What Have I Done This Year?

Inching towards the new year means it’s time to reflect on what went well, and what could be improved—especially if you’re thinking about performance reviews. But December means we need to juggle that with immediately pressing projects that must be finished before the holidays. Once we enter tunnel-vision mode to complete those projects, it can be hard to disengage, look up, and think critically about what we’ve accomplished.

At I Done This, we’re all about celebrating small wins and learning from every step of the process. Here are some of our favorite tools that remind us of our professional growth, and prompt us to think about improvement next year.

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How to Make Sound Decisions About Your Product Design’s Future

Product design is all about tradeoffs—and when we designed I Done This 2.0, we had a lot to consider. We added new functionality, like blockers. But we also noticed a few patterns in our user behavior data that we weren’t quite sure what to do with.

We find, for example, that a higher volume of short entries helps people feel great about their work, and it’s more interesting for their co-workers to read. Does that mean we should encourage this behavior, and cap entries after a certain number of characters?

Ultimately, we set our default in I Done This 2.0 to shorter entries, but we added an optional button to allow longer entries. We don’t want to fall down the rabbit-hole of offering too many configuration options—but we also don’t want to lose customers who find our product useful. When it comes to exact entry length, we’re passing the baton to those who know their team’s needs best—team leaders.

product design

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How to Burst Through Road Blocks To Maximize Your Team’s Productivity

Naming every minute road block—and then taking the time to fix them—makes your team more efficient and helps with team productivity.

team productivity

It sounds cumbersome, but resolving issues as they arise means faster problem-solving overall. Agile developers do this. They call road blocks “blockers,” and their teams grow revenue 37% faster, and their profits are 30% higher than non-agile teams.

Put simply, encountering blockers is great for teams. It’s a simple idea that any team can borrow from, but you need a process and tool to do it.

That’s why we’re adding “blockers” to our “done lists” here at I Done This. Putting all blockers in one place means that team leaders can help those who need it quickly. It also means that individuals can reflect on their own blockers, and see if they point to a greater issue that needs resolving.

All teams can benefit from using blockers to their advantage. Here’s what it can do for your team.

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Why Every Company Should Work as If They Were a Remote Company

When you work in an office with a small team, it’s easy to cultivate a culture of co-dependence. After all, the email, the document, or the customer name that you need is just a shoulder tap away.

But relying on other people for information causes unnecessary friction in your workflow and directly hinders everyone’s productivity. Every time you tap someone on the shoulder you assume that what you need is more important than what they’re doing. It creates an entire culture around disruptiveness, where no one hesitates to interrupt their peers for their own needs.

Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to ask anyone for information? If it were just readily available, right at your fingertips? For remote companies, it has to be this way.

Because remote companies tend to have employees scattered across the world, they are forced to put truly strong systems in place. As a result, everyone in a remote company is as productive as possible, because no one has to rely on other people to get the information they need.

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An App Addict’s Guide to Beating the Task Management Blues

This week’s post is a guest article by Ben Brandall, a writer for Process Street.

Last weekend I found myself in a cafe, alone and without a laptop for around 2 hours. With just my phone, I wanted to do something worthwhile so I decided to organize my tasks properly — something I hadn’t done in a while.

I realized pretty quickly that my task management system made no sense at all.

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Why Your Goals Aren’t Making You More Productive

Google didn’t become one of the most valuable brands in the world by accident. It’s been rated the #1 place to work by Fortune for seven of the last 10 years, and called “employee heaven” by leadership advocate Will Marré.

The secret to their employee engagement is a little trick they picked up from Intel: the OKR system. OKR stands for objective and key results. The premise of OKR goals is that every employee, from entry-level to CEO, is working towards a single objective that aligns with the general mission of the company. Each objective has key results which serve as measuring sticks for the success of that objective.

17631OKR

Now used by tons of tech companies, the OKR system has become hugely popular in the tech community. But misuse of OKR goals can not only prove ineffective—it can prove fatal to your organization. Here are four disastrous goal-setting mistakes that startups make.

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How to Avoid Startup Premature Scaling

holding-reins

Startups are at their sexiest when hundreds of millions of people around the world use something that a couple of guys and girls built in their garage.

But I’ve noticed how that perception lays a trap for many first-time entrepreneurs. With their sights set on serving the masses, first-time founders often conclude that they must build a product that will work for millions of customers — before they even have one.

This is such a major problem that Startup Genome identified “premature scaling” as the number one cause of startup failure. Surveying 3,200 startups in 2011, the startup-community hub Startup Genome found that a whopping 70 percent failed because they tried to scale too early — expending resources on add-ons like expensive marketing and hiring salespeople before they truly had a product to satisfy a sufficiently large market.

Here are three ways to avoid the trap of startup premature scaling and build a successful business the right way.

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How 3 Entrepreneurs End Their Day Even When They Have More Work To Do

For the most productive people, the work is never done. The problem is that when there’s always more work to do, how can you possibly end your day and go home without feeling stressed out and guilty?

You might think that this is just a personal problem, but it turns out that this is a struggle that even the most successful entrepreneurs have had to grapple with.

Here is the system that three highly effective and seasoned tech executives use to manage their own psychology. It’s not sexy, but it’s incredibly powerful, and it’s a simple process you can start today — tracking and reflecting on your day’s accomplishments.

David Heinemeier Hansson (37signals) quote on daily reflection

“One pattern to help yourself fight the mad dash for the mirage of being done is to think of a good day’s work. Look at the progress of the day towards the end and ask yourself: ‘Have I done a good day’s work?'”

David Heinemeier Hansson, 37signals

Taking time for daily reflection on the question “Have I done a good day’s work” is “liberating” because if the answer is yes, “you can leave your desk feeling like you accomplished something important, if not entirely ‘done.'”

If the answer is no, you’re empowered to delve more deeply into why that happened and how you can fix it.

For the people who think they’re too busy to take time out for what sounds like just another task, here’s the twist — “it feels good to be productive,” and feeling productive requires that you take time out to recognize your accomplishments.

When you do, you’ll get on a roll and you’ll want to keep the momentum going. “And if you can keep the roll, everything else will probably take care of itself.”

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The Paradox of Why Top Performers Fail Under Pressure

performance pressure

You’ve seen it happen before. Maybe you’ve even experienced the stomach-churning, brain-in-hyperdrive feeling yourself. Whether it’s the professional missing those easy free throws on the basketball court or the professional sweating through an important presentation in the conference room — even the best performers choke under pressure.

The expertise and skillful command of these bright talents are exactly what should be helping them thrive in such conditions. All that hard work that brought them to where they are now should help them kick it up a notch and spur amazing feats. Instead, it’s these outstanding capabilities that set them up for failure in the clutch.

While star performers should be best equipped to handle pressure, the interesting paradox is that they might be the most prone to buckling.

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Failure & Cake: A Guide to Spotify’s Psychology of Success

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Nobody enjoys failing. It’s never really what you set out to do.

At Spotify, failure is cause for celebration, because it’s seen as an opportunity for growth. Jonas Aman, who is part of Spotify’s People Operations team, told us that instead of treating setbacks like speed bumps you rumble over in the course of running a business, they “celebrates thing that don’t work. It’s about the effort, not the result.”

Sometimes, failure calls for cake.

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