Daniel Pink: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

June 27, 2010

rewards daniel pink motivation incentive

Here’s a great 10 minute presentation about motivation and incentive. Turns out that for higher-level cognitive work, financial rewards are actually a disincentive to do good work; Pink discusses other incentives that work better. Great topic + engaging artwork = solid video.

Thanks to Reub for the tip.

Productivity: Minuteur

June 16, 2010

Click the image to see more photography by Ella_Marie

My favourite strategy for tackling pretty much anything is to set a timer for 12 minutes, then race it. This is a great trick, because:

1. Even if you’re a bedbound sloth, you can probably motivate yourself to do 12 minutes of something.

2. Starting work is the hard part; once you get into something, you’ll often work longer without even noticing the time pass. Before you know it, you’ll be all done making that beautiful macrame rainbow dress you’ve always wanted, and you can head off to Burning Man knowing you look exactly like a shy librarian who’s trying drugs for the first time.

That night, Olivia twirled and twirled and twirled and twirled and twirled. When morning dawned, the dress was gone, her hair had spontaneously formed dreadlocks, she had become a vegan, and nine months later, her son Starbeam-Phoenix-Feminina was born.

3. If you tend to get distracted (like I do! By super-interesting, important things, like this little bear that could not stop sneezing!), then the timer is a good reminder that OH YEAH BACK TO WORK even though somewhere on the internet probably there are other adorable things with allergies!

4. You can limit how long you spend on things you don’t really want to be doing. Sometimes I have to call people who talk a lot. I like to set a 4-minute timer so I can keep the whole call under 5 minutes. Not that I do that to anyone who reads this blog.

5. Most things take less time than you think. This morning I tidied up my whole apartment in 12 minutes, and the place was a total wreck when I started. It looked like hours of work but the timer proved, as usual, that it was easier than I’d expected. Now it only looks like a partial wreck; thanks, timer!

6. Once you start to figure out how long things take, you’re more likely to do them without quite so much fussing next time. I hated vaccuuming my apartment until I realized it takes me 6 minutes. Now I do it all the time, much to the delight of my neighbours (Hi, Nicolas! VRRROOOOOMMMM)

Minuteur. The only reason I get anything done, ever.

Usually I use a little digital egg timer stopwatch thing for all my timer-racing needs, but I don’t always want to bring it with me. So I downloaded this great free app called Minuteur (if you like it, you might wanna shoot the developer a few bones). It’s a little virtual desktop timer that’s really easy to set; it makes a gentle ticking noise that you can silence if it drives you bonkers, and when the time’s up it alarms and jumps to the front of your desktop and blinks at you. Bam. Easy as… eggs.

Thanks to Reuben for the tip (that link goes to an article he wrote that has some other good productivity advice buried in it).

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The Cult of Done

March 3, 2009

1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.