Child’s play

In our culture, when something is easy, you refer to it as “child’s play,” even though play is the work of children, and it requires enormous focus and effort. (Anybody who thinks a child’s play is always easy and fun should witness the passion and epic fits of frustration my sons manage to throw themselves into.)

Hard at play – Austin Kleon

How to do things that you love

I really like this framework for doing things that you love:

– LIST EVERYTHING you were passionate about from ages 7–20. These aren’t your “true passions”.

That’s a made up phrase. These were simply the things you loved doing as a kid.

– COMBINE THEM. If you loved computers and movies, maybe you will write stories for virtual reality experiences.

If you loved art and being a reporter, call up all of your favorite artists and do a podcast.

– AGE THEM. If you loved games, what do adults who are into games do for money (they make them, they blog about them, they review them, they invest in stocks, they advise investors on startups for games, they use games to improve brain health, and yes, they have fun still playing games).

– FUTURE THEM. If you loved electrical engineering and fast cars, I just saw a help-wanted ad for a “self driving car engineer”.

How can you see the future? You can’t. But that’s what writing down ten ideas a day helps.

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Doing What You Love

Specialist vs generalist vs self-sufficiency

Two quotes I’ve been pondering for a last while:

I think the correct path for everybody else is to specialize and get very good at something that society rewards, and then to get very efficient at doing it. But even if you do that, I think you should spend 10 to 20% of your time [on] trying to know all the big ideas in all the other disciplines. Otherwise … you’re like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. It’s not going to work very well. You have to know the big ideas in all the disciplines to be safe if you have a life lived outside a cave. But no, I think you don’t want to neglect your business as a dentist to think great thoughts about Proust.

The Generalized Specialist: How Shakespeare, Da Vinci, and Kepler Excelled

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?

“Don’t be intimated by anything. In the vast majority of the professions and vocations, the people who succeed are not any cleverer than you.  The adult world is not full of gods, just people who have acquired skills and habits that work for them.  And specialize – the great human achievement is to specialize as a producer of goods or services so that you can diversify as a consumer.  Self-sufficiency is another word for poverty.

Matt Ridley – Tribe of Mentors

Don’t fail

A while back Ben Brooks set the record straight on the meaning of word failure.

Fail early, fail often?
No.
Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from doing something you think you can do?
Yes.

Failure isn’t something to seek nor is making mistakes. These things happen because we attempt something new, we venture in areas unknown to us.
Mistakes happen because we haven’t understood the implications or we made errors of judgment.
These are important lessons and the critical element is the need to actually learn form them. But wearing failure as badge of honor is totally misplaced.

Who would like to work with someone who likes to fail or give steering wheel to someone that’s good at making mistakes?
Why even start with assumption of failure, it’s better to read a book or talk to someone who been there, done that. It can save a lot of time and effort.

There are the pivots, jumps, mistakes (non fatal) and these things are examples of reacting to changing environment. When you adjust the direction, respond to circumstances away from original plan this isn’t a failure. It’s being smart, responsible, adaptable. That’s how human species survived for thousands of years.

There should be no glory in failure nor there should be any shame.
It’s about learning really.

Random by nature?

Biological systems are generally hacks that evolved to be good enough for a certain environment. They are far from pretty top-down designed systems. And to accommodate an ever-changing environment they are rarely the most optimal system on a mico-level, preferring to optimize for survival over any one particular attribute.

The Need for Biological Thinking to Solve Complex Problems

Improvised solutions are typically those that last longest…

Why do big companies suck? | Scott Berkun

I found this insightful post in my Pinboard archives.
There are many voices calling why large companies suck and many of the are right. I definitely agree with item 3 (bureacracy addiction) and 5 (Peter principle) in Scott’s post.

At the same time I’m trying to see things in positive light. One can carve out its little world and make things work as if it was a small company. Sure there will be occasional friction points when the mothership sends a “memo”.
If the attitude is right and work is interesting and tick most of your boxes you can be quite happy and successful in big corporation.

Last but not least it’s important to keep number 4 (they believe in their own bullshit) and 8 (status quo/follower mentality) in mind and be ready.

Why do big companies suck? – Scott Berkun

Pick up your blank slate

Part of the reason we’re at the top of the food chain is that we are chemically rewarded when we are industrious – it is evolutionarily advantageous to be productive.

