Tag Archives: Rework

The Productivity Challenge Of This Era

Prince declares the Internet is completely over - web somehow continues to function

Important announcement from the Ministry of Gossip:  THE GOSPEL ON CELEBRITY AND POP CULTURE
PREACH IT! Prince declares Internet ‘completely over,’ Web somehow continues to function


I’ve got a problem.  I can’t get my work done.  Or, at least, I’m not getting it done.  It’s not that I am not “at work.”  It is that while at work, I am not working.  At least, not enough.  I’m too busy doing other stuff.  Stuff that helps me learn, think, ponder – but not necessarily the stuff of my actual work.

In the old days, that other stuff was standing around a water cooler, cleaning and organizing and straightening the desk, the stacks, the piles.  Now, it’s reading and surfing and watching stuff on the web.  I hate to disappoint Prince, but he is wrong – the Internet is not “completely over.”  In fact, it has a death grip on our productivity.

Here is an example:  at least three times, I have run the live stream of a World Cup game in the corner of my computer.  AND I DON’T EVEN LIKE SOCCER!  That live feed was completely distracting.

So, yesterday, I took the bull by the horns.  (I have no idea what that means…)  I decided, enough is enough.  I pulled out all of my old time management tools, and spent some time planning my work.  By the day; day after day.  Which book to read when, which project to tackle when, which task to do at a set time  –  you know, trying to become much more productive.  (And, by the way, writing blog posts is part of my work).

I won’t bore you with the details. But they included actually printing out some sheets of paper (you remember paper, don’t you?), and pulling out my old high-tech tool:  a clipboard.  (It is an amazing tool!).

But the real test will be when I settle down in one of those blocks of time I have blocked out, and seeing if I can stay focused, truly on task.  That’s when it will get scary.

In a column in the LA Times, Building One Big Brain, Robert Wright describes the battle between our loss of focus, reflecting on The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, and the ways that the Internet and all of these “social brain” activities change the way we function (referring to an upcoming book What Technology Wants, by Kevin Kelly, a long-time tech-watcher who helped launch Wired magazine and was its executive editor back in its young, edgy days).

Here is how he starts his column:

For your own sake, focus on this column. Don’t think about your Facebook feed or your inbox. Don’t click on the ad above or the links to the right. Don’t even click on links within the column.

Failing to focus — succumbing to digital distraction — can make you lose your mind, fears Nicholas Carr, author of the much-discussed book “The Shallows.” At least, it can make you lose little parts of your mind. The Internet, Carr suspects, “is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.”

In other words, don’t just float/surf/fly around – sit down and do some work!

But then, he asks the next part of the question, referring to the soon available book by Kelly:

As for Kevin Kelly’s view: I’ll let Kelly speak for himself as the timely publication of his fascinating book approaches. But it’s safe to say that he’s upbeat. He writes of technology “stitching together all the minds of the living, wrapping the planet in a vibrating cloak of electronic nerves” and asks, “How can this not stir that organ in us that is sensitive to something larger than ourselves?”

No doubt some of his critics will think of ways. But the question he’s asking strikes me as the right long-term question: Not so much how do we reconcile ourselves to technology, but how do we reconcile ourselves to — and help shape — the very big thing that technology seems devoted to building?

So – here is my thought.  I have often blogged about the loss of focus problem.  I have quoted fondly from Rework, in which the authors talk about the great value of chunks of alone time to get actual work done.  They are right.

But, we also live in this social brain activity era.

Getting the balance – doing both well – that is the productivity challenge of this era.

Inspiration is Perishable — Don’t Let it Escape!

When That Moment Of Inspiration Arrives, Run With It – Now!

When I presented Rework for the May First Friday Book Synopsis, I described the book as a “daily devotional for business readers.”  If you are not aware, there are many magazines, and books, written with daily “devotional thoughts” for believers in all faiths.  They are usually written to be read one page a day, and each thought “stands alone.”  This genre best describes the style of Rework – not for the content, but for the format.  Each chapter is short (never over a couple of pages; many, only one page).  And though there are some over-arching themes, many of the chapters are true stand-alone chapters.  And each one gets you thinking…

Here’s one theme:  The authors argue that work should not consume your life.  Quit work at 5:00; don’t work weekends; “Forgoing sleep is a bad idea.”

