• Jason Fried • Leo Babauta • Graham Allcott • Michael Hyatt • Chris Edgar • Pat Brans • Mike Vardy • Michael Sliwinski •
#8 (March, April, May 2011)
of 37signals on Re–working Business with Web–based Software
More articles: 4 Writing Short & Sweet Emails 4 Living in Balance 4 Managing Attention Span and Time
From the Editor
Short and sweet By Michael Sliwinski, Editor
son I highly respect and look up to agreed for an interview. Suffice to say it was an incredible experience to meet Jason in person. Hope you can feel it when reading my interview with him. The rest of the magazine is a cool mixture of timeless advice from many authors and contributors you already know like Leo Babauta, Michael Hyatt, Chris Edgar or Pat Brans. We have a new contributor from the UK in Graham Allcott and traditionally we end with a different approach to productivity by Mike Vardy.
Let’s keep it short, shall we? :–)
ompiling a new issue of each magazine is a treat for me. I get to interview fantastic people and work with amazing contributors and it’s all working smoothly which results in fantastic content I want to read so many times over. And I learn. Constantly.
One of the articles in this issue is about the fact that our email messages are too long... and I think my intro to the magazine has to get shorter, too. That’s why, without further ado, let me encourage you to read the Productive! Magazine #8 and share it with your friends and family. Also remember that if you have an iPad... there is an App for the Magazine, too :-)
Meet Jason Fried
Dreams keep coming true and I’m honored I can share them with you. One of these was to visit the offices of 37signals – a Chicago–based software company which inspired me to start my web application Nozbe. I travelled to Chicago and their CEO, Jason Fried, a per-
Editor in Chief Productive! Magazine
! Links: Michael on Twitter | Michael Sliwinski’s Blog: “Internet Business Productivity”
Productive! Magazine web site | Nozbe - Simply Get Things Done!
Table of contents 04
18 20 22
Michael Sliwinski In Love with Web-based Business Interview with Jason Fried Leo Babauta Your Emails are Too Long
Productive!Magazine www.ProductiveMagazine.com Sponsor: www.Nozbe.com
Graham Allcott Managing your attention span when working from home Michael Hyatt Five Consequences of a Life out of Balance Chris Edgar How Getting Used To Silence Can Help Your Productivity Michael Sliwinski The Art of Being on Time Pat Brans Powerful Thinking Michael Sliwinski Productive! Show Videos Traveling light, Processing Email and Reading Magazines Mike Vardy The Eventual Planifesto
Your Online tool for Getting Things Done – available in your computer browser, mobile phone and on your iPhone. Chief Editor: Michael Sliwinski
Technical Editor: Piotr Wozniak
Technical Advisor: Maciej Budzich
Editorial Team: Lori Anderson
Tribute: Marc Orchant (1957–2007) The Productive!Magazine is dedicated to the memory of a productivity guru, great blogger and a very close friend, Marc Orchant who passed away on 9th December 2007. All articles are copyright © by their respective authors. Productive!Magazine is copyright © by Michael Sliwinski. Getting Things Done® and GTD® are the registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.
Interview with Jason Fried, founder and CEO of 37signals
In Love with Web–based Business
Flickr photo by seanosh
On building great things and re–working the business with web–based software.
Michael Sliwinski: Tell me about your career. You started as a designer and now in your company, you’re doing web apps like Basecamp, Highrise, Backpack and Campfire. What has changed? Are you still a designer? Jason Fried: I am. I started doing website design when I was in college. I don’t have a background in design; my background is actually in business, but I’ve always liked design and back in the mid– 90’s the Internet was starting to come on, no one was any good at this stuff yet, everyone was brand new. So I’ve learned from scratch like everyone else did, and didn’t know what I was doing, I just learned. It turned out I really liked it and was really pretty good at it, so I started doing website design. I started 37signals as a web site design company in ‘99 and we switched to making software in 2004/2005. But I’m still very much involved with design of the products. I design all the marketing sites and while I’m not as involved with the day–to–day design, I do more of the big picture stuff. I will sketch something and someone else will work on it, I might tweak it at the end. So I’m more like an editor. I set someone on the right track, they write something, they design something, I look at it and tweak it, adjust it to make sure it is good. Make it better and then we launch it.
MS: As a president of the company, apart from the design what else do you have to deal with everyday? JF: Whole bunch of things. There is the general administrative stuff, you know
things that come up in a business that you have to deal with... We just built our new office, so I spent 3 months there almost everyday while it was being constructed. Watching, making decisions, making tweaks, telling them this, telling them that, answering questions. I also do the hiring of staff, thinking about new products and features ideas. Also a lot of people want to meet for lunch so I have to do that occasionally. A lot of business stuff. Every day is a little bit different...
MS: ...and there are people like me coming and asking for interviews...
If you want to make something great you have to cut it in half. You’ve got to keep it short. dark out, I get more work done when it is dark. I go to the office most of the time. But at night I do work from home. I leave here at 5 pm.
JF: Yeah, I like that. I enjoy this actually, this is fun.
MS: I wanted to ask you about the work– life balance, for example with your family. How do you balance that?
MS: So there is really no typical day? Or are they any typical parts of day that you always have?
