The art of being busy

How was your day? Susani, my wife,  asked when I came home from work yesterday. I heard myself saying, “it was a busy day.” before I could stop it.

A busy day? that doesn’t mean anything. It reminds me of the old advertising “that man deserves a DB”. Being busy can mean a lot of things. Although, when we have an all hands meeting and  people report what they do and what their challenges are, there’s always one (at least) who starts with “I’m busy”. And I repeat that doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t tell your audience or the other person what you have been doing.

What are your tasks, your issues, your accomplishments, your set backs, or your break throughs? Give your audience a chance to engage, to provide feedback, assistance, missing information, or clap on the back.

Flow

Some people get it, all things they do fit together somehow and as a whole flow in the same direction. I like that. It feels right. It’s like a puzzle where the pieces all fit together nicely. Others start at all four corners of the jigsaw simultaneously. Then someone throws a random part at them and it becomes the center of their attention immediately. That piece doesn’t necessarily belong to the problem at hand at all and simply distract from their task at hand. Create a flow, that can be planned. Set priorities and deadlines that are achievable. See how the items fit together to form a whole. Now you can talk about what keeps you busy, you know what’s coming up and what you have completed.

Saying No

Busy people have a hard time of saying No. They like being busy, they like being asked, they like when they solve a problem, and they totally forget that that issue is not what they had set out to do today. It is hard dealing with distraction. I hate it when you are in a conversation, the phone rings and one party picks it up. Is our conversation not important to you? I admit, I fall at times into that trap too. So let’s face it, distractions are always there. It depends on us how we deal with them. Saying no can simply mean to ignore the phone (most of us have voicemail and caller id) – we can ring back, or being proactive put the phone to voicemail or vibrate.

EMail

Isn’t email fantastic (or Twitter and facebook for that matter), we get updates and feedback and requests at our fingertips and can act on it immediately. Hold on, how often do you check your email? What’s your habit of getting notifications? Yes, a constant source of distraction and little or big things that keeps you busy. Stop that. Look at your email at times that you want to and how it fits into your schedule. Don’t let email drive your day. You are in control – behave like that! Your day job may actually include to checking emails constantly because you are a front line support person, or your main communication and documentation medium is email. Still, take control of your schedule and make sure email fits into your flow of objectives.

Achievements

Many people like check lists or action lists. They feel good ticking things of that they have achieved. Lists have another great advantage, they make you think what you have and need to do in the next day or week to achieve a certain goal. They help you to keep on track. Project Management processes are full of checklists. SOPs (standard operating procedures) are nothing else than glorified check lists. Just imagine your GP (General Practitioner), how many symptoms he needs to know and what they can imply. He will consult a checklist if he’s unsure. A life may depend on it. The same goes for the pilot of a 747, there’s a check list before the plane leaves the airport. So, why not make a check list for yourself? For example, the functional outcomes you are responsible for or more specific tasks you regularly do. You have a better understanding where you are at and what comes next.

Coming back to me, home yesterday. After finishing “I had a busy day”, I added what happened what I achieved and what roadblocks came up. Much better.

Obvious to you – amazing to others

Today I checked a few things that were sitting in the “do when I have time” box. One of these was a recommendation to view this little video clip:

What a revolution!

How often do you have an “ordinary” idea and don’t do anything about it? Or you share it willingly and maybe not get the credit it deserves. Still people are often so grateful and forget to let you know. That’s quite a short coming in today’s society, although I think it is getting better.

Just the other day we had a presentation from IBM about their approach to Disaster Recovery (quite a popular topic these days in Christchurch). Having been directly involved in this for the past few months I didn’t expect much impact. However, I was mistaken, the gentleman (Charles Woods) was well versed and provided a different tag on the topic that combined the strategic aspects with the practical implications. It made sense on different management levels and brought everybody together.

Next time you’ve got an idea, don’t hold back – share it. Also, when somebody else has, say thank you and what it means to you.

 

iPad and desktop versus laptop

For years I’ve been using a trusted Windows laptop. First XP then Windows 7. I loved it. Got all my applications when ever I needed them and where ever I needed them. No double installation on work desktop and home system. No problems with versions and compatibility problems. However, it was still bulky and with the air travel hassles getting more and more ridiculous I was thinking of something smaller. I checked out the tablet computers but couldn’t really see the point.

