I’m beginning to think more and more that being able to view my actions by area of responsibility (parenting, learning, community, household, etc.) is far more important to me than being able to view them by context (at home, at office, at computer, etc.).
Here’s why: It’s easier to make sure that you are doing the right things.
For when you have your actions grouped by context, you don’t see what purpose they serve. Let’s say you have have 25 “@computer” actions, 18 of which involve your “learning” responsibility because a few friends had a field day sending you interesting articles all week that got deferred onto your action list. (I actually rarely defer online reading to action lists, but it was the clearest example that came to mind.) The by context view would not illuminate the fact that maybe you’re doing enough learning this week, and need to have a higher mix of actions pertaining to other areas in your plan.
I know that it is not GTD orthodoxy, at present, to explicitly bring areas of responsibility to bear on the day-to-day. The approach is rather to let your intuition bring this on its own, if needed, and to review an areas of responsibility trigger list maybe once a month. However, this has never satisfied me. It has never overcome my sense that something is missing when we organize actions by context.
So my hypothesis for the last while has been that what is missing is this wider connection to our roles. Plugging away at 23 “@computer” actions typically leaves me feeling aimless. Sure, I did a bunch of “computer” stuff, but what did I really get done?
This is where the focus on the higher altitudes that Covey’s perspective in The 7 Habits can be a good supplement to the GTD methodology. There is a way to relate actions to roles that complicates, for sure, but there is also a way to do this right. More to come down the road…
Here’s a very good explanation by J.P. Moreland, professor of philosophy at Biola University, from his recent interview with Hugh Hewitt:
A negative right is a right for me to be protected from harm if I try to get something for myself. A positive right would be my right to have something provided for me.
If health care is a negative right, then the state has an obligation to keep people from preventing me from getting health care and discriminating against me. If health care’s a positive right, then the state has an obligation to provide it for me.
As I read the New Testament, the government’s responsibility, and by the way, I think the Old Testament prophets say this, too, is I read the prophets in the New Testament, the government’s job is to protect negative rights, not to provide positive rights. So as a Christian, I believe in a minimal government. It’s not the government’s job to be providing the health care benefits for people. So I will be looking to see if Obama does things to minimize the role of government in culture, and to provide for as much human freedom as possible.
It is an interesting phenomenon: Doing work doesn’t always result in less work to be done. Sometimes it results in more work.
For when you complete task A, at least two things might happen. First, you might be freed up to then do the next step on something — which might even be bigger. Second, you might notice that there is something else that needs to be done that you couldn’t see before.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. But it does mean that we shouldn’t necessarily think that the way to “get on top of things” is to do more work, in the elusive quest to ahead of the game on all fronts.
Now, I do believe that there is a way to get ahead on all fronts, if we define that accurately. But the path is probably more counter-intuitive than we initially realize. The one thing I do know is that it takes something other than simply working through our tasks to get there.
I think Stephen Covey starts to get at the heart of this when he says in First Things First (and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) that the key is “to not prioritize what’s on your schedule [or action lists], but to schedule your priorities.”
In other words, we should not simply be “doing” our work. We should also be asking if this is the work we should really be doing. We should not simply do something because it ended up on our list — even if we are the ones who put it there.
In addition to making decisions about what’s already on our list, we also need to ask what things are truly a priority to us, but are not reflected on our current action or project list. Then we need to make those our top tasks.
There are a few ways to do that. One way is to actually schedule them on your calendar (which I know is not in line with the GTD approach in general). There are other ways as well, but that’s for another post.
Fast Company has a helpful interview on interruptions with Gloria Mark, an informatics professor at the University of California, Irvine. She talks about “When is interruption is helpful? Why can’t most of us stay on task for more than three minutes? Is the best way to achieve flow to just unplug?”
Here are some key points:
Interruptions are bad for innovation and flow:
I argue that when people are switching contexts every 10 and half minutes they can’t possibly be thinking deeply. There’s no way people can achieve flow. When I write a research article, it takes me a couple of hours before I can even begin to think creatively. If I was switching every 10 and half minutes, there’s just no way I’d be able to think deeply about what I’m doing. This is really bad for innovation. When you’re on the treadmill like this, it’s just not possible to achieve flow.
But not all interruptions are bad:
If an interruption matches the topic of the current task at hand, then it’s beneficial. If you’re working on task A and somebody comes in and interrupts you about exactly that task people report that’s very positive and helps them think about task A.
