Archive 2005-10

This afternoon I spent an hour looking over some of my original posts here at paul-woods.com. I first started blogging in 2005-2006 - over 8 years ago now, capsule over that time I have posted 100s of posts - including essays like "The Productivity Myth" which was nexus of an idea which would become the Business Productivity Services team at Data#3, hospital through to the time I got an email from Bill Gates.  Whilst my publishing has been very "ad-hoc" over that time, sovaldi sale there was one post I read stuck out though.  Back on 23 July 2006 I posted the classic car insurance 10 things that I learned during my one year as an intern at Microsoft.  Looking back at this list it is amazing that 100% of it still holds true today - and how that 12 months set a very solid foundation for my career (and career growth) since then. Here is what I wrote...

I thought it would be great to share with everyone the top ten lessons I learned whilst an Intern at Microsoft.  The following list essentially is how I continue to analyse what I am doing every day… to keep on track.  Hopefully you will also find it a useful tool. In no particular order… 10) Be Passionate Dive in and give it your all.  Be excited, believe, and most of all encourage everyone else to believe as well! 9) Step Out of Your Comfort Zone This is a big one!  12 months ago I was a nervous wreck whenever I even thought about presenting to a small group of people (… I was even nervous when I didn’t have to speak!).  Now I absolutely love getting up on stage and sharing a story with 5 people, or 155 people.  I would never have found this out if I had not stepped out of my comfort zone.  Likewise, when I went to university I stepped out of my comfort zone and picked a major I had no real interest in before, and now I absolutely love anything to do with Marketing. Step out of your comfort zone, and live! 8) Take on Big Challenges … because when you succeed, it is sooooooo much sweeter! 7) Give More Live to give, do not live to receive.  Not only does it get peoples attention (which is great for building relationships), but you will get much more in return.  Offer to take notes at the meeting (you are the one writing the history books. As a friend of mine once said… "He who controls the definitions, controls the argument"), offer to present at the user group (you are the one igniting the passion of many in the room), offer to take the stretch assignment or the big challenge (people will remember you!). Plus, it feels great to give.  Trust me! 6) Soak Up All That You Can Try to learn as much as you can from as many people as possible.  Learn from their mistakes, their experience, and their stories.  Pick up as much advice as you can. But don’t just soak it all up, actually use the information gathered in your analysis, your processes, and your decisions.  Act on what you have learnt. 5) Don’t be Afraid to ‘Geek It Up’ … just be sure to do it at your pace, and with products/technology you love.  Everyone I met at Microsoft did this (although many will not share that publicly!).  Whether it be Virtualisation and Development, or Cars and Photography, make sure you have something you can really stick your teeth into and know in depth.  Because there will always be someone, somewhere that you can strike up a conversation with, and build a relationship very quickly based on your knowledge of a particular topic. So if you want to get to know me, lets ‘Geek It Up’ and talk about Flying Aircraft, Digital SLRs, or v.Next Software (or all three!) 4) The Result of Taking Shortcuts is ALWAYS Less Than You Expect I have never really been one for taking shortcuts in the past, but this time I thought I could get away with it.  I can’t think of one time in history where this lesson hasn’t held true.  In this instance I had a product brochure (for BizTalk Server 2006) in PDF format, with all the extra bits that professional printing places need to figure out colour matching, where to cut the paper etc.  Being a little tight, I thought I could get away with simply printing the brochure on our unreliable colour laser printer at work, and then get the good old guillotine out and cut the pages to fit. End result was a pretty lack luster colour, uneven cuts, and an overall unprofessional feel to the printed document.  Sure it saved me $500, but I am pretty confident that it also saved a majority of customers tens of thousands of their dollars for disregarding the product based on their first impressions alone… the brochure. 3) Do Not Tell a Cab Driver Who You Work For! … unless you have quickly refreshed basic PC troubleshooting 101, the latest deals at Dell, and most importantly what garbage was published about computers in the weekend paper.  At one stage I was commuting to a client site in a cab every day for 3 weeks.  I learnt this lesson very quickly.  Every now and then there were days I would wear a Microsoft shirt.  You can’t talk your way out of that one!  They were the bad trips. Note this lesson also applies to people sitting beside you on Aircraft, whilst waiting in Airports, sitting on the bus etc. 2) Relationships, Relationships, Relationships Everyone by know should know that it not what you know, but who you know that gets you anywhere in this world.  From a personal perspective, all my job offers when I left Microsoft were unadvertised positions (some even created just for me!), and all were from people who I had a professional relationship with already. The worlds economy runs on trust… people need to know you before investing in you.  Sure… pieces of paper and letters after your name count, but in the end the key differentiator for between you and another candidate, or your company, and another company, is the level of trust in the relationship.  No relationship = no trust = no sale, or no job offer. Plus it is nice to have plenty of friends :) 1) Change the World Every Day Otherwise it gets harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning.
What are the lessons you have learned from your current job or project??

