Ralph de la Vega, at&t's top guy in the wireless division, told a group at a UBS conference yesterday that the reason for all of the dropped calls in the big cities, is the heavy smart phone data usage. He promised improvements in these areas, citing New York and San Francisco specifically. At the same time, he promised a new pricing method to account for the heavy data usage by those of us that rely on our smartphones. I thought that I already paid for a separate data package, but I guess he thought I should pay for it and then not really use it. He did cite that a large chunk of the data usage was from only 3 percent of the users, and one would have to make the conclusion that those people are streaming a lot of video. So, at this point, all we can hope for is that the new pricing module sets a very high cap on the data usage that all but this 3 percent can live with.
RescueTime is a cloud based tool for measuring time spent using your browser, and has an optional feature to measure documents and offline time. I didn't try the offline time, but did use the document feature. It categorizes your time spent on each site into various categories like social media, news, search and reference. Just having this, done "automagically", as they call it, can be a huge help in boosting your productivity. I found the categorization to be more accurate than I expected, and required only a little work to adjust it. The software requires that you install an application that runs in the background, but you set it and done.
So what do I do with it?
You've installed the app and collected some data, and now you have some pretty charts on a website. What now? The thing that I didn't really play with too much, as I could take it or leave it, was assigning a point value to each of the categories. The website will chart all of your activity, and then you can assign a value as to whether you think it it a productive task or not, on a sliding scale. Then at the end of the day, you get an overall score. To me that's OK, but I'd rather try to target the amount of time that I need to spend in each category, then manage those buckets as a percentage of total time spent. So, if I think that I need to spend an hour a day doing email, then it doesn't matter if it's a 1 or 2 in terms of productivity since I have to do it. So, instead of a sum of your -1's and 1's telling you if your productive, you should see if you're one hour of email is turning into two hours, or if you're improving and trending toward half an hour.
I started using Rescuetime today. It seems to be a pretty sophisticated tool for time tracking and requires virtually no work to set up. This ties back to my post two weeks ago about how to boost productivity, which outlined several ways to track the places that time goes, so that you can later make a judgment about the best way to budget or manage time for improvements in productivity. This tools seems on the surface to be a much easier way to accomplish the task.
I'll keep you posted with a full review at a later date, but please post a comment if you have any experience with the tool.
Once you start to develop a few KPI's the real questions start. The urge will be to want to do something at every time the KPI is below the average. It's estimated that 95% of variation in a system is caused by the system itself. So, since the whole reason for having the KPI is to know when something is out of whack, you'll be doing nothing 95% of the time. Want to know how to create a crisis? Try to find out why your KPI is "below average" every single time is goes below the line. The goal here is to know what is normal variation and what is out of whack variation. You are the best one to know this, but try to know it before you react. There are many statistical methods for coming up with the limits to normal variation, but for a quick a dirty start to managing your first KPI try to eyeball the line chart and estimate the usual high and low points for your system. Now, every period that you look at your KPI, you have to ask is this inside the normal system? If the answer is yes, then your response should be, ok, everything is normal and I should not do anything. So many times, managers want an answer to the reason the KPI is above or below the average every week when their team reviews their performance, when the real answer is everything is normal and that is why the number is what it is. It's up because its up and not because you are a star, or its down because its down and not because someone screwed up.
Google announced today that it's new OS will be a cloud computing web appliance, which is a little different that what was expected. It won't really be an OS, but instead will be more like a portal for full blown cloud computing. They are releasing the source code, as well, starting immediately, but the Google release of the end product won't be until next year. This news is a little disappointing seeing that cloud computing is still so young. It could still make improvements in productivity, by allowing traveling persons to have a quick and mobile OS, but probably will do little for more stationary persons.
See more info, from this article from infoworld.com, about Google.
The WSJ today nicely summarized the top time management systems, including GTD, Pomodoro and Covey. The article was perfect timing to compliment the article on this blog today about multitasking. Personally, I love GTD and think that Pomodoro is a great add on for keeping on task. Both are great systems that promote single-tasking.
• Getting Things Done: The reigning gorilla of time management, "GTD," as its followers call it, was created in the 1980s by David Allen, an Ojai, Calif., consultant whose coaching, training materials and seminars can be found at davidco.com. Mr. Allen has since sold more than one million books about GTD and attracted 1.2 million followers on Twitter. GTD's aim is to corral all the projects and tasks floating around in your head into an organizing system you update weekly. No matter what chaos erupts, the system in theory enables you to quickly identify the next step to take on every front to keep all your projects moving forward, while keeping your mind clear to relax, think and be creative.
• The Pomodoro Technique: This quirky method had me working in intense spurts guided by a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato—or pomodoro, in the inventor's native Italian. Developed by Francesco Cirillo, director of XPLabs, a software design firm based near Rome, this technique is spreading via Twitter and other social networks. It can be learned in a few hours from a free guide at pomodorotechnique.com; making it a habit takes up to 20 days.