Fast Company has a good article detailing four items to exclude from your work emails. This is work focused, but the idea behind excluding these is relevant to personal emails as well.
These are good rules of thumb. This is largely about retaining your humanity in the bustle of work life. We need to see the people we’re communicating with as individuals, not communications endpoints. This is sometimes important individually, always important in the aggregate.
I sometimes send or respond to 50+ emails a day as tech lead of a ~15 person agile team, with a number of core members and an equal number of temporary staff, with all the logistical and technical setup, expectations setting, and insecurity that goes with that. It’s more than a handful, and the only way to keep the team productive and keep everyone engaged and reasonably happy with their work is to treat them individually as human beings, not just collectively as a team.
For a long time, I had a sticky note on one of my monitors reminding me to “Slow Down. Be Kind.” I brought the note home during an office move. I need to put the original back up at work and make a copy for home. I’m often better at following the note at work than home and I need to fix that.
Start your day by doing the most unpleasant tasks first.
Most of us have a task or two on that we really don’t want to do, and we procrastinate by doing other, less difficult or unpleasant tasks, often reasoning that we need to do those first. This goes for work and non-work life. The scientific literature on self-control suggests that willpower, our ability to make ourselves do things, is a very limited resource, and is at its peak early in our day. Given that, it’s best to do the most unpleasant tasks first and move from those to progressively more pleasant tasks as the day goes on. This approach will maximize our productivity.
This is a good read, with plenty of sources for further exploration. I think the very term happiness invites failure. We can’t reliably pursue something so poorly defined, and so dependent on the individual and her environment.
Most of us understand we cannot pursue joy, that transient gift we experience as a sort of gift from the cosmos. Why do we pursue something as grand and insubstantial as happiness, when we can approach more measurable phenomena, productivity for example, and the many aspects of productivity that can be independently measured to some degree?
Do we want people to be happy? Sure we do, despite our inability to define what that means. But we have a lot of evidence for what helps people want to come to work, across personality and other categories. People want to feel challenged, to feel that their efforts matter in the pursuit of some worthy goal, and to feel they’re a respected part of a team. These are fairly well defined and universal aspects of work that good companies can and do pursue.
I refer to the one-to-n states before actual code freeze as code slush. Code freeze is when you can’t change the code unless a critical bug is found. This should be obvious but real life intervenes in even the best organized projects. I’m often called in to help troubled engineering projects, and in many of these projects code freeze is almost meaningless, a statement of management desire or hopefulness rather than anything concrete. This cartoon describes those projects well.
I can’t stand small talk. Like many very technical people, I’m relationship challenged, but I’ve developed skills to help me engage others. I’m very popular at work because I’m a nut (funny and rant-y) and because I solve people’s problems. This post offers great advice on engaging others in conversation.
All but the most challenged communicators will be approachable and able to hold a conversation with you if you ask them about the challenges they’re facing. It’s as close to a sure thing (outside small talk) as exists.
I try to avoid formal meetings and telecons whenever practical. I’m not sure which is worst for productivity. I prefer conference calls because I tend to think pretty fast about familiar ideas and a telecon allows me to work on something while I’m waiting for someone on the phone to say something that matters to me.
Here’s an HBR post on what people tend to do when they’re on conference calls.
I posted recently on how to remove/destroy the data on a hard drive so no one can recover it. Data remanence discusses the physical properties of storage devices that determine what must be done to completely clean the data from a device you intend to discard, sell, or give away.
I’m sure this will be interesting or useful to at least a few of you. I helped someone clean her Macbook hard disk prior to selling the laptop recently and this article would have come in handy then to help her understand the processes we used and why they work.
I agree with the author of this G+ post that the easiest, most foolproof (and therefore best) method of destroying the data on a hard disk is to destroy the disk itself. Anyone in doubt should just destroy the drive.
Failure to destroy the data on a hard drive can result in profoundly embarrassing or costly consequences, as noted in these two items:
Strictly speaking, it’s not necessary to destroy a drive to remove sensitive user data. Those interested in the technical factors behind this can read this article and the linked source material:
HBR has a short article on creating An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day. The key to this plan is establishing ritual, something humans have been using for millennia to create structure and give meaning to life. In the past, this helped us survive. It’s still very useful for getting us through some situations, and even those of us living in the comfort of modern society can use ritual to improve our productivity.