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.
This is the introduction to a series on productivity. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
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.
I recently wrote a post called The Challenge of Not Having a Challenge. Here’s an excerpt:
I believe we’re embedded with the desire to accomplish things—to make something with our skills, abilities and resources. On the other hand, I think that unbridled desire can lead to an unhealthy sense of entitlement and lack of commitment (according to Forbes, “ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years.”).
I was delighted to be asked a really good question in the comments and I thought the exchange would be interesting to publish as a post.
I’m technically a “Chief Marketing Officer” at the largest intensive code school in the country, but I don’t have an MBA. Opinions abound about the value of MBAs. Personally, I’ve found that context varies widely for those with degrees and feedback is often highly subjective.
I would guess that at some point, someone reading this post will be seeking an answer to the question of whether they should pursue an MBA (or similar degree). Here are my thoughts:
I’ve been slowly working my way through The World is Flat, a book by Thomas Friedman. The subtitle describes the book well: A brief history of the twenty-first century.
In the first part of the book, Friedman takes a deep look a the exploding young professional class in India. In describing one call center in particular, the author notes that the business receives 700 applications per day and only six percent of applicants are hired. 10-20% of those employed at the call center are pursuing degrees in business, computer science, or both. The company sponsors MBA degrees for its workers. (pp 25, 28)
The business owner had an insightful perspective on the fast-paced, full-scheduled lifestyle of his employees: