Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Tracking my New Year’s resolutions

Many ways has been suggested to help keep one new year resolutions. Here I’m going to practice many at the same time. 

  1. Have clear and specific and measurable goals 
  2. Share the goals publicly and with friends
  3. Keep daily diary of the progress 
  4. Start with why, beyond the number to what are the purpose of the goals
  5. Focus on the prize, think about how your life would be better when the goals are accomplished 
For anyone interested here is my daily tracker. I wrote about why in the previous blog entry. I want more vitality, less stress, happy relationship with my family. I can visualize the possibility when I accomplish my goals. 

Wish me luck and happy new year to all! 

Avoid long lectures..

Not a few minutes into the new year and I already have an opportunity to start my new year resolution. My first challenge to my son to improve our relationship in 2019. His number one complaint is that I lecture too much and I repeat myself. Instead of getting mad, I acknowledged that this is probably true. I have diarrhea of the mouth when it comes to my son’s areas of improvement. Then I raised the stakes. I offered that if he wrote down the various main points of my lectures he can point at them and I would stop if I agree with the assertion.

Let’s see if he takes the offer. :)

Friday, December 28, 2018

2019 Personal OKRs

As I enter 2019, I'm grateful for all the good and wonderful things that happening in my life. I have a amazing wife, gracious kids, good work environment, and my health. In each of these areas, I have recognization, validation and each care about my contributions in their lives. I also see that my personal cognitive abilities, health, and energy seems to have long since peaked and going downward. My plan for 2019 is counteract that downward trend and improve my impact by really focusing on what's important and say No to lots of distractions.

Things that accelerate the downward trend are various stressor in my life that rob of my vitality and energy. Worrying about my health is a source of stress. While, my health is good, I nevertheless worry about it. To counteract the negative thinking, I need to focus and make self-care a priority. After 3.5 years of steady and solid work performance, I can definitely ease the gas pedal at work. Instead of trying to do everything and quickly, I can pace myself and focus on the really important tasks that I add the most value. Saying No at work and set better boundaries of reasonable tasks. Last but not least, as my son enters high school, that's going to be huge area of stress on the whole family. I need to rethink our relationship and focus on the positive impact that I can have on his life.

After much practice at work with all the quarterly and annual planning, here are my personal OKRs.

Improve sustainability and quality of life by rethinking or removing sources of stress.

  • Exercises consistently. Nothing difficult but do something consistently 3 times a week. 
  • Read more. Aim for 20 non fiction books on categories of business, self improvement, personal finance, and teen parenting.  
  • Cut back on coffee and refined sugar by 25% and drink more water. 
  • Lose 15 pounds. 
  • Work less (keep normal hours and turn-off work device during off hours unless highly urgent tasks)
  • Practice digital well-being (less screen time and social media). Less than 30 min per day on random news, social media, youtube, etc. 
  • Recognize and appreciate my family, reduce my negative energy and not be a source of stress on my family. 

Non fiction reading list of 2018

Looking back on 2018, I'm did okay on my objectives. 

  • Sleep more
  • Work less
  • Read more
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Exercises more

I didn't do a good job with these objectives, should have clear target metrics with timeline. But I did sleep more and worked less. My biggest win is definitely reading more. I have read more non fiction books than probably last 5 years combined. 

Here is my reading list ranked from most interesting to boring. I highly recommend the first 8 books, the rest is interesting but a reader digest version is just as good. Looking forward to reading even more books next year. 

