Tag Archives: productivity

7 Bad Habits That Aren’t, plus a Great Title That Is

Here’s a great title: The 7 Bad Habits of Insanely Productive People. That was on copyblogger last week, posted by Sonia Simone, one of the nicest plays on contradiction and irony I’ve seen a while. There’s some real truth here, but hidden in paradox, and a lot of humor too. Who wants bad habits? You have to read the post to see. 

For example, in her intro, musing on productivity advice …

And the truth is, I’ve gotten a lot out of productivity advice. If it weren’t for David Allen and Tony Schwartz, my life would consist of eating cupcakes and checking Netflix to see if there’s a new Phineas & Ferb out.

And all those bad habits? How does this sound:

  1. Being thin-skinned
  2. Flakiness
  3. Selfishness
  4. Greed
  5. Distractibility
  6. Self doubt
  7. Arrogance

Not so attractive at all, right? Except that Simone uses each of these to get your attention. Then she tears them back down.

For example, thin-skinned … 

Most of the successful people I know are sensitive and perceptive. And yes, when they get criticized, they feel like shit. Do they let trolls and whiners stop them from doing something great? No. But it’s not because they don’t feel the insults … it’s because their passion for what they do is stronger than the discomfort.

And on flakiness …

The truth is, if you’re building something epic, you’re going to be juggling a lot of pieces. They don’t always go together neatly. Sometimes they don’t go together at all. If you’re stretching yourself, you’ll drop the ball sometimes. Try to figure out the circumstances in which you should never let yourself drop the ball, Make sure the “A” tasks get done.
Do your best, and say sorry when you screw up. But don’t stop just because things get messy. 

So you see how that goes, right? Selfishness has to do with drawing lines and setting priorities, greed is motivating, and distractibility is creativity. I like this quote:

Creativity is the residue of time wasted.
~Albert Einstein

And this one too, under self doubt:

Jim Collins showed nicely in his book Great by Choice that one marker of a business leader who succeeds over time is what Collins calls “productive paranoia.”

And finally, concluding my post on Sonia’s post, a final thought from bad habit #7, arrogance:

for your project to become truly epic — to help an epic number of people — you’re going to have to get out there and talk it up. Which will make some people uncomfortable. 

That’s just a quick summary. Read the post. 

Productivity Paradox: Maybe Less is More

What do you think works best: the peaceful you-have-a-life company whose employees arrive at 8:30 or 9 am or so, and leave between 5 and 5:30 pm? Or the stereotypical startup sweatshop where there’s pressure to arrive earlier and stay until 7:30 or 8 pm?

I have mixed feelings. I was on the board of directors while Philippe Kahn took Borland International from zero to about $60 million annually in four years. Philippe led by example, up all night, answering emails at all times, and setting and meeting impossible deadlines for himself. It worked, and it was exciting to watch.

I’ve also seen the startup-frenzy work life turn sour. In at least two real cases I know well, people began competing with each other for body time, just being there, for as long as possible. It wasn’t productivity it was posturing, warming seats, but not really working.

I was a consultant for Apple Computer from the early 1980s, when it seemed like everybody I worked with was there from 9 or 10 in the morning until 8 or so at night, through early 90s. I watched it go gradually from the stay-late strategy to the have-a-life strategy, over 12 years. The company was riding high at the beginning of that period, and not so much at the end.

I’ve had times in my own company where we were all pulling extra hours for crunch times, and times when things were downright peaceful.

So I was intrigued when I read this:

There is little evidence to link by cause and effect that working harder and longer improves productivity, but there is considerable evidence to show the reverse, and that it’s not the management of time that may be the key to employee productivity, but the management of energy.

That’s from  The productivity paradox: When less is more | Psychology Today.

Which makes a lot more sense to me than this quote, from Jason Calcanis, successful entrepreneur and founder of Mahalo:

Fire people who are not workaholics. Come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game. Don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it. Go work at the post office or Starbucks if you want balance in your life.

That’s from Mahalo founder Jason Calcanis, a couple of years ago, on his blog. He titled his post How to save money running a startup (17 really good tips). So he was the one calling that tip “really good.” I posted my disagreement to Jason’s post back then.

What do you think?

Goldilocks, Three Bears, and Productivity Software

You may remember that fairy tale in which Goldilocks got herself locked into a repetitive rut about choosing her optimal rocking chair, porridge, and bed softness settings. Every time, for every choice, first it was too little, too much, and then just right.

There’s a lot to say about Goldilocks (and all of her consumer friends) related to business offerings and product development; particularly, software product development. Think about business productivity software.

In productivity software, what most of us want is simple. Easy to use and understand. Hooray. Except that we don’t buy simple. We don’t even buy just right. We buy too complicated. Too hot.

Sure, there are exceptions. Most of them are old-timer exceptions, like the original QuickBooks (vastly simplified checkbook data entry) and VisiCalc (vastly simplified business financial analysis). Maybe there are some this-millennium exceptions too, like possibly Basecamp, Skype, and what else? There aren’t a lot of them. Not when we stick to simple.

I get choosing the big and complex stuff for database management, accounting, even for graphic design. But in productivity software, no. Simple is probably better.

Here’s a problem: we don’t buy simple, at least not easily, not for productivity software. Worse still, we don’t even buy just right. We buy too big, too tall, too hard. We don’t want software companies talking down to us. We don’t want a simple word processor, we want that big word processor that can scrape names off the web and read data and do mailing lists and footnotes and color coding and tracking changes and versions and write from right to left too. We want it to absorb graphics and resize and reshape, and, if we click the right place, add and subtract and tell us our horoscope too.

And then we don’t like it. Everybody wants simple, but nobody buys simple in productivity software.

Am I wrong about this? Is there successful productivity software out there that’s taken the simple and effective strategy, instead of adding everything including the kitchen sink? Tell me, please.

(Image credit: Rob Byron/Shutterstock)

Invention vs. Necessity, Upside Down

You know the phrase:

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Right? You hear it a lot.

But what if, in fact, invention is the mother of necessity. Once the technology exists,  we then complicate things, demand more, and use up the productivity gain in raising the quality bar.

Take budgets, for example. I realize it’s hard for most people to imagine a world without ready access to spreadsheets (you’d almost have to be a baby boomer, since spreadsheets and personal computing burst onto the scene in the early 1980s). But spreadsheets changed what we expect of budgets and budgeting. The invention changed what we define as necessity. We can do the numbers now, so we demand more numbers.

Or word processing, and then, a few years later, desktop publishing. The combination completely changed what we expect of business correspondence. You’ll probably find this hard to believe, but there was a time when we wrote letters and memos and mailed them. Yes, I mean using the post office, and postage stamps. Back then, we didn’t get hundreds of letters to answer every day. The invention changed the necessity. We can email now (or tweet, or blog), so the world demands more communication.

And cell phones.  Ah yes, lots of us remember the world before cell phones. We didn’t bug each other nearly as much, back before cell phones, as we do now; we didn’t expect phone calls checking in, updating each other, nearly as much. Less communication was acceptable.

Are we more productive? Who knows? Do we have a choice on the matter? No. Technology goes one way. Whether we like it or not.