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Productivity

Exciting new multi-monitor feature coming to Chromebooks

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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Every professional understands the power of a dual screen setup. The additional real estate enables a more fluid and productive work process.

I use a tone of platforms (mainframe & mini to Mac, Windows and Linux) and I find that ChromeOS handles multi-screen setups with ease and grace. Every time I have hooked an external display to a "good" Chromebook (something that costs $500 or more), it has worked flawlessly immediately without having to fiddle or fine tune.

I have successfully connected 2 external monitors to my Pixelbook at work using a Lenovo USB hub but this isn't something most people will have access to and therefore the 3 monitor option normally isn't used.

We know the sultan of search, El Goog, is working on an elegant solution to solve this 2 external monitor issue using a technology called display daisy chaining. This is something that is known in the industry but not currently supported on ChromeOS. The idea is to connect one USBC monitor to your Chromebook and then connect the second USBC monitor to the first one (as long as the monitor supports it).

This means you can connect (eventually) one cable to your device and everything just works. Technically this daisy chaining will be able to go beyond 2 external monitors to a larger number (as long as your device hardware can push the required number of pixels).

This is a request we have regularly seen in the Chromium forums

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How do we know it is coming? We know it is coming because we can see a commit for Multi-Stream Transport Support or something called Hatch.

The commit enables a chip to support the Multi-Stream flow and there is a good chance this won’t be enabled on existing older Chromebooks. We know that generically Multi-Stream required DisplayPort 1.2 and a handful of Chromebooks already have it so… There is hope for existing customers. We will just have to wait and see.

Many of you know I love my Pixelbook and may be wondering… “Does the Pixelbook support displayport?”

The answer is that the Pixelbook does support Displayport. The USBC ports on the Pixelbook are of type 3.1 Gen1 and support PowerDelivery (PD), DisplayPort (DP) and HDMI.

We don’t know which version of ChromeOS this will be enabled in yet. That’s all for this article dear readers. Stay tuned for more cool tech news as I find them.

Google launches New Tasks App (Mobile & Web)

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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In a blog post entitled "With new security and intelligent features, the new Gmail means business", David Thacker (Google VP Product Management, G Suite) announced, "We’re also introducing a new way to manage work on the go with Tasks."

The new refreshed Tasks system will be available on the web and have accompanying mobile apps (Android and IOS). The new updated Tasks system will allow you to create tasks & subtasks with due dates and notifications. 

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The current tasks was an anemic stand-alone product that barely worked. The new one will integrate into the G Suite and allow you to drag & drop emails from GMAIL, files from Google Drive and more. 

Now you can quickly reference, create or edit Calendar invites, capture ideas in Keep or manage to-dos in Tasks all from a side panel in your inbox.
— David Thacker

The announcement is happening in the G Suite (Enterprise blog), but this update will flow to the free consumer-friendly version as well. 

The Google help centre provides additional information about how all of this will work.

Download the new Android version here and the IOS one here

The Workflow IOS Automation app is now free

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Automation can be help with simple tasks like converting a webpage to PDF or can become a complex monster saving you hundreds of hours a year. Until the Workflow app came to IOS, true automation was an Android only benefit.

The $5 app is now permanently free because Apple acquired them

The Workflow app has been around for a couple of years and is a distant cousin (functionally) to IFTTT. It allows users to string together a series of actions, tasks, conditions and inputs and perform all kinds of useful tasks.

It can:

  • Encode media
  • Record Audio
  • Post on social media
  • Automate app functionality where a URL scheme is exposed
  • Send emails
  • Pull RSS feeds
  • much much more

What we don't know yet is what Apple will do with the team and the app. It was made free but there is always the risk Apple will kill the app and move some of the functionality to:

  • a new Apple branded app
  • into a new version of IOS
  • into a new service running on iCloud

The Hidden Killer of Your Creativity

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Image by  Becky Wetherington  used under creative commons license

Image by Becky Wetherington used under creative commons license

Last minute work on school assignments was the norm for most university students. They wait until the last minute then “pull an all-nighter”.

Many feel that this pressure to deliver makes them work better but recent scientific evidence shows that this may actually be completely false.

It seems pressure may actually stifle innovation and creativity. It pushes you down a conventional path.

Some of the most successfully entrepreneurs are people that have learned to deal with pressure. Even when carrying the weight of the world, they are cool, calm and in control.

Be mindful

Any yogi or meditator will extort the virtues of living “in the moment”.

Think about the last time you were waiting in the lobby to be interviewed for a job. In this particular situation, most people feel stressed. They feel fear. They feel eager. Their body reacts to this stress by releasing cortisol. They may sweat a little and even have some nervous ticks.

None of these is ideal for creativity. You are rarely putting your best foot forward in these stressful situations.

But remember that the stress you feel isn’t because of something that is happening then and there (in the moment). It is because you are worried about what you think may happen.

If you are able to be “in the moment”, then you will release the stress and shine like the star you are meant to be.

The research

Professor Teresa Amabile (from Harvard Business School) conducted research into creativity in the workplace and discovered that employees under pressure almost never performed optimally when completing tasks. Funny enough many thought they were optimally creative but measurably they were not.

Rear my article Monotasking is the new productivity hack

Read my article How to set personal goals, which talks about starting with the end in mind.

Stress Physiology

Epinephrine and norepinephrine are stress hormones produced when you feel stressed. It is the physiological response know as flight or fight. These hormones help you move faster during emergencies.

The other hormone produced during excessive stress is cortisol. Psychology Today called Cortisol The Stress Hormone public enemy No 1

Excess cortisol in your system can lead to a host of health issues including weight gain, osteoporosis, digestive problems, cancer and much more (1, 2, 3.

In addition to wreaking havoc on your body, it can have devastating effects on your mind.

Stress creates free radicals

Cortisol creates a surplus of the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate in turn creates free radicals that attack brain cells (similar to how rust affects metal).

Stress makes you forgetful and emotional

One of the early symptoms of stress is becoming forgetful and emotional.

Studies show that stress causes a reduction in brain electrical activity associated with memories and an increase in activity associated with emotions.

Stress negatively impacts intelligence

I wrote about stress on creativity and stress makes your brain seize up. Think about our primitive ancestors and how they reacted when being chased by a lion. The fight or flight response means your physical characteristics are improved, your reactions are improved but your reasoning and logic suffer. After all you don’t need deep critical thinking when running to save your life.

How can you handle pressure?

First thing first, remember that regardless of how important you think your job is, you aren’t performing brain surgery. Our job is important to us but it isn’t critical to the survival of all humans so chill. Take it easy on yourself.

When feeling stressed about an upcoming situation, ask yourself, “whats the worst that can happen? Then realize that things aren’t actually that bad and relax.

Olympic athletes spend as much time mentally preparing as they do physically. They mentally perform their duties over and over to ensure they are relaxed when they need to perform. It becomes automatic and routine. If you are heading into an interview and you know you will be stressed, prepare and practise.

The second tip is to mentally practice over and over. Make sure you know what the ideal final result looks like and focus on that.

I ran the information security team for a large multinational manufacturer that was regularly attacked. By constantly practising the incident handling processes, our handlers were calmer and more confident when the real thing did happen.

Confidence is the third technique I want to share.

Having confidence in yourself will usually lead to less stress and increased productivity.

When handling an incident, it is easy to get overwhelmed. You are dealing with a skilled adversary out to get you. They are technically strong, well funded and extremely motivated. It is easy to get overwhelmed and freeze up. But I always tell my people to be optimistic. Regardless of how bad it may seem in that moment, I truly believed that things would get better. And my ensuring my team believed in that as well, it makes the process easier to manage and made my people more productive and efficient.

Optimism is the fourth technique.

How to visually become more productive and improve your efficiency

GeneralEdward Kiledjian2 Comments

Whether I’m coaching a junior fresh out of school or a seasoned executive with 30 years of experience, almost everyone tells me they are overloaded and that their personal life is suffering.