There’s been a lot of research into the psychology of problem solving that says if you let problems incubate, sometimes it helps in solving them. A good example would be a software developer who just can’t trace a bug so they put it aside and let it incubate. The answer may come back to the software developer later while he or she is working on another task. This is an example of how switching tasks may be beneficial.
The worst kind of interruptions are those that make you switch topics:
It’s generally counterproductive if you’re working on one task and you’re interrupted on a completely different topic. People have to shift their cognitive resources, or attentional resources, to a completely different topic. You have to completely shift your thinking, it takes you a while to get into it and it takes you a while to get back and remember where you were.
The ROWE Blog has a helpful take on this article that illustrates in a very concrete way the cost we pay when interrupted all the time.
The distraction that interruptions create is not the full story, however (as the interview itself discusses). While we should seek to minimize interruptions, they are also opportunities to do good for others and be of use. You can’t — and shouldn’t — eliminate the possibility of all interruptions (at least as a constant way of life). Interruptions should be looked at as a chance to do good.
In fact, after two decades of interacting with a wide variety of senior executives, the author of the book Organized for Success has noted that “successful executives turn one key time management rule upside down: rather than closing the door on interruptions, they extract genuine value from them” (p. 10).
In fact, listen to this perspective of one senior executive:
What you are calling “interruptions” is my work. From the beginning of my career, I have seen my job as being able to facilitate, troubleshoot, run ideas by, solve problems, and just be a presence. If I had an urgent deadline, I would go into a conference room and shut the door. But that rarely happens.
Here’s my take: We need to both carve out time for focused work, and then also weave into our days the flexibility to be freely available such that we can recognize “interruptions” as opportunities for productive interaction.
There is a both/and here: Minimize interruptions. And realize that there is a way to make use of interruptions for maximum effectiveness.
The best way I know to do this is to start your day early so you can segment it into a period of focused work for a few hours, followed by a time when you are more freely available.
I’m still working on this. But the most important thing to realize is that the biggest interruptions are those that we do to ourselves.
The Cato Institute has taken out a full page ad in some major publications stating that “we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance.”
From their site:
President Obama says that “economists from across the political spectrum agree” on the need for massive government spending to stimulate the economy. In fact, many economists disagree. Hundreds of them, including Nobel laureates and other prominent scholars, have signed the statement that appears in the Cato Institute’s ad in the New York Times and in other national publications.
And here’s the main text of the ad:
Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians [this is the view that holds that increased government spending is the way to spur the economy] and that we all support a big increase in the burden of government, we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance.
More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today.
To improve the economy, policymakers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.
As a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Kurt Warner’s alma mater, I’ll be rooting for Warner in Super Bowl XLIII this Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. I think I started the year after he graduated.
Thomas Sowell has a very thought-provoking column on the stimulus called “What Are They Buying?”
I talked yesterday about how government spending is not the way to stimulate the economy. On top of this, Sowell makes note that “out of $355 billion newly appropriated, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only $26 billion will be spent this fiscal year and only $110 billion by the end of 2010″
Not all of that $355 billion is for government spending and public works, for sure. But this indicates that, when it does come to the public works projects, most of that spending won’t even happen this year. So even if government spending was a good way to stimulate the economy, the stimulus package would still have this other problem that most of that won’t happen for another year and longer.
Until today, one of the biggest drawbacks of Gmail is that you could not go through your emails when you were offline. Today, that changes. Gmail is finally going offline. Google is rolling out a Google Gears version of Gmail that will be available to users starting today in Gmail Labs. (If you don’t see it, keep checking, the rollout to all users should be complete by the end of the week).
(HT: Andy Naseli)
I find Nancy Pelosi’s recent comments shocking. I probably shouldn’t. Denny Burk summarizes her comments well:
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is defending the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars of the forthcoming stimulus package are to be spent on “family planning.” Her argument is very simple. The economy is bad. Having babies costs money. Would-be parents need to save their money by not having babies.
You can see her comments here:
Three things. First, the values embodied in this perspective are completely backwards. Quite simply, it fails to recognize that people — human life — is the most valuable reality in creation. God is most valuable. After that, it’s people. Seeking to cut down on the number of children born in order to “cut costs” and help the economic stimulus makes things more important than people. The economy exists for people. You do not sacrifice people for things.
