An alternative to Whack-a-Mole Mondays?

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Pat and I interviewed Pierre Khawand early this morning, and while we got plenty out of the interview – so much so we need to invite him back, soon – the most valuable productivity advise for me was how to win at the Monday Whack-a-Mole game.

You know how this game is played – and lost – every Monday, right? You start work all rejuvenized and revitalized after the weekend, ready tackle that big strategic project you’ve been avoiding. So you get 20 minutes into it, studiously avoiding email, doing all right thing productivity things. No more Mr. Frenzic – you are going to be productive!

Then, the first  mole pops its head up – maybe it’s an urgent client task, remembering you forgot to do something, a phone call. You stop being productive and focused, whack the problem, and gamely try to get back into your warm productive flow, only to have another mole head pop up. And another. And another, another, another, whack, whack whack.

Oh shit, it’s already lunchtime and none of my important stuff is done.

Pierre’s advice is simple – spend the time and attention to define what you really want/need to get done in the next two weeks, set deadlines for those priorities, break those priorities into specific tasks, figure out what the immediate first action is for at least the first task and how long it will take you. Then actually schedule appointments for each of those immediate actions, at least over next couple of days.

If you can’t schedule it, how are you going to get it done? And the sooner you admit to yourself something has to give, the sooner by managing expectations (including your own) or negotiating deadlines can get back to reality.

He details this in his chapter on creating an Immediate Priorities Matrix: well worth the few bucks his book, Accomplishing More with Less, costs, plus the value in the rest of the book. After our interview, that’s what I did: making the adjustments that brought productivity for me out of the Twilight Zone and into my very real Monday morning.

Subscribe here if you want to spend some attention on this show when we put it up. It beats losing at Whack-a-Mole.

Google Developer Periodic Table

What a cool idea! (And yes, each one leads to the dev page for that product.)

Google Developer Periodic Table

Now if only there was the same for Microsoft and Apple!

(Another find by Corey)

And so you code…

(Thanks Corey!)

If not you, who?

Status quo to digital disrupters

Status quo to digital disrupters: keep out.

This may be off-topic if you’re reading this blog because I mostly focus on startups and microISVs, but stick with me for a moment.

Who is going to make the future, or at least the part pertaining to how people interact with idea-containers formally known as books?

Actually, I’m nominating you for the job. Because the difference today between those of us who ship code for a living and those of us who ship words for a living is almost no difference at all. How do you succeed as a bootstrapping startup? You take deep domain knowledge and a professional discipline applied to the craft of developing software, work your butt off while trying to build a meaningful relationship with people who elect to become your market. That’s the job description for any non-fiction writer today.

If you read this blog, you’ll have gathered I am a big time fanboy of Seth Godin. After reading his books, listening to him speak, having the good fortune to interview him, I’ve been very closely watching his decision to thumb his nose at traditional publishers and do something disruptive, awesome and risky with his Domino Project. I’m hoping to help him out in some small way as a member of his Street Team because I believe he’s betting the farm on a wild crazy idea that will ultimately benefit millions of people, like more than a few startup founders I’ve gotten to know over the past few years.

Back to why I’m nominating you for the job of deciding the future, or at least this part of it. Simply put, if the geeks like us support Seth’s publishing killer app, a whole lot of non-geeks will get on board too. But if online people don’t make it clear that when it comes to idea containers, they want the future and they want it now, traditional publishers will continue squeezing a few more dollars out of a revenue model that well past its sell-by date.

Whether it’s telcos who want to favor their bits over your bits, record labels who smack around people with lawsuits or traditional publishers who want to defend their right to decide what, when and how you read, it’s the same thing: those who benefit from the status quo will defend the status quo against those who seek to disrupt it.

And if you’re building a startup, or running an “impossible” one-person global software company, you too are committed to disrupting the status quo.