JF: I’m not very good at it. That’s the truth, but I’ve gotten a bit better at it lately. I just used to like work a lot, not that we had a lot to do, but I just really loved it. I still do, but I have to make time for people. You do have to be careful about this, especially when you love business. You can love people and you can love business. And if you are in love with two things it is hard to sort of figure out what gets what. And in many ways it is sort of easier to love a business, because business isn’t emotional, business doesn’t have its own needs or desires... so it is easier to love business and to not focus enough on people. It’s tough and I’m just getting better at it.
JF: Well, the thing that is typical for me is an Inbox. There are about 130 emails there every day. People asking questions about our products, our company, or they want some advice... so I have a lot of that to do, too. That’s about the only typical thing, everything else is based on what we are working on at the time.
MS: Are you more of a morning person, or late night person? How would you describe yourself? JF: I get up early, but I feel like I’m doing most of my best work the second half of the day. And then a couple of hours before I go to sleep only to get back on and work. I just like when it is
MS: I can totally relate to that. I love my business, too. This is why my wife is al-
I’m more like an editor. I set someone on the right track, they write something, they design something, I look at it and tweak it, adjust it to make sure it is good.
ways complaining about it like: “Michael, I get it. You’re really passionate about all that, but come on, we have a life here!” JF: It’s tricky. I mean ultimately, you just got to put people first, but it is hard sometimes.
MS: Definitely. Now, let’s talk about Getting Things Done. Tell me which aspects of GTD actually speak to you? JF: So, I’m not a huge fan of systems personally. What I like about the GTD is that if forces you to really figure out what you really need to do. And this whole thing about knowing what you don’t need to do right now, like Someday/Maybe, I like that but in general I’m not a big fan of set systems as I think people are sometimes too religious about them. And they become so enamored with the system itself that they actually create more work for themselves because they have this system they want to fill up with things to do.
MS: ...and they blindly follow the system? JF: Yes. So the way I tend to do things is to keep in my head a few things I need to do and I sort of forget about other things, and then important things keep coming up again and I have to do this. Now this also means I miss some things sometimes. And that is not good, but I just found that I have never been able to be religious about a system and then the harder I try the less stuff I seem to get done for some reason. Because I create more and more work for myself. If you have a bookshelf, you have to fill it with books. So if you have getting– things–done–like system you have to fill it with tasks. So sometimes you create more work for yourself then you actually have to. That’s been my experience. I like forcing myself to not keep track of everything. If I don’t have a system in place I can’t remember a lot of things, so I tend to have only few things that I need to do. I don’t have day–long list, I have short lists. So that what works for me.
MS: You have written a book with David, called Rework. How did you come up with the idea of a book?
Flickr photo by seanosh
JF: Well, the book has actually been writing itself for the past 10 years. We’ve been blogging for 10 years. A lot of these ideas which are started at the blog. So we didn’t set out to write a book, we set out to share and then over ten years of sharing we went back and looked over and thought: “hey we’ve got a book here probably”. We then looked at the blog and we extracted the best of what we talked about, polished it, and made it into a book. We started doing this early in 2009. It took us about 10 months or so to get the book right.
Flickr photo by deneyterrio
We went to our publisher and there was lots of editing back and forth. Our goal was to keep it as short as possible. This book can be easily read in just 3 hours. Most business books take you much much longer then that... days or weeks actually. I don’t feel that is a good thing, I don’t feel that a book should take that long to read. Especially, if they are about business, which is all about getting back to work. I simply want to get through this book, get the big ideas and get back to work. That’s why it is short. The cool thing is that we took it from about 57,000 to 27,000 words. So we cut the book by half on the last draft to make it better. This is certainly my belief that if you want to make something
great you have to cut it in half. You’ve got to keep it short.
MS: Wow. Wasn’t your publisher unhappy about that? JF: They were initially. The contract said 40,000 words. So they were happy with 57,000 words, but the last draft was 27,000 words so we are 13,000 words short to the contract. Their first reaction was “this isn’t good, we can’t do this with this deal”, but we said “just please read the book, don’t judge it before you have read it”. They have read it and they said “We love it. We are totally on board with what you have done here and this is the right way to do this and now let’s think about how
to thicken it a little bit” cause the thing about books is that people want books that are thicker on the shelf. This is psychology. We decided to include an illustration with each essay. Which ultimately would increase the page count by about 80. We hired a talented illustrator, Mike Rhode, and now each essay has an illustration and there are 88 essays in the book. That’s how we went about thickening the book up without adding the filler words. A lot of books have a problem that about half or a third part of them is good, and then they have to fill it up with more words to make it thick. We wanted the words to be the spot on and then the graphics to add to the words.
Flickr photo by Silicon Prairie News
You can love people and you can love business. And if you are in love with two things it is hard to sort of figure out what gets what...
MS: I actually read Rework several times. I started with the audio version. Then I bought one to make notes on and now I have one with your autograph so it’s even better. The thing is I’ve talked to many people about this book and the reaction was “this is so great, it is so small, so short I’ve read it in one shot” everyone was like it was 3 hours and I was done… people just loved this concept of it being short, because the messages are straight and to the point… JF: Yes, there is no filler... directly to the point, each essay is a page or two long and that’s it. And you don’t need much more than that. You really don’t. This is not a book about very specific solutions, it’s a book about ideas, ways to approach problems, to think about your
business and it is up to you to fill in the blanks, not up to us.
