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Latest insights and trends in Personal Analytics, Organizational and Operational Intelligence.

Aug 21
ForestApp: Time management can be fun

More and more applications appear today in attempt of digitalizing time management techniques. As a person of interest, I decided to take a closer look into latest advancements in digitalized time management and check them for myself, monitoring along the way what my Personal analytics thinks of it.

I started with exploring the Forest App ​that is gaining popularity across the web lately. It is the application based on one of the famous time management techniques. As we all know, checking the notifications or scrolling down the social media is one of the biggest time killers today. If you prone to checking your smartphone every 5 minutes for no reason and you came to realization that this is in fact  habitual/obsessive action (most likely it is), this application can be quite helpful. If you do not want to get distracted by your smartphone at least in working period, you set the worktime and the phone screen gets blocked with an image of a sprout which is to grow into majestic tree. However, if you let the temptation of using the smartphone to take over, the tree will die. Along with work time, you also set time for breaks. Usually the proportion is 30:5 minutes. You can see below that I managed to grow 11 trees in one day and am proud to say that I did not kill any virtual plant. You can also chose the type of a tree or flower to be cultivated keeping in mind that it is paid content. You gain points every time you complete work without being distracted with your smartphone and you lose points whenever you didn’t manage to conquer you desire of scrolling social media. You can install the app on Android, Apple as well as Microsoft both desktop and smartphone version. The app has free trial for one day. After that you can proceed using it for 0,99$.

ForestApp.jpgTime management.jpg 

The innovative approach of making time management into amusing game with good graphics keeps you involved and focused at the same time. The application is interesting to use and gives you determination to grow your trees into the forest, making the management of your worktime into entertaining task. What is more, while I was using Forest App, several of my productivity indicators at Personal Analytics boosted which seems to be a prove of its effectiveness.

What does your Personal Analytics think of ForestApp?

Aug 16
Time management of life balance

There is a grey area people usually face, thinking of time management as one-dimensional notion when, in fact, it is 4D. In this article I will try and shed light on some concepts regarding time management.

Time management skills.jpg 

​​Time management – seems easy to interpret as the name speaks for itself. But after giving it second thought it is safe to say the notion is discrepant. We cannot manage the time literally as it is constant value whose flow is beyond our control. Although, what we can really do is to manage ourselves. As it is known, the time in the day is limited to 24 hours for all of us, including successful, prosperous and content people. The only difference is that these people took conscious control over their time. The point is that time management is not a just a tool but a lifestyle, and in order for it to impact one’s life it should be balancing every sphere of it. What are these spheres?

Life balance model

Important ideas on this topic belong to German psychotherapist Nossrat Peseschkian, who in his intercultural studies constantly returned to the problem of balancing personal and professional life in these four dimensions. The task of a holistic management of time and one's life is not only to find time for all important spheres of life (work, family, health, self-realization), but also to bring these four spheres into equilibrium and maintain it.

Suppose that all four spheres of life are 100% in total. Now, imagine your current life situation:

-      How much of your active time (= "time awake", as about one third is "sleep time" which is not taken into account), do you devote your energy and priorities to the "achievements and work" area?

-      How long does it take you to interact with loved ones which goes to the time spent on "contacts and personal relationships"?

-      How much interest do you give in the sphere of "body and health"?

-      How much time is spent for bringing the meaning to your future and existence as the whole?

Quickly divide the total amount - 100% - into four spheres of life. The longer you fiddle with the calculations, the less trust the result deserves.What does your current time balance look like? "Achievements and work", as a rule, account for 50, 60 or 70% or sometimes even more. Questions about the meaning of oneself and life are usually assigned with 5 to 15% (if assigned at all).

In his research on psychosomatics Nossrat Peseschkian stresses the importance of devoting enough time and attention to all four life spheres in order to reach the sense of life fulfillment as well as to prevent any physical and mental health problems when managing work/personal domain.

Too focused on work life without building personal relationships? As a result, no one to share the joy of your achievements with. Do not care about your health ? A steep turn of life will bring bad health and psychosomatic illnesses getting on the wat to happy and content work and personal life.

Work-life balance.jpg 

This looks clear in theory but is certainly to be chaotic when applied. Managing time is not easy, it is quite complicated in fact, and will probably bring you bitter feelings of not getting what you expected, first as you try and find your balance of these four spheres. Good news is that eventually you will find yourself taking more and more control over your own life while getting conscious about finiteness of the time you possess. Keep trying and be determined. As there is no universal way to successful, mindful lifestyle you need to figure your own. However, today there are numbers of tools which can help you with time management and which you can try out, combine or even give them your own new meaning. Our application, Personal Analytics, is one of them. The choice is always yours as well as the following result.