  1. The Power of Moments. Heath, Chip
  2. Outliers. Gladwell, Malcolm
  3. David and Goliath. Gladwell, Malcolm
  4. Grit. Duckworth, Angela
  5. Mindset. Dweck, Carol
  6. Homo deus : a brief history of tomorrow. Harari, Yuval
  7. Great at Work. Hansen, Morten
  8. If You are So Smart Why are You Not Happy. Raghunathan, Raj
  9. Drive. Pink, Daniel
  10. 12 Rules for Life. Peterson, Jordan
  11. Smarter, Faster, Better. Duhigg, Charles
  12. Originals. Grant, Adam
  13. When. Pink, Daniel
  14. The Achievement Habit. Roth, Benard
  15. The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family. Lencioni, Patrick
  16. Win Bigly, Adam. Scott

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Applying product management skills to parenting

It has been a little over 3 years since I transitioned from head of engineering for startups to a product manager at Google. Can't say it has been an easy transition, probably one of the hardest things that I have ever done. But that's the blog entry for another time. Last time, I wrote a blog entry was the same time, during the middle of the 7th-grade quarterly check. Well, 8th grade is here and I'm a bit more prepared this time and got ahead of many surprises in advance. This time, instead of teaching time management and planning, I wanted to take a big step back and think about applying my product management skills to the problem of parenting.

In true PM style, I wrote a deck (here) :)



Thursday, November 9, 2017

My journey with a disorganized 7th grader

Original Post on Medium (here)

Imagine my surprise. A few weeks ago, I did a mid-quarter grade check with my son. My son who has never been super organized but managed to get it together enough to get straight A’s in 6th grade and received the Presidential Educational award upon graduation. I was in for a shocker. ‘A’ for PE and a no homework elective class, all the core academic subjects ranging from F to B. I joking said to him.. looks like you got a whole rainbow of grades. I would be lying if I said, I took it calmly and with strides.
After *much* yelling, screaming, and lecturing, I put on my Program Management hat and work on troubleshooting this issue. The good news is that we don’t have deeper social problems with bullies, drugs, break up with friends, etc. This is really just a matter of scaling from few teachers to 6 teachers, all with different styles and higher expectations.
Following his work for a week and I identified many issues, roughly prioritized severity.
  1. Lost homework is the number one issue. It’s lost among all the mess with other papers. His backpack is a dump. I found homework from the first week of school that was never turned in, crumpled and partially complete, stuffed in some random section of the backpack. He doesn’t do the homework because the assignment is lost. Sometimes, he completes the homework, then didn’t turn it in or turn in late. Dispute with the teacher, turned in or not, on time or not.
  2. No clear understanding of the objective of the homework and how it would be scored. Not following up with the teacher on results of homework or quiz to look for opportunities for feedback and improvements.
  3. Multiple teachers, assignments, and different styles of homework. We had it easy in the good old days, teachers gave us homework on a tangible piece of paper and we turn in that paper. Easy! Nowadays, we have digital homework, semi-digital homework, and physical homework, and endless variation of things in between. All the teacher uses the digital resources slightly differently and multiple signup and login to different digital tools. It’s a mess. I can’t blame my son for this one. It’s really complicated.
  4. Time management is another serious problem. Unable to properly estimate the time needed to complete homework and taking numerous “breaks”. Large time spend on the computer with low productivity (unnecessary browsing online youtube, changing music, snacking, and sneaking in online games here and there.) Homework that should take 30 minutes to 1 hr stretches to upwards of 3 hours and with low quality.
  5. Lack of planning for longer range projects and assignments, unable to break down the phases of the homework and plan out the steps. If the assignment is due the next day, there is a higher chance of the work getting completed, anything that’s one week out, forgot about it. It will be a late nighter the night before and with terrible quality if he even remembers, which is unlikely.
  6. Cherry picking interesting homework to do first, instead of work in priority based on due time or estimated time to completion.
We all can relate to this challenges. It’s not just middle school, in my professional work when I have too many projects with different customers and teams, it’s hard to get them right. I broke down the root problems as follows.
  1. Need a system to track all work items for all the sources in one place
  2. Need to understand the full “lifecycle” of quiz and homework
  3. Need organized homework time and space
  4. Need communication with teachers and friends to understand the expectation of high-quality work (scoring rubric)
My goal is to focus on the process of managing and planning for the homework. I *TRY* not to manage the “content” of the homework. He is responsible for the quality and outcome of his effort. I can teach him the executive planning function and skill that he lacks at this time. I want to give him a starter system, so he’s not learning this skill through trial and error. Unfortunately, I’m still checking of the basic stuff (name on paper, fill in all the blanks, the questions answered completely). It has been about 5 weeks of struggle to help my son to get better organized. His grades stabilized and slowly improving, but this is not my objective. He is beginning to see the benefit of this system and very reluctantly practicing it. I need to work with him until he fully understands and sees the benefit of the system, customize it and own the system for himself. Ultimately establish long-lasting habits that will enable him to be independent.

