7 Habits of Highly Effective WFH People

Get ready for a conference call

So in this part of the world, many of us need to work from home (WFH) because of the Coronavirus disease. Naturally, work from home / remote is very different from working in the office.

There are many online information about working from home but mainly focuses on the best conference tools in the market. From my point of view however, other than good conference tools, one actually needs a few other techniques and habits to make the whole WFH exercise effective, and ultimately less “conference call fatigue”.

Here are the 7 habits that can make your work more effective:

1. Have a Working Mood and Setting Up a Proper Workplace

Highly effective people will not work from home in pajama. Instead, they will change to casual wear (formal attire is a bit strange …) before they start working. The working mindset and mood is important.

In addition, find a place or corner at home to make it your workplace. Understand it is not easy if your home is not very spacious and you have your partner, parents, kids and pets around while you’re working. Therefore if needed, find a coffee shop nearby to setup your proper workplace.

In my case, I also set up my workplace with a stand-up desk, some background music (through a Spotify playlist) as well as a cup of hot black coffee.

2. Equip Yourself with Good Tools

There are many tools in the market good for conference meetings – e.g. conference tools like Zoom.us, Microsoft Teams, WebEx and collaboration tools for whiteboarding, mind-mapping, drawing, remote desktop, document sharing etc.

Select only a limited set of tools, within your company budget and don’t over-complicate the technology.

3. Preparation of Conference Calls

Send out invitation email to all attendants with meeting agenda, joining methods – conference call tool and dial up number etc. Also note the meeting time if your attendants were from different time zones, therefore a link to timezone website will be useful.

Send an reminder email to ask the attendants to install the conference software and mobile app beforehand.

More importantly, ask the attendants to test the video, microphone, share screen function to see how it works before joining the meeting.

4. Running a Good Conference Calls

Greet the attendants one by one, so they know they joined the call successfully and aware of other attendants.

Ask the attendants to find the mute button of the tool and mute it for the moment.

When it’s time to start the meeting, inform the attendants how you’re going to run the meeting, when will be the right time to ask question and the order to ask questions – e.g. one by one, or team by team.

Then run your meeting, according to the agenda. If you need to ask your attendant questions, make sure you start with the name of the attendant and remind him or her to unmute before answering the questions.

Wrap up your meeting with a verbal summary, follow-up actions and a thank-you to all attendants.

5. Post Conference Call Actions

After the conference meeting, send out an email with the summary, and follow-up actions, to all attendants.

Collect the feedback of the conference / collaboration tools.

Help the attendants to fix any connection and tools installation issues.

6. Tracking Tasks Status

Your usual way to track task status may not work anymore (e.g. Kanban board in the office), again some file sharing and online project monitoring tools will make the team’s life a lot easier.

7. Lastly, Keep Yourself Fit

Work from home also means you no longer need to walk to public transport, or carpark; you won’t walk around in the company; and you won’t walk to lunch. In essence, you exercise less if you work from home.

Therefore, instead of walking around, you shall find time throughout the day to walk, jog, or exercise in gym.

With the same token, you shall also spare some time to read, to join some online courses … as I believe you won’t want to join hours of conference meetings every single day.

In Summary

Hope these 7 habits help you a bit to make the WFH exercise more effective. If you know other good habits and tools, let me know.

From Notepad to Wix …

… and Blogger, Plog / Lifetype, PostNuke, DocuWiki, WordPress in between.

It’s been 24 years since I hosted my own website (you can find the history here), and one lesson I learnt is there are always better tools out there to develop your own website. Even though professionally I use other enterprise software to build websites and applications, I reckon you can always learn more by using other tools or platforms to build your own website.

While I use WordPress to build / host my personal website (yes, you’re reading this – michaelyung.com), I moved my photo website, 80days.com, from WordPress to Wix. I don’t exactly know why I made the move as WordPress served me pretty well to host my photos. However, the idea of trying something new pushed me to evaluate other options and eventually I settled with Wix.

The first thing I learnt from Wix was the tool is beautifully implemented, and the next was there were too many options, settings that it would take anyone a long time to complete a site. You will also need to understand a whole different set of vocabulary, before you know what you’re doing. You can control the locations of the elements on the page, pixel by pixel … and therefore you will likely spend many long hours to make your website looks perfect, pixel by pixel.

In summary, Wix is great for design focus websites, but shall you do it to move websites to the Wix ? Not likely, if the WordPress site is already serving you well.