Second, the economic perspective in her comments is also wrong. Obviously children do cost money. However, funding measures to help reduce the number of children born is a short-sighted way of addressing the economic side of things. For children grow up. They become adults who solve problems, produce things, cure diseases, become president, or just plain work hard and serve their communities and families. These people — the children that are born today — are the solution to the problems of tomorrow. People are not problems, they are solutions. To advocate fewer births now is a very short-sighted approach to a temporary economic issue. It is sacrificing the long-term for the sake of perceived short-term gain.
Third, the children that are born today are not simply the solutions to the problem of tomorrow. They make society better today. A society devoid of children is a lonely, boring society. I’m not saying that she is taking things that far. Neither am I saying that we should all have 10 kids. But what we need is more of the energy and vitality that children bring, not less of it.
We should not look at the short-term expense of children as a financial burden to the states or the economy. We should look at it as a commitment to what is most worthwhile.
(HT: Vitamin Z)
There was a very good editorial in the Wall Street Journal yesterday on the current stimulus package heading through congress and why it won’t work.
Here are a few of the key reasons that it won’t work, some of which are covered in the article and some of which are not:
Public Works Projects Do Not Stimulate the Economy
The government has to fund those projects by taking the money from somewhere else (through taxes or borrowing). Thinking that public works will stimulate the economy assumes that the government will invest that money more productively than the private sector would. But that is almost never true.
Plus, the government is not our parent. It should not try to take care of us by stepping in to create jobs directly. It’s aim should be to keep us — the citizens in the private sector — maximally free to act. Let’s learn from the 1930s!
Government Spending Does Not Stimulate the Economy
This is really another way of stating point one. It is not spending per se that stimulates the economy. It is spending on profitable ventures which advances the economy. The private sector has a litmus test for knowing what society needs and wants most: profit and loss. But the government has no such means of knowing what is truly most wanted and needed.
I know that profit and loss realities alone do not create a good society — we must also have non-profit enterprises, and yes government does have a legitimate role. But the point is that, in the governmental realm, the incentives are not there to direct government spending toward the specific “stimulus projects” that society truly needs. So it needs to keep such initiatives to a minimum.
The business sector, on the other hand, has a clear test governing how it invests: the ventures that a business invests in must be profitable. But this is not so with government initiatives, since they are funded not by business results (profits) but taxes. And those taxes take money away from businesses and individuals — that is, they take it away from those that invest according to the clear and decisive knowledge of profit and loss.
The Problem is Lack of Supply, Not Lack of Demand
During the depression, FDR and his administration kept trying to figure out ways to stimulate demand. That has it backwards. The problem is never lack of demand — human demand is basically infinite.
The problem is that, when it comes to the economy, you first have to produce before you can receive. My family needs a larger vehicle right now. The want, need, and “demand” are there. Here’s what is not there: the money (or, at least, an amount that would leave us with the savings level we want after the purchase). I need to figure out how to produce the equivalent value of a vehicle before I can actually go buy that vehicle. (Or, alternatively, I need to be confident enough in the economy to take out a loan and trust that my future earnings will be sufficient to pay that off.)
So nobody needs to convince me or anybody else to want various goods and services. The issue is that we need to be able to produce enough in order to purchase them. In other words, supply creates demand. If we define “demand” as the actual decision to purchase a vehicle, rather than simply the desire for one, we see that that kind of demand is created by supply — that is, by my producing something of value, which value I can then “exchange” for the vehicle.
The Solution is Immediate and Permanent Tax Cuts
If the problem is lack of supply, then the solution is not to stimulate demand, but to stimulate supply. Or, if we want to put it another way, the way to stimulate demand (defined as the actual decision to buy) is by stimulating supply.
So how do you stimulate supply? Well, you don’t really need to stimulate that, either. It is a part of human nature to seek to be productive. We have an ongoing thirst to create, make things, and produce. That is a good thing.
The problem is that there are obstacles that interfere with this. Sometimes the obstacles are simply that life is hard. But most of the time, the biggest obstacles are created by the government — unintentionally, of course, and usually in the name of “stimulating the economy” or “making things equitable” and such. What needs to happen is simple: these obstacles that we can control, namely those created by the government, need to be removed. The government has to “back up” a bit.
And that means tax cuts. Taxes are legitimate and necessary. But high taxes are the biggest obstacle to the ability of people and business to produce (excessive regulation is a close second). This is because taxation diverts money away from private sector investment in productive goods and services and into government initiatives. In other words, there is less money for businesses to invest in creating and expanding their goods and services.
