All posts by Jason Woods

Jason is a self proclaimed geek, gourmand, beer and espresso nut and father to a smart-as-a-whip young lad. In his spare time he manages the Integrated Core Services tribe at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Damn the Email

Hi, My name is Jason, and I’m an email addict.

I work in an email driven culture. Though we have instant messaging, phone, and pager (yes pagers!) from a technology perspective, it seems most of our communication is through email. I receive anywhere between 100 and 300 emails a day. Not all of those are actionable or even interesting to me, but they still take time when they hit my inbox.

To try and curb my obsession with zero inbox, which is part of what led me to constantly monitor my email, I’ve challenged myself to keep my email reading down to under two hours of my work day. I now plan email “breaks” – 4, 1/2 hour, times during the day when I can check and respond to email. Otherwise I completely close my email apps and turn off auto notifications. Once those 4 blocks are done, my email-checking allowance for the day is done.

Besides reclaiming productive time, a side affect I am realizing from this is that I have been teaching the folks around me what to expect in terms of communication. In the past when I would answer email as soon as it came into my inbox, that became the expectation. When I didn’t answer instantly I would get an IM, phone call and then page within minutes of the email arriving in my inbox. Now folks are more patient in waiting for an answer, or will page or GASP! stop by my office if somethign is urgent.

As this becomes my standard work, I can tell the days when I let email get the best of me. At the end of those days I feel tense, have a headache and have a hard time focusing. But I feel that with continued effort I can bust the email addiction. Maybe someday eventually get down to under an hour a day? A person can dream!

In Just 5 Hours

Reading INC magazine online I saw an article on what they’ve termed the five hour rule. That is, you PLAN the time for deliberate and continuous learning, one hour per day each weekday. It’s a technique that was used by Ben Franklin and brought back to life by time management gurus such as Tim Ferriss. It’s a great way to be able to fit learning into your daily routine.

The article was timely as I’ve been trying to build a learning culture within the team. So far the reaction has been for folks to say “I wish I had an hour a day to to read/learn/take a class”. To this i say, sit down and really look at how you spend your time.  Can you cut down on the amount of TV you watch? Get up a bit earlier when the house is still quiet?

The key is to PLAN the time. It isn’t given, found, or made.

You will never FIND the time, something else will always find the blank spots in your schedule first.

You cannot MAKE time (but don’t you wish you could!).

But you CAN be deliberate and PLAN an hour a day, block off your schedule, and focus on bettering your life through continual learning.

Personally, I plan an hour a day to read or do some other form of learning either during my work day or in the evening.  I also plan 20 minutes each morning to pick up on industry buzz on one of the thousands of sites on healthcare and technology. And I promise I don’t have 27 hours per day! I just cut down on some things (television!) that I decided were not as important.

So here’s a challenge – for five hours each week, one hour per day, block off your calendar and use that time on focused learning, practicing a new skill or reading that book you keep hearing about (Can I suggest Disrupted by Dan Lyons?). Do this until it becomes second nature. Keep a journal of your successes and setbacks. In a few months look back at how much you have learned, and grown, and revel in your accomplishment! collapse

Blockchain bonanza for the enterprise

I’ve never known too much about bitcoin. I mined a few years ago to satisfy my curiosity on how to install a miner and get it running. Then, for the last year or so I’ve been like most folks I know, watching the posts and articles on bitcoin flash by on the screen with little interest. A few weeks ago my AD (Assistant Director) handed me a postcard sized flyer for The Blockchain Revolution by the Tapscotts. Though I was a bit skeptical after the first few chapters, my mind started to focus in on bits of my daily work that I might be able to fit the blockchain in to. I’ve started reading technical docs and cloning blockchain repos from GitHub. Really, I’ve become a bit obsessed.

The real power to me of the blockchain is not only the transactional integrity, but also the extensibility using blockchain platforms like Ethereum.  Ethereum is hyped as being a “Blockchain App Platform”.  What that means at the highest level is that you can embed custom code into the blockchain.  The code is then triggered by certain types of transactions. Thinking about the platform today on my long drive in to work I focused on three ideas.

The first is a project management platform. I am a certified PMP, and use project management methodologies in my daily work. So to have an idea in this realm was obvious to me. This is also the idea I haven’t thought through much yet.

The second is a platform for employee evaluations such as yearly performance reviews. Being in the throws of performance reviews at the moment, my brain easily slid into thoughts of how the blockchain could help me.

The third idea, and the one I spent the most time thinking on today, is a scrum board. I’m a fan of using a personal scrum board, and have been trying to use one with the team for some time. A few folks have grudgingly started using the post-it note based tool, when they have to. For the most part my team seems uninterested in adopting scrum boards into their daily work.  My thought was to transfer the scrum board concept to the blockchain and to incentivize its use.  I’m thinking Trello with payouts.

High level the app would include:

  • Adding stories with a contract where on completion of all tasks, with full acceptance, a token would be paid out.
  • Adding tasks with a contract for acceptance before token payout.
  • Payouts could be any value, but thinking standardizing on 1 token for a task and 5-10 tokens for a story.
  • All who complete at least one task in a story gets a piece of the story payout.
  • Reward market place.
  • Reputation points.

The last two, the reward marketplace and reputation points, are the two pieces I don’t have a clear vision on yet.  For the reward market place I’m thinking that items could be added to the blockchain, such as gift cards or comp days that could be purchased with tokens.  For reputation points I can see either getting rep points based on work volume, or an “upvote” type system or both.

I still have some thinking to do around this last piece, so am inclined to get started on the bulleted items and let the rest follow. I want my team to start using a variety of tools, so they can find those that most help them.  I want to incentivize the completion of stories for enhancements that will help the team.  And, most importantly, I want to use the blockchain.


VUMC names Epic as EMR of choice

Vanderbilt chooses Epic over Cerner to simplify its clinical data flow. The article mentions VUMC’s hope to make some of the solutions they’ve developed in house part of the Epic EMR. From the language in the article it sounds like that is going to happen.

This is a big move for VUMC, and a huge win for Epic in the EMR wars.