Saturday, February 15, 2020

Productivity, Time and Task Management - 5 tips that have helped me


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
 
I've always been interested in being productive and making the best use of my time.


I've mentored people about productivity and spoke to people about it too. Back in 2009 I blogged here about Innovation and Productivity.

I lead a net-working group called Emmaus Work Connectors and last month (January 2020) our discussion was about "Time and Task Management."  I told the attendees that I would share some of the information so everyone can have access to it and benefit from it.

Here are some things that I've learned over the years that have helped me with links to articles to get more information about each:

1. Prioritization is important:
We need to prioritize our work in two ways: importance and urgency. Tasks that are important and urgent need to have the highest priority. The tasks that are important and non-urgent need to be scheduled so we get around to doing them. I first learned about this in Habit 3 of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey. I've lately heard it attributed to Eisenhower. One pointer from me is "don't over-analyze" prioritization. Get it close and then just get started on a task.

2. Using a process helps.
Getting Things Done (GTD), Personal Kanban, Agile Scrum framework (video or .pdf), and the Pomodoro technique are great processes to aid in managing tasks.
   My main take-aways from GTD is that tasks that are less than about 5 minutes are best to just do right away to keep them from getting on a list. And, take any big projects and break them into smaller ones.
   I've used Kanban at work for years. I also follow Personal Kanban for my home tasks. Kanban is the most effective technique that I use. It is based on two easy rules: visualize your work and limit work in progress. I use Trello to visualize my tasks on a kanban board. I use it to track all of my tasks. I find Kanban helpful because by limiting work in progress, it stops me from trying to multi-task which has been proven to be inefficient and even damaging to your brain
   I also find that by using the agile scrum framework of bringing a limited number of tasks from my big "to do list" into a "timeboxed" period of time (one day or one week) keeps me from being overwhelmed by my big list. I believe that agile techniques can be very helpful to apply to my every day tasks. Read a bit about it and see if you agree.

   My take-away on Pomodoro is to concentrate on one task at a time for a certain amount of time. Taking breaks is important too and a part of Pomodoro. I find it refreshing to plan a task that takes about a half-hour, work on it, get it done and cross it off the list. Well, in Kanban, I move it to the "Done" column! In Trello, there is even a way to pop some confetti when you move a task to done! (note: Trello can also be used for Pomodoro as one of the several add-ons covered in this article) and it can be used to implement GTD too!)


3. Eliminate (or reduce) distractions
A key part of productivity is to reduce distractions, especially distractions that are unimportant (thinking back to the Eisenhower prioritization mentioned above.  This means you may need to turn off sounds for texts on your smartphone, email and other messenger platforms. Another great productivity framework called Inbox-zero (about processing all of your email so your inbox has zero emails left) tells us to just look at emails a few times a day. All these messages are distractions. Distractions pull us away from focusing and it takes considerable time (23 minutes according to one study) to get back on task.
Background noise sometimes helps to reduce distractions around you. I've been known to use coffitivity and other similar websites to make some background noise when I'm being distracted. Try it out!


4. Don't over-analyze, get started on a task
If a task seems to overwhelming, think of one thing you can do to get started on it. Start that one thing. Usually, this is enough to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed and gives the feeling of momentum. Try it!

5. Do tasks with long leadtimes first
If something is going to take a long time for someone else to do, or to get a response, get that item into the "pipeline" as soon as reasonable so that you won't later be waiting on it.

Now you try

These are just a few ideas and this article is already way too long, so I'll stop here. This is enough for you to try.

I use Trello a lot and they regularly post on the topic of productivity.
Here's a blog post they did about "Self-Management: How To Prioritize And Be More Productive"  and another titled "How To Create A Productivity Tracker To Reach Your Goals This Year"

What do you think?
I would like to hear about your productivity tips. Let me know if any of the above tips helped you or not and why.  Let me know if there are other topics or questions you would like me to cover.







Saturday, November 16, 2019

Rise Against Hunger 23,000 meals packaged! You can too!



On October 26, 2019 about 105 people got together for about 2.5 hours and packed 23,000+ meals with Rise Against Hunger. This picture shows just a portion of the meals packaged.

We had people packing meals from a net-working group that's hosted at the church, youth group members, boy scouts and cub scouts, the Interact club from the Roxbury High School and other community groups.

