Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

Learning in the midst of information overload

We live in a world where we are easily inundated by information. Our news feeds constantly update, providing an endlessly scrolling list of tidbits. There are always more Youtube videos, more podcasts, and more articles in our feed readers.

My own story roughly matches this. In the past I tried to cull my list of subscriptions: follow the right people on Twitter and unfollow the ones who tweeted too much. I tried to save time by only clicking on the interesting headlines. Ultimately I found that I still couldn’t keep up, and I was afraid of missing out on what I wasn’t clicking on.

The main mistake is “trying to keep up” in the first placeā€”or having this passive, feed reading behavior be your only way of learning new things. Reading Twitter is a good way to keep up, but it shouldn’t be the only professional development that you do. Sure, it might help you discuss the latest ideas with your coworkers at lunch, but it’s also not going to go very deep for actually improving your professional skills.

Active Learning

Stop Passive Learning. Start Active Learning,” by Andrea Angela was the original impetus for me to write this blog post. The main point of the blog post is to stop endlessly consuming news feeds, because it leaves you constantly feeling behind. Then you have free time, and this allows you to choose a topic to learn, and then look for resources around that topic.

I like that Angela acknowledges that we won’t always have the mental capacity to do “active learning,” and that it is at those times that he turns back to his news feeds in a more passive approach.

Another blog, “Improve Your Self-Improvement” has a similar idea. Don’t just learn something and then set it aside. Share what you learned with others.

Ratio of producing to consuming

After I read about active learning I immediately remembered John Sonmez’s video about the 70-30 rule. This rule talks about the ratio of consuming to producing. Spend 70% of your time producing and 30% of your time consuming. Producing is making value for others, and consuming is just a passive activity where you are looking to be entertained or “informed” but you aren’t actually using that information.

When I think about the 70-30 rule I think of several contexts where I am producing and consuming.

At work, I probably do follow this ratio. In the work context, I would associate producing with tasks like coding, debugging, documentation, and giving demos. I would associate consuming with things like reading my email, checking out the work news feed, and reading the all-company announcements and stuff.

The other context is my after-work work, a term borrowed from “Improve your Self-Improvement” meaning professional development or personal development that is career-related that you do on your own time. In this context, I am striving to move more toward the 70-30 ratio. Some producing tasks include writing blog posts (yay, doing that right now), or taking notes, or coding on a side project. Some consuming tasks include watching Pluralsight, reading my RSS feeds, or other articles I come across on Twitter.

In conclusion, I want to be more proactive, and come up with my own ideas, rather than trying to react and digest others’ ideas all the time. I want to have my own opinions about what is important to keep up with in the tech industry, rather than just assuming that the newest thing is important to me.

7 Habits: A Summary (part 2)

Habits 4-6: Paradigms of interdependence

  • The Emotional Bank Account describes the amount of trust that has been built up in a relationship. Interdependent relationships depend on the status of this bank account.

Habit 4: Think win/win

  • Win/win sees life as cooperative, not competitive. It is a way to reach decisions that are better than compromises.
  • There are other paradigms for making decisions (e.g. win/lose). Sometimes we are scripted with these paradigms, but we can change these scripts. (See habits 1-3)

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

  • We tend to listen autobiographically. We try to relate what the person is saying to our own experience. We should listen to their story before trying to clearly communicate our own story.
  • Listen to both content and feeling of what the other person is saying.

Habit 6: Synergize

  • Value the differences. Your motive for valuing the differences is that they will lead to creative win/win solutions.
  • One example of a difference: logical vs. creative thinking (right-brain vs. left brain)

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw

  • Sharpening the saw increases your personal PC (your ability to produce results)
  • Four dimensions of renewal: physical, spiritual, mental (these relate to habits 1-3, your ability to be independent); relational (this relates to habits 4-6, your ability to be interdependent)

7 Habits: A Summary (part 1)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Stephen R. Covey
2004, Free Press

Introduction: The 7 habits are based on the following principles

  • P/PC Balance: P is production (the results of your work), PC is production capacity (your ability to produce results). If you neglect PC, you will never get P.
  • Maturity continuum: People grow from dependence to independence to interdependence. Interdependence is the idea that independent people come together to cooperate and create something greater.
  • The first three habits will bring growth in independence, and the second three habits will bring growth in interdependence.

Habit 1: Be proactive

  • You can choose how you respond to situations around you.
  • You may respond based on a script, that is, how you responded in the past, e.g. based on child hood experiences of pain. However, you can rewrite that script.
  • People who aren’t proactive complain about their circle of concern. Proactive people intentionally expand their circle of influence.
  • Habit 1 is personal vision. The vision is that you can proactively write a new script, no longer reacting to your past or other people.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

  • Write a personal mission statement that governs your day to day decisions.
  • Leadership vs. management: Leadership is doing the right things (things that correspond with a goal or vision). Management is doing things efficiently. It is possible to be doing the wrong thing very efficiently. e.g. hacking your way through the jungle, but you find out you have been going the wrong direction.
  • Habit 2 is personal leadership. Your mission statement ensures you are doing the right things.
  • When writing your mission statement, ask: what is my life centered on.

Habit 3: Put first things first

  • Urgent vs. important. Many people live their life doing the urgent things, assuming that they will do the important things. This leads to burn out, and you will miss important things that are not urgent (e.g. relationships with people, spiritual growth)
  • Planning your schedule on a weekly basis will help fit in important things that aren’t urgent. Does your time management tool allow you to test agenda items against your mission statement?
  • Delegation is important in managing your own schedule. Gofer delegation gives the person a lot of instructions, but doesn’t build their PC. Stewardship delegation allows them the freedom to choose how they will complete the task.
  • Habit 3 is personal management. That is, effectively doing the things that, in habit 2, you determined are the right things to do.

Some personal examples

It’s easy to see the principle of P/PC Balance at work. One example is getting enough rest. When I rest, I am working on my production capability. If I am always producing and never resting, eventually I will be forced to rest. Another example is purchasing a new tool. When I bought a new laptop, it increased my production capability for working on school projects.

Personal leadership is the idea of making sure you spend your time doing the right things. You write a mission statement and choose a set of principles to live by. I wrote the role of a computer scientist when thinking about principles to live by.