Chaos Behind the Magic

Posted on Apr 15, 2015 in Work | No Comments

“It’s like magic!” a woman says to her family as they sit. “How do they find our table?”

This week I read a fascinating article about Disney’s MagicBand. The post is packed with gems of revelation, but the big idea centers on the completely “frictionless” experience that MagicBand wearers enjoy before and during their time at the park. Here are a few snippets:

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Productivity Hacking is Not Intuitive

Posted on Apr 8, 2015 in Productivity, Work | No Comments

This is the third post in a series on productivity. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


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When I was a young boy both of my grandfathers had woodworking shops. I used to love (and still do) visiting and tinkering with tools to build things. For some reason, one of my clearest early memories of working with wood is one of the first times I got to use a hand saw. I must have found a branch or log that I wanted to trim and my grandpa probably thought it was a good opportunity to teach me safe and proper use of a saw. Like any eager and impatient youngster, I immediately put every ounce of my effort into cutting. My arm fatigued quickly and my frustration must have been apparent. Gently, my grandfather (who had wisely waited out my short flare of enthusiasm) took the saw and explained that the teeth are designed to cut the wood without requiring extreme, constant effort. “Tools are designed to make your job easier. Just let the saw do the work and don’t wear yourself out so quickly.” He would later reinforce the concept at the driving range, explaining again that a well-calculated, solid strike will beat out an all-out smash on the golf course almost every time. (The lesson stuck, thankfully, but not the love for golf.)

Productivity is one of those concepts that we like to think we understand, but as we’ve seen, taking time to actually contemplate how we use our time and ponder the definition of ‘productivity’ reveals a landscape more complicated than we might have originally bargained for.

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Productivity Hacking: What is Productivity Hacking?

Posted on Mar 31, 2015 in Productivity | No Comments

This is the second post in a series on productivity. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


When discussing any subject it’s extremely helpful to define the terms being used so that everyone is reading from the same page—the term ‘productivity’ in and of itself likely means different things to different people.

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Talking about “productivity hacking” (or anything else) without a clear definition of what the term actually means is a recipe for constantly trying to describe what we want, as opposed to digesting and applying what we learn (much like diving into productivity tactics without thinking about how we really want to use our time). 

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Productivity Hacking: What Would You Do With More Time?

Posted on Mar 26, 2015 in Productivity, Work | No Comments

This is the first post in a series on productivity. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


The subject of productivity flows almost immediately to discussion around tactics—we’re all hungry to know what we can do to be more productive, right now. Oftentimes, that hunger keeps us from stopping to first evaluate our current state of affairs and second, more importantly, to put serious thought into what we’re really seeking to get out of increased productivity.

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Productivity Hacking: Introduction

Posted on Mar 13, 2015 in Productivity | No Comments

This is the introduction to a series on productivity. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


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Writing the words “productivity hacking” in the title of a blog post feels almost dirty to me. I’ve said before that the business of productivity is riddled with a huge amount quick-fix rubbish:

That being said, this past weekend I led a productivity-focused workshop at a conference called The Makers Summit. I titled the workshop “Productivity Hacking” because, despite the slight snake-oil taste I sense personally, I felt the term was a simple and accurate description of the workshop content.

I was astounded at the feedback that I received from workshop attendees. What I had envisioned as a quick fly-over of research and lessons-learned was described as “one of the most helpful talks I’ve ever been a part of” by several people in the audience.

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Making It Count: Sleep, Exercise and Diet as the Foundations of Energy

Posted on Feb 25, 2015 in Life, Work | 7 Comments

This is the seventh post in a series called Making it Count about getting things done and using our precious hours wisely .

So far in this series I’ve discussed the philosophy behind the pursuit of productivity and covered the ways in which I steward my time, attention, technology and the Internet. As I promised earlier in the series, I’m going to move towards practical implications of productivity as they play out in my day-to-day work.

Healthy, sustainable productivity

In this post I’m going to discuss what I believe is one of the key components of people who maintain a high level of healthy, sustainable productivity. I use the descriptors “healthy” and “sustainable” because you can be extremely productive in any number of ways and not all of them are good for you. People commonly employ substances (sugar, caffeine, narcotics, etc.) or sleep deprivation in order to get more done (or, at least, feel like they’re getting more done). Too much of a substance or too little sleep over time is unhealthy—something we’re all aware of.

The tricky part is that whether the levers you’re pulling are good or bad for you, the productivity gains are real. Unfortunately, it always seems easier and more convenient to make unhealthy choices, which creates a cycle of tangible productivity bursts followed by burnout or near-burnout—a pattern that takes it’s toll and almost guarantees severe burnout over time.

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Non-MBA Deficiencies

Posted on Feb 16, 2015 in Work | No Comments

Recently I wrote a post about whether you should get an MBA. Here’s a quick re-cap:

  • I don’t have an MBA
  • MBAs provide valuable knowledge and are most effective for people who want to work in a large organization or in academia
  • Over time those with MBAs seemed to end up with about the same outcomes as those without
  • You can be extremely successful without an MBA

Ryan Carson, the CEO and co-founder of Treehouse, doesn’t have an MBA either. Here’s a quote from one of his blog posts:

As many of you know, I don’t have a business degree, so I’m learning as I go. At 50+ employees, Treehouse is now at the phase where I have to build out the management structure and operations to allow it to become a big company…As I said, I never went to Business school so I’m now hiring folks who know how to scale companies and build out operations.

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On Following Your Passion, Part 2

Posted on Feb 12, 2015 in Life, Work | No Comments

Earlier this week I wrote a post about following your passion. The thoughts can be summed up well in a quote I included from Mike Rowe:

“Staying the course” only makes sense if you’re headed in a sensible direction. Because passion and persistence – while most often associated with success – are also essential ingredients of futility.

I would add to Mikes thoughts the point that we often mistake “following our passion” for unmitigated enjoyment of our life and work. We think, “If I could just do/accomplish/be/get [fill in the blank], I’d be happy and fulfilled.”

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Christian Wiman on Technology, Anxiety and God

Posted on Feb 12, 2015 in Life | No Comments

Christian Wiman is a famous American poet and author. He serves as the editor of Poetry magazine and teaches literature and religion at Yale. Wikipedia notes his pedigree:

His poems, criticism, and personal essays appear widely in such magazines as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Yorker.

In recent past he found out “…he had a rare, incurable and unpredictable cancer.” In response to the news, Wiman wrote a book called My Bright Abyss, in which he is ” is relentless in his probing of how life feels when one is up against death.” Recently a friend shared a quote from the book with me that has been ringing in my head for the past few days. It is an incredibly salient account of the intersection of technology, anxiety and spiritual things:

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On Following Your Passion, Part 1

Posted on Feb 10, 2015 in Life, Work | No Comments

Last week I wrote two posts discussing the desire to find fulfillment in your work. As I thought about it over the weekend, I noted that many people call the quest for fulfillment “following your passion.” If you live in the culture I live in, that phrase is all-too-familiar. We experience such inspirational advice in every venue from education to advertising. It feels really good. I love indulging in the mental exercise of dropping the seemingly “unnecessary” elements of my life and focusing on the few things that I’m most passionate about.

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