Tag Archives: productivity

Congratulations 2017 AIM Program Graduates!

Below is the transcript of AIM Director Kara McFall’s commencement address from June 19, 2017.

To our 2017 AIM graduates, their families and supporters; our AIM faculty and staff; and all others who are here to join in the celebration of our 2017 AIM graduating class—welcome. I’d like to start as I do at each graduation luncheon by asking the graduates, faculty, and staff to stand and join me in honoring the families and friends who supported our graduates throughout the AIM Program. Every one of our AIM graduates has worked hard to achieve the right to stand here today as a graduate of the program; but every graduate also had the help and support of their families and loved ones, who agonized along with them over proper APA citations, assignment deadlines, and countless rounds of edits in Capstone 1. The role that each of you played—as supporters of our AIM graduates—is an important one, and I would like to say thank you.

I will admit that I procrastinated in writing this address—I always do. There is always plenty of work to do in higher education so it’s easy to prioritize other work ahead of sitting down to write. Those of us who make graduation speeches feel the urge to say something profound and memorable, and I spend a lot of time searching for inspiration and the perfect words to say. Eventually, the realities of the calendar impose, and I’m forced to put the words on paper. As I pondered this annual ritual of procrastination, it occurred to me that I could take inspiration from this struggle and pass on a related and valuable lesson I’ve learned: the power of good enough.

The fact that all of you are here today as graduates of a demanding master’s program indicates that you are all high achievers, so the idea of settling for good enough may seem like an odd choice of inspirational themes for your commencement address. I know however that each of you were forced at some point in the program to settle for good enough instead of perfection; the demands of attending class, working full time, and meeting family and other obligations while still squeezing in sleep necessitates completing some assignments to standards that don’t meet your vision of perfection. My intention today as you head out as AIM alumni is to convince you that not only is the practice of sometimes settling for good enough acceptable, it is actually a best practice.

I was first exposed to the idea of good enough by my doctoral dissertation chair, who described the best dissertation as a finished dissertation. Writing a dissertation can be a paralyzing experience; you feel obligated to bring forth some amazing bit of knowledge that is brand new to the world, and to do so in a way that is brilliant and profound; this idea may strike a chord with those of you who recently went through Capstone 1. The result for me was a hesitation to put anything to paper, and my meetings with my chair were frustrating for both of us due to my lack of progress. We finally settled on the approach of setting hard deadlines for different sections, and when I left her office after each meeting she often reminded me that “The best dissertation is a finished dissertation.” In her own way she was advocating that I settle for good enough. This change in my approach is what enabled me to finally start the writing process in earnest and eventually earn my doctorate. Similarly, being forced by the calendar to complete this address is why I am reading a finished speech rather than standing up here winging it.

Some tasks benefit from a systematic approach to completion, while others benefit from a more fluid approach that may include procrastination. You don’t need to be creative when doing your taxes unless your goal is to be a tax evader; a systematic approach in this scenario is best, and it’s obvious when you have reached a point of completion. It can be hard to identify when you have finished a task that requires creativity, as the urge to edit, rewrite, and strive for perfection can be strong. In these cases, procrastination can force us to let go of whatever doubts have been holding us back and achieve a level of brilliance that might have otherwise eluded us. Sometimes pushing ourselves to the point of good enough actually results in a better outcome.

The realities of our schedules dictate that we make the decision to settle for good enough on a regular basis. One of the insights I’m hoping you take away today is to realize that the results of these decisions are not causes for regret, and that you will actually achieve more in life by giving up the standards of perfectionism that cause us to agonize later about not turning in the perfect paper, planning the perfect vacation, or throwing the perfect birthday party. While research backs up my advice, there are challenges all of us face that keep us chasing perfection. In addition to having more choices today than in previous times, we also have more opportunities to compare ourselves to others, through the media and especially through social media. But comparing your decisions and actions to the unreal and sanitized versions we see online doesn’t lead to improved decision making; it inevitably leads to regret. Don’t fall into this trap.

More than ten years ago, psychologist Barry Schwartz coined the terms “satisficers” for people who settle for good enough and “maximizers” for people who always try to choose the very best option. Schwartz’s research was anchored in the idea that all of us now face overwhelming choices for even simple decisions like which brand of cereal to buy. This kind of paralysis can be even more striking when the consequences of a decision are higher. I hold my own versions of the “good enough” discussion with many of my Capstone 1 students who admit they are stressed about picking the right topic, and are worried about the consequences of choosing the wrong topic. If you were one of those students, I hope you will soon discover a fundamental principle of the theory of good enough: you don’t need to achieve perfection in order to succeed. I hope you take the time later, when enough time has passed to put your time with AIM into context, to discover that all of the occasions when you were forced to turn in a paper that did not meet your ideas of perfection are not cause for regret, but instead enabled you to achieve your ultimate goals of gaining new knowledge, learning valuable skills, practicing innovative ideas, and ultimately becoming AIM graduates.

