Today’s two things come via links courtesy of Daniel Pink. His book Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – has been sitting near my bed for months. Now that I see all the great content on his site and twitter account (@danielpink), I might just be motivated enough to move it up in the queue.
Today I learned:
1. The Streaming Diet:
“Personal Productivity is the new Dieting”
– Daniel Pink
The central concept proposed (linked below) is that information, much like our caloric options, has proliferated to such an extent than an entirely new industry has been created to help us manage the issue. Essentially, he suggests we pile too much information on our plates now, in the same way we started to pile too much food on our plates decades ago.
A useful analogy, in my opinion, and a concerning one.
Despite a multi-billion dollar diet industry, collectively we clearly haven’t figured out food. Obesity rates continue to climb, particularly in kids.
Does the similarity between food and information mean one day ADHD will be the new Diabetes? It’s been 72 years since McDonald’s was founded and we haven’t yet figured out how to deal with the food in front of us. Certainly in the 6 years since Twitter launched the stream of cool stuff coming at us has simultaneously multiplied and become more difficult to say no to. I have never been great at turning down the chance to super-size my value meal. I am no better at avoiding the seduction of another glance at Twitter, email, RSS feeds…the list goes on.
That all said, I actually had some personal success with dieting through 2011. My breakthrough came when I translated a trick that had helped me manage a family with two kids, full-time work and a part-time MBA program for 2.5 years. The solution was simple: meticulous planning, diarizing and recording of everything on my calendar. In translating the idea to food this meant keeping a diary of all food intake via an app on my phone. I set no goals or dietary restrictions, but found the simple act of keeping track kept me honest and motivated. Personal drive immediately and drastically improved the quality and volume of what I consumed. In 9 months I lost about 20% of my body weight – a drastic improvement with almost zero effort.
It all makes me wonder: Could the same “diet” concept translate to managing a information overload?
This seems to me a worthy experiment. So, here is my plan:
For one week I will keep a simple but meticulous checklist recording every time I do the following things:
- Check my work inbox
- Check personal email
- Review my Twitter feed
- Navigate to Google Reader
- Click into Google + (accidently of course, because why else would you visit a ghost town every day)
- Check out my Facebook timeline
If, after a week, the idea seems manageable and promising I will continue my checklist in hopes of seeing if my behaviour changes over time. My working title is The Streaming Diet and March 1 (tomorrow) sounds like a natural place to start.
Link to Daniel Pink: How to Say No…Especially to Things you Want to Do
2. Saved by the Pomodoro? Keeping on task is a problem for just about everybody. If you don’t have issues with it, you probably quit reading this post somewhere in #1 above.
The question is, can a Pomodoro save us from ourselves?
Pomodoro is italian for Tomato, and apparently the shape of most simple timers in Italy, so in North America this idea might gain wider appeal as the Egg Technique (though it would not have the same marketing appeal).
The concept, via pomodorotechnique.com is simple:
- Choose a task to be accomplished
- Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
- Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
I find the concept appealing in its simplicity. I also find it appealing in that there is an app for it.
I’ve been an advocate of mini-breaks for years and I used them incessantly while studying to artificially “chunk” my progress. I like the concept for work too, due to the natural tendency to allow interruptions – phone, email, open-door – to impact my ability to buckle down and keep me from critical tasks for the day.
This seems like another worthy experiment for me. I have a sense that the short time blocks might simultaneously make me more productive, and help me with The Streaming Diet that starts tomorrow.
Time to go shopping in the app store.
Link to the inspiration for this post, Daniel Pink: Can a tomato make you more productive?
Link to the “cheat sheet” on pomodortechnique.com
Today I learned:
1. I get Twitter…finally: I’ve used Twitter for about 3 years, mostly to follow old school friends and to source news, articles and blogs. I post a few things on my personal account (@darrenmcknight), and it is actually the first app I use in the morning, just to see if anything critical has happened in the world. Admittedly though, the whole conversation thing has been lost on me. Until now.
Tonight I watched Dragon’s Den on CBC – easily my favourite show and along with Amazing Race the only reality TV I can stomach – and simultaneously followed the stream of tweets.
Wow – value add!
It might be that the Dragon’s Den audience is a wee bit more refined than Bieber’s Army or just about anyone that tweets about the NBA, but it is hard not to enjoy a stream of thought provoking comments along side something you already enjoy. It was like watching the show with a hundred cool, smart people and the Director in my living room. How can you beat it when the stars – actual Dragon’s – chime in real-time?
I am the kind of guy that watches tv with my phone next to me and my laptop open doing three things at once. Now that I have a use for Twitter it will need to be four things.
2. Free is rarely free: I signed-up for a free webinar on LinkedIn today that, at first glance, sounded topical to my work and I hoped to get a few nuggets out of it that I could apply at work. I can’t believe how easily I was fooled by good marketing. I won’t burn the company here but suffice it to say it took about 90 seconds to realize the presenters had only one goal. They wanted to sell me their software.
Looking back the promotional material, it was deliberately misleading. I don’t mind a bit of a sales pitch but if you are going to offer to educate me then educate. If you are going to sell me on something then sell me. You aren’t going to trick me into spending $50K on software. The only guarantee today is that you lost a potential customer.
So, today I learned, or maybe I was just reminded, free is rarely free. When you find something that is both good and free, it is probably also worth paying for.