How to Rescue Failing Software Projects: Practical Proven Methods That Work

IMG_1712 My book is finally available as an eBook, on Amazon Kindle and on Amazon. I wrote this book to share my experience in how to rescue failing software projects. When I was going through such a situation, I had no one to turn to. My hope is that the information in this book will be useful to those in similar situations. Although the information in the book pertains to software projects, I have come to realize that the techniques can be used in many other situations. I have personally used these techniques in business and technical projects.

You can read more about it here.
My book can be purchased here at
Amazon Kindle version is available here at

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Self Effectiveness: To-do lists or not to-do lists

I have always been intrigue with to-do lists. Ever since I can remember, having a to-do list made me feel like an important person when I was a child! :-) In primary school, I had to-do lists of homework to be done from school. Of course, these to-do lists were created on a whim, as and when I felt "productive". Most of the time, the work to be done were remembered in my head. It served me well.

When I entered the workforce, many people used business diaries. I was not different. I had one too! It contained important activities that I had to do in the to-do list section, whilst appointments were recorded in the section with a timeline. Again, this served me well for some time.

When activities started to pile up, and when I was involved in projects, I was overwhelmed. The tasks that were remembered in my head remained there. I was stressed because I was afraid of forgetting about doing them. My mind was not used for thinking. Instead, it spent time reminding itself not to forget. I couldn't sleep well. At times, I would wake up in the middle of the night in panic, thinking that I had forgotten to do something.

I made it a point to write activities down in my to-do list. After all, the diary's section with the timeline was for appointments. Again, this worked well for about 1 week. After that, my to-do list was overflowing with activities. I read books about prioritization. I tried to prioritize the activities in A, B,C. Later, prioritized them into A1, A2, B1, B2.Then it came down to trying to select which activity to do first. Instead of performing the activity, I spent the majority of my time deciding which activity to begin because I wasn't sure if I could complete it on time, which will affect other activities.

What did I do?

I cancelled every activity on the to-do list. I started a new to-do list. Boy, did it feel good with a brand new list. My feeling of elation didn't last long, I went back to an overflowing to-do list, missed deadlines, became extremely stressed about missing activities.

This is where is dawned upon me to ensure all activities are time bound. Time must be allocated to all activities. (Refer to my previous posts on "write, write, write" here and here and here). The foundation is still to have the habit of writing things down.

Do I still use a to-do lists? Yes I do, but only for short lists and activities that can be done within a consecutive block of time. For example, shopping for groceries, post letters, withdraw cash. To-do lists still has its place in effectiveness. However, I personally believe that to be effective, all activities must be time bound...And MUST be written down.

Think this is easy? No it isn't. Try it for 4 weeks and let me know if this works for you. Let me know when you embark on this method by leaving me a comment. I'd like to hear from you.

So, "to-do" or not "to-do" lists? Do to-do lists, but sparingly. The feel good factor of creating new lists each time is a false sense of achievement. It simply relinquishes you of your responsibilities, instead of taking responsibility for your actions through timely activities.

Can you see how this related to self effectiveness, which in turn, helps you to effectively achieve your goals in wealth and health? I hope so. Leave me a comment on your thoughts or subscribe to this blog so that you will be sent an email whenever I post an entry.

Copyright Bernard Ong, 2006.
All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 21, 2006

Self Effectiveness: Write, write, write - Part 2

In my previous post, I had written about the importance of writing down everything (or most things) that you want to do in a single place and not on pieces of paper. As simple as this sounds, this forms the foundation for a unloading unnecessary information from your brain, so that your brain will not be bogged down and can focus on thinking and execution.

Again, I cannot repeat how simple this may sound, but how effective it is. If you do not believe it, try it for 4 weeks and drop me a comment to let me know if it works for you.

The next step is to ensure that the activities you have written down are time bound. Every activities must have a start date, end date, start time and end time. Yes, start and end time. Why?

1. If you do not have the start and end dates and times, it means that it will never get done. The activity is not important. If it is not important, why do it? Aren't you wasting your time?

2. Other methods may use classification of activity into A, B, C etc. So, if you have 20 class 'A' activities to do, 30 class 'B' and 50 class 'C' activities, you should start on the 'A' activities first. Good. But hang on! Which 'A' activity do you start with first? Maybe if you label it A1, A2, A3 classification. Then which activity in 'A1' do you do first? You see what I mean? If the activity is important and helps you to achieve your goal, it must have a start time and end time. These are all 'A' activities. Having scheduled a date and time, the activity WILL get done because when the allocated time comes, you will do the scheduled activities.

Simple? Sounds simple. But difficult to do. Again, this boils down to discipline and habit. The foundation is to write everything down in one place. Take the challenge. Write everything down for 4 weeks.

What about To-Do list? I personally do not advocate To-Do list. I have used it before with the classifications 'A', 'B', 'C' etc. It didn't work for me. You know what happens? You create your first shiny new To-do list. All proud and neatly written. As the days roll on, you find that you can complete the activities on the list on day 1. So it snowballs into day 2, PLUS day 2 activities are added and this goes on. After a week or so, the To-Do list becomes huge and unwieldly! What do you do? You throw the list away and start on a new one. Sounds familiar? This is one simple reason why many do not achieve their goals. They do not have a clear plan, but rather have temporary, transient lists, hoping to achieve. Hope is not a strategy.

In my next post, I will be sharing more techniques on self effectiveness, such as how do you put the written activities into a visual overview so that you have a map for the month, how to do follow-ups, review, plan, achieve self improvement, and all information should be written in one place, not on pieces of paper.

If you try out this method, do let me know if it works for you. It has certainly worked for me. I feel less stress than trying to remember the 101 things I need to do for the day, week and month and worry that I may forget something!