Today I have spent most of the day trying to get over a horrible man-flu - given to me by my wonderful children!  Unfortunately when I am on sick leave the boredom kicks in pretty quickly and I tend to gravitate online to to keep occupied.  Here is what I did today... Step 1 - look for inspiration This step is pretty easy... since I missed out on my usual feed of podcast content whilst commuting to work, I had a quick scout around the web looking at some inspirational content from some of my favourite authors like Steve Sammartino, Tom Peters, Seth Godin.... and listening to a few podcasts from the likes James Altucher, and the crew at Beers, Blokes, Business Lots of good content there to knock a chesty cough for six! Step 2 - inspiration into actions A consistent theme across all of those authors/channels was that it is really important to take control of your work online.  Now you can unpack that a number of different ways - but the things that I took away from it were:

  1. You should own your name online. Not LinkedIn, not Twitter, not Facebook.  At the moment in my part of the world this blog which sits at http://www.paul-woods.com is on the second page of results for Paul Woods - yep - I am a NOBODY!  My Linkedin profile, Twitter feed and Facebook timeline all rank higher.   This needs to change!
  2. You should own the content you produce online.  I have a few blogs around the place - some lie very dormant (like this one has for a while), some are quite low maintenance - like my Microsoft Office tips and tricks blog - whilst some a quite fresh like my new site where I am documenting the things I learn about my new Zoom H4n Handy Recorder.  Across just the three blogs mentioned above, I have written over 400 pieces of content in the past 8 or 9 years - a small back catalog of good (and not so good) content.  But according to Google, you couldn't really attribute that content to me.  This needs to change!
  3. You should own your future Today, I have a great job where I have developed over time and had the opportunity to do some truly amazing things, and learn from some amazing people.  For example over the past four years I have been given enough rope and support to create a business inside the larger corporate machine - and have experienced the good and the bad of raw intrapreneurship - where I transformed what was simply a hobby - my Office tips and tricks blog into a "7 figure, profitable, employing a team of people" business.  But I know for sure that I will not still working at the same place when I retire at 40/50/65/70/80.   To survive/be comfortable in the future, where businesses are redefining what work is for the middle class... you can't pretend to rely on employment forever.  I have been pretty comfortable to date.  This needs to change!
Step 3 - actions into execution Yep... all of that needs to change.  But what is the first step?  Good question.  I thought I would share what I have done in the past 2 hours to kick start "turning the ship around"
  1. Wrote this article!  And committed to myself (and you) to write more articles like it which are more focused on where I want to be tomorrow.
  2. Ensured that I had some basic Search Engine Optimisation occurring on my WordPress blogs.  In this case I simply used the All-in-one SEO Pack for WordPress and London SEO Agency which does some pretty nifty things out of the box, but one thing in particular that I like is that it made it really easy for me to set up...
  3. Google Authorship.  Clearly identifying Paul Woods as the author of stuff that Paul Woods has created online.  This meant getting familiar with something that (to be honest) I had disregarded in the past - Google+.  Whilst there is little value for me in circles at the moment (as not many of my friends or family are there) - the fact that my Google profile acts as the glue between all my content - both text and video - is a good thing.
  4. 30 minutes Exploring other ways to raise / curate my profile and learn at the same time.   Top of the list was becoming a "author" - well as close to an author you can be without a publisher behind you.  I am thinking about taking some of the best content from my Office tips and tricks blog and turning it into a easy to consume Amazon Kindle title.  It will take some work, but a "as traditional as you can almost get" book published via Amazon.com is a great artifact that adds credibility to your story, what ever it is.  You can help me craft the first title by filling in this quick survey
So there you have it - 120 minutes of time that I let my body and mind rest from work, and applied some creative thought to the world I live in.  A little bit of future proofing for the years ahead.  You should give it a go too next time you are unwell and trying to stop the spread man flu and your addiction to a regular salary. Paul W

