Nov 122014

Inbox Zero

I have been playing with Google’s new “Inbox” email program. So far I am not 100% sold on it, but it does provide a nice sunny graphic when you hit Inbox-Zero.

The android & web app is currently only available by invite and I keep going back and forth between using it and my old trusty gMail. I do like the ability to snooze items in Inbox but I don’t like that the ‘categories’ are ‘bundled’ in your email stream rather than across tabs at the top. Luckily the hashtag or “#” key still deletes mail and seems to be smart enough not to require that they all be selected first.

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Jun 172014

Jeff Sutherland.
Google Books

I am always a sucker for productivity books. What better way to procrastinate than to read about how to get things done.

Scrum (n): A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value. (The Scrum Guide)

Scrum is designed for iterative and incremental software/product development. My previous job was as a scheduling engineer managing the Gantt chart for a large project. Scrum challenges the assumptions of traditional sequential approach to scheduling. Although my current work as an office manager does not require this kind of scheduling, I am hoping there will be ideas that can be appropriated for my work as well as my personal goals.

Book Posts

  • Scrum by Jeff Sutherland
  • Wasting Time is Suicide

  • Book Info

    Scrum: Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
    by Jeff Sutherland
    Publisher: Crown Business
    Published: 09/30/2014
    ISBN-10: 038534645X
    ISBN-13: 978-0385346450
    Started: 06/16/2014
    Source: Net Galley
    Reason: Productivity book & Review available from NetGalley
    Format: ebook

    Publisher Synopsis

    We live in a world that is broken. For those who believe that there must be a more efficient way for people to get things done, here from Scrum pioneer Jeff Sutherland is a brilliantly discursive, thought-provoking book about the management process that is changing the way we live. In the future, historians may look back on human progress and draw a sharp line designating “before Scrum” and “after Scrum.”  Scrum is that pground-breaking.  It already drives most of the world’s top technology companies.  And now it’s starting to spread to every domain where people wrestle with complex projects. If you’ve ever been startled by how fast the world is changing, Scrum is one of the reasons why. Productivity gains of as much as 1200% have been recorded, and there’s no more lucid – or compelling – explainer of Scrum and its bright promise than Jeff Sutherland, the man who put together the first Scrum team more than twenty years ago. The thorny problem Jeff began tackling back then boils down to this: people are spectacularly bad at doing things quickly and efficiently. Best laid plans go up in smoke. Teams often work at cross purposes to each other. And when the pressure rises, unhappiness soars. Drawing on his experience as a West Point-educated fighter pilot, biometrics expert, early innovator of ATM technology, and V.P. of engineering or CTO at eleven different technology companies, Jeff began challenging those dysfunctional realities, looking  for solutions that would have global impact. In this book you’ll journey to Scrum’s front lines where Jeff’s system of deep accountability, team interaction, and constant iterative improvement is, among other feats, bringing the FBI into the 21st century, perfecting the design of an affordable 140 mile per hour/100 mile per gallon car, helping NPR report fast-moving action in the Middle East, changing the way pharmacists interact with patients, reducing poverty in the Third World, and even helping people plan their weddings and accomplish weekend chores. Woven with insights from martial arts, judicial decision making, advanced aerial combat, robotics, and many other disciplines, Scrum is consistently riveting. But the most important reason to read this book is that it may just help you achieve what others consider unachievable – whether it be inventing a trailblazing technology, devising a new system of education, pioneering a way to feed the hungry, or, closer to home, a building a foundation for your family to thrive and prosper.

    Author Info
    Jeff is the co-creator of Scrum and a leading expert on how the framework has evolved to meet the needs of today's business. The methodology he developed in 1993 and formalized in 1995 with Ken Schwaber has since been adopted by the vast majority of software development companies around the world. But Jeff realized that the benefits of Scrum are not limited to software and product development. He has adapted this successful strategy for several other industries including: finance, healthcare, higher education and telecom. As the CEO of Scrum Inc. and the Senior Advisor and Agile Coach to OpenView Venture Partners, Jeff sets the vision for success with Scrum. He continues to share best practices with organizations around the globe and has written extensively on Scrum rules and methods.

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    Feb 062014

    Make things happen Mystie’s post, Education is a Life: Fortiter fideliter forsan feliciter, or Repentance, got me thinking about goals and getting things done. She makes the point that results are not in our control. We obey, God rewards (in His own way). This is just as true in all areas of life. We do; stuff happens. If our focus is on goals rather than just being faithful (in all of life) then we will be disappointed.

