Smarter Faster Better

Freakonomics Radio is one of my favorite podcasts. It explores the hidden side of everything and in an episode from 2016 it explored how to be more productive. As with many things, productivity means different things in different situations.

For his book Smarter Faster Better Charles Duhigg talked to more than 400 people about the secrets of being productive in life and business. Not that this is my main goal in life, but it’s still very useful to know about  the most important productivity tools and skills.

Charles had this basic rule for his book, which was that when someone told him something that they felt made them more productive, that he wouldn’t include it in the book unless it seemed to be universal. And so if he talked to over 400 people, he probably heard 300 different ideas about how to increase productivity.

But what he would find is that one set of ideas would work for a group and then another group would say exactly the opposite. So a good example of this is, like, the fanatical devotion on one goal at all costs. When he talked to people in Silicon Valley, they would say

Here’s the most important thing on being productive, is that you choose, like, one outcome and you just remain persistent.

And then he would talk to people in big companies and they’d say

Here’s the thing about being productive. You have to be flexible. You can’t commit yourself to one goal.

And this happened again and again and again, except that he did notice that there was this small handful of consistent ideas that kept on coming up. As he boiled through all of these stories and all of these papers that he was reading and all of these experts, there were really only eight things that came up again and again and again.

The 8 Ultimate Productivity Tools or Skills

  1. Motivation
    We trigger self-motivation by making choices that make us feel in control. The act of asserting ourselves and taking control helps trigger the parts of our neurology where self-motivation resides.
  2. Focus
    We train ourselves how to pay attention to the right things and ignore distractions by building mental models, which means that we essentially narrate to ourselves what’s going on as it goes on around us.
  3. Goal-setting
    Everyone actually needs two different kinds of goals. You need a stretch goal, which is like this big ambition, but then you have to pair that with a specific plan on how to get started tomorrow morning.
  4. Decision making
    People who make the best decisions tend to think probabilistically. They envision multiple, often contradictory, futures and then try and figure out which one is more likely to occur.
  5. Innovation
    The most creative environments are ones that allow people to take clichés and mix them together in new ways. And the people who are best at this are known as innovation brokers. They’re people who have their feet in many different worlds and, as a result, they know which ideas can click together in a novel combination.
  6. Absorbing data
    Sometimes the best way to learn is to make information harder to absorb. This is known in psychology as “disfluency.” The harder we have to work to understand an idea or to process a piece of data, the stickier it becomes in our brain.
  7. Managing others
    The best managers put responsibility for solving a problem with the person who’s closest to that problem, because that’s how you tap into everyone’s unique expertise.
  8. Teams
    Who is on a team matters much, much less than how a team interacts.

Slack als Produktivitäts-Killer?

Der Medium-Artikel Slack, I’m Breaking Up with You hat innerhalb von vier Tagen 3900 Likes und 290 Kommentare geerntet. Samuel Hulick beschreibt darin auf amüsante und unterhaltsame Weise in der zweiten Person Singular seine persönliche Hassliebe zu Slack; seine Hilflosigkeit sich der Anziehungskraft der (nur scheinbar? asynchronen) Chat Plattform für längere Zeit zu entziehen. Er macht Slack für seine schlechte Produktivität verantwortlich und beschreibt den Zwang, den man sich auch von anderen sozialen Medien auferlegen lassen kann, wenn man keine Grenzen setzt.

Das WordPress Projekt ist vor (gefühlt?) ca. ein bis zwei Jahren von IRC (Internet Relay Chat) auf Slack umgestiegen, bei Openstream benutzen wir Slack seit etwas mehr als sechs Monaten, weshalb ich einige der Kritikpunkte von Samuel gut nachvollziehen kann. Dennoch halte ich Slack für eine sehr innovative Plattform und liebe vor allem die Integrationen mit anderen Plattformen wie JIRA, BitBucket, GitHub und Pingdom. Für mich ist JIRA das zentrale Dashboard meiner Firma. Die Kommunikation wird von E-Mail und Skype auf projekt- und themenbezogene Kanälen verlagert und gebündelt, welche durch diverse wertvolle Informationen angereichert werden können. Die jeweiligen Kanäle werden nur von denen gelesen, die unmittelbar damit zu tun haben und jeder entscheidet selbst, wieviele Kanäle er abonniert. Von den aktuell 64 Kanälen bei Openstream sehe ich nur einige wenige in meiner Kanalliste und antworte teilweise in Echtzeit, teilweise zeitverzögert (asynchron). In einem verteilten Team wie Openstream eine optimale Lösung, wenngleich wir natürlich auch weiterhin manchmal Skype Telkos abhalten oder normal telefonieren. Dass alles automatisch archiviert wird ist ein grosser Vorteil gegenüber dem in die Jahre gekommenen IRC, wenngleich die kostenlose Slack Version „nur“ 10’000 Nachrichten archiviert.

Ich bin weiterhin entschlossen einen Grossteil der internen Firmenkommunikation auf Slack zu verlagern und die Anzahl von E-Mails dadurch zu reduzieren, sowie die Produktivität und Effizient im Team zu steigern. Wird sind noch nicht ganz da, aber ich habe das Gefühl es geht in die richtige Richtung.

Über Slack

In den Worten des Erfinders

Slack brings all your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams.

In den Worten Wikipedias

Slack ist ein webbasierter Instant-Messaging-Dienst zur Kommunikation innerhalb von Arbeitsgruppen. Er erlaubt Nachrichten mit Einzelpersonen auszutauschen oder in einer Gruppe zu chatten sowie gemeinsam Dokumente zu bearbeiten. Andere Online-Dienste wie Dropbox, Google Drive oder GitHub lassen sich in Slack integrieren. Zusätzlich zur Webanwendung gibt es Clients für die Betriebssysteme Windows, OS X, Google Chrome OS, Android und iOS. Nach Unternehmensangaben nutzen inzwischen täglich 750.000 Arbeitsgruppen Slack.

Overlapping Mini Careers

The full time job as we’ve known it is dying and it’s being replaced by overlapping mini-careers that people are doing through online platforms.

In Episode Twenty of the Slack Variety Pack we hear from a man in the process of shedding his full-time security blanket and a woman who’s mastered the side-hustle juggle. Would you rather have one full-time job or a slew of freelance gigs?

Many people might still feel more comfortable in a typical full-time job, but having quit the traditional 9 to 5 workday myself in 2004, I’m definitely in favour of the idea of overlapping mini-careers instead. In the long run this is actually more secure and will not become as boring as one single job will after a couple of years.

Slack Variety Pack is a podcast about work, life, and everything in between. In every episode it guarantees a glorious mix of stories on innovative ideas, modern culture, and people who have found their purpose.