Meetings are not work. It’s very likely the opposite of productivity and getting stuff that really matters done. It’s to put it bluntly: a fucking waste of time that you will never ever get back. Why?
People that don’t add value love to call to meetings to fill their time with meaningless chatter. About 99% of the time these meetings - IRL or calls - lacks planning, defined agenda, prerequisite reading and clear outcomes. And since most online calendars have one hour as scheduling default that’s the length of the meeting, independently of what’s really needed. Parkinson was right: “Work expands as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Here are a few ideas of how to terminate most meetings:
Following the above will filter ut 80% of your meetings right away, leaving you with what really matters. It will also have a very positive effect on your company culture, getting rid of waste to focus on real value. Finally, it will change your life as your are now reclaiming the right to your own time, to be became the master of your own destiny.
For most people this might feel like a slap in the face but that how the real truth works. If you want to be a maker, someone that creates and not just talks that this approach is the fastest way to unscheduled and free up one of the most precious resource you have: time.
All communication and information technology is instead of meeting up in the real life, face-to-face. The magic of the physical meeting cannot be replaced by any known technology, be that phone call, email or tweet. All of those are just weak substitutes that are instead of meeting up. They can definitely complement the meet-up, enable new connections and sharing of information but can never replace what happens between 2 or more people when they meet-up physically and collaborate.
That doesn’t mean that you always have to be in the same room and work face-to-face with your team. It only means that to collaborate well over the longer term you need to start offline, get to know your team members and create that magic that differentiates awesomeness from mediocrity.
Marissa Mayer understands this. Kara Swisher and most of her Silicon Valley cheerleaders don’t. Marissa is rebooting Yahoo! by getting everyone back into the startup garage to reinvent themselves and their business by collaborating face-to-face. Magic sparks and transformative experiences only happens when we physically rub our minds, bodies and souls with other change makers.
She gets that technology is not about being decked out with the latest gadgets and all things digital but about a new mindset, a way of looking and changing the world mindfully and purposefully that simply matters. We create technology to serve humanity not the other way around. But we misuse technology when we don’t understand humanity.
But most people lack a strong purpose, never asked themselves why only what and how. They live in the fear of missing out and voluntarily let new emerging technologies victimize their time and lives just like a gambler in Vegas must place another bet.
The above is why I’ve dropped using the iPhone, the desktop and the laptop in favor of the iPad Mini. But it’s also why I disconnected my cellular services and only use free and gratis WiFi these days. I’m also declining meetings without a purpose, time wasting checkins via phone and other ways of misusing technology.
I refuse to be programmed - especially by any of Rupert Murdock’s fast food media outlets - to give up my right to think for myself, to disagree with the tyranny of the majority and to voluntarily and blindly accept the role as a mindless consumer or working drone when there are much more mindful alternatives.
It’s really ironic, that in a time of unlimited connections and opportunities to remake our lives, the way we interact with people and how we work we choose to overdose on technology and ignore what matters right in front of us: real human connections. It’s unbeatable and has worked for millions of years. But in the race driven by the fear of missing out, not measuring up or being successful in the eyes of the ruling class, we choose to have it all instead of what really matters.
When people on their death beds look back at their lives they always regret the following things: not chasing their real dreams and passions, not spending more time with family and friends, having worried and worked too much.
There is a learning in there, available to anyone that has the courage to believe in and trust their gut feelings, their instincts and their true passions. The true answer usually lies within ourselves but its easier to run from that responsibility and find substitutes for what truly matters. That way we can blame the world for everything bad that happens to us, including the curse of always-on technology.
What we don’t understand is that there is no place to hide anymore. You are either programming or being programmed by technology, religion, politics or media and it’s never by chance, always by choice. That’s right - you and you alone choose how to communicate, and who to interact and share information with. You have the choice and can always and at any time press the OFF button. Scary as hell isn’t it, when life gets a little bit too close to home and you realize that’s it’s starts with you.
I briefly met Stowe Boyd - who I’ve been following on Twitter for a long time - in New York during a Hyper Island class a few weeks ago and had an opportunity to chat with him shortly during my talks. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if the conversation starter between two geeks was about gadgets, specifically the minimalist choice of only using the iPad Mini for everything.
