PowerCLI 11.0 is Out – Easy Update and Features Galore!

PowerCLI fans unite and celebrate as the launch of the latest edition is now public.  If you’re a reader of my blog then there is a good chance you probably found me from PowerShell or PowerCLI  content which also is a hint of much more to come in the next while.

The first thing you will want to do as the new release is out is to make sure you get your install up to date.  If you haven’t already deployed PowerCLI using the modular approach and get past a couple of common gotchas with these blogs.

This is the list of added goodness as shared from the official PowerCLI blog on the update

  • Added a new Security module
  • Added new cmdlets for Host Profiles
  • Added a new cmdlet to interact with NSX-T in VMware Cloud on AWS
  • Support for vSphere 6.7 Update 1
  • Support for NSX-T 2.3
  • Support for Horizon View 7.6
  • Support for vCloud Director 9.5
  • Multiplatform support for the Cloud module
  • Updated the Get-ErrorReport cmdlet
  • Removed the PCloud module
  • Removed the HA module

These are handy as you get rolling with the most recent versions of vSphere and if you are a vCloud Director fan.  The security updates are probably the most prominent with the update to adding more with both native vSphere 6.7 Update 1 and the vSphere Platinum edition.

Running the Update using Update-Module in PowerShell

This example here shows how to easily update using PowerShell Module management which I’m showing from a Mac OSX installation.

You want to check to see which version you have first which is done using the Get-Module -Name VMware.PowerCLI first:

That confirms our current version.  This happens to be running 10.1.1 before the update.  All you have to do to get the latest update is run the Update-Module -Name VMware.PowerCLI and walk through the prompts. You will be asked about whether to trust the repository or not (spoiler alert:  you have to say Yes)

NOTE: If you’re reading this after future updates beyond 11.0 then you will get the latest edition available at that time from the PSGallery.

Here’s a quick 2 minute video to show you the install in action!

Happy Scripting!

Why Inbox Zero may Not be What you Think but it is Better than you Realized

Inbox Zero is probably not what you think it is. There is a fairly common misconception that just doing a Select All | Delete would count as Inbox Zero. There is a generally good feeling that comes from the clean look of an empty inbox, but that is really just part of the real psychology behind it all.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why Inbox Zero is a huge productivity winner and also how to get there.

Inbox Zero is about flow, not message counts

I wrote about the Email Game previously and have been practicing this method on a daily basis. Every day at 10 AM the game begins and sometimes I follow up with an afternoon edition in cases where there is a big buildup of content.

Dropping the message count down to zero is a cathartic feeling. That’s not the real reason Inbox Zero is important, though. The real reason is about the flow of work which is affected by the way that tools like the email game make us work. By rapidly forcing cleanup and answering emails in seconds instead of labouring over them for minutes to get the same result, we increase the flow which means increased productivity.

Flexing the Email Muscle

Stacks of emails are no different than piles of paper which need to be dealt with. The count is important and has a profound psychological (and even a physiological) effect on you as I wrote in a recent blog on Why Badges and Notifications are Killing your Productivity. Moving the badge counter to zero by increasing the flow of work effectively means that you are increasing the output and training your email muscles.

Any communication is meant to simply move the flow of work and keep track of data/details to ensure we are communicating effectively. Email often becomes a long-form version of instant messaging apps. A former manager I worked with once said “if you have more than 3 replies to an email, pick up the phone”.

Moving emails through and assigning real todo items into lists or other tools like Kanban or task management products will lead to a cleaner flow from inbox to output. Time to start your training!

Your First Inbox Zero Training

When you run the process of the Email Game it teaches you do a few things which are practices and methods to increase productivity:

  1. Discard or archive unneeded email – spam, ads, and general mails that you usually spend time on are quickly moved through to archive or trash You will become adept at scanning and archiving to really decide what’s necessary to keep
  2. Boomerang content that needs to be revisited by giving it an honest priority – 2 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours, tomorrow and more. These are deferrals which you become much better at honestly assigning priority to
  3. Reply / Reply All – Separate buttons (thank you for reducing Reply to All storms by accident!) which give you a timer to answer the email. When the clock is running, you learn to be concise and quick.
  4. Open and interact – timer stops while you click into the email which opens in another tab. Sometimes you need a little time to dig into the content

Start with the first batch of emails and then think about things like “how can I reply quickly but get an effective response?” and also think about changing from using your inbox and unread emails as a todo list. If you have email that needs to be revisited, the boomerang feature is super cool. You can even reply and set it to remind you after a period of time if no reply comes back.

