Productivity Requires the Art of Triage

This is the eleventh post in a series on productivity1. 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.

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1. You can read the story behind this blog series and find links to all of the resources here.

Productivity Requires Harnessing Focus

This is the tenth post in a series on productivity2. 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 excerpt3:

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’.

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1. You can read the story behind this blog series and find links to all of the resources here.2. You can read the last post in this series, Productivity Requires Removing Distractions, here.

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.

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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.”4

Here’s a summary of the report:5

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.

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1. You can read John Saddington’s original post about the corporate character research on his blog.2. You can read the full report about corporate character and authentic advocacy on the Arthur W. Page Society’s website.

Productivity Requires Removing Distractions

This is the ninth post in a series on productivity6. 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.7


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 spans8.

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.

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1. You can read the story behind this blog series and find links to all of the resources here.2. You can read the original post on distraction here.3. Here are a slew of articles on the subject: Wired on Digital Overload, Nicholas Carr on The Web Shattering Focus, the Telegraph on our attentions span decreasing to only 5 minutes, the Wall Street Journal on ending the age of inattention and the Washington Times on how TV rewires children’s brains.

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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Marketing Team Values

Posted on Jun 29, 2015 in Work | 3 Comments

At the close of 2014, I was the only full-time marketer on The Iron Yard’s staff. Today, there are 7 of us total, meaning the last few months have been quite a fun adventure in learning and re-defining how the team works. Several of the people I hired had worked with me (and many times each other) on Iron Yard projects before. As a result, we’d developed a way of working that transitioned naturally from contract work to full-time work.

As I began to hire people who had no prior relationship with The Iron Yard or anyone on the team, though, I knew that our way of doing things wouldn’t necessarily be explicit on its own. As the new kid on the block, learning a culture and team and where you fit in can be a tough business as a lone ranger.

We decided to define our values as a team—the core elements of the way we go about our work and interacting with each other. Becoming an efficient part of a company happens much more quickly if you have a rubric by which to make decisions about what you are producing and the ways you communicate (or don’t).

Here are the values of The Iron Yard MarCom team:

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Thank you, John Saddington

Posted on Jun 25, 2015 in Life, Work | 2 Comments

john-saddington-blogging-eric-dodds-startup-code-bootcamp-the-iron-yard-growth-learn-to-code-featured-960x468

This week on The Iron Yard blog I wrote about my friend and former business partner John Saddington.9 He’s left The Iron Yard to pursue a new adventure, so I recounted the story of how we met, what it was like to grow a company with him and the impact he had on me. Here are a few excerpts:

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1. Read the original post, Thank you, John, on The Iron Yard’s blog.

Startup Marketing

Posted on Jun 16, 2015 in Work | No Comments

I was recently invited to mentor startup teams going through Iron Yard Ventures Digital Health Accelerator program10. The topic of the day was marketing, which can be a tricky, make-or-break struggle for early-stage software companies.

Below are my notes from the mentor session.

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1. You can read more about Iron Yard Ventures on their website.

Research and the Realities of Time Worked

This is the fifth post in a series on productivity11. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


In the last article in this series, we discussed the idea that productivity can be an unintuitive pursuit. Today we’re going to dissect why and look at time (hours worked) as an example.

First, though, we need to discuss how we’re going to perform this dissection. As I said in my talk at The Makers Summit, much of what I cover when it comes to productivity is based on research, not opinions or anecdotes. The productivity industry is notorious for ‘tricks and tips’, but these are serious issues that affect our businesses (and personal lives) and it’s worth our time to find information based on solid research and analyses.

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1. You can read the story behind this blog series and find links to all of the resources here.

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