We have been raised to separate (or try to at least) our work and personal lives. After all, they are very separate things.

Right? WRONG!

A good example is improving your health. Improving your health means eating better and exercising more but it also means reducing stress. So to holistically improve your health, your plan must include both personal actions and work time related actions.

Kanban

My last employer was large multinational manufacturing organization that benefitted greatly from the concepts of Kanban and Lean manufacturing.

Next time you walk into your local supermarket, look at the fresh produce section. How many products do they carry? The larger stores carry an impressive amount but they typically only carry products that they know will sell. Produce also has limited shelf life, so this means they order their products as close to the sale date as possible (predicting demand).

A key concept in Kanban is Just In Time ordering and manufacturing. Toyota, the creator or Kanban, used this Just in Time system to cut inventory costs and optimize the workflow, they set up visual board showing the assembly flow for the entire factory. If you walked into my last employer’s manufacturing site, every employee knew what would be worked on that day, how fast they would have to work and any potential issues that have been logged in the last 30/60 days. This visual information allowed the employees to work knowing what was coming and therefore made them more productive.

Kanban in your personal life

You are a person, so how does this apply? Regardless of your time management strategy of choice (mine is Getting Things Done), you need to “capture all of your open loops” and place them in a trusted system.

Related articles - The four truths about Getting Things Done (GTD)

By capturing everything you have committed to doing but haven’t already completed, you create a visual dashboard of everything in the “pipeline” and at the same time you benefit from clearing your mind.

Just In Time manufacturing in your personal life also means that you keep your actual “today workflow” (or Work In Progress tasks) to a bare minimum. There is no use trying to finish 24 things at the same time. By properly managing your to do list and then prioritizing appropriately, you are able to spend your time on the handful of most valuable activities.

Setting up your personal system

The main concept in Kanban is making the work visual. Anyone that has worked with me knows I need a whiteboard in the office and typically more than one.

My last whiteboard had these columns on it: - Capture (where everything not processed went) - Next Action (the very next actions for the chosen work to be done). This also included items I wanted to QA from my team before defining as completed. - Waiting for (when I was waiting for something from someone else) - Done this week (completed items I tabulated every week)

This is the visual part of Kanban and is step 1.

Step 2 is to ensure you have captured all of your open loops. Chose a method for capturing everything you have committed to but haven’t yet done so you can get it out of your head (capture everything from buying groceries to signing that multi-billion dollar contract).

Step 3 in the Kanban system is to determine an optimal yet realistic workflow rate. How much can you reasonably accomplish this hour/day/week?

Weekly Review & Kanban workflow

Before you start your weekly review, you must ensure all of your open loops are captured. To do this, I recommend going over your notes from meetings, capture column on your whiteboard, reviewing your calendar, going through your email and everywhere else you could have a task that you will need to accomplish.

Once it is captured, based on your high-level work/life goals, you can determine that are the most pressing X elements you should get done during this planning phase (can be daily but I recommend a weekly approach). Everything you commit to doing should go on your board in the next Actions column. Ultimately these will be the most important items. The items most aligned with your work and life goals.

You then pull work from the Next Action column, action it and complete it then move it to the Done column. By writing things you have completed, it is a positive reminder that things are moving in the right direction (we often forget). Every time you look at it, you will feel like you accomplished something and it will fuel your continued work.

Tracking

One important element of Kanban in our manufacturing environment was tracking of performance metrics to identify issues. The same applied to your personal implementation of Kanban.

You coloured markers and commitments to track deviations from expected performance. If you miss a due date, write it in red. If you notice something takes longer than expected, write it in orange, etc. At the end of the week (during your weekly review) you can review these metrics and figure out, “what’s going on”. Is it that something is taking you longer than expected regularly (i.e. financial review)? Maybe this is because you are lacking some of the required skills, you are improperly planning the work, etc. By knowing what deviated and why, you can implement a permanent corrective action.