“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 firstname.lastname@example.org. But the email address for personal emails isn’t the same scheme — it’s email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
Confronting the Brutal Facts of Your Startup's Reality
"This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."
- Admiral James Stockdale 
Fundraising is distracting because much of it is about framing facts about your reality rather than confronting the brutal facts of your reality. For us, that meant coming up with a plausible story for not sucking when we did mostly suck. 
Some startups try to handle this by juggling two different stories: the one they tell investors and the one they know to be true. That sounds easy enough, but it can get very confusing and that confusion results in friction.
That was especially the case for our team. I used to be a lawyer, and it’s a lawyer’s job to put different frames on facts and argue why a given frame is closest to the truth. An engineer’s mentality is to find the closest frame to objective truth. 
When the team got down emotionally, I would try to persuade them that reality wasn’t as bleak as it seemed. I laugh thinking about it now. The guys would tell me, “You can’t persuade me of the pitch because we helped come up with it!”
The problem is that I was operating under the mentality that a team needs to be motivated to get more done. It turns out that my attempts to frame reality for the purpose of motivating was extremely demotivating to the team because it distracted our attention away from confronting the brutal facts of our reality.
Jim Collins in Good to Great and Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in The Progress Principle both interviewed hundreds of managers and employees, analyze thousands of employee journal entries, and concluded that motivation is a waste of time — employees aren’t motivated by motivation. Rather, the right people are self-motivated and the key is just to stay out of the way and focus on not demotivating people.
Not dealing with reality on the part of management is a huge demotivator. When you confront the brutal facts of your current reality, you’re able to conduct an autopsy in earnest, and then execute — a process that’s invigorating and self-motivating.
 Jim Collins, Good to Great (2001).
 Ironically, the best investors are those that want to confront the brutal facts of your current reality with you and that’s what value-added is in that context. They’ll find you difficult to talk to if you engage in sales talk rather than confront the truth. The funny thing is that practicing pitching with the average investor may lead you astray with exceptional investors.
 All of this is somewhat ironic because iDoneThis is a tool that shows you the truth.
“I have a theory that burnout is about resentment. And you beat it by knowing what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful. I tell people: Find your rhythm. Your rhythm is what matters to you so much that when you miss it you’re resentful of your work… . So find your rhythm, understand what makes you resentful, and protect it. You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you. And thinking that way empowers you to work really hard for a really long period of time.”—Marissa Mayer explains that the key to avoiding burnout.
Non-Technical Founder Feature Launch in Three Weeks
I’ve recently spoken with technical founders who’ve complained about their non-technical co-founders who refuse to do or learn anything technical, and it’s struck a nerve. One technical founder told me, “My co-founder refuses to learn the most basic SQL so that they can pull analytics on their own.”
As the worst engineer at iDoneThis, I’m the CEO. I haven’t coded seriously in about 7 years since I was in college, before I went to law school. My lack of coding chops has meant that I’ve often found myself asking the engineers to create tools for me that enable me to do my job. That behavior can get extremely distracting for the engineering team that’s trying to push the product forward, and it creates a negative dynamic in which engineering serves managers’ needs.
We began to hear from companies using iDoneThis that they wanted a place that aggregated a single employee’s activity and dones, and I thought to myself, “Simple profile pages is a feature that I could build in a few days!” So began a three week struggle in which I nearly gave up a bunch of times, before we triumphed as a team and got the profiles launched.
Off and Running
On Saturday, March 17, I got cracking, and things were looking up. I thought that I could crank out profiles over the weekend and I’d have something to show off to Rodrigo and Mike on Monday. The team cheered me on.
I have a basic working knowledge of Python and Django, so I didn’t have any trouble from the start. I had the routing set up, along with outlines of the Django views that would grab the data, and the templates that would display the data. I was just aggregating data (dones and likes) and displaying them on one page, which isn’t a very hard problem.
By the end of the day on Sunday, I felt like I was basically done. My logic that pulled the dones and likes and displayed them on the profile pages worked well. All I had left to do was style the profile pages and allow an editable bio and an editable profile picture. Fantastic!
A Huge Coffeescript-and-Backbone-Shaped Roadblock … NOT!
Daunting, I thought, learning a new language and framework, but I figured that I could handle it. And I actually got off to a quick start. I went through the to-do list tutorial and tried to do some background reading. When I grasped the essential analogy (Coffeescript:Backbone::Python:Django), I got bored of reading and just started hacking away.