(Long time, no post!) As some of you will know I am doing some research at QUT, and it has come to the time to do data collection.  I'm no Quant (I pretty much scraped through maths in high school) - so my study into how people use technology to manage their boundaries between work and life is qualitative.  Using interviews to collect data is the usual fair in qualitative studies.  As I need to do 30 interviews, and that could potentially mean 30 hours or more of vivid, deep stories from the research participants, I needed to get a hold of some kind of voice recorder.  Enter my new friend - the Zoom H4n. WP_20140701_005I bought it from Amazon when I was in Seattle the other week for work.  I may have ordered a few more accessories for it (a couple of microphones, some XLR cables etc) as I am keen to dabble in a bit of podcasting with it as well.  It has already got a workout.  Earlier in the week it was used at work to record a new voice over for a piece of video we plan to use for an upcoming event.  I used it for as the voice recorder for my first few qualitative research interviews.  And yesterday we had a live all hands video conference, where the Zoom H4n and my microphone were put to good use capturing some high quality audio to lay over the PowerPoint presentation for consumption later. I always thought that you could get away with recording audio on a mobile, or using the built in microphone on a laptop - it was always good enough to Unlock iPhone 6 .  But I have quickly come to realise this week that there is a big difference between "good enough" and "really easy to listen to" audio.  I love it so much I have started to build an online shrine to the Zoom H4n Voice Recorder.  If you have a few different needs for an audio recorder you should definitely check it out!

One of my favourite videos from TED… this presentation by Nigel Marsh at TEDx Sydney is an interesting perspective on the idea of practical work-life balance.  Managing your boundary between work and home, physician ambulance and how small changes in your approach to your day can positively influence your relationship with your family, and yourself.

  What small changes are you planning to make today to swing the balance back in your favour?