Inbox Zero Achieved, Now What?

Practice, practice, practice! Make this a daily habit. As I mentioned in my notifications and productivity blog, the habit of managing email as a batch process means that you free up that nagging feeling where you have to check all the time to see what’s new. Don’t deal with email when it comes in. Deal with email on your schedule which creates the habit for both you and for the folks you communicate via email with. We all need to be trained on getting better productivity 🙂

Time your batch processing to a few times a day on specific intervals. Here is how to make that work:

PRODUCTIVITY HACK #1 – Don’t open email until 10 AM. Seriously, this works once you get used to it. Start with 8, then 9, then eventually you will find that most of the early emails are people pitching content over the fence so that they clear up their todo list.

My email cycle is to generally not open email until 9 or 10 AM. This includes work and personal email. From there, CLOSE YOUR EMAIL CLIENT!! Yes, you read that correctly. Close down your email until after lunch. Then batch process email and prioritize what is current for the day, then CLOSE YOUR EMAIL AGAIN. Set your next batch at 3 PM or so, and then once more at the end of the day.

If you follow the more aggressive Cal Newport / Tim Ferriss methods, they use things like days-in-a-row without email and auto-responders, but I tend towards the more early stages of email batch handling which has proven to be super helpful.

Let me know what you think and your own methods by dropping in a comment. Sharing your successes and challenges helps all of our readers and I learn every day from how my peers take on and adopt productivity habits.

Why Badges and Notifications are Killing your Productivity

You have a mission here to prove me wrong 🙂

This blog is about methods to keep attention and increase productivity. The whole read should be less than 6 minutes. Good luck, and I hope you find this helpful!

There are a lot of challenges we face on a daily basis. Abundance of information is an incredible value that we have thanks to social media, continuous availability of our resources online, worldwide access to a wealth of knowledge and to people everywhere. The down side to this access is that it’s a trade-off. Herbert A. Simon, an economist and political scientist, sums it up well in this statement:

“in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume”

Cal Newport (http://calnewport.com/) wrote a great book called Deep Work, and shares many ways that you can attack the issue of scarcity of attention when doing what requires specific and focused attention on a subject.

What I want to share with you here is a life hack that I borrowed from the ideas of Newport, Tim Ferris (http://tim.blog) and others, which has led to some proven success over the last few years and increased success in recent weeks and months as I have aggressively adjusted my routines to embrace these methods.

Badges?! We don’t need no stinking badges!

Beep! That sound of a notification sends you an audible or vibrating buzz (and fires off a shot of dopamine to your brain) in order to get you to stop what you’re doing and look at your email/phone/computer. We are living in a culture of immediacy with email, text messages, Skype, Slack, and dozens of other tools that are fighting for our immediate attention.

Here is the maxim that I use: nothing needs your immediate attention, or if it does, it should be a focus not a fight.

Some simple rules I’ve been able to apply which help bring this focus are:

  1. Email is not an immediate communication tool – Don’t send an email and expect a quick reply
  2. If everything is a “rush” then nothing is – prioritization is relative, so use the phrases rush, ASAP, and High Priority carefully
  3. Would this task/message/process fail if you were sick for 1-2 days? – Imagine if you suddenly had to call in sick for 1 or 2 days and whether this task would be waited on or re-assigned as a result. Odds are it can wait
  4. Does the number of notifications and unread items increase the anxiety and decrease your ability to focus on prioritizing your work?

Number 4 is the important point as you get ready to start your focus experiment.

Turning off Badges Enables Productivity

The badge notifications showing unread account are decreasing your ability to prioritize. That’s a fact. If you have 3 things to do, you can prioritize them with relative ease. If you have 5 you start to run out of ways to prioritize due to amount of time you can think about getting them done in. Move beyond 5 into double and triple digit counts and you are off the rails on ability to prioritize and you are now swimming in attention deficit.

