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eric kraus

teamwork
multitasking

The Truth About Multi-tasking

The question has been asked many times before…

“Is it possible for people to multi-task?”

Productivity experts generally agree, humans just aren’t made for multi-tasking. Yet many people claim they are great at it. We even see job descriptions with qualifications like: “seeking someone that can prioritize and multi-task effectively.”

In order to have an opinion on the matter, it’s important we first understand the definition of the word.  The term “multi-tasking” comes from modern computer lingo describing technology that processors have gained so that multiple tasks can be completed (seemingly) “at the same time”.

 

Sequential Tasking

With the invention of the first computers, work primarily executed in discrete tasks. Each task needed to wait for the previous to complete before the processor could load the next to execute.

A visit to the motor vehicle office will be a crushing reminder of this. You wait patiently until your number is called. When it’s your turn, your request, regardless of how complex it is, gets the undivided attention of your agent. After you license is renewed, you are on your way, and the next number is called. This way processing is designed to be fair, effective and minimize human error.

 

Multi-Tasking

With the evolution of modern computing, we don’t have the same limitations as we do in the “human world”. Modern processors offer more scale and efficiency than people, with almost zero error too.

However, the term “multi-tasking” is somewhat of a misnomer to us humans. Computer processors don’t actually execute tasks “at the same time”. Rather, tasks are still executed individually, but the processor allows a task to efficiently “interrupt” an existing task that is waiting for something else to happen. During this waiting period, the second task is able to borrow the processor’s time and execute. When the original task is ready to resume again, it must wait for any current tasks to complete. It will then borrow time back and complete itself.

To the end user, all of this task “switching” is done so quickly, it appears as if it’s all at the same time. The truth is, processors are just extremely efficient at switching between these computer tasks.

Here’s a modern example: you walk into a coffee shop and order a cup of coffee. The barista is working on another drink order, but while the beans are grinding, he makes your drink and you’re on your way. He then finishes the first drink and everyone is happy. One could argue this talented barista made two drinks at the same time; however, we know semantically this isn’t really the case.

 

So when it comes to  human multi-tasking, the question still stands: “Is it possible for us to multi-task?”  The answer, yes definitely, it just depends on the types of tasks we are switching between.

 

It’s All About The Switching

Processors are designed to be extremely efficient at switching quickly between tasks. They are so efficient…the experience to the end user appears like things are happening at the same time, but we know now, that’s not technically the case.

The coffee shop example is a great one for comparison. For a barista, switching between two or more similar, routine tasks is totally feasible. Another example is making dinner. Cooking 3 or 4 things at the “same time” requires a skill in switching between doing dozens of individual things, one after another (rather than all at the same time). The tolerance for little bits of error is acceptable as well.

As professionals, we are typically engaged in more complex tasks that require focus and deeper, analytical thinking. This analytical thinking requires a longer “ramp up” time and therefore does not lend itself well to this “fast switching”. Our jobs also generally have less acceptance for errors and therefore require extra attention to detail.  There is good research that shows the more complex a task is, the more that switching between them will cause a loss in productivity.

So, while we have been led to believe that multi-tasking is a desirable skill in the professional world, the resulting loss in productivity leads many to abandon this strategy as a means to “get more done”.

 

A Case for More Time just… Thinking

Before we get down on ourselves for being terrible multi-taskers…we need to recognize what our true strength is. Our brains were simply not designed for switching; they were designed for deep, analytical and creative thinking. This is our sweet spot. These days, we don’t spend nearly enough time dedicated to using this super-power.

Over the years, we’ve created a culture of instant gratification…one that rewards quick responses, often valuing immediacy over completeness or creativity. This go-go mentality is causing people to fall short of of our human potential to develop new ideas. We go from meeting to meeting in which we are interrupted dozens of times with text/instant messages, email alerts and more. At the end of the day, what have we accomplished? Is our badge of honor one of simply ‘being busy’.

I’m making a case that we need to build a new culture. One centered around the values teamwork and creativity. One that rewards better results, not just faster answers. We need to set aside time in our day dedicated to thinking and creativity. Some would argue, “getting actual work done”.  This is what differentiates us from computers and will continue to evolve us, solve world problems and create a future rich for generations to follow.

top 10

Microsoft Awesome Updates – 2018Q1

Our team is pulling together what we believe are the top “Awesome” updates for each quarter. Hoping this is something I can share on a quarterly/regular basis for individuals and organizations wanted to stay up to date on changes. It’s an added filter of what we need our customers to see and what we see our customers already most interested in.

Administrators, please continue to monitor the Message Center for official updates.

 

Awesome Updates for 2018 Q1

Productivity

Cloud Voice Deployment Practical Guidance – Microsoft Teams, the hub for teamwork and communications in Office 365, now provides Audio Conferencing and Phone System with Calling Plans capabilities to meet additional business requirements by extending the Teams meeting and calling experience to include external parties connected via the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).

Teamwork across Devices Update -bringing great new value to Office 365 subscribers, with updates that enhance how teams work together and unlock new ways to create and manage content across devices.