With a little beginner’s luck, I was able to code up the following/follow/unfollow/edit profile interaction pretty quickly, and I declared Monday a success. All I had left to do was the profile picture and bio editing, and I figured I’d be done by Tuesday and maybe I’d add more sugar to it. Man, I’m good!
Nevermind: A Huge Coffeescript-and-Backbone-Shaped Roadblock
On Tuesday, I thought I’d start with something simple: refactoring the display of the dones. Instead of it happening with Python and Django on the backend, I’d pass a JSON object to the frontend and render it with Coffeescript and Backbone.
Passing the JSON object over to the client was a confusing process because I kept thinking, “There must be a better way!” I ended up having to write methods to reconstruct Django objects as JSON objects, which felt incredibly primitive to me, but Stackoverflow didn’t seem to have a better solution.
Once I got the JSON objects to the client, I needed to display them. Up until that point, I’d only done a rough cut of displaying anything on the client-side, so I just wrote HTML as strings in the Coffeescript. Obviously, that wouldn’t cut it for displaying the dones, which involved a lot more HTML.
I looked around our code for the answer of what to do, and I found that we used a templating engine for Coffeescript called Coffeekup. It looked easy enough — just pass in the template and “this”, whatever that means, and it would render. I spent the next two days at a total standstill learning what the word “this” meant.
As a novice developer, when a simple statement like “$(‘#dailydone_display’).html(CoffeeKup.render(this.template, this))” doesn’t work, my first reaction is to go into “change random stuff” mode. To a beginner like me, so many things in an application work like total magic to the point where the application doesn’t always appear to be responding to logic. Applied to debugging, that means that changing random junk can get you to the answer often just as fast as attempting to deduce what the actual issue is.
Random junk I’m embarrassed to say that I tried: hitting refresh and hard refresh again and again in the browser, recompiling Coffeescript, restarting the web server, adding @s and $s in random places, renaming “template” to something else with the thought that “template” is a special word, and on and on. I probably spent a couple of hours in a zombie-like trance hitting the same buttons over and over, expecting something new to happen.
After awhile, I came to a dead end, and that meant that I could either ask Rodrigo to fix it for me, or I could actually try to figure out what was broken. I won’t lie, I went to Rodrigo first, but after 30 seconds of explaining what I needed from him, I realized that my question was of sufficient complexity that it would break up his day to help me with my problem, thus defeating the purpose of my attempting to build this feature in the first place. I struck back out on my own.
What does “this” mean? I’m still not sure.
I learned a lot from taking a deep dive on the word “this”. Probably the most lasting impression that the experience has had on me is an appreciation and sympathy for how the simplest steps can turn into deep dives into the depths of an abstraction you were told that you’d never have to worry about.
Modern web frameworks, languages, and platforms make it possible for even an idiot like me to build and launch a feature, but once one thing goes unexpectedly long, it can be a deep, scary exploration and adventure underground before getting back up to the surface. Everything is totally placid at the surface, but underground … well, let’s just say that I don’t want to go back there. That’s where you need the fat dudes with neck beards, not a skinny guy like me in tight pants.
I isolated the issue to the variable “this”, and then did some googling. After frantically changing random junk, my next vector of attack is always Google. But I found nothing. The word “this” is hard to google.
During this time, I got extremely frustrated — irrationally so — and considered quitting a bunch of times. Why was I doing this? I wasn’t leveraging my strengths; I was wasting time. When am I going to code again? Rodrigo and Mike could do this 100x faster. What made me step back from the ledge was recommitting myself to the long view — we were trying to build a great software company and it is important that I be able to get in the trenches and support my team rather than have it support me.
That’s when the mystery began to unravel. I remembered that my code had “_.bindAll @” in it, which I had copy-pasted from a Backbone tutorial that had gotten me started. I deleted it, massaged some other code, and voila! I was able to get everything working without really understanding why it broke in the first place.
I spent the next week adding avatars, adding bios, making the bios editable inline, adding profile settings, fixing bugs, cleaning up code, and messing with the styles. I kept thinking that I would be done the next day. That thinking went on for a week.
After two weeks (7x longer than I estimated), I got user profiles production ready. Rodrigo and Mike told me that it sucked and Mike had to spend another week making my database queries not take forever, paginating my dones, and actually deploying it.