There is objective, real-world evidence that tax cuts do indeed lead to a growing economy. We saw this with the Kennedy tax cuts of 1964 and Reagan tax cuts of 1983, for example. Further, the WSJ piece notes that “Research by Mr. Obama’s own White House chief economist, Christina Romer, has shown that every $1 in tax cuts can increase output by as much as $3.” This is in contrast even to the best-case scenario thinking behind the government spending approach to stimulating the economy, which is based on a theory that “each $1 of spending the government ‘injects’ into the economy yields 1.5 times greater output.”
Even if that theory were true, that is still only half of the stimulus created by tax cuts. But, more importantly, it’s not true. As the WSJ piece also notes, “There’s little evidence to support this theory [that $1 of government spending creates $1.50 in output], but you have to admire its beauty because it assumes the government can create wealth out of thin air. If it were true, the government should spend $10 trillion and we’d all live in paradise.”
Again, there do need to be taxes. But a 35% corporate tax rate and 35% individual tax rate for top earners is far beyond what the founders would have envisioned (in fact, we did not even have an income tax for the first several generations in our nation’s history). We are in absolutely no danger of taxing businesses to little. There is a lot of room for taxes to come down, in turn resulting in greater economic growth.
Some object that this is not a true picture of the corporate tax burden because many transfer their money to tax shelters (for example, see this article at Smart Money). But that is precisely part of the problem as well: corporations and individuals end up moving portions of their income to less productive tax shelters, which thus also diverts money away from more productive uses. It is ironic that you even see this done by wealthy individuals that espouse the “need” for higher taxes — they call for higher taxes, while at the same time seeking to minimize their own tax burden through various tax shelters.
Let’s affirm that is a good thing, not a bad thing, that people want to minimize their tax burden. Of course most people want to minimize the taxes they pay. We try to minimize the amount we have to pay for everything – we never want to pay more than we have to, whether at the grocery store, Target, or anywhere. That’s part of the reality of living in a world of finite resources, and it is a good thing.
The really incredible thing is that reducing taxes not only syncs with the good and natural human desire to see as little of our income as possible removed from us through taxation, but also frees up people and businesses to more fully invest in productive initiatives, thus expanding the economy.
But the tax cuts need to be permanent, because otherwise they cannot lead to a permanent change in behavior. Further, they need to be immediate and “on the margin”:
To be genuinely stimulating, tax cuts need to be immediate, permanent and on the “margin,” meaning that they apply to the next dollar of income that an individual or business earns. This was the principle behind the Kennedy tax cuts of 1964, as well as the Reagan tax cuts of 1981, which finally took full effect on January 1, 1983.
If the Obama Democrats can’t abide this because it’s a “tax cut for the rich,” as an alternative they could slash the corporate tax to spur business incentives. The revenue cost of eliminating the corporate tax wouldn’t be any more than their proposed $355 billion in new spending, and we guarantee its “multiplier” effects on growth would be far greater. Research by Mr. Obama’s own White House chief economist, Christina Romer, has shown that every $1 in tax cuts can increase output by as much as $3.
This is not hard. Obama could solve this recession in a day. Propose a tax cut bill that cuts taxes immediately, permanently, and “on the margin;” shepherd its approval through Congress (which is controlled by his same party), and then the day that he signs it into law, the recession will be solved. The effects would take many months to be felt, for sure. And the bad loans do need to clear out as well. So I’m not saying the recession would end that same day. But the healing would begin immediately, and would lead to a true and lasting recovery via the quickest route possible.
Mark Rogers posted yesterday on a day in the life of William Carey. His efficiency — among very complex tasks — was amazing.
Many employers have “good at multitasking” as a requirement for positions that they are hiring for. Here’s a good word on that from The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done:
The point is, when someone tells me they’re good at multitasking, I know that they’re inefficient. Saying you’re a good multitasker is the same as saying that you’re good at using a less effective method to get things done.
It’s like saying, “Bob is better at riding a bike than Chuck is at driving a car.” Even if that statement is true, Chuck is still going to reach his destination with greater speed and ease than Bob.
No matter how effective you are at switchtasking, you are still working less efficiently than you could another way. You are going to take longer to get things done than the person who focuses on one attention-requiring activity at a time (pp. 47-48).
The financial bailout, but just barely.
Financial bailout: $700 billion.
Lost productivity due to multitasking: $650 billion per year.
