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

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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

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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 only thing you can control is you…

Your Hump Day Success Edge Post #1

Today’s inspiration comes from Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s COO. During a presentation on Monday, he used this quote: “the only thing you can control is you, the only thing you cannot control is everything else”. When you reflect on this, you realize it’s common sense on one side, but really powerful when you’re interested in learning and growing. Do the Iowa results have an effect on what you do and think? If you’re in politics and your career depends on it, may be. Otherwise? Can you control what Cruz or Clinton will do? Probably not. Even Bill does not control Hillary! Joke aside, focusing on what you can control is the best, if not the only way, of creating a better you.

https://unsplash.com/pawelkadysz

https://unsplash.com/pawelkadysz

Of course, you can argue that you can control any kind of machinery, your car or your direct reports, for instance. However, think for a moment. What if something breaks in your machine or car, what if one of your direct reports is sick? Can you still control them? The only thing you can really control is you, you are in charge of your actions and your emotions, and it’s within your power and decision to take control of your actions and emotions. Once you let go what is around you that you have no effect on, you can concentrate on what matters really: becoming a better you, to serve better others!

Your Hump Day Success Edge

You open a newspaper, it’s all about politics, war, and horrors. Between lies from politicians, finance institutions ripping off your savings, and big corporation making billions, it seems the world is going down to the cellar. However, there are millions of individuals who have understood the underlying forces of success, who are living successful lives, and who seem to go through difficulties with ease. This is what I’m interested in. As a successful entrepreneur and professional, I’ve gone through tough days, weeks, months and years, gone through tremendous successes, and leveraged all my experience to continue to strive in whatever I start and do.

I created this blog after the financial crisis of 2008 (if you are still wondering what happened, go and watch The Big Short) because I was fed up of all the negativity that was floating around. Yes, the financial system is rotten. Yes, politicians are corrupted. Yes, we can see the world is killing itself. Or we can be optimistic while not delusional, we can build on positive thoughts and actions, we can put a brick in the wall of the new world. And this is what I want to help people with, through this blog and my new resolution for the year: the hump day success edge.

For non-English natives, hump day is Wednesday. Why hump day? From urbandictionary.com, hump day comes from “the context of climbing a proverbial hill to get through a tough week”. Therefore, the hump day is the best day of the week, because the weekend gets closer. However, I see this has the pinnacle of the week, the day of hope, of maximum energy. And because I want ultimate success, this is the best day to stop for 15 minutes and reflect on our lives, loves and craft. So this year, I will, every Wednesday, write on what can make each of us more successful in every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Simple no non-sense ideas, easy to execute, and game-changing.

Get ready for the Hump Day Success Edge! Live February 3!

Is dropping the jack planned obsolescence? A simple view and behavior on progress

Intrigued by the title, wondering what jack I’m talking about? Let’s define two words (stay with me, it’s gonna be fun and provocative):

  • Jack: in the context of this post, it’s a plug. There’s a good chance you are using one if you have a wired headset for your phone or mp3 player.
  • Planned obsolescence: “in industrial design and economics is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time”, wipikedia.org.

With this in mind, when there’s rumor that Apple is going to drop the jack connector on the coming iPhone 7, is this planned obsolescence? Some opponents to this choice claim that yes, I think the opposite, it’s not planned obsolescence, it’s progress. From the day we are born, until the day we are dead, we tend to want to progress, to make the next day better that the one we just lived. Although there are multiple way to do this, technical progress is one of them. Do you think that the electronics used to perform cardiac surgery has planned obsolescence and this is bad?

If I think planned obsolescence, per se, is bad because it forces consumption of more and more devices and increased pollution, all this can be managed. First by managing what you do with your electronics. Almost all electronics devices can be recycled, and more will be as environment laws will become more stringent and customers will become more conscious of the impact their behaviors have. Second by taking care of all your objects. Maintenance prolongs life of any objects. For example, if you have a car, you bring it back for service maintenance so it continues to work well, do the same with all your electronics. Third, by not listening to all the commercials out there.

We all know marketing is there to make you purchase the latest smartphone, tablet, or other gadget. But YOU decide. You can decide to keep your device one more year, but just thinking about three simple things:

  1. It’s hype not to follow the herds of early adopters who spend a premium to get the new thing.
  2. Purchasing the new toy triggers a shot of dopamine in your brain, so it’s not about the new toy, it’s about the shot of dopamine your body wants. Dopamine is known as the reward neurotransmitter, it makes you feel good, it’s also highly addictive.
  3. The new toy, like all toys, will be old very soon and there are huge chances you’ll get bored and will use the new toy as you were using the old one.