So I certainly would not call myself an industry leading expert when it comes to Search Engine and Online Marketing.  But I do know enough to be dangerous. I have had some success with my Microsoft Office tips and tricks site - The New Paperclip.  It still astounds me the power of the Internet Affiliate Network - a few hundred simple tips I have come across over the past few years have now been read by almost 1 million people!  The scale of it all excites me - more people in a month read my posts on The New Paperclip than most magazines in Australia!  One post alone, which took me about 4 minutes to write, attracts almost 500 unique visits per day!  Every day!  ... and the best part is, it earns a little bit of play money on the side (very handy now that our twins have almost arrived). Speaking of the twins, with the prospect of one salary about to hit us square in the face, and a hefty mortgage to pay (as of next month, we are officially in what the experts call "Mortgage Stress") I have been trying to diversify my online interests, put to the test some of the things I have learned, read about, or just interested in, and hopefully put into practice what I learn during my day job. I have four projects on the boil at the moment.  One I would say is in a "shippable" state, the others  just early ideas and concepts that I will continue to develop over the next few months. Project 1: Content Marketing - ShortcutCourse.com This project is a spin off of The New Paperclip.  This site is focused on selling a 5 day audio course that I produced in late 2009.  The course helps people learn and gain confidence in the key keyboard shortcuts for Word 2007.  All in just 15 minutes a day. The key lessons I have learnt from shortcutcourse.com: 1) Price matters.  At first I priced the course at USD $50.  Sales = 0.  Dropped the price to $24.95, and it started to sell (slowly, but still selling every now and then) 2) Creating your own content to sell, no matter how easy you think it is, is actually quite difficult.  But you know what, close to 100% margin thanks to the digital nature of the final product makes the effort worth while. Project 2: Search Affiliate/PPL Marketing - BrisbaneVirusRemoval.com This project is really my first foray into serious affiliate and search engine marketing.  So I found a highish paying affiliate program for a product I know a little bit about, in a market that has lots of vendor competition, but not much third party action... and then localised it. What I realised from the success with The New Paperclip is that taking complicated content and making it personal, easy to read, and easy to understand can drive a lot of traffic to your site - and that is the strategy I plan to take here - but instead of Office tips and tricks, the content will be focused on helping people understand viruses, malware, spyware, and adware - and more importantly, how to remove them! Early days yet.  Not much traffic.  But still learning lots :) Project 3: Content Marketing / Online Retail - mbaSlideLibrary.com  The concept is simple.  You are a high powered executive.  You have an MBA (or wish you did).  You don't have the time to create your own business plans or presentations.  You run your business using PowerPoint (just like, surprisingly, many other organisations).  You would be happy to pay $$ for a complete business plan, where all you need to do is plug in the figures, not worry about how it is structured. So, MBASlideLibrary.com is an online retail site where you can download that business plan, marketing plan, or that slide of Porters Five Forces. Project 4: Hyperlocal Journalism - (to be announced soon) This one is still on the back of about 14 different pieces of paper in the office, but in the next few weeks I am going to launch a hyper local site for my suburb.  This project was been inspired by reading "Made to Stick" - there is a great story in there about a  very successful local newspaper aimed at locals, for locals - that kills traditional mainstream newspapers.  Whilst there are two or three print local rags in our suburb... print news is dead (oh no he diiiidn't).  And to be honest, they do not contain much news - lots of copy and paste press release content - and a lot of advertising (A LOT!).  Considering there is a proven market for a local audience that local small businesses are willing to pay money to get in front of, and that no one is doing anything like this locally, in a cost effective way (seriously, why print 11 000 copies of a newspaper when Wordpress and a nurtured email list will do the job far better), I know that in 6 months I will have the media channel for our suburb.  THAT IS HUGE! (did I mention that this old Internet thing still excites me!) Now - across The New Paperclip and these four projects, I think I might be stretching myself a bit thin to do all really well, so I suspect I will re-evaluate around July and drop two of them.  But that is the beauty of online marketing - it is cheap to test, and cheap to enter markets (well most, apart from porn and gambling). Are you from Brisbane and interested in discussing online marketing, or marketing in general over a coffee or beer?  Give me a shout  - paul@paul-woods.com

Later this month I am speaking at the JuiceIT road show being run by Data#3.

The concept behind the session is that your IT team (and every other IT team in almost every organisation, search anywhere in the world) have a huge opportunity to increase the effectiveness of your people.  Not just increasing the productivity of your IT team and the systems you look after (like all those Virtualisation/VMware fan bois) but EVERYONE IN THE BUSINESS.

That is a BIG DEAL.  And we are not talking about significant numbers either.  There are so many things that IT teams can do to increase the productivity of the business by 1%, malady 2%, 5%.  That might look small to you, but to management, share holders and share markets, they are improvements that could mean millions of dollars depending on the size and scope of your business.

Think about it.  How much time do you (or your Managing Director, or your HR team, or your Sales people) spend with Outlook every day?  Chances are more than your wife, husband, kids, friends, or your television… combined. 

… and when was the last time you sat down and explored (or more likely someone told you about) functionality in the product that you have not used before??

