Chris Croft's Personal Blog

January 24, 2010

Give The Owls a Chance

Filed under: Gadgets, Happiness, Managing People — chriscroft @ 7:12 pm

There’s been lots of talk about letting teenagers start school an hour later (and finish an hour later) since their hormones make it hard for them to get up in the morning (or so my 17 year old son says).
But what about us grown up Owls?
Possibly due to our inbuilt time clocks being longer or shorter than 24 hours, some people love getting up early (23 hour clock) and then like to go to bed early as well. Weird! Others want one extra hour in bed every morning (25 hour clock) and want to stay up an hour later every night, happily working after midnight, but then regretting it each morning. Apparently software developers are much more likely to be Owls than Larks, with more of them still being up after 2am than being in bed before 10pm. I always knew software people were cool!
So why force them to be in work by 8.30 when they are half dead all morning? You’d get better results if you gave them the option of coming in at 11am and working till 7pm. And as long as someone covers the core hours when customers phone in, does it matter?
Just a thought!

Happy Christmas – but how?

Filed under: Uncategorized — chriscroft @ 6:58 pm

Everyone says it, but many people seem to not achieve it. So I’ve been thinking, and plundering my little happiness book, and here are ten things you can do to have a happier Christmas – I hope they work for you!
1.      Reduce stress during the lead-up by having one jobs to do list of everything.
2.      Focus on the good things rather than the annoying, both in the future (look forward rather than dread), the present (find things to savour, focus on the tiny pleasures of each day, find a way to enjoy even the chores), and the past (after each day think of three good things to give thanks for. Let the bad things go, they are in the past).
3.      Make the most of your relatives – the kids are what make Christmas magical and the old ones may not be around many more years, so make the most of the time you have, maybe ask them about their lives, maybe they have incredible stories to tell
4.      Get outside in the fresh air, even if it’s snowing. As the Norwegians say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!
5.      Get some exercise – it releases stress, makes you sleep better, and gives you a feeling of achievement.
6.      Make someone else happy – is there a lonely person in your street, or someone you can help with something? You’ll reap what you sow, one way or another.
7.      Do one or two unpleasant things that you have been putting off. Use some of the time to do something like clear out the shed, so you get a feeling of achievement rather than a feeling of having wasted the time.
8.      De-clutter: can you throw away more stuff than you are going to receive for Christmas. This would give you a feeling of achievement and avoid that feeling of one’s house gradually filling up…
9.      Make a list of things that you like doing but haven’t had time to do during the year but will do during the break, and maybe even schedule them into your diary. For example, I’m going to restart meditation for 20 minutes a day, investigate and learn Prezi, work on my perpetual calendar idea (yes, that IS my idea of fun!), maybe try Tai-Chi, and write/record some songs on my 8-track Tascam. Your list may well be different!
10. Take stock – rather than think of a couple of short term resolutions for the new year like “Watch less TV” have a proper think about what was good in 2009 that you’d like to continue or do more of, what was less good that you want to change in 2010, and what new things would you like to start doing.
So – have a good one!
Onwards and upwards

The 12 crimes of critical path diagrams

Filed under: Computer tips, Customer Care, Gadgets, Project Management, Sport — chriscroft @ 6:53 pm

This week a slightly technical Project Management tip, which will mean nothing to those who haven’t been trained*, but if you have (by me or anyone else) then I hope you keep this list and use it when next planning a project – you should find it extremely useful.

* but a quick summary: Network diagrams are like a sort of flow diagram of the tasks in a project so you can see the running order of what depends on what.  You can use a computer but post-its are best.  Normally they are drawn across the page, left to right.   The objective is to find the longest path, or ‘critical’ path, which tells you how long the project will take.

Using Post-its to make your critical path diagram

Common mistakes made by people doing network diagrams with post-its (or on a whiteboard)

1                    Vertical lines.  This is a sin because it’s not clear whether the line is going up or down.  Lines should always go diagonally across – makes the diagram much easier to understand.  Sometimes vertical lines are used to show that the tasks happen together – but in this case the two tasks should both feed from the one on their left and into the one on the right.

2                    Arrows going backwards (or forwards then backwards then forwards) – you must move the boxes so the arrows always flow to the right.  It makes it much easier to see the flow of the project.  Similarly arrows which cross over make the project much harder to “see”, though very occasionally these cannot be avoided.

3                    Dangle.  Every task should have at least one arrow coming into it and one coming out of it.  If it has no arrow coming out of it then why are you doing it?  At the very least, the arrow should go to “end”.

4                    Arrows coming out of the start of a box, or into the end of a box.  This is confusing – they should be drawn coming out of the end of one box and into the beginning of the next, from left to right.  Yes I know you might want to show lag, e.g. we want to start the next task half way through this one, but see next sin:

5                    Not granular enough.  If you want to start the next task half way through this one, then you need to break the first task into two.  Then, after the first half, you can show arrows going to the second half, and also to the next task.

6                    Redundant arrows.  This is getting tricky to describe in words alone, but I hope you’re still with me!  If you can’t pour the tea until you’ve boiled the kettle, and you can’t boil the kettle until you’ve filled it, you don’t need another arrow from fill kettle to pour tea.  Redundant arrows are often easy to spot since they form a triangle.

7                    Loops.  You can never have arrows that go backwards (ie right to left) and if you do then you run the risk of having an infinite loop.

8                    One task much too big.  If most of the tasks are a couple of weeks and there is one that is 8 months, then you probably need to granulate the big one: break it into smaller bits.

9                    Tasks of one day.  I don’t believe anything happens that quickly.  Especially not several in a row.

10                Mixed units – if you have some durations in days and some in weeks, or months, the adding up will probably go wrong.  The whole point of the network diagram is to make the project instantly visible.

11                Too series or too parallel.  After a while you just know when a critical path chart doesn’t look right.  It should be a mix of parallel and series tasks.  Too liner = too slow, too parallel = too risky and needs too many resources.

12                “Ongoing”.  All tasks must have a start and a finish.  If you can’t do this for a task and you find yourself wanting to say the forbidden O word then it needs to be broken down further.

Onwards and upwards



Hello world!

Filed under: Uncategorized — chriscroft @ 6:46 pm

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