“Years ago, when I was researching an article on research into stress, one social scientist passed on a simple tip: “At some point every day, you have to say, ‘No more work.’” No matter how many tasks remain undone, you have to relax at some point and enjoy the evening.”—John Tierney, NY Times columnist and co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, in an interview with Gretchen Rubin.
I’m sure we’ve all worked at companies where the loudest guy gets the biggest bonus. In most companies, compensation is determined by a cabal of execs—guys that you may never have met—evaluating work that happened up to a whole year ago. Bonus compensation ends up being a function of politics, not performance.
51% of employees feel that the performance reviews upon which bonus compensation is based are inaccurate according to a 2011 survey by Globoforce. A 2010 literature survey in Psychology Today concluded that 87% to 90% of employees hate performance reviews because the feedback is not useful, the whole process is stressful, and they’re left demotivated as a result.
Incredibly, despite widespread recognition of its failure, a recent Wall Street Journal article found that 99% of companies still go through the process of ritualized demotivation.
At Shopify, an e-commerce software startup that’s doubled to a 100-employee headcount in a year’s time, they’ve reinvented the process and turned bonus compensation on its head. They distribute bonuses every month — not once a year — and that compensation is determined by peers, not by the management team on high.
Shopify crowdsources their company bonuses.
We spent a week with Shopify at their headquarters in Ottawa, Canada, after the company began using iDoneThis. We learned that their use of iDoneThis was a small part of a bigger philosophy—to put power in the hands of employees, the ones closest to the ground, to make consequential decisions, crowdsource business intelligence, and build their own unique company culture.
To crowdsource company bonuses, the Shopify team built their own internal system called Unicorn. Here’s how it works.
When Serena does something awesome, Daniel gives her thanks by going into Unicorn, logging her accomplishment, and giving her one, two or three unicorns. Everyone in the company sees Serena’s plaudits and can pile on more unicorns if they agree that she did an awesome job.
At the end of month, every employee in Shopify gets allocated a proportion of the company’s profits that are set aside for Unicorn bonuses. Daniel’s allocation goes to Serena and anyone else to whom he’s given unicorns over the course of the month. In other words, Serena’s bonus is determined by the gratitude of her peers for a job well done.
Whereas traditional bonus compensation schemes assume that management knows employee performance better than employees themselves, Shopify’s system seeks the wisdom of the crowd to determine who the top performers are. The upshot is that Unicorn isn’t merely an administrative tool that doles out bonuses, it’s a business intelligence platform for employee performance.
It’s the difference between management hindsight on the one hand and data and genuine insight on the other. CEO Tobi Lutke told me that Unicorn discovered top performers among employees who might otherwise have been overshadowed by more charismatic colleagues.
Perhaps the most amazing fact of Unicorn is that Shopify has transformed the process of workplace feedback, performance evaluation and compensation from a source of fear and dread into a fun way to recognize a colleague’s good work. The power of crowdsourcing is that it can take a back office function like traditional HR and put it into the hands of every person in the company. The result is that Shopify’s culture of performance, gratitude, and quirkiness is baked into everyday life at the company.
“The world is full of people who are waiting for someone to come along and motivate them to be the kind of people they wish they could be. These people are waiting for a bus on a street where no buses pass.”—
It’s not just the number of hours we sit at a desk that determines the value we generate. It’s the energy we bring to the hours we work … . Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy – physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually – requires refueling it intermittently.
Schwartz’s insistence that real productivity requires real rest, recharge, and renewal is in tune with Ken Robinson's focus on energy. Robinson suggests that having passion for your work is a built-in energy renewal system. Schwartz's point on sustaining personal energy levels is even more basic, whatever your passion (or lack of passion) is for your work — simply take more meaningful breaks.
Get outside, move around more, and please, stop eating lunch at your desk.
The Minor Miracle of Third-Party App Development Without a Real API
I’ve never had a kid, but I imagine that it can’t be too different from giving birth to a web app. It’s amazing that the thing exists at all, much less that it walks and talks, and it’s a minor miracle when it thinks on its own and creates something new of its own volition.
The Springest guys were the ones who had been spamming my inbox with errors! They had been testing their iDoneThis extension to Alfred (an awesome Mac app launcher).
It was super simple, it worked, and ok, I thought it was incredible. Wouter at Springest, a company halfway around the world that I’d never talked to, without asking for permission or needing to ask for permission, lacking a real API, used our email interface to connect Alfred to iDoneThis.
Just punch your done into Alfred, and it will shoot out an email to us and in it goes into your done list. Not only did the extension rule, it also became the main way that I entered my dones!
A week later, more errors hit my inbox and I noticed what seemed to be an error with the Alfred extension. ”Uh oh,” I thought. Either we’ll have to support the extension or we’ll be left with buggy software built by a third-party that diminishes the user experience.
I reached out to the user to see what was up and if there was anything I could do to help. It turned out that Rudy was attempting to use the Alfred extension for his personal iDoneThis, whereas the Wouter built the extension only for teams because that’s how they use it at Springest.
I didn’t feel comfortable with reaching out to Wouter to request a fix, and I wasn’t sure that we had the bandwidth to basically begin the process of supporting a third-party extension. I sent the kind of useless placating email that I hate sending.