Friday, October 10, 2014

My answer for Quora. What are some smart moves a 22-year-old can make as soon as he/she starts earning?

What are some smart moves a 22-year-old can make as soon as he/she starts earning?

I'm sure there are many different cultural and economic specific situation to account for. My assumptions are U.S. middle class, and resident. I think many of the answers above are all great tactical advice. I think you want to step back and look at the big picture of your life.

My first and only financial advice is to set some goals. Decade by Decade..
My plan was to start my own business by 30.
Have net worth of $1M by 40.
Have the option to retire from work by 50. 

You goals will be different but until you have some goals you can't judge any of these advice are worthwhile or not. You need a yardstick to measure your progress in life.

The second part of my financial advice is to track your money carefully. Doesn't matter if you use paper and pencil, spreadsheet, or personal finance software, but learn to track your income and expense down to the smallest detail. This skill is like a muscle. If you're successful, your financial records and taxes will get more and more complicated. You need to build up the financial muscles for tracking and thinking about all your expenses and income sources. The rest is all up to you. Keep your expenses down. Make a budget. Diversify your income. All these goals requires you to track your money and make money work for you. This skill will be invaluable if you start your own business. Tracking your income and expense regularly will help save you considerable time and frustration when doing taxes.

The third part of my financial advice is to diversify your income sources. Make higher salary is great but you can get laid off any time. Start a consulting business and some clients doesn't pay or sues you. Buy rental properties, and some tenants will not pay rent. Buy 401k and invest in stock market with all the tremendous ups and downs. Buy CD with fixed income and inflation increase higher then the CD rates. I don't believe there are any risk free financial instruments. The only way to go is to diversify your income sources, and make enough margin so you can hire other people to manage the income source for you. You focus on growing and diversify multiple streams of income and scale up your financial power over time.  Hire other people to manage any single income sources.

My second advice is to find the love of your life..
With luck your life will be will long, find the right person to spend your  life with will be the happiest thing you ever do for yourself. No matter how much money you have or how successful you become at work, I don't think you can be truly happy unless you have someone to share it with.

My third advice is to practice life work balance.
You will never find that balance for long. Life and work change too quickly but as a skill you can learn to re-balance  more quickly over time. Learn what it takes to recharge your personal battery and your family's batteries. Traveling, vacation, reading, sports, volunteer, whatever. Don't wait until you're burned out to recharge. Recharge often!

My forth advice is start a diary or a blog..
And write in it regularly and often, about the things that you are grateful for in life. You will look back over time and be amazed. Human memory is a strange thing. People tend to remember the painful things and forget about the good things. You need to write it down to compensate. You'll live longer and be happier for it.

My 1ast advice is to do something personal, beautiful and creative. If you are like me, my life up to the point of college graduation was planned or filled with external expectations. Which school I go, what classes to take, what activity to do, what books to read, etc. There is something freeing about turning 22, graduating from college and making my own money. You will have the time, and the financial means to pursue something personally beautiful, creative, and emotional rewarding. Drawing, dancing, playing an instrument, singing, hiking, golfing, photography, etc. You don't have to be good. This is not an competition. This is fulfilling your personal need for beauty and freedom in your own life. I started photography once I had enough money to buy decent gears and taking photography classes. Now, I'm learning to play the piano with my kids.