MS: The book is a bestseller (New York Times, Amazon, etc... the whole nine yards). Congratulations. So now what? You have the web apps, you have to book, you’ve got the business running very well. So what is next for you? JF: Well, we want to improve our products. That is sort of an obsession of ours to constantly improve our products. We’ve got two new product ideas we want to experiment with this year. Maybe start on one of them. We want to work on integrating our products better, we launched a suite of products so you can buy all of them at once, but they don’t really talk to each other so much yet.
We want to work on that this year. I want to build the team a little bit more, I want to continue to learn, I want the team to get better. For me it’s really great to see everyone getting better all the time. That’s a real treat when I can see how people mature and take on more responsibilities. We’ll still have most of our focus on improving the products and making them integrate better and hopefully if we get the chance we’ll get these two other products done. I’m really excited about those, so we’ll see what happens.
MS: Cool. I wish you all the best and thanks for being a part of our Productive! Magazine, Jason.
! Jason Fried Jason Fried is the co– founder and President of 37signals. Jason believes there’s real
When people become enamored with the system itself (like GTD) they actually create more work for themselves...
value and beauty in the basics. Jason co– wrote all of 37signals books, and is invited to speak around the world on entrepreneurship, design, management, and software.
! Links: Jason on Twitter | Jason and David’s book: Rework
Jason’s company: 37signals | 37signals’ blog: Signal vs. Noise
Productive! Magazine â€“ like Wired Magazine now also available as aÂ native iPad app!
...just like your favorite Productivity Application
Nozbe web app syncs with native iPad and iPhone apps... and Evernote!
By Leo Babauta
ne of the worst problems I’ve seen when people send me emails is amazingly common: they’re way too long. I’m a fairly busy guy, but who isn’t busy? I try to be responsive but when I get an incredibly long email there is no way I’ll answer quickly. If an email is short, I’ll shoot out a reply as soon as I read it.
So why send long emails?
© Pixel 4 Images / Shutterstock
Here’s a rule: a long email is never necessary. Never. Why am I writing this? Is it a rant against people who’ve emailed me? No, it’s a general problem that I’ve seen with email, and I hope this will help people write more effectively.
How I Use Email
Your Emails are Too Long If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea. – David Belasco
I’ve written before about how I ditched email. That’s only 90% true. I still do email on a limited scope – mostly for people I collaborate with (partners, designers, printers, etc.). I also respond to customer emails (refunds, download problems). For reader feedback and comments, I use Twitter. For family communication (like my family on Guam and other parts of the world), I use Facebook (I don’t “friend” anyone other than family, and have fewer than 100 friends on FB). That said, my email problem isn’t unique to my situation. No matter how you use email, no one you’re emailing wants to read a long essay or respond to 10 questions. We are all busy, and we all value our time. When I do email, I try to get through all of it quickly. I don’t like to be stuck doing email all day, so I get in, read and respond or archive/trash, and get out.
When someone sends me a long email, it’s likely to be archived. If I absolutely have to respond, I probably won’t do it that day. Please note: this post is not just about me. It’s about anyone who is busy and who values his or her time. If you send that person a long email, you are saying you don’t value his time, and you’re saying you haven’t thought out what’s important. And you’re decreasing your odds of getting a response.
Why Long Emails Suck A few brief reasons
If you send a long email, you haven’t edited. You haven’t decided what’s most important. You are saying, in effect, that I have to do that instead.
You ask too many questions. I won’t be able to answer all of them without half an hour of my valuable day. So don’t ask so many – just ask one or two.
It takes too long to read. I don’t have a lot of time to read, and by sending me an essay you are saying your email is more important than the other things I have to read. It doesn’t respect my time. When you send me an email, you’re making a request on my time (to read, process, respond). If you send a long email, you haven’t edited. You haven’t decided what’s most important. You are saying, in effect, that I have to do that instead. You’re sending a message that your time is more important than mine.
I won’t respond. If you’re looking for me to read the email right away, or worse yet, do something for you, good luck with that. I’m not a diva, but I also have things to do and can’t get to every long email. And there are many of them, not just yours.
You don’t get to the point. What’s the main point you’re trying to make? What’s your main question? Spit it out, or it will get buried.
Here’s a rule: a long email is never necessary. Never. When someone sends me a long email, it’s likely to be archived.
Rules for Short, Effective Emails Ignore these rules at your peril
Keep it to 5 sentences. No more. I stole this from five.sentenc.es of course, but I’ve used it for years and it works. I usually try to do fewer than 5. Figure out your main point. If you think you need more than 5 sentences, you haven’t figured out the key thing you want to say. Take a second to figure it out, and stick to just that.
Don’t ask 10 questions, just ask one. Or two at the most. You’re much more likely to get an answer quickly. ! Leo Babauta Leo Babauta lives in
Ask one thing. Don’t ask 10 questions, just ask one. Or two at the most. You’re much more likely to get an answer quickly.
