Get Smarter: Move Around!

Proof that exercise and overal physical fitness will make you smarter and more productive is getting bigger and more convincing. The other day I was triggered by a post that states that even a short walk can boost executive control (this is what we would call ratio and conscious decision making). Dr Burr claims that movement is good for your brain and sitting around can have bad health consequences. For this last point there is more evidence to be found, for instance at WebMD. The first point is confirmed by studies like these at Harvard and NIH. A while back I came across an article that states that in school when 8 year olds ride a bike for 20 minutes directly before doing a reading test they will score like 9 years olds (on average). And there is a lot more evidence out there on the short term and on the long run. The last meaning that healthy and fit kids have better ‘executive control’. The more innovative meeting places in The Netherlands are experimenting with meeting rooms without seating or with very uncomfortable seating. The concept of a Walk and Talk has gained modest attention but at our office the best conversations are made walking in the park next to the office. Walk and Talk was introduced in 1996 when the surgeon general in the US advocated a minimum of 30 minutes activity every day.

I walk around a lot during  meetings to get my bloodflow running and be more productive. During meetings where the social pressure is to high to standup my energy levels are genuinely lower and I feel the energy flowing away. During the working day I want to walk around as much as possible. Remaining seated for more than an hour feels wrong and it is!

What do you do to stay in shape and have better executive control?

Social Media Fatigue?

Do I suffer from Social Media Fatigue? Returning back from holiday I looked at a number of new followers on Twitter and they are all companies. They are following me to sell me stuff but I cannot imagine  they will ever make a sale. How is it possible to be interested in the lives of more that 500 followers, where does one find the time to read all these tweets? It is common knowledge that people on Facebook want to depict themselves as uber-happy and successful. Sharing a location on foursquare has not brought me any value but only costed me time. Not to mention the nice integration between social media platforms causing the same small post to appear in a number of timelines at once. In the end there are some tweets, wall posts or others that add value but ask yourself:

Is the percentage of consumed social media information that add value higher than 1%?

Why not direct your energy away from social media and towards a rewarding goal?

I like to believe that if we would have directed all the the human energy used at Social Media worldwide, we might have realized at least one of the Millennium Goals of the United Nations.

Post Holiday Energy

This week I returned from my holiday and started working again. About 2 months ago I started my training for the Amsterdam Half Marathon and the last two weeks I ran a lot. At the moment my energy levels are great and still growing. This is a wonderful feeling that I van recommend to every one. Now the key is to focus energy on work again and to spare some energy for the last quarter of the year.

This morning I came across this nice blog from the guys from Social Cast on The Future of Work. If you have some time to spare take a look. They have some nice blogposts and infographics on the site. I added a part of this nice infographic on the 8 hour workday.


Last weekend I was still buzzing by an answer I gave a colleague on the question “What did you learn last four years?” The first part of my answer was that I have sincere questions whether IT can boost knowledge worker productivity. Having worked in IT for more than 10 years and still am, this answer had more impact on me than I thought.

A book I was reading actually helped me see some light and perspective on my own answer. This book was PresentationZen, for me this book is about how to tell your story. Based upon ancient but actual Zen-wisdom Garr Reynolds makes the case for a better way to tell you story. His most important lessons for me are about Wabi Sabi (which means a much as “beauty in imperfection and simplicity”), “empty your cup so it may be filled” this means that you have to clear your mind to have new ideas and “we cannot see our reflection in running water, it is only in still water that we can see” meaning that in our high pressure economy you need to slow down and take some distance to reflect, learn and set priorities.

My main concern on productivity is based on my own experience with energy levels. No matter what technology supports my work, if I sleep less than 7 hours my productivity gets worse! If I am out of shape I lose concentration faster. Uncertainty on goals, constant interruption, the illusion of multitasking, big events in my personal life: all have more impact on my productivity than technology. The ideas of Tony Schwartz and the energy project reflect these findings.

Technology has impact on productivity that is without question but (ceteris paribus) far less impact than (again ceteris paribus) energy levels or applying the same zen wisdom to work as to presentations. The lessons from Garr Reynolds and Tony Schwartz may proof to have more impact on knowledge worker productivity than the ideas of Sergey Brin and Steve Jobs….