Microsoft Teams Update – January Updates – Microsoft continues to add new capabilities on a regular basis to make Microsoft Teams an even more powerful hub for teamwork. Here’s a summary of the main updates that we introduced in December and January.

Gartner Report on Microsoft Teams and Intelligent Communications -Gartner recently published a report analyzing the impact of the decision to make Teams the hub for teamwork and makes recommendations for decision makers when mapping their requirements.

Microsoft Whiteboard Preview – Microsoft Whiteboard Preview is built for anyone who engages in creative, freeform thinking before getting to their final output. It’s designed for teams that need to ideate, iterate, and work together both in person and remotely, and across multiple devices.

Print from Azure AD Joined Devices – Now people in your organization can use Azure AD-joined devices to discover on-premise printers, and can print from work or from home or from anywhere else they can connect to the internet.

Microsoft Teams App Studio Preview – Microsoft Teams App Studio (Preview) makes it easy to start creating or integrating your own service, whether you develop custom apps for your enterprise or SaaS applications for teams around the world.

Shared Office Codebase -With the newest version of Office for Mac, version 16.9.0, Microsoft has extended capabilities like real-time co-authoring and AutoSave to Apple users; in fact, this release marks the first time in 20 years that Office shares the same codebase across Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android for core functionalities.

 

 

Security (Identity / Information Protection / Threat Protection)

Schooling A Sea of Phish – the team of engineers developing Office 365 ATP invested much of their time focusing on maintaining a malware catch rate >99.9% effectiveness, reducing file detonation times to < 60 seconds, and launching a bevy of features to enhance the control and capabilities for security admins… and the result of their efforts led to Office ATP achieving all three of those goals.

Enhancements to Productivity App Discovery in Office 365 Cloud App Security – gives you the ability to understand what cloud services are being used in your organization that have similar functionality to Office 365. Today we are excited to announce enhancements to this feature based on feedback to help you do a more thorough investigation of the discovered apps.

Microsoft Cloud App Security 3rd Party Integrations -While customers all over the world use Office 365 DLP to protect their sensitive data in Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, we also recognize that many customers have already invested in multiple DLP solutions across their environment and want to extend this investment to protect their cloud applications.

Azure AD Conditional Access “What If” Tool -The What If tool helps you understand the impact of the policies on a user sign-in, under conditions you specify. Rather than waiting to hear from your user about what happened, you can simply use the What If tool.

 

Governance / Compliance

Azure AD Expiration Policy for Office 365 Groups – Office 365 groups expiration policies allow administrators to set an expiration timeframe for any Office 365 group. Once that timeframe is set, owners of these groups get notification emails reminding them to renew these groups if they still need them. Groups not renewed will automatically be deleted.

 

 

Support / Lifecycle Updates

Changes to Office and Windows Servicing – two years before the end of extended support for Windows 7 and Office 2010 (January and October 2020, respectively) – Microsoft is announcing servicing extensions for Windows 10, changes to the Office 365 ProPlus system requirements, and new details on the next perpetual release of Office and Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) release of Windows.

 

 

2018 Goals

One of the best ways to accomplish your goals is to hold yourself publicly accountable. For some, it’s as simple as telling people about what you’re trying to achieve.  For others, it’s about building engagement on the journey.

I’m hoping this inspires others to do the same (be public with your goals) as well as encourage feedback on my own journey.

[updated]

 

100 Books in 2018

I’m starting this goal late (February). Rather than figure out how I’ll measure this against the year, I’m just… starting. The goal is to read 100 books in 2018 and I’ll be keeping track of them here.  You’ll notice a general theme to my books, but I’m really open. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

 

 

  

New Productivity Strategy: Reflection

This post is a follow up to the New Productivity Strategy post I wrote on October 31. I wanted to give this new strategy a go for a month and see if it had any impact on getting more “work” done.

To catch you up, my new framework looked something like this:

  1. My 50+ item task list will get prioritized to my “must do” top 5
  2. Those 5 items are my “only do” list for the moment
  3. New emails fall on the “never do” list, so I won’t check email until my “must do” items are done
  4. After done, I’ll check email, triage and re-prioritize the task list
  5. Take a break
  6. Repeat

Rather than simply “focus” on the things to do, I was getting sucked in to a daily routine of just following up on interruptions: email, instant message, etc. So many in fact, I could go days without getting any of my actual tasks done.

This new approach is reinforcing a few valuable lessons in prioritization:

  • We can only prioritize a few things at the same time…and really only really work on ONE thing at a time. Proper goal setting for the day is critical.
  • It’s important to specifically call out things that are consistently distractions – email and IM are #1 for me. Email is actually de-prioritized on my list and I no longer log into IM tool.
  • Some things you just can’t put on the Never Do List. While I can’t remove email completely, I can designate specific times to do it…and do it fast. Internal email doesn’t warrant the same scrutiny as something written to a client. Most of the time quantity is better than quality.
  • Delegation is important, but it has overhead on the follow through. If you are consistently delegating a task, it might be valuable to remove yourself from the middle. 
  • I’ve played with the Pomodoro Technique over the years, but it has recently come in very handy to carve out time for forced breaks OR time to catch up on email.
  • This approach takes a discipline in saying “no”. Historically, that’s been a weakness of mine. 