But there is an exception to this “rule.”  And that is when you are overtaken by some great burst of inspiration.  Here’s their quote:

Ideas are immortal.  Inspiration is perishable.  If you want to do something, you’ve got to do it now.  Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator…  If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.

In this short chapter, they argue that when you fall under the spell of a moment of inspiration, do whatever it takes to turn that into action before it “perishes.”  Pull an all-nighter; work through the weekend, grab it before it leaves you.

Here’s a well known historical example.  Arguably the greatest piece of music ever written is Handel’s Messiah. (with apologies to the Rolling Stones’ “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”).  Do you know how he wrote it?  In one burst of inspiration.  And, in this case, it may have been truly the epitome of “inspiration.”  Though accounts vary (he locked himself in his room; he wrote it in a garden), it is commonly believed that he did not deviate from his task until it was finished.  He spent 24 days straight on the piece, and did not leave his work area even to eat (food was delivered to him).  Legend has it that he wrote the Hallelujah Chorus, the climax of the work, on his knees, and as he finished it, he handed the music pages to his assistant and said, with tears running down his face, “I thought I saw the face of God.”

Here’s what the Rework guys say.  If you have a burst of inspiration, recognize that it is “perishable.”  (great word!)  So, in such a moment, drop everything else, and do-it-now!


REWORK by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson of 37Signals

Coming in June for the First Friday Book Synopsis: Daniel Pink’s Drive, and Employee Engagement

For the June First Friday Book Synopsis, I will be presenting a synopsis of the best-selling Daniel Pink book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. This has been well-reviewed, Bob Morris and I have both blogged about it on this site a few times, and it will be a terrific choice to help you think about what motivates you and those around you.

Karl Krayer has chosen a practical book on employee engagement.  All companies want their employees to be fully engaged, but attaining this elusive goal is tough.  The book is Make Their Day!:  Employee Recognition That Works by Cindy Ventrice.

Mark your calendars now for June 4, our June First Friday Book Synopsis.

(and note:  our synopses from this morning — Linchpin by Seth Godin and ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson — should be up on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com, in just a few days).

If the Reader Quits Reading, Blame the Writing!

Writing matters.  Good writing makes a difference.  Poor writing? – it simply does not get read.

All good writing has this one element in common – the writing entices you to keep reading.  Once it rambles, is dry, is boring, the reader is gone.

Will the reader read my next sentence? is the question to be asked about every sentence.

The ReWork guys are big on good writing.  They are really, really down on bad writing.  It’s in their book.  It’s in their own writing style.  And, now, Jason Fried has written:  Why Is Business Writing so Awful? for Inc.com.

He starts with this:

Nearly every company relies on the written word to woo customers. So why is most business writing so numbingly banal?

What’s bad, boring, and barely read all over? Business writing. If you could taste words, most corporate websites, brochures, and sales materials would remind you of stale, soggy rice cakes: nearly calorie free, devoid of nutrition, and completely unsatisfying.

Click on over, and keep reading.  It’s short – to the point – just like all of his writing.

And, yes, it will keep you reading until the end, and is worthy of your time.

An Invitation — come join us this Friday for the May First Friday Book Synopsis

If you live in the DFW area, I hope you will join us this Friday (May 7) at 7:00 am at the Park City Club for a great breakfast, terrific networking, and our synopses of Rework and Linchpin.  I will present the synopsis of Rework, and Karl Krayer will present the synopsis of Linchpin.

Just click here to register.

A Quote for the Day — from Stanley Kubrick

This is quoted in ReWork by Fried and Hansson.  The quote includes the Kubrick quote, and their commentary…

Until you actually start making something, your brilliant idea is just that, an idea.

Stanley Kubrick gave this advice to aspiring film makers:
“Get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind.”

Stanley Kubrick

Kubrick knew that when you’re new at something, you need to start creating.  The most important thing is to begin…
Ideas are cheap and plentiful…
The real question is how well you execute.