The work started about a year prior to this with many fundraisers to raise 34 cents per meal for a total of more than $7800.
Fundraisers included asking businesses for contributions, a fundraising dinner (Hillside3d.com), the youth group doing a car wash, bake sales, and more.

A member also sold more than $20,000 worth of Shoprite gift cards.  ShopRite donates a portion of the sale to the fundraising. If you would like to support our event next year by buying ShopRite gift cards, let us know.

Printastic donated the banner this year for the event so we could list all of the many supporting organizations. Some of the organizations were Diamond Gymnastics, Joe’s Pizza, Bryan’s Luncheonette, Nordic Contracting, Ronetco Supermarkets (ShopRite), Panera, Haagen Dazs, Flanders Bagel, and Fuddruckers. Please visit our supoorters.

Thank you to the many people and organizations who gave of their time to raise funds and pack meals.

Thank you to the many businesses, organizations, and individuals who supported the fundraising.

This year’s event was a follow-up to last year's event and we plan to do it again next year on Saturday, October 24, 2020. Here's where you can find out more, donate, or sign up to help.



Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A New Type of Net-Working Group

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay


We've started a new type of net-working group.

It's Net-working because it's people who are working and people looking for work who are getting together to work on their "work journey". They help each other and work on the topics they choose together.

It's a group meeting monthly (Third Thursday) face-to-face in Morris Country New Jersey to discuss what they've applied. (Yes, we're in discussions about adding a monthly virtual meeting too).

It's also small teams (within the bigger group) of people meeting virtually every week or two (at an agreed time) to work together to apply tasks to make progress on their work journey.

It's also finding a "buddy" in the group to meet with a few times a week (phone or in-person as they agree) to help each other make progress on their work journey.

It's for people working and for people looking for work. Why? Because they can help each other since they have experience in the work journey.

It's about working together to build strong connections with others; this is the best form of networking.

We also take into consideration that the work journey is a spiritual one, so we address the spiritual needs too.


Come join us. Read more and sign up at this link


We are currently meeting in Morris County, New Jersey. As the group grows, we are considering expanding to other locations and virtual meetings too.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Digital Transformation and Disruption


Image by geralt on pixabay

Someone was asking me today what my definition of Digital Transformation is. My definition is below. I had to think about it because I will be doing a presentation on the topic of "Managing Digitial Transformation and Disruption" on May 6, 2019 at the PMI NJ Symposium and I will provide the audience with a link to this blog post so they can find more information. So, this blog post will most likely be updated over time.

My Definition of Digital Transformation:
Digital Transformation is the use of digital technologies (AI, IoT, Cloud, Big data and analytics, blockchain, AR, VR, drones, etc.) to transform business.

It's not just about changing existing systems to use these technologies, but it's about leveraging these technologies to transform business.

Digital Transformation is much more effective when it delivers a focus on the customer.  There are several links below that demonstrate that importance.



Some helpful links:

Digital Transformation (DT) Definitions
Digital Transformation Articles
Digital Transformation Pitfalls and Fixes

Digital Transformation and Project Management

Digitial Transformation Use Cases

Disruption / VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity)
Artificial Inteligence:

Customer Experience and Design Thinking

  • The Right Way to Lead Design Thinking - Harvard Business Review March-April 2019. This article speaks about the importance of empathizing with the customer. There are good case history stories and a good example of how to navigate ambiguity.
Project Complexity (occurs during DT)
  • Project Complexity Model - This article explains many aspects of project complexity. Most, if not all of these, occur in DT projects
     
     

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Job Search Methods




As a follow-up to my post entitled "Free Job Search Advice Links (tips, hints and more)", I thought it would be helpful to others if I listed some Job search methods that can be used.

First, some stories, then the links and stuff
Note: Everyone will tell you that finding people at your target companies is at least 4 (and as much as 8) times more effective than applying online. You want to get to the decision makers. These methods are ways of doing that. They recommend spending far more time on these types of efforts than on submitting your resume into online job listing sites (which many refer to as the "Black hole").

I had interviews with 5 companies, 3 of them came from recruiters who found me through searching LinkedIn and finding my profile. I believe what I've been told that being more active on LinkedIn and making sure you have keywords in your profile are a big help. I believe that is why these recruiters found me. I was making posts quite often: usually every working day of the week at prime internet times and using #hastags to draw attention to them. Also, make sure you change your settings to say if you are actively looking (and this flag is automatically reset after some time, so check it every few weeks).