I want to close by clarifying one point: I’m not advocating that you give up high standards and start taking a lackadaisical approach. Instead, I’m suggesting that you recognize the limitations of time and energy and do the best job you can in the time allotted, even if you fall short of your version of flawless. Balance is achieved by learning when to go all-in on a task and when good enough is a smarter goal. You can’t achieve perfection in every task and striving to do so is counterproductive. Doing your best is different from seeking perfection, and if you make doing your best your goal you will find that your sense of satisfaction and of a job well done will rise.  One of the key findings that Dr. Schwartz found in his research is the fact that satisficers, those who pursue good enough, are much happier than the perfectionist maximizers.

AIM class of 2017, I am proud of each one of you and wish you well in doing your best and pursuing the satisfaction that comes with good enough. I hope you will take the opportunity to keep in touch with us as you move into your next phase as AIM graduates. Congratulations to you, AIM class of 2017!

The Technology of Sleep

A woman sleeps clutching a smart phone.I have written before about what I call the examined or quantified life. We try to measure aspects of our life such as heart rate or calorie consumption or number of steps taken. This is often part of an attempt to adjust various aspects of our life to bring more control and meaning to our existence. One of the areas that we may not focus on enough is sleep. If done right it should represent a third of our 24 hour day. This blog post highlights various ideas, technologies, and methods to help quantify, and hopefully improve, sleep.

A Measure of Success

It used to be that lack of sleep was a positive sign that we were too busy and important to take such a long break. A recent New York Times article titled “Sleep Is the New Status Symbol” suggests just the opposite is in vogue. The author cites studies that show lost productivity and health crises attributed to lack of sleep. Now, it is more desirable and advantageous to get enough sleep, whether it be in one block or augmented with a short nap during the day. Quality sleep is the new gold.

There have been studies and articles suggesting smartphones and other devices are disrupting our sleep through bright light and mental stimulation. But there are also devices and apps for measuring sleep quality and duration. Apple’s iOS 10 has a sleep timer built right into the clock that reminds you when it is time to go to bed and then gently wakes you. In addition, it tracks your sleep and makes that available to iOS Health for logging. Also available is the SleepCycle app for Apple devices and SleepBot for Android smartphones. These all encourage you to go to bed and wake up on time through an audible alarm and then track the time that your phone is motionless so that you can modify your patterns if necessary.

Sleep Aids

Pharmaceutical sleep aids sometimes cause addictions or even interrupt sleep that they are supposed to protect. However, there are new technologies that are promising to bring deep, uninterrupted rest. While light on details, the Dreem headband promises to bring a restorative sleep. Due out this summer, the device uses electroencephalogram (EEG) technology to monitor brain patterns and produce soothing sounds at just the right moments. Like the apps mentioned above and wearable devices, it also tracks your duration and quality of sleep.

The Thim device, previewed in the above-mentioned New York Times article, will also debut this summer. Thim trains you to get to sleep faster, thus leading to a better quality sleep. It does this by waking you every three minutes after you first fall asleep in the evening. This is intended to condition your body to go to sleep faster. Personally, I think it would drive me crazy but it may work for some. It also tracks your sleep duration and patterns.


There are some medical issues that prevent sleep and should be dealt with, but for those of us with overactive minds or poor scheduling habits, technology can help. Personally I can go to sleep in five minutes but my brain reengages about 3:00 a.m. and it is not always easy to get back to sleep. I follow all of the standard wisdom, but to no avail. Perhaps one of these monitors or trackers might be just the thing I need. I actually sleep better in a sleeping bag in the woods than in my own bed, which may say something about me.

Have you had success with a sleep app or wearable or other technology? How has it made a difference in your life? Please share your experiences so maybe the rest of us can learn better sleep practices from you.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

March Madness Apps 2016: Technology to the Rescue

Basketball bursts through cell phone.As I write this blog entry, the NCAA basketball tournament is just getting underway. My Ducks are a number one seed as the men’s Pac-12 champions so I will be watching their progress closely. This is the time of year that information technology departments send out their obligatory “don’t stream basketball games over the company internet” message. So, what is a die-hard bracket watching basketball fan to do—take a two week vacation from work? Is there another way to keep up on the drama and still be a productive worker?

