Busyness Fallacy

busyness-fallacyBeing busy is either our procrastination strategy or else our inability to organize our lives well. Busy people are perceived as important. They even feel they’re important. But, being busy isn’t to be productive. A 100% workload leaves us with no time to take on new important tasks.

People who were asked to calculate their hourly wage before listening to a short piece of music, were more impatient while the music was playing.[1] They wanted to do something more profitable. The widening gap nowadays between can-do and doing is also busyness driving.

Tim Ferriss wrote that the options are almost limitless for creating busyness.[2] Why not commit yourself to produce quantities of documents? Or else you can make sure you have key roles in all ongoing projects. Above all, be a link in as many chain of commands as possible.

The busyness fills our calendar with meetings and other hardscapes. Thus, we can never deliver what we committed to at those meetings. It’ll overload our cognitive capacity. Fight-or-flight mode will crowd out our analytical proficiency. Priorities become inflexible.

Idleness is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. You’ll see the wholeness and make unexpected connections.[3] And replacing unpredictable deadlines with timeboxing makes you more adaptable to change. A good start is to never use the word busy as an answer.

[1] DeVoe S. E., House J. – Time, money, and happiness: How does putting a price on time affect our ability to smell the roses?, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 48, Issue 2, March 2012.
[2] Ferriss T. – The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich, Random House, 2007.
[3] Kreider T. – We Learn Nothing: Essays and Cartoons, Simon and Schuster, 2012.

Volunteer Hour — Strategy for Quick and Smooth Interruption Recovery

volunteer-hourMy client Saša was convinced that she couldn’t possibly work in time boxes. She was always interrupted by subordinates [1]. Her observation was that it’s a part of her manager role to be at the heart of things, to always be prepared to help others. In the latter, she was right.

We tried that she blocked an hour after lunch every day in her calendar. We called it the volunteer hour. When colleagues requested her helping hand during the day, she — instantly without dissecting the problem — scheduled a 15-30 minute meeting in her next volunteer hour.

The concrete and simple action plan, made her interruption recovery smooth and quick. No momentum was lost for the task she focused on before she was interrupted. On days where no requests for help appeared, she spent her volunteer hour on discretionary work.

Naturally, there are exceptions. When Saša could answer a question from the top of her head, she did so immediately. Sudden high-risk tasks also had a higher priority than her volunteer hour strategy. But, how often can a task not be deferred a few hours?

Already after a few weeks, Saša told me how successful the volunteer hour strategy is. She used it also for incoming phone calls that required more thoughts and discussions. An added bonus was the fact that the Zeigarnik effect [2] let her subconsciously process the task ahead.

[1] Wajcman, Judy, Rose, Emily – Constant Connectivity: Rethinking Interruptions at Work, Organization Studies, vol. 32 no. 7 941-961, July 2011.
[2] Zeigarnik, Bluma – Das Behalten erledigter und unerledigter Handlungen. Psychologische Forschung 9, 1-85, 1927.

Your Email Inbox as Kitchen Sink or Bookshelf?

inbox-zeroDo you manage your email inbox similar to your kitchen sink or your bookshelf? The answer will not only disable or enable your ability to practice Inbox Zero — the habit to regularly process your inbox to empty. It’ll also put you in either cognitive exhausted or cognitive alert mode.

You bought a new book and read it. Now you want to put it in your bookshelf, which unfortunately happens to be full. You skim the spines and almost randomly remove one book to give room for your new book. Bookshelf is left unsorted. Do you recognize this? Probably.

Your kitchen sink is full of a combination of leftovers and plastic packaging materials. You throw a glance and rather randomly decide to remove the cucumber parts and leave everything else in the same mess as you found it. Do you recognize this? Absolutely not.

Understanding, deciding, recalling, memorizing, and inhibiting are the five functions that make up the majority of our conscious thoughts. They are intensive glucose and oxygen consumers. Overuse makes us feel exhausted. Managing the inbox as a bookshelf relies on all five.

