Stop and Go

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    This week: How reading at different speeds can help you be efficient and promote deeper understanding. Plus: Different work speeds, and a fresh approach to Equity.

    Working Fast and Slow

    If you are into personal productivity, you’ve probably encountered focus techniques like the Pomodoro technique. Most people who use these dedicated focus strategies for any period become amazed at how much they can get done in short bursts of deeply focused activity. I’ve actually had this experience myself in the last few days, as I unexpectedly had a huge writing project that I needed to get done in just a couple of days. Focus periods came to my rescue, and as I look back on the experience, I am stunned at how much I got done so quickly.

    So, given that these types of techniques are so often effective and the payoff so high, why are we not all deep in focus periods all the time? After all, regular intense focus could probably shave hours off of the average work week for most people.

    The answer comes back to a fairly common theme for a newsletter called Humanity Working – we are all human. For all the benefit of a technique like this, it requires discipline (something that ebbs and flows) and focused energy (something that also ebbs and flows). Plus, many of us vary in our ability to focus, no matter what techniques we use.

    One of the main reasons I’ve been thinking about this is in the light of some renewed discussion about 4-day work weeks, 32-hour work weeks and various other variants, including my personal favorite (a five-day work week followed by a four-day work week). I think much of the discussion about this, however well intentioned, is misguided. Yes, it is possible that many people can get as much accomplished in 4 days as in 5 by focusing their energy. But it’s also true that sprinting hard and fast works sometimes, while at other times slower and steadier is better.

    I hope and believe that where we will end up is flexible work arrangements that don’t discriminate against any particular work style, but which also emphasize the need for rest and recovery in employees. And for me, THAT cannot arrive fast enough.



    In 10 years at Microsoft and many more as an onsite vendor, I attended a lot of training on DEI/DEIB. It’s actually a topic I’m very interested in, as I think it provides a rational framework for understanding the differences between us, and differences are a key part of what makes us human.

    This type of work actually provides a foundation for much of what we do at BillionMinds. After all, if you are building a human skills development platform for all employees, it’s essential to understand how people differ. NOT reflecting differences is one of the key reasons traditional soft skills development fails.

    Then, a couple of months ago I was sent Minal Bopaiah‘s book on Equity – with a view to interviewing Minal on our Humanity Working podcast. I’ll freely admit that while I was interested in the topic, I didn’t expect to learn that much.

    Then I read the book.

    Equity – How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives provides an almost entirely new (though really well researched) take on the topic. Not only that, but it’s far from dry. The book is as entertainingly written as you might expect from someone who called her company Brevity and Wit. Plus, it’s loaded with concrete examples that really bring things home. This book deeply challenged my thinking on more than one occasion, and I started to think seriously about not only what BillionMinds can do differently, but what I can do as an individual. If you are interested equity or just interested in the world, read it.

    In case I haven’t convinced you yet, I did indeed sit down with Minal for an interview. You can view it in full below, or find it on the Humanity Working podcast, along with all our other episodes.

    Reading Fast and Slow

    Video Length: 1 minute 52 Sec.

    With so much information flowing around us, speed reading is now a “must have” skill for many. But as we get better at it, a lot of us struggle to slow down and read with more intent. This week, my animated twin takes a look at ways you can combine speed reading with more thoughtful reading to be efficient and effective, without losing comprehension.

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