Action Management Vs. Time Management

I’ve had a deep interest in time management for many years now. I’ve adopted the Priority Manager system, with some success for a while, with A. B and C categorisation. I’ve jumped on board the 7 Habits train, and learned to balance urgency and effectiveness, putting first things first. But I’ve continuously found that no matter how much I’ve tried to manage time, it often doesn’t want to be managed.

It may be a bit of a cliche, but time is one of the few constants in the world. We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year, and so on. No matter how hard we try, time just want stand still. It has momentum, and moves along at a constant speed of 60 minutes an hour.

So its kind of a misconception to have the belief that time can be managed. We can only manage ourselves, and our actions, within the time we have available to us. Into that limited bucket, we need to pour rest, work and play, in some combination that gives us the return that we desire.

Everything we do is an action — whether it be sleep, eat, attend a meeting, complete a report, send an email, take a customer to lunch, take a loved one to dinnner, drive to work, go to a movie, have a dive or whatever. Whatever we don’t do isn’t an action — its an idea for a future action.

So, for me, personal productivity is all about managing the actions that we take relative to the commitments we make/have in life.

I guess this is why I’ve taken to David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach. GTD drives us to catalogue our entire inventory of actual and possible actions (and the projects they are associated with), and organise them into a system that will remind us when and where we are best able to tackle them. It provides a framework in which to keep that catalogue alive, and topped up with actions that are associated with fresh and exciting new projects.

We need to handle our priorities in life. But we need to live those on a day to day basis that revolves around taking on and executing actions that relate closely to the work we do, and the life we live.


Do You Make or Take Your Photos

The following article was originally published on my website BlueBeyond.com.au. I’ve decided to move it over here for reference.

Recently I read a great book called The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography by Galen Rowell , a renowned outdoor photographer from the US. This book is one of the best photography books I have read, even though it hardly even touches on technical aspects — there are no explanations of apertures and shutter speeds, except in discussing how to capture a particular image.

Instead, this is a book that delves deeply into the inner process” of photography, and the important philosophical approaches that differentiate the snapshooter from the serious photographer. Irrespective of whether you shoot underwater or topside, outdoors or inside, close-up or wide-angle, your thought processes help you to identify potential subjects, backgrounds, compositional opportunities, lighting approaches and technical requirements to express your vision through a photograph.

One of the things that struck me on reading this book, and set my mind thinking, was that the essence of the language used by Rowell expresses his philosophy. Rowell never uses the phrase taking a photo’ — instead he contemplates making a photo’.

From our earliest introductions to photography, we are exposed to the phrase take a photo”, and indeed the common vernacular enshrines this expression as the standard amongst all of us. But if we stop for a minute to consider the expression, we note very quickly that it suggests a passive approach to photography — one of recording the moment.

It is no secret that the vast majority of photographers are snapshooters — people who are simply recording the moment. These momentary records’ have an important place — they show family, friends and scenes that are important to the individuals. They have a context and value to the snapshooter and those close to them. In many cases, however, these momentary records are otherwise unremarkable.

Early Light

Likewise, many underwater photographers are snapshooters, and again, their photos have a meaning to them that is also implied and contextual. They take good photos that trigger a memory for them.

In an effort to move beyond the simple snapshot, we invest time, money and effort into the process of photography. We get better equipment, we study composition and lighting, and we try to take control of the photographic situation. We are no longer passive takers of photos’ — we are looking for more than the momentary record.

We are now actively making our photos, not taking them.

To be active in the process of photography, whatever the setting, we need good technical skills, and good equipment. We also need a thorough understanding of our environment, the behaviour of our subjects, and how we can interact responsibly with them. We then need the mental approach to put all that together to make great photos.

Do you take or make photos?


Taipei Traffic

As I work for a Taiwanese company (Acer Computer), I have the pleasure of visiting Taipei once or twice a year. Each time I go there I have to remind myself of some of the subtle differences between Eastern and Western cultures - such as the traffic. It constantly amazes me that in all the visits I have made to Taiwan, I have only seen a small number of minor traffic accidents.

This amazes me simply because the traffic there can only be described as chaotic.

An interesting phenomenon is that most intersections have a series of white lines painted on the road, parallel to the kerb, and extending from one side of the road to the other. They look suspiciously like the lines we’d call a pedestrian crossing, only they must mean something else. Probably something like objects bigger and made of larger quantities of metal have right of way”.

Line markings on the roads themselves are also unique. In Australia, we generally separate lanes using lines to mark out the lanes. In Taiwan its just a little different. The road between the lines is certainly considered a lane, but the lines themselves also appear to be a lane. Magically, the Taiwanese seem to get 5 traffic lanes into a space we would get three.

The centre lines between traffic can be interesting too. Traffic from both directions seem equally able to take advantage of this zone.

Changing lanes can be an adventure in itself, especially if you are in the middle and need to turn a corner.

Learner-drivers in the west are generally advised to leave at least 2-3 car lengths from the car in front. Few of us are perfect in sticking strictly to this rule, but in Taiwan leaving such space would cause only a moments confusion. Then, 2-3 cars from the next lane would quickly fill the space, as well as 2-3 of the cars riding in between lanes.

This is bad enough, but if you happen to be in the middle lane of three, this would mean that 8-12 cars would be jostling into the spots.

And then there’s the scooters……

The scooters seem to have the right to fill in any space that the driver of another vehicle seems to have left unused. Somehow the earlier rule of right of way does not seem to apply.

I have worked out the traffic out system in Taipei. Its actually really quite simple - the laws of physics have been waived so that the laws of traffic can be waived accordingly. This means that when 9-12 cars, plus a couple of dozen scooters converge on a single lane, they get away with it because there is an anomaly that allows multiple material objects to occupy the same point in the space/time continuum.

There is simply no other explanation.