Kitchen sink cleaning is not completed until everything is removed. Every single email must be deleted, archived or put in a to-do folder. Inbox zero is not a continuous state. Analogous to the kitchen sink cleaning, we ought to do it 2-3 times a day.

Literary References in the New Book

kina-133As you may or may not know, I’m writing a sequel to the 200K+ bestseller Pomodoro Technique Illustrated. I’ve written 1/3 in two months’ time.

Maybe you can guess the subject matter from the working title Productive People. Other hints are the references I’ve done so far in the text:

  • Amabile, Teresa M. et al. – Time Pressure And Creativity In Organizations: A Longitudinal Field Study, Harvard Business School, 2002.
  • Anokhin P.K. – The forming of natural and artificial intelligence, Impact of Science on Society, 23, 3, 195-212, Jul-Sep 1973.
  • Ariely, Dan, Wertenbroch, Klaus – Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment, Psychological Science May 2002 vol. 13 no. 3 219-224.
  • Aristotle – Rhetoric, Courier Corporation, 2012.
  • Aronson and Mills – The effect of severity of initiation on liking for a group, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 59, 177-181, 1959.
  • Atay S, Karabacak Ü. – Care plans using concept maps and their effects on the critical thinking dispositions of nursing students, International Journal of Nursing Practice, 18:233–239, 2012.
  • Atchley, Ruth Ann, Strayer, David L., Atchley, Paul – Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings, Journal PLOS ONE, December 12, 2012.
  • Barker, Alan – How to Solve Almost Any Problem: Turning Tricky Problems Into Wise Decisons, Pearson, 2012.
  • Beck, D. M. & Kastner, S. – Top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in biasing competition in the human brain, Vision Research, 2008.
  • Beilock, Sian L. and Carr, Thomas H. – On the Fragility of Skilled Performance: What Governs Choking Under Pressure?, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Vol. 130. No. 4. 701-725, 2001.
  • Bengtsson, Christina – Konsten att fokusera: 10.9, Volante, 2015
  • Brann, Amy – Make Your Brain Work: How to Maximize Your Efficiency, Productivity and Effectiveness, Kogan Page, 2013.
  • Brooks, Frederick P. – The mythical man-month: essays on software engineering, Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1975.
  • Buzan, Tony, Buzan, Barry – The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential, Dutton, 1993.
  • Černe, Matej, Nerstad, Christina G. L., Dysvik, Anders, Škerlavaj, Miha – What Goes Around Comes Around: Knowledge Hiding, Perceived Motivational Climate, and Creativity, Academy of Management Journal, 2014, Vol. 57, No. 1, 172–192.
  • Coan, James A., Schaefer, Hillary S., and Davidson, Richard J. – Lending a Hand: Social Regulation of the Neural Response to Threat Psychological, Science, December 2006 17: 1032-1039.
  • Cobham, Alan – Priority Assignment in Waiting Line Problems, Operations Research 2: 70–76, 1954.
  • Covey, Stephen R. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Simon & Schuster, 1989.
  • De Bono, Edward – De Bono’s Thinking Course, Pearson Education, 2006.
  • De Bono, Edward – Six Action Shoes, HarperCollins Canada, Limited, 1991.
  • DeDonno, Michael A. and Demaree, Heath A. – Perceived time pressure and the Iowa Gambling Task, Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 3, No. 8, December 2008, pp. 636–640.
  • Doran, G. T. – There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives, Management Review (AMA FORUM) 70 (11) 35–36, 1981.
  • Duhigg, Charles – The Power of Habit, Random House, 2012.
  • Dunne, Keiran J., Dunne, Elena S. – Translation and Localization Project Management: The art of the possible, John Benjamins Publishing, 2011.
  • Durant, Will – The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Great Philosophers, Pocket Books, 1976.
  • Eisenhower, Dwight D. – The American Presidency Project, Speech number: 204, Title: Address at the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Location: Evanston, Illinois, Date: August 19, 1954.
  • Farrand, P., Hussain, F. and Hennessy E. – The efficacy of the ‘mind map’ study technique, Medical Education, Vol. 36 (5), pp 426-431, 2002.
  • Fast, Nathanael J., Tiedens, Larissa Z. – Blame contagion: The automatic transmission of self-serving attributions, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 46 (2010) 97–106.
