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A Goal is Something You Need to have a Passion About

The Street in the Snow

The Street in the Snow

I’m really bad with long term goals. I know that they’re good to have and that they give one a sense of purpose, but I’m poor at creating them awful at sticking to them.

There are two traps that I tend to fall into.

  1. Moving the deadline backwards. This is all too easily done – if you want to achieve something “in 2 years” it’s all too tempting to retain the idea of “2 years” and forget about the start date and, more importantly, the end date.
    If you’re going to achieve any sort of timed goal then you must set and stick to a deadline.
  2. Failing to plan. Having an idea of something that you want to achieve that is a long way off is a noble thing, but you must work out how you’re going to achieve it. If you don’t then you tend to drift haphazardly doing little bits here and there that are of no real consequence.

Then there is the goal itself. Unless I can see a major benefit for me then I find it hard to get motivated about something for which I have no passion.  If I set a goal then unless it’s something that I really believe in or something that is going to make a profound difference to my life I’m going to have motivational problems.

Despite the above I have a pretty good track record of achieving goals, and how I do it is really quite simple.

Step 1 is to sort the wheat from the chaff. What goals are actually important to you? A common mistake is to set goals of things you think you should achieve rather than things that you actually want to achieve. The difference can be subtle: career advice might tell you that you should be looking for a promotion in 5 years but if you like your job, if you’re earning enough to fulfil your future plans then you heart isn’t going to be in it. If you have a passion for horse-riding and you really, really want your own horse but you can’t afford it then you have a good driver to get a promotion, but the goal here is not the promotion but the horse. The promotion (or change of job) is just the means.

So now you know what you actually want to achieve don’t be tempted to put a number of years next to it, what that does is to dull the passion – it allows you to think that you’re working towards your goal when you’re not.

Instead of setting time limits start planning. What do you need to do? What do you need to do it? Break down large tasks into their component parts, things that have a definite start and a definite end so that you can tick them off.

Consider risks and alternatives. If you’re waiting for something to happen and it doesn’t, or if something goes wrong, what are you going to do? What are the alternatives? How do you mitigate the risks?

Lastly assemble the tasks into a time line – how long will it take? What slippage are you prepared to put up with? This is often a great moment, when you look down and it dawns on you that the goal is not only achievable, but achievable much, much faster than you’d anticipated.

SSD Drives are a Total No-Brainer

When it comes to hardware, technical staff can badger a business senseless. Every member of technical staff claims that they could do their job so much better if they just had this upgrade or that gizmo. Without spending hours reading all the latest hardware blogs, determining what would actually be useful investment in their productivity is next to impossible.

SSD drives are a no-brainer though. The biggest bottleneck in PCs today is the hard disk, clunky, mechanical things that lose an awful lot of time whilst the heads are whizzing back and forth across the platters.
At the time of writing a 64Gb SSD Drive is about £100. I bought one more out of curiosity than anything else and slung it in my ancient 3.0GHz P4.

This video shows it loading Windows XP, logging in, then starting Word and Chrome at the same time.
I then type some rubbish in Word, navigate to Facebook and shut the PC down. The difference an SSD Drive makes is mind-bending. I’m not saying that you should replace existing hard disks with SSD drives, just slap one in with the operating system and apps on and use the old (likely much larger capacity) drive for data. That’s good business sense.

Stealing CPU Cycles from Pointless Pen-Pushers…

HP LaserJet 4

Way back in the dim and distant past when the pointer ruled the world of computing,  I worked with a chap called Bob.

Bob was a proper geek, not a 19 year-old with acne and poor social skills, Bob was what Brian Blessed would have been like if he’d developed an interest in the P-N junction, not Shakespeare.

Bob liked Apple Macs, which hadn’t been a problem because we’re talking about the early 1990s and it was still possible that Apple would win the war for the office desktop. Only the company we worked for had previously plumped for the IBM PC Compatible and Macs had not been supported for a couple of years. Bob was not happy, he loved his little Mac but it ran like treacle.

We were trying to simulate the kind of distortion that happens to microwaves because of atmospheric conditions. The mathematics was very, very seriously serious indeed. The poor little CPU in Bob’s old Mac wasn’t up to the job and he was not just unhappy, he was downright miserable.

Suddenly though, he changed and became much more animated. He muttered at his keyboard. He forgot to take breaks. He forgot to go home. All the signs were that Bob had got himself a problem that he could really get his teeth into.

Then the admin team started having issues with the printers. Not just one, but all the printers on the floor. They kept saying “busy” and refusing to print for some considerable time.

It was my then boss who first figured it out, probably because he knew that Bob could program in Forth. Forth is a very similar language to PostScript and all printers we had were the latest PostScript ones.

At some point it had dawned on Bob that the processing power of just one of these shiny new printers was considerably greater than his Mac. But he hadn’t stopped there, Bob had massively increased his processing power by putting together a rudimentary parallel processing network using PostScript fragments running on the printers.

The one thing that turns genius into sheer brilliance is the ability to think laterally. Bob was brilliant, I consider myself very honoured to have ever worked with him.