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Tag: Time Management

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Developing professional personal KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Developing professional personal KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) can be used for companies, departments, and individuals. At the person level, KPIs are valuable tools in both professional and personal aspects of life. In the past, I have discussed KPIs for departments, but I found that the discussion applies equally well to individuals. This goes beyond the traditional annual goal-setting process. However, it does start with a deep understanding of those goals, and the outcomes the goals are designed to create.

After annual goals are established, I translate those goals into quarterly milestones. They can take the form of a traditional milestone or actions that must be completed by particular deadlines. The same process is completed for each month. This helps ensure that monthly activities support quarterly milestones, which will deliver on annual goals.

KPIs should build on one another to tell a compelling story of performance.

Looking at the monthly deliverables, we can now begin to brainstorm on the main performance indicators. This translates into daily, weekly, and monthly actions that must be taken correctly to deliver on those goals. As with all key performance indicators, they must be measurable and designed to reinforce positive actions, monitor for deviations from established norms, or prevent an adverse outcome.

Salespeople often monitor call volumes on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This is an excellent KPI. However, assessing how customers move through the sales continuum is an equally valid KPI. This helps prevent poor quality calls for making the KPIs look good while not delivering the primary business result.A cautionary note: KPIs should not be another to-do list. These are items that are done consistently over extended periods and deliver results. They are important, regular, and can be measured.

Every individual operates at a distinctive level and so there KPIs will look remarkably different based off of their level of service to the organization. Personally, my professional KPIs do not resemble anything like anyone else on my former teams. I have KPIs focused on the synthesis of information into something actionable. Another professional KPI is the number of business processes that I review or create that develop into meaningful improvements. Projects are full of KPIs, including completion rates, on target versus at-risk activities, and responsiveness to information requests. There is no limit to the form of KPIs can be developed.

A second cautionary note: KPIs should inform a person about their productivity level. The capturing of KPIs should not become a burdensome process that takes away from delivering on the bottom-line results. The collection of KPI stats should be a natural process and integrated into the core workflow.

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Reduce Off-Hours Communication to Improve Work-Life Balance

Reduce Off-Hours Communication to Improve Work-Life Balance

Technology has brought about many changes in our world.  All-new industries were given birth or faded into history because of the information technology revolution.  However, the information technology revolution was not a panacea and did not resolve all the world’s problems.  It allowed businesses to become more efficient, improve operations and increase their competitive advantages (Porter & Millar, 1985).  However, the rise of mobile communications, email, text messaging, and web platforms has increased the intrusion of business-related matters into personal and family time (McShane & Glinow, 2014, p. 8).  It is becoming more commonplace for workers never to log off from work as the evening hours have become a new de-facto night shift (Butts, Becker, & Boswell, 2015, p. 763).  Furthermore, this new always-on work environment has altered the relationship between management and employees.

Employees may feel obligated to respond to peers and management regardless of the hour.  Management knowingly or unknowingly may be sending messages that establish these expectations with employees.  Additionally, management may mistakenly believe that employees will leave off-hour communications in their inbox until the following workday.

Management teams should discourage off-hours communications.  When this is impossible because of time zone differences or travel requirement, the utilization of a delayed send function is encouraged. At a minimum, all off-hour messages should clearly indicate whether the message needs a response before the next workday.  Again, the preference is not to send messages off-hours or use a delay send function since many employees will still check messages off-hours.

By taking these small steps, employers can help their teams improve work-life balance and lower employee stress levels without sacrificing productivity.  They might even find that employees are more efficient when they experience lower levels of stress.


Butts, M. M., Becker, W. J., & Boswell, W. R. (2015, June). Hot buttons and time sinks: The effects of electronic communication during nonwork time on emotions and work-nonwork conflict. Academy of Management Journal, 58(3), 763-788. doi:10.5465/amj.2014.0170

McShane, S. L., & Glinow, M. V. (2014). Organizational behavior (Third ed.) [Kindle].

Porter, M. E., & Millar, V. E. (1985, July 01). How information gives you competitive advantage. Retrieved from

Opportunities at the Application Layer

Opportunities at the Application Layer

I saw a headline earlier today that Bill Gates spent the day installing Windows 8.1.  I too, in my free time, have spent the last couple days beginning to set up a new Windows 8.1 laptop.  I am certainly known to be an advocate for Microsoft since I built much of my career on their products, but by no means would I consider myself a fanatic.

The installation of the operating system has gotten easier with every release of Windows since the early days.  No matter if you are a Microsoft or Apple fan, I would argue that every release of the operating system for both platforms continues to get better with time.  I certainly am not enjoying the wipe and reload process related to replacing a laptop, but it is certainly better than what 5 or 10 years ago.  Back then, it was a balmy 8 to 10 hours to complete the job.