Till the next post...Happy writing
Copyright Bernard Ong, 2006

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Self-Effectiveness: Write, write, write

About 14 years ago, I came across the term "self effectiveness". It is all about using your time and energy effectively. This is a first of many posts that I will write on self effectiveness. This post only focuses on the first and simple step called "writing". I will cover the other steps in future posts.

Achieving self effectiveness is simple to understand, but very hard to do. Let me tell you why. We are all indisciplined and more often than not, lazy by nature. Before I go into the techniques, let's understand why self effectiveness is so important. Self effectiveness propels a person to achieve his goals. By being effective, he/she gets the job done, which brings him/her closer to the goal. This in effect is called taking action. So what's the big deal?

Its easy if you only have 1 goal and a few activities. For most of us, we have 1001 things to do. How can you balance all you have to do, meet deadlines, achieve goals and not be stressed? To write is the first step to self effectiveness. There are just a few more steps, which I will write about in later posts. All these steps take less than 30 minutes a day in total.

Well, most of the time, we keep information in our brain. We retain our to-do lists, schedules, goals in our brains. Our brains are powerful. We only use about 1% of our brain power and there is so much untapped potential. Our brain should be used for "higher value add" type work such as...thinking, planning, and executing in order to achieve our goals. Don't let it get overwhelmed with details of activities and lists by remembering.

Thus, the first step in self effectiveness is to WRITE. That's right. Write everything you need to do. I do not mean on little pieces of paper, notepads, sticky notes. Everything you need to do, your goals, your schedules, should all be written in one single place. That's right. One single place. You should not be spending hours hunting for your to-do list on a piece of paper, nor trying to remember where you put the piece of paper! :-) I do not advocate to do lists. Every activity must be time bound. (I will cover more on this in future posts)

When you write, you unload a lot of stress from your mind. Instead of information overload in trying to remember activities to be done, your mind is now at ease that it knows where to find the activities it needs to do without losing sleep over it.

Have I done this? Yes I have. It certainly sounds simple. It took me more than 9 months to make writing this down into a habit. Even today, I still lapse into my old habit of writing on pieces of paper, but much less. How do I feel? I feel less stress. The feeling is amazing when you offload your mind through writing things down in a single place. I cannot stress how simple this sounds, but how effective it is. Each month, I accomplish more than 150 activities, yes 1-5-0. IF you have never taken stock of your activities, just try it. You will be amazed at the number of things you do in a month.

If your activities for the month do not contribute to you getting closer to you goal, then your goal is only a dream. This is how you achieve your goal, step by step in a structured and effective manner.

The method is simple, too simple to believe, BUT IT WORKS. I am a living example of a person who have changed using this simple technique, living with less stress caused by information overload. I am not perfect at it yet, but it has helped me tremendously.

So in summary, the first step to self effectiveness is to WRITE. It helps to jog your memory when needed. Use your mind more effectively to achieve your goals. The trick to all this is to make it a habit. It must be a habit or it won't be effective. Try it. What have you got to lose? Nothing. But everything to gain. Do it consistently for 4 weeks until it becomes a habit.

In my future posts, I will write about the other aspects of how to achieve self effectiveness, such as time management, goals and reviews and how to link all these together so that you are not overwhelmed by just trying to be effective.

Happy writing!
Copyright Bernard Ong, 2006

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Health-Effectiveness: A lesson from Wing Chun applied to life and business

After not attending Wing Chun Kung Fu classes for about 10 months, I finally found some time last week to attend. I had been travelling extensively. If you are new to Wing Chun, it is Kung Fu. Legend has it that a Nun conceptualised and formed the fighting principles of the art, which is considered soft, uses your opponents strength against him/her. Do check this site from Donald Mak, a Wing Chun Sifu (Master) for a quick introduction. Wing Chun is the first martial art that Bruce Lee studied. He studied under Grandmaster Yip Man. Check this article out with a photo of Bruce Lee doing "sticky hands" practice with Grandmaster Yip Man.

Anyway, back to what I was trying to say. An essential part of Wing Chun training is known as Chi-Sao or "Sticky hands". It is an exercise where two opponents hands are in contact and each opponent practices techniques, angling, defense and stricking in a safe environment. This is not done in a fix pattern. It is free flowing and each opponent is free to try different techniques without prior agreement. This is quite close to actual fighting, but done in a safe environment. I realised that after that length of absence, my reflexes and sensitivity was still intact. My sifu said that if your fundamentals are well formed and strong, it takes a short time to get familiar again with being sensitive. As the lesson went on, it clearly showed my sifu was right. I surprised myself too! :-) I also learnt that the more relaxed I was, the better my reflexes and sensitivity, as taught by my sifu. The more tense I was, the harder it became in getting back into the "groove". I could relax during chi-sao because my foundation was done well and taught well by my sifu.

I tried to relate this to my own effectiveness and business. It brought back a concept that Robert Kiyosaki (author of rich dad poor dad) wrote in his book "Before you quit your job", where he stated that one should practice setting up and running a business in order to gain experience in running business. Set up a company and try it out in a safe environment to learn and gain experience. I now truly realise what he was saying in his book. I have not started my business yet because of my fear of starting one, not having started one before. With this, I now intend to seriously look into starting a business to practice!

Similar to what we do in chi-sao in Wing Chun, I want to learn and practice setting and running a business in a safe environment, but as close to the real thing as possible. It may be as simple creating a business entity and begin selling or distributing a simple product first, low cost, low risk.

This concept may sound shallow to some, but it works. I am striving to be more effective one day at a time, one concept at a time, one step at a time. A journey of a thousand miles being with a single step.

In my next blog entry, I will share about my experience on authentic Thai massage at a Thai Wat (temple) in Bangkok that helped heal my shoulder injury and about the entrepreneural spirit of the Thai people.