Monthly Archives: Jul 2015

Productivity

Measure progress, not only the result

Let’s say you want to lose weight. Your goal is to weigh 5kg less in 3 months. You can measure your progress in two ways: either monitor your weight every day, or verify that you’re following your chosen plan to lose weight. These plan could be counting calories, exercising, or anything else you find effective. The first measurement is called a lag measurement, while the second one is a lead measurement. What is the difference between them and why should you use both of them? Keep reading to find out.

I want to stress from the beginning that both ways of measuring your progress are very valuable. The biggest difference between them is in what they tell you about your progress. lag

  • Lag measurement allows you to see how close you are to reaching your goal. In our example, it would be your weight. If you want to lose weight, you can weigh yourself every day/week and immediately see how far you are from your goal.
  • Lead measurement is all about making sure you are following your plan. When you define a goal, you should also prepare a plan for how to achieve it. (Check out post about SMART goals) The plan is a strategy for achieving your goal. The information you get from this type of measurement tells you if you are doing what you need to do in order to reach your goal.

 

I will give you an example to describe the difference even further. Let’s say your goal is to write a twenty-page article. You want to finish it in three weeks. You plan to do research for one week and then write the article for two weeks. You told yourself that you will write two pages a day.

  • Your lag measurement would just be checking to see if the article is ready or not, and how many more pages you have to write.
  • Your lead measurement would be checking every day to see if you are acting according to your plan. After one week, you can verify whether or not your research is done. If it is, you can continue with your plan. If not, you know you have to adjust your plan and write more pages a day in order to be ready by the deadline. The same thing goes with monitoring whether or not you are writing two pages a day. If in five days you’ve only written 3 pages, you immediately know that you have to write more than two pages each day in the following days.lead

If you only have lag measurements, you only know that you haven’t reached your goal yet. When you check if you are following your plan you know what the chances of reaching your goal are. You can adjust your plan if something goes in the wrong direction.

 

These are two simple examples to visualize lead and lag measurements. I use these methods in my most important projects. I cannot overstate the importance of knowing how I’m doing and what I have to do to reach my goals by a certain deadline.

Do you use both types of measurements? Do you think it’s worth doing so?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by KevanCC BY

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Productivity

What is your favorite keyboard shortcut?

A long time ago when I was studying and writing a lot of documents with math formulas, I loved the ctrl+= and ctrl+shift+= keyboard shortcuts. Do you know what these do? They change your entering mode to subscript and supercript in Microsoft Word. When I had to write a document that had math formulas, it was so much easier to use the keyboard shortcut than to use a mouse to select the correct icon in the menu. Since then I’ve learned new keyboard shortcuts, especially when I have to repeat the same action multiple times. I want to share with you some of my favorite keyboard shortcuts.

Each shortcut is described below, including information about which application it is used for and what it does.

  • ctrl+shift+l – starts a bulleted list. It works in all applications that are part of Microsoft Office. I write a lot of emails and I use OneNote a lot. I use bulleted lists very often.
  • ctrl+shift+n – creates a new folder in Windows Explorer. It is so much easier to type these keys than it is to find this option in the context menu.
  • F2 – enables editing in the currently selected cell in Microsoft Excel; also allows you to edit the name of the currently selected file/folder in Windows Explorer.
  • Alt+Enter – goes to the next line in the currently selected and edited cell in Microsoft Excel.
  • Shift+Enter – goes to the next line without starting a new bullet point or without sending the content to the server. It works in most Microsoft applications and also in most of the forms on websites.
  • J, K – moves you to the next or previous element. Works in Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and feedly (and probably in many more apps). Those two keys save a lot of time!
  • ctrl+shift+2 – archives a message in Outlook. This one is defined by me. It allows me to quickly mark a message as read and move it to the archive folder. It supports my inbox zero system.
  • ctrl+shift+3 – reply and archive a message in Outlook. This one is also defined by me. It is a very similar shortcut to the previous one. It also opens a reply dialog, so I can archive a message and answer it with one shortcut.

