Category Archives: Uncategorized

My New Blog

Hello! I have a new blog! I won’t be posting anything at this one anymore. The limitations of wordpress.com became too much to bear.

Thanks to all those who have participated at this blog! i look forward to more fun at my new site.

If you want to keep up with my work please go to joshchalmers.com.


How to Avoid Multiplying Useless Work

Have you ever wondered why small things can feel so huge? Do you want to know how to avoid feeling flustered because of small interruptions? I discovered an explanation in Matt Perman’s new book, What’s Best Next (which I reviewed here). Also, Perman gives some advice to help avoid this feeling, which you can find at the end of this post.

Researchers have found that whenever most systems — such as airports, freeways, and other such things — exceed about 90 percent capacity, efficiency drops massively. Not just slightly, but massively. This is called the “ringing effect.” The reason is that as a system nears its capacity, the effect of relatively small disturbances is magnified exponentially. This is why traffic slows down at rush hour almost inexplicably. When you think about it, unless there is an accident, there’s almost no reason that traffic should be going slow. And, here’s the thing: you’re right. Or, in other words, there is a reason, but it’s not what you’d expect. The reason traffic is slow is because of the relatively small and otherwise insignificant braking that some guy four miles ahead did — and the person a quarter mile behind him, and half a mile behind him. It’s not that they are slamming on their brakes; under ordinary circumstances, what they are doing would have almost no effect on the f low of traffic. The problem is that once capacity is past about 90 percent, small disturbances have a huge effect. And so traffic slows down, sometimes to a crawl. That’s the ringing effect.

Perman gives an example of how useless work multiplies when a system is too close to capacity:

You see the ringing effect, for example, when you are trying to schedule a meeting for ten people, and they all have to be there. It’s almost impossible to find a time that works for everyone, resulting in an untold number of emails going back and forth. And then, once everything is figured out, something unexpected comes up for someone and you need to reschedule the meeting again (and then reschedule the other stuff on your plate that is now interfering with the new time). That “rearranging” is the ringing effect. And it takes time away from the productive stuff that you have to do (in this case, times ten). And the effects continue cascading, for as you keep rescheduling, other people involved need to reschedule as well (even if they aren’t part of the group for the original meeting). And on it goes.

The best thing to do to avoid the ringing effect? Relentlessly prioritize your work by learning to say no to things that don’t fit inside your giftings or calling! We are finite creatures and shouldn’t expect that it is our job to solve every problem that comes our way. Remember this: the need is not the call…

Michael Hyatt has a great post on how to say no.

How about you? What other tips do you have for beating the ringing effect? Let us know in the comments?


How to Short-Circuit the Need for Experience in Gaining Wisdom

Seneca once said: “The way to wisdom is long if one follows the precepts but short if one follows the patterns.”Image

I think this stands as a good tagline for the following story:

There was a story on 60 Minutes a very long time ago about a pilot who was in his last few weeks before his mandatory retirement. On one flight’s takeoff, a light went on signaling that one of the plane’s engines was overheating. The co-pilot asked if he should shut down the engine in line with standard protocols. The pilot said “no,” circled around and landed the plane back on the runway they’d taken off from. Something had felt different to him.

 

It turned out that the engine light was functioning properly and that the engine was indeed overheating. The data was correct. Things had felt different to the pilot because the reason the engine was overheating was that the other three engines had already shut down. The overheating engine was working harder than normal because it was the only thing keeping the plane in the air.

 

Data are helpful for decisions. They can dictate routine, automated decisions. But complex, out-of-the-ordinary decisions are best made when data are filtered through experience.

This story was featured in the fantastic article titled “Why Google Can Not Run the World: Wisdom = Data + Experience“.

I bring it up because it demonstrates how we can short-circuit the difficult path of gaining wisdom through experience by copying those who already have it. This practice can help us skip the heartache normally required to learn wisdom, and as the above story illustrates, this is especially true when our mentors can’t explain why they know that life works the way it does.

Often, it is okay to trust the wisdom and intuition of those who should know, because the pay-off just might save you from a plane-wreck.


My New Media Diet – Bit Literacy by Mark Hurst

Image

I have been getting the bug to blog again! So now breaking radio silence…

After finishing a book called Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload, I made some major changes to the amount of data I allow into my life.The author, Mark Hurst, claims that discernment is the most necessary skill in “The Age of Bits”. Here are a few quotes which stood out:

The important thing is to learn how to engage the bits appropriately—to do the right thing with the bits at the right time. To rephrase Ecclesiastes, there’s a time to save, and a time to erase; a time to turn on, and a time to turn off; a time for all actions. But one must always look for ways to let the bits go. There is no other way to work in a world of infinite bits.

The scarce resource is not the bits but our time and attention to deal with them…if overload is the problem, then removing the load is the solution…Bit literacy means letting the bits go; anything else perpetuates the problem.

As Richard Saul Wurman put it in his 1989 book Information Anxiety: “One of the most anxiety-inducing side effects of the information era is the feeling that you have to know it all. Realizing your own limitations becomes essential to surviving an information avalanche; you cannot or should not absorb or even pay attention to everything.

The bit-literate approach involves creating and maintaining a media diet, a constantly pruned set of publications (digital, print, and other media) that keeps us informed about what matters most to us, professionally and personally. Like every other part of bit literacy, this is a discipline that users must take responsibility for. No one else can create our media diet…Once you have a media diet, you—and no one else—are in control of what you read, watch, and listen to. And you know the specific reasons why you engage each of your sources. Think of the media diet as a team of advisers you’ve hired to inform you about the world, on your terms. As the boss, you have to start by interviewing candidates, making some hires, and then continually evaluating how everyone is doing.

In response to reading this book I took several actions:

  • I culled my podcast list from over 60 to 25. I wanted to get down to 15 but couldn’t.
  • I also culled my blog roll from over 100 to 42.
  • Moved my mail app on my device to the back page instead of leaving it in my dock. In its place I moved my Kindle app so that I will more instinctively read instead of checking email when I don’t have the time to respond to my email.
  • I started using a tool called “Followupthen” to better manage my email. Bit Literacy describes a similar tool, but I wanted a free alternative. This one best suits my needs. It allows you to quickly email yourself in the future, so that emails only sit in your inbox when they are actually relevant to your life.

What strategies are you using to become more bit literate? Please Leave a comment below.


The Best Black Friday Kindle Deals

Here are the best Black Friday Kindle Deals for Christian readers. There are a few more than this, but some of these are normally very expensive, especially Scot McKnight’s book.