— Michael Lopp

 The Builder’s High

I really enjoyed this piece and I’m working to get two types of high this year. The one Michael talks about when I create and ship something and a second one when I’m out on the run. 

Scott Berkun on In Beta

In beta is one of the many shows on the fine 5by5.tv podcasting network which I haven’t been listening regularly however after episode 71 it’s back in my queue. 

What’s so special about it? That episode featured very interesting conversation with Scott Berkun about running a remote team at Automattic (company behind WordPress and Simplenote) . 

If you’re interested in understanding how people can work for the pleasure of it, how you can run a company where everyone (60) works remotely and communicates using fairly simple tools like Skype, IRC and internal blog than this is for you.

I have read couple of Scott’s books and really liked them hence the more reason for me to get this latest book “The year with our a pants” where is goes into greater detail about his 18 months gig with Automattic.

On working from home

Randy Murray published an excellent essay about working from home and the things to watch out for. If you’re considering working from home give it a go and how it works.

Here’s the key question to ask yourself: is working from home better
than working in an office? You’ll have to try it to find out.

Working From Home

 

The future of work

I’m in the midst of very important and big project that is probably one of the most important financial decisions once ever makes. It takes most of my time and attention hence there is very little time left for writing and proper blogging. 

However I still want to keep you well informed and share interesting pieces of content from all around the web.  For the next couple of weeks I intend to post mostly links and short updates. 

Today I’m sharing an excellent piece about future of work. Luis Suarez (no email man) has written a thought provoking post full of interesting links and questions to ponder on. 

Perhaps you don’t need to think about every day but once in while spending time about future of your own work could be very important thing which propels your career and make your life fulfilled.  

The Future of Work by 2020

 

 

 

Work Mantras

Mantra has religious connotations and it means as word or phrase which aims at creating transformation.

Through the process of repeating they become embedded into you psyche becoming a behavior. 

I’m always on the lookout go for ideas and inspirations for creating a good working practices, personal workflows and getting things done. I find a lot of these on blogs by Nicholas BateLuis Suarez, Mike Vardy and Michael Schechter.

Recently I came across this excellent summary of work martras by Oscar Berg. It’s simple list of 7 key points which includes things like:

  1. Always strive for simplicity
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Work smarter, not harder

The list is accompanied by some graphics which provide great visual representation of these mantras.

It’s great opportunity to ponder on your own work rules

My 7 work mantras by Oscar Berg.

Is email your work?

Very often we find that after a long day we haven’t made that much of a progress and all we can remember is email and the countless number of of the messages we’ve gone through.
On the other hand email provides us with instant gratification of completion. Simply take one message, respond to it and problem solved. If compared to few hours of continuous effort to close out a project not wonder email wins.

When someone takes a day to respond does this annoy you? We came to expect that since email provides instantaneous delivery people will behave in the same way. For many few hour response time is not acceptable. However we tend to forget that email is just one element of work. Unless you work in client service team and receiving requests via email you have plenty of other responsibilities. Managing email is only one of them.

What’s in your job spec?

Lets start at the beginning. When you look at your job description does it say deal with email? Most likely not.

For majority to of people the job spec includes things like reporting, writing, attending meetings and discussions, gathering information, routine tasks etc. Sure some of responsibilities will involve dealing with email but the connection is always indirect. Yet somehow we end up spending majority of our days dealing with email and complaining that we are not doing what we were supposed to to.

How much value?

When email came about initially it was this great tool for instant communication. When letters took days to deliver, email was this tool to deliver messages instantaneously.
Nowadays many people have this expectation that we should respond to email very quickly. Yet they forget about two things. Each of us receives plenty of mail, so when sender thinks he’s creating one to one connection for recipient it’s one of many connections to deal with.
Secondly we have limited number of hours at our disposal hence we need to make very smart choices and allocate time where we receive the most value in return.

Better choices

Since we can spend our working day on countless activities each similarly important we should consider following question: does responding to email is more important than working on a project Y or task Z? Unless you work in a call center and dealing with email and your primary responsibility it’s more than likely that you can wait few hours before responding.

Question

Before your start a new day and dive into unread messages consider what bring more value.
Can emails from yesterday evening wait until lunch time so that you can spend some time on this important project?

