Welcome!

Blog Feed Post

Stop Doing Meta-Work Now!

While walking around the office I happened upon a relatively new employee dragging emails from his inbox into folders. I asked why and was told, “I’m just answering emails and getting stuff off my desk.” An empty inbox may be emotionally satisfying to look at, but in practice, you should never do it. Here’s why.

I recently wrote a piece arguing that from a mathematical perspective, Messy Desks Are Perfectly Optimized. While it validated the genius of my friends with messy desks, it also generated a barrage of good-natured ribbing from my super-neat friends. Emotions aside, the math is the math! By putting the last paper you looked at on top of the pile, you are organizing your desk using an algorithm called LRU (Least Recently Used). It is based on the idea that the papers you most recently used are the ones you are most likely to use again. Conversely, the papers you have not used in a long time will probably remain unused. It is the closest you can come to predicting what data you are most likely to need next. But what about the papers on the bottom of the pile? When and where should they be filed?

Caching and Storage

Even if you don’t mind piles of paper everywhere, at some point, you are going to have more piles than will actually fit on your desk. It is this natural evolution from messy desk to messy office that gives us some insights into possible algorithms for caching and storage. Again, LRU comes to our aid.

Imagine you are doing research for an article. You keep the books that have the information you are using most open on your desk. Books that are important but not currently in use can be piled closed on the corners of your desk. Books you may need sometime in the near future can be piled on the floor around your desk or on a nearby chair. Books you don’t need too often can be on a bookshelf across the room. Books you don’t really need can be in your home library down the hall. Books you will rarely need can be stored on bookshelves in your basement. Each level of storage comes with increased costs of placement and retrieval. It will take much longer to go downstairs to find a book in the basement than it will to find a book you placed on the chair next to your desk. LRU helps determine what data to store and where to store it, and provides insights required for the related cost-benefit analysis.

Work vs. Meta-Work

In the physical world, you don’t need to sort any of the books alphabetically (although many people do it anyway); you just need to be able to scan the bookshelves with your eyes. Alphabetical sorting requires hours (possibly days) of meta-work. The result is an aesthetically pleasing, emotionally satisfying library shelf. But it’s a huge waste of time. You just need to know the general location of the book you want, and you can quickly scan the shelf to find what you need. What if you had a million books? Again, the math is the math. You’d need to look at all million books at least once to sort them. Until you reach a certain level of organization (which requires the application of other algorithms), searching beats sorting.

This is especially true with regard to your email inbox. You should never even consider manually moving emails into folders. It’s a huge waste of time. Practically speaking, even auto-filtering emails into folders is borderline useless. It’s fine to tag an email to help classify it for a search. In fact, tagging is a best practices method of enhancing search, but dragging an email into a folder is just meta-work. It will take you about the same time to manually place an email into a folder that it takes to file a piece of physical paper into a file folder. The key difference is that you can search your inbox in milliseconds. Why take hours to meticulously file when it only takes fractions of a second to search?

So the next time you are overwhelmed by the number of emails in your inbox, rejoice. They are all in one place and are automatically sorted by temporal relevance. Be comforted by the fact that no email in your inbox is more than a keyphrase and a click away. And revel in the glory that LRU and a well-indexed search algorithm are tuned to optimize your productivity.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

Other Articles You May Enjoy

Messy Desks Are Perfectly Optimized

Why Lose-Lose Is Almost Always A Winning Strategy

iPhone X Review

Who Should Be The President of the Internet?

Chipping People: Are You Ready?

ICOs: What You Need to Know

How Do You See the Future?


The post Stop Doing Meta-Work Now! originally appeared here on Shelly Palmer

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of Fox Television’s "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.

Latest Stories
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, James Henry, Co-CEO/CTO of Calgary Scientific Inc., introduced you to the challenges, solutions and benefits of training AI systems to solve visual problems with an emphasis on improving AIs with continuous training in the field. He explored applications in several industries and discussed technologies that allow the deployment of advanced visualization solutions to the cloud.
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.