Master of Tools

Travelers Notebook by koalazymonkeyThere are an extraordinary amount of really random things that can distract you, right when you were in the middle of a really productive bout of work, that can knock you off of the rails. What can be particularly odd are the situations where you know this has happened, but are not quite able to ascertain why.

The common examples, where you do know why, are things like new and urgent projects being dropped on you from on high with little warning but flashing red deadlines or, more simply, just running out of steam and getting sick. Both of those examples you can at least try to have a mechanism for dealing with – make sure you always have “spare bandwidth” available to devote to the unexpected or to concentrating on unwinding and staying fit.

Suddenly noticing you’ve been procrastinating for an hour or two and sifting the Internet looking for pearls but feeling that all the shiny you discovered was nothing but pyrite and the top item on your task list just got more uninviting for being all the more urgent. That’s just classic akrasia and there are a few strategies to try and avoid the worst of it.

Here is what knocked me off a really productive run three weeks back that took me a week to figure out what was wrong and I’m only just picking back up to speed now: My paper notebook was almost full.


Review: Mindfire – Big Ideas for Curious Minds

Scott Berkun - Mindfire Big Ideas for Curious Minds With the self publishing revolution well underway, if there is one work which should be taken as a roadmap of how to go about doing it, it is perhaps Mindfire by Scott Berkun. Like both the previous books I reviewed a while ago, I knew about the existence of this one by following Scott’s blog. What makes my route to this author different from the others is that I came to his blog via one of his other books – coincidentally the first e-book I ever bought.

Scott Berkun is the author of Making Things Happen and it is a masterful study of how to do software project management well. I’ve read it twice now and occasionally dip back into it when a project I’m running is going off the rails. The reason I have been in any way succesful as a Project Manager is because I read that book. It should be compulsory reading for anyone charged with the task.

Obviously I was already a big fan of Berkun’s work, but over the past decade he has left the world of software project management behind and become a top class public speaker and an essayist. There is a distinction, even in our current day and age, between a blogger and an essayist – while many of the pieces in this book have appeared on his blog, the older craft of essay writing shines through in this work. These pieces are deceptively simple, they follow tight structures that you will hardly notice in the same way as you don’t notice the metal frame holding up the building you are in or the subtle contours in a sonnet, they are each suitably sized to get the whole of the concept in question into your brain in one helping and every one of them is a belter.


Pump up the Tires

Bicycle pumps by matsuyuki Was totally washed out at the end of yesterday – it has been an intense few weeks with several large projects all going on at once, many 18 hour work days and two trips abroad later it is perhaps no surprise that I was ended up a tad exhausted.

I hate having the wind taken out of my sails like that! It is such an anti-climax after the hard work that I had been putting in. What caused this sudden turn in the weather at my back? I finished one of the big projects – got it all signed off – and next thing I know my voice had given out and a hacking cough has appeared out of nowhere. This morning I delivered the baby to the nursery and then came home and slept (in between coughing fits).

All of which goes to show that the idea that working more than 40 hours a week is counter productive is quite correct – I worked almost eighty hours of overtime in the course of three weeks last month. And now that the big hurdles are cleared and the adrenalin levels begin to lower, what do you suppose has happened to my productivity?