This is where your experiment begins. What would happen if you turned off the badge counters in your apps (email, Slack, etc.) and just moved to checking on a regular cadence and ignoring the “number”? Spoiler alert: it will make you more productive.

Here are the steps I took that you should too:

Step 1: Shut of the badge counters in all of my apps other than Skype and iMessage which I elected as prioritized apps
Step 2: Develop patterns to check regularly, but less often (e.g. 10 AM, 1 PM, 3 PM, 5 PM)
Step 3: Create a pattern where you become available for checking and response
Step 4: Enjoy!

What I’ve proven with my social and work circles over the change in my habits and patterns is that if you reply immediately to emails, you will be expected to always reply immediately to email. If you need to be reached quickly, there is an expectation that every channel is a path to immediate response. It also means that every time to stop to pick up a message/notification it takes your attention away from another task.

Choose your “In case of rapid response” method using {tool of choice}

For my work, Skype and iMessage are the two methods that I have highlighted as more immediate accessibility. Skype is the primary chat method for work and iMessage is the one thing I do check as my family uses it. You must also train yourself to not answer every message or check every message immediately. If you’re in a group chat, let it roll by for a while and shake off the dopamine-triggered response need that we all have. We are literally fighting off biology and deep-rooted psychological responses here, for our own good.

Over the course of a pattern training you will find the you can differentiate better between prioritizing and just attention-stealing tasks and notifications. The schedule does not create the habit as much as your desire to use the schedule as a way to create the habit. What I mean is that you have to strive for the goal of stretching out the attention-eating activities and use the attention-focused times towards more tasks which need deeper thought and focus.

Your Productivity (and You) are Looking Up

If you’ve stuck it through to this part of the blog, you have given yourself the first positive result. just by spending the 3-5 minutes reading this has proven that you are keen to know how to keep attentive to a task. Did you know that the average time spent on most blog articles hovers around 1 minute? It isn’t that you read them in 1 minute, but that most people start to scan, scroll, and then skip the content as attention fades.

REMEMBER: Your goal here is to focus attention, not to ignore things. This is about being able to more effectively attach focus and prioritization to a task or set of tasks and to increase the flow of work. You may even find that the task is a 2-3 minute task but even in that 2-3 minute period you might find yourself thinking about something else or reaching for your phone to check a notification which cuts into that productive time.

This will undoubtedly help when you need to dedicate deep attention to things like reading a long-form book or article, writing, programming, requirements gathering for a technical project, or other tasks that need warm up and undivided attention.

Another bonus effect is that you find yourself looking up instead of down into your phone when there may be something or someone who needs your attention.

More than just the interruptions

Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and other great books, explains the deeper issue with this subject. This is beyond the 6 minutes I promised you would need to read this article. It’s a worthwhile video to watch and you may find some inspiration in it. If you find these tips helpful, please drop in a comment below or send me a message on Twitter. I promise that i do read them and take all the comments as great feedback, I just can’t promise I read it the moment you post it 🙂

Setting Your Favicon in Ruby on Rails Apps

Favicons are this nifty little icons on the tab of your browser to help give a little personalized identity rather than the blank page one which is the default

This is one of the super fast things to fix yet I forget every time I build out a Rails app. Favicons can be created with a plethora of different sites. I’m old school and keep using DynamicDrive (http://tools.dynamicdrive.com/favicon/) as it has limited advertising and junk on the site.

The code block is super easy to remember…except when I need to remember it, so here it is:

<%= favicon_link_tag asset_path('image-name.ico') %>

Here are the steps to set up your favicon in your Rails app:

  1. Generate your icon
  2. Copy the icon to the app/assets/images folder
  3. Create the pointer in the HEADsection of your app/views/layouts/application.html.erb file as shown here:

Reload the server your server and you’re off to the races!  Once you restart your app you should see your new icon appear. There may be some delay because some browsers (Chrome being the main culprit) believe in caching everything to save you time on loading. This creates problems because sometimes the cache invalidation takes a while when you legitimately want to see an update.

This will be the end result:

Hopefully this is helpful and saves you a little hunting for the solution.