Want To Get More Done? Make Communication Harder

Of all the problems the country faces, very few of them make their way to Oval Office.

Yes, there are many problems for the president to solve. There is a lot on his plate. But for every one problem the president is briefed on, there are hundreds — maybe thousands — that never make it to the West Wing. They are intercepted along the way, solved or deemed not critical enough for the Commander in Chief.

It’s hard to communicate with The President. It’s hard to get in touch with the President. Politicians campaign on the promise of addressing everyone’s concerns. But that’s not what they do in office, not even close. It would be impossible. The flood of information and data flying in would crash the whole operation.

So they make it hard to reach the president. Any problem that actually gets there has been vetted and analyzed by many layers underneath him. This happens on purpose. It makes things work. Communicating with the president is hard.

Maybe your organization should take the same approach. Maybe your open door policy is making it too easy for people to hijack people’s time. Maybe adding a little friction to communication could be exactly what you need.

Continue Reading

Why Nature Should Be Part Of Your Working Space

What’s difference does your physical environment have on the work you do? Quite a bit.

In a 2002 study, two groups of high school students were asked to spend some time making creative collages. One group made their collages in a setting with direct sunlight and natural wood surrounding them. The other group was in a room built of manufactured materials not found in nature, like drywall and plastic.

When a panel of six independent art critics viewed the students’ finished work, the results were overwhelmingly clear. The students who worked in the natural environment produced more innovative and creative pieces.

It makes perfect sense, our species was designed to wake with the sunlight. For millennia we’ve worked outside, hunting and farming and building societies. We lived in nature and then build shelters of wood and stone.

Then, everything got all … artificial. Synthetic walls, plastic, poly- this and carbon- that. Nature stopped being something we live in and started being something we vacation for. But you can’t pack a year’s worth of nature into a week-long vacation. Natural environments need to be part of our everyday lives. That includes the workplace.

Here are some ways to get started.

Continue Reading

Anatomy Of A Great Mission Statement

Richard Branson has a thing for mission statements.

He likes them. He just thinks most of them suck.

Most mission statements are full of blah truisms and are anything but inspirational. A company’s employees don’t really need to be told that “The mission of XYZ Widgets is to make the best widgets in the world while providing excellent service.” They must think, “As opposed to what? Making the worst widgets and offering the lousiest service?” Such statements show that management lacks imagination, and perhaps in some cases, direction.

Mission statements — the good and the bad — have a way of bringing out the true core of your company. If that core is boring and jargon-filled, so will be the mission statement. If it’s fun, inspired, unique, caring … you can see where this is going.


Continue Reading

Google Didn’t Get It Wrong: The Open-Office Trend Just Isn’t Right For Your Workplace

First we had hunting, then farms, then factories.

Then there were offices, with their doors and thick walls. Then cubicles, thinner and shorter walls and no doors.

Today, no more walls. No more doors. Want a picture of your kid on your desk? Better set it as your computer background. Because that chair is up for grabs tomorrow morning, pal. We all belong everywhere and nowhere in the cafeteria of modern work. We live in a strange new world. Your digital desktop is more permanent than your actual desktop.

Continue Reading

A scientific guide to creative juices [what they are and how to summon them]

Does this happen to you?

It’s Friday and you’re sitting in an all-hands-on-deck staff meeting. The boss needs creative ideas for next quarter. “Concentrate!” You’re told. “Be creative!”

You concentrate with all your might, but you’ve got nothing.

The next day you’re outside cutting the grass. There’s the steady hum of the lawnmower engine, the rhythmic predictability of the mowing pattern. Your mind slows down, wanders. Drifts off. But suddenly.


Some creative idea nearly knocks you over. It’s brilliant. Where was that kind of thinking when you needed it in yesterday’s meeting?

The answer has to do with our creative juices. And the science behind them. And although “creative juices” isn’t exactly a scientific term, there’s plenty of science behind what we understand to be creative juices.

Continue Reading

How Noah Kagan Taught Me The Two Simplest Things About Planning Growth

Every field has “that guy.” Everyone in the industry knows of them and their work. Many secretly try to emulate them — or flat out copy them. They are the person crushing it. They are the person your boss wishes they could have hired instead of you.

If you’re doing marketing for a startup company, that guy is Noah Kagan. Noah was employee #30 at Facebook and helped grow Mint.com into the personal finance juggernaut it is today. He is founder at AppSumo, which offers discounts on tools to grow businesses and websites. He’s built things you use every day.

And he probably has your email address.

Continue Reading

How Distractions At Work Take Up More Time Than You Think

people-feet-train-travelling copy

Make an estimate on how many times are you are distracted during an average work day.

Now take that number and multiply it by 25.

That’s how many minutes of concentration you’re losing. It takes an average of about 25 minutes (23 minutes and 15 seconds, to be exact) to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction at the University of California, Irvine.

Multiple studies confirm this. Distractions don’t just eat up time during the distraction, they derail your mental progress for up to a half hour afterward (that’s assuming another distraction doesn’t show up in that half hour).

In other words, that “30 seconds to check Twitter” isn’t just 30 seconds down the drain. It’s 25 minutes and 30 seconds.

Continue Reading

The Lemonade Stand Effect: Why Kids Love Being Entrepreneurs


At my elementary school, there was one particular day of the year that every kid looked foreword to. Kids loved it, lost their freaking minds over it actually.

It was better than field day, better than snow days. One time we actually had a snow day on this day and everyone was furious.

It was called Junior Entrepreneur Day.

Continue Reading

Why You Should Always Write Down Your Bad Ideas


Most of Thomas Edison’s ideas were bad.

At least they weren’t good enough to make it out of the laboratory. Or from the patent office to the product line. Thousands of ideas, never to see the light of day.

An associate of Edison’s, Walter S. Mallory, recalled asking the inventor about this, according to a 1910 biography “Edison: His Life and Inventions.” Mallory recalled that Edison had been working for months on a nickel-iron battery. Mallory visited Edison in his shop and learned his friend had tried more than 9,000 experiments for the battery and none had been successful.

“In view of this immense amount of thought and labor, my sympathy got the better of my judgment, and I said: ‘Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?’”

Mallory sympathized with Edison. He felt sorry for him that so many ideas had not yet produce one result. Edison saw it differently.

“Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: ‘Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work.'”

Continue Reading

Why You Will Gain Freedom with a Set Creativity Schedule

Create an oasis of quiet by creating boundaries of space and time.

Ira Glass not only hosts the popular public radio show, This American Life, but also writes, edits, performs, produces, and manages. There’s plenty of work to keep him busy, which is why he confessed to Lifehacker that his worst habit is that he procrastinates … by working.

He explains:

Ira GlassIn addition to being an editor and writer on my radio show, I’m also the boss, and deal with budgets, personnel stuff, revenue and spending questions, and business decisions… [W]hen I should be writing something for this week’s show, I’ll procrastinate by looking over some contract or making some business phone call or doing something else that actually isn’t as important as writing.

When you’re wearing lots of hats, the temptation to procrastinate by working is high, and it’s usually creative priorities and projects that wind up getting the short end of the stick. The double whammy is that not only do you feel guilty and demotivated for not getting to priorities, you also feel worse and burned out from working so much anyway.

In order to reliably get to your creative priorities, the solution is to carve out a deliberate creativity schedule. Without it, the work you put off will be creative work as other tasks seem easier to get through and justifiable, to boot, as part of your job.

Continue Reading