The biggest challenge in all of this is the feeling of dropping other tasks, letting others down or not appearing as useful as others. However, the bigger let down would be not completing the few things one must get done.

As far as the workload, I am absolutely making significant progress. As expected, it’s a bit disruptive to others that are used to the quick turn around on “interruptions”.  Setting proper expectations with them has been helpful. The bigger lesson in all of this is being aware of the need for change and continually experimenting/growing to meet  the need.

 

Microsoft Awesome Updates – 2017Q4

Our team is pulling together what we believe are the top “Awesome” updates for each quarter. Hoping this is something I can share on a quarterly/regular basis for individuals and organizations wanted to stay up to date on changes. It’s an added filter of what we need our customers to see and what we see our customers already most interested in.  These posts will serve as a summary “notification”, while I keep the Modern Workplace Must Read page always current. 

 

Awesome Updates for 2017 Q4

Workplace Analytics – powerful new organizational analytics solution that harvests signals from Office 365 to help organizations better understand how they collaborate and spend time.

Intelligent Communications Strategy – bringing comprehensive calling and meetings capabilities into Microsoft Teams (read: Skype for Business and Teams are merging)…along with data and insights from the Microsoft Graph, and a strong roadmap of innovation to empower teams to achieve more.

Power BI Premium – new offering that brings dedicated capacity and read access for everyone in the org, without having to buy a license for ever user

On-Prem Data Classification / Protection – Azure Information Protection has the ability to encrypt content in Office 365, but what about content in fileshares and SharePoint Server on-prem. AIP Scanner can automatically crawl and inventory these documents giving you more information about the content you have before you move it online.

OneDrive Files On-Demand – as people create and collaborate more, they shouldn’t have to worry about if there is enough storage to synchronize all of their files. With Files On-Demand, you can access all your files in the cloud without having to download them. All your files—even online files—can be seen in File Explorer and work just like every other file on your device.

Connect Existing SharePoint Online Sites to Office 365 Groups / Microsoft Teams – if the title isn’t self-explanatory, you will now have the ability to connect existing SharePoint Online sites to Office 365 Groups. Sites will retain their existing URL, but will gain the ability to participate in conversations and Group navigation

Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection Safe Links for iOS & Android – organizations leveraging Office 365 ATP have the ability to now protect mobile users with click-time protection against phishing attacks.

Usage Reporting Overhaul – including Microsoft Teams – lots of updates to the usage reporting area of Office 365 and also the inclusion of Microsoft Teams. Also a peek at what’s coming. Usage Score?! Say what?!

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update – Windows 10 gets its own top 10 list with the release of the Fall Creators Update. The update includes an uplift on Windows Defender capabilities, AutoPilot for easier workstation provisioning and loads of other security and user productivity updates.

No Non-Sense Guide to Microsoft Approach to GDPR – how do you make sense of the regulation and the portfolio of tools in Office 365 and the Enterprise Mobility & Security suites.  Here’s a great basic 101 primer.

New Productivity Strategy

I recently took a new role with my company. It wasn’t a difficult transition. I have the same responsibilities…just different customers I work with. It was a change I was excited for. Being someone that values growth, how can you learn if you aren’t exposed to new things.

However, with the transition came with a number of other organizational changes as well. With everyone around me also changing roles, it was chaos.

“the way I worked in the past simply wasn’t working anymore”

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Habits Are The Key To Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a relatively new concept that’s getting a lot of buzz lately. Many people are seeking to be more “mindful” and are trying to pay more attention to little things in life: everything from feeling a breath in their lungs to noticing the specific color of the sky.

There is no ‘one thing’ that means being mindful; and mindfulness is not a destination to achieve. There is no right or wrong way to do it: there is only practicing it. It’s an art slowing down and increasing ones awareness of the self and world.

Why? Because studies show these small moments of mindfulness lead to happier people.

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Sensory Deprivation Float Tank

I recently took the advice of a colleague and spent 90 minutes in a sensory deprivation float tank to help myself relax better. Freaky huh?!  Absolutely not, it was unreal.

Preparation

I was a bit anxious about the experience overall. Being completed isolated from light, sound, etc. and in such a small enclosed tank. I’m not normally a claustrophobic person, but the tank had some how made it into my mind in the same filing cabinet as military intelligence techniques for water boarding.

Like most things in my life, I did a ton of research. I watched YouTube videos, read blog posts, and talked to several people. However, all research concluded with the same experience:

“It was awesome.”

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Motivation vs. Willpower

Motivation” is the reason for which you choose to do something or behave a certain way. Having a lot of motivation is simply having a strong understanding of why it is you wish to do what you want to do.

Willpower” is a combination of determination and discipline to do something or behave a certain way, despite having a clear understanding of the challenges involved with doing the action.

Summary: Motivation is having a purpose. Willpower is having the balls to do it.

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