Most of you will not remember the last time.  And, I can almost guarantee that you don’t know anywhere near as much about Outlook (or Word or Excel) as you need to know. 

My gut feeling is that you could be wasting hours a week doing things that could be done faster, if only you knew how to make the most of the tools you already have at your disposal.

In the session my colleague Joseph Mortimer and I will dive into how you can get the most out of your productivity tools (Office, SharePoint and more), the key to ensuring that you get the results you want, and more importantly how to create the context to deliver a productivity environment that ensures that you meet the expectations of the entire workforce.

So if you are in Brisbane on Thursday March 11 and i you are looking for a professional hard drive recovery service in the UK , or Adelaide on Thursday March 25 – make sure you register to attend JuiceIT.  Our session is just one of 25 at each event, which brings together vendors like Microsoft, Cisco, HP, VMware, Toshiba, Symantec, and many many more.

A few weeks ago (just before Christmas) the infamous “Bacon Explosion” recipe made its way around work.  This culinary work of art is about 5000 calories of smoky bacon goodness.  The ultimate BBQ meal. So I decided to take the challenge of the Bacon Explosion head on, ampoule and created one for breakfast on Christmas morning.  Now that is a pretty high risk move – trying a recipe untested on your in-laws!  But as it turns out, order the Bacon Explosion did not let me down, and it was enjoyed by all young and old. After the success of the Bacon Explosion, and with Australia Day now just a few weeks away… I thought it was time to try to improve what no one thought could be improvable.  The Challenge… create an Aussie version of the Bacon Explosion for Australia day.  And something that Sam Kekovich would be proud of.

