A Yoda-Inspired Task Management Tip

As Disney takes Star Wars mania to new levels, I find it increasingly difficult to remain the odd guy who’s never seen a movie or knows much about the series. In truth, it’s impossible to fully evade this cultural phenomenon, and indeed one of my favorite project/task management techniques comes from a timeless phrase by master Yoda:

Do, or do not; there is no try.

I’m a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done and Michael Linenberger’s Manage Your Now methods. Crisply stating the next action for an open loop is a simple but powerful way to ensure progress. And taking a page from Yoda, I’ve made it a point to never use “try” when I’m writing down a next action or committing to something in general.

Whenever I’m tempted to write “try” in an email or task note, I pause and ask myself, “what would it take to delete’try’ here?” Am I thinking I can get more done today than I actually can? Do I need to enlist support from someone else before I can commit to this? Do I have to train or read more on a particular topic before I can act on it?

I must emphasize this is not about verbalization – it’s just a useful way to uncover hidden dependencies or break down tasks that stems from a particular way of wording them. I have nothing against the word “try”, or the concept of trying itself; exploring, experimenting, and setting stretch goals are all good things, in the right context. More often than not, though, when planning work I’ve found “try” is more of a crutch or oversimplification that you’d do well to remove as early as possible.  If you say “I’ll try to get this done by Friday”, I’m not advocating you blindly remove ‘try to’ – it came to your mind for a reason!  Take the chance to deep dive that reason and come up with a better commitment, even if it’s later or ends up requiring more work than you thought (which you’ll want to know as early as possible anyway).

By paying close attention to the subtle clues your word choices hide, you can improve your planning and management skills. And while it means next to nothing to me, you know what my parting line has to be here, so: may the force be with you!

Research Project Finished: ADL-Assisted High-Level Electronics Design

Almost 21 months ago, I announced here an applied research project to explore the feasibility of using the concepts of architectural description languages (ADLs) to provide automated assistance of high-level electronics design.  This was supposed to take around 12 months, but it took quite a bit longer than expected.  Thankfully, I wrapped it up by last February.  You can read my draft paper here, and peruse and play with the source code here.  A finished version of the Eclipse-based visual editor can be found here.

Any and all comments and feedback on this are warmly welcomed!

Three Leadership Lessons from Satya Nadella

As another year picks up steam, I’m once again reminded that “time flies like an arrow”.  For instance, though it feels like it was yesterday, in February 2015 it’ll be a year since Satya Nadella became Microsoft’s new CEO.  Tasked with implementing sweeping changes at the technology behemoth, some of his moves have been expected and applauded, while others have been surprising and controversial.  Most of us don’t run a large company for a living, but I think there are three very basic steps that can be inferred from Nadella’s style that are worth keeping fresh in our own jobs.

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The Rise of the Task Management Inbox

Much of today’s task management issues stem from using the email inbox as a task management system.  Thus far, solutions have revolved around re-educating ourselves on inbox management.  Now, a couple startups (and at least one large email player) are actually rethinking the way our inbox works.  As they carefully tread new ground, task management laypeople will benefit immediately, while productivity experts will initially struggle with this new paradigm.

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Exporting a GMF Editor as an Eclipse Product

I have recently finished exporting a GMF editor as a stand-alone Eclipse-based product, as part of ongoing research work (see here for details).  I ran into a couple issues doing this, and after sorting them out I decided to write this technical note in case it helps other Eclipse plug-in/EMF/GMF/RCP developers.

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My Android Wear Battery Drain Story

Last Friday, my LG G Watch informed me a system update was ready to install.  Eager to get Android Wear 5.0.1, and having already applied two updates to the watch with no issues, I installed it immediately.  After a minor hiccup, the update was apparently successful, but then both the watch and my phone begun experiencing battery drain.   A factory reset on the watch fixed it, but I only found out what was really going on by serendipity; here’s the story, in case it’s useful to someone else.

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