Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Order and Focus through Gmail Cleanup

A few days ago I noticed, again, that my unread count in Gmail is far greater than I would like. Noting that the count was only for my Inbox, not including the unread mails in the Social, Promotions and the other tabs I was using I knew the situation was much worse. Still, this was not the main problem. the main problem was that I was starring important To-Do items and then letting them slip as they were pushed to oblivion by new, unread mails. I needed to get Gmail to sort my mails in another order. I wanted my starred items on top. So I went into Settings and figured out a way to do it.

Here's how my Inbox is set up now:

  • First I have all items with "Calendar" label - I set up a rule to have all the auto-reminders from Google's Calendar directed automatically to that label without staying in my Inbox more that an instant. This is a tiny list as I delete anything's that in the past.
  • Next I have my starred list - this should be kept under 10 items at all times. If I go over 10 it means I must kick something off it by taking care of it immediately.
  • Then comes the unread list - this is currently still too long but I'm working on trimming it. I've already filed away quite a lot of the unread clutter using labels and deleted a lot too. I'm hoping to get it under 10 at all times as well.
  • Last is the rest of my inbox.
This order led me to admit I am getting far too much mails I really don't need. When I used the tabs method those mails didn't bother me. I'd go in to the non-Inbox tabs and run wholesale delete jobs 2-3 times a week and thought nothing of it. This new order made me start unsubscribing and cleaning up my act.

To clean up my unread list I have started reading all those blog posts and updates I have kept in order to read "later". It seems I've accumulated quite a few of "Dr. Lisa" Lang's blog posts, so now I am reading through them ad loving them, of course. The funny thing is Dr. Lisa talks a lot (and I do mean A LOT) about focus, and with the way I was running my mailbox that's the one thing I didn't have....

So, if you aren't subscribed to the Science of Business blog or the Velocity Scheduling System blog I highly recommend you subscribe to them. If you have any good tips for Inbox control - please share with us by commenting on this post.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Amazing Power of Clear Thinking

So I wasn't planning to write an update on my Logical Thinking class just yet, the next lesson will be tomorrow. Then tonight at dinner something great happened. My younger son, who is soon to be 9 years old and takes my class, saw me preparing the handout he asked for, the one with the logic tree we made last week (as I reported here). So he decided to make his own logic tree. Later I figured out he thought that was their homework, though I only asked for simple If..Then connections.

He sat down and started working on his tree, soon he asked me to review it. It was upside down and quite illogical. He had effects leading to causes, he had facts for effects instead, when trying to read it out using If...Then it made no sense and his statements did not abide any of the rules for writing correct statements. It didn't matter - not to him and not to me, though I did read it out loud to him and asked if he found it made sense, he did. I left it at that. Then he continued working on the tree. As he was working he said - this is a tree of my problem, it explains what is causing it.

I was astonished and very delighted at his ability to figure out, all on his own, that this logic tree thing is really useful and powerful. I think this is the result of the clarity of thinking you reach when using the tree as a guideline to thinking.

In her book "Thinking for a Change", Lisa Scheinkopf claims that learning the basic tools of logical thinking, sufficient cause and necessary condition, is enough. From there you can build everything on your own. I guess my boy proves her right.

Tune in soon to learn how lesson 2 turns out.

Dominoes and Root Causes

Have you ever asked yourself how can it be that the small changes TOC calls for can create such a significant reaction, I think I found the answer.

Now, don't get me wrong, I know those changes are extremely hard, but how can you call a change that costs no money and can be done in less than a week, such as changing priorities on the shop floor, anything but a small change? All the TOC solutions are based on these small changes - hold inventory at a different point in the supply chain, start doing things at a different time, change the way you plan, measure different things. These are not technology based solutions (as in "Buy this technology and all your problems will be solved", which we all know doesn't work out like that, ever) but solutions that sometimes need technological support. So the solution isn't based on investment, although it might sometimes be required. OK, I think you get my drift.

So how do they do it? Well, TOC talk and the TP talk are all about causality and using this causality to find the root cause of things. this means they are full of chains and chain reactions. This always remind me of dominoes and that's what led me to this clip:
At first I did not see any connection between this and the TOC chain reactions but then I realized this holds a very basic truth - it takes very little effort to start the chain reaction going and once started, each step releases all the energy stored in it, amplifying the effect. The amplification can sum up FAST. It also confirms what we all know, intuitively,that it's much harder to fix the big things at the end of the chain and much easier to fix the small things at the beginning, which is why TP has you looking for the root cause - the smallest domino. The only main difference from this dominoes example is that real life seems to recharge on it's own, at least partially. You do not have to pick up each and every domino in order to start a new chain reaction.

Do you think the physical explanation hold true for real life situations? please share your thoughts.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Elementary, My Dear Watson" - My First Logical Thinking Class

It's been ages since I've blogged here, I got caught up by a wicked current in the stream of life.... I'm hoping for a smoother sail in the coming future. Still, I had to share this with the people I knew would understand the most, my faithful readers.

I've started teaching a class about the Thinking Processes in my boys' school. It is a democratic school and the children choose which classes to attend. I have around 7 elementary school boys in my class, including my younger son. They are all, it seems to me, in 4th and 5th grades. Last Friday was our 3rd lesson and for the first time I could say it was a good one. Yep, I had a few false starts until I got the feel for my "customers". I have learnt the hard way that with this group I can't, at least at this time, teach them. I have to let them learn. If I stand there and talk to them, explaining my head off, they just get board. Since this is a democratic school they will then choose to stop attending the class, and I wouldn't fault them. Instead I have to create an environment or situation where they generate the learning and enjoy it.

Well, this last lesson was their first introduction to logic. I had planned to use this small section of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Dancing Men" Sherlock Holmes mystery.



Initially I was going to read the section with them and then analyze it. After 2 sessions with the group it was clear to me that a new approach was needed. I created a detective game. I took the facts Holmes presents and created 'clue cards'. Each boy got a clue card and they had to figure out which clue was related to which. I stood at the board and wrote the tree as they figured out the logic. I knew I got it right when they started asking questions, trying to understand where all of this fits into "real life".

I gave them homework to try and find causal (If...Then) relationships in their everyday life.

Check here how things turned out