I’m not saying you should not purchase the latest technology, I’m saying you should do it knowing what you do. You should do it understanding how to recycle the old. You should do it knowing curiosity and progress is inherent to our nature, and be happy to be able to live this incredible life. So is dropping the jack planned obsolescence? No, it’s not, it’s progress, it needs to be well managed for the present and future of mankind.

What do you think?

How to kick the fear of public speaking in the b…

public-speakingIt is said that on the fear list, public speaking comes before the fear of death. It has even its own word: glossophobia, coming from the Greek glossa, meaning tongue, and phobos, meaning fear. The symptoms of glossophobia can vary and are numerous: dry mouth, trembling body, sweating, just to name a few. In her article How I Got Over My Fear of Public Speaking, Kelly offers a good set of advices, from her own experience, on how to overcome glossophobia. I although introduced 3 simple hacks to better speak in public and 5 deadly mistakes to avoid to be a good speaker.

Whatever your audience, whatever your topic, and whatever your public speaking skills, anxiety and fear always kicks in. There’s a story one of my mentors of public speaking that I particularly like: A young actress, after a play, goes to see the great Sarah Bernhardt and asks “madam, I never add stage frights, is this normal?” Sarah Bernard answers “Don’t worry, it comes with talent”. Just to say it’s completely normal to have stage fright, it’s actually a nice feedback loop that helps us remember the essential things to do to get good at what we are about to do.

Here are a set of behavioral tips and tricks to feel better when you are about to deliver a public speech:

  • Shout! If you can find a secluded place when nobody hears you, go there and shout the loudest you can. It will help a lot empty the tension you have.
  • Stand right! Pull your shoulders backwards, push your breast forward and stand right. Exaggerate the movement before setting the foot on stage, it will relieve the tension in your upper body.
  • Put one foot slightly ahead of the other! A little bit like martial art practitioners. This will provide a better balance.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply! Breathing is essential, breathing slowly will lower your cardiac speed and lower your anxiety
  • Look at your audience, spotting friendly faces! There are always friendly and smiling faces in an audience, look at them like you were speaking to them one on one, but do not speak only to them, move your eyes around, and come back to those friendly faces.
  • Accept mistakes and failures! You tongue will trip. You will forget a sentence or a paragraph. All this, and more, happens, even to the best. The only way to avoid this is to rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse. If you do not have the time, accept little mistakes

One thing that most people do not realize is that the best speakers, the Obamas, the Jobs, etc. are prepared to the max. They have a prompter, they have coaches, and they have rehearsed dozens of time. There’s no shortcut to being a great public speaker, but the above simple tricks will help you getting better and better.

All the best!

Space Oddity, a dreamlike ode to space travel

Since last Monday, there have been overwhelming tribute to the late David Bowie. Sales of BlackStar, his last album, launched two days before he died, have surged to a point of becoming number one in the UK. I have not been a die-hard fan of Bowie, but have enjoyed many of his songs, danced on Let’s dance. Modern Love and China Girl, listened thousands of time to Ashes to Ashes, but no other songs made as strong an impression on me as Space Oddity.

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While thinking about Space Oddity and browsing Youtube, I found the original video of the song:

It’s a very interesting version compared to the one that is most commonly known:

I do not know which I prefer, but it almost seem two different songs, the 1972 version adding more instruments and changing the voice completely. Not even talking about the almost dreamlike images of the 1969 versions, compared to the almost dull images of the 1972 one (honestly, the guitar rifs are not even synced with the music, but eh, we are in the 70’s…)

I discovered the version Chris Hadfield recorded in the ISS while reading his book (wrote a blog post on this):

This last one takes a new flavor now Bowie’s gone. It’s probably not the best version of the song, but it’s the only one (with some changes in the words) that is resonating with a real in space experience.

One of the reasons this song has such an impact on me is probably the fact I always been interested into flying and I wanted to be a fighter pilot until the day I was forced to wear glasses, and needed to forget my dream (that I overcome by getting my windglider pilot license at 17, more than a year before my car driving license). I still love flying today, although I do not pilot gliders anymore, but I still believe it’s temporary.

Having said all this, what is the song that made a strong impression on you and that you are still singing or whistling years after, and that makes you happy?

My life, my love, my work

Happy New Year 2016! To get a new fresh start for this blog, I’m participating in the Blogging 101 of the WordPress Blogging University. As such, during the whole month of January, I’ll have tasks to do to improve the blogging experience, learn new stuffs and increase relevance of this blog to you, my readers. So here’s the result of Day One: Introduce Yourself to the World.

I am Marc, a Geek at heart, as I introduced my about.me page. I am of this generation that knew the world before Internet, who embraced Internet with sheer delight, and is now moving to prudent usage. I have six passions in life: my family, technology, leadership, productivity, public speaking, and watersports. I have a seventh that has been set aside for the time being which is flying, as I am a licensed wing glider pilot, but cannot, yet, find enough time to fulfill this passion.

