This episode I clear some thoughts from my head that have been rattling around since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Working from home, videoconferencing, and the need to be productive all get addressed in this soapbox session.
Made my first run to the grocery store since this whole virus issue got out of hand and guess what I found…
A whole lot of nothing. Seriously. What is the point of this behavior. Yes, I understand we are all to be staying home and that means we are consuming household items at an accelerated pace but good grief people this is absurd.
Panic buying like this (and this is nothing new, I’m in Pennsylvania, just let it threaten snow then try to buy eggs, bread, and milk) creates more problems than it solves and shows the lack of concern for other so prevalent today.
This doesn’t have anything to do with productivity aside from a rant so let’s put the proper spin on it. When working on a project you take time to estimate the resources needed for the time and scope to minimize the cost and maximize the utilitization. This is highly applicable here. Knowing how much you would normally consume and buying that rather than acting as if there will never be any more means there is more left for others and we all wind up in a better place.
Acting with thought rather than emotion, control over panic, and an awareness of the limited pool of resources from which we all draw can make all the difference, whether it’s on a project or buying toilet paper.
It feels like a never ending quest to find the right home for my blogging but I think I’ve settled on a landing place based on a bit of an epiphany I had last week. What occurred to me is I needed a place not only for long form thoughts but also short comments and ideas; these smaller entries usually went to social media platforms.
The current home of my blog is WordPress.com and this is where it will stay for the next 12 months. I’ve changed the visual design to a more “social media friendly” look and feel (we’ll see how well that works) as I start to ramp up my posting in volume but focusing on shorter form content intermixed with longer form content.
This is all experimental for the blog and for me so don’t be surprised if you see this strategy changes. If it does, have faith I’ll share the what and why as it happens.
Microsoft has been pressing the concept of Citizen Developers over the past few years; power users with the ability to build low-code or no-code solutions using their Power Platform in Office 365. While I’ve always been an advocate of spreading knowledge and skills to a broader audience especially within the business, the power of the Power Platform does raise concerns and considerations that must be addressed to avoid a chaos scenario of solutions.
The term is loaded but the phrase “best practices” can make a huge difference when it comes to creating long term supportable solutions vs. short term throwaway solutions. There are a number of professionals out there (Laura Rogers, Shane Young, and others) who can easily educate you on how to build Power Platform based solutions but are you educating within your organization and developing internal best practices to follow?
Documenting the construction of Power Platform based applications is not the easiest task because of how the applications themselves are configured and built. For a Citizen Developer to build a long term solution they need to be cognizant of the fact they may not be the developer who supports their application a year from now. Even more common, if they’re a skilled citizen developer, they may be called to task to support someone else’s application. Dedicating time and process to proper documentation can make the difference between spending an hour troubleshooting a problem and spending a day.
By it’s very nature, the Power Platform pushes a developer into certain design standards to allow for scalable and responsive design. Organizationally, coordinating your citizen developers around design standards for solution types, business branding, and usability helps mitigate the chaos and encourages a shorter learning curve when users are working with solutions built by different developers.
Nothing new under the sun
These are not new concepts; they have been around the developer community from the beginning days of computing. Where this is new is that non-developers have to learn the value of this effort and adopt it as part of their everyday methodology. It is in this that seasoned developers can be advocates of good development habits and procedures as citizen developers become more mainstream.
One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is the “flow” of my notes is as important as the content. What do I mean by flow? Let’s dig into this.
There’s normally two times I’m actively taking notes: when discussing or meeting with others and when I’m brainstorming ideas. In either case there is some bouncing around that happens, either from topic to topic or that wonderful stream of consciousness that generates the best ideas.
Capturing what I’m thinking usually isn’t too much of an issue. It’s connecting these various and often disparate notes into cohesive narratives that pose the challenge. My note taking is either analog in my notebooks or using OneNote. In one connecting notes is easy. In the other not so much.
Flow in OneNote
When capturing notes through OneNote, you can leverage the built-in outlining design of the notes or you can use hyperlinks to connect notes together. In either case (and they’re not mutually exclusive) the flow of the notes can be managed while being captured as well as after the fact.
Flow on paper
Capturing notes on paper can make flow management more difficult. Often notes on paper are more stream of consciousness than they are logically structured. I recommend taking time after capturing your raw notes to rewrite them into a logical, clear format. Not only does that help with organization but also with retention of the subject matter.
In either case it is key to capture context, content, and commitment. Understanding the reasoning behind notes as well as the specifics of a note, and ultimately any actions needed from the note can make or break your note taking system. Following my favorite process will help: Capture, Process, Report. Capture your notes then go back and process them into a format where you can report to yourself consistently and clearly the information.
Note taking is far more of a challenge for many than you would think and I count myself among them. Taking time to work and develop this skill pays off no matter what you’re doing.
The Being Productive podcast is on the air after a brief hiatus and the push is to make it better than ever. I’ve seen an impact from some episodes and not so much from others so I’ll be taking a close look at the data to make sure the content coming out is the most beneficial I can create.
You can pick up with what I’m affectionately calling “Season 2” from the web site or your favorite podcast player.