Then my son came along and asked for an iPod touch for a combined birthday / Xmas present (easy for him to ask, his birthday is in December). I had at the time not a clue what he was talking about. So, my wife and I ventured to the shops on a Sunday and explored what the fuzz was about. I found it fascinating and elegant, the geek in me wanted a play. However, my wife was a much different admirer. She always hated her laptop when a virus update was required, a windows patch wanted to reboot the system, when she saved a document but couldn’t remember where, and how long it took to boot up. She got an iPod touch a couple of months later. No fear of getting anything wrong, installing apps and updating them not a problem. tap and an app starts, square button and it closes. Every app saves the data and finds it again, no asking about the name or where to put it. She felt much more comfortable.

For me, it was different I used it in meetings, taking notes, reading my emails quickly while not at my desk, had access to my calendar, and so much more. When the iPad arrived I upgraded and later switched to an iPhone, too. Now I have a dozen business applications ranging from free ones like Evernote and Springpad to Thinkbook, SimpleMind, iDo to Keynote and GoodReader. Synchronising these with the respective desktop applications or via DropBox and email is vitaly important to me. Now I don’t have to worry anymore which tool I use to do my work. Some tools I have in my pocket or in a small leather carry case, although essentially the content is now the center of my concern rather than the tool.

For a couple of months now I’m using a desktop – again. There is no need for the extra cost of a laptop. Some minor inconveniences I forgot about, there’s no web cam in Windows desktops and no inbuilt microphone. But else, no the desktop is fine. At home we switched to an iMac (that has inbuilt mic and web cam). That is a beautiful design and fulfills my wife’s needs for a less complex tool.

Funnily enough it challenged a lot of my thinking – having used Microsoft machines for most of the time. Now we are starting to open this thinking at work: bring your own technology is on the cards. That provides opportunities and challenges from asset management, licensing, security, intellectual property, and interoperability. I shall write in some months about that.

Fare well to a friend

Today is a sad day. A long time friend died. She was very close to my wife Susani and they shared some magical moments. Even after we moved to New Zealand they kept in contact and we visited Ilka, Susani’s long time friend twice. As a tribute Susani created a short video

I’m moved by the deep feeling Susani expressed. I’m proud she is my wife. And you can imagine she is a critical reviewer of my musings 😉

Thank you.

Generating Ideas

Breakthroughs are a paradigm shift. They represent a major change to the status quo. Often they are attributed to Thought Leaders like Steve Jobbs, think the first Mac and its graphical interface or the iPad. Or Henry Ford and his Model T production line. How do you this? What generates such ground breaking ideas?

I’ve been discussing this with people who work in R&D, reviewed innovation projects and did some reading. There are 2 different sets of activities that can help.

Set 1: Focus on the problem

Immerse

Concentrate on just the problem you are trying to solve. Don’t multi task. Dedicate time to it.

Generate lots of ideas

Write everything down that comes to mind in the context of the problem you are trying to solve. Don’t judge yet. Sounds crazy? Doesn’t matter. Sounds impossible? still write it down. At the end of this you have a multitude of possibilities. Some are the usual things, some are outrageous, some are wild, and some may depend on other things. Let them sit aside for while.

Explore the problem’s environment

Take a step back from the problem itself. “Chunk up” would the NLP trained person say. And look at the bigger picture. Remind yourself of the bigger objective where the problem fits in. What do we try to achieve on that level? Check against your ideas: do some stick out? or some may not fit at all because of the inherent or explicit values aligned with the big picture.

Take a cross functional view

When you are immersed in solving a problem you are often stuck in viewing it from your body of knowledge. That could be a mechanical view or IT driven, a physics problem or a biological one. What do you know from other fields that could help you? Or even better you have a colleague from another field. Explain the issue to him, you will be surprised about the questions coming from this discussion. Review your generated ideas together, you could be too close and miss some essential points.