Startup/MicroISV Digest for 1/21/2011

Running Lean

Community News:

One of the absolute best startup bloggers out there is Ash Maurya. If you have not been reading his posts these past few years, you’ve missed some extremely good content on how to define, build and grow a Lean Startup. Ash finished today his book, drawn from the workshops he’s been doing, Running Lean. I’ve been reading an advance copy and all I can say, this is an ebook that should be on every single startup founders’ device of choice. It is that good. We will be reinteviewing Ash soon on the Startup Success Podcast, but in the meantime, listen to that show and buy his book.

Jeff Lewis, ConsultUtah.com, just released his first serious iPhone app, Unbroken Chain. Unbroken Chain is an app that helps you keep track of your goals and motivate you to do something about them every day. Read more at Motivated Ideas.

John Nye, NimbleWorks, has launched TrackTime – a Mac time tracker app designed to help you find the billable time you forgot to log. Finally a time tracker that acknowledges we are not automations! Also worth mentioning, all of TrackTimes profits for February and March will be going towards the Developers Against Poverty campaign at http://www.developersagainstpoverty.org/. (Disclosure: John did a microconsult with me last year.)

Interesting Answers.Onstartups.com questions with useful answers:

Interesting Quora.com questions with useful answers:

News/posts for microISVs and Startups:

StartupToDo.com, The Startup Success Podcast and other plugs:

What’s new at StartupToDo.com. (StartupToDo.com is a subscription-based community of startup founders; if you’re not already a member, get your free 30 day free trial membership):

  • No new guides this period.

New at the Startup Success Podcast:

  • Show #95 [link] [iTunes].In this show Bob and Pat interview Sid Viswanathan, cofounder of CardMunch, a business card scanning startup presently available on the Apple iPhone. Sid explains how this crowdsource-powered startup structures its work to ensure accuracy, protect privacy and makes Internet-based piecework successful. Sid covers how deferring profitability while A/B testing different pricing models has given CardMunch the time and opportunity to discover the best price points for its service. Sid also explains the approach to selling a mobile App that merits 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Tired of being stuck in neutral in your startup? Why not do a MicroConsult with Bob Walsh? Instead of hypotheticals and too much information, Bob will work with you for an hour via Skype developing 8 to 10 specific todos that will get your startup in gear. Here’s what one recent client had to say:Details at 47hats.com.

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(If you have an announcement of interest to your fellow microISV, indies or startups, please email me at bob.walsh@47hats.com with the word digest in the subject.)

Is your ToDo List a graveyard for should do’s?

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Mine is. In fact, I have layers of to do systems (OmniFocus and now GQueues) that are far better at tracking what I have to do than I am. But every time I try and get my head around a long list of tasks, my brain freezes up.

Now thanks to a very timely post by Erin, the Community Manager at Tungle.me, (The Power of 3: How to Get it All Done) which pointed to this post at Psychotactics (Harness the Psychological Power of ’3′ to Improve Communication), I’ve got at least a stop-gap approach to moving these tasks towards done, three at a time.

Thanks Erin, that was the breakthrough idea I needed. Will definitely check out Tungle.me because of that one post.

Stop e-mailing and start living: 5 tips to get e-mail well under control in 2011

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By Pierre Khawand
Founder & CEO
People-OnTheGo
http://www.people-onthego.com

(Note: I invited Pierre to do this guest post and be on The Startup Success Podcast after buying and reading his book, The Accomplishing More with Less Workbook. Got questions for Pierre? Add them to his Guest page before Jan. 31st!)

The rumors that e-mail is “dead” have been put to rest time after time. Even though some Social Media evangelists would like us to believe that e-mail is dead, and most of us who are spending hours on e-mail every day wish this would be the case, reality just confirmed once more that e-mail is still king! Our recent survey of 1000 business professionals revealed that on the average they spend 3.27 hours on e-mail every day while only 1.18 hours on Social Media. Whether we like it or not, e-mail is here to stay! Most importantly, critical business notifications and information still come to us through e-mail.
Bottom line is that we are still spending a good part of our day in our e-mail inbox! Or in “e-mail jail” as one of my workshop participants called it. This is partly necessary to conducted business and partly self-inflicted. “Self-inflicted?” You might ask. Totally! E-mail is a great escape. It is the ultimate break from more difficult tasks. It gives us this feeling that we accomplished something. It satisfies our curiosity. In summary, e-mail is seductive, addictive, rewarding, and also anxiety-provoking all at the same time.