IMG_0186 Introducing… the Lamb Explosion

(Preparation time:  20 minutes, Cooking time: 90 minutes) Before we get too far into it, note that this recipe will likely be the biggest contribution I ever make to Australian Culture.  If you are from the Australia Day Council… get the forms ready for the Order of Australia, because after you taste this great US recipe I have copied improved for us Aussies, there is no way you could live with yourself knowing that I didn’t have OAM after my name! To create this great dish this Australia Day, you will need to go down to your local supermarket, and get your hands on the following: IMG_0105The Shopping List
  • 1KG of Middle Rasher Bacon
  • 1KG of Lamb Sausages (if you can get the mint and rosemary gourmet ones, they are the best)
  • 1 small tub of Greek Natural Yoghurt
  • Rosemary Leaves IMG_0103
  • Thick Mint Sauce (or Mint Jelly)
  • Aussie Flag from Woolworths :)
  Step 1:  Prepare the bacon wrapping This step is exactly the same as the original Bacon Explosion recipe.  The goal here is to great a lattice of Bacon, that will encase the rosemary and minty lamb goodness.  Take your middle bacon rashers and lay them out on top of each other.  Cut the rashers so they form long rectangles.  Doing this will ensure that we can get the squarest Bacon lattice possible.  Keep the off cuts though, we will use them later. IMG_0130 Lay down some grease proof paper, or some alfoil. Now that we have our strips of bacon, start weaving the bacon lattice together.  The easiest way to do this is to lay down 2 pieces first, turned 90 degrees away from each other, with the end IMG_0138of one piece overlapping the other.  Now lay down another piece parallel to the bottom piece, but with an end overlapping  the second piece.  Now fold the bottom piece back, and lay down another piece of bacon parallel to the second piece.  Replace the folded back bacon.  Repeat this process (just like in the pictures) until you have a nice bacon lattice! IMG_0144 Step 2:  Season the bacon wrapping Dust the bacon lattice with rosemary leaves.  You can use fresh ones, or ones from a jar… because seriously, this isn’t Master Chef, so who cares   IMG_0141 Step 3:  Cook up the off Best Survival Knife cut bacon Chop all the left over bacon into reasonably small pieces, and then fry them in a pan until they are nice and crispy!  If you can multi task in the kitchen, get this on and move to step 4 whilst they are cooking   IMG_0146 Step 4:  Add the Lamb Sausage Skin your Lamb Sausages and place the sausage meat into a bowl.  Using your hands, mash them together so they no longer look like sausages.  Now spread the lamb sausage meat across your bacon lattice, ensuring you get as much coverage as possible.  Try to IMG_0149maintain an even thickness across the entire lattice.           IMG_0151Step 5:  Yoghurt time With a dessert spoon, take three or four big dollops of yoghurt and then with the back of the spoon spread the yoghurt across the lamb sausage meat.  Don’t be afraid to add more yoghurt – remembering it is better to have an  even coverage across all the IMG_0152lamb.             IMG_0155Step 6:  More bacon By now your bacon pieces should be nice and crispy.  Take them out of the fry pan and evenly distribute them all over the yoghurt.  Feel free to eat a few at this stage, as you will be hungry from all the awesome smells!      IMG_0156 Step 7: Roll the lamb This can get a little messy.  Very slowly, roll the front edge of the lamb meat (not the bacon, just the lamb).  Continue to slowly roll the sausage away from you, ensuring that the lamb doesn’t tear away as you do it.  Once you get about 3/4 of the way along the lattice, IMG_0158 stop rolling the lamb, and now roll the bacon back towards you.  Doing this step slowly is the key, you don’t want to ruin the structural integrity of the bacon lattice, or the lamb/yoghurt/bacon roll.  Once you are done you should have an awesome looking Lamb Explosion, almost ready to go in your Weber BBQ, or the oven.   IMG_0160 Step 8:  The glaze Get your bottle of Mint Sauce, of Mint Jelly, and cover your Lamb Explosion with as much minty goodness as you want.  Just make sure you get some on every surface, otherwise the bacon will burn.     Step 9:  Drop it in the oven, or onto your BBQ If you are totally Aussie, and have an old school Webber BBQ (not the new Webber Q ones, but the real old school ones) just drop the Lamb Explosion in for about an hour and a half with the hood on.  If you are not as extremely Aussie, or just prefer to cook in the oven, put the Lamb Explosion onto the middle rack of your fan forced cooking machine.  You should have preheated the oven to 230c – as soon as you put the Lamb IMG_0170Explosion in, drop the oven temperature to 180c.   Step 10: Beer At least one, if not two beers will be required to be consumed before progressing to the next step (it is for Australia Day after all!).  Having a round of totem tennis with your family is optional. Read more here http://www.workbootsnerd.com     IMG_0179Step 11: Reglaze every 30 minutes A heap of mint sauce will now be surrounding the lamb explosion, mixing with all the lamb and bacon fat.  Get your spoon and reapply that glaze to the Lamb Explosion, ensuring you don’t miss out on any of the fatty minty goodness!   IMG_0183Step 12: Get it out of the oven or off the BBQ ! After about 90 minutes the Lamb Explosion will be perfectly cooked, with the mint sauce caramelised to give the dish a nice golden brown finish.  Take it off the heat and onto a chopping board ready to cut.  There is no need to rest the meat like they say on Master Chef, but if you are afraid of burning your fingers whilst cutting the dish, best leave it for a few minutes. Slice the Lamb Explosion just like you would a meat loaf.  Make sure your friends gather around so they can see the unveiling of the beautiful lamb and yoghurt spirals :) Step 13:  Eat it Lamb Explosion is best served with cold beer, and someone else doing the dishes. IMG_0185 If you love the look of this recipe, make sure you become a fan of the Lamb Explosion on Facebook – and post your Lamb Explosion photos for the world to see!  If you really like it, feel free to buy me a carton of beer next time you see me.
Lamb Explosion on Facebook
Happy Australia Day! PS.  If you ever do this yourself and take photos, make sure you get a waterproof case for your camera… my DSLR now smells like raw meat!

