Category Archives: Productivity

Early Wake Up

Following up yesterday’s post about common sense “Go to bed early, and wake up early make you a health man”, I went to bed at 10:00 AM and wake up at 7:00 AM. Spent about an hour to write some sample code (so good to use less lines of code to archive more). Then I did some planning work for the next few weeks. Yes. It seems right and nice to have the future life in control.

I said about ENFP is incompatible with GTD. I still believe so, but every type of personality loves to follow habits. I have also written about Fengshui = Convenience + Time. It is the counterpart of habits: environment. Both environment and habits promote accumulation of small things over long enough period of time so that to yield huge impact.

Habit also don’t have a starting and ending point. It is just like a moving object following its track, unless some external force changes it route. It is the most energy effective way to form a good habit and create a favorable environment for long lasting results.

I Would Have Written Less if I Had More Time

Paul told me that Mark Twain once said “I would have written less if I had more time”. What a great idea – echos what I believed in the programming space: Less is More in Coding.

Common principles are very common looking. Like the old saying to tell people to “Be good”! Commonly looking, and you don’t even noticed that people said that. The good idea is to follow the common principle, since it is more likely to reflect the truth.

In the training, we talked about the universal principles, and everyone of us tried to give examples. The mostly commonly approved principle by the class are the most common looking ones. The leading two:

1. It hurts when the head hits the wall.

2. If you don’t eat, you will be hungry.

We laughed at what we found after 10 minutes of brain storming. The truth about this is, if you read something that is so common, and self explanatory, and you take it for granted, you’d better follow it – the more common and naive it is, the more reliable it is.

So, in real life, less is more. Don’t try to find out those fancy quotes. Just follow the common sense.

I am now following my common sense: Go to bed early, and wake up early makes people healthy.

Good night and have a good dream.

Weekly Routine as Big Stone

One concept of 7 habits in Habit 3: Put First Things First is to put the big stones in life into our daily life first, before thinking about other smaller stuff. What I learned from Leo of Zen Habits was, to give every day of the week a name, and you focus on that on that day. Leo has 7 days in a week (I do too), and he assigned names like day of health, the day of productivity to each day, and he writes a blog on that topic on that day. This is actually a powerful idea. If you follow it, after few months, you will find yourself writing pretty balanced topics across all the categories, not just few of them.

It inspires me a great idea – to name each day of both private life and professional life a name. The key is to find 7 most important things in this stage of life, and really work on it on that day. It is not that the whole day is just for one goal, but it can provide a focus, and help on planning – you know exactly when that task/appointment/event should happen.

For example, I am thinking about assigning every Thursday as Technology day for me – in both professional and personal life. On the professional side, it is a good idea to arrange a code review, refactoring process, or just tech talk on that day for the team, and review the problems of the whole product, and to archive smaller code base. On the personal side, there are many things to follow and to understand on the technology side. It may be a good idea to work on it at home. At least, it is a good choice to fix my printer, or camera, or understand how to use the new equipment, or read something around technology.

Another example, Saturday may be a good choice for Family Day. Spend more time with friends, family together, make phone calls, and spend qualified time together… Go to movie with Wendy or play on the grassland with Yifan (well, Yifan prefers to go to big shopping malls better).

I hope that helps me to balance the life, and put priority stuff first.

Retaliating and Forgiving

It seems this Sunday morning is a perfect time to do something mental work (Yifan and Grandpa are in the park, and Wendy is in university studying). I want to continue to think about the topic of retaliating and forgiving as I first mentioned in this article: The Reason to be Friendly – Part II.

I am not a big fan of hate – I am always so. It seems more natural for me to forgive, but not so easy to retaliate. (Strange person, isn’t it?) But the game theory and the X, Y game I played the other day is a time changer, and I started to see the need for retaliating (or a better way to put it, the need for balancing retaliating and forgiving).

Retaliating is the punishing force to keep everyone playing friendly card. Without retaliating, the X player will always win, and there is no way to fix the problem, and thus hurting the whole society. In our real example, our team played an always-forgiving-never-retaliating role, and ended up with the lowest score (-$38). Although we claim spiritual success, it is a real failure in cash. It is the same for other two Y teams.