So how can we stop this love-hate relationship with our e-mail inbox and turn e-mail into something more healthy and productive in 2011. Here are some techniques that can help. When applied consistently and over time, these techniques have helped business professionals transform e-mail from being a daunting and stressful to being a productive and stress-free!

#1: Don’t start your day on e-mail. Start by taking a few minutes to jot down the key accomplishments that you would like to achieve today. Ask yourself the simple but utterly important questions: What is important? And what do I want to accomplish today? Envision what a successful day would look like. According to Chip and Dan Heath, the authors of Switch, when we have a destination in mind, it is likely that we can create change and make things happen. This morning exercise is likely to re-direct your attention to, and focus your energy on, the bigger things instead of getting your energy and creativity stolen away by your e-mail inbox right from the beginning.

#2: Treat e-mail like a task. A task that has a beginning and an end, instead of being an ongoing task. This new “contained” e-mail task starts when you go to your e-mail inbox, and ends when you have handled all the “new” messages in your inbox (the messages that arrived since you performed this task last). When this task is done, you leave e-mail alone, and handle the more important and strategic tasks that are going to get you results. You can repeat this e-mail task as often as you think is necessary. My recommendation is that you consider repeating it every 30 or 40 minutes but not more often (check out The Results Curve free download to learn why the 30 or 40 minutes).

#3: Treat each e-mail message like a micro task. Once you start handling the message, this is it. No breaks. No opening new messages when you hear the beep. No opening other unrelated documents. No checking Twitter or Facebook. Stay focused on the message on hand and finish handling it first. Furthermore, treat this message like a “hot potato.” Get your reply out as quickly as you can. No day dreaming and no dwelling over the small stuff. If however the message requires significant thinking and/or effort, then either stop your e-mail task and switch to the task that is in the message, or tag the e-mail message so you can come back to it later add.

#4. Tag every e-mail message that you cannot handle right away. Depending on the e-mail application you are using, this may be flagging the message (see Microsoft Outlook 2003 free demo), or categorizing it (Microsoft Outlook 2007 or 2010), or labeling it (Google Mail), or tagging it (Mac Mail with SmartTag add-on), or whatever else. There are three tags I would recommend. The “Today” tag, the “Tomorrow” tag, and the “Waiting For” tag. The “Today” tag implies that this is a message that you need to get back to today, while the “Tomorrow” tag implies that this can wait, and the “Waiting For” tag means that you are delegating to someone else and expecting them to handle it.

#5: Think 80/20. 80% of our results come from 20% of our effort. The same applies to e-mail. 80% of our results come from 20% of our e-mails. So in essence, 80% of our e-mails can be ignored or dealt with very quickly. As soon as you take a look at an e-mail, make a quick determination if this is part of the 80% or the 20% and then act accordingly. Handle the 20% carefully and strategically, but spend very little time or no time at the other 80%. If you have to respond to such messages, make it very short, and don’t spend time editing.

The time has come to break free from the “e-mail Jail!” The time is 2011!
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Pierre Khawand, Founder & CEO of People-OnTheGo (http://www.people-onthego.com) is a productivity evangelist helping business professionals and organizations overcome the challenges of the digital overload. He is the author of The Accomplishing More With Less Workbook, The Results Curve: How to manage focused and collaborative time!, and The New New Inbox: How Email and Social Media Changed Our Lives. He can be reached at pierre@people-onthego.com and on Twitter at @pierrekhawand.

This is why I read Seth Godin

From his post today (Martin Luther King’s Birthday):

As Martin Luther King Junior spoke about a half a lifetime ago,

“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood — it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.”

MicroISV Pain Points – some very interesting data

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The results of the first annual MicroISV Pain Points Survey hit my inbox today – two interesting takeaways:

- While pricing was the top pain, allotting time for blogging and time management were the #2 and #3 pains for the 152 microISVs who took the survey.