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. - Carl Sagan, Cosmos (1980).
It started as a vague idea framed as a joke.
When we put our site out into the world on January 2, 2011, we only processed incoming emails once per day. At the bottom of every email, we wrote:
iDoneThis is a part of the slow web movement. After you email us, your calendar is not updated instantaneously. But rest up, and you’ll find an updated calendar when you wake.
Part of the idea was to put a positive frame on one of our most glaring shortcomings. But the reason why we believed that an MVP didn’t have to include real-time processing is that we wanted to build a site whose value-added was independent from the number of times that a user interacted with the site. With something as quick and simple as one email a day, a person could build up a whole record of her accomplishments.
As we’ve worked on iDoneThis, that vague idea and unfunny joke has coalesced into a mantra. At iDoneThis, we believe in taking it slow.
Value, not addiction or lock-in. We’re not trying to make people hate themselves. We also can’t assume actual value creation based on engagement with the product. We have to connect the engagement to actual impact.
Prioritization and pruning, not speed. Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke told us, “The thing about getting advice is that all of the advice is right”—the question is prioritization, not how fast you can do everything.
Do things and tell people, don’t just do things. Doing things and telling people takes twice as long as doing things. Naveen Selvadurai, the co-founder of foursquare, told us early on that one of the biggest struggles of doing a startup is making progress among multiple fronts: “Your investors may want one thing, you may want another, users a third, and the servers are probably melting.” The importance of communicating what’s getting done to the numerous stakeholders is an important lesson we’ve learned at iDoneThis.
Deduction, not induction. Induction is simply replicating spec, which is a breeze compared with inventing spec. The companies that we respect most at iDoneThis, like Shopify, foursquare, and Harvest have the mentality not only of inventing a product but of inventing the machine that makes the product from first principles.
Behavior change, not growth. Behavior change is about improving the lives of others, scale is about ego. Getting scale after nailing behavior change is easier than nailing behavior change (and thus having a shot at durability) after hitting scale.
Friendship, not networking. Relationships based on friendship take time to build. We’re starting from scratch as first-time startup guys, so that means we don’t have many pre-existing relationships in the startup world and the world of our industry vertical.
We’re thrilled to introduce that Michael Sun, engineer and hacker extraordinaire, has joined the iDoneThis team.
In January and February, Michael worked with us on a contract basis to help us scale our infrastructure to support the influx of new users we were getting, and he did a fantastic job. When we had the opportunity to snatch him up, we counted ourselves blessed.
Michael is also Walter’s older cousin, so he has no qualms with making his voice heard.
Before iDoneThis, Michael was in the computer engineering Ph.D program at Georgia Tech. He left with an M.S., ABD.
At Georgia Tech, Michael published several papers on mobile virtual machines and he consulted on wireless networks in Rwanda. Prior to Georgia Tech, Michael was an associate at Sapient where he designed and built enterprise systems for corporate clients.
Michael has his B.S. in computer science with high distinction from The University of Michigan.
We’re now in the Google Chrome Store! Add iDoneThis to Chrome, and Dundee will live on your Chrome home screen. His mere presence will encourage you in everything you’re getting done.
From there, you can launch iDoneThis with one click. If you haven’t made iDoneThis your home page yet (tsk tsk!), this is the next best thing.
Why did you create a Chrome Store app?
We bet that you’ll get more done when you see Dundee on your Chrome home screen every time you open up a new tab!
Our email reminders make it easy to remember to write down what you get done every day, so that you don’t have to do the work in remembering. With our iPhone App, people have told us that having Dundee sit on their phones is a constant helpful reminder to use iDoneThis to jot down their day.
We hope to be helpful in the same way every time you open a new tab in Chrome. From there, it’s dead simple to launch iDoneThis and use the web to write down your accomplishments of the day.
What is the Chrome Store and what does it mean to add iDoneThis to Chrome?
That’s a very good question and one that baffled us for awhile. In short, the Chrome Store is like the Apple App Store, but for any app on the web. It’s a great way to discover apps, because the Chrome store has categories, descriptions, and ratings & reviews.
After you add an app to your Chrome, it lives on your Chrome desktop which reminds you of its existence and makes it easy to launch. That’s the “glorified bookmark” function of a Chrome Store app. We have deeper Chrome integration plans in the works, and this is just the beginning.