This morning Stowe shared his experiment of only using the iPad Mini for a week on Twitter. His conclusion was that it killed his productivity which I can understand and respect. He did a great write up on GigaOM as well. There are obviously no right or wrongs here, just personal choices and different perspectives.
That said, I also respectfully disagree based on my 8-year experiment with liberating myself from all but the necessary in everything I do. My family and myself live by “Fewer, Better Things”. That includes gadgets.
For almost 3-years I’ve used the iPhone and iPad as my main tools, and since October last year only the iPad Mini (WiFi-only). This setup makes me more productive; here is how and why:
Is the iPad Mini the best of all worlds? No, but there are creative workarounds and it’s definitely much better than the alternatives. You might also want to be somewhat of a masochistic early adopter. A few months ago I drafted a 25,000 character book on a flight in 6 hours. It worked extremely well in that context (alone, offline and focused). Today I’ve gotten so used to the virtual keyboard that a laptop is out of the question, a wireless keyboard clunky.
But most importantly, I think all this trial-and-error and failing fast forward is rewiring my brain to an adaptability I’m craving in designing my family of fours nomadic cloud-based lifestyle. I can access anything from anywhere at anytime which has enabled me to do more with less more mindfully and less often.
Just a thought!
Brian Eno’s take on tidying up and being creative is superbly simple and ingeniously inspiring:
"Tidying up is a form of daydreaming, and what you’re really doing is tidying your mind. It’s a kind of mental preparation. It’s a way of getting your mind in place to notice something. And that’s what being creative is really: it’s noticing when something interesting is starting to happen and then building on it and asking yourself, ‘Where can I go with this?’"
I fuel and energize my mind by cleaning up and by cooking. This morning I started making Beauf Bourguignon (for Tuesday’s lunch), followed by doing laundry, baking Ciabatta, folding laundry and making Pappardelle (for today’s lunch). All done by 9am.
All these might register as chores or housework to a normal mind but to me it’s like painting the first strokes on a white canvas or reading a really great book. It kickstarts what I’d like to call the Maker’s Mind. Everything about all of these activities are unstructured until you make something meaningful. It starts in your mind by triggering different associations but can only come alive once you start making.
The Beauf Bourguignon is from Anthony Bourdain’s first cook book but I’ve turned it into mine with charlottes instead of onions, no parsley, only non-oaky wine and no demi-glace or water. Tomorrow - once it has rested over night - I’ll add real bacon and onions, and serve on mashed potatoes.
The Maker’s Mind works in bursts of energy and focus with plenty of reflections and rests. Mine are anything between 90 minutes and - as this morning - 2.5 hours. It’s not task but discovery oriented.
So what did I notice while engaging in cleaning and making new culinary delights? The idea of the Maker’s Mind which I’m now making into my keynote talk at Brand New Communication in São Paulo next week. I wonder where I can go with this?
It’s pretty clear that all large institutions could care less about us as either individuals, citizens or consumers. What they care about is our collective, mass market power of forking over our paycheck to them year after year. They only care about three things: top and botton line growth, a decent brand perception and manageable litigations.
Individually we don’t matter at all. Our individual needs are completely irrelevant to these large instituions as they are focused on building mediocre products for the masses, not awesome experiences for you and me.
It has become extremely evident and clear to me that this is the case as I’ve been trying to close down my accounts with companies like ETrade, Chase and Vanguard. They refuse, make you jump through hoops, question your sanity and just being plain assholes. I’m being the victim for what’s called a lock-in.
More often than not they even threaten you with the prevailing culture of fear: We will report your cancellation to the credit institutions and that will impact your FICO score. That might have a negative impact on your ability to get in debt by mortgaging your life to buy a mediocre McMansion…
I think it’s time we take matters into our own hands. Here are three ideas:
I’ve followed this plan for the past few years and as services like Simple.com, Everlane.com, Transferwise.com and Uber.com has been launched I’ve been able to make a seamless shift to a much better experience. I’ve so far cancelled banking, cellphone, retirement and
grocery services supermarkets and replaced them with mobile, simple and individually customer friendly services.
The only way we can design the future faster is to stop using old services and embrace the new. Let’s cancel en masse everything that sucks and sign up for local, sustainable and simple solutions.
That’s what my three year old son asks me with a big grin when he swings by the kitchen on his wooden bike and crashes into me. What are you making? It’s awesome in so many different ways but mostly because he gets it. He sees all the different natural ingredients and knows that combining them is the essence of making. More often than not he joins me and helps out.
