Productivity and Laziness: Is it time to cultivate laziness as a skill?

There’s a hugely popular mantra in all productivity schemes:

Work smarter not harder

Every time I hear this phrase I want to replace it with a different phrase:

What’s the lazy way of doing this?

Smart working is really, let’s face it, lazy working.

Laziness may not be the first word that springs to mind when you think about productivity, but you should embrace it as your friend.

Think about it, we do all sorts of lazy things to make us more productive.

Whenever you ride a bike rather than walking somewhere you are being lazy. It might not feel like it, but the bike gets you there quicker and takes you further than you could go without it. It’s lazy to ride the bike.

If you are using a phone to talk to someone you are being lazy. It’s easier than travelling to where that person is to talk to them (unless they are sat next to you).

Lazy people are constantly asking “why should I bother?” That’s a great productivity question, remember:

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Peter Drucker

I’ve seen countless business processes that add no value and were best ignored. Lazy people ignore these processes.

Lazy people experiment with doing things in different ways to see if they take more, or less, effort – they stick with the one that takes less effort.

We are surrounded by an increasing number of automation techniques, particularly in IT, yet I see people endlessly doing the same repetitive tasks. Lazy people let the machines do it for them.

I think that more of us should cultivate laziness as a skill.

Because it’s Friday: The Surprise Press Conference by Improv Everywhere

The Improv Everywhere team have been out on the streets again. This time they hosted a surprise press conference where the celebrity was anyone brave enough to stand behind the microphone.

Enjoy:

Things I did not miss on my holiday

Today I returned to work after two weeks away on holiday.

I’m now a few hours in to my first day back and I thought I would reflect on the things that I didn’t miss whilst I was away.

Here are a few of the things I hadn’t missed:

  • Forgetting things – there’s something about a holiday return that means that I always forget something.
  • Corporate reorganisation emails – yes multiple ones.
  • Conference calls – way too many things to mention.
  • People putting a conference call on hold – listening to that wonderful beep tone is such a treat.
  • Sitting – when I’m on holiday I rarely sit, work is all about sitting.
  • The roller-coaster – coming back to work involves a roller-coaster of emotions as you read something, think about the required actions, read something else, think about other actions, read something else and realise that you don’t need to do anything.
  • Multiple streams – on holiday there’s normally only one stream of information that I need to concern myself with. If I’m walking, I’m walking. If I’m talking, I’m talking. At work there are always multiple streams that need attention. This all leads to a lack of focus that isn’t good for anyone.
  • A lack of control – on holiday I have much more control than I do at work, that’s the reality of work but it doesn’t mean that I like it.

If this sounds to you like a list of complaints, it isn’t, I’m just reflecting on things I’ve observed.

Concept of the Day: Norman Doors

A walk up to the door at the gym and pull it open, quite regularly there is someone on the other side of the door looking surprised because they were about to pull the door also. It’s my favourite Norman Door, everything about this door makes you want to pull it from the inside, all the visual cues say pull, but that just leads to frustration because you need to push.

The Norman in question is Don Norman who highlighted this phenomena in his book The Design of Everyday Things. Doors are just one example of things being designed in a way that don’t make sense to the person who uses them.

Once you start looking for these annoyances you see them everywhere.

In our house there are three light switches at the top of the stairs; two of the switches operate lights in the bathroom and one operates the light on the landing. The configuration of these lights confuses all visitors to our house.

This week Instagram added a feature that allows you to zoom into photos, why that was never there before I have no idea? Previously, using two fingers to zoom invariably resulted in you liking a picture.

Microsoft’s new browser in Windows doesn’t have an address bar until you click on where the address bar should be? How am I supposed to know that?

Why does double-clicking on my iPhone headset move to the next song? In what way is that user centred?

One of the reason I gave up on using an Android phone, at the same time as a iPhone was that I couldn’t cope with the hidden aspect of the two different interfaces.

The video below from Vox does a great job of explaining it:

A Quadrant Life

The tyranny of the two-by-two

Sometimes I wonder whether western business would completely collapse without the two-by-two matrix (I only say western business, because I don’t have much experience of eastern business).

You know what I mean? Four squares – two-by-two, most of the time with two axis.

You’ve seen the type of thing I’m talking about, a bit like this:

Random Matrix

We’ve used them for all sorts of purposes with the SWOT chart being one of the most popular:

SWOT Matrix

We also use them to define product strategies where we assess the business potential against our ability to compete which enables us to classify the stars and the dogs (poor dogs?):

Product Management Matrix

Organisations like Gartner make a living out of defining the matrix and populating it, they call their’s the Magic Quadrant. I’m still waiting to see one actually do magic, but I’m sure they will if I keep looking long enough. Other organisations and other quadrants are available:

Magic Quadrant

We define personality types in quadrants. There are many two-factor models of personality available, most of these focus the extent to which someone is introverted or extroverted compared to whether they are task oriented or relationship oriented.

Peronality Matrix

Practically all of these charts are drawn with extrovert up and introvert down – is that because they are drawn by extroverts?

We’re even told to assess our daily work as a two-by-two matrix based on importance and urgency.

Priority Matrix

In most instances the two-by-two is constructed to suggest that the place where we need to be is in the top-right-hand corner; as someone who is left-handed I wonder why that is?

There are so many of them about there has to be something about them that we like that is different for three-by-two or four-by-three matrices.

Every day it seems like someone has invented a new one for me to look at, why is that?

Number 6 in The Prisoner famously said: “I am not a number, I am a free man”, sometimes I want to shout out: “I am not a quadrant, I am a free man.” I’ve wondered about being subversive and adding extra columns or rows in just to see what the impact was.

Why do they think I’m so interested in seeing things in two-by-two? What is so seductive about quadrants? I’ve done a bit of research (for which there are a set of quadrants define by Pasteur) but the answer doesn’t seem to be very straightforward, so much so, that someone has written a book on it.

I’ll leave you with one more chart:

Finished