Tag Archives: Technology

Put the Remote Down and Step Away from the TV !!

“I could have done that but I just didn’t have time…”

One of my earlier postings this year was focused on Time Management. Personally, I thought it was a fairly easy-to-understand read and included one very simple recommendation:

Turn Off The TV!!!

Apparently that message continues to elude people. They still complain about “others” who are making progress and getting ahead instead of them. They complain that they aren’t getting “the breaks” that other people are. They complain that “life just isn’t fair!”

While I will grant you that life commonly isn’t “fair”, get over it! You may have been laid off from your last job and can’t find work. You may be in what you call a “dead end job” and your boss is unreasonable. Accept that and move to the next topic: What are YOU going to do about it?

There is nothing that is holding you back but yourself. The critical step in changing your life is to DO something about it.

Whether you are looking for a job or performing one that you don’t like, you need to make some time for yourself. Too much to do to make time? Go back to the title of this posting…

Put the Remote Down and Step Away from the TV !!

How many hours do you spend in front of the TV?

“I only watch a little TV each day. Usually just from when I get home from work just until after the 11 o’clock News.”

Do the math:    6:30P to 11:30P = ~5 hours per day … 35 hours/week (that approaches the amount you spend at work as a full time employee!)

Doesn’t sound right? Actually the 5 hour/day amount is an average taken across ALL age groups.

In 2007, according to A.J. Nielsen Company the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. By the end of 2011, TV watching time increased to more than 5 hours per day, without including any computer or smartphone time. (and those readers in the over 50 age categories shouldn’t be smug … most of those hours came from you!)

Dump the TV in the evenings. 

Do something with yourself instead of being “entertained”. After work, grab a light dinner and then force yourself to take a 5 minute walk. Longer is OK, but 5 minutes (once around a small city block) should be adequate. Your walk will help break the pattern of behavior that has probably lost you several years.

When you get home, don’t turn the TV on. If someone else is there and already watching “Wheel of Fortune“, go into another room, pick up a book or a magazine. Now read for 30 minutes. Don’t just flip pages, but actually read a chapter or several magazine articles from start to finish.

Congratulations. You’ve just taken the first step into your next adventure!

Now get up and do something active around the house. This is where cleaning out your “sock drawer” or “washing windows” can be a positive activity. Your target is to perform another 30 minute activity that keeps you away from the TV. 30 minutes is not a long time, but you’ll be surprised at how much you get done in 30 minute segments when they are spread across a week or two.

It’s probably still early, so go back to your reading. This time, pick up something lighter, but it’s still important keep your focus.

If you are transitioning from years of evening TV, you’ll probably find it difficult to focus even for 30 minutes. The producers and advertisers have training you to focus for 8-10 minutes at a time, followed by a series of 1 minute commercials. You need to retrain yourself to focus your mind.

Alternate back and forth between half hour “activities” and readings until bedtime. I’d suggest that you plan on earlier bedtime, because, at least for the first 2 weeks, you will become tired earlier than usual.

Of course, your spouse or partner will probably think that you’ve lost your mind. Usually, their response will land somewhere between disbelief and harassment. Remember that this change is YOUR change, not necessarily anyone else’s. Your partner/spouse may choose to join your change, but that’s their decision and shouldn’t be linked to your success or failure.

Just say “Good-Bye” to that energy-sucking box, called a “TV”, and say “Hello” to your new life.

Pick your Direction

It won’t be long before you exhaust the casual reading materials and small chores around your home. Now it’s time to step up and look for your “new directions”.

Return to school? Get a degree in a new field? Join a gym? Fantastic directions, but too ambitious for most of us newly-ex-couch potatoes. Pick something smaller … something well defined … something affordable.

Need ideas? It’s time to brainstorm. The Internet is filled with great sites where you can look for something that might pique your interest:

Got an idea? Use a search engine (e.g. Yahoo!, Google) to start exploring in greater detail. Add associated articles and books to your reading list.

Do you want to do something more? Look for volunteer opportunities in your area:

Looking for how-to independence?

Whatever you choose to do, just don’t sit there. Become ACTIVE.