With the right retaliating, you help to keep the society stable. With the right retaliating, the “bad guys” are punished, and thus turn them into good guys in the future. A prisoner’s dilemma without retaliating is a complete disaster for everyone, except the defector.

Tit for Tat

The problem with old wisdom and idioms are, they only state part of the truth, and they conflict each other. There is saying of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, and there is another saying “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” How confusing it is!

Now, I read it as the balance of retaliating and forgiving. We cannot just do the one side. People need to the power of courage (to be strong and ready to fight) and the power of empathy (to be ready to forgive). Maybe something in the middle is, a tit for two tats.

My major was automaton in university. I didn’t learn too much from the automation theory, but one thing I remembered was, you have to add some attenuation in a feedback system to keep the system stable. A tit for tat strategy is not attenuation strategy. At least, we should apply 99% tit for a tat strategy in this world.

P.S. I do want to create a small computer program to prove the tit for tat strategy.

More Thoughts on Win-Win Strategy

Continuing the discussion about Prisoner’s Dilemma, which leads to the win-win strategy of the 7 Habits course, I think further about the win-win. Basically, it is another application of the Game Theory.

In a zero-sum situation, it is pretty hard to find a win-win. The best is a compromise, since the resource is limited and fixed. The more you get is the more the other party loose.

The non-zero-sum game is more often in our life, but this fact is very easily ignore. Basically, it is about the total of someone’s gain, and others’ lose is not zero. It can easily become negative total or positive total. The best example for this is a couple: one won’t be happier if the other party is sadder.

That also echos to another simple observation of any trade: a trade has to be in a non-zero-sum environment. If the good I deliver is exactly the same in value as the good I receive, there is no reason to do it, since the transaction cost will cause the total value decrease. With trade, both party should get something better than what we give, from our own perspective. If we cannot reach it, then no-deal.

Many times, we encounter the problem of being angry, like a encountering a crazy driver on the road. In these circumstances, it seems making the other party feeling bad is the best way to make our self feeling good – we all know the result. Interestingly, why the idea of zero-sum is so dominate in our mind? In personal relationship, there is very few occasions that is a zero sum game.

Always Not Good Enough

Or the topic can be “Always Stay Humble”.

The best time I feel focused, and archived is when I was in middle school. Let me share the story that I have never shared in the last 17 years with you today. That was triggered by another great book I read many times Good to Great.

The Middle School

The best school I entered in my life is my middle school – much better experience than the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The middle school has as long history as my university – the Luoyang No 1 Middle School.

That school is the best school in the city. Why? Because they way their students are chosen is very simple: at the middle school entrance exam, the top 352 students across the whole city (with 6 million population) are admitted into the school, and other schools choose the rest. It is a simple order by score from highest to lower.

I didn’t perform well in the middle school entrance exam (Seems an excuse. The result may have reflected where I were), and I was around the #352-360 range – one point lower than the entrance line. I should have not been able to enter that school, but they finally offered 10 more students in addition to their original plan. That is how I ended up appearing on that campus.

“Everyone else is Better than Me”

Imagine what it is like to clearly know that you are not as talented as everyone in this school! It is not you force yourself to believe so, it is that you firmly believed it from bottom of your heart! “Everyone is so talented, and much better than me!” This was my belief.

With that belief, life is actually much easier for me. Since you are at the rear of the line, the only possible thing to happen to you is to become better. I played hard and studied hard. Although sometimes my classmates asked me silly questions about homework, I just feel that everyone has some weak points, and I may have more.

The good (or bad) thing for a Chinese middle school is, they have mid-term exam, and the result of everyone’s score is public data – just like a NASDAQ system. The first mid-term exam came. It turned out I ranked 27th in the school (6 in my class? I forget. There are 8 classes in my grade).

Very exciting. It is the first night in my life I couldn’t fall asleep.

The Second Acceleration

I was stuck in the rank 15th – 30th range for grade one and two. When the Final Exam (College Entrance Exam) got nearer (one year away), I felt another round of acceleration. It was based on another belief that I didn’t really need to care how good the people around me were; I only needed to care what I can archive. In today’s view, it is called “a bigger goal than getting into top 15 of the school”. That, fortunately, worked very well for me.

