Stop going 40 mph in first gear.

Stop going 40 mph in first gear.

This article is recommends three sources for better ways to work. It’s not about testing in particular, just working.

Working in technology can be chaotic. You will often get a lot of training in the deeply technical. What you rarely get well trained in are the things that everyone needs to do all the time. This seems a little strange to me. The tester in me asks “how can we do better?”

You can learn to organize your work and work towards meaningful objectives. You can learn to present your great ideas clearly and powerfully. You can also keep an eye out for other ways to evolve your work habits.

Learn from the experts and get your career into high gear. Here are two books and one web site that came highly recommended to me and I highly recommend in turn.

Beyond Bullet Points will teach you how to communicate ideas effectively.

Cliff Atkinson's guide is a breath of fresh air about communicating in the business world. It has a science based approach grounded in communications research. You will never look at a PowerPoint slide deck the same way again.

Start on the right foot.

When you are transmitting your ideas to another person or a group you need to know the answers to five basic questions. What’s the current setting? Who is the main actor (usually the audience)? What is keeping us from succeeding? Where do we want to end up? How do we get there? Cliff’s book boils this down to a template and has solid advice and examples on how to answer them and then communicate that reasoning fully and clearly. Basically how to hook your audience in the first few slides and keep them focused and interested.

Tell a good story

Rooted in successful techniques millennia old, good story tellers have been using the ideas that Aristotle cataloged in Poetics (335 BC) with great success. Cliff boils the ideas down and shows you how to create powerful presentations that scale from five to forty-five minutes. The ideas in the book can be easily adapted to essay writing and even email.

Use slides to communicate instead of bore.

We often end up in meetings with slides projected up on a screen. Hearing someone read a bullet list to you gets old fast. Learn how to use the slides to engage your audience instead of boring them into a trance. Aristotle didn’t have to compete with television and movies. You do, and cliff shows you how to take advantage of the media culture to get your points across.

Take Back Your Life will teach you how to use your precious time for maximum impact.

Sally McGhee’s book will teach you how to use your email, calendar, task list and PDA to make your life more organized.

Learn to apply powerful filters to your to-do lists.

We all have a lot of input coming at us all the time. It’s easy to over commit or get distracted. It’s also easy to lose track of all the things we want to do. Sally has concrete steps for identifying, concentrating and processing your inputs.

Gain the ability to make commitments and deliver on them.

People who have goals and strive to achieve them are more effective. This goal seeking behavior doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t know many people who are “naturally organized.” Sally has a great system for the rest of us. It takes the whole book to lay it out, but it’s well worth it.

Find out these toys are actually good for something.

 We all have access to email, cell phones, calendar software and task tracking. Sally’s advice ties this all together in a cohesive system that makes these systems work for you. Even a Blackberry or PDA can be a powerful source of organizational instead of a constant distraction.

Read for new productivity ideas.

Lifehacker has a blog style and filtered comments based on the theme of getting things done. They ask questions all the time about life that any good hacker would ask about any technology.

Lot of good tips

Every week you can probably find something to make your life more focused and faster in some ways. Articles range from experimental sleep cycle programs to applets to let you use your screen real-estate more effectively.

Lots of distractions

One man’s productivity booster is another man’s time suck. There are a lot of good ideas here, but there are also a lot of distractions. Sometimes distractions can be a good thing and fuel our creativity. Don’t read it when you are on a tight deadline and you will be fine.

Smoothly transition your life into the next gear.

If your inbox is overflowing and last time you explained your great ideas people said “I don’t get it” then read some great books and articles to learn how tame these problems and more.

Will you move your career to the next level? You only have to get a little more effective to see big long term gains.

So be on the lookout for the little and big ways you can be more effective today.