The other day we collaborated on making chocolate chip cookies, tomato passata and pizza dough. All from scratch with real ingredients and he was involved in every stage except the ones involving the hot oven. He feels relaxed in the kitchen, at home. He knows where everything is and knows that he can play with anything at anytime. That is what cooking is and should be, play.
Making is a lifestyle
Making your own food, growing your own veg goes beyond the pleasure of cooking. It’s about tradition, health and community. It’s long-term thinking to introduce your kids to making in the kitchen as they learn what it means to experiment, play and enjoy their work. If you can make your own food you’ll never go hungry. If you know what a tomato is, how it’s grown, where it comes from and what value it brings you’ll appreciate and respect it.
I’d argue that making your own food is the essence of making, it extends beyond and pays it forward long-term by preventing immune debilitating diseases, cancer and diabetes. But it also the best training in understanding the magic and power of making anything. Once you learn how to make, how to associate in new ways, making new connections and combinations it will stay with you forever. Making is an attitude, a way of living, a lifestyle.
Practise with plenty failures leads to originality. You start seeing new ways to simplify, of adding flavor and texture, new types of dishes and meals. What once was a chore is now a daily pleasure, a tactile outlet of who you are, an expression of your unique artistic capabilities and visions. It might even turn into your new work without even feeling like work. That’s the best kind and the the only career goal worth pursuing: doing what you love.
Fooled by convenience
It’s easy to not making your own food in today’s society as everything is available processed and pre-made en masse. But getting fed is such a small part of making your own food. We are told to work hard and then to enjoy the convenience and the comfort of ordering a bland, one size fits all pizza. But why would you? Why succumb to mediocrity when you could learn the art of making, make the world a better place and pass on your knowledge for generations to come - all by making your own food at home. Really, it’s that simple and now is the time.
I’ve seen how making our own food is impacting the way my son views the world. He’s eager to understand what the different ingredients are called, why the are combined in a certain way and what value they add. It’s a fearless curiosity without prejudice which is heart-warming and future promising. He’s excited about going to the farmers market, to pack and unpack our food basket. To feel each and every piece of produce, to appreciate a newly baked bread and the ritual that is breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The leap from the basics of food to your own mobile app, 3D printed object or home security system becomes very, very short. Making is not even the future, it’s the present and it starts in the kitchen.
So, what are you making today?
We live in a society where we work in exchange for owning the latest goods and services. The once hidden costs of this advertized lifestyle - global warming, epidemic illness and wasted lives - are now becoming visible to a growing number of people.
In their end of lives people start asking themselves about their regrets and realize that they worked too much, worried too much and didn’t spend enough time with friends and family. They also regret that they didn’t take more risks, ventured outside of their comfort zone and pushed themselves closer to follow their true passions.
There is a lesson to be learned here I think: Do what you love. It sounds too easy, almost like a slogan from a cheesy TV-commercial but it’s very hard. Yet the opportunity to find and follow your own path has never been more attainable. The challenge is to get beyond the industrial mindset with the belief that only large organisations can create value and we are just a cog in the big, invisible machinery.
It didn’t always use to be this way. We used to be makers of all kinds: bakers, builders, cooks, cobblers, architects, painters et cetera. Craftsmanship was honored and celebrated. Then the industrialization started and we had to leave our dreams and uniqueness to join the factory in creating products for the masses. Products that were average, one-size fits all and could be sold to anyone.
Like the frog jumping into the nice lukewarm water we didn’t realize that it was too late until the water was already boiling. We got stuck in this economy of scale that grew beyond humanity and became it’s own beast - too big to fail.
But among us - like an undercover resistance - were people that had kept tinkering and making during their leisure time. People that refused to take part in empty promises of happiness from shopping and fabricated lifestyles. These people kept making, everything from their own food to their own gadgets and small-scale inventions.
The Internet is turning these guys into the new heroes as the friction of reaching your own tribal audience is now close to zero. The cost is now so low that you could say marketing is dead or at least dying and making is the new marketing.
We are seeing stay-at-home parents creating their own awesome cookbooks, engineers creating mini computers (Raspberry Pi), bakers opening their own bakeries, craftsmen making their own furniture and this is just scratching the surface.
