Week 9 of our re-read of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg is the last numbered chapter, next week we will wrap things up.  This chapter really is about the self-care needed to be both effective and creative. There are a number of ideas in this chapter that if you’re not familiar with them are frankly just really good ideas. Many of the ideas in this chapter I have been using for years and some of the inferred issues I am still working on. Sleep is the biggest problem I struggle with.  

One of the most important but least implemented ideas in this chapter is the need to take frequent breaks. Most of us spend sometimes hours and hours in meetings; it is rare for a corporate meeting that’s an hour to an hour and a half long to take any breaks. I learned the idea of breaks back when I first started using Pomodoro. I teach a fairly long somewhat arduous course on the Test Maturity Model Integrated (TMMI). The course is approximately 3 1/2 days long followed by a test. When trained I was told that the pass rate was moderately low. Originally I taught the class based on the training I had been given and was licensed. The results I had were in line.  Introducing a Pomodoro-like cadence to the class (25 on 5 off) increased the pass rate by 20 to 30%.  The breaks allowed people to consolidate their memory and retain more for the test at the end of the session. In many cases, attendees did not get up and move around during breaks, but picked up their phones. I stopped making a big deal about moving around when I noticed that by giving attendees frequent breaks they picked up their phones less during class and participated more. My observations dovetail with those Staffan quotes in the book.

I don’t mean to short-change movement, it is a big deal. The idea of moving, for example, physically walking around after bouts of desk time helps rejuvenate the ability to focus and to be creative. I have started moving around my office at every panorama cue. My wife and a close friend and colleague practice walking meetings. They find those types of meetings useful for unlocking creativity and tackling tough problems. This is an area where distributed and hybrid teams are at a disadvantage.

Most office configurations support seated, sedentary work styles.  I was introduced to standing desks when I worked for Hyland in Westlake, OH. Last year I helped my wife pick out my Christmas present, a standing desk that allows me to sit on occasion and stand on occasion. I try to rotate sitting and standing however, recently I have been sitting more than standing. Steffan points out that a sedentary life is not only harmful to your longevity it’s harmful to your creativity and thinking processes. To quote Peter Tosh badly out of context “get up stand up”.

One final note, one of the five big ideas that underpin this chapter is thinking with a pencil in your hand. Very much like Steffan, I am a big fan of mind mapping as a way to graphically take notes in a non-linear manner. I will recommend the same book Steffan did, everyone should read Tony Bouzón‘s book on mind mapping (The Mind Map Book). The idea of taking notes, using a pen or pencil, is critically important for linking and locking information in your mind. The act of typing does not have the same impact (also it is easier to write and listen than it is to type and listen). Mind mapping helps you think about ideas and how they’re associated and captured in a picture format, rather than as linear capture of information. Regardless of whether or not you go whole hog with mind mapping, thinking about what an idea means in a larger context helps to lock information in your mind. Mind mapping is something you should try and then lock in as a habit (Note: there’s a lot about creating habits in this chapter – I also recommend Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit).

As my experiment for this week, I would love to say that I am going to sleep more. What I will do is to move my phone away from the bed so I can’t get to it easily after I lay down.  I will also work to have an equal mix of sitting and standing.

Next week we will complete our re-read of Monotasking covering the Afterword from the book and some closing notes from me. We’ll also start the poll to pick the next book in the series. The last August 28th and September 5th entries will feature reprints. I am going backpacking and turning off all communication devices.  As we prepare for the next book, is there a book you think we should “re-read”?  If you have ideas please let me know and I will add them to the list of current possibles:

Mik Kersten – Project to Product

Charles Duhigg – The Power of Habit

Tony Bouzón – The Mind Map Book

Chris Voss – Never Split The Difference

Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick – Agile Conversations

Previous Entries in  Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg

Week 1 – Logistics, Game Plan, and Prefacehttps://bit.ly/3x1oVap 

Week 2 – Introductionhttps://bit.ly/2TXVfwt 

Week 3 – Monotasking In A Nutshellhttps://bit.ly/3gGMb72 

Week 4 – Cut Down on Things to Dohttps://bit.ly/3wt1ENL 

Week 5 – Focus on One Taskhttps://bit.ly/3hK2XDU 

Week 6 – Never Procrastinate –  https://bit.ly/2UXPDDp 

Week 7 – Progress Incrementallyhttps://bit.ly/3lk8Fi0 

Week 8 – Simplify Cooperationhttps://bit.ly/3yAVQne