In the last three simulation exam, I got better and better in position. Finally, I believed I took 4th place of the whole city. The guy before me was the #1 in the half million students in that exam in Henan Province that year. To make me look a little bit closer, I took the first place in one single course in the province. (Just FYI, Wendy did extremely well in the mathematics in the same exam, scoring 147 out of 150).

Lesson Learnt

There is no positive co-relation between middle school score in exams and further achievement. But what I learnt from that particular experienced helped me in the future, especially when I fell too good about myself.

To genuinely believe everyone around you is better than you, and to always feel that you are far from what you want to archive, made a huge positive difference in my middle school age.

Steve Jobs said “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish” to Stanford students. He said it in a humble way. Humbleness ignites hard work, and unlimited power.

So always stay humble, and you are always not good enough.

Back to Office with Full Energy

I have to admit the best way to get back energy after working for a long time is to give ourselves a pause, and get away from work.

Now, I am sitting in the quiet office, one hour before everyone comes. I will list this as one key happiness items – it allows you to concentrate, and wandering in the office to see where you can improve this important place.

I am back, and I am fully refreshed. Thanks for the long Yangshuo, Guilin trip. It seems I should arrange more? Work + Pause is actually more productive than continuous work.

The Help of a To-Do-List

From the early of this month, I started to create a to-do-list for me. As an ENFP type of person, I hate any kind of to-do-list. The life is just a flow of passion, and my focus is where my passion is.

Recently, I discovered a page on zenhabits: How to actually execute your to-do-list. I think that is maybe the most helpful tips I ever had on this, and now my to-do-list is long and my completed tasks are longer. It is very good, and thanks Leo for sharing the great tips.

The Power of Convenience

I am a strong believer of the power of keeping doing one thing for really long time. Meanwhile, I just discovered the importance of being convenient.

My brother once joked

If you put a book into your restroom, you may become an expert of the area after a year.

To some extend, I think it is true.

My Inspiration in Luoyang

When I am back to Luoyang, I browsed the books on the bookshelf in my parents home – the place I grew up. I just realized I have read most of the books, from Electronic Appliance repairing, to computer, to encyclopedia. Interesting enough, I found out the reason why I know something – it is because the books are there, and I happened to have read it long time ago.

For some areas that I totally have no gift, like cooking, music, or novel, I cannot find any books related to it.

The Impact of Environment to Children

So I decided to start building a good bookshelf full of books of all areas in my home. Although there are great ways to help children to learn, such as training sessions, nothing is more useful than a book that is easily accessible at home.

Convenience and Keep Doing

Similarly, to have some interesting facility round one’s home is also very important for the quality of people’s life. It is all about convenience, and about how easy those things are available to you. Only when you make it so convenient for yourself can you really be able to keep doing it in a really long time.

Nice Day for My Business

Today is a pretty nice day. Very happy, and very excited. Huge breakthrough in many metrics. Xiaopai said the number has reached 300 one hour before end of today.

I am going to try my first week in the Shanghai Jiaotong University Hotel tonight. Hope hard work can bring good result.

Met Mike and Luoying today. Nice chat, and learnt that everyone has something to pursue. It is nice for everyone.

Chatted with Elfe on MSN. Elfe continues to show her talent and free soul with a nice Germany trip.

There are breakthrough on the product side also. Many things to do, but stay focused is the key. As I told many people, there is only one thing we need to do – maintain the listing quality of classified site. That is all everyone needs to accomplish.

Pretty late. Go back to home.

P.S. Some bad news today is, Chen Hua left Kuxun.cn. What a surprise for me. I have great respect to the Kuxun team, and feel a pity when I hear another entreprenue left the company he/she founded.

Listen = Discover?

In the last leadership development program, for the first time, I heard people call “Listen” as “Discover”. It makes perfect sense to me. The steps of active listening was:

  • Suspend Agenda
  • Pay attention
  • Asking open ended question like “what”, “why”, “what else”.
  • Paraphrase to confirm understanding

This small tip worked for me fantastically in the last few weeks.

