written by john lewis

Productivity Category Archive

It’s actually a really really stupid idea

I wrote this post last year and saved it as draft only to promptly forget about it. The links are to older posts and I know this has been continuously discussed since then – but I still think it’s relevant. Enjoy :)

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Did you know multitasking makes us stupid? It really does. Research is starting to pour out on this point and I get the feeling too few people are paying attention. Consider the way Itzy Sabo puts it.

How quickly would you be fired for being stoned on pot at work?

Or to rephrase this, how quickly would you be fired for multi-tasking at work?

Research found that people who completed an IQ test while multitasking actually scored lower than people who took that same test while stoned.

And he’s not the only one to start attacking our culture of multitasking. Alexander Kjerulf of Positive Sharing talked about a CNN study into the work and time habits of 12 reasonably well known leaders.

His favorite answer was this one:

I know that it’s de rigeur for executives to start the day extremely early, but frankly I feel I make better decisions and relate better to people when I’m well rested. So I usually get up around 8 after a good night’s sleep.

I also make sure to work a standard 40-hour week and never work in the weekends. This is important to me for two reasons. First of all, I have a life outside of work. I have a family who likes to have me around and friends and hobbies that I also want to have time for. I find that the time I spend outside of work recharges my batteries, expands my horizons and actually makes me more efficient at work.

Secondly, if I’m always seen arriving at the office at 6 in the morning and leaving at 9 in the evening, not to mention taking calls and writing emails late at night and all weekend, it’s sure to send a signal to my employees that this is what the company expects, that this is “the right way”. But it isn’t.

It’s a simple fact that for most leaders and employees, the first 40 hours they work each week are worth much more to the company than the next 20, 30 or 40 hours. But those extra hours spent at work can harm your private life, your family and your health. Which in turn becomes damaging to the company.

Frankly, if you can’t structure your time so your work fits inside a 40-hour week, you need to get better at prioritizing and delegating.

Only, not one of the 12 leaders gave that response – or even came close… It makes for interesting reading.

For your reading:
The cult of overwork – Chief Happiness Officer
The cult of overwork again – Chief Happiness Officer
Multitasking makes us stupid? – Creating Passionate Users
How quickly would you be fired for being stoned on pot at work? – Email Overloaded

Posted in: Productivity

Simple business workshop

sbw.jpg I stumbled across this the other day, the guys behind Sproutit are touring the continental US with a workshop aimed at showing small business how to use Web 2.0 applications to help run their companies – called the Simple Business Workshop. This is a great idea and an awesome way to match the great work coming out of Web 2.0 focused companies and the small business owner who is too busy working in their business (instead of on it) to discover these applications.

What use is this to us in far away NZ? Well if you are new to these new companies and applications it is a good introduction to the half-dozen they have chosen to show off as productivity apps for small biz. Look at the list on the bottom right of the page and follow the links if you are not familiar with any of them. It includes: Sproutit, Blinksale, Dabble DB, DropSend, Fluxiom, and Shopify.

And if you haven’t already, check out Sproutit’s product “Mailroom“. It looks like an excellent application to help any small business with limited resources that communicates with customers via email. The demo is amazing – these guys do an excellent job of presenting (they just need some more help making it more polished).

Posted in: Productivity

Quitting TV

David Seah hits the nail on the head when it comes to TV addiction:

“it’s just so easy to get into the groove and watch a half-dozen documentaries and dramas. I tell myself It’s OK…you’re learning about human psychology! You’re learning about WWII! You’re getting new ideas that spark new ideas!”
“If I want to go get new ideas, I should go out and meet ACTUAL PEOPLE in INTERESTING PLACES I’ve NEVER BEEN TO.”

Update: My own TV habits are probably somewhat different but I can empathise with the quote made above. For me now, the only time the TV goes on seems to be the weekend. Otherwise there is far more interesting stuff elsewhere (in books, on the net, outside, etc). I could never justify spending money on a Sky subscription either.

I used to be someone who would lose several hours to the telly each night but I found that that changed dramatically when I moved to Wellington. For a start I was spending more time at work which meant there was less time to spend on other personal things, and well, TV just started to suck.

I have a problem with the broadcast model that TV operates under. I don’t want you to tell me what I can watch and when. I want the control, not you. I can’t remember how many times I’ve missed a show and then grabbed it (illegally I might add) from the net to catch up. You’re missing out on those advertising dollars because you are choosing not to be flexible for me.

One thing I’m finding extremely interesting is how much time I’m spending on You Tube and indeed other online video sites. This is time I’m spending at the cost or detriment of TV. If you look at the content on the two models, it is inherently different. On You Tube, its content is generally low quality, low budget and short but it also holds content that would never make it to broadcast TV.

Consider this small video of Steve Jobs presenting to his local city council. This would never justify making it to broadcast TV and yet it is an excellent example of Steve Jobs’ presentation abilities, something many people would learn from and find useful (myself and over 17,000 other people included).

Broadcast TV is on a hiding to nothing…

Posted in: Productivity, Rants

Reverse alarm clock

One of the keys to being a happy productive person is that you need regular sleeping patterns as well as simply making sure you get enough. It is something my father is very passionate about and believes organisations should be focusing on ensuring they are aiding their people to get good healthy sleep.

Not only does your body undergo intensive repair and rejuvenation when you are asleep, your brain is busy at work as well. Storing and sorting data, committing memories from short to long term, and so forth. Researchers are still discovering how important this phase is – especially for remembering and recall in the future. Of course, this coincides with society as a whole getting (and accepting) less sleep.

So, we all use alarm clocks to help wake us up (and ensure we get to work on time). Why not use an alarm clock to help you get to sleep?

For the last month I have had my cellphone alarm go off at 10pm. This reminds me it is time to start my ‘going-to-sleep’ ritual, which includes having a shower and a small amount of preparation for the next day. Not only has this helped me to remember to go to bed, my body has now started to associate the alarm going off with the need to prepare mentally and physically for bed. This means I’m now getting to sleep faster and in a more relaxed manner.

The payoff being good and happy productive days, try it out for a week and see how it helps.

Posted in: Productivity