Over the last couple of months I have been fairly busy on the speaking side of things.  Here is a quick look at some of the topics I have been talking about: Negotiation A few weeks ago I delivered a guest lecture at QUT in the postgraduate Negotating Across Bordersclass.  This was a really good session that was supposed to last 30 minutes, but ended up going for 90 as we dug into my experience negotiating in the real world - house purchases, complaining to teleco's, pay reviews and more.  OfficeDevCon09 - Getting Productive (and getting a return) on Microsoft Office and SharePoint This session was delivered at the community run OfficeDevCon conference, which this year was held in Brisbane.  Great turn out (not a spare seat in the house)... although I did get some feedback that the session was "Too Interactive"...  

View more presentations from Paul Woods.
TechEd Australia - OFC102 - Productivity for the IT Pro, and The Productivity Myth (TechEd Online Tech Talk) Microsoft TechEd Australia rolled around again this year on the Gold Coast, and I was lucky enough to not only  be a speaker in the Office Track, but also recorded a short video on my earlier post - "the Productivity Myth" with Alistair Speirs.
View more presentations from Paul Woods.
The tech talk recording on "The Productivity Myth"

This post has been boiling up in side me for a long time…  born out of the frustration of watching friends, family, workmates, associates, management, businesses, training providers, productivity gurus… in fact everyone getting the productivity thing wrong.

<puts on flame proof jacket – this might will polarise some people>

Here are a few simple facts that I am sure you will agree with that will set the context for what I am about to talk about.

  • No matter how hard you try, you always have too much to do, and not enough time to do it.
  • No matter how hard you try, almost every meeting you walk out of at work, you leave knowing you could have spent your time better.
  • No matter how hard you try, you can not seriously tell me that you actually work at at 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 or 100% of your best when you are in the office.

Let’s talk about increasing productivity…

When people are looking to “increase their productivity”, most flock to productivity gurus and their simple, yet complicated systems.  These systems are all very clear when you read them in the book (purchased in an Airport bookstore for $19.95), but when you try to put them into practice you usually find that they cause you to be less productive.

And I will be honest.  I have been there.  Religiously I scan the bookshelves for the magic productivity bullet every time I have 5 minutes to spare in an airport/bookstore/amazon.com.  Here are a few of my experiences…

Productive meetings? MYTH!

There is the one book about getting the most out of meetings.  Great.  The idea is fantastic… of course I want to get in, get the information/actions I need and get the hell out.  But guess what?  To achieve that meeting utopia you are relying on everyone else in the meeting to feel the same way. 

And we all know that the chances of that happening exponentially decrease as you add more people around the table.

In fact… more than 2 people (and in some cases more than one!), and I am fairly certain that you are wasting your time.

Productive work environment?  MYTH!

I love the ones about setting up the perfect work environment.  You know what I am talking about – make sure that your desk is pointing in the right direction – your pens (two blue, one black, and one red) are in the right spot just beside your stationery holder – your filing cabinet is of the two draw variety (with appropriate Foolscap Manilla folders and hanging  and within 1.2m of the centreline of your swivel chair.

They are a great way to sell more office furniture.  I wonder if anyone has actually gone to management and demanded office furniture reform throughout their multinational based on some unquantified position that productivity will improve.  Pity it will only work for those who are between 5’6 and 5’8 tall who perform the same ‘robotic’ tasks (sorry to all those full time filers out there!)

Productive workload management? MYTH!

What about GTD?  I have tried Getting Things Done – and it worked. 

For about a week. 

Then, like most I am sure, I lost track, I lost focus, I got distracted by… you guessed it… ACTUALLY DOING WORK.

GTD definitely has its merits in helping you organise how you are going to tackle the work you need to tackle (if you are one of the few in the population who can maintain a steadfast focus on the system)…

But all that GTD is doing is removing wasted time between tasks (or making sure you only have to do what you have to do).  There is still a big fat hole in that productivity story…

How about we actually DO SOME WORK?

How do you complete the WORK you need to complete in a more productive way?  How can you get the outcomes and the deliverables you need to deliver more efficiently and effectively? 