The operating system is probably the easiest part to get installed.  Drivers and Windows updates come down extremely easily. My frustration with the entire process continues to be the application layer.  It takes absolutely forever to install all the applications and utilities back on your computer after replacing the hardware or just completing a fresh start with a clean operating system.

It will take about an hour to get an operating system installed and patched, but it could easily take me 4 to 6 hours to download install and configure every application utility that I use.  Each time I do this, I always swear that I am going to make an image of the hard drive before I start using it.  The idea being that the very next time I need to do this, I can just drop an image on it and be done.  Needless to say, I never do it for some strange reason.  Maybe it is just my own morbid fascination with the process.

The market is beginning to challenge application providers to come together with easier and more portable application installation and preference retention methodologies using the cloud.  It unquestionably should not be that hard to track all of your application settings and write those preferences to the cloud. Imagine the very next time you install the software and login, it will bring down all of your preferences to the device.  Time Saver!!

Google with Chrome certainly has done this and Microsoft has made significant strides with the latest version of Office that are tied to a Microsoft account.

These are two examples where the software manufacturers got it right, but there are myriad of other applications and utilities out there that do not leverage this simple time-saving and customer beneficial enhancement.  Mobility is driving innovation with applications that span all platforms and remember whom you are no matter what device you are using.  This is the new frontier and opportunity for all application vendors to innovate and modernize their platforms to become more customer-focused.

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Read More by Listening

Read More by Listening

I love to read, but it is nearly impossible to read as much as I wish.  Between professional and personal obligations, there is not enough hours during a day.  Unfortunately, the volume of brand new material released every year does not allow me to see my reading list dwindle very far.  For every book I knock off the list, it seems like I add two or three new ones to take its place.  This does not even account for the material that I want to read a second or third time.

We all have dreaded commutes and repetitious physical activity time such as working out in the gym.  I am an advocate for using this time to listen to books.  I find driving or working out on cardio equipment is a perfect time to help knock down that reading list.  While I certainly enjoy listening to an audio book, I do not do it all the time.  I find that if I listen to audio books too frequently that I will usually begin to daydream and let my mind wander off the material.  So I cycle between listening to music and listening to audio books.  Usually, it is two weeks of listening to books to one week of listening to music.

When I am in a more audio book focused mindset, I knock out an additional 20 books a year by simply using the time in my car or working out in the gym.  I do not read in the evenings at anywhere near this rate and typically finish a book a month.  Listening to books allows me to expand my annual book consumption by over 100%.

Additionally, I prefer to listen to books that are more personal interest versus reading more business focused material. Only about one in three audio books is related to business or personal development.  The other two books tend to be biographical, historical, or educational in nature.  I am not one that is fond of listening to works of fiction.  I do read fiction, but it is almost always on my Kindle.  For me, a talented fiction writer is someone who can take me into the world of the book and leave my sense of reality. I lose all track of time and sense of place while reading and stop seeing the pages. The story exists in only my mind’s eye.  I have never experienced this while listening to an audio book…I think it is just something about the process of reading that allows me to join the book’s world so vividly.

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Finding the Time to Do Everything

Finding the Time to Do Everything

24 measly hours in a day divided up among competing priorities and initiatives that always seem to need more time than we have available. The joys of modern life seem to have ever-increasing demands of our time and attention without giving us the full reward of our efforts. I know this is starting off like a bit of a rant or whining, but I need to constantly remind myself that I need to find time to do everything.

But what is everything? That is really the issue as I see it. I need to do everything that is important and not do anything that is not important. Many people I speak with seem stuck in the position that everything is important. I laugh and scoff at the concept that everything is important and must or should be done.

Probably, one of the biggest challenges we must all overcome is the idea that everything is important. This goes from personal life all the way through professional life. Items that are urgent but are impossible to get done, do not seem to sink the ship for bring our lives to ruin. When that is the case, I really have to challenge the idea if that particular action was important. Obviously, there are items that are truly important that have dire consequences if not completed promptly and accurately. However, I would propose these make up the smallest set of tasks and activities we work on with any regularity.  Modern life is busy, but that does not mean it is focused on the right things or even productive.

As a personal and professional leader, it is part of my responsibility to help determine what “everything” really consists of and understand its relative priority rank. I think a lot of people also miss the point when they believe that only tasks or activities that drive to a specific goal are important. If we do not take the time to rest and recuperate, then we will BURN OUT and never create things of long-term value. Socialization, relationship building, and experiencing new things in many ways is just as important as getting core goal-driven tasks done.

