March Challenge Update

The challenge I had given myself for March was to read and become more productive. While there is still a lot of work to do and a lot of progress I can make I did come a ways.

Typically I would read maybe one book a month, and this month I was able to read three. Each one was a recommendation and they lived up to them. With the help of the books I have been able to increase my productivity especially in this last week.

Managing Humans was the first book I read through. I’m not sure how I’ve made it this far without at least reading Rands blog previously let alone his books. This book has a lot of ideas and concepts which I believe I will help me as I look to move into a leadership role in the future. It also gave me new insights to the way I think myself. As it turns out I believe I really am a nerd.

The way I think and get into a project is really put well into words by Rands in this book. It helped make some of these things clearer while at the same time allowing me to gain perspective on how I come across to others. Both things will serve me well going forward.

The next book I read was Game Storming. This was introduced to me last year on my teams meetup by co-worker Simon Ouderkirk, who if you are interested in support or remote work you should certainly be reading his site. He led our team meetup project last year and used Game Storming to do it. At my upcoming team meetup I’m going to facilitate a similar type of activity to help our team build a road map for where we should go in the coming months.

With Simon’s help and this book I’m feeling confident that I’ll be able to help run this and get some meaningful work done with our team. The concepts of using games to brainstorm hard problems and come up with creative solutions is really interesting. Seeing it first hand last year not only did we come up with a good road map, I think it helped bring us together as a team. Hopefully we can duplicate that this time.

The last book I finished is the Effective Executive. Don’t let the title fool you though this book I believe can be a benefit to almost anyone who wants to be more effective in their life or job. My co-worker Andrea Badgley recently read it as well and wrote a great review and the part that stuck with her most.

The part that stuck with me the most was a bit different than Andrea though. One of the instant things I was able to take away and put into effect is to know my time. The author Peter F. Drucker says this of time.

Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed. The analysis of one’s time, more over, is the one easily accessible and yet systematic way to analyze one’s work and to think through what really matters in it.

Thinking about this I took a look at my time. I didn’t go super deep or keep records of what I spent time doing, but I looked at my schedule for a typical day and then restructured things and to hide things that could be a distraction. In the past I’ve noticed, and had co-workers say, that adjusting their schedule helps them be more productive. This book helped me realize why this is and the importance of revisiting your time frequently.

If you adjust your schedule it forces you to think about your time. Just the act of doing this has helped me get more focused work in this past week which has helped me get more done. I’m now going to be more purposeful about revisiting often where my time goes and how I can organize my day for the best results.

March Personal Challenge

Since February went so well I figured I would keep up, at least for a while, doing monthly challenges to myself. I’ll still keep on with the fitness but not be quite as strict with myself as I was last month. 

For March I’m going to focus on reading and personal organization / productivity. Recently I’ve taken on a number of tasks, all of which I’m excited about, but a lot of them outside my comfort zone. For example there are two upcoming talks I’m doing. I’ve also volunteered to help organize our team meetup as well as run the project we are going to work on while there. There are also other tasks at work I’m doing, all of which I need to get organized so I can get them done. 

With all that there are some books that will help me in both the planning and executing these things. So that is the main goal to read and use these books and other resources to help make me a more productive person and be able to complete these projects. 

Three of the books I have already and another one is on its way to me. I think I’m going to start with the top one in the picture so it can help me figure out how I can get to the rest ­čÖé

Getting Things Done, Managing Humans, Game Storming

My main goal is to read at least 5 hours a week as a minimum. Hopefully even more than that, but I’ll aim there. 

Library Summer Reading Club

Each year the Valley library system here puts on a summer reading club. It is an awesome idea to keep kids reading and gives them some great incentive to do it as well.

You sign up for the program and you are given a sheet with different tasks to complete over the summer. As you cross off so many of the tasks you can go check in at the library and get small prizes like stickers and temporary tattoos. At the end when you have completed the correct number you are given a Fast Pass for Upper Clements Park!

When we were on vacation we were able to cross off a number of things like go to a Zoo, visit a Museum. They also did some reading and other tasks while we were driving and on the ferry on the way home.

Today I walked in to find Caile and Ella sitting in the bathroom with a book. One of the boxes is to read in every room in your house. They let me take a picture, but Caile told me I had to put an explanation to what was happening if I was going to post it on my blog.

Reading in the bathroom
Reading in the bathroom
Check List
Check List

More Reading

This past year as likely been the best year I’ve had in a long time for reading. By reading I mean actual books that aren’t a school text book or something technical like learning JavaScript.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading or think it is important because I do both. After a recent team meeting that we had where we ended up talking about books. Hearing them talk made me realize that I’m missing out on a lot of great reading.

Like most things in live though it’s one of these things that I just have to make sure it is a priority and make it a habit. That reminds me of the next book that I want to read that was recommended to me on our team meetup in Barcelona, The Power of Habit. In the past I’ve done good at making things that are important to me a habit and I’m at a point now where I need to do that again for a few things. Reading is going to be one of them.

If you’ve read something really good recently that you think I should take a look at I’d be grateful if you shared.

Building actual relationships

For the past while I’ve been slowly working my way through Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. It has been out for a while but I hadn’t heard of it, or at least didn’t recall hearing of it. I stumbled across it recently at a second hand store and the title grabbed me.┬áMaybe something to do with my job title.┬áI then realized it was by the CEO of Zappos.com and figured it would be a good read. Just because I’m taking my time getting through it doesn’t mean it isn’t good, I’m really enjoying it so far.

One section that stuck with me was when he was talking about building friendships and relationships. For the most part I’ve always been a pretty shy and find it hard to just approach people and start up a conversation. I’ve attended a few traditional networking type events before but always felt like they were mostly a waste of time. Probably what I made of them.

This section Tony┬áincluded was from his excerpt in Ivanka Trump’s book, it talks about making real relationships.

If you are able to figure out how to be truly interested in someone you meet, with the goal of building up a friendship instead of trying to get something out of that person, the funny thing is that almost always, something happens later down the line that ends up benefiting either your business or yourself personally.

Then continues

So my advice is to stop trying to “network” in the traditional business sense, and instead just try to build up the number and depth of your friendships, where the friendship itself is its own reward. The more diverse your set of friendships are, the more likely you’ll derive both personal and business benefits from your friendships later down the road. You won’t know exactly what those benefits will be, but if your friendships are genuine, those benefits will magically appear 2-3 years later down the road.

I’ve never quantified this before but what he says holds very true in my own life. It would be difficult for me to look back and see just how much having good relationships with people have helped me along my path which has led me to where I am. Whether it was a friend who ended up helping me get a job or even just having a good relationship with a previous manager ended up resulting in a lot of great contract based work much later on.

It almost sounds like what some people would call karma, if that is something you believe in, but I think it is just in human nature. In general I think people want to be nice to others so having good relationships with people is naturally going to bring opportunities.