Everyone has a World, Inside

Everyone’s spiritual world is inside his/her mind. It is not easy to explain how the world looks like. People rely on language to communicate it. There are ways to convey feelings, like using art, music, or dance, but not everyone has the technique to express using these ways, or understand it. So language seems to be the major way.

Unfortunately, language is such a narrow tunnel that prevent the whole of the mind to flow quickly and freely from one person to another. Our thought may be random, and paralle, but our language has to be linear and logic. When we “serialize” (the computer term) our thought to a flow of sentences, we often forget to tell many important things, or assume others already know the context. For example, if we have 100% of the thoughts in our mind (maybe 50% is conscious, and 50% is unconscious – even ourselves don’t know we know, but we do know), when we talk, we typically can only talk about 5% of our thoughts.

That is the reason the person who listened should not stop at the 5% they listened. Listener should change a position by asking “Why are you thinking this way?“. This question helps to speaker to tell you more about what is behind the initial 5% of the thoughts, this way, you get 8% (numbers are just for illustration proposes) of what he/she thought. After that, ask “What else do you think?“, or simply “What else?“. This question helps the speaker to explorer inside his/her self to find if there is anything missing. Chances are, there is always something that is at not so top of his/her mind but is also important. This way, you get 11% of what the person think. Keep asking “What”, “why”, and “what else” question during a conversation until you feel satisfied that you have explored enough of the thought of that person. This whole process, I think, is best called “discover”. It is all about observing a misterious world using limited window to that world. This is a very important listening skill.

It was maybe the 5th time in my professional life to attend a seminar for listening skills, but until the last time did I really realize what it means. We can make such a big impact to ourselves, and to the speaker to facilitate better communication.

Game of Yes or No

I like a game called “Yes or No”. The speaker thinks of a story, and only tell the result of the story. The listeners (maybe 10 to 20 of them) all ask close ended question to the speaker, like “Is this person a woman?”, “Was this guy murdered?” The speaker can only gave answers of “Yes”, “No”, or “Irrelevant”.

We typically play the game when we were on the train back home. It was 18 hour train, and it takes about 1 – 2 hours to finally discover the story itself. When it is done, we realize the story was so simple but the Yes/No question was such a narrow channel, that information was not allowed to flow freely. That makes communication that hard.

It is the same in real world. We need to ask “open questions” to discover more of other person’s mind, and also help that person to tell you more than they initially thought.

This was such a useful skill for me, that I’d like to share with everyone on this blog. Good luck.

Short Note of 5 Days in Chaminade

This is a short note about my 5 days in Chaminade

First morning, I felt challenge/fear as never experienced before. I learnt to focus on something else, and do the right thing, instead of focusing on the environment. Afternoon session, it was all about listening. I never heard people put listening and discover together. I realize if we our thinking is 100%, face to face communication only can convey 5% of it. By listening well, people can discover more than the 5% (with suspending agenda, focus, ask open questions, reflectionÂ…)

On the Tuesday session, it was all about talking (in the formal term, Asserting or Inspiring). It is also the first time I heard people describe “Talking” as “Inspiring”. This is also the technique to convey more than the default 5% out of 100% of thought to another person. It is all about to have a statement, and say it in a concise, clear, and compelling way.

The beauty of the “listening – talking” or “discover – inspire” model is, it is about two way communication. If we can do it better for only one way, the two communications is much better.

The final orchestra tells me leadership is all about feeling instead of techniques. A group of people sit down together, and they can communicate without talking. It is more like a reflection of the nature of human being.

The solo and the chaos in the orchestra were amazing. By listening carefully, and react respectfully, people created a very special atmosphere that they can communicate and behave as one person.

To conclude, I appreciate everyone’s share and help me to share. It is OK to be vulnerable, and seek for help.

Sound Bytes of These Days

– There must be reason behind an unreasonable person.

– Maybe people just have different common sense.

Common sense is not always common, and sometimes it does not makes sense.

– Or to put it in a clearer way, Common sense is not always common among different people, and sometimes some one’s common sense does not makes sense to another person.

– It is hard to be intimacy without being vulnerable.

– Tell the gap

– Ask What if, or What else questions

– Deliver the key message earlier.