    Then I ran into this article, Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. which emphasizes systems (faithfulness) over goals.

    What’s the difference between goals and systems?

    • If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.
    • If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
    • If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.
    • If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

    Now for the really interesting question:
    If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?

    He even appears to discourage goals with his points:

    1. Goals reduce your current happiness.
    When you’re working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.”

    3. Goals suggest that you can control things that you have no control over.
    You can’t predict the future. (I know, shocking.)

    But he does concede that goals have a place. Just not 1st place.

    Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.

    Are you focused on goals rather than on being faithful in the little things?

    Feb 042014

    All Japanese All The Time Following a rabbit trail from another blog, I came across an interesting article at the slightly irreverent “All Japanese All The Time” blog. The post, “Probability Over Certainty, Or: Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Immersion, I Learned from the Miller-Rabin Primality Test“, rambles a bit till he gets to his point that much of our procrastination is due to focusing on accomplishing the end product rather than the intermediate steps that lead you there.

    In the GTD (Getting Things Done) universe this is seen as breaking your goals and projects into action items that can be done, that are ‘accomplishable’ (my term). As everyday distractions pop up, you get closer to finishing your project or meeting your goal by working on bite-sized chunks that will, in the end, complete your projects and goals.

    Don’t try to get things done. That’s too hard. Too painful. Too annoying. Too prone to failure.

    Don’t try to get things done.


    Do try to increase the probability that they will get done.

    Don’t try to get things done. Do try to increase the probability that they will get done.
    Don’t ask if you’re doing the right thing.
    Do ask if what you’re doing increases the probability of having what you want to happen, happen.
    Do ask if what you’re doing increases the probability of you getting what you want.

    Don’t work with the certainties; it hurts too much; it’s too painful. Work on pushing up those probabilities.

    Next time you feel so overwhelmed in your quest to become fluent in Japanese, that you just sit there and do nothing, sit there and watch English-language shows on Hulu to try to drown out the guilt you’re tripping on (just like Maddie used to), stop yourself, wake up and smell the probabilistic coffee.

    Watching a Japanese anime instead of running off to Hulu may not be as “perfect” as doing your SRS reps, but it demm </SouthAfricanAccent> well increases the probability of your actually learning Japanese, more than some English escapism ever could.

    The post concludes with ““Nothing” is the only too little; “Not Now” is the only too late.” Rather than plopping down on the couch after a long day at the office, what little thing can I do to move myself along towards my goals?

    Source: Probability Over Certainty, Or: Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Immersion, I Learned from the Miller-Rabin Primality Test
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    Jan 232014

    Permanent Gmail Links

    Do you use Gmail? Have you ever needed to save a link to an email? Maybe just to bookmark some important info you will need later. I need links to individual emails that need to be followed-up, for meeting agendas, webinar info, event info, etc. These are all things that you don’t need cluttering your inbox but you do want easy access to them.

    Since I have been working towards “inbox zero”, I want to be able to delete or archive an email as soon as I have read it. If it requires follow-up handling later, I need to be able to create a to-do item with a link to the email. If I need info in the email for a future meeting, webinar, or event, I need to be able to add a link to the email in the calendar item.

    When I was first reading up on how to do this, all the articles mention just being able to copy the URL from the address bar manually or by using a browser bookmark to automate the process. The solution is not so simple. The problem is, Gmail includes the current folder as part of the email’s URL.

    If you copy the URL then archive the email, the original URL will no longer work. If you copy the URL from an email that is in a folder/label and then remove the email from that folder or change the label, the URL for that email will change. And, of course, if you delete an email, the URL changes.

    But each email, even deleted emails while they hang around, have a permanent URL. If you look in the ‘all’ folder, you will find all your mail. This, then, is the URL you need to use but how to find it easily?

    Until someone points out an easier way, I have found you can easily edit the URL the displayed URL to the ‘permanent’ URL. The procedure I follow is just to edit the URL in the address bar then copy it wherever I need it. You could also edit the URL after you paste it where you need it. Then you can archive, delete, remove labels, etc, and still pull up the email anytime until it is permanently removed from your email collection.

    Some examples:

    • Inbox:
    • Label:
      if you change just #label to #all Google will auto-correct your url, removing the label name

    What kind of uses can you think of for these links?

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