While most corporations have joined the race to the bottom - manufacturing more stuff cheaper that lacks meaning - makers are leading the race to the top and making what really matters. Organized in networks that collaborates across time and space they are extracting waste out of the system and adding tremendous value.
The industrialization gone wild will continue as long as we let it rage the earth, our health and our lives. The only way to fight back is to start doing what you love, to start making what matters. Connect with others, collaborate, persist and eventually you will make something that will blow the world away; that no factory could ever make.
Today there are no limits beyond your own imagination. What are you waiting for?
Nothing is certain but death and taxes. Everything else has an element of uncertainty - a fantastic insight if you enjoy designing your own lifestyle and be master of your own faith.
To master your own faith you need to be the grand master of your own time and money. Sounds simple but it’s damn hard. The best way to start is to recognize who and what are wasting your time and minimize or even delete those influences. Certain time-wasters might seam trivial but a few minutes here and there adds up.
Just getting rid of all advertising in my life is saving me not just a few hours per day but also improves my attention, energy and thinking. The same goes for phone calls, meetings and excessive and addictive use of technology.
Wasting money is no different; identify unnecessary spending and bootstrap your life. Soon you’ll realize that you need very little to live a rewarding, productive and happy life. It’s almost the contrary; the less you spend and think about money the happier you will become.
But cutting back, decluttering and bootstrapping won’t get you to grand mastery alone. You need to focus on value. What value means and how you can be part of creating superior value. But also how you transform that value into real cash-flow.
It’s very valuable to me to find time to reflect in the morning and evening, to play with my kids, to cook everyday, to walk, to generate new ideas and to add value to my current ventures and projects.
Through this approach you’ll soon realize that a stronger focus on value creation without all the mundane everyday interruptions will free up more time, create better results and generate sufficient cash-flow to continue the journey of self-discovery and creative living.
And once you become a master of living and happiness, you can master anything.
I finished Tom Hodgkinson’s excellently witty and thought-provoking book The Freedom Manifesto today. It’s been an exciting journey in anarchism, human history and critical thinking that has generate a multitude of new ideas and perspectives.
I really like his take on retirement, that it’s a fabrication from the Industrial Era that has evolved into the reward for doing meaningless (as oppose to individually meaningful and mindful) work for 40 years: “Thanks for playing!”.
Let’s just hypothesize that pension and retirement is a dying concept and would soon no longer exist for the majority of people. How would this change our decisions regarding education, career and work? Would we be more or less open to taking risks? How would we organize ourselves? What lives would we live? How would we finance the “golden years”?
I can definitely imagine “working” until the end of days as I find what I do very stimulating. I’ve taken a few mini-retirements in my life but always come back to my work. I think work is essential to our capability of conquering happiness and living a purposeful life.
The mere thought forces us to rethink how we spend and organize our lives - outsourced or in-sourced. It pushes the idea of what work is into a bigger historical perspective, challenging what we call progress and Western civilization.
Maybe the Industrial Era was just a bad dream and we are back and aligned with the history of humanity where we collaborate and support on a local level without the intervention of gargantuan institutions? Maybe if more people did what they love there wouldn’t be a need for retirement? Isn’t it only labor and not work that needs retirement?
I like the idea of self-reliance and local collaboration as well as taking care of people that needs help during certain periods in their lives. What I don’t like is the institutionalization of humanity.
A few years ago I decided to challenge the status quo and become more self-reliant. I quickly realized I needed to have control of time and money to reach this goal. It has taken a few years but today I’m closer than ever. That said, there are still a few obstacles, one of them being the health tax (aka insurance) here in the US. It’s a monopolistic, bloated and fear mongering system which I’m hellbent to leave as soon as possible.
I’m currently exploring how in a scientific and open-minded way and here are a few insights I’ve gathered over the past few days:
What I like to accomplish is a personal sense of freedom and increased knowledge and responsibility for my own wellbeing as well as raise awareness around self-reliance and alternative health opportunities for regular people.
When I mention to people that I haven’t had a phone for years I usually get that weird luddite / your-poor-unhip-bastard look. Then I explain that I do have a phone number via Google Voice where I can be reached by leaving a voice message but not a for-pay mobile or stationary phone subscription. And to add to the confusion, I sold my iPhone a few months ago. The best decision I made during 2012.