Three days of Role Play and One night of Fire

At night, gathered around the fire. The mountains are still, and the Santa Cruz downtown is at the foot of the hill, and the sea shore extends to the horizonal line.

It is very funny time. I enjoyed the role play in the leadership development program. It simply is very helpful. The bad thing is, I don’t have Internet access, or even no mobile access. The wireless, and wired Internet access infructure there does not mean I can or want to take a break to use it from the wonderful discussion.

P.S. The Amazon book finally delivered to the hotel. Nice, and it is the first time I ordered some book (and ship it to U.S. address!) Including in this package, there is the book Chasing Daylight. I believe it will be interesting.

P.S. 2. I continue to act as the bridge for America and China. Tonight I heard some true Chinese story from peoples in America. It was educational for me and offered a different perspective. To use another angel to see the same country is so interesting, and inspiring.

P.S. 3. I just heard that in a private land in U.S., if it is large enough for cars, the land owners and his family can drive cars on the land without a driver’s license. This is amazing. Is it true?

Sensitivity to Numbers

Be sensitive to numbers is what I learnt most from running a business. Numbers have magic power to tell a story more complete, and more vivid than an article, if you know how to read numbers. Without the skill to read numbers (do we call it analytical skills), people just see numbers, instead of the story it tells.

Yahoo! Stock

When we watched the CBN (China Business Network, or in Chinese, called No. 1 Finance) channel for business news, there is a piece about Yahoo! lost 10.5 billion USD in market cap in one day.

I was shocked.

I am happy that I fell shocked. I couldn’t feel that before. I will tell you why I felt shocked later.

Too Big, or Too Small Numbers Means Nothing

Many people, including me, feel numbers too big means nothing. People get clear sense of what 1,000 RMB means, but lost the sense of what 10 billion, 200 billion, or even more means. There is no difference.

When people say some company is losing 10 million RMB this quarter, sometimes, I just have no idea. Should I be worried about the business or not? Many times, I found my reaction is different from what the writer of the news feel about.

Back to Yahoo! Numbers

Numbers are valuable only when put into comparison, either vertical comparison or historic comparison.

What does 10.5 billion USD means? If I compare it to my own world, it does not make sense. For example, it may mean 1.05 million cars, or 300 billion ice cream. But what this is tell you? The only thing it tells is, it is a big number. I know that.

I remember Yahoo!’s market cap was something around 50 billion USD (to be exact, 45 B). 10 billion means 25% drop in stock price. What does that mean? Also, it may also mean the market cap now is very similar with eBay… Many things to think about.

Number is One Language

Barry Johnson said:

Before I came to Shanghai, I thought, if I could say Chinese, I can talk about one fourth of people in the world. If I can speak English, I can talk to half of the world. If I know the language of Finance, I can talk to the whole world

Finance he said is pretty much based on numbers.

I would agree, number is a language. It is simpler than English – just has ten to twenty characters:

01234567890.-+%

But it can tell story. The skill to write in number, and to read numbers is an important skill to manage in business world. I am trying hard.

Common Sense

We had wonderful night with Mr. and Mrs. Huang. During the dinner, we talked a lot about “common senses” and “behaviors”.

  • Everyone has different common senses.
  • Common senses determines why you are who you are, and why I am who I am.
  • If you don’t change the behavior, chances are, the results are the same.
  • We often do something that does not make sense according to common sense. So common sense is not common.
  • Common sense sometimes does not make sense

Free Wireless in Coffee Beanery

Coffee Beanary at Biyun Road offers free wireless connections. The other favorite wireless place is Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at 666 Fuzhou Road, Shanghai (at Yunnan Road) in People’s Square. Starbucks doesn’t offer free wi-fi.

Korean Singer “Rain”

Rain is featured in People in CCTV10. I have no sense for music, and don’t have any favorite singer, but this program caught my attention. Rain’s dream is to connect people in Asia, and form a new generation of Asia singers, and bring Asia singers to the next level, and lead the trends of the world. I would say, Rain is a person with vision. I appreciate visionary people.

On Vision

Nearly everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world. A few do not. (Join them.)