NCAA March Madness Live

I was at a technical conference last week during the final games of the Pac-12 championship. People were streaming or monitoring the score of the game on tablets and smartphones. I learned that NCAA March Madness Live is a free app that allows users to live-stream games. The added tournament bracket also provides the schedule, scores, and stats, reporting the action via video highlights and photos.

ESPN Tournament Challenge

For bracket-building, this app shows the entire live bracket and lets you make your own picks, which you can then share with your friends. This app provides alerts to keep you updated on the status of your bracket. This is an easy way to build and monitor the office pool.


If you are traveling during the tournament but you want to root for the home team, there is the Fanatic app. This is a free app available for Android or iPhone devices. It can connect you to fans of your team in the area, including information on nearby sports bars loyal to your team. It also lets you invite friends to watch the game with you, and can help you plan a party if you’d rather watch at home.

TuneIn Pro

While not just for March, this app allows you to find and listen to hundreds of radio stations so that you have your ear buds in and still appear to be working although you are listening to the big game. If you can multitask, this may be your best option for getting through March with your job intact. You can configure channels so that you can easily find relevant content for sports or other entertainment.


You can watch games on television with apps available for Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire, and Apple TV. Of course, if you are not taking two weeks off to watch the tournament and you are heeding the advice of your friendly IT person about office streaming, you can always record games to watch AFTER work. Technology has given us a lot of options.


In a recent calculation by consulting firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, the lost productivity due to March Madness could equal $1.9 billion. I am not encouraging that number to go any higher but I have given you some options for tracking the progress of the NCAA tournaments without using all of the company bandwidth and your time.

Do you know of other apps that keep you connected and informed? Which team do you predict will win the final game on April 4? For me, it’s the Ducks all the way.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Beyond Life Hacking

Bench under a tree in autumnWe shared an article recently on the phenomenon and history of life hacking. That article started me thinking about the need for life hacks. Which life hacks am I employing to simplify my life or make it more efficient?


As the article explores, life hacking as a term goes back to the mid-2000s but the concept dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century and beyond, as we sought ways to wring out every last ounce of inefficiency, especially in the work place. The wisdom says that if we can find five minutes here and ten minutes there, pretty soon it all starts to add up to real time savings that we can use in other parts of our lives. Perhaps we can gain a few minutes to actually relax, for example. I would argue, however, that we are human beings and not systems or machines. I am not convinced that it is a good idea to measure and systemize everything just to realize a few minutes of time savings.

Fifty Life Hacks to Simplify Your World

The official website of life hacking (you knew there had to be one) is lifehack.org. On this site, they list fifty life hacks to simplify your world. A lot of them are common sense but they are all designed to save you seconds or even minutes in your busy life. Some are designed to help you find things that you misplace, such as keys. Personally, that would give me back quite a bit of time. Others are everyday tips to simplify and unclutter your life, ostensibly so that you can have a few more minutes to actually live and enjoy life.

Life Hack Apps

The modern version of automating tasks is to create an app. I entered “life hacking” in Google Play and there are several apps that share tips or work to organize your life. They help you set alarms, keep lists and schedules, or remind you of appointments and life events. Some scrape data from the Internet, some just help you access tools that are already on your smartphone to make you more efficient. There are apps and devices that help you track and maximize the value that you get from your sleep each night. Now we have sleep hacking! Everything is designed to make your life ultraefficient, but I worry that it is also taking some of the fun and uncertainty out of life.


I understand the need for life hacking tools. We are all crazy busy and our work lives and personal lives often have melded into one continuous stream. It is sometimes hard to tell where one stops and the other begins. I would like to suggest that instead of hacking every aspect of our being, we put on the brakes once in a while and just be. Sit in a chair in the sunshine and do nothing. Reflect on the wonders of nature or the success that you have attained in life as opposed to worrying about the next minute, the next meeting, and the next assignment. I think that will do as much to recharge your system as any life hack. The world will still be there when you come back and most likely will not have missed you as much as you think. We thrive on being busy and accomplishing incredible tasks, but when was the last time you really relaxed? There is real power and real health benefits in shutting down occasionally, even for just a few minutes.

When was the last time you stopped your world for some time out? Do you have one favorite life hack that affords you those few moments to do just that?

Let me know your thoughts.


About Kelly BrownAuthor Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.