That number is from The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done:
2.1 hours: Average estimated lost productivity per person per day due to interruptions, based on a 40-hour work week.
$650 billion: Estimated annual loss to the US economy due to unnecessary interruptions plus recovery time.
If you move beyond the time frame of a single year, however, you see that multitasking is actually far, far more expensive than the financial bailout.
For the financial bailout was a one-time thing. Multitasking costs $650 billion every single year. So, after ten years, we have this:
Financial bailout: $700 billion
Multitasking: $6.5 trillion
Even if a second bailout were necessary, or the cost of the bailout went up, the cost of multitasking still far outstrips the potential cost of the bailout over a ten year period.
Add to this the fact that the bailout probably prevented damage to the economy that far exceeded $700 billion (I realize that there is difference of opinion there), and you have even less of a contest.
Lencioni offers these questions in The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive:
- Are meetings compelling? Are the important issues being discussed? Lack of interest in meetings is a good indicator the team may be avoiding issues because they are uncomfortable with one another. “There is no excuse for having continually boring meetings” (149).
- Do team members engage in unguarded debate? Do they honestly confront one another? Even teams that get along well should be experiencing regular conflict and intense debate during these meetings.
- Do team members apologize if they get out of line? Do they ever get out of line?
- Do team members understand one another? “Members of cohesive teams know one another’s strengths and weaknesses and don’t hesitate to point them out” (150).
- Do team members avoid gossiping about one another?
From Lencioni’s book The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive:
A group’s cohesiveness has far more impact on its success than its collective level of experience or knowledge. Teams filled with industry luminaries have been unable to compete with less experienced and relatively unknown teams that were able to create environments of trust and passion.
Cohesiveness at the executive level is the single greatest indicator of future success that any organization can achieve.
Patrick Lencioni has written many wise and sensible books on leading organizations, such as The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. His main focus is “organizational health.”
“Organizational health” is a low-cost, high-impact investment to make in your organization. It should be a priority during all times, not just during a recession. But during a recession, when there are possibly less opportunities pulling you in so many directions, you (perhaps) have a unique opportunity to give it more undivided attention.
Lencioni makes this point in his latest newsletter, “The ‘Down Economy’ Bandwagon“:
… use this time to invest in your organization’s future, especially when the investment is not a financial one.
The best place for an investment right now is in the general health of an organization. I’m talking mostly about improving the functioning of the executive team, and their clarification of and recommitment to the organization’s values and purpose. Doing this will require a little time and energy, but very little money. And it will yield significant returns now, and even more when the economy rebounds.
I got into Lencioni’s books about a year ago and have found his thinking to be among the most wise and useful out there on how to manage an organization well. He doesn’t give mainly “business thinking.” His thinking is useful to businesses, but it stems from broader principles that pertain to things like working well in working well in teams, managing people humanely, making jobs menaingful, and creating healthy organizations. In other words, his thinking is useful across all types of organizations — including families.
To flesh out the meaning of organizational health, I recently took notes over his book The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, which focuses most directly on this topic.
He points out that organizational health is perhaps the key competitive advantage for any organization:
Organizational health is one competitive advantage that is available to any company that wants it, yet it is largely ignored. And, it is highly sustainable because it is not based on information or intellectual property. It should occupy a lot of time and attention of extraordinary executives (139).
What is a healthy organization?
A healthy organization is one that has less politics and confusion, higher morale and productivity, lower unwanted turnover, and lower recruiting costs than an unhealthy one (140).
How do you create a healthy organization?
The first step in making it happen is to realize that, like so many other aspects of success, it is simple in theory but difficult to put into practice. Requires high levels of commitment, courage, and consistency. Does not require complex thinking and analysis—and that is crucial. The second step is to master the fundamental disciplines and put them into practice on a daily basis. That’s what the rest of the book is about (140).
The fundamental disciplines or organizational health that Lencioni mentions are:
- Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team
- Create organizational clarity
- Over-communicate organizational clarity
- Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems
I hope to do more posts on organizational health in the future. Also, for more on this I would highly recommend The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive.
Very helpful and very wise:
Wired has a great article on recessions and the birth of big ideas. Recessions are a time to streamline in many ways for sure, but they are also a time to thoughtfully advance — not retreat. The article says this well in many places, including this one:
When VCs from Foundation Capital met with their nervous investors recently, the partners advised them to stay the course rather than follow their peers into the bunkers. “Our strongest companies have the potential to be whales when the market opens up,” partner Paul Holland told the group. “This is the crucible that forges great companies.”
