Manage your day

Manage Your DayThis book is a collection of essays from many different authors about how they work, their creative process and of course how they manage their days.  Some of my favourite authors have contributed essays: Seth Godin, Todd Henry, Steven Pressfield and Gretchen Rubin

The book is organised into four essay collections: building a sold base, finding focus, taming your tools and sharpening your creative mind.  Plus a final call to action by Steven Pressfield the author of ‘The War of Art’ (which is another book I highly recommend!)

As someone who is interested in getting stuff done and tries with varying degrees of success to be productive professionally and personally I found this collection of essays to be excellent food for thought.  The bite size nature of the essay format means its a good read for people with limited amounts of time to commit to reading.

This is a book I intend to reread periodically and I expect I will take some new idea from it each time!  Its also a great introduction to many of the different authors who have supplied essays for the book.

The First 20 hours

The First Twenty HoursI’m not a teacher but many in my family are educators and listening to them discuss the various theories of learning led me to want to know more. Then recently this book was discussed on the accidental creative podcast so I thought I’d give it a read as I’m about to head off on my first surfing trip.

The book documents the ten principles of rapid skill acquisition and ten principles of effective learning in two chapters. The rest of the book is then taken up with various examples of the author Josh Kaufman attempting to put these principles into practice while learning new skills or activities.

I found the first third of the book which is focused on the principles to be excellent, the rest of the book is learning examples. The examples are interesting but I’d have preferred the author to have written another theoretical chapter going into more depth and cut one of the example chapters.

I think the book did help me focus on the learning process at surf camp but I can’t say for sure how much difference it made.  I suspect it did make a difference in my approach to learning to surf by making me more aware of the learning process and how I should attempt to structure my learning experience.

Great by Choice

Great by ChoiceI read this book on a recommendation by one of  my brothers, the book is an analysis of the 10x companies that have consistently preformed better than average over several decades. The authors have attempted to analyse what makes these companies superior and they also supply a comparison company for each of the 10x companies that failed to achieve the same growth.

One of the core findings of the book was that the 10x companies are disciplined focused on growing a consistent amount each year, this is compared to explorers restraining themselves to only 20 km a day on expeditions instead of doing as much (or as little) as the terrain and weather permits. This discipline prevents over stretching during good times and limits under performance in the hard times.

The 10x companies also tended to run test projects before committing large amounts of resources to new ideas. This helped mitigate against unforeseen problems and bad ideas by preventing over investment from occurring to early.  Operational paranoia was also another 10x trait: keeping sufficient resources stock piled to last through any unexpected rough patches.

So the combination of these three traits are the suggested reason for the ten times performance of the 10x companies.

Read this before our next meeting

Read This Before Our Next MeetingHaving worked in Electronic Arts which is a largish enterprise (about 10’000 people) for the last seven years I have had numerous bad meetings inflicted on me.  So I picked up this book in the hopes of gaining some ideas on how to avoid the most common meeting pitfalls.

In the book the author (Al Pittampalli) sets out a manifesto that he calls ‘the modern meeting standard’, this standard states that meetings are only for supporting a decision that’s already been made.  Information gathering, discussion and decision making should be made prior to the meeting and a meeting should only held if either: conflict needs to be resolved over the decision or coordination needs to be organised.

He also states that meetings should start on time (amen!), stick to their allotted schedule and limit the number of people attending the meeting (no bystanders).  The meeting agenda should be distributed prior to the meeting to allow the participants to prepare, unprepared participants should be removed from the meetings.

The goal is to get rid of informational meetings, endless debates and produce useful action instead.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin has recently had several mentions on some of the creativity and productivity blogs that I frequent. So I thought it was time to see what all the fuss was about and read his biography (which is freely available on Kindle).

I’d heard of him before but I hadn’t quite realised just how focused a man he was on self improvement through journalling. The fact that he managed to contribute to scientific research, run a publishing house, invent lightning rods, bifocal lens, a new type of stove, be an active civic figure and a statesman/diplomat is awe inspiring. It is no wonder that Franklin is often termed ‘the first American’ and clearly he fully deserves the honour of being know as one of the founding fathers of America.

While I found his scheme for self improvement a bit too intensive for my own applications it was interesting and inspiring to see just what he managed to achieve. I wonder what a modern Benjamin Franklin would be like and what they’d achieve with the technologies available today?

I also found this book interesting due to its coverage of early American history which I wasn’t taught at school.

Deliberate learning

Sometimes its easy to forget that to keep developing a skill requires some deliberate action and planning. In our hectic lives it is easy to overlook and neglect our skill development. Often we don’t realise we’ve done this until someone that was previously less skilful than us appears to overtakes us overnight.  How to avoid  skill stagnation?

  • SCHEDULE – Dedicate time regularly to the study and practice. Go as far as to block of time in your calendar if your really busy.
  • PLAN – Know a small part of the skill you want to develop next and where to find out more about it e.g. books, internet or a skilled friend.
  • EXPLORE – Experiment with the skill to discover its limits and applications. Don’t stop as soon as you understand the basics, dig deeper for true mastery.

Its easy to think I want to get better at X but unless you set aside time, have a plan to improve and experiment it is very easy to stagnate your growth especially during busy periods.