Oh, I think I realize the problem.
The Alfred integration was created by Springest, and they use iDoneThis in a team only, but you’re trying to use iDoneThis for personal use.
So by default, the email address that the email gets sent to is <team name>@team.idonethis.com, which for you, is email@example.com. But the email address for personal emails isn’t the same scheme — it’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
So basically, the Alfred integration won’t work for personal users right now.
I’m cc’ing my co-founder Rodrigo on this email and I’ll make a ticket for this. We’ve wanted to add email@example.com as the primary address we send and receive from for personal emails.
Rudy’s response was short and simple but it made me stop and marvel at the world we live in. ”I’ll fork the extension and submit a pull request.”
Fabian Kruse writes about “the loop" inherent to getting anything done, and the idea that periods of procrastination, having doubts, and losing momentum are just part of that natural productivity cycle. So, while productivity systems and techniques are valuable, they don’t necessarily prevent the slower parts of "the loop" from happening again. In fact, they become a part of the loop.
The reason why I hate productivity systems is because they easily become a dominant part of “the loop”. And once they become a dominant part of the loop, they become a problem. A problem that keeps creatives from focusing on what matters – and from doing what they want to do because their muse is calling.
While Kruse focuses on the lives of “creative” people, his post applies to pretty much everyone as a reminder that productivity systems are tools and managers, not creations. At the end of the day, there’s no point in having “make a to-do list” on your to-do list.
C.J. Chilvers also writes about the paradox of productivity apps and the struggle that remains in getting important things done. The solution, for him, has been that “the easier a system is, the more will get done.”
We hope iDoneThis is a super-easy system, helping you record more daily dones that matter!
How Agiliq Creates Bespoke Webapps by Focusing Within
Agiliq is a 12-person web design and development studio based in Hyderabad, India that builds web applications which provide that “just-right” fit for its clients. The key to crafting bespoke webapps relies not only on the ingredients of technology and design but on understanding your client and your client’s issues.
But in order to do that, it’s important to understand the inner workings of your own team members and their work. Agiliq director and developer Shabda Raaj finds that using iDoneThis is integral to getting to the nuts and bolts of Agiliq’s operations. The results: a greatly streamlined workflow and improved capacity to focus on what matters, solving clients’ issues and getting more app-making done.
Before implementing iDoneThis, Shabda’s team members used to send him a daily report. At the same time, he did not send anything out to his team members, since he wasn’t obligated to report “down” to anyone and felt that doing so would be too much like spam. Using iDoneThis was a neat workflow solution, a non-spammy way for team members, including Shabda, to send and receive daily reports, providing better transparency within the organization and better plan-making.
Improving workflow regarding daily reports is one thing, but Shabda and the Agiliq team appreciate iDoneThis’s ability to work in concert with other project management tools such as Assembla. Since Agiliq is a heavy user of Assembla for tasks such as source control and ticketing, they set up a script that emails Shabda a summary of commits that he edits and sends on to iDoneThis. “It allows us to summarize the progress without a lot of duplication.”
While Shabda may have expected the productivity benefits of time-saving and progress-tracking, he has been surprised to find that the quality of team members’ daily reports have markedly improved. “People obviously care about what the team is reading about them.”
We’re happy that iDoneThis is a just-right fit for Agiliq, and we’re excited to see their improved inner workings translate into some awesome new webapps.
We don’t know about the origin of this story but it’s a nice reminder about setting priorities:
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day isn’t enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open area between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things…your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions…and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your home and perhaps your car.
The sand is everything else…the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Enjoy a romantic dinner with the one you love. Play another 9 or 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the faucet.
Take care of the golf balls first…the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.
“Forget about productivity and numbers. They matter not at all. If you are driven to do things to reach certain numbers (goals), you have probably lost sight of what’s important. If you are striving to be productive, you are filling your days with things just to be productive, which is a waste of a day. This day is a gift, and shouldn’t be crammed with every possible thing — spend time enjoying it and what you’re doing.”—How to Live Well, zenhabits.
Here are some of our favorites from the wise words spoketh:
"Your best work is your expression of yourself. Now you may not be the greatest at it, but when you do it, you’re the only expert in it." - Frank Gehry, architect.
"You can’t get to wonderful without passing through alright. You can’t skip from not being able to function all the way over to running the whole show." - Bill Withers, musician.
"I always thought that inspiration was for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you’re not going to make an awful lot of work." - Chuck Close, artist.
“Wise use of space means creating the right context for concentration, learning, communication, and collaboration—the building blocks of productivity.”—
Productivity is not just about you. It’s also about your environment.
The National Institute of Building Sciences takes a look at “productive building design.” Organizational effectiveness, or organizational productivity, is a fancy way of saying using space wisely. It makes sense to make a user-friendly work environment to cultivate an organization’s greatest resource and expense — the worker!
Less than half of workers report being satisfied with the recognition they receive on the job. Is it just a coincidence that less than half of employed adults report being completely satisfied with their jobs?
Do you have any tips for working smarter, not harder? Share them with us in the comments!