“Another employee, a programmer, thought his online chats were eating into his work time. So he tested the theory: He looked at how long he spent chatting during certain periods, then looked at how much code he wrote during those times. But in fact, the more he talked, the more code he wrote. Gabbing online with colleagues and customers helped his work.”—
“I feel really lucky … although I hate that word — ‘lucky.’ … Living in Brooklyn in an apartment without any heat and paying for dinner at the bodega with dimes — I don’t think I felt myself lucky back then… . Saying I was lucky negates the hard work I put in and spits on that guy who’s freezing his ass off back in Brooklyn. So I won’t say I’m lucky.”—The actor, Peter Dinklage, commenting on finding his path to success while staying true to himself.
How Roeder Studios's Virtual Team Built a Social Media Empire
Building a business from scratch is a huge challenge and doing it with a virtual team is even tougher. The interaction and information exchange that happens when people work in the same room often get taken for granted. It’s something that’s tricky to replicate when the team is straddled across different locations and timezones.
So why bother with a remote team? For founder Laura Roeder, having a virtual team is a competitive advantage. It gives her greater flexibility in hiring to make that she’s focusing 100% on quality and fit. It also suits her hands-off management style. Everyone in the company has the autonomy to do their own thing, so long as they’re openly and actively communicating with the team.
That hits at the heart of the biggest day-to-day operational challenge of a virtual company: communication. At Roeder Studios, they use Yammer, Google Chat, FreeConferenceCall.com, Skype, a wiki, Google Docs, and iDoneThis. Each tool serves as a channel for a particular type of communication. Yammer is for heads up information and watercooler postings, Skype is for face time, and FreeConferenceCall.com is to interface with clients and partners.
Over the course of running a virtual company, she discovered that a specific type of communication was extremely important. She called it a daily “What I did today” communication. Otherwise, it’s not easy to see what’s getting done by the team in Seattle, New Jersey, San Diego, the Philippines, Los Angeles and New York City at a glance. She would have to comb through the other systems and ask each team member individually for the most basic recap of the team’s day.
Laura asked the team to send a daily “What I did today” email out to the team at the close of each day, but she found that it was very difficult to get people to do it. With a lot going on, it’s easy to forget to send an email update. Email updates weren’t aggregated in any one place so the process was still rather fragmented. Also, working remotely, it’s often hard to know when your day is over. People put off writing the email update until the end of the day, but without knowing exactly when that will be, it’s often forgotten.
Laura’s team went from sparse email updates to a daily celebration of the team’s dones using iDoneThis. The team no longer had to remember to send the email, all they had to reply to iDoneThis’s email when it showed up in the inbox, and then they could add to that list with anything else later. It worked as an outside force, and it also made it easy to write down the message. The next morning, everyone’s dones showed up in their inbox, aggregated in one place.
iDoneThis may have made its greatest positive impact for Myreen, the team’s head of customer service. Rather than bombarding Myreen with emails, the team need only use iDoneThis, and as a byproduct, Myreen knows exactly what changes and updates are happening around their products. She has one email and one place to look when she receives questions about updates to their services.
We’re thrilled to be helping Laura, Myreen and the whole Roeder Studios team track and celebrate their accomplishments every day. We are very excited to be helping them empower small businesses with the power of social media.
“[E]very hour you work over 40 hours a week is making you less effective and productive over both the short and the long haul. And it may sound weird, but it’s true: the single easiest, fastest thing your company can do to boost its output and profits — starting right now, today — is to get everybody off the 55-hour-a-week treadmill, and back onto a 40-hour footing.”—
Sara Robinson in her popular Salon piece makes the case for the 40 hour work week, and it’s hard not to nod in agreement to the guideline of “eight for work, eight for sleep and eight for what we will.”
Are you nodding too? What about you, hard-working entrepreneurs?
“Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.”—Laura Vanderkam puts your perception of how busy you are in poignant, new light - WSJ, Are You As Busy As You Think?
“I was once asked: if an organization could teach only one thing to its employees, what single thing would have the most impact? My answer was immediate and clear: teach people how to learn. How to look at their past behavior, figure out what worked, and repeat it while admitting honestly what didn’t and change it.”—
A strategic advisor to CEOs and leadership teams, Peter Bregman writes that the most impactful thing that an organization can do for employees is to teach people how to learn by spending a few minutes reflecting at the end of the day.
As our iDoneThis users already know, there is indeed efficiency in slowing down!