May 18
The world and us

Productivity in highly developed countries of our world is not growing anymore. It used to constantly go higher and higher each year for many decades, but it stopped now. Bad news are faster to spread, so probably you have heard it and you are in consternation. But maybe not, maybe you care more about your own individual productivity (and income) growth, so these global trends don't bother you. If this is the case, you are in the right place, welcome to Personal Analytics world, where we take productivity personally!
However, you may still be concerned with it, because if there is some reason for that and this reason tramps across the world, it may knock at your door one day and you will be busted. Can you believe it?

Not being so frightened with that (yet), but out of pure interest I have read New York Times article by Neil Irwin about this phenomenon, presenting interesting spectrum of theories. Here they shortly are:

Pessimistic one. It's true. Terribly true. Everyone knows that managers and specialists for years were doing everything possible to get more. We've been through this, they were redesigning our workplaces, reorganizing our days, straining their ideas to encourage and motivate us, revealing every hidden bit of productivity they could find. So here we are, they got it all. We always feared that it cannot be done forever and now that's the end of it. We'll all die of hunger.

Neutral one. It's not true, nothing's wrong. They are just making it wrong. They are always counting money because it's the easiest, but there's a lot more, that you cannot measure. The work is easier and better. You can see it at every turn. We all have powerful aids, business cell phones and cars, shinier and more comfortable offices. Don't forget that our work is becoming friendly for environment and socially aware. That's all value, lots and lots of value. We are not only making more, but much better. They just don't see.

Optimistic one. It's not true at all. Even more, it's terribly false. World is investing like it never did. They have means like they never did and they use it. It's just in latency phase, so the results are not visible immediately, but when they will… Examples? You surely know these freaky billionaires, who put their money in unbelievable things.  They design space shuttles and it's not taken from our taxes but to return the input manyfold. You can see first flights already. How many years they are making these self-driving cars, putting billions into it and you have barely seen them working yet.  But when they will, it's obvious they will boost the productivity like steam machine did in revolution times. And this guy in Tesla who wants to change the world, not mentioning Gates'es, which invest in fighting diseases so we will be able to live and work better. And it's only several things from the news.

These are obviously different views of the same world, but not just views, it's actual, and it's amazing that each of these seem convincing, reasonable, even capturing, while all of them cannot be right, can they?
Well, you have to remember the most common error humans make, that if something can be, doesn't mean it is. Even if it's called hope or it's called doubts or sometimes distrust. I really sympathise the most with economists that would die (not literally, of course) for being able to tell which one is true and where. Easy, they have a lot of clues, but let's not spoil this crystal picture with doubts and discussions. So many people these days take just one of the views, totally convinced it's the only one.

It's interesting to translate these theories into individual perspectives. Let's imagine this.
– Yes, I have learned a lot and it was quite an effort, I got a job that fit's me, so I did what I could to perform the best. I really pulled my weight to it. I would know if I wasn't. So, is there anything I can do more?
– It only looks like I'm just working as usual. I do things with ease now, more orderly, no doubts. I am not that stressful, I take care of the family and put weight to my health. That all matters and you shouldn't forget it. It's not only cash!
– Now that I have it under control, I can really start to evolve. Everything I do makes me learn more, not mentioning possibilities to develop that my company offers. I have got means, I have perspectives and orientation and I have new chances. I'm sure I will go high, just wait and admire!

When you look at it like this, it does not seem that contradicting. The first one feels pessimistic and closing, but only until you will honestly answer this question at the end – to find what you can really do more. But actually these are all possibilities just ready to achieve. If you decide it can be, it will be – as I would traverse the popular mistaken belief I mentioned earlier.

All you need now is some passion in finding the truths in all of these views (and questions). Looking closely at yourself from different perspectives, we can notice many things about us. The efforts that we've made so far, how truly we are to themselves, what we have reached and what yet we haven't, what counts the most, other things that matters, who we have become, who we can make of ourselves…
I hope Personal Analytics idea will help you and guide you in this quest. It can be your sword and your shiny armour while you are discovering yourself.

Feb 14
The way out of maze

​Labyrinths tend to drag me in since the early years of my life.
The first ones were just shapes drawn on paper – seemingly an intellectual problem, but well-known mythology stories about them were adding quite a touch of mystery.
Then my knowledge was expanded by intriguing mathematics adventure book for youngsters: "Two-horn wizard" by Serguei Bobrow that I read when I was like 11. That was one of these books which guide you into exploring mathematics as a story of some kind of fantasy journey – extraordinarily adequate approach for someone young enough to believe that world can be built out of unusual ideas, while being able to leave practical details for later. It gave meaning to all that paths and turns, as well as a hint of theory behind it. I started to draw them by myself and dream of really seeing one.
When computer games showed up, no matter how primitive they were, their virtual world brought more realistic experience. It wasn't possible to just leave the place where you got stuck (unless you were able to do some hacking tricks) nor rise above it, to see the way out in one glance. This made it closer to the actual feeling of going thru the maze.
Then finally, last year, I have found the real labyrinths. The first was a green one, build of hornbeam shrubs in Hortulus Gardens close to Polish Baltic See coast and the second one, the biggest snow construction in the world this year, is in Zakopane – a Tatra Mountains spa. 