Connecting the Dots, Connecting the Blockchain

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs

Back in 1994, I joined a company who was developing a document service for the trading companies in Hong Kong. The service facilitated the trading companies to send various trading documents to the Hong Kong Government securely and with authenticity.

The technology behind all these was Public Key Infrastructure, or asymmetric cryptography. Even though back then I was the System Architect of such system, the technology was totally new to me – Hashing, Asymmetric Encryption, Digital Signing etc. For some reasons however, I was intrigued by all these fancy technologies.

Fast forward to year 2000, Hong Kong rolled out the Smart IDs for Hong Kong citizens and each of these Smart IDs had a chip embedded that in theory you could store the Private Key inside it and did your own digital signing. And of course, with the receiving party’s Public Key, we could do secure encryption as well.

Eight years later, in October 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto published a paper on The Cryptography Mailing list at metzdowd.com, described the digital currency – BitCoin. And the infrastructure that BitCoin worked above was what we call now – Blockchain (this term is not used at all in the original white-paper).

By now, you all know Blockchain is again based on hashing, cryptography and time-stamping. Did I know what I learnt back in 1994 would become the foundation of the digital currency or even future computing infrastructure ?

No of course, because as Steve Jobs said … we can only connect the dots looking backwards.

I don’t know ten, twenty years later, what dots we all can connect and find something new. However, you may be able to get some insights on the following excellent documentary on Blockchain

F-Stop Guru Camera Backpack

Two things I don’t like much about the Manfrotto / Kata Revolver backpack are first, it’s not designed to hold two camera bodies even with its rather huge body. Second issue is the backpack cannot stand by itself – after all it’s designed like a revolver (such that you can access lens easily).

So, the Revolver is out … and F-Stop Guru is in.

To me, a great camera backpack should has the following features (YMMV though) :

  • It has to be lightweight.
  • It shall look like a typical hiking / day-trip backpack, but not a backpack with camera gear inside.
  • It shall hold two M4/3 camera bodies, a few Olympus Pro zoom lens, one or two fixed lens, and a flash.
  • It shall allow the photographer to access the gears easily, by slinging the bag or access from the side.
  • It shall be able to slot in a 13 inches laptop.
  • It shall include lots of small internal pockets to hold accessories.
  • The shoulder strap shall not be that thick to fit the Capture Pro Camera Clip.
  • It shall has side pocket(s) to hold bottle of water.
  • It shall include rain cover.
  • And of course, It can stand by itself.

Bonus – it can fit in an internal hydration pack.

Well yes, the F-Stop Guru fits the bill.

 

My 20 Kindle eBooks of 2014

books

2014 is a tough and rough year.

However it is also a good year, as I kind of picked up reading again (thanks to the Kindle Paperwhite II, my fourth Kindle), even though I am still a slow reader. Managed to only finish 20 Kindle eBooks this year, and my favourite ones are “Stuffocation“, “Lean Startup“, “Service Design” and “Pitch Perfect“.

The 20 books in reading sequence …

  1. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think
  2. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
  3. Data Science for Business: What you need to know about data mining and data-analytic thinking
  4. Chariots of the Gods
  5. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
  6. Stuffocation
  7. Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I Went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur
  8. The Fortune Cookie Principle : The 20 Keys to a Great Brand Story and Why Your Business Needs One
  9. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
  10. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
  11. Difference: The one-page method for reimagining your business and reinventing your marketing
  12. Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time
  13. Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works (Lean Series)
  14. Service Design: From Insight to Implementation
  15. Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising
  16. The Giza Power Plant: Technologies of Ancient Egypt
  17. Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain
  18. Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)
  19. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
  20. The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History’s Greatest Mystery Revealed

Still, there are a few books in the Kindle impatiently waiting … shall be good for the next three, four months !!

  1. The Orion Mystery: Unlocking the Secrets of the Pyramids (a reread)
  2. The FastDiet – Revised & Updated: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting
  3. Loyalty 3.0: How to Revolutionize Customer and Employee Engagement with Big Data and Gamification
  4. Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers
  5. The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users
  6. The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch
  7. Flash Boys

Keep reading !!

Are QR Codes Dead ?

Newspaper

So you probably know … QR Code was invented in 1994 (yap, 20 years ago) by Denso Wave. Although initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR codes now are used in a much broader context especially in mobile, for example to add a vCard contact to the user’s device, to open a webpage thru Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), or to compose an e-mail or text message.

