Thursday, September 22, 2016

Recent reading and a flowery smile

Or I suppose, recent read. Only one book. This one.


I'm a bit of a sucker for productivity books, often prey to the though that I could/should be doing more with my time. It's probably true, what with hearing about people with demanding careers, children, and all sorts of activities on the side that alone would knacker most people.

This isn't the usual name-dropping bit with "advice" that is either really stupid or really obvious, together with "examples" that are fatuous at best.

There are 8 separate ideas, but they are more states of minds than activities. The one that got me was chapter 8, Absorbing data. I've spent my life absorbing data in one way or another, and recently reorganizing it to illustrate a point, or support a work plan. All too often the recipients are rolling their eyes, baffled at what seems to me to be a completely straightforward xl, complete with an explanation.

Not that long ago my boss asked to be walked through one example. I turned one monitor around so he could see the xl, but left the other so he couldn't see it, then I proceeded to read the email I'd sent to him, pointing at the various tabs, highlightings, pivot charts, and summaries as I did so. He said that was really good and exactly what he wanted, in both senses of the word. But he hadn't liked the email. Sigh.

The main point in chapter 8 is that, paradoxically, if you make it harder for people to understand the information, they will have to work harder and thus will understand it better. Two examples. One was people taking notes by handwriting or by typing into a laptop. As anyone who has seen it can attest, my handwriting is a scrawl at best, and quickly descends into a cryptic code I can't even decipher. It's slow and messy, and I often worry I'm getting behind because I'm not listening to what's being said now, as I'm trying to capture a comment that was said then.

I shared an office with a young woman who had the most amazingly neat handwriting, and it was fast. She could take notes in a meeting almost as fast as I could type. If I have to take notes for some reason, I want to type.

The problem is that repeated tests have proven that people that write notes remember the material better than the ones who typed them. I would like to disbelieve that, but I can see how it's true. I did lots of data entry. The data flows in your eyes and out your fingers, and typically does not pass through your brain in any real sense. When you are writing, you have time to think about it. You say the words to yourself as you write, you think about different ways to express the thought that might be quicker to write, you might use your own contractions, and there is something about the motion of your hand that links the words to memories.

The other example involves teachers not getting any real meaning out of expensive and carefully thought out dashboards of information about each student. So they forced the teachers to go through the data manually, to develop the dashboard results for themselves. Their comprehension and understanding of the data increased dramatically, and they better understood how it related to each child. Yes, it took longer, and was harder to do, but it worked.

At the end, the author offers a chapter on how it applied to him, and includes extensive notes. A fun and interesting read. I'm trying to apply these concepts in my own life.

It's a cool rainy day here today. It's snowing not that far away. But here's a nice reminder of summer from just a few days ago.



1 comment:

  1. It's so true! One thing I noticed when I was in Winnipeg attending a meeting last week is that my handwriting improves when I'm really trying to listen to what's being said. Or at least it did last week. I've been trying to take more handwritten notes lately in an effort to fix things in my mind a little more firmly - also to keep my handwriting skills up.

    Love the photos! Keep 'em coming. BTW, how's the running and swimming these days?

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