Tag Archives: Productivity

Have you backed up your data?

The following is from FEMA. Don’t think for a minute that this is only a business concern. Do you do online banking? Pay bills online? How about e-mailing your attorney? Don’t put yourself at risk – invest in a backup drive and consider an online backup system like Carbonite, as well.

Back It Up

Businesses create and manage a large amount of data and electronic information. Some of that data is essential to daily operations and business survival. Vital information can be lost due to hacking, human error or hardware failure resulting in significant business disruption. Would you know what to do if your information technology stopped working? This is when having a plan for data backup and recovery will come in handy. To develop your data backup plan, you should:

  • Identify what data to backup;
  • Implement hardware and software procedures;
  • Schedule and conduct backups; and
  • Periodically check data to ensure it has been accurately backed up.

Data backup and recovery is an integral part of the business continuity plan for IT disaster preparedness. Data on network servers, wireless devices, laptop and desktop computers should be backed up along with hard copy records and other information. Tapes, cartridges and large capacity USB drives with integrated data backup software are effective means for business backup.

Taking steps to secure your business’ vital information is also a great way to support the America’s PrepareAthon! campaign to increase community resilience in times of disaster.  Follow @PrepareAthon on Twitter for all things disaster preparedness!


New Release of the VOST Workbook

I’ve upgraded the VOST Workbook to version 4.0. The bug fix in the formula that I had you fix in the last version is now taken care of but I hope you got a grand little spreadsheet formula lesson by following my instructions.

The big addition to the workbook comes at the suggestion of  Jeff Phillips, who liked my general availability calendar that I use for my team but requested that it be included in the workbook.


The worksheet lets you  track team member availability for anticipated length of deployment and can be adjusted by each member for his/her own time zone to fill in that availability. It also lets the team lead look at any given day to see where gaps might exist in coverage.

After importing the calendar into the deployment workbook, I personally prefer to have this calendar in a separate workbook, altogether. If you would like the calendar provided as a separate product, leave a comment and if people want it, I’ll upload it to Google docs, too.

The reference link on the VOST page of this site has been updated to point at the new template version and the link on the cover sheet of the new version has a link to the updated User Guide.

Here are the links to each, separately, however, for your convenience. As is stated on the VOST page, these are set to read-only. Please make a copy for your own use:

VOST Workbook Template Quickfix for Total Effort Hours

NOTE: This post is now obsolete, as I have released Version 4.0 of the Workbook and the formula has been corrected in that version.

Jeff Phillips noticed on a recent deployment that, somehow, the hours were not calculating properly in the total FTE box. I’m not sure why it doesn’t work that way anymore but I managed to fix it on the fly.

I will be releasing a new version this week, as I have added a staff availability calendar to the template. In the meantime, though, Caz Milligan used the workbook template for EQNZ last night and had the same problem, so here is the updated formula for the Check In/Out sheet, cell H3. Copy this formula, paste into cell H3, and hit Enter/Return on your keyboard and that should fix it. If not, please leave a comment and I’ll see what’s going on:


Stuff in the news 7/20/2013 – Technology


  • Pew Internet have released a study that determined specific pros and cons of using digital technology in a classroom environment. According to the survey, the majority of middle school and high school educators believe that digital tools increase student collaboration with applications such as Google Docs, and help them share their work through social media platforms…. Read more
  • I’m picturing Radar O’Reilly as a cyborg here…  The Cognitive Desktop: From Siri’s Creators, A Predictive Digital Personal Assistant
  • Just in case you want to really mitigate your Sharknado risk: SAMS wetsuits make surfers look less tasty
  • National Geographic has a fascinating piece up now about how forensic linguistics led to revealing J.K. Rowling as the actual author of The Cuckoo’s Calling. OK, so it’s not TIME magazine publishing about natural language processing but still great to see it being discussed mainstream. read about it here
  • Drones – use them only for good.
  • Did you sign a petition to stop phone record surveillance? Oh, well. Secret court renews controversial NSA phone data harvest program (Denver Post). John Perry wrote today in IEET that he likens this practice to piracy: “…there’s a way the NSA debate is like the piracy debate. The problem with a file sharer isn’t that he or she copied, but that the copy was done without permission. The NSA can be characterized as doing the same thing: copying data without permission. In both cases, a fundamental quality of digital technology — frictionless, nonrivalrous copying — enables the behavior. In both cases, the authority to grant permission is the key issue.”
  • And, to close out today’s SITN for Tech, two interesting things on mapping. The first is a project in London, ON, to map social good endeavors. The mapathon (next Thursday, the 25th) is open to the public.
  • The second is a new Coursera online class that actually started on the 17th (for 5 weeks), so you’ll have to play a bit of catch up for credit, I think:  Maps and the Geospatial Revolution The short description reads, “Learn how advances in geospatial technology and analytical methods have changed how we do everything, and discover how to make maps and analyze geographic patterns using the latest tools.” Hat tip Robert Dunne for the course link.