GTD can’t help you with that (unless you are a manager and are delegating work). 

What about productivity for those at the bottom of the corporate hierarchy?  The ones who are micro managed.  The ones that are project managed.  The ones that sell, service and deliver to your customers

The people that productivity systems just don’t (and can’t) work for?

This is my problem with productivity as we know it…

Everything you see is ALL about managing your workload, not actually completing it!

The worst part is, this is breading a workplace full of what I like to call “The Teflon Army”.  You know exactly who I am talking about – the ones where nothing sticks.  Always delegating work, always passing the buck. 

But to members of the Teflon Army, they are just being productive.  It is funny though, they will always have the time to tell you just how busy they are!

So what is the solution? 

Well first we should define what we are trying to achieve.  To me, in today’s information economy we are all trying to do two things, and two things alone.

  1. Capture our ideas/experience/expertise… and
  2. Share them like crazy!

Simple as that.  If you work in an office today – that is all you are employed to do. 

You work in a call centre?  You need to capture all the ideas, experience, and expertise in your head about the business and its processes, and then share it like crazy with the customer who just called you.

You work in a cubicle producing reports?  You need to capture all the ideas, experience, and expertise in your head about the best way to present this information, and then share it like crazy with your key stakeholders.

You are a CEO?  You need to capture all the ideas, experience, and expertise in your head to set a vision for your organisation, and then share it like crazy with the people who need to make it a reality.

So how can you capture and share in a more productive way?

You might not realise this, and it may shock you (especially if you love buying and getting half way through reading productivity books), but EVERYTHING YOU NEED to increase your productivity by at least 100% right in front of you.

That's right.  All there in front of you.  100% increase.  Guaranteed.

Well… let me rephrase that.  You have the tools you need.  There is one thing that is missing – the knowledge to extract as much value out of them as you can.

And that is what frustrates me sooooooooooooooooooooo much.  Everyone has the opportunity to get so much more out of their work day.  To do more with the same, or even better… to do the same with less.

Everyone has the opportunity to get work OUT OF THE WAY so you can focus on what is really important in life!  You know – those things you never have the TIME to worry about.  Friends… family… actually enjoying life!

Let me ask you a few more questions:

  • Do you know how to use the 20% of features in Microsoft Office / Open Office / Star Office / Google Apps that have the potential save you literally HOURS every week?  Like the feature that has been in Word since 1992 that will change your world and save you time every time you use it.  The one you could use EVERY TIME you create a document.  The one that has been sitting right in front of you, staring at you for almost 18 years and you still don’t know about it!
  • Do you know how to use the features of your desk telephone or mobile phone to connect with people in the most efficient way?

I will let you know the truth.  You don’t.  No one does.  And again that is what frustrates me.  We have these great tools at our fingertips, and yet NO ONE USES THEM!

The problem?  Probably the start of another rant – training and communication.

Training courses are great and telling you about ALL the features, but they don’t tell you how to actually use these tools to be more productive!

It doesn’t take a 5 day advanced Word course (@$2500 a pop) to be productive with Word. 

And when was the last time someone ran through with you some of the productive features of your desk phone – you know, the ones that help you connect with people to SHARE YOUR IDEAS!

Seriously, how many times have you been sitting there twiddling your thumbs as you wait watching someone struggle to connect a conference call?  Me? EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!!!

I am going to put some numbers out here.  This is gut feel.  There isn’t any empirical evidence.  This is purely based on what I know from watching the people around me.

It takes 20 minutes to learn the 2% of your favourite “productivity tool” that will get you 50% of the potential productivity impact.  It will take you an hour to learn the next 20% that will get you 80% of the potential productivity impact to tool could have on your day.

The rest… well… is just being unproductive.

Do you agree?  Do you disagree?  Follow me on twitter @paulwoods, and make sure you comment below.  I am ready to start a productivity revolution – and I need your support.

Paul W