Start Your Day Right

What's your daily practice to help you focus?

2018-03-06 Beacon NY — I have a history of trying out new progressivity tools when I encounter them. (Note: progressivity is my term for so-called ‘productivity’ tools, which I favor since I am not oriented towards increased output, but improving outcomes. I am ‘making progress’, not ‘being productive’.)

At any rate, I recently spent a week trying out Coda, a new sort of progressivity hybrid of online document and work management tool (like Quip, Notion, Lightpaper, Dropbox Paper, and others), and it has some astonishingly deep implementation of tables for the management of all sorts of structured information, including tasks. But I’ve decided to return to Flow, for a variety of reasons, including its support for Markdown, and a rich task model. Since I use Markdown in other tools — Dynalist, Deckset, and Lightpaper — Flow works with less friction in my toolset.

But I am not really talking about those specific tools, but instead about what I do each morning.

I start the day with coffee and then my to do list for the day, which I limit to no more than six things. What I call my 1, 2, 3 model. There is one major task, one that takes several hours of unbroken concentration, like investigating something for a client, or writing. I can usually get two medium tasks done too, like 45 minutes of work, plus or minus. That often includes telephone calls, which I try to sequester in the late afternoon when I am less creative. And then there are the niddling little things, which I keep to less than three, and these take less that 20 minutes, like making an airline reservation, or responding to some inquiry. But it’s most important to do this in the morning, and envision the day.

What’s your practice? Click here and tell me, if you’d like.

I read a piece by Becky Kane (Employers, Your Employees’ Lack Of Productivity Might Be All On You) about how employers are responsible for employee’s lack of productivity, because they set up work systems that do not help workers get make progress. Two of her points match my daily practice:

  • Have Your Team Mark Off Time for Deep Work Time on Their Calendars

  • Have the Team List the Single Most Important Thing They Want to Complete Each Day — I have a longer list, but obsess about the number one thing.

And then she adds some great workplace guidance:

  • Set a Max Quota for Total Meeting Time Company-Wide

  • Limit Email/Group Chat Before a Certain Time in the Morning

  • Make Asynchronous Communication the Default.

She cites Cal Newport as the inspiration for the post, and his thinking about Deep Work as guidance for individuals to focus. She writes:

Very little has been written about what companies can do to make focus an organization-wide habit.

Yes, indeed.

On Autosaw

Mark Wilson writes about Autosaw, a robotic sawing system to help humans avoid cutting off their thumbs:

So far, AutoSaw has proven its ability to design and cut a set of tables in a controlled lab. Without a lot of further development, though, it could scale to a project as large as a backyard deck.

Its creators imagine that AutoSaw will roll out in three stages as the system gains capabilities, and resilience at responding to less and less predictable environments. The first stage would be integration in factories, allowing a company like Ikea to create customized furniture at scale. The second stage would be construction sites, where AutoSaw could help cut all the planks that go into a building. Finally, the third stage is the Home Depot weekend rental, where anyone could rent a bot-and-saw kit to build some furniture or custom storage.

It’s not just AutoSaw’s safety pitch that make it so appealing in the long term. The technology could one day allow anyone to own high-end, customized personal furnishings. While the system only produces wood furniture using conventional tools for now, there’s no reason it couldn’t eventually be programmed to operate using other materials and fabrication processes.

Another example of 40 Acres and a Bot, I bet.

On The No-Collar Workforce

No, this is not about dress codes.

No-collar workforce: Humans and machines in one loop—collaborating in roles and new talent models | Anthony AbbatielloTim BoehmJeff SchwartzSharon Chand

According to the 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, 41 percent of executives surveyed said they have fully implemented or have made significant progress in adopting cognitive and AI technologies within their workforce. Another 34 percent of respondents have launched pilot programs.

Yet in the midst of such progress, only 17 percent of respondents said they are ready to manage a workforce in which people, robots, and AI work side by side.

Isn’t that the most important point-of-contact? Where humans are augmented by AI, and vice versa? That’s what makes this report so timely:

The no-collar trend is not simply about deploying AI and bots. Rather, it is about creating new ways of working within a culture of human/machine collaboration. As you begin building this new culture, think of your hybrid talent base as the fulcrum that makes it possible for you to pivot toward the digital organization of the future. Workers accustomed to providing standard responses within the constraints of rigid processes become liberated by mechanical “co-workers” that not only automate entire processes but augment human workers as they perform higher-level tasks. Work culture becomes one of augmentation, not automation. As they acclimate to this new work environment, humans may begin reflexively looking for opportunities to leverage automation for tasks they perform. Moreover, these human workers can be held accountable for improving the productivity of their mechanical co-workers. Finally, in this culture, management can begin recognizing human workers for their creativity and social contributions rather than their throughput (since most throughput tasks will be automated).

Go read it.

subscript: Outsourcing Your Job To AI's

Amazing Industries

John Philpin alerted me to this satiric art exhibition by Brett Wallace, where he has created a fictional company called Amazing Industries.

Silas Von Morisse Gallery

We are very pleased to announce our participation at


MARCH 6 - 12, 2018 - room 2250

ImageBrett Wallace in situ at Amazing Industries

AMAZING INDUSTRIES is an immersive installation by BRETT WALLACE. The exhibition turns new forms of work, such as the crowdsourcing powering machine learning, inside out to explore its hidden pockets of alienation and strangeness as a signifier of the future of work. The exhibition voices a concern about the precarity and inequality of late capitalism. AMAZING INDUSTRIES is an ideological research and development startup created by Brett Wallace with the mission to explore possible futures of work that are humane and equal. AMAZING INDUSTRIES is an ongoing artwork that aims to demystify the future of work and advocate for a better future for workers.

BRETT WALLACE (American, b. 1977 in Boston, MA. Lives and works in New York City). Brett Wallace is an artist whose practice involves a multi-level exploration of the future of work. His work involves conceptual interventions through video, narrative storytelling and installation. Wallace has studied technology’s impact on society throughout his career. He holds a BFA from UMass Amherst, is an alumnus of Harvard Business School and is pursuing an MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. In 2014, he founded “The Conversation Project”, an interview series at the intersection of art, technology and economy. He is currently represented by SILAS VON MORISSE Gallery, where his first solo exhibition in New York took place in 2016. This was followed by a solo exhibition at TFNF (This Friday or Next Friday) in 2016. These exhibitions examined the social issues of work in the increasingly automated fulfillment centers that enable Internet commerce. Wallace is currently launching AMAZING.INDUSTRIES, an ongoing conceptual art project exploring possible futures of work that are more humane and equal. Wallace is a member of NEW INCfor 2017-2018, the world’s first museum-led incubator, led by The New Museum.

Instagram      @amazingindustries @brettwallacenyc @silasvonmorisse

Twitter           @brett_wallace @amazingndustrz    


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