. Je ne suis pas certain, mais permettez-moi de revenir vers vous…

    Si vous vous êtes déjà trouvé dans la situation où on vous pose une question à laquelle vous ne connaissez pas la réponse, et bien en voilà une toute faite. Une seule condition : revenir vers votre interlocuteur avec la réponse. Idéalement dites quand vous reviendrez vers votre interlocuteur et tenez-vous-y !

La communication est un art, avec ces cinq questions, vous en enlevez certaines des incertitudes qui y sont liées.