Myths of Productivity: Finding the Right Tools

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

I can think of several times in my life where I’ve purchased something because I thought that having it would catalyze behavioral change. We’ve all been there in different ways—a new notebook will make us a more prolific writer, a new camera will make us a better photographer, and so-on.


Myths of Productivity: Keeping Up

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

In this series we’ve talked about distractions, focus, triage and more. One driver of all of behind unproductive behaviors in all of those areas is the idea that we need to “keep up” with what’s going on. Now, I do believe it’s valuable to build an understanding of our place in history and what goes on in our world (developing a worldview, if you will). More often than not, though, instead of proactively building knowledge, I find myself dealing with an ambiguous fear of “being behind.”


Productivity Requires Producing More than You Consume

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

In our historical moment, nothing is easier than scrolling through endless posts of the work that other people are doing. I said before that information has always been an available distraction, but it could be argued that we’ve never had easier access to such an immense amount of content. Living in such an environment tends to shift our default setting to consumption.


Productivity Requires the Art of Triage

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

One subtly difficult part of being productive is that even if you’re treating your body and mind well, have created a distraction-free environment and harnessed your focus, it can be hard to simply figure out what to do.


Productivity Requires Harnessing Focus

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

In the last post in this series, I discussed the necessity of removing distractions. Here’s an excerpt:

Whether it’s an email notification or a habit of checking Twitter in the middle of a hard task that taxes your mind, each time we entertain a distraction it guts our productivity in a way that’s hard to perceive experientially. Quite literally, hours of focused work can slip away from us and we don’t notice (except for not feeling productive or wishing we’d accomplished more).

Removing distractions, though, is only half of the equation. Removing distractions creates a context for productivity, but beyond that, the act doesn’t produce anything. In other words, when the distractions are gone, it’s time to get to work.

Multi-tasking is a myth

One of the focus-killers I observe most often is multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is the idea that we can do more than one thing at once. What makes this concept difficult relative to productivity is that our experience in life proves that in many situations, we *can* perform more than one activity at the same time. From actions as simple as walking and talking on the phone to more complex performances like preparing the ingredients of a complicated meal ‘simultaneously’.


On Hiring a Creative Director

Posted on Jul 22, 2015 in Work | No Comments

I recently wrote an article on The Iron Yard’s blog about hiring a creative director. You can read the full story, complete with background, but here are a few highlights:

Nathan’s work on the brand was great, but when I interviewed him about this experience, several statements and perspectives caught my attention:

…so that The Iron Yard will have a visually stable identity system…

One sign of a mature designer is value of things that don’t often get the spotlight. A ‘visually stable identity system’ doesn’t sound that exciting, but is one of the most important components of a brand.

(more…) Typeface Fix

Posted on Jul 7, 2015 in Nerdery | No Comments


It’s the little things.

I recently posted about OS X’s typeface in In short, all text was displaying as the same bold font, creating no hierarchy to help the reader parse content visually.

Before writing the post, I did my homework and discovered I wasn’t alone. Other people were experiencing the same issue. Here’s a screenshot from Nathan Spainhour’s computer:


The Age of Transparency

Posted on Jul 6, 2015 in Work | 3 Comments

My friend John Saddington recently pointed me to research focused on “corporate character & authentic advocacy,” or in non-buzzword vernacular, “having integrity as a company.”

Here’s a summary of the report:

Entitled “Building Belief: A New Model for Activating Corporate Character and Authentic Advocacy,” the report describes a new framework for how chief communications officers (CCOs) can define and activate their companies’ unique corporate character and build “advocacy at scale.” It also proposes methods for engaging individuals – whether customers, investors, employees or community members – as advocates for a set of shared beliefs and actions.

As you can tell, the study reads a bit business-y and the principles in their model aren’t necessarily new (from what I can tell), they’re just being applied to our current business climate.


Productivity Requires Removing Distractions

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

Much of this material is taken from a post I wrote in a different series.

I believe that the number one killer of productivity for most people is distraction. That may sound like a self-evident statement, but the actual mechanics of distraction, as well as expectations of ‘normal’ behavior in our society, are subtle enough that many of us don’t actually feel distraction when it’s happening—and might not even label it as such.

Like it or not, we live in a world where the battle for our attention is more fierce than ever. Don’t worry, I’m not going to lament the loss of simpler life in times past or say that Twitter is ruining our brains—there are much smarter people who have explored the complexity of distraction and the decline of attention spans.

I also don’t need scientific studies to feel constant tugging at my attention from a hundred different directions. Some of that is simply life: managing home, work, relationships and more can be complicated. Distractions don’t have to be digital—this is a human condition no matter what the circumstance or context.


Copy: The Devil’s in the Details

Posted on Jul 1, 2015 in Work | 2 Comments

The marketing team at The Iron Yard has been building out a myriad of projects, tools and campaigns over the past several weeks. From radio scripts to drip campaigns to deciding the layout for a new page on our website.

We discuss many things as a team, but I’ve noticed lately that we talk about copy constantly. Lelia, our Director of Communications, does a significant amount of actual copywriting, as do I, but the topic of discussion extends to the entire team, be it a creative director or developer. Sometimes our conversations are about really visible, high-impact decisions, like how we name new courses. Other times, we go back and forth about the title of a single part of a larger roadmap that no one but our team will ever see. Oftentimes those discussions—or disagreements—are fueled by intelligent, strongly-held opinions.


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