However, just a silly question, how many times have you scanned a QR Code ? Say in the last 30 days ? Let me ask again in greater details, how many times have you picked up your phone, started up the phone, run the scanning app, pointed the phone to the QR Code, and scanned it (provided you have the QR Code in focus and in good light) ?

Two and a half years ago, Forbes asked the question “Are QR Codes dead ?”. And this question was raised many times in the past two years (you can Google it), but still there is no firm answer. In fact, the other 2D code technology Microsoft Tag is closing down soon.

So I did a test … I picked up one San Francisco Chronicle (a daily newspaper for the greater San Francisco area), and flipped through all the pages with an aim to find one QR code to scan. And the result – none. Nothing. Yap there is no single QR code in the whole newspaper.

So why are QR Codes so popular in Japan, Korea, China and also picking up speed in Hong Kong, but yet no one is really using it in a high-tech city like San Francisco ? There are many different reasons from IT and marketing experts, but I think the real reason is – the English language.

Imagine your small company (“Company”) is running a promotional campaign and want your target customers to browse your company website like http://www.COMPANY.com, or call the toll free number – 1-800-COMPANY. It may be pretty easy to do it in North America, just print the ad in newspaper with the website address and the phone number.

But what if your target customers are not that fluent in English ? What if it is hard for them to memorise your company name, the website address etc. ? Naturally, I think one solution is to use QR Code and I think that is why it’s popular in non-English speaking countries – Japan, Korea, China, as most (if not all) website addresses are composed in English language characters.

With all that said, still QR Code will give it another try, as the Merchant Customer Exchange in US is rolling out a new payment gateway CurrentC, with an attempt to kill Apple Pay (and also Credit Card fee). The whole idea of the payment gateway is to use QR Code to link the transaction to your bank account.

So, may be, let’s visit this question “Are QR Codes dead ?” again in two years time. Stay tuned.

Kindle Voyage, iPad Air 2 or iPad Mini 3 ?

Kindle-Family

Same to many of you, I have the Kindle Paperwhite II and the iPad Air. The Paperwhite II is my primary ebook reading device, and the iPad Air is my primary digital content consumer – be it News, Blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Zite or YouTube. I also use the iPad Air to compose emails, post feeds to social media via Buffer etc.

Both devices are pretty new and of course, both devices did not stone last few weeks even the new gadgets from Kindle and Apple launched recently. The key question is … “Is it worth an upgrade to the latest gadgets, even though mine are still working perfectly ?”

“No.” is my answer, in my case.

But what about you ? Let’s see the specifications of Kindle Paperwhite II and Kindle Voyage, key improvements are highlighted.

  1. Kindle Paperwhite is US$ 80 cheaper;
  2. Screen sizes are the same – 6″;
  3. Kindle Voyage screen include “adaptive light sensor”;
  4. Kindle Voyage screen touch screen and PagePress (Pressure-based page turn sensors in both side of the device);
  5. Kindle Voyage screen is higher resolution (300 vs 212);
  6. Kindle Voyage is lighter, for about 30 g;
  7. Sizes are similar but Kindle Voyage is thinner;
  8. Both store similar number of books and battery life last the same;
  9. Kindle Voyage gets a new Origami Cover.

Again, my answer to Kindle Voyage is “No.”. But if it’s your first Kindle, or your old one is broken, Kindle Voyage is a no-brainer.

ipad-air2

And what about iPad Air, iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 ? Again, I highlight the major differences.

  1. Depends on configuration, but you can get an iPad Air 2 or iPad Mini 3 with 128 GB;
  2. iPad Air is now cheaper than iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3;
  3. The screen resolutions of the 3 devices are actually the same (surprise !!);
  4. iPad Air 2 is 1.4 mm thinner and 30 grams lighter;
  5. iPad Air 2 is equipped with A8X chip and M8 motion coprocessor – it’s 40% faster;
  6. Both iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 have the Touch ID, iPad Air 2 also gets a barometer;
  7. The FaceTime camera resolution is the same across 3 devices, but iPad Air 2 is equipped with an 8M iSight Camera (iPad Air gets only 5M iSight Camera);
  8. iPad Air 2 supports slo-mo video now;
  9. Battery life are all similar.

To me, if you think your iPad Air is fast enough, you don’t really need to upgrade to iPad Air 2, unless you really, really need the Touch ID.