Arthur Schopenhauer, Source: The other 90%. How to unlock your vast untapped potential for leadership and life, Crown Business, 2001. quoted on page 154 of The Seven Secrets of Inspired Leaders. How to archive the extraordinary by the leaders who have been there and done it.

Update

Correction: Thanks to SSC, who pointed out that the quote is not the original statement. Here seems to be the more genuine saying:

Every man takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.

Productivity Tips – 5 Wrong Beliefs

I found this tip from Microsoft website very useful for me.

5 Beliefs that Limit Productivity – And How to Overcome Them

1. There’s Too Much Information Coming at Me Too Fast

2. I Have to Keep Everything

3. Organization Cramps My Freedom and Creativity

4. There’s Not Enough Time in the Day!

5. It Takes Too Much Time to Get Productive

The answers are:

1. The volume of information is not an issue. The way we process it is.

2. By removing 85% of unused documents, you feel lighter, and easier.

3. Organizing helps you to have a big block of time to do creative things.

4. Time is not the issue. Decide what to do (and more importantly what not to do) with the given time is the issue.

5. We can save much more time than the time we spend to learn to be productive.

Also, to put my commitment into the task list is a great way to keep my commitment, which is a key area to work on.

I forwarded the page to my friends I know who is also working hard to improve the productivity.

P.S. Anyone has any idea of a new tab-browser named: Sleipnir 2.3? It seems to be popular in Japan. True?

Going to Ad-Tech Tomorrow

I didn’t think ad-tech is a big deal. I even didn’t notice that the conference is not far from my home. Recently, I got some emails asking about hotel or transportation informaiton. They started the mail like “I am going to the ad-tech…”

I realize it may not be a small event. To me, only COMDEX, or recent etech is big thing.

I happen to get the ticket for the ad-tech. So I decided to visit there with enough name card to see opportunities there. Starting from IT, now I can proudly announce that I am also in the advertisement industry – the classified advertisement. :-)

P.S. University Webstes

Ken echoed my post on Fudan v.s. Tongji post and wrote a blog to claim all the three universities have really bad home page designs. I totally agree.

Update: When I took taxi back from Metro station home, I found Ken’s face at the back of the seat of the taxi. It is an advertisement from Kaien English school. :-) Interesting.

Bird Flu?

I didn’t see too much difference in my life due to bird flu besides the repeated news on TV. Today, I did feel the difference. I saw a girl with mask in book store – the first one with face mask I saw so far.

On Time Management

Richard asked:

As reading your blog, reading your life. I start wondering how can you manage your time so well? As a director of Kijiji, a person who keeps writing a blog every single day, and also occasionally gives speech in university, moreover quite often produce a thoughtful article in your Chinese blog… I would be very expecting to read an article about your way of managing time someday. :-)

and Cai asked the same question:

Yes, I have same feeling, when I read an article about your blog, I began to surf on your website. I can not believe that you insisted for about three years. Amazing!

I also want to how do you manage time and write an article just about story of daily life which we ignored most time.

It is very interesting question. Let me try to answer it.

I am not a Time Management Expert

The first answer is, my time management may not as good as you describe. I am try to improve. Having said that, I just want to share the reason when I kept blogging and doing a lot of things at the same time.

Blogging? It is Just What I Decided

This entry: I Started the Blog to Post Resume, which was posted exactly one year ago, explained the initial reason why I started blogging. It is a little bit kidding, but meanwhile, it is true. I often ask my friend of the question: “What do you remember in the year 2004?” Sometimes, we may be too busy on the daily life and forget what is important. As the forth generation time management experts put it: “We have wasted years. Why hurry for the seconds?”. Blogging is the time to force me think and keep observation. For this blog, in particular, has a mission to help communities who are new to Shanghai or who are away from Shanghai to learn about this city, by a very small window – a window of a normal persons’ life. Although the recent role change made my life much busier than before, I still believe I have time to keep writing. The strongest reason I convince myself to continue is, “If I cannot manage to get some time writing, how can I manage a business bigger than that?” :-) Bill Gates have thinking week; Google has 20% innovation time; Steve Ballmer still reserved time for his family and grass. It is not only skill, but a wise philosophy.