The other two companies I had interviews with came from relationships I started and nurtured. Once came from when LinkedIn gave me the name of a recruiter who posted a job I applied to. Although, that perticular job didn't work out, I followed up often with that recruiter and we had several phone calls. Eventually they got to know me and helped me gain an interview for another position I saw that they posted. The other came from a technical meeting with that company. There are many meetups on Meetup.com and other sites that you can attend and build real strong relationships with people.

It's important to remember to be reciprocal and offer help to these people who are helping you.
  1. Network with a focus
    1. Network with generosity, giving, and listening.
    2. The goal is to find (and develop) folks to be advocates and champions for you. Sometimes you'll find people that you never knew before will help you a lot.
    3. Meet with people - preferably face-to-face for coffee or lunch. If you can't meet in person, then talk on the phone. Asking for a job isn't always going to help them to be successful in helping you. Ask for something that they can successfully help you with.
    4. Ask them for job search advice and referrals to other people you can meet for job search advice. You can say "I know you're a successful person, can you introduce me to other successful people that I can meet with and explain my career goals and hear about theirs"
    5. Go to Networking meetings, meetup groups - make valuable introductions, listen to their needs first and ask questions. Provide a paper that shows the parameters of your search (where, when, what, goal, target companies). Offer to help them in some way. Follow up with them.
    6. Connect to people who you usually meet: neighbors, churches, charitible organizations, volunteering activities, the gym, the barber/hairdresser, grocery store
    7. Go to Meetup.com events to find people with like interests or hobbies. Or, find a technical or business group in meetup.com - you may even find that a target employer has meetup events
    8.  Reach out to people you have worked with before. Do they have a contact at a particular customer you want to contact? Do they have contact information?
  2. Connect to people on linkedin - 
    1. You can search for people at your target company who are doing what you are looking for or manage those roles. Always include a personallized message when inviting them to connect.
    2. Lisa Rangel suggests you can send a message along the lines of "In the spirit of networking, I hope you will agree to connect with me" - then, once you are connected, ask them questions and offer to help them. You can ask about getting together for coffee or lunch. You can ask about the company culture or how to find connectiions there. 
    3. Try making a connection with HR folks in your target companies. If you can get an advocate there, then you'll have help to get to a position.
    4. Make connections with recruiters and talk to them on a regular basis
    5. Post information (use hashtags) on LinkedIn, Comment and share articles, "like" posts to that you are more active. I've heard that this puts you higher in search rankings when recruiters look for people.
    6.  Update your LinkedIn profile with keywords that recruiters would look for to find you (you can find these keywords in job descriptions you are interested in. You can also look for people who are in positions you are looking for and see what makes their LinkedIn profiles great. Do the same types of things with your own profile.
    7. Use LinkedIn groups to contact people with similar interests and goals (by industry, professional affiliation, professional groups, hobbies). Post and comment on articles in these groups.
    8. NEW 2019-03-21: A friend told me that when he found a job he was interested in, he looked on linkedin and found 2 dozen people at that one company. He either sent them email (if it was on their profile) or sent them a nicely worded invitation to connect and told him he applied to the particular job and asked for them to put in a good word for him and forward his resume. One of the people forwarded his resume to the hiring manager and he was hired!
  3.  Contact recruiters (internal to companies and external, like executive recruiters): remember, they are working for the companies who seek applicants, they don't work for you. But, you can search linkedin for recruiters who have positions you are interested in.
    1. optional: find recruiters that work with the companies you are targetting -use a LinkedIn search to find them.
    2. You can use searchfirm.com to find recruiters
    3. 2019-06-20 I just heard from someone that they use LinkedIn.com to search for recruiters and reach out to them (write a customer request to join).
  4. Letter writing campaign - find people in the target company who would be the hiring manager for the position you are interested in. Ask people you are connected to in the target company for contacts or use google or LinkedIn to find these perspective hiring managers. Or, better yet, aim high to get someone at a level above your position to advocate for you. Send these people a postal letter, fedex, or USPS Priority mail explaining how you can help them. Tell them who you are in addition to what you can do for them. Tell something unique about yourself (maybe a hobby or volunteer work) and how it relates to your business strength. tell them how you differentiate yourself. Tell them you'll follow up in a week or two. Do that follow-up (find their phone number, email or use LinkedIn inmail). Ask for a meeting. Tell them that you're a successful professional as they are and you'd like to get to know each other by meeting.
  5. Unemployment or employement offices in your state might have services you can use. Also, if you attended college, many colleges provide help.
  6. Volunteer: By volunteering to do work you will gain people who know you, see your quality of work, see how you treat people, and want to be your champion.
  7.  Look at eventbrite, meetup, or other places for events your target company might hold (or that people from those companies might attend). Attend and speak with people. Ask for follow-up meetings to get to know each other.
  8. Direct Connections and Circle the Hiring Manager (2019-06-10 New addition) :  After identifying your target companies to work for, make connections with many people who would interface with the hiring manager for a position there. Do a google search (or linkedin search) for the probable title of the hiring manager for a position you would want in your target company (it doesn't have to be a posted position).  Look in LinkedIn for people connected to that hiring manager, or search for titles of people who would work with them (those who would manage them, those they would collaborate with, those they would manage). Make contact with them (search for their contact info) and ask for some time to get their input on the type of work you're interested in. Meet in person or on the phone. Continue this process until you have spent time with everyone near to the hiring manager. Eventually, you will be able to make contact with the hiring manager by using these people to introduce you.
  9. The "Two Hour Job Search" - see https://2hourjobsearch.com/ - Steve Dalton also posts in Huffington Post.  
  10. Informational Interviews. Here's an article about them:  https://www.shimmeringcareers.com/blog/job-interview-preparation-informational-interview/
  11. Referrals:  see https://cultivatedculture.com/how-to-get-a-job-anywhere-no-connections/
  12.  
    If you know of other methods, please reply here with your comments!
     
