Friday, May 25, 2007

GTD: Initial fever to walk through

GTD (Getting Things Done) is a very useful tool and principle for getting your work done right, and in time. Based on Robert Allen's formulation of the technique, a lot of people have embraced and modified the technique to their convenience. (GTD on Amazon)
GTD is the process of putting down every thought, plan or event in a neat organizing system, allowing you to focus on the creative process rather than worry about memorizing deadlines and to-do lists. GTD's power goes beyond usual time management systems and lies in the categorizing of plans/projects which is quite intuitive and surprisingly simple.

Dr. Allen notes in the book that the initial phase of adopting the technique is challenging and like the pains of breaking out of laziness, it can be tough to form GTD as a habit.
I have been able to implement some components of the system, and although I thought first up that this was really something for executives-on-the-go, its been quite helpful in matching up my plans with everyday activities. My biggest hurdle now is the sheer number of things that I have lazed upon all this while, and which are now turning up in my GTD system. Those few long-term plans and ideas which I once thought off while sitting at the beach, now stare back at me in my list. Believe me, its a bit overwhelming having those missed to-do items on paper, with new creative thoughts presently hatched by this system..... much like a fever that happens when you start antibiotics...
In my mind, this is the greater problem people face during the first phase of using GTD and most definitely the problem does not lie in the system, it lies in the person quite a guilt feeling, but better have known than been ignorant!

There are several ways to implement GTD, but the obvious place to start is David Allen's book - Getting things done. It doesn't just feature the principles behind the system but has several chapters that actually walk you through building a system for yourself. At the least, it provides some useful tips to organize your projects.
Here are a few GTD links to start you out:
1. 43 folders - Merlin Mann's blog
2. Wiki on GTD
3. Hipster PDA - this is what I use :-)
4. Make your own Hipster PDA

Thursday, May 24, 2007

MIT Opencourseware for exam prep

MIT (and several other universities) have put most of their courses online. The Sloan School's opencourseware is very helpful while preparing for exams and solving homework. Pre-exam days are too short and there is hardly any patience to study from the textbook (not to mention a typical 9 hour workday) and anything as concise is just invaluable.

These courses provide slideshows of class notes with excellent explanations of the fundamentals. Although not so indepth as to score an A+, but good enough to recollect everything covered in past weeks of class time.

Check out their courses here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thoughts on class ettiquette

We all spend atleast 20 years in our education (every generation faces an extra course of education..wonder how long our children will study). It is surprising how after so much class time some of us have some silly behaviors in class. Although each program has been more "mature" for me, I still get to see some funny/annoying things students do. The following is my list of suggestions for students, to make class a good experience for yourself and for everyone.

1. Don't show off!
Everyone is as smart as you are (we all scored almost the same on the GMAT) and although it is your right to voice your imaginative interpretation of Labor-Capital curves, all you would do is waste class-time.
Most importantly don't try to make it obvious that you read the book. Reading the relevant chapters before class is usually an excused prerequisite and most students only take a glimpse of what's coming. Now that definitely doesn't mean you are smart, so if you now what is being taught, just sit quite.

2. Expect clear answers
There is always more than one way to explain a concept. So if you don't understand the answer to your question, let the professor know. Other students are also looking for the answers to your question, so make sure the professor drills it right into your head.

3. Keep class time in mind when asking off-topic questions
It's common for you to be concerned about an issue off-topic relevant to the class. For example in a Financial statements class: "Does this work similar to the debit and credit cards that we use for our bills?" is a reasonable one. Most of the time such questions do not help anyone but you, so make sure you don't pull this "off-session" too long. 10 minute breaks are designed for exactly this purpose.

4. Raise hands rather than interrupt
Everyone has their own preference on this, but with some teaching experience myself, I strongly favor the raise-hand-ask-question method. It allows the teacher to finish what he/she is saying without being startled into a question (We all need a breather).

5. Don't type in class!

A lot of students bring in laptops to class nowadays...some type notes sincerely, others browse myspace and facebook. Although what you do in class is completely your problem, the most irritating/distracting issue with laptops is the typing sound. Laptops are best used for saving on piles of paper prints and to google for extra information online. So how about some cheap ruled double-punched sheets from Walmart.
Now, if you decide to check craigslist and ebay in class, try sitting in the last row!

6. Don't get food that smells (and looks) good
There have been days when I have survived on ramen, and someone would bring a nicely grilled egg salad sandwich (mouthwatering!) to eat during lecture. I (and I am sure others) immediately lose 15 minutes of presence. Try coffee next time...that is quite redundant

Enjoy class!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Thoughts on good team management

I have always been intrigued by leaders and the qualities that define them. The ability to channelize people in a proposed direction without causing a single ounce of ego reaction is beyond other talents.

Human resource in my view is invaluable and its never surprising how much you can achieve with an intelligent and motivated team. Most managers don't become good leaders simply because they view employees as liabilities (dispensable slaves if you will). Over my seemingly short experience working with people, I have learned a few elements of leadership that help build a team where everyone lives like family. Some of these elements I have tried myself and seen them work great, the rest are things that I will put to work soon.

1. Test your leadership skills through nonprofit organizations:
In non-profits, every person working with you works for personal satisfaction and self-development. There is no contract under which you pay them for their services. This means that if you offend anyone, they would simply not come back to help you again (this doesn't happen too often with companies working for profit). Put simply, you will understand where i draw the line bet wen being a boss and being a colleague. So if you need to learn the art of managing people, while being able to inspire them and be respected, a non-profit organization is the best place to get trained.

2. Pay your employees a bit above the median salary:
I understand this is controversial and it is profitable to run a business with little cost of labor. However it is extremely harmful for the company climate in the long run. You might as well estimate cost of running your business with the median salaries BEFORE recruiting personnel. Another benefit on this is that they wont ask you for a raise next year (atleast not a huge raise without which they would choose to leave). They would also work for you longer, since elsewhere they might get paid less for the same kind of position.

3. Provide opportunities for your team members to learn:
For every project underway, keep one less-experienced smart person on the team. The smart guy wants to learn and will work hard to contribute to the team. Not to mention he/she might provide some out-of-the-box ideas (we always wonder how children can have ideas that we cannot think of)

4. Convey exactly what responsibilities a person should take up to grow professionally:
It is obvious that your team works for a good pay and good work conditions and they deserve to know exactly where their talent is more valued.

5. Recruit interns for starter jobs. Interns are always motivated and raw talent (therefore open-minded). Most jobs that require creative thought at the fundamental level can be best assigned to interning students. Apart from the fact that they will work hard and learn new skills, you get the benefit of perfectly matching them to the company's team. If the intern decides to leave though, you will atleast get unbiased feedback of your work environment and a positive impression/recommendation of the company in the market.

There are some more things of interest here, but I will defer those to an updated post.


Please help me improve this blog. I really want to make this a valuable resource and any recommendations would be of great help. Feel free to use the comment field on any of the posts. Thanks!

Google ads