Getting creative for employee on-boarding

Working for a small, international, non-profit has many challenges. One of the biggest I’ve encountered is managing all the internal details involved in on-boarding employees and helping new staff get sufficiently oriented regardless of their location or technical competency. One tool I’ve been a fan of for years is Trello and, based on an idea they shared, a colleague and I got to work. The solution created has been in use for almost a year-and-a-half with over two dozen new employees brought onboard since that time.

When a new employee is slated to start, a workflow is kicked off using an internal Trello board shared by a few different people involved in the process. It represents a master checklist of steps that will be needed to complete the numerous necessary tasks. Some of the steps include:

  • Confirm that an offer was accepted
  • Confirm employee’s contact info and title
  • Get a headshot and bio
  • Create email and other server accounts
  • Create orientation board and account
  • Send welcome email with getting started instructions
  • etc.

As an operations-minded person, myself, I like to standardize whenever possible. A multi-cultural organization, however, demands acknowledging and accounting for differences in culture. The balance I shoot for is 80/20: 80% standardized and 20% contextualized. We took that into account with our solution. The bulk of the board is the same for all staff and covers the baseline common to everyone. Things like our mission, vision, staff resources, and must-watch or must-read items. Folded into that are lists specific to the team they’ll be joining as well as the country which they’re located. All combined, it’s proven to be a great resource. We also incorporate the feedback of each person that uses it so it can be improved in future iterations.

The best part is that it’s a free service which is always a good thing when the goal is to apply every dollar possible towards our programs. Want to donate?

Remember your future self

 

At its most basic, productivity is all about getting as much done as possible in a given period of time. Improving your efficiency is certainly one way to accomplish that; completing a task in less time does let you move on to the next. The problem with that strategy is that you sacrifice the future for the benefits in the present. Whenever I find myself considering a shortcut that I know will have consequences later, I try to think of how I’ll feel and see if it’s still the right thing to do. I refer to it as remembering my future self. Continue reading

The Blessing and Curse of the Zeigarnik Effect

In the early 20th century, the psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik studied what became known as the Zeigarnik effect after her professor noticed that a waiter had better recollections of still unpaid orders than ones that were completed (Wikipedia). In these modern times where considerably more tasks abound, it’s often referred to as ‘open loops’ or ‘dangling threads’ and everyone can relate to one degree or another.

Whether by nature or by practice, I am personally quite susceptible to the Zeigarnik effect. As an avid GTD‘er I try very hard to capture the various open loops as they come up so I can circle back and address them through providing an update or otherwise following-up. That allows me to provide closure and move onto the next thing. Continue reading

Peay It Forward

Ok, I admit that the title’s lame, but I thought it was fun. You’re here reading this so I suppose it’s not all bad…

As one progresses through life and their career, knowledge and experience naturally accumulate. As you get exposed to new things and tackle the novel or unexpected, you generally amass a significant catalog of skills, insights, and, hopefully, wisdom. Over time, you consciously (and subconsciously) incorporate those numerous learnings into your day-to-day playbook to make yourself more efficient or effective. It happens almost automatically because nobody wants to spend more time or effort on something if they don’t have to. Continue reading

Validation of being me

As can be easily learned as you look through my blog, I am a productivity-minded geek. I have been ‘doing’ geek for nearly my entire life and have become increasingly interested in productivity over the last 5-or-so years. That combination worked out perfectly this past weekend.

As a IT professional, I know that backups are important. If you don’t have any (or recent) backups of your data, can you really say that it’s important to you? As a serious GTD‘er, I don’t trust my memory and create repeating tasks in OmniFocus to help remember what I need to do when I need to do it.

Those two things came together to my advantage on Saturday. Friday night, OmniFocus reminded me that it’s been six weeks since I had backed up my PlayStation 3. No problem, hook up a spare USB drive, kick off a backup, and go to bed. Saturday afternoon the system died. The dreaded flashing red LED which indicates there’s a hardware component problem. Bummer. No worries, though. At work, one of the perks is being able to get a dead console repaired or exchanged for free. In about a week’s time, I should have a replacement restored and back up and running.

If you’re going to have something fail, see if you can have a recent backup of it, first.

Some Good Reading

We were discussing notable books at work so I put together the below list and decided that it might also be useful here. The links go to Amazon if you’d like to read a synopsis. If you’d like my take on any of them, just let me know.

 5/5:
4/5:
Non-business favorites:
Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline
Ender’s Game (Ender, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
Freedom™ by Daniel Suarez

OmniFocus: Learning Japanese

At work, I’ve been taking Japanese classes and have been using OmniFocus to help me with daily practice. Here’s a screenshot of a typical morning:

OF-Japanese

Learning Japanese in OmniFocus

So let me explain the setup. For each word or phrase I want to study, I create a separate task that is set to repeat every two days. In the task name, I have the english word and in the notes I have the word in Japanese with the romaji. When I study, I don’t look at the notes until I want to double-check my answer. If I’m right, I increase the repeat of the task by a day. If’ I’m close, I leave it as is. If I’m wrong, I decrease the repeat by a day. That way, I practice words I’m not learning more frequently and words that I do know naturally move out to show up less frequently.

I’ve been using this system for a couple of years and it’s working pretty well. Currently, I have hundreds of words that in my rotation with anywhere from 30-50 on the list for each day which keeps things manageable. The romaji text is deliberately in a light color so that I focus on the word in Japanese (hiragana or katakana). The only downside is that I’m only focusing on English to Japanese. I need to reverse the many of them to increase my recognition of the Japanese words themselves. Any other ideas for improvements?

OmniFocus: Using Emoji

This is the first in a series of posts about OmniFocus that I’ve been thinking about for ages. I’m going to keep them short to eliminate excuses for not getting to them.

For the unfamiliar, OmniFocus is a OS X application based on the Getting Things Done methodology by David Allen. I’ve been an avid user for over five years and it is central to my productivity both personally and professionally. These posts will presume you’re generally familiar with the software. If not, they may not make complete sense.

Continue reading

Where do you spend your time?

For the last little bit I’ve been using a program called MyTime which tracks the programs you use and websites you visit while you use your computer. It’s an interesting little program that I’ve mostly forgotten about. At the end of last month, I decided to take a look what I’ve been up to while working. Here’s the breakdown:

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by how much time I spend in Mail. It certainly feels like that’s how my professional life is.

So, where do you spend most of your time at work?

 

 

 

 

 

For Christmas I gave myself nothing

I’ve been doing the GTD things for a few years and am a major fan of OmniFocus by the Omni Group (they got my money for my Mac, my iPhone, and iPad). A similar concept pertains to email and that is of Inbox Zero. The concept is basically keeping your email inbox empty by dealing with or deleting each message.

I’ve longed wanted to get down to an empty inbox. About a year ago, I went from a few hundred down to about 100 but getting past was more difficult than I would have imagined.

The last few weeks, I’ve renewed the effort and today successfully got both my personal and work mailboxes down to zero.

The trick, of course, is keeping it empty. I get enough mail both personally and professionally so I will continue to leverage the power of OmniFocus to capture anything I need to deal with but can’t at that moment.

I like finishing the year with nothing. Merry Christmas.