Saturday, January 23, 2010

The meaning of the Sun

This morning I go for a walk on the first sunny day on which I do not need to be at the office. The possible warmth pulls at the edges of my skin as I walk within the house. My retinas are full of the attraction of light. They burst as tangerines will upon one’s tongue. I tug on my hiking boots and fleece to step outside under the orange orb and a black wool cap that immediately cools in the air but then begins to warm again. The dark material absorbs the light and converts it into heat.

There is a reaction between the body and the natural sunlight that produces vitamin D which is of great importance to calcium production and bone strength. I start walking East through the village in order to have the sun directly on my face. I can almost feel my bones growing in density but not quite.

All week I have been rising and going to work in the dark, and coming home at dusk. The sky has been gray for weeks here on The North Coast. To be out under blue, to feel the warmth of the yellow blaze, to hear a lively cluster of birds in the bare branched tree, is all so glorious! I glance over at the corner of a house at the sound of soft wind chimes and see that ice melt is cascading over the edge of the roof and onto the chimes making them gently twist and reverberate.

A huge gaseous ball of fire in the center of orbital chunks of rock takes dullness in the brain of a lumbering biped and creates sensuous repercussions of joy. This is the meaning of the sun. This is photosynthesis.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This Blog is Moving

I have created an new site where these posts will be hosted Dave Tilley's Blog. This new site will host multiple pages:

A Blog - the kinds of posts you have seen here
Meaning Coaching - Longer Articles about clarity and meaning.
Creative Writing - Articles on Creative Writing and some of my own Creative Writing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Road To Productivity: Reduce Cycle Time

In a previous post I discussed how to reduce WIP, a major leech that keeps us from achieving our goals. In this post I want to discus another major leech Cycle Time.

Cycle time is the amount of time it takes us to go through one work cycle, it is one turn of the crank on producing our work products. It is the time span that we have before we have to be accountable to somebody else for producing what we committed to.

The human tendency is to make this time span as long as possible because that removes the pressure on us to perform and pressure means stress and everybody knows that stress is bad.

However, another way to look at it is to notice that we often learn at the end of a work cycle when we see what we’ve got and what needs to change in both the result and the process that got us to that result. The shorter our cycle time is the more cycles we get and the more opportunities we have to learn and adapt. When you want to improve productivity, to adapt is where it’s at.

If you find that you can not make your deadlines with a short cycle time, the first reaction is to lengthen the cycle time; nothing could be worse. It is important to realize that if you don’t get your work product done in the allotted cycle time, the thing to do is to reduce the cycle time and the committed work. This lets you learn and adapt more and debug what is wrong. Keep shortening your cycle time until things are fixed. Even if your cycle time goes to one hour, this is not too bad.

How small is too small? Well, the learning is at the end of a cycle is really a step in the process that is about the process. It is meta-work. The same with any planning at the beginning. When the meta-work approaches being a significant piece of the time budget, it may be time to fall back to a slightly larger cycle time to get the right ratio of work to meta-work. This is a balancing act but you will hone in on the right cycle time.

I find that anything longer than two weeks is too long. Find what works for you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Road To Productivity: Reduce WIP

Looking to boost your productivity? The first and best way forward is to remove the leeches. Leeches suck the very life blood out of you and drain your ability to drive to completion on tasks and larger goals. There are many leeches of course, but one that has gotten my attention over the last few months has been WIP (Work In Progress).

David Allen discusses WIP in Getting Things Done when he talks about how the mind can only hold so much at once and every undone thing on your todo list in your head saps your brain power that could be applied more productively to the current task. David’s whole process centers around driving every “thing to do” into a few simple lists that you can process.

The Agile Software community has gone to creating software products by breaking the product into a list of simple user stories. The team then works on ONE STORY at a time. Developers are often tempted to start another story every time they hit a roadblock on the current story. The Product Owner and Scrum Master must keep them from doing this. Why? Read on.

We can not really work on more than one problem at a time. That is the myth of multi-tasking. We can only really do one thing. When we try to do more that that one thing, we end up switching between tasks and this takes time and energy, just to swap to the next thing. So there is overhead cost for each additional thing. Plus, then the background brain keeps worried about the things not being worked (David Allen).

In the Movie City Slickers, Jack Palance plays the character Curly Washburn who has a line “Just One Thing.” Now the point of the line is different from my point here. My point here is “Just One Thing” until it’s done. Then take the next and that becomes the “Just One Thing.” If we always have only one thing at any given moment, then there is zero WIP, and thus zero overhead.

Reducing WIP is just learning how to focus. It can be a chore for some of us, but it is well worth the effort. Getting to zero WIP is the goal, but every bit of WIP we eliminate goes back into our productivity bank.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Awareness and Possibility

How often do you find yourself in a negative situation in the workplace? Do you face organizational challenges? Is there a particular individual that you either don’t get a long with or that you believe is bring the organization down? Have you just gone through or are you looking at layoffs? Has your budget been slashed?

When we are faced with an adverse situation we can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. The one thing that we can always depend on is our choice of how to react to the situation. Even if we have totally lost control of the situation and are faced with impending death, we still have the ability to control our attitude.

This is an exercise in clarity, in awareness. If we can be clear about the situation, if we can be aware of our own attitude towards the situation which is driven by habit if we are not present to ourselves, then we will often be driven by habit into being part of the problem.

All that is required to be part of the problem is to do nothing. But we can do so much more than nothing to be part of the problem. We can choose to complain, walking from person to person that we know and telling them the tale of woe. We can really do harm if we can criticize others in the story.

However we can choose to be part of the solution, and all that is required to be part of the solution is to:

  1. Develop a positive attitude for creating a better situation.
  2. This attitude must support our creative visualization of what is possible in this situation. This vision of the possible aims the arrow of our intent.
  3. The attitude must generate passion for action that is the muscle that draws back the bow and lets the arrow fly.

To try this on a situation that seems impossibly negative, list 10 Positive things that can happen if you died today.

Once you have the list, what do you notice about the list? Who is the center of attention?

Can you be passionate enough about the outcomes to take action now?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Give the Gift Of Work

Know somebody that is out of work? Can you imagine how that feels at this time of year? If you do know somebody in this situation you can take some time from your schedule and make a connection for them, recommend them, give them a recommendation on Linked-In, check your company’s open jobs postings and pass the information on.

If you have a friend with a business that is in trouble, use their business for a Christmas gift, Holiday get together, etc. If your friend has a small service business such as yoga, massage, dog walking, house cleaning, personal trainer, or music lessons, consider giving their service as a gift.

Nothing says you care like giving a person some honest employment. Even a wee bit.

Holiday Opportunity

At the close of the year, as people get so busy, one can feel overwhelmed by the need to socialize, get your year end work done, shop, and handle the extra costs of the season. Still, there are some real opportunities of the time of year and one should not forget to take advantage of them.

This year take the holiday season as an opportunity to connect with three friends that you have not connected with in the year. Here are a few ways:

Call someone far away and check in with them.

Send a handwritten personal letter to someone. (NO HOLIDAY FORM LETTERS).

Invite a local friend out for coffee.

Gather a few friends and walk the neighborhood knocking and doors and wishing happy holidays.

Have a 2 hour open house with hot cider.

The point is connection with those we rarely see. Like neural pathways, our friendships need to be exercised or they fade away.