Former Netscape CEO and now Ning overlord, Marc Andreessen recently posted something of a manifesto with respect to personal productivity. Given productivity is an issue dear to the hearts of WWD readers, I thought we’d take a look at some of Marc’s ideas and see if we couldn’t draw some inspiration from them.
Marc’s first suggestion is to do away with your schedule. While this is a tempting idea, and certainly one we’d all benefit from at times, it’s probably only useful for people with more than a little power in their hands, as demonstrated by Marc’s example of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Marc admits as much in his post.
For everyday web workers, either freelance or employees, we’re often bound to the schedules of our clients. And while it may be tempting at times to not go to the neverending sequence of meetings you can find yourself in, it’s a sure way to lose a client. Web Worker beware! As Marc suggests, only do this one where you can get away with it.
Next, Marc tackles the issue of lists, suggesting you have “three and only three lists: a Todo List, a Watch List, and a Later List.” While this isn’t exactly GTD, it’s certainly a valid way of tackling the “next action” notion of responsibilities and kept simple, on something like 3×5 index cards or a .txt file could absolutely manage your responsibilities in an effective way. The “night before” approach Marc suggests, where you write your next day Todo List before you go to bed is also an effective way of doing a priority review.
Procrastination is an issue we all face, and Marc suggests we approach it in terms of structured procrastination, where rather than doing nothing while you avoid that next nasty piece of work, you get lots of other stuff done – blogging, reading, emails, wireframes, whatever. So long as you’re doing something while you avoid doing the nasty stuff.
Awesome idea, and very, very bursty. Just make sure that you eventually get to the piece of work you’re procrastinating over. Especially if it’s a client deliverable.
Email overload is something we all face. Getting that inbox zero happening is a major challenge and if you’re not careful, you can end up stuck in your inbox rather than actually working. Marc’s suggestion that you deal with email just twice a day is a great idea. Of course, in the real world, it’s not always completely possible. However, if you make your clients and co-workers aware that this is your approach, they will soon learn to deal with your mid-morning and late afternoon mail avalanche as you wipe out the email pile.
Marc is absolutely correct when he says that email is a flow killer. It can be a huge interruption to your ability to actually complete other work. Jumping in and out of email is concentration destructive. Set your email to check just once an hour for new mail (or get really brave and do it manually on your twice a day schedule).
We’ve really only touched lightly on Marc’s ideas, and you should definitely read the whole post and many comments it has drawn. And then, take action and introduce a little productivity heresy of your own! And if you are feeling generous, share them with us.