Tuesday 21 November 2017


One of my coaching clients had set himself the task of finding a light-touch way of tracking how he actually uses his time, as a first step to reviewing his time management practices.

He came up with Toggl, which I hadn't previously known. So I thought that I would give it a try. It is a long while since I last tracked my time this precisely (so long ago that it was before people had developed packages like this) and some benefits are obvious - as long as it doesn't become too time consuming or a distraction in itself.

So I started to do so today, and I have to say that Toggl seems easy to use and useful. One can either click start as one starts a task, and then end when on stops, for automatic time recording; or one can create an entry by typing in the start and finish time.

That generates a task list, showing each task undertaken and how long was spent on it; and also, on the dashboard, some nice summary information.  Here is today:

This is the summary view: there is more detail available (who I was coaching, and all the items that were tagged Admin or other).

But the most interesting immediate effect that I noticed was that once I had clicked 'start' I did tend to stick with the task until it was done (or until my available time was used up) rather than interrupt myself with other tasks. I am sure Deming would have had something to say about that (what gets measured gets done, or something of the sort).

So I will play with Toggl for a few weeks, see what I learn, and if there is anything of interest, report back here in due course. 

Sunday 12 November 2017

The Pursuit of Happiness

At Cardiff Futures this week, we had a session with the inspirational Aileen Richards. She had a long corporate career with Mars, and is the first woman on the Board of the Welsh Rugby Union.

She raised many interesting aspects of leadership, illustrated by anecdotes from her 30 years of corporate experience, and led a highly-engaged discussion with participants. 

One point she made that has been causing me to reflect was based on an article about parenting that she had read many years ago. It started by reflecting that most parents say; 'I just want my children to be happy.' That sounds a bit motherhood-and-apple-pie. But, the article continued, what they should say is; 'I just want my children to be kind.' 

The point was that is people are kind, happiness will follow, as will other good things. And I think that there is much truth in that.  But I have also been reflecting on the other part of the proposition: the pursuit of happiness (which is famously written into the US Declaration of Independence. 

For I think implicit in the idea Aileen was proposing, and made more explicit in other contexts, is the notion that happiness is actually a by-product of other things. The direct pursuit of happiness is likely to be counter-productive - for it provokes a focus on the self, and on one's own state of mind and emotion that is likely to lead to a selfish outlook: and it is a matter of common observation that selfish people don't tend to be happy.  Conversely, if one considers the truly happy people one knows, it is pretty clear that they don't focus on pursuing happiness: they have more meaningful things to do with their lives. 

Of course, Aristotle was on the case, back in the day: he maintained that true happiness is to be found by pursuing the virtues.  And I think he may have been onto something.

Saturday 4 November 2017

Playing with four-box models

Last week, wondering what to post on the Shifting Stories blog, I drew up a quick four box model on the back of an envelope about the stories people tell in organisations. It was fairly light-hearted – not the fruit of deep thought or empirical research. What surprised me was how much it resonated with others. As is my custom, I cross-posted it to Linked-In, and it had a sudden flurry of hits and likes, mainly from people I don’t know.

So always one to respond to feedback, I thought  I’d play with some more four-box models (when wondering what on earth to blog about this week…). In part this was stimulated by a conversation with my eldest daughter at breakfast this morning. I am going to meet a charity this morning, with a view to becoming a trustee.   It is one of those informal ‘meet for lunch and then a brief meeting’ things – not, as I understand it, a formal interview. 

I was remarking that such occasions are not my favourite; I rather prefer a structured situation where I know the rules of the game, as it were. I am not particularly adept at informal social situations. But I mused that perhaps the image I should strive for is ‘committed but not fanatical.’ Annie laughed: ‘Yes, I think either uncommitted or fanatical might not be the best!’  And instantly a four box model sprang into my mind. So here is my grid for anyone recruiting trustees for a charity…

And that’s why I like four box models. Although they only look at a couple of variables, they do throw up and clarify interesting and thought-provoking combinations – and they are good fun.