Post it. If the info you need to share isn’t on the web, put it there. Create a long answer or long background document (then edit it to the essential info) and post it online. Use your blog, or one of the many free tools for posting info. Create an FAQ if it’s useful. Link to it in your email. This post, by the way, is an example of the last rule. a
San Francisco and is married with six kids. He’s a writer and a runner and a vegetarian and he loves
Edit. If you stretched it to 8 sentences, cut out 3.
writing Zen Habits – his blog that, in a couple of years, became one of the top blogs on the Internet with 100K+ readers subscribed and
Link. If you need to refer to info, include a link to it on the web.
counting. He’s a published author of a bestselling book „Power of Less”.
! Links: Leo on Twitter | Leo’s Blog: Zen Habits | Leo’s Blog: Minimalist
Managing your attention span when working from home
© smilewithjul / Shutterstock
I was recently asked for advice about time management and productivity when working from home. The person in question wanted to know how to build breaks into their day as they found they were working hours on hours without a break for even a drink.
By Graham Allcott
orking from home brings with it a set of unique challenges: you have no co–workers or
boss to turn around and chat to and less of the structures – good and bad – that office life provides. This can take people down one of two routes: those that spend all day re–potting plants, making slow–roasted dinners and adjusting pic-
ture frames and those that bury their heads in work without coming up for that all–important air. Attention spans tend to diminish at around 45 minutes, so unless you take breaks regularly, you’re likely to be ex-
At the end of the working day, close down your laptop just as you would if you were in the office, then go for a walk or run to end the day. periencing diminishing returns in your productivity as you continue working – and you might therefore be more productive if you spent LESS time working by building in those breaks. Here are a few ideas.
Pretend it’s a real office Build in the times in the day to increase physical movement and put some clean edges around what’s work time as opposed to home downtime by pretending you’re working in the office. So, go for walk first thing in the morning (perhaps to buy milk or a newspaper) and make that your ‘walk to work’. At lunchtime, either go out to buy lunch or take your packed lunch out to the local park. At the end of the working day, close down your laptop just as you would if you were in the office, then go for a walk or run to end the day.
Try Pomodoro This is a great technique for managing attention (which, as everyone on our workshop last week will testify is more important than trying to manage time!) and enforcing rest time. The basic premise works on building in rest time every half an hour for 5 mins, as well as increasing focus and productivity by en-
couraging you to measure your activity and output in units on 25 minutes. This is a simple but powerful tool when you have a few hours to spend on desk– work, so might be just what you need.
crease your attention span and keep the brain’s energy levels at their peak (apples are a great natural substitute for coffee by the way!), but also they’ll help tempt you away from the keyboard and encourage you to seek nourishment.
Create a meeting room So, you have a desk, but do you have a meeting room at home? You might be wondering exactly WHO you’re going to meet with when you work from home! Well, use breaks in your workflow to make phonecalls or do creative–thinking to change your environment. Your ‘meeting room’ could be in the shed at the bottom of the garden, at the bottom of the stairs or even a local coffeeshop. By moving around, you get blood flowing, you add structures to the day and you keep your brain alert.
Batch process ‘Chunk’ together tasks that are similar, such as reading reports or making calls. By doing this, you could grab the stash of reading materials and take them to a quiet outdoor spot or coffee shop nearby. A change is as good as a rest. I will often store up a list of phone calls and go and sit on the beach while I make them. Then, what might have been a chore becomes a memorable treat!
Get a cat! Turn your emails off (at certain times of the day) On our ‘Getting Your Inbox to Zero’ workshop, one of the things we talk
This always works for me as my cat is very needy! In all seriousness though, stroking a pet is proven to lower blood pressure levels! a
By moving around, you get blood flowing, you add structures to the day and you keep your brain alert. about is the idea of turning off email, even for short periods of time, in order to help focus on the important rather than the urgent and reduce interruptions. This might help you to break up the day into sections and also not feel pressured to continue working on urgent issues rather than have a much– needed break.
! Graham Allcott Graham specializes in personal organisational systems, strategies to deal with the information overload and ‘action management’. Naturally ‘too strategic to be organised’ person but has trained himself to be productive through-
Feed your brain
out the development of personal workflow sys-
Keep a jug of water, fruit and nuts on or next to your desk. Again, these will in-
tems and developing the power of good habits.
! Links: Graham on Twitter | Graham’s Think Productive!
Five Consequences of a Life out of Balance
© olly / Shutterstock
If you are working more than fifty–five hours a week, you are working too much and likely out of balance. You may be able to work more than this for a season, but it is not sustainable. If you persist in working this much – or more – something will eventually break.
By Michael Hyatt
hen I first began my publishing career, I was determined to succeed. Part of what drove me was fear. I didn’t have any experience, and I was scared to death I would be found out. However, I was also driven by the desire to achieve. I would later learn from the StrengthsFinder™ test that my top strength is “Achiever”. As a result, I loved climbing the corporate ladder, moving from one level to the next. In those early years, I would arrive at the office at 5:00 a.m. and not leave until 6:00 p.m. Since I would usually be at my desk during lunch, this was thirteen hours a day. I would almost always go into the office on Saturday, too. I was routinely working seventy hours a week. My dear wife, Gail, was patient, but with several small children, she really needed relief. It took some serious marriage counseling for me to realize that my work/life balance was totally out of whack. It was simply not sustainable. Think of it this way: If you are working more than fifty–five hours a week, you are out of balance. You are putting at risk at least five very important assets.