The most difficult step is the first one. The next most difficult steps that you’ll take in making a change in your life are those that you’ll take during the following 3 weeks. It takes about 2-3 weeks before you really change your patterns and behaviors. Stick with it … you’ll be amazed at your results!

When a Project Manager should Question the Authority

You want to do what??   Really?

Project managers are skilled in coordinating resources to deliver a specific product or process. Usually we’re provided the basics of a business case and often, a subject matter expert (SME) to fill in the technical details.

But what happens when the goals or the project approach don’t make sense to you?

Especially early in a project’s life cycle, project managers are often bulldozed by their SMEs and Sponsors into just focusing on getting the project on-the-road.

When will all that planning and organizing be done?                           When can we start coding?

Sound familiar? Unfortunately questions of this type are far too common. Project SMEs and stakeholders may understand the need for requirements gathering, but few have patience with a project manager who questions the framework of an initiating business case or a solution approach. After all, the project manager is not necessarily a subject matter expert and may not know much about the business operations.

That lack of business/technical knowledge, however, should be a reason to question authority! A project manager, uncomfortable with an approach or business justification, should challenge the team members to explain their positions.

While PMI processes don’t specifically call for a validation checkpoint when a project manager is assigned to a project, it is good practice to add one. Don’t wait until the cows have left the barn … ask the stupid questions of your team at the start!

It’s much easier to claim ignorance during the Initiation or Planning phases than it is during Execution. Those “clarifying questions” really don’t fall into the “stupid” category, unless they aren’t asked.

I was recently asked about managing an infrastructure conversion project. While I was familiar with the technology basics, I thought that a “refresh” was warranted. I wanted to see what solution approaches a project team might be considering. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, but the “industry experts” posting on the subject, were offering the same basic structures that we had applied 15 years ago!

Document the environments, research the existing-state performance / stability issues, understand the business and application constraints. Perform these tasks as the foundation to planning. That wasn’t anything new!

Then it hit me. The SMEs reading that advice probably had less than 10 years of experience. They wouldn’t have been working 15 years ago, at least not in senior/planning roles. They probably knew the functions and the features of the technology products that they were about to implement, but they might not have the process perspective of an experienced project manager.

Challenge Authority

Less concerned about the technology specifics, I shifted my prep focus to the broader topics of the project approach. Let the subject matter experts do what they do best … provide specific information and expertise … but don’t assume that everything is OK. Ask questions about the business environments, the background work and the assumptions. When something sounds obscure or ill-defined, it often is. Ask questions and look for answers.

The answers that the project resources provide might highlight an area that was overlooked or a linkage that wasn’t considered. Conversely, the answers may provide no additional insight to them, but they will certainly add to your understanding of the project.

Properly done, such review sessions may allow your new team to show the depth of their knowledge and what they have thought about. Challenging authority doesn’t have to be confrontational (and shouldn’t be). It should be an opportunity to walk through the project’s key components and allow your team to express their knowledge. Where additional information is required, the assigned resource can later return to the team, after completing their research, and be the “answer man” (or “answer woman”).

Not Everyone is an Expert

You might find that you weren’t the only team member who didn’t understand a particular term or topic. On past projects, I’ve added regular technology and business reviews for the team members to give them opportunities to learn about their own environments.

These reviews were hugely successful in bringing the various team members up-to-speed on the project’s business and technology components. While watching 20-minute presentations doesn’t turn anyone into an “expert”, the briefings do give the team members (and stakeholders) a common understanding of project terminology and a better perspective on the issues that each face.

Questioning “the authorities” and challenging them to explain what they are recommending and why, can be an important part of project initiation. But remember, how those questions are stated, can be equally important. Be respectful. Be honest. Be focused on the project.

the project manager who fails to seek out and include the right subject matter experts is likely to deliver an end solution that isn’t 100% dead-on.  The result will be a customer who is less than satisfied and a solution that may not deliver the expected or desired results. 

PM_Value = (Reduction_of_Project_Risk *100) + Increased_Project_Effectiveness + Increased_Project_Efficiencies

Aside

I keep hearing that employers prefer to select younger applicants over older ones because the younger generation is more “in-tune with today’s technologies.” Please excuse my personal response, but that’s such a crock that I can hardly contain myself. It’s … Continue reading