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The algorithm made me do it

My wife’s a teacher so she’s had months of guff about education from people who know nothing about it.

As I write this there’s a load of guff going around about algorithms by people who know nothing about them.

An algorithm is just a way of making a decision.

If you’re trying to decide whether to take an umbrella with you, your algorithm might be “gather data (look at the sky) and if it’s dark grey take the umbrella”. Simple right?

But that algorithm is based on a piece of knowledge – dark skies normally mean rain coming soon. Asking someone who has only ever lived in Death Valley to write your umbrella algorithm might look very different.

However now we have a sea change in algorithms. Machine learning has changed everything – instead of asking a human being to use their experience to make the decisions, we give a machine tons of data and it spots trends and analyses that humans can’t see. And then uses those to make the decisions.

Which is amazing.

However the decisions that come from this are only as good the data that the system is trained on. If you give the umbrella algorithm nothing but Death Valley weather data it’s not likely to be able to predict umbrella usage in Manchester.

So algorithms aren’t the problem. We use them every day.

The real problem is keeping control of who writes them, who trains them. And no one is looking at that.

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Time is money and money is time

One of the things I’ve gained over the last few months is a better perspective on my time.

Time is really valuable, one of the most valuable things we have.

Looking after it is partly a matter of mindset, of approach.

If someone asked me “how’s business?” I’d immediately respond “really busy”. I don’t do that now, I say “really good”.

When I have something else to do my initial thought was mild anxiety – “when can I squeeze it in?” Now it’s “I’ll add it to the list and it will get done”.

Looking after it is also a matter of money. Because money can buy you time.

I have a load of software work for some existing clients to work through. Software is slow, focussed, work. But one of my old developers, Pavel, messaged me the other day. He had left to join a startup but things were slow so was asking for more work. And because I’ve got a bit of money put aside, I can afford to hire him back. Meaning he can take a load of tasks I don’t enjoy doing off my plate.

Money doesn’t really motivate me. But being able to choose what I do with my time? That’s really important to me. The money let’s me do that, which is why I make sure I look after it.

So how do you spend your time? And your money?

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Do you choose how you spend your time?

I knew, last year, that the way i was doing things wasn’t really working for me.

I did the standard coaching thing of scheduling a call or meeting, my client and I would chat for an hour and they would come away with some action points. And we would schedule the next call or meeting in however many days’ time.

We enjoyed the chats. But I didn’t feel like my clients were making the progress they should. And we were spending lots of time hunting for gaps in our schedules when we could meet.

I didn’t have the time-freedom that I was promising to my clients. And if I didn’t have it, how could you trust me to deliver it for you?

So I used lockdown to rip it all to pieces and start over.

Now it’s one small task per day, so you build momentum and make progress.

Now it’s delivered online, so we can both work when it suits us best.

Now it’s ongoing, so even after the core programme, we stay in touch and I make sure you stay on track.

I needed to walk the walk and build a business that gave me my own time freedom. It’s working. And in the last three weeks, three new clients have agreed with me.

So do you choose how you spend your time, or is it chosen for you?