The above shortcuts are just a few that I use. Keyboard shortcuts are one of the most important elements of efficient computer work. I want to learn more of them! I will create a static page on this blog dedicated only to shortcuts. I will add the ones listed in this blog, as well as any useful ones that you send me! I would love for you to share your keyboard shortcuts with me. Thanks in advance!

Photo by photosteve101CC BY

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Strengths

What is a strength?

What is a strength?

What is a strength? In this post I give you both the “official” answer and my understanding of the term. OK, let’s jump into it.

Donald O. Clifton and his team studied strengths for nearly 50 years. They created a list of 34 strengths that are shared among all people. Each person has his/her own 34 strengths, each with a different intensity. When you take a StrengthsFinder assessment, you discover what your signature strengths are, including your dominant, supporting, and lesser strengths. Your profile is unique to you and you only!

Donald Clifton defined a strength as follows:

A strength is the ability to consistently produce a nearly perfect positive outcome in a specific task.

All strengths start with a talent. Talents ”are a person’s innate abilities — what we do without even thinking about it.” Your talents have to be invested in to be used in a productive and efficient way. Investing in your talents means practicing and developing your skills and acquiring knowledge. This is how you build your strengths.

There is a difference between the definition of a talent, a skill, and knowledge.

  • Talent – ”a natural way of thinking, feeling, or behaving”. Talents are innate.
  • Skill – ”the basic ability to move through the fundamental steps of tasks.” Skills can be acquired through training.
  • Knowledge – ”what you know. Knowledge can be acquired through education.”

It is very important to understand the difference between these terms. Talents are innate. Either we have them or we don’t. For example, you can’t learn the ability to feel a person’s emotions. Either you have this talent or you don’t. But what you do with that talent is up to you. Maybe you can sense basic emotions (happiness, sadness, etc.), but don’t have any idea of what to do with that finding. When you start practicing using this talent, you can build up your empathy strength. How can you practice it? Perhaps by observing someone’s emotional state, taking notes about your observations, and confirming whether those observations are aligned with the real emotions of that person. You can consciously choose to read more about empathy and the practical application of that strength in your life. This will be a process of acquiring knowledge and building your skills.

What I described above is the difference between so-called raw and mature strength. A raw strength is a natural talent which you aren’t sure how to use, while a mature strength is the conscious usage of a talent in a way that you find useful.

There is one more thing I would like to share with you about strengths. Each of them has a balcony and a basement—a bright and a gray (or even dark) side. Again, I will use empathy as an example. A person who has empathy as a signature strength ”can sense other people’s feelings by imagining themselves in others’ lives or situations.” What would a balcony side of that strength be? That person can feel how others feel and react to a situation. He/she can guess if someone is happy or sad and act accordingly. Think about how much more efficient such a person could be in a meeting! He/she would know when to speak, what to say, and how to react to others’ reactions. This is a very powerful strength. Especially when the strength-holder is aware of having that strength and is focused on developing it. What could a basement of empathy be? Imagine that you’re a team leader. You are a very empathetic person and you sense what others feel. If your empathy is raw and not fully developed, you may sometimes find that you are reluctant to giving challenging feedback to someone, only because you feel it might make this person sad or unhappy. This would hinder your effectiveness as a team leader.

This is just one simple example. Each strength has bright and gray sides. Each strength is raw until it becomes mature. This is why it is so important not only to learn about your strengths, but also to develop them. How can you do this? There are many different ways. But that’s a topic for a separate post.
I hope that after reading this post you know what a strength is. I also hope that this post got you interested in the topic of your strengths. Maybe you would even like to learn what they are and develop them. I know that for me, focusing on my strengths changed me as a person and allowed me to become a better me. I’m only at the beginning of that path, but I see that in this case the sky really is the limit! And I wish the same for you — to begin down a similar path and find out that by focusing on your strengths, ”you can be a lot more of who you already are.”

Photo by PascalCC BY

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