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Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Presentation on Structure

I spent the weekend completing a presentation for my Toastmasters club later this week and wanted to share it with you. It is also my first use of Slideshare which is an excellent site that falls under the Social Media label. Check out the presentation and let me know your feedback.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Improve your focus, give your brain a break

Have you ever found yourself in the difficult position of having to complete a task yet found the task to be less than exciting and wondering if there was some way to get through the challenge with your sanity still in tact. Often in work situations we are responsible for tasks and actions that are needed to be completed but these tasks are not fun.

One of the approaches that I have found when working on focus has been to use a 20 minute rule. This is a unique motivator I found while in college when I had to study for exams. The basic idea is to allow yourself to get into the groove and leverage your mind's ability to remain intensely focused for short periods of time. I have heard of studies that have found that our minds will start to wander after as short a time as 20 minutes (I couldn't find any specific one so I can just tell from my personal experience)

What I do is set a timer, I have a countdown watch that is set to 20 minutes. I turnoff the phones, blackberries, and email alerts; to effectively get into your groove you will have to be certain that there is no interruptions so that you can train your mind that it is okay to be focused. I have a small note pad nearby in the event something pops into my mind, that will need to be addressed but is not what I am focusing on, so that I can write it down to address later. Then I set the timer and am focused for the 20 minutes straight.

When the alarm goes off I stop what I am doing right then and there and move away from the project and reward myself for the focus time. The key is to reward yourself. I recommend do a little physical exercise and get your blood moving like take a short walk get outside for a brief moment. I keep the break to no longer than 5 or 10 minutes so that I can get back to focus on the task at hand.

After doing this for awhile I found I can focus and get into a flow quickly and the ability to complete my task lists improved noticeably.

Try it out for yourself and let me know how it works.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Everyone is an outsourcer

I am an advocate of the outsourcing model. That does not mean I believe companies should send all of their jobs to another country. Rather companies should focus on their expertise not on "all the other stuff." If you look at outsourcing they way the typical middle class family does you would see that they have been outsourcing for some time. So much is outsourced that many people no longer what they are doing as outsourcing. Here are some examples of family outsourcing:

  • Daycare or after school care
  • Tax preparation services
  • Dry cleaning
  • Gardening
  • House painting
  • Plumbing
  • Growing food
  • Dining out or buy ready made meals
  • Clothing (do you make your own?)
  • Entertainment (movies, TV, sports)

This is not sending jobs overseas, rather it is freeing up time for higher value activities (ones you would rather be doing instead of these)

All of these things are forms of outsourcing and yes some of them are done overseas but a vast majority are local. Why do we outsource so much of our family work? Some would say because both partners are working and don't have time for these activities. I would argue that both partners are choosing to focus on higher value skills and outsourcing the items that can be performed with better expertise or for lower cost by someone else.

This is the most basic of arguments for the outsourcing model. What is your business and how does your business make money. Doing taxes is not about making money unless your are a tax accountant. Writing computer software is not about making money unless you are a computer software developer.

Most organizations need to be focused on product innovation not on how to complete their tax return, find the best office space, or the bookkeeping. When a company is small much of these activities are outsourced; what changes as an organization grows that requires these activities to be done in house? What activities are you as an individual still doing that should be sourced elsewhere to free up your time?