Set 2: Techniques

Disengage Left Brain

Most of us are Left Brain thinkers. We use tools, processes, IT systems, drive cars, follow traffic rules, and have a standard way of doing things. That’s not helping with generating an idea that challenges the status quo, right? You remember, the Eureka moment of Archimedes (yes the triangle) while he was having a bath? Or when we learnt in school how Newton discovered the rules of Gravity by watching a apple falling from a tree? To get in a state of mind where ideas can break through, do something that relaxes your brain’s focus, like having a shower, running along the beach, or meditating.

Keep a dream journal

I have my iPad sitting next to my bed. Sometimes you wake up and have an idea. If I don’t write it down there and then it’s forgotten in the morning. There are lots of stories where people said they dreamed about it and saw the solution that so long eluded them.

Tap into your Right Brain

Use a deck of tarot cards or dream symbols. Spread them on the table face down. Have somebody pick a card and now use brainstorming techniques associating the card symbol with the problem at hand. This forces you or the group to think outside the box.

Idea notebook

By now you should have a dozen pieces of paper with lots of notes, ideas, references, symbols, and diagrams. Keep an ideas notebook and write everything down that comes to mind. Modern tools are so helpful having time stamps, categories, and tags that allow you to sort and review your ideas.

Don’t forget – Have Fun 🙂

IT is dead – long live IS

Information Technology is a commodity these days. There is nothing special about it. Everybody has it, everybody uses it, so what makes it special for a business?

Is it a business advantage to have your very own data centre, to be using virtual systems, or to be in the cloud?

No, none of this makes in principal a difference to most organisations. Why you do any of it (be it for financial, strategic, security, or an other reason) and how does IT support and enable the business processes that makes a difference.

So, from a business perspective it is not the information technology but the information services that counts. Let me use an analogy. When you buy a car, the primary driver is because you need to get from A to B probably on a regular basis. Now, there will be other considerations such as space for the kids, or the dogs, or the golf clubs, or the surf board that influences the type of car you consider. Then there are factors like colour and speed and fuel economy and reliability. But did you notice, there is no notion yet what kind of engine or brand or what garage is servicing the car.

And that’s what has changed in IT. The engines are becoming less important. IT is a commodity and there are dozens of garages that can help.

Most people who buy music from iTunes probably don’t know that the songs are in AAC format as long as they play where they want them to. That’s the service which counts.

Let your staff use any device they want and concentrate on providing access to company resources. In a secure and reliable manner from anywhere at any time. You will have happy customers.

Long live Information Services!

A Bad Day

Below are the lyrics of the song “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter. The song talks about the moments in life when things don’t go the way we want it. It’s describing exactly what you could do when hitting a low. I believe it is important to recognise these moments and how we react to them.

You always have a choice, let the mood determine your action and make it a bad day. Not only for you but even for others who depend on you. Or you can see this as an opportunity – and I know that is hard – an opportunity to make this a supreme moment. A moment where you recognise that something went wrong because of a reason. A reason that you can influence, an action that you missed or mis-timed, a conversation that you should have had but dismissed as too hard.

A Bad Day? Now is the time to make amends. Now is the time to reflect on what caused it and what can you do from here getting back on track. It’s your choice to having a bad day or make it an opportunity.

Listen to the song and make sure your magic isn’t lost.

Bad Day


Where is the moment we needed the most
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost
They tell me your blue skies fade to gray
They tell me your passion’s gone away
And I don’t need no carryin’ onYou stand in the line just to hit a new low
You’re faking a smile with the coffee you go
You tell me your life’s been way off line
You’re falling to pieces every time
And I don’t need no carryin’ on

Because you had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don’t lie
You’re coming back down and you really don’t mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

Will you need a blue sky holiday?
The point is they laugh at what you say
And I don’t need no carryin’ on

You had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don’t lie
You’re coming back down and you really don’t mind
You had a bad day

(Oooh.. a holiday..)

Sometimes the system goes on the blink
And the whole thing turns out wrong
You might not make it back and you know
That you could be well oh that strong
And I’m not wrong

(yeah…)

So where is the passion when you need it the most
Oh you and I
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost

Cause you had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
You’ve seen what you like
And how does it feel for one more time
You had a bad day
You had a bad day