  • Festinger, Leon – A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Row, Peterson, 1957.
  • Forster, Mark – Secrets of Productive People: 50 Techniques To Get Things Done: Teach Yourself, Hachette UK, 2015.
  • Gladstones, William H., Regan, Michael A., and Leeb, Robert B. – Division of attention: The single-channel hypothesis revisited, The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A: Human Experimental Psychology, Volume 41, Issue 1, 1989.
  • Godin, Seth – The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You when to Quit (and when to Stick), Portfolio, 2007.
  • Goleman, Daniel – Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ, Bloomsbury, 1996.
  • Greist-Bousquet, S., Schiffman, N. – The effect of Task interruption and closure on perceived duration. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 30(1), 9-11, 1992.
  • Hamer M, Chida Y. – Physical activity and risk of neurodegenerative disease: a systematic review of prospective evidence, Psychological Medicine, Jan, 39, 2009.
  • Heinrichs, Jay – Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us about the Art of Persuasion, Three Rivers Press, 2007.
  • Hobbs, Charles R.  – Time Power, Harper & Row, 1987.
  • Hogue, W. Dickerson – What does priority mean?, Business Horizons, Volume 13, Issue 6, December 1970, Pages 35-36.
  • Hummel, Charles E. – Tyranny of the Urgent, Inter-Varsity Press, 1967.
  • Johnson, P.B., Mehrabian, A., Weiner, B. – Achievement Motivation and the Recall of Incompleted and Completed Exam Questions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 59(3), 181-185, 1968.
  • Jönsson, Bodil – Tio år senare: tio tankar om tid, Brombergs, 2009.
  • Jönsson, Bodil – Unwinding the Clock: 10 Thoughts on Our Relationship to Time, Harcourt, 2001.
  • Keller, Gary – The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results, Hachette UK, 2013.
  • Lakein, Alan – How to get control of your time and your life, New American Library, 1974.
  • Lally, Phillippa, van Jaarsveld, Cornelia H. M., Potts, Henry W. W. and Wardle, Jane – How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world, European Journal of Social Psychology, Volume 40, Issue 6, pages 998–1009, October 2010.
  • Little, J. D. C. – A Proof for the Queuing Formula: L = λW. Operations Research 9 (3): 383–387, 1961.
  • Loprinzia, Paul D. , Cardinalb, Bradley J. – Association between objectively-measured physical activity and sleep, Mental Health and Physical Activity, Volume 4, Issue 2, December 2011, Pages 65–69.
  • Maltz, Maxwell – Psychocybernetics: A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life, Wilshire Book Company, 1976.
  • McKeown, Greg – Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Random House, 2014.
  • Mittone, Luigi and Savadori, Lucia – The Scarcity Bias, Applied Psychology, Volume 58, Issue 3, pages 453–468, July 2009.
  • Ohno, Taiichi – Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production, CRC Press, 1988.
  • Oncken Jr , William and Wass, Donald L. – Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?, Harvard Business Review, November–December 1974 Issue.
  • Parkinson, Cyril Northcote – Parkinson’s Law, The Economist, November 19 1955.
  • Pink, Daniel H. – Drive: The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us, Riverhead Books, 2009.
  • Poppendieck, Mary, Poppendieck, Tom – Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash, Addison-Wesley Professional, 2006.
  • Sanders, Jeff – The 5 A.M. Miracle: Dominate Your Day Before Breakfast, Ulysses Press, 2015
  • Sohlberg, McKay Moore, Mateer, Catherine A. – Introduction to Cognitive Rehabilitation: Theory and Practice, Guilford Press, 1989.
  • Surowiecki, James – The Wisdom of Crowds, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2005.
  • The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies, Series 2 – Volume 7, Government Printing Office, 1899.
  • Tracy, Brian – Eat that Frog!, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2001
  • Vohs, Kathleen D., Redden, Joseph P., and Rahinel, Ryan, Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity, Psychological Science 24(9) 1860–1867.
  • Wilson, Timothy D.; Gilbert, Daniel T. – Affective Forecasting: Knowing What to Want, Current Directions in Psychological Science 14 (3): 131–134, June 2005.
  • Wiseman, Richard – The Luck Factor, Arrow, 2004.
  • Zeigarnik, Bluma – Das Behalten erledigter und unerledigter Handlungen. Psychologische Forschung 9, 1-85, 1927.

