I’m sitting in a bulkhead seat on a flight from ORD to Reagan Interntional so my tray table is unusually small. I’ve spent the last hour watching episode 4 of Amazon’s, “The Man in the High Castle” that I downloaded via the Amazon video app prior to departure. That experience has been outstanding. But I also wanted to try and get some work done. I don’t typically buy the inflight wireless, so the work I do on flights happens to be of the type that can be done locally.
The ipad itself is big on the tray, but there is still room for my beverage and I’m able to type. While cramped, I can do it rather effectively on the glass surface of the device. If I had a bit more elbow room all would be well. It is not a problem with the size of the device itself, in fact I find that the larger target points of the virtual keys to be an advantage.
Make no mistake, this thing is big for travel. That is part of the allure however. I’m traveling to a CIC CIO meeting at the University of Maryland and all I am taking is the iPad Pro. I don’t yet have the Apple Keyboard Case so while in flight I am restricted to typing on the glass. It’s actually not that bad, given the cramped quarters. For full disclosure, I did bring along an Apple Magic Keyboard for the inevitable evening email catch up sessions.
As an additional test, while I am at the meeting I have to find time in the evenings to finish up a presentation for my advisory board, BCAS. That will push me to create with Keynote, something I usually do on my Mac. I’ve done it before, but leaving a high pressure presentation to being done on a tablet has me a little nervous. I expect I’ll be able to do about 90% of that work from the iPad Pro, leaving the last mile for my Mac. That is just a guess at this point.
Here are my impressions for this device inflight. The thing is a very good alternative to lugging a laptop and with the built in LTE it is an even stronger travel device. While it is big, it isn’t too big, in fact with a screen the size as my 13″ MacBook Pro, it takes up less room on my tray. The screen is exceptional for writing in the WordPress app as well as playing a game or watching video content. The new multitasking features of iOS 9 make using the Pro a dream compared to a generation ago, but the larger screen makes it even better. I’ve not yet landed, but so far I am enjoying flying with the iPad Pro.
I’ve been playing around with WordPress over the break since the changes the WP team have made to the .com offering. The one thing that has me interested in it now more than in the past is the discovery that I can write in the new .com dashboard and publish to my own, self hosted site. That got me wondering if the mobile app for iOS provided a similar functionality. One of my complaints in the past with my utilization of the EduBlogs WordPress service was an inability to use the actual WordPress mobile app. It always made using WP on the iPad a bit of a pain. If this works, the words you are reading were typed on my iPad Pro in the mobile app that is connected to UChicago Voices via the JetPack plugin.
At the first Coffee with Cole, we spent time talking about the need to find time to reflect on who we are as individuals, as a group, as members of the UChicago community, and how our work creates impact. The intimacy that a conversation with five people affords seems to give us space to explore things that we might not ordinarily talk about in larger, more formal meetings. I enjoy that. I tend to think about the people that make up an organization so reflecting on growth, pathways, journeys, and behavior is a normal occurrence for me. Often times I am having that conversation in my own head, so getting to spend an hour with colleagues and digging into those topics is a real treat.
One of the main items of focus was the notion of time. More specifically not having enough. I often hear from the people around me that there just isn’t enough time to whatever it is that you want or need to do. A boss of mine many years ago told me something really important on my first day in a demanding new role, “make time to think.” That has honestly been some of the best professional advice I have ever gotten. Hearing that from my boss told me that my time is incredibly important and how I use that time equates to power. I do my best to make time to think every week. In my last three positions I have purposefully reserved Friday for myself — not scheduling any meetings unless they were thrust upon me by people I can’t say no to, or unless I valued the need to meet with someone enough to take time away from myself. I am not yet able to control my calendar to have a full day blocked, but I know over time that I will get close to that. For now, I reserve a couple of small chunks of time here and there so I can do some things I enjoy — write, read, learn, walk, think.
I guess what I am saying is that making time to manage your own growth is an important part of what you do here. There are a lot of strategies that I have used in the past that I want to discuss now that I’ve been here a couple months. I’d be interested in getting your perspective on some of these ideas.
I believe the first step in gaining control of parts of your day is to take a personal inventory of the things you have to do in a given month. What meetings are forced upon you and what meetings do you force on others? Is there a standing managers meeting you have to attend? How about one on ones with your boss or staff? Make a list of those and try to make sense of how much time you are giving to others and how much time you are giving to the projects you are working on. Once you have a personal inventory you can begin to think about how to actually use some of that time. Do yourself a favor and schedule some it to learn, write, read, walk, or think. Having a sense of what your calendar is all about is a really good step toward gaining some control.
There has been an interesting conversation going on in our Slack space about meetings and rethinking them. That is something I couldn’t encourage more. Challenge yourself, when you are setting up a meeting, to default to a shorter time that 30 or 60 minutes. Give a 15 minute standing meeting a try. Something I used to do at both Penn State and Stony Brook were walking meetings … especially when the weather is nice. Stand up and go outside. And speaking of standing, take a minute to stand up in meetings when the audience is alright with it. Sitting for 60 minutes is brutal. I do it all the time and people look at me like I am crazy. I’m not.
Look at that attention and focus.
Finally, I’ll go back to the simple premise of creating a meeting free time each week. Give yourself the agency to control one small window of time and use that time for productively good things that can help improve your performance in other moments throughout the day.
I have mentioned in passing on several occasions the last couple weeks that I’ve been really testing out Slack with my direct reports since the early days of my arrival. I have also said since I got here that I really dislike email as a primary form of communication and collaboration. I have been on a quest for a very long time to eliminate as much back and forth email as I possibly can in and around the organizations I work in.
And I think I need to make sure I am clear, I am not saying we kill email. I am saying I believe that much of the email I get is more in the form of the “one to many” messages looking for some degree of consensus by members of a group. And to that point, how many of you get the individual replies back to the group responses of, “I agree” over and over again? I do not really mind a one to one email, until it turns into a ton of back and forth. In the past I have used wikis, basecamp, google docs, and Yammer as email substitutions for members of my teams to help support the idea of moving beyond email blasting and more into something that looks more like group conversations.
I have liked each of those for various reasons. Here at UChicago I am finding some email relief in Slack. Slack seems much more “in the moment” than the others, as it forgos the relatively fixed modality of the wiki and google docs text with comments, and the more Facebook like social work stream of Yammer. Slack has private groups and channels. It takes some getting used to as a communication tool, but in the short time I have used it with my direct reports and a handful of other brave souls in ITServices it is helping reduce the email avalanche that I am under.
At today’s senior leadership group meeting we decided we liked the service enough to start opening up our Slack network to all of ITServices. I think in time we will want to add our IT Partners to the mix as well. We are looking now at an enterprise network so we can assert our UChicago credentials for authentication, but know you may be getting an invite sooner rather than later.
I have been asked what jobs is Slack performing for me … how is it useful and under what contexts? A simple one is that I can ask my entire team a question in a private SLG channel and get quick answers that come to me wherever I happen to be connected … and it isn’t mixed in with all of my other emails. It is mobile and can be an always on access point to the people I need most access to during the day. Slack has integrations, so I can keep my eye on our Twitter account or a hashtag, embed a file from Box, or develop a custom script that a Slackbot can execute when certain things happen in the network. But at the end of the day, the most important jobs it is doing for me are reducing email and increasing collaborations.
So keep an eye out for the invite and when you get in, check out the #getstarted channel. Feedback, questions, thoughts are always welcome here on the blog or in our Slack network.