Weekly links for 28th March

A collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. Finding Your Work Sweet Spot: Genuine Interest, Skills & Opportunity
  2. Why Working From Your Email Inbox Doesn’t Work
  3. Can a 5-minute exercise double your productivity?
  4. Better Time Management Is Not the Answer
  5. Why Hard Work Isn’t Such a Good Idea

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Lessons from the “Drive”

Keeping up with any productivity systems requires dedication, will power and motivation. Making sure that the system is constantly updated that it contains actual information can take a lot of work. Sometimes when we struggle with too many assignments it’s easy to let the whole system go.
The book that made a lot of buzz in recent month and that looks at the traditional and scientific approach to motivation is Daniel Pink’s "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us".

The main concept of the book looks at the interrelation between two of the three of our drives.

Traditional concepts of motivation assumed that reward / punish  is the most effective approach. Throwing more money or threatening with more severe punishments was and still is a common practice to ensure that job gets done. This concept still works in some type of jobs which are mostly simple outcome, procedure or routine based. 
However it appears that science does not support that support that view. In his TED talk Daniel Pink describes an experiment conducted over 40 years ago where researchers have discovered that people rewarded with high payoff were less creative and engaged and had bigger problem in solving the task than those with smaller reward. (the talk is just 20 min long but it’s well worth it)

What does this mean for current workers? The ongoing shift to so called knowledge work means that old approach of carrots and sticks is less and less effective. Daniel Pink says that what we need is to motivate people by giving them option to develop three intrinsic elements: autonomy, mastery, purpose.
Although I’m yet to read this book, you can get a pretty good idea what’s it about by reading blogs and interviews with Dan Pink.

Below is an outline of some key lessons that I’ve learned.

  • On Mastery – it’s not possible to  become a master with out feedback. No athlete or musician becomes true master with out constant improvement and reviewing of his work. The so called performance review in our work places are not enough to bring any reasonable value. Dan Pink’s advise is to set your own goals for things you want to learn or do and then review the progress monthly. Mark your self against the desired result and see where you fell short and where your succeeded.
  • On Purpose -  you need to find what’s your internal drive. Pink’s advise think what gives you the most satisfaction at work, what would you spend your time on, what would you do for free. If you answer these then you will be on the right track to finding a purpose.
  • On autonomy- educate your boss so he/she can understand that giving large amount of autonomy will result in greater satisfaction, creativity and engagement. Be working example of such beheviour as the persisting view is that more autonomy means more slacking off.

Some other lessons/observations:

  • Top motivator for people is chance to develop and making progress.
  • Carrot & sticks still works however it’s good only the in short run  as it narrows focus to produce only one thing. As result it limits chances for great work.
  • Carrot & stick approach creates constant expectation of reward and risk of taking shortcuts to get it – vide current financial crisis.
  • Money matters are still important but for jobs that are creative it’s best to take the issue of money off the table.
  • Although the intrinsic motivators are effective not only for knowledge work. Any profession can benefit from using them. Pink gives a great example of hospital janitors who were given some autonomy over their work and this little change resulted in greater work satisfaction, lesser turnover and continuous progress.

This book is definitely worth reading and I’ll be sure to order it with my next Amazon purchase.

References:

  1. Daniel Pink’s Drive – Recommended – Harvard Business Review
  2. How to Stay Motivated: Daniel Pink on ‘Drive’ – WSJ.com
  3. Daniel Pink On His New Book, ‘Drive,’ And What Motivates People
  4. Drive: Daniel Pink’s Definitive and Fun Guide to Motivation – Bob Sutton
  5. My full review of Dan Pink’s “Drive”… // Brett’s Waste Blog
  6. Drive by Daniel Pink – Jessica Smith – Digital Influencer, Marketing Strategist, Creative Thinker
  7. New Release: The Bottom-line on Daniel Pink’s “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” « Mine Your Resources
  8. Drive – Video Book Review
  9. The Four Essential Drives That Every Creative Needs
  10. The Hidden Art of Achieving Creative Flow | Zen Habits
  11. A Story About Motivation – Peter Bregman – Harvard Business Review
  12. ‘Drive’ Not Always Explained By Rewards : NPR
  13. Full Interview: Daniel Pink on Motivation 3.0