     

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Value of Networking During the Holidays


Photo by erin walker on Unsplash
Today I attended the CIT networking event.  I sat in on a discussion led by Marty Latman (career coach and consultant) about networking.
 He said that there are several reasons why it's good to keep networking during the holidays. I've also added a few that I've heard before.
  • People want to talk and get together at this time of the year.
  • People are generous at this time of the year.
  • You can usually find higher level people at their offices. Since many people are out, it's easier to get in touch with higher level people. The "gate keepers" are out on holiday.
  • You usually find people have more time. People are not as busy at work.
  • You have less "competition" because many people are not thinking about networking at this time of the year.
Here are some of the tips that he mentioned (and some related ones I've heard before). I've numbered them so you can refer to them, but these are not in any particular order.
  1. The holidays are a good time to rejuvinate your network.  Reach out to someone you haven't spoken to in a while. Wish them a Happy Holiday and ask to get together to reconnect.
  2. Send out holiday greetings: mail, email, ecards - This gets you back on people's minds. They will be happy that you are thinking of them.
  3. Call people on the phone and catch up on things
  4. If someone looks at your linkedin profile, send them a message telling them you saw that they viewed your profile and ask if there is anything you can help them with.
  5. If someone connects, send them a message to welcome them and ask them why and if there is anything you can do to help them.
  6.   Look at your resume and write down the names of people you worked with. Then, try to contact them. 
  7. When you ask someone for help, ask for something that they can be successful at. Don't just ask them for a job or work or to sign up for your services. Ask them for something they can be successful at, like giving you a reference, some information, or advice. Then, they can feel good that they helped you. Be very specific too! Don't just say I am looking for work. What type of work? Or, if you want a contact, tell what type of contact.
  8. People who you wouldn't think would help you (sometimes people you didn't know), might be the ones who help you the most. And, sometimes those who you think would help, don't help you. And, then there are those who are just "takers." They may never want to help you, just take from you. If they ever ask for help, you can decide if you will help them or not. No one is obligated to help anyone. If someone doesn't want to help you, just move on.
  9. Be clear, concise and brief in your elevator speech so people know exactly what you need.
  10. Don't just rely on linkedin. You can also do a google search on people
  11. Google search yourself too! This way you'll know what people might find out about you and you'll be ready to answer them if they ask you about something they saw.
I hope all these tips help. If you have any comments, questions, or additional suggestions, please comment below.

(note: this article is also cross-posted in LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/value-networking-during-holidays-henry-will-iv-pmp/ )