Know Thy Time

“Time is what we want most,but what we use worst.” 
         ― William Penn

Earlier, I wrote about the importance of measurement and data that represents reality. The main idea was that any improvement, personally or professionally, can only be effective if it is based on fact based measurements. In God we trust; all others bring data.

ImageThe article used the Global Slavery Index report as an example for defining the process of measurement.

That’s useful – but how about a measurement example that can be applied personally and has value? How if we measure where our time goes.

Our daily discourse is filled with clichés about time:

  • Time is money
  • Time is our greatest asset
  • Time is a great leveler

Yet, we abuse this great asset with impunity. We become unproductive at the very core asset that makes us productive and effective.

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In God we trust; all others bring data

“In God we trust; all others bring data.”
                              ― W. Edwards Deming     

Recently, the Walk Free Foundation released their inaugural annual report on global slavery – the Global Slavery Index. It is a detailed report defining what constitutes slavery, estimated number of slaves in the world, a ranking of countries based on estimated slaves, and detailed socio-economic analyses.

ImageWhat is relevant here is not the content of the report (which is not to say that it is unimportant), but the process and value of measurement and data. Peopleware, an all-time classic for knowledge workers, lays out a two-stage theory of measuring things:

1 – What cannot be measured, cannot be improved
2 – Any measurement is better than no measurement at all

Our decisions are generally based on heuristics, rules of thumb, hunches, gut feelings, personal experiences, cultural norms and our opinions about things. While all of these have their place, they more often than not are developed by circumstances and experiences, rather than data that represents reality. That is why most interventions, whether at policy, strategy or tactical level fail. That is one of the reasons Change Sucks.

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What is Wrong in Talking about Tools?

Being an active GTD subscriber, I follow relevant discussions (e.g. the GTD LinkedIn group).

A significant percentage of these discussions and articles relate to tools around GTD. Or they relate to specific practices around a tool. How to use Evernote for GTD? How to organize your ticker files? What is the best online service for managing GTD workflow? What are the specific folders you create? Are you happy with a particular tool?


These are all useful discussions. I even gave out my toolkit for GTD.

But I also wrote about that using GTD is not about adopting a particular set of tools or practices. It is about a personal transformation. It requires a change of heart.

It is not that tools are not important. They are. They ensure that you really get the stuff done. But they come after you understand what you are really trying to do. They are means to the end, not the end themselves. Talking about tools before you understand the end-goal is like putting your first step on the third leg of the ladder. It’s putting the cart before the horse.

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Work While You Sleep

Dave Ramsey is a very successful person. He is a writer, speaker and a radio show host. His books are best sellers. His radio show is heard on more than 500 stations in USA and Canada. He focuses on getting people out of debt and become wealthy. Dave is hugely popular. He is leader of his tribe (the Seth Godin version).

Dave is very eloquent and articulate too. He communicates exceptionally well. His listeners are usually in rapt attention. He completely adheres to the Communication is what the Listener does principle.


Dave does a lot of TV & radio shows and live events. But Dave also sells products. He sells books. He sells DVDs and financial tools. While the media appearances are what brands him, it is the products in his store that are interesting. In a recent interview, he said that his books are what make money for him even as he sleeps. The product (books) are out there. The sales system is set up. The brand is established. He does not have to do anything. When he gets up in the morning, the money is in his bank account.

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The (in)sanity index or how to get things done

This is a guest post by Zaki Shaheen, a former colleague, a smart knowledge worker and now a manager of many of them!

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the results to be suddenly different.”
– Albert Einstein

insanityProject management (or knowledge work in general) is one of the most brain-tolling exercises and it’s absolutely critical that a project manager keeps her composure. Not just in meetings, but in moving things forward and getting things done. To always have mind like water.

I have seen (read made) a lot of mess ups and delayed deliveries. Whenever I see young project managers make the same mistakes as I once did, I volunteer my two cents.

Yesterday I had a eureka moment to model what happens when a project fails (or is failing). One of the way to do that is to come up with a key performance indicator (KPI). I call this one the sanity indicator.

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