Offices With Walls And Working 9 To 5 Will Soon Be Things Of The Past

According to a new survey by the Teknion Corporation, by 2015 77% of the respondents will have more open, collaborative workspaces with less private offices in an effort to reduce their overall space. Kay Sargent, Teknion Vice President of Architecture, Design and Workplace Strategies, said “Companies rarely achieve a decrease in their overall square footage requirements solely by shifting from private offices to open, shared space. The overall square footage usually stays about the same because of the increase in collaborative or meeting areas. Open, collaborative spaces simply provide more options.”

The survey also found that many employers are offering flexible work schedules as a draw for new employees. “The number one draw according to 41% of respondents is access to flexible workplace options. Another 39% indicated that having the most leading-edge technology was the key. The shift from technology as the main consideration may result from people today being less dependent on the technology supplied by their offices as they often have better devices than those provided by their employer. Today we’re becoming a BYOT, or bring your own technology society, and companies are working to support the devices their employees are selecting,” said Sargent.”Technology is the single largest factor fueling change in the workplace today, so understanding it is essential.”
Of the companies surveyed, 89% reported that they plan to increase their investment in productivity-enabling technologies such as voice-activation technologies and sophisticated video conferencing by 2015 beyond current spending levels. “Today, the only thing we know will be constant is change,” Sargent concluded. “It’s inevitable so we need to embrace it.”

Reduce stress with 3 operational modes #in

A large part of stress is thinking about something that worries you for too long or in a repeated cyclic fashion. It can happen very naturally, as our minds can be free to wander at any given time in the day. Sometimes we let problems cycle in our minds uncontrollably. This starts the process of worry and the feeling of being trapped or stuck. We begin to feel the pressure. And like a feedback loop, the feeling of stress can produce even more stress – we lose sleep over not getting enough sleep. We begin to run late, because of the pressure of not running late. We begin to eat too much, because of worrying about gaining too much weight.

The loop must be broken.

A good way to prevent such insanity is to change the way you think. Try this: budget your thinking time. Rather than letting your mind wander uncontrollably throughout your day, allocate a specific time to be thinking, to be doing, and to be relaxing.

The initial resistance you may have to dividing up your day this way is that you might miss some opportunity to resolve that problem. But the reality is, thinking about the same problem over and over doesn’t necessarily help solve the problem. There have been studies and experiences that show sometimes the solution appears when you’re least trying to solve it – maybe when you take some time away from the code, or when you’re just taking a shower. For the creative spark to fly, the mind must be relaxed. When you’re trying to force it, you can’t be creative. It’s like when your friend says to you, “Ok, be funny – right now. Be funny.” You can’t. Creativity isn’t something that comes out on-demand.

And it’s been shown that reducing stress can increase productivity. Rather than worrying about what to do, you spend more time doing it. This is what you want.

So consider spending a set amount of time, maybe in the morning, to think about problems. You will identify what you need to do, make plans for how you can analyze the situation or perform some test or experiment to validate a possible solution. You can theorize and contemplate the big picture as well as the little details. This is the time you spend just crunching thoughts. You write it all down. And when time’s up, you stop thinking about the wide variety of problems and you switch to the next mode.

In the second mode, you will get busy and start doing things. This isn’t the time to be thinking about long-term plans anymore. If you need to plan more, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow (or your next thinking session). Until then, focus on working. Whether it’s studying or learning or experimenting or finishing that project, or writing that code. You only do one thing – you get in the zone – you work. And while you work, you have to train yourself NOT to get distracted with deep, long-term thoughts and concerns. You’re doing your work now. That stuff is not related to completing the task at hand. You are hunting the lion and not planning how to hunt. And during this time, if you accidentally come upon a spark of ingenuity to solve a long-term problem, quickly write it down and forget about it. Go back to it next time you’re in thinking mode. Focus on doing during this allocated amount of time. And nothing else.