The Three Laws of Priority Dynamics

leave-100.jpgThe laws of priority dynamics describe how quantities like priority and productivity behave under various circumstances.

0. Every task you said unreserved ‘yes’ to have equal priority. Saying ‘yes’ to many things implies that you believe they can be done in random order. A prioritized to-do list is not a yes-list, it’s rather a list ordered by task importance.

1. Priority can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transferred from one task to another. When you raise the priority of one task, you automatically lower the priority of all other tasks.

2. The uselessness of a previous prioritized to-do list, always increases as time goes by. If you don’t re-prioritize regularly based on your recent knowledge, then your plan is doomed to be dysfunctional.

3. Trying to do everything at the same time gives the same result as doing nothing: you will not complete anything.

My China October tour starts today

zorro

Today, I’ll start a three-week tour in People’s Republic of China. My Chinese publisher, Turing Book have arranged visits to Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Shenzhen; where I’ll present the long-term bestseller book Pomodoro Technique Illustrated. This trip includes the keynote speech at QCon Shanghai, half day courses and meet and greet events with my readers at local book stores and reading clubs.

I’m really looking forward to this tour — to learn about Chinese culture and meet my Chinese readers.

Efficiency, Productivity, and Effectiveness

In the area of time management – or attention management which is a more accurate term – the three words efficiency, productivity and effectiveness are sometimes misused as if they were interchangeable. And if they are not blurred in that way, they are often wrongly considered as three competing horses, where you have to make a bet on one and not the other two. However, their mutual interdependency is strong.

  • Efficiency is often about speed. How fast can you execute a sub procedure? And even better: how fast can you execute the very same sub procedure one trillion times? More general it’s about consuming as little resources – doesn’t have to be time – as possible, while executing your sub procedure. An efficient person or organization excel and doesn’t waste any energy, time, or resources. But you might not deliver anything in the end.
  • Productivity is about creating a complete product. The result of your work is a whole; a thing that can be used. Efficiency is very important for productivity. Suppose that a mail is a product. The mail must at least consist of a letter and a stamped envelope with the receiver’s address. Efficiency without productivity is to impressively fast create 100 stamped envelopes, but no receiver’s address and no letter. It would be more productive to produce 10 complete mails with letter, stamp and address, in the same span of time. Low efficiency impedes productivity. If you write the addresses really slowly, then in the end of the day you might only have produced one single mail. Productivity is the ratio of produced output to supplied input. If you never ship anything, then produced output and the ratio is zero, no matter how hard you’ve worked.
  • Effectiveness is about creating products that matters. I mean things that add value to other contexts, systems or people. Productivity is very important for effectiveness. Productivity without effectiveness is to write a fabulous business letter, and then send it to 100 random people around the world. The effectiveness is increased if you send the letter to the people who can boost your business. Low productivity impedes effectiveness. Even if you create complete mails, they don’t add any value – cause desired effect – if they’re not sent to the right persons.

So, effectiveness relies on productivity. And productivity relies on efficiency. In a pull based attention management method, you start with effectiveness. Your choice of intended effect will guide you to the best kind of productivity, which in turn will help you see what sort of efficiency you need.

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC



Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 34 other followers