April 2016

Meta work is not real work.

Work about work, preparing to work, organizing before you can start, getting ready in the morning, scrolling through emails, filing, arranging your desk, scheduling meetings, thinking without producing an artifact or action item, getting your “ducks in a row“…

These kinds of activities can keep us busy– fill our days, in fact– but none of them are real work. They are what I call meta work.

At best, meta work helps your real work time to be more productive. At worst, it’s simple avoidance. It’s laziness masquerading as busy-ness. We all do it. I have fallen into meta work traps, too. While I’m still mildly prone to them, years of working on startups and my own businesses have made me acutely aware of how important (and really how easy) it is to choose actions that 1.) have no roadblocks or dependencies and 2.) directly contribute to my objectives.

Read More

Would you be your own disciple?

Would you follow you? Are you a leader?

Let me ask that another way: Do you follow you?

It was once explained to me that ‘self-discipline’ means being a disciple of your own highest priorities. Framed in that way, choices logically follow from beliefs. They aren’t hard to make, they are necessary. You believe in what is important to you, so you set about making it happen with religious fervor.

All of this struggle with motivation, focus and productivity is not a matter of tricking yourself into action; it’s the opposite. It’s about actually believing what you say is important to you.

Read More

Create Artifacts of Your Effort

Do you make task lists just to check off items? Have you (like me) added things to your list that you already did, just so you could check them off? That’s because we like completion. The culmination triggers a dopamine hit in your brain.

When we waste time cycling on things– starting loops that never stop, meetings without resolution, thinking without action– we don’t give ourselves that completion.

Artifacts remind us that we made progress and help ensure we don’t repeat the work or thought process again without resolution. A mentor of mine once said, “Never have a meeting that doesn’t produce an artifact.” Otherwise, you’re doomed to revisit old topics, forget key strategy items and simply waste time on low priority stuff, especially when multiple people are involved.

Read More

“But I don’t know where to start!” (Part Deux)

My first post in this series was about overcoming overwhelm. To get started, you have to find a manageable bit– a finite habit or task that you can do on a daily basis. I recommend starting your day by writing. The goal is not to solve all the world’s problems– it’s to create momentum making a choice for you.

Be Selfish

Writing every day is the right kind of selfishness. It’s a creative and proactive task that uses different parts of your brain than those associated with reactive tasks. It’s also proven to reduce stress because it reduces ruminative thinking that makes you vulnerable to increased cortisol production, i.e., spinning in circles and feeling like shit. Both expressive writing and writing about life goals have been shown to work. Yea science!

Read More