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Profiles: Revenge of the Web

Profiles: Revenge of the Web

Online profile management is challenging, and basically, a pain in the rear. I start by making one change on one profile on one website. Now, I have to replicate that action on multiple websites to keep a consistent picture of me on the net. This process is cumbersome and painful to say the least. Really, does anyone remember all the sites that they create a profile on? I just found a profile on PC World’s site that was totally and completely outdated. I did not remember that I had a profile on that site as I am not a frequent visitor to it. However, it was there, nonetheless.

So what happens?
Often, one or two profiles stay up-to-date and the rest gets updated either infrequent basis or is forgotten.

Now, think about the harm in leaving outdated information online.
An inconsistent message is created.

It is more than just an inconsistent message. The information in a old profile may not be accurate. For most of us this probably does not matter much until you enter the job hunting arena. People search about people when looking for a job, considering someone for a promotion, considering doing business with you or your company, or people are just, frankly, nosy. How comfortable would you be with a prospective employer finding a five or ten-year-old online profile that they just happen to come across? Does it have huge amounts of missing information that might lead them to a negative decision regarding your qualifications, experience, or character?

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Recognizing the role of computers

Recognizing the role of computers

A few weeks ago, my primary computer crashed.  Sad I know, but being an IT professional, it was distressing to say the least.  The problem was severely compounded by occurring during the worst possible time.  The last several weeks have been extremely busy at work I did not have any time or desire to address the problem.  Once I could catch my breath and figure out what had failed, it still took a couple of weeks to order parts and find the time to complete the repair.  During the intervening time, I had a chance to assess my computer needs based on my actual needs and not my perceived needs.

I discovered this is an important difference.  My actual needs are very different from what I thought they were.  My iPad met almost all of my computer needs.  This was fundamentally shocking to me as I am a core Microsoft user.  The iPad meet all my computer needs except for those times where I spent an extended period of writing.  Even with an external Bluetooth keyboard, I found the iPad an impractical device for doing extended periods of writing.  For e-mail and calendaring the iPad and my mobile phone was more than enough to meet my needs.  The web browser and other applications I have loaded on the iPad and phone were sufficient to meet all of my other computer needs.  It also gave me the time to realized just how much of the web and web-based applications I use in my daily life.

When my computer crashed, one of my big concerns was the ability remotely to administer our corporate network.  I really do not have to do this very often, but it is always nice to know that I can manage things on the weekend or evenings if an issue arises.  The remote desktop application on the iPad worked perfectly, and I could be nearly as efficient on the iPad as I am on my desktop.  The only time I had to go to my laptop was when I needed to do some extended e-mail composition that involved several rewrites.  Again, I found the iPad’s ability to work with longer written material to be challenging.  I am confident that with some additional efforts, I could have gained sufficient comfort with writing on an iPad that I could say that it was a “gimme” as well.

I realize now that I really do not use my desktop computer for much except out of habit.  I am still more comfortable working on that computer when I write.  I do not fully understand if Microsoft Word and Outlook are just more conducive to writing or is it purely habit that I write better while working on my desktop computer.  I have taken my iPad out and completed some longer writing sessions while mobile.  From a creative writing approach, the work was acceptable, but I still had to edit, edit, edit it on my desktop computer before I was comfortable with the work.

In the final assessment, I think the days of the desktop computer are numbered.  The netbook, tablet, mobile phone, and notebook form factors have relegated the desktop computer nearly obsolete.  The gaming industry will keep the powerful desktop computer around for a while, but for most consumers the desktop computer has outlived its usefulness.  I am fully aware there will always be some subsets of users that will have needs that require a large and powerful desktop computer.  For example, I could not see photographers and video editors ever giving up their mouse for stylus or finger.  That being said, tablet computing has arrived and is changing the way we interact with computer systems and the web.  I do not believe this is hyperbole or an oversimplification of the impact of mobile computing.

Now that my desktop computer is happily raising my electric bill again, I can get a little more writing done and maybe play a game or two.  However, in all reality, I could make do with a tablet and smart phone and be as productive as I am today with a desktop computer.

Thinking of it in a slightly different way, has the tablet or slate computer arrived, or has the state of web applications progressed farther than everyone has even realized?

A few weeks ago, my primary computer crashed. Sad, I know. Being an IT professional,thiswas distressing to say the least. The problem was severelycompounded by occurring duringworsttime.lastweeksbeenbusyworkdidhaverealortotheOncecouldmyandoutwasproblems,stillmecoupleweeksorderandtimecompleterepair.thetime,hadchanceassesscomputerbasedactualandperceivedneeds.