Your health. Early in my career, I thought I could get by by eating junk food and not exercising. However, I learned that this will inevita-
bly catch up with you. How many people do you know who have died young, simply because they refused to take care of themselves?
Your family. You can’t afford a divorce. The cost is incalculable. Just ask those who have gone through one. You also can’t afford to ignore your children. If you don’t invest in them now, you will be forced to spend time with them later – in rehab, in juve, or worse.
Think of it this way: If you are working more than fifty–five hours a week, you are out of balance.
Your friends. Sadly, I didn’t really have any close, personal friends until about five years ago. I thought that my work colleagues and church acquaintances were enough. Not so much. I have several great friends now that mean the world to me. But I must have margin in my life to invest in those relationships.
or any sport. The harder you work, the less effective you’ll be. You are the most productive when you are not stressed. The number of hours you work has almost zero correlation with your effectiveness.
Your example. Your people will unconsciously mimic you. They can’t help it. As a leader you set the pace. If you work seventy hours a week, your people will think they must work seventy hours a week. Most of them won’t be able to keep up. And you will be responsible for the consequences. Don’t get me wrong. I still work hard. But now I have boundaries–and balance. I get into the office at 8:30 a.m. and I leave promptly at 6:00 p.m. I also work for two hours on Sunday evening, preparing for the new week. In total that’s about 50 hours–give or take. a
! Michael Hyatt Michael Hyatt is the Chairman (and ex– CEO) of Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publishing
Your effectiveness. I think you are the most productive when you are relaxed. Work is like golf–
company in the world and the seventh largest trade book publishing company in the U.S. Michael has written four books, one of which landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Hyatt serves as Chairman
It took some serious marriage counseling for me to realize that my work/life balance was totally out of whack.
of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). He has been married to his wife, Gail, for twenty– eight years. They have five daughters and two grand daughters and live outside of Nashville, Tennessee.
! Links: Michael on Twitter | Michael’s Blog: Intentional Leadership
Michael’s free eBook: “Create Your Personal Life Plan”
© mily / Shutterstock
Sitting alone in a quiet place can be difficult. Without distractions, we can feel bombarded by our thoughts and emotions. All the ways we’re unhappy or uncomfortable can come raging back into our awareness when there’s space for them to come up.
t’s no surprise, then, that our culture is hostile to silence. Everywhere we go, it seems, we’re confronted with some kind of noise – background music in stores, cars and airplanes going by, and so on. And when we’re alone, we often find ourselves habitually switching on the TV or radio to fill the emptiness.
Why Being With Silence Is Important However, the ability to be with silence is critical to getting our work done efficiently and enjoyably. My sense is that, for most of us, our work requires us to spend a lot of time focusing on a single task in silence. Although phone calls and emails come in occasionally, the bulk of our time is devoted to working on that
How Getting Used To Silence Can Help Your Productivity
By Chris Edgar
computer program, presentation, or other long–term project. If we haven’t learned to tolerate quiet, we get jittery and distracted, and find ourselves putting off our work to avoid the experience. As psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi puts it in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, “unless one learns to tolerate and even enjoy being alone, it is very difficult to accomplish any task that requires undivided concentration”. I think this is one reason lots of us have trouble putting into practice the productivity tips we find in books and seminars. Many writers on time management advise us to unplug our phone and Internet while we’re doing important tasks, but they don’t tell us what to do when we can’t deal with the quiet that results. However, when emptiness no longer bothers us, we can hold our attention on our tasks with less effort.
Phasing Out Self–Distractions How do we get comfortable with silence? One useful exercise, I’ve found, is to start eliminating all the ways we create background noise in our lives outside of work. Here are some examples.
“unless one learns to tolerate and even enjoy being alone, it is very difficult to accomplish any task that requires undivided concentration”.
When you bring silence into your life, you may be confronted with intense thoughts and sensations. The best way to handle these, in my experience, is to simply allow them to be.
Leave the car radio off. Driving can be stressful, and many of us use the car radio to “take the edge off” the experience. But if we learn to be with the “edgy”, unnerving feeling of driving in silence, dealing with the same feeling at work becomes easier.
Turn off the TV. When we get home at night, many of us habitually switch on the TV and “veg out”, desperate for something to take our minds off work. Instead, see if you can “veg out” in silence – try just sitting on your chair or couch, for fifteen minutes, with no stimulation. Many people are surprised at how tough this can be, but getting used to it can have a big positive impact on our work.