The rationale behind this is that I don’t like being interrupted by a ring signal; it’s usually very disruptive to what I’m currently working on. I try to schedule as few conf calls as possible and carry out most of my communication via email or productivity apps. Instead of chit-chatting about what to do, let’s just do it in Google Docs or the equivalent.
A very welcome effect for a scrappy entrepreneur is that I save a lot of money - yearly in the thousands - by not paying a mega-corporation for either the monthly subscription or the hardware.
I also try to meet up with everyone that I collaborate with on a regular basis for quality talks about the things that really matter. This is usually accompanied by a very pleasant lunch and dinner without any distractions from pinging, ringing or buzzing phones.
Getting rid of the negative effects of the “phone” - being interrupted, always-on, distracting, another thing to carry, addictive behavior - I free up important quality time and save energy for what really matters. To simplify - i.e. excluding what’s not necessary - has trained me to be more effective in meetings and during the calls I do have. Finally, it has cured me from the ravaging global disease of FOMO (fear of missing out). There is nothing to miss out on if you are the true driver of your own destiny. Always being accessible by anyone from anywhere is a handicap, not a liberation.
I feel very relaxed and in tune with the universe. All this just by not having a phone. So who’s looking weirdly at whom now? ;)
Three weeks ago I took a break from travels, lectures and delivering projects to spend time with family: to reflect, discover and think. It’s been a fantastically relaxing and insightful experience. I’m hesitant to call it vacation as it would imply that I’m unplugging from life which hasn’t been the case. I also don’t like the idea of scheduled, corporate sanctioned and permission-based breaks. I think most of us are mature enough to decide when to make and when to break.
It’s rather a shift in focus and energy, from operational delivery to strategic discovery. I’ve spent the days reading, playing, daydreaming, thinking and making meals. I’ve let my mind wonder off to what’s commonly regarded as unthinkable and anarchistic. I’ve been stretching my focus of what can be done to what could be done and wouldn’t it be cool if.
I feel I’ve reconquered freedom in it’s purest form: spending time on what simply matters and discovering who I am and my unique value. It’s easy to get lost in the information wasteland and feel that you are just an insignificant part of the machinery. As long as you show up, smile and follow the rules everything will be A-ok despite the wrenching feeling in your gut that life should be something more, much more.
The immediate learning with one week to go is that I should take these breaks much more often - on a regular basis - as they are incredible relaxing, enabling both an enormous clarity and new value creation. The most tangible result is a Kickstarter project to be released later this week and a possible new venture. But I’ve also made important progress on my mission to redesign the prevalent personal business model into a much more lean, sustainable and relaxed model; generated several ideas for potential books and lectures; and decided on what I should not work on this year.
But the point was not to be productive, rather to free up my mind to discovery without any pressure to deliver. It was to explore if doing “nothing” actually could be more productive than just doing for the sake of being busy. I’ve come to the conclusion that the linear 9-5 mentality with it’s implicit business model is the fastest way to the bottom. Doing nothing accompanied with short bursts of extreme productivity is the fastest way to create exponential value.
Eat and sleep well
Rise early and drink water
Read great books
Limit work to what matters
Reject anger and embrace love
Explore the world
Care about people
Get lost in the present
Reflect, rethink and relearn
Laugh and cry often
A few years ago I started to switch my spending from faceless global public corporations to local, small-scale and privately-owned businesses. I’d grown tired of being addressed as one of millions, having to satisfy with average and mediocre products and services. The good ‘ol “good enough” bullshit.
So I initiated the switch from the old worlds industrial complex to the new world of passionate entrepreneurs. I started with food, web and mobile services to banks, education and clothes. The last dinosaurs still in my portfolio are flights and insurance which I hope to be disrupted soon.
I believe in being the change you want to see in the world and that’s has been one of the strongest motivators. But also the fact that I’m these days getting much better service and product quality at a better price. Everything is getting easier and faster; two essentials in the digital economy.
But I’ve also shifted in how and what I “consume”. I spend less on goods and more on services, something that has both kept my burn-rate low and made life simpler. It’s self-designed deflation (more on this in another post).
Today I run and access everything - and I do mean everything - from my iPad Mini. I’ve succeeded in focusing on what’s real value and deleting or minimizing what I perceive as waste. The friction is gone and with that energy and time wasted. It might sound like marginal savings but it has been transformative and enormously empowering.