You will experience great productivity. In the beginning, it will be hard to focus on work. Old habits die hard. You will find yourself thinking and worrying at various times – especially during a lull in productivity, or when you get tired and take a short work break. Don’t scold yourself. Don’t get angry. That just causes more stress. Just notice that you caught it, let it go, and get back to work. Train yourself, and eventually you’ll become a master of your own thoughts. Soak yourself in your work. Become fully absorbed in it.

Finally, you need the third operational mode: relaxation. You can choose active or passive relaxation. Active will be easier for people beginning to adopt this technique – because it will be more distracting and you won’t have trouble avoiding worrysome thoughts. You can go play tennis. You can go talk to friends. You can try to learn a new song on the piano or the guitar. Watch a movie. Become absorbed in something fun with no pressure. Again, if you catch yourself thinking, just let it go. Go back to enjoying yourself.

Passive relaxation is a bit harder for beginners. Examples include knitting, solo running/jogging/walking, meditation, and other “quiet” activities. Eventually, though, you will gain the ability to stop yourself from thinking about long-term things even during this quiet time. If it’s too hard, don’t pressure yourself to do it. That isn’t relaxation at all. If you can do this, along with switch to the other two modes well, you will find yourself far more relaxed and a lot less stressed out. You will also find yourself more productive, not less productive. You will solve more problems, not fewer problems. And on top of all of those benefits, you’ll be enjoying your life more because relaxation is wonderful.

Hope you enjoyed this tip!

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Hope your work day is better for you than it was for this little guy

7 Simple Steps to Becoming Well-Read

This reminds me a bit of that business movie that was floating around corp land, called Paradigm Pioneers. One of the things that struck me was that, somewhere toward the end of the film, the narrator asked, “So how do you become a paradigm pioneer?”. His answer, standing in a magazine isle of a bookstore was to read everything – not just on one subject, everything.

What jumps out at me here is:
that we’ve become so specialized in our careers that programmers only read programming books; executives read business books; and only academics read literature. (OK, vast generalization but I believe it’s a sad trend).

Maybe you won’t become a “paradigm pioneer” by being broader in your reading but maybe you’ll become more of a “people pioneer” and meet new and different people by expiring bits of the world that expanded reading can bring. Give it a try. This advice from Little Dumb Man should help.

One of the most common personal development resolutions is to read more. Reading is a great way to fire up your brain, increase your vocabulary, gain a richer understanding of your own or other cultures, and enjoy some good stories to boot!

So what’s holding you back?

Maybe diving into a “To Read” list as long as your arm feels daunting, or you’re embarrassed to go back to book club after skipping for three months in a row. Maybe you just haven’t found the time to read lately. Whatever’s keeping you from tackling that list of books, these tips may help you find your way back into the pages:

  1. Start small.

    If you don’t have time to read, you’re probably not going to wake up tomorrow and knock out 150 pages (although if you do, more power to you!). Try reading for 15 minutes before you go to sleep, or reserve part of your lunch break for reading time. Whatever reading time you decide on, though, stick to it.
Continue here to the rest of the list: dumblittleman.com

Your Brain on Meditation – Technology Review

Ommmm Meditators have more control over how they respond to stimuli such as pain. Credit: AISPIX/shutterstock

Studies have shown that ­meditating regularly can help relieve chronic pain, but the neural mechanisms ­underlying the relief were unclear. Now, ­researchers from MIT, Harvard, and Massachusetts General ­Hospital have found a possible explanation.

In a recent study published in the journal Brain Research Bulletin, the researchers found that people trained to meditate over an eight-week period were better able to control a specific type of brain waves, called alpha rhythms.

“These activity patterns are thought to minimize distractions, to diminish the likelihood stimuli will grab your attention,” says Christopher Moore, PhD ’98, an investigator at the ­McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT and senior author of the paper. “Our data indicate that meditation ­training makes you better at focusing, in part by allowing you to better regulate how things that arise will impact you.”

Several different types of brain waves help regulate the flow of information between brain cells. Alpha waves, the focus of this study, flow through cells in the brain’s cortex, where sensory information is processed. The alpha waves help suppress irrelevant or distracting sensory information.

A 1966 study showed that a group of Buddhist monks who meditated regularly had elevated alpha rhythms across their brains. In the new study, the researchers followed 12 subjects who had never meditated before and looked at the waves’ role in a specific part of the brain—cells of the sensory cortex that process tactile information from the hands and feet. Half the participants were told not to meditate, while the other half were trained in a technique called mindfulness-based stress reduction. The first two weeks of training were devoted to learning to pay close attention to body sensations.