And here are some big ideas that came about during tough economic times:
The most memorable crucible in modern history is, of course, the Great Depression. During that era, several firms made huge bets that changed their fortunes and those of the country: Du Pont told one of its star scientists, Wallace Carothers, to set aside basic research and pursue potentially profitable innovation. What he came up with was nylon, the first synthetic fabric, revolutionizing the way Americans parachuted, carpeted, and panty-hosed. As IBM’s rivals cut R&D, founder Thomas Watson built a new research center. Douglas Aircraft debuted the DC-3, which within four years was carrying 90 percent of commercial airline passengers. A slew of competing inventors created television.
Bill Hewlett of HP committed to building the pocket calculator—at the time, a supposedly impossible task—during the 1969-70 recession; the 2001 dotcom-led downturn presented the perfect launching pad not just for risk-taking, fresh-thinking startups like discount airline JetBlue and blogging juggernaut Six Apart, but also for Apple’s iPod-fueled resurgence.
Here’s a schedule of events for tomorrow’s inauguration.
This is a good time to take a look back as well as ahead. So in addition to watching Obama’s swearing-in and inaugural address tomorrow, I would recommend watching Reagan’s swearing-in and inaugural address from 1981:
I still love Reagan’s timeless line: “Government is not the solution to the problem. Government is the problem.” This is still true today, even though many have (once again) come to think the opposite.
It is not that government has no role to play. The problem is that government — as has been the almost universal case throughout human history — tends to vastly overstep its proper role.
As Thomas Sowell has often said, here is what typically happens: The government creates a certain policy or takes a certain action that affects the free market (in the case of the recent financial crisis, two such actions were the Community Reinvestment Act and keeping interest rates too low for too long after 9/11). That governmental action then creates unintended consequences which damage the economy.
But because of the time that it takes for these unintended consequences to become manifest, people don’t realize the connection between the governmental policy and the economic results. Instead, the free market gets blamed. The government then announces that it must step in to “fix the market” or solve the problem, and the cycle is repeated.
Reagan got this, and therefore realized that the solution to the stagflation and extended economic slump of the 70′s was less government, not more. The result was the longest economic expansion in history. Today, many people think that this era of expansion is over. Some people think that’s a good thing because, to their way of thinking, a thriving economy simply fuels materialism.
But that’s not a compassionate way to think. The problem with a lagging economy is not that you can’t buy as much stuff. The problem is that opportunity starts to dry up.
Obama, fortunately, does not think like the people who want to see our economy in the gutter for an extended period. The problem, though, is that Obama does not appear to understand what Reagan did. Maybe he will learn it — I am holding out hope for that. But in the meantime, he appears poised to deliver us another dose of what makes economies tank in the first place — an overreaching government.
Here is the video (part 1) of Bush’s farewell address:
I would recommend most of all, however, watching Reagan’s farewell address from 1989. (For some reason, the video will not embed. But you can watch it directly from YouTube.)
Fast Company reports that Wireless Electricity is Here (Seriously). That’s … incredible.
After more than 100 years of dashed hopes, several companies are coming to market with technologies that can safely transmit power through the air — a breakthrough that portends the literal and figurative untethering of our electronic age. Until this development, after all, the phrase “mobile electronics” has been a lie: How portable is your laptop if it has to feed every four hours, like an embryo, through a cord? How mobile is your phone if it shuts down after too long away from a plug? And how flexible is your business if your production area can’t shift because you can’t move the ceiling lights?
As the article mentions, the physics of how to do this has been understood for a while. But the ability to do this in a way that works well and is useful has not existed before. There are about three different approaches coming to market. Here’s how one of them works:
A powered coil inside that pad creates a magnetic field, which as Faraday predicted, induces current to flow through a small secondary coil that’s built into any portable device, such as a flashlight, a phone, or a BlackBerry. The electrical current that then flows in that secondary coil charges the device’s onboard rechargeable battery. (That iPhone in your pocket has yet to be outfitted with this tiny coil, but, as we’ll see, a number of companies are about to introduce products that are.)
For more detail, here’s a helpful summary from an article at Popular Science:
Scientists have known for nearly two centuries how to transmit electricity without wires, and the phenomenon has been demonstrated several times before. But it wasn’t until the rise of personal electronic devices that the demand for wireless power materialized. In the past few years, at least three companies have debuted prototypes of wireless power devices, though their distance range is relatively limited [see "Power Brokers," next page]. Then last year, a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology set the stage for wireless power that works from across a room.