My passion for technology led me to found my own IT company in the 90’s in Paris before selling them in the 2000’s and joining Microsoft in the sunny island of Mauritius. One year leading to another, I am now the Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft in Africa.

Leadership, productivity and overall personal excellence are dear to my heart, as I believe that with the same 24 hours everyone has, a few uses those to create something bigger than themselves and this require all three.

Public speaking is an old passion of mine that started in high school with theater and continued all along my professional life as an IT instructor, launch event speaker until my TEDx talk and my national winning speeches at Toastmasters convention.

Finally, I am an avid fan of watersports like windsurfing, kitesurfing, wakeboarding, scuba diving, waterskiing, catamaran sailing, to name a few.

So what about blogging? Well blogging is first writing, And writing I did: published 18 books in the 90’s (you can still find some on Amazon, although they are totally outdated), did one eBook and lots of articles in the press and on this blog, for one simple reason: I love writing. Like theater, it started a while back by participating to short stories contests (which I did not win any), then writing my first book in French on IT Training. I did it all by myself using Word for MS-DOS. Yes, I know, may people do not have a clue what DOS is.

So what’s this blog about? I started it after the subprime crisis, because, although a lot of people were negatively impacted by the crisis, it ended up by becoming hysterical in France and across the world, increasing the gloomy future outlook. I named it Crisis, what crisis? because I felt the crisis, although real for the people who lost money everywhere in the world, because of the “global economy” or their properties in the US mainly, the crisis was created or at least kept up by the media, and people were frozen and felt gloomy, just because of the situation painted by media houses. It was recently I realized this was the title of a famous album by Supertramp, one of my favorite bands.

So my purpose with that blog was to create a kind of a platform to show people that their future was between their hands and not of somebody else. Then I used it as a digital platform to my leadership articles published weekly in Le Matinal, until my collaboration with the newspaper stopped and I started the one day, one idea motion that led me to publish one article every day for a full year. Then last year was a struggle to keep the pace and the faith. So now, Blogging 101 provides the opportunity to give my blog a new start. Where it will go, I do not know but future and you will tell!

The ideal decision making process

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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!

5 good reasons to step out of the herd

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https://unsplash.com/alex13

Day 702 In nature, most hunted animals live in herds: gnus, antelopes, buffalos, to name a few. Most hunting animals live in tribes: lions, hyena, or hippos. Some tribes are hunted too of course, but herds are rarely hunters. When it comes to the human animal, the herd and the tribe are generally metaphors. Any human may be part of the herd when it comes to politics, believing the biggest liar, and part of the small tribe that loves paragliding for instance. Admittedly, human herds and tribes are not about hunting, at least not as in life and death, however they are about behaviors, decision-making, and happiness. Some people love to conform and be part of the herd, however most, if not all, belong to one or more tribes they feel good with because it feels good. Politicians have always targeted herds, marketing used to and still is with less and less success, successful businesses are no longer taking care of herds but do their best to penetrate as many tribes as possible. Belonging to a herd gives a feeling of security, this is what society wants us to believe in. As Napoleon Bonaparte rightly said: “The herd seek out the great, not for their sake but for their influence; and the great welcome them out of vanity or need.” Some days ago I was writing on being different, being ourselves, not conforming to what society wants to us to conform. Here are 5 good reasons that came to my mind, why the herd mentality has to be avoided to become the true you.

  1. Man is a thinking animal and as such can form his or her own ideas. Use your brain to think and make decisions, do not let others, politicians, businesses, activists decide for you. You are your master!
  2. My needs are different from my neighbor’s. Maslow have defined human needs, and we may all have the same kind at the physiological, safety and love levels. However, when it comes to self-actualization and self-transcendence, their realization is different for each individual. It’s critical to find your path and your tribe.
  3. Success comes to the audacious not to the conformist. Look around you to famous and successful people, they have some characteristics in common, but are mostly weirdos and risk takers.
  4. Happiness is the result of achievement, and achievement does not come without risks. Do things nobody else does, do not listen to the naysayers, feel the thrill of having tested your limits.
  5. Herds are manipulated. Read the quote of Napoleon, it’s the basis of politics, and go back to point number 1.

Our modern world has reinforced both the herd and the tribe feeling. The herd goes shopping on the Black Friday or on the first day of sales, resulting in really stupid behaviors. Tribes are easily identified and built with social networks, crowdfunding and modern technology. It has never been easier to get rid of a herd and make our own decision. Tribes are becoming far more powerful than herds. Step out of the herd!