Leave the iPod at home. Many of us push silence away by keeping our headphones on throughout the day. While this drowns out our chattering minds, it also diverts some of our attention from what we’re doing, so the quality of our work suffers.
gle day can be overwhelming for some people. When you bring silence into your life, you may be confronted with intense thoughts and sensations. The best way to handle these, in my experience, is to simply allow them to be. Keep breathing, relax your body, and allow each thought and feeling to pass away, without resisting or running from it. What you’ll discover, I suspect, is that the experiences you may have been drowning out with background noise actually aren’t so threatening. Allowing your thoughts and feelings to be, just as they are, isn’t likely to hurt you. And when your inner experience no longer seems so uncomfortable, you become able to concentrate on your work for longer periods, and maybe even start enjoying what you do. a
! Christopher Edgar Chris Edgar helps people find focus, motivation and peace in their work through his writing, speaking and
I’d recommend doing this exercise gradually, phasing out your self–distractions one by one. For instance, on the first day of the week, you might try leaving the TV off; on the second day, you could drive to work without the car radio, and so on. Going completely “cold turkey” from background noise in a sin-
workshops. He is the author of “Inner Productivity: a Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work”, which “Getting Things Done” author David Allen calls “a great read and a useful guidebook for turning the daily grind into something much more interesting and engaging”.
! Links: Christopher on Twitter | Christopher’s Web Site
“Inner Productivity: a Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work”
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The Art of Being on Time Last week I had an unusual (for me) series of meetings – both online and offline, as well as a long list of scheduled business calls. I was on time for all of them. For a person, who’s known for being “always late” that’s a great achievement... and I want to keep it up. It may sound strange for you, but being organized doesn’t mean you’re not showing up late...
By Michael Sliwinski
Being organized has nothing to do with being on time. Not for me anyway I read the GTD book 6 years ago for the first time (and since then re–read it 10 times total in English, Polish, Spanish, German and audio...), I’ve been running Nozbe for 4 years now and editing Productive! Magazine for 2 years as well... and I can say that I’ve learned a lot about being productive. I’m an early riser most of the days, I have my email inbox at zero most days, too... and I do a weekly review at least once every two weeks now, not bad :–)
Showing up late has a lot to do with optimism... and I’m a very optimistic person! But I’ve always been late for stuff. It runs in the family, my dad is like this and I’m the same. You see, I’m very optimistic
and I always think I can squeeze one more action to do quickly before I leave for a meeting... and being a well organized person, I can quickly pick a task to do right before I leave... and then I run like crazy to make it for the meeting... and I’m usually late. The problem is, when I arrive late, I feel bad for the person waiting for me, for myself... I’m frustrated... and was the extra task I did before leaving worth it? Of course not... but being optimistic as I am... I’ll repeat the pattern again next time. Vicious circle.
What it means for others when you’re late... it means you don’t respect other people. Sad but true.
What it means for others when you’re late... it means you don’t respect other people. Sad but true. Zig Ziglar quotes in his podcast episode called “The power of self–talk”; he quotes a friend who also had a problem of being on time: ...whenever I was late what I was saying to the person I was meeting with (without saying it) was: “My time is very important. Your time is not worth much, because you’re not worth much. So you go ahead and wait for me and I’ll get there at my convenience”... and when I realized that I made a commitment not to be late again for anything... and in the next three years I was never late for anything... and it improved the relationships I had with my wife, my family, my co–workers, my customers... everyone. Just this one thing of being on time... When I heard that, it struck me. It’s now or never. It’s time to change and not to be late anymore. It’s time to be on time. I don’t want to broadcast a message to people that my time is more important than theirs. I never believed that... but apparently I was spreading this message. That’s bad. That’s not me. That’s not the person I want to be. How to change that? How to suddenly be on time for stuff? Here are some things I discovered that might be very obvious for you... but that weren’t obvious for me at all:
Secret no. 1 – aim at least a quarter before the deadline That’s it. Nobody ever told me that. So when I had a meeting at 6 pm, I was optimistically aiming at 6 pm... and there’s always been a traffic jam, some problem with a car, public transportation, something else unplanned... and I arrived late. The last three days I aimed 15 minutes before. When I had a meeting at 6, I was aiming at 5:45... and usually I was there around 5:50... so I was around
There’s always been a traffic jam, some problem with a car, public transportation, something else unplanned... 10 minutes BEFORE the deadline... instead of being 5 minutes late... wow, feels great!
Secret no. 2 – waiting for someone is not unproductive. Not with an iPhone. Remember I always wanted to squeeze this last action before leaving for the meeting to make sure I use the time most effectively? Well, even if I arrive 15 or 10 minutes before the meeting, my “waiting time” is not wasted. I can just pull out my iPhone and catch up on RSS news, answer a few emails or process my email inbox to zero, listen to podcasts, listen to audiobooks, browse the web... my time is never wasted when I have my iPhone (or any smartphone for that matter) with me. I don’t even need my laptop.
Secret no. 3 – excuses don’t affect you and you don’t depend on them As I was aiming at the exact meeting time any problem like traffic, re–scheduled train, etc. decided on me being on time or not. I wasn’t depending on myself, I was depending on everything running smoothly... and things never run smoothly. Life is life. Of course I had these perfect excuses then... but what I found out is that people don’t care about your excuses – they just see you’re not being on time and that you don’t respect them.