After eight weeks, the subjects who had been trained in meditation showed larger changes in the size (amplitude) of their alpha waves when asked to pay attention to a certain body part—for example, the left foot. In addition, these changes in wave size occurred more rapidly in the meditators.

Subjects in this study did not suffer from chronic pain, but the findings suggest that in pain sufferers who meditate, the beneficial effects may come from an ability to essentially turn down the volume on pain signals. “They learn to be aware of where their attention is focused and not get stuck on the painful area,” says ­Catherine Kerr, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a lead author of the paper.

The subjects trained in meditation also reported that they felt less stress than the nonmeditators. The researchers are considering follow-up studies in patients who suffer from chronic pain as well as in cancer patients, who have also been shown to benefit from meditation.

Three Ways to Bring Meditation into the Chaos of Daily Life – by Dumb Little Man

By now, almost everyone is aware of the powerful benefits of meditation. When we become conscious of our breathing and direct our awareness inward, our body relaxes, our blood pressure and heart rate drop, and our brain state shifts from anxiety producing beta waves to the smoother experience of alpha waves.

Modern neuroscience now confirms what yogis, monks, and saints have known for years – meditation is good for the mind, body, and soul.

But here’s the problem – who has the time? It would be great to spend two hours each day at an ashram or a retreat center, sitting on a meditation pillow in serene silence. But most of us have jobs to go to, families to care for, and errands to run. In the midst of the chaos of daily life, we simply don’t have the luxury of meditating all day like monks in a monastery.

There is, however, a simple solution to this problem. It requires that we rethink the very nature of meditation. It requires a shift from “monk-style meditation” – where meditation occurs in isolation from the rest of our day – to “anywhere meditation” – where it occurs in the midst of life’s chaos.

We don’t need more time to meditate. We just need to learn to meditate in any situation – not just at a yoga studio or on a mountain retreat but in a traffic jam or an airport security line.

This is the kind of practice that Ralph Waldo Emerson describes in “Self-Reliance.” As he says, “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

How do you bring meditation into the chaos of daily life?

It’s All About the Breath

You can get lost in the details of meditation. You can become obsessed with posture, mantras (repeated phrases), and mudras (finger locks). But reduced to its essence, meditation is all about the breath. We always breathe, but, when we meditate, we breathe consciously. We bring our awareness to each inhale and exhale. So while you may not be able to sit in lotus pose during a board meeting, that doesn’t mean that you can’t meditate.

No matter what the situation, you can always bring attention to your breath and work toward lengthening each inhale and exhale. No one else even needs to know you’re doing it.

Finding the Gaps

All of us, no matter how busy, have small gaps in our day that are perfect for meditation. It might be the five-minute wait in line at the grocery store, the 10-minutes you spend stuck in traffic, or the two minutes you spend waiting for your computer to start up. In these moments, try shifting from frustration to meditation. Try bringing your attention to the breath and using these gaps as unexpected opportunities for calming the mind and body.

Meditative Multitasking

Finding gaps in the day gives you a time to go fully into meditation. But you can also bring meditation into almost any workday task.

Take meetings. In my experience, most meetings only require about 50% of our attention. You need to keep tabs on the flow of the conversation and offer your input when needed. But this leaves about 50% of your attention open for meditation. So rather than getting bored, try meditating. Experiment with bringing your attention to the breath as you follow the flow of the meeting. With practice, you can learn to meditate while doing just about any task – while checking emails, talking on the phone, or commuting to work.

You may never have a two-hour chunk of each day to devote to meditating. You may never have the time to sit cross-legged on the banks of a river or on the beach for hours each morning.

But if you master the art of “anywhere meditation,” that shouldn’t stop you from spending hours each day deep in meditation. The key is to shift from meditation as a separate activity performed in serene settings to meditation as a moment-to-moment way of being.

What do you think? Have you experimented with this shift from “monk-style meditation” to “anywhere meditation”? It’s super simple so why not give it a shot?

Written on 4/28/2011 by Nate Klemp. Nate earned his PhD at Princeton and is a professor at Pepperdine University. He founded LifeBeyondLogic.com, a website dedicated to exploring philosophy as an art of living. You can follow him on Twitter @LifeBeyondLogic and on Facebook. Download a free copy of his new ebook, Finding Reality: Thoreau’s Lessons for Life in the Digital Age. Photo Credit: follow instructions