PS Thanks Adam Bowie for this nice image!

Energy and distractions

Today I was preparing for an EIM workshop. During the afternoon my brain felt like it had run dry. Inspiration was completely gone and nothing came out of my fingers. At 17:00 I went home. Because I spent the whole day at the office I was by bike. After five minutes biking I was having good ideas that I worked on later this evening. I regret that I did not go home earlier. This made me less productive than I could have been.

The other lesson was about noise and distraction. When you need to concentrate on your work every distraction needs to be eliminated. This means no email, no phonecalls and also quietness around your workplace. There is enough evidence that multitasking complex tasks is not possible but we switch tasks and lose a lot of time in between! This emphasizes the need for concentration booths at our office or to work in another quiet space like home or a library.

Being More Productive with David and Tony

Last weekend I read a conversation in HBR between David Allen and Tony Schwartz. David Allen is the creator of Getting Things Done, a list-driven productivity approach. Tony Schwartz is the CEO of The Energy Project, he boosts productivity through the science of high performance. The conversation was very interesting and inspiring. David Allen describes his ideas as the uncovering of the strategic value of clear space. To be creative you need space and freedom. The techniques of GTD ensure you get this freedom and space. One big lesson of GTD is to start the day with the most important task for that day. In the morning you are fit and fully charged to do the task. The Energy project focusses on the energy needed to perform. There are four dimensions of energy that we all need: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. An important first lesson of energy in the physical dimension is to work intensively for 90 minutes and then take time to recover. The basic idea here is that life in essence is not continuous but it is rhythmic Think about your hart rate, muscle movement and breathing. If these are all rhythmic, you should work with the same concept. Another lesson is that sleep is very important, this is known since a long time but still to many people do not sleep enough and are less productive than they could or should be!

Today I started the day with my most important task and my feeling when I was finished was super. The day was succesfull from the start. Do you get the same feeling when you start with email?

First Day of the Month: Time to Get Kicking!

I started the day with a bike ride to the office, 30 minutes of energy and thoughts. When I arrived I took some time to sum up my tasks for today. I manage my to-do-list in Rememberthemilk, a great service that enables syncing between web and my iphone. When I was finished, I started with my to-do’s. During the day I came across a small number of to-do’s I missed earlier in the morning. And I had to postpone a number of batched to-do’s to tomorrow. Is there a way to plan to-do’s for one day more exact to prevent the loss of time?

A larger batch of to-do’s was about VLC Advisory, a new business unit at VLC that will start on the first of June. I planned our next internal meeting that will focus on 360 degrees feedback & personal BSC’s and the followup on our big event on May 11th, EIM2011! To give more direction on the 360 feedback & BSC’s we finished a document on profiles for our work. I spent some time on budgets and financial reporting for the new business unit. We want to be as transparant as possible to give the employees in the new unit a complete overview on performance.

At the end of the day there was a teammeeting to discuss our work finishing a project in the next weeks. For me the best part of the meeting as project manager was that my team was thinking about the plan for the next week themselves. Within 30 minutes everybody agreed on our approach and we ended the meeting.

Tomorrow I need to spend some time on Sales and Marketing and on Project Management for one of our clients. For this client we are setting up a daily workflow to crunch a very large amount of webdata. This project is a technical implementation of Hadoop, Pentaho and Qlikview. Sales and Marketing will focus on the introduction strategy and a number of concrete leads for one of our main products, the Information Productivity Scan.

Energy consumption and CO2

Just installed an app on my iphone giving me daily updates on our energy and gas consumptions. This app and data is provided by oxxio. I am wondering if these daily updates will make me more energy conscious.

At a dutch site ‘milieu centraal’ is giving an indication of the CO2 emissions you and your family produce. In my case I am under average but this largely depends on my car travels. It is nice to see that our new boiler and the weather have a great impact on our gas consumption! Our choice for a Volvo V50 DrivE with 104 grams CO2/kilometer emission also will contribute to a smaller carbon footprint.