“Hi, how are you? What’s up”... and it’s definitely a better way to start a conversation. It improves the outcome of the meeting and impacts your relationships with people positively. It’s great for both parties. And if they are late – you don’t mind, because you were just catching up with stuff on your iPhone anyway :–)
Secret no. 5 – it’s not easy to be on time, all of the time, but it’s doable That’s right, There is still a long way for me to go. But I’ve made a new policy for 2011 for me: “I’m never late. Never. Period” and now I need to stick to it and I will not accept any excuses. It’s going to be a tough journey but I believe I can change and become an “on–time” person this year. I’m running a company with 11 people on board. I have a family that depends on me. I work with outside freelancers and other great people. To make sure these relationships work great, I need to make this extra effort and be on time for them. All of the time. Are you with me? a
! Michael Sliwinski Michael Sliwinski is your chief editor of the Productive! Magazine and a host of the new Productive! Show.
Secret no. 4 – it’s very rewarding to be on time – people love it
Every day he’s trying
When you arrive on time, you don’t start off a conversation by saying: “I’m sorry I was late” – you start it off by saying:
plication Nozbe – now also available as a na-
to help people get more done with his web aptive iPhone or iPad app.
! Links: Michael on Twitter | Productive! Magazine | Productive! Show
Nozbe – Simply Get It Done! | Michael Sliwinski’s Blog: Internet Business Productivity
We all have one hundred sixty–eight hours a week, yet some people seem to get so much more done than others. It turns out that much of the difference comes down to attitude. By Pat Brans
onsider the case of Gertrude Boyle, a German Jew who escaped Nazi Germany in the nick of time and emigrated to the United States at the age of thirteen with her family. This tough experience gave her an unusual perspective later in life. When she was forty–seven her husband died of a heart attack, leaving her alone with three children and a small company to run. Her husband had just taken out a loan for one–hundred fifty thousand dollars with the house as collateral. Having been a stay–at–home mom up to that point, she knew nothing about running a business. The situation was forced upon her and she had to dig real deep to muster the courage to rise to the occasion. Success didn’t come quickly for her either. In the first few years, she nearly ran the company into the ground. But Gert learned from her mistakes and turned things around. In 2008, her company, Columbia Sportswear reported revenue of over 1.3 billion dollars. As difficult as her situation would appear to most people, to others – that is, to people who are dealt an even less favorable hand – her situation was relatively easy. Faced with the choice between these two perspectives, Gert took the second one: that her situation was relatively easy. She also chose where to focus her energy. Rather than waste time
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dwelling on the past, she thought about what was best to do in the present and in the future.
Your Attitude towards Your Goals Another aspect of Gert’s attitude that helped was that she viewed her goals as achievable through learning rather than as a way of demonstrating abilities she already possessed. When she experienced failure along the way, that sim-
Managing one’s attitude is one of those powerful notions people who get a lot done consistently put to use. ply meant she needed to learn more. If on the other hand, she had taken the view that reaching a goal was a way of demonstrating capacity, she probably would have seen intermediate failure as a condemnation of her abilities, and she may very well have given up. This subtle distinction makes all the difference in the world. People who think reaching a goal will say something about abilities they already possess start out with two big disadvantages. The first
problem is when they meet with intermediate failure, it follows from their thinking that the opposite is true: they do not have the abilities they thought they had. The second problem is they tend to work less towards the goal, especially when they are comparing themselves with somebody else. After all, if they have to work as hard as the competition, it could be taken to mean they have to compensate for a lack of aptitude. Think of all the talented underachievers you know. Could it be that they are afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work towards something tangible because they run the risk of revealing they don’t have as much talent as they thought? Psychologists, such as Carol Dweck, who have studied the role attitude plays in how well you work towards your goals, answer that question in the affirmative. Dweck refers to these two distinct attitudes towards goals as performance oriented, when the outcome is viewed as a demonstration of competence, and learning oriented, when a goal is seen as something for which competence can be acquired. Studies have shown the latter mindset will get you much further in life.
Managing Your Attitude During my “Master The Moment” seminars, people tend to perk up to this news, but then somebody usually argues that a person’s attitude is set and there’s nothing he or she can do about it. I love
It’s worthwhile spending some of your one hundred sixty–eight hours per week thinking about what your goals really mean to you. when that happens, because it allows me to segue into one of my favorite points: a key finding from my research was that managing one’s attitude is one of those powerful notions people who get a lot done consistently put to use. All of the top performers I talked to said they spend time rethinking their attitudes. One way they do this is by challenging their assumptions. For example, Gert Boyle challenged her assumption that a forty–seven–year–old stay–at–home mother, who didn’t know a thing about running a business, couldn’t learn how to do so on the job. Another way they manage their attitudes is by rethinking their perspectives. Do I need to view my work towards a given goal through the eyes of those around me? And does it need to be a demonstration to other people that I possess certain skills? Or can I take a more humble approach and learn what I need to accomplish what I want? I’ll cover one other way they change their attitudes: by changing focus. Are you going to spend precious time agonizing over things you can’t control,
or will you focus on those things you can change? What things will you bring to the foreground and what things will you put out of your mind? Research has shown that your attitude towards your goals is a major factor in how you perform in going after what you want. This being the case, it’s worthwhile spending some of your one hundred sixty–eight hours per week thinking about what your goals really mean to you. It may seem counter–intuitive, but when it comes to working towards goals, the more you can take your ego out of the picture, the more likely you are to consistently achieve what you set out to do. What’s more, if your self image is not at stake, you’ll have a much better time getting things done. a
! Pat Brans Pat Brans is founder of Master The Moment, a new approach to time management and personal effectiveness. Most of Brans’ corporate experience focused on applying technology to enhance workforce effectiveness. Now he
The more you can take your ego out of the picture, the more likely you are to consistently achieve what you set out to do.
takes productivity to another level by unveiling the secrets of high achievers. Brans is author of two books, visiting professor at the Grenoble Graduate School of Business and he consults and provides enterprise training on time management and productivity.