- When Russell Thackston analyzed the 142 open-ended responses (10 people punted), guess which word was most frequent? Time. By a sizable margin.

Paul Graham (always someone to pay attention to) talks about Manager time versus Maker time – “For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.”

You know this quandary: do I turn off email and the rest and code 8 hours straight to get that new cool feature done, or, do I spend 8 hours meeting with people, promoting the product, answering customer inquiries, being social (like in network), marketing? You can’t do both. But you can recognize the difference between the two, and as the saying goes, where the right hat at the right time.

Just remember you make your own reality – or a reality will be provided for you. That’s a tree-huggy way of saying if you don’t decide what kind of day you’ll have tomorrow – Maker or Manager – you’ll slide down the Manager Time slope with that first email check.

Thanks to Russell Thackston at Auburn University, AL for taking the time to get this data and think about it!

Startup/MicroISV Digest for 1/15/2011

Community News:

In the last few years something important has changed. From there being scant support for first-time/bootstrapping startups we’re seeing incubator after startup fund come online. Case in point, The FinTech Innovation Lab is an annual program in New York City supports start-ups developing technology for the financial services industry.

Selected participants get workspace in New York City, $25k in funding and access to and the opportunity to develop relationships with chief decision-makers in the financial services industry. At the conclusion of the program, a demo day gives participants an opportunity to pitch for further funding. This is one sweet deal – both for developers, and for financial service companies. If this sounds like you, deadline is January 31st, so stop reading this post and get hustle on over to http://www.fintechinnovationlab.com/summary.html.

Interesting Answers.Onstartups.com questions with useful answers:

Interesting Quora.com questions with useful answers:

News/posts for microISVs and Startups:

  • I’ve been following Steve Rubel since his Micro Persuasion days and he continues to rock. Case in point, “The Next Media Disruptors Are Mobile Pure-Plays“. Steve makes the whole mobile disruption thing easy-peasy: “With Internet consumption on mobile devices set to surpass the same on PCs next year, according to Morgan Stanley, and US smart phone penetration to hit 50%, Nielsen says, mobile is no longer the tail on the media dog. For the next wave of media upstarts, it’s the dog and the rest is the tail.” Also, kudos for adding a much needed phrase to our vocabulary as we try to describe content that leaps and jumps from medium to medium: transmedia arc.
  • While I will walk through the Trough of Sorrow I will fear no evil department: Martin Kleppmann, co-founder of Rapportive candidly talks about the tribulations of supporting a product while trying to do 19 other things that need to be done yesterday if the startup is to succeed. Good reading.
  • If you’re not reading Seth Godin everyday, you should. His insights into your world are golden. Case in point from his Lost in a Digital World post that earned over a thousand retweets: “Constant inputs and unlimited potential distractions allow us to avoid the lizard, they give the resistance a perfect tool. Everywhere to run, everywhere to hide. The advantage of being cornered with nowhere to turn is that it leaves you face to face with the lizard brain, unable to stall or avoid the real work.”

StartupToDo.com, The Startup Success Podcast and other plugs:

What’s new at StartupToDo.com. (StartupToDo.com is a subscription-based community of startup founders; if you’re not already a member, get your free 30 day free trial membership):

  • No new guides this period.

New at the Startup Success Podcast:

  • Show #94 [link] [iTunes]. In this show Bob and Pat interview Jerome Breche, cofounder of SnapEngage, an instant IM system for creating conversations between you and visitors presently on your site. Jerome explains the unmet need behind SnapEngage, why SnapEngage is highly integrated with other online services, and more.

Tired of being stuck in neutral in your startup? Why not do a MicroConsult with Bob Walsh? Instead of hypotheticals and too much information, Bob will work with you for an hour via Skype developing 8 to 10 specific todos that will get your startup in gear. Here’s what one recent client had to say:Details at 47hats.com.

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(If you have an announcement of interest to your fellow microISV, indies or startups, please email me at bob.walsh@47hats.com with the word digest in the subject.)