I can totally understand why many people would not find it a fun to enter labyrinth. While obviously not everybody is a fan of a puzzles, the emotional experience of dealing with it can be much more rejecting. The feeling of helplessness is what we intensely avoid in our life and we prefer to always know the straight way out of troubles.
But that's not all of us. We are able to think of the labyrinth as the whole structure, while being inside rely on local orientation and decisions that have to be made just here and now. We are prepared to deal with it. Life is just like that. But still we'd rather have a map.
That's what the most of people were doing: checking, orienting themselves, solving the problem. Some of them where even playing the game of visiting all marked check-points in specified order, which would not be possible without enough control. 

In my case I wanted to try different. The labyrinths were not very complicated, as they were designed to be fun, not nightmare. I had enough knowledge of how to solve them from inside, so I wanted to try the challenge of dealing with them one-on-one. I entered them determined to cross all the paths until I will find myself on the other end. I expected all the necessary steps: checking the dead ends, choosing ways one by one and coming back on my own tracks.
The funny thing was that walking fast, taking every turn without hesitation, right or wrong as necessary, not losing any time for debating, I made an impression that I know the way. Some people tried to follow me or tended to change their route to mine. Some looked at me like I was somehow cheating. They didn't know I probably made twice their way (but probably in half the time), yet I didn't feel lost. I felt sure.
My favorite event was when I encountered a mother with a son like 10 years old. He was irritated and complaining as boys can be at this age (but probably just frightened) and she was despaired to comfort him. Seeing me, she had the least reasonable question you can ask in the middle of a labyrinth: "Do you know where the exit is?" I couldn't answer that, so I pointed in some possible direction and added "Don't worry, go on, you cannot really be lost here." I hope I was right.

In real life, it's good to have a map, wherever you can. You can always use Omnicontext Analytics to combine local elements of everyday life to have a glance at global view which helps to find the way out. Everywhere else just try all possible turns. One of them is right.

Nov 18
Where the wind blows

Have you ever wondered where the weather comes from? Sure you did!

Oh, I do not mean that everybody is investing their time and effort into studying meteorology (however some really are), but there are many people that are simply curious about what's around them – and the weather is surely around and all the time. But even if you do not have time or mood for being curious, you may be surprised from time to time with what happens outdoors. It may be something like one really freezing day followed by a warm period, as it has been at my place not long ago or even a snow in July as it happens in the mountains. It means that you have some expectations of how the weather should behave, hidden inside.

Of course, we are being educated one way or the other. Some of us react well on school education and remember what we were taught in our young years, but not so many of us, as it is quite difficult to imagine the weather on a blackboard or in schoolbook words. Some prefer self-education, which unfortunately means more books and diagrams. The majority is probably continually hearing the weather reports, with attention or unwillingly, where someone describes low or high pressure regions, fronts, wet or dry air masses and things alike, convincing us that he knows what he is talking about.
It always seemed a bit abstract to me and really too static, drawn with cartographic symbols on the screens, arbitrarily appearing here and there. At least it was giving a clue what to expect and what's important, but it wasn't the weather itself.

The problem, you know, is in its movement and scale. Weather starts in every stone, field or building radiating and absorbing heat, and in the air flowing around it, taking and giving back the warmth and moisture. It never stops, constantly interacting with other and another things, going out of our sight and coming from the places we don't know. It goes high up to the stratosphere and far away to other continents. This is the reason why it's that hard to predict what it will do, as we can feel only the part which have a close contact with us.

Fortunately, what comes to our aid, is that nowadays we have access to the multiple eyes in the sky, watching everything for us and seeing the invisible things around the globe all the time. Forgive me the fun of these grandiloquent words – what I mean is great visualization made by Cameron Beccario (with help of the many, I suppose) that is available at webpage. It shows real, current (as well as a bit of future) movement of all the atmosphere and oceans. Looking at it in the Earth scale or just some region, we can really picture it as a river of air flowing constantly around the globe, with its whirls and twirls. It really has no end or a beginning and carries warmth, water and whatever else it takes from one place to another.

Sometimes I just wonder, if (or when) we will be able to picture other things like that. What is also (or even more) interesting and probably also that complicated is the world of people. We are all around the globe and we constantly interact with each other, passing knowledge as well as emotions to each other, which influences us and makes us more or less the global community. And it changes all the time. It gets complicated even on the local scale, in a city or a company, which makes human resources specialists seen quite important these times. It gets really unpredictable on a global scale making all of us more or less worried or intrigued. But the problem is that we can really feel only the part which have a close contact with us.

What would make it possible to picture societies in reality are such eyes that could see all of us and see the important things about us. That's what we are trying to make available at Hypersoft and show in still very local way in Omnicontext Analytics. It's a long way to get global, but maybe sooner or later we will be able to really picture ourselves and see the weather.

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