! Links: Pat Brans Web site: Master the Moment | Pat’s Books: “Master the Moment: Fifty CEO’s Teach You the Secrets of Time Management”
Productive! Show Videos
Traveling light, Processing Email and Reading Magazines As in every issue of the magazine there’s some short video time for you to enjoy. Here are the recent three Productive! Show videos (each of around 2 minutes). I hope the tips and tricks I’m sharing will serve as an inspiration to you and will make you more productive too.
By Michael Sliwinski
Travel light with carry–on only (Episode #32) You can travel with only a carry–on luggage for a week and even 2–week long business trips. In this episode I’m showing you step–by– step how to prepare a packing list, what you need and how to pack it into one carry–on (and it only weights 10 kg!)
My Simple Email Setup with IMAP (Episode #8) When I switched my platform from Windows to Mac I re–evaluated my email setup and I found I was using the “good old POP3” when there is an IMAP which keeps my email synchronized between my Mac, iPhone and the Web. I also found out I only need 3 folders to get it to zero.
Speed–reading Magazines (Episode #6) Magazines are great… but they are bulky and you can’t carry around more than 1–2 magazines at a time. But in max 30 minutes you can prepare more than 5 magazines for reading by cutting out the most important stuff.
! Links: Hope you enjoyed these short productivity videos. Click here to browse all episode archive.
The Eventual Planifesto I have written countless articles on the subject of productivity – both of the eventual and non–eventual sort. (Well, they aren’t really countless in as much as I’m not really willing to count them. You probably could count them if you wanted.) But I’d never written a book before, whether it be of the “e” or non–e kind. I eventually did write one of the “e” variety. By Mike Vardy
n terms of leadership, which is the theme of this issue, I guess you could see the leadership aspect would be that I’m one of those leading the charge when it comes to eventually writing an eBook. Here are some excerpts from The Eventual Planifesto for your reading pleasure (or listening if someone reads it to you – Eventualists avoid reading):
On Tasks: If you want to be perceived as a hard worker that takes on everything thrown their way, then you need to become a “task collector”. Simply put, you need to gather as many tasks as you can and do your best to get them done over a long period of time – as eventually as possible. Remember, collectibles generally increase in value as they age.
On Goals: …if you have a goal that isn’t aligned with everyone else’s then people are go-
ing to expect results from you. They want to see what different people can accomplish when they think differently. That’s why the best goal you can have as an Eventualist is to have lots of goals. That way you can call upon any given goal at any time to serve your needs – even if you have no intention of seeing it through to the eventual end.
On Projects: Have you ever heard of “Project Scope Creep”? Neither have I, but he sounds terrifying. The idea of having that kind of thing going on in terms of seeing a project through to completion is enough to make a person want to abandon ship and run for the hills. So do that. But do it as eventually as possible.
(and highly–eventualized) rate, priorities are the veil – or beard – that you can hide your productive nature behind.
On Procrastination: Procrastination is about having a plan to do something and then executing it eventually while Eventualism is about eventually doing something based on a plan to do so eventually all along.
On Putting it All Together: So, as you can see, Eventualism is a bunch of little stuff and a whole lot of a lot of stuff. But how do you put all of that stuff together? You do it with a little strategy I like to call togetherication. Putting together all of the pieces of an eventual lifestyle is the toughest thing to do both consistently and eventually. This is where the systemization of Eventualism comes into play. You’ll need to figure what stuff should be eventualized when – and how – before moving ahead with the next bit of stuff, and so on. It sounds more complicated than it is... and that’s because you often will only eventualize only one or two things per day, so the “so on” becomes a non–factor. So, there you have it. How does this all tie into leadership? Well, leaders don’t lead from the get–go. They eventually lead. So go forth and lead... in your own time. a
! Mike Vardy Eventually self–pro-
fessed productivity ex-
Priorities play an important role in both pressing and eventual productivity. Without them, you’ll not have a road–map for your tasks that help you get to the goals that matter most to you. But with Eventualism, because you are keeping your goals and tasking at a highly–evolved
pert, founder of the new productivity ideology: Eventualism. Also runs Work Awesome web site. Author of new eBook called “The Eventual Planifesto”.
! Links: Mike on Twitter | Mike’s Blog: Eventualism | Work Awesome web site
Get Mike’s e-Book: “The Eventual Planifest”
Get the new business book from 37signals
With Jason Fried of 37signals about re-working and web-based productivity, following by articles about writing short and sweet emails, livin...
Published on May 30, 2011
With Jason Fried of 37signals about re-working and web-based productivity, following by articles about writing short and sweet emails, livin...