The key to wireless power is resonance. Think of a wineglass that shatters when an opera singer hits just the right note. When the voice matches the glass’s resonant frequency—the tone you hear when you tap the glass—the glass efficiently absorbs the singer’s energy and cracks. Using magnetic induction and two identical copper coils that resonate at the same frequency, the MIT scientists successfully powered a 60-watt lightbulb from a power source seven feet away. The team called their invention WiTricity, short for “wireless electricity.” Next up: sending the juice even farther and more efficiently.
You can also read more on wireless electricity at Wikipedia.
Lifehacker has a good interview with David Allen about his new book, Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life.
This was an especially interesting question:
Lifehacker: In your one-on-one training sessions, and in feedback from customers, where do you believe most folks fall off the GTD wagon? Is it a behavioral and discipline concern, or just a failure of focus over distractions?
DA: Most folks don’t take the GTD tools far enough to really get the benefits. They don’t really do a thorough and consistent mind sweep, externalizing all of their commitments into a system they trust. Then they don’t review their commitments (calendar, projects list, next actions for each project) often enough to build the trust that they’re doing what’s most important at any given time. They therefore still trust their psyche more than their system, which makes system maintenance more trouble than it pays off.
Read the whole thing.
(HT: Vitamin Z)
For the last several years, I’ve been a subscriber to Audio-Tech Business Book Summaries. Each month, you get two summaries of some of the most important and latest business books. The summaries come in both audio form (either CD or, I think, MP3 download) and in written transcripts (by email).
Each summary is about 45 minutes, and they actually summarize the content very, very well. So for a time investment of about 1.5 hours per month, you can keep up with 24 business books per year.
This post is not an advertisement — nobody asked me to write this. I have simply found this to be a helpful tool which some of you might be interested in exploring. I think the cost is about $150/year.
One point to keep in mind: Don’t expect to fully absorb the content in only 1.5 hours a month. If you want to truly think over and remember the content, it will take additional review of the transcripts and just plain reflecting on the content. I view this program as a way to stay briefed on new books, and then go deeper on the few that seem most useful.
Here’s a summary from their site:
Audio-Tech Business Book Summaries are carefully written summations of the best business books published each year. They are recorded on audio CDs or cassettes, plus word-for-word e-transcripts.
Each audio summary is 45 minutes in length, much shorter than the average of 10 to 15 hours required to thoroughly read and comprehend most truly important business books. They enable subscribers to turn the “downtime” of commuting, travel or exercise, into profitable “uptime.” A subscription to Business Book Summaries is a productive alternative to the radio or cellular phone.
The 24 books summarized each year are selected by our Editorial Board from nearly 3,000 new titles examined. The Audio-Tech Editorial Board is composed of Harvard Business School Graduates, Fortune 500 senior executives and internationally known management consultants. Each is an expert in one or more of the subject areas we cover.
Our professional writers and editors carefully summarize the books under the watchful eyes of Editorial Board Members.
Last of all, here’s a business idea for anyone so inclined: This would be a good thing to do for the latest books in Christian publishing. I bet a lot of pastors and people in ministry would appreciate being able to keep up with about 2 books a month through well-done audio and written summaries. The business model for such a company would not be hard to spell out.
But the books chosen for summarizing would need to be good. None of that fluffy, boring, useless stuff that so often finds its way into Christian bookstores. Also, I would recommend not limiting the summaries to new books. It would be helpful maybe for 1 of the summaries each month to be new, and 1 of the summaries to be a solid, classic work from church history (Edwards, Luther, Owen, Augustine, etc.), as well as more recent classics such as Packer’s Knowing God.
Many people subscribe to blogs in feed readers, where they can stay up to date with everything in one place. But there are also many people who don’t do that.
For those who use a reader, you can easily subscribe by clicking on the RSS icon up in your address bar or on this link.
If you don’t use a reader, there is still a very easy way for you to keep up with this blog. You can subscribe by email. Just click that link to sign up. Then, each morning the posts from the previous day will be delivered right to your inbox.
And if you don’t use an RSS reader but want to get started with one, Abraham Piper has a very helpful post on how to do that called What is RSS? A Step-by-Step Guide to Google Reader. He writes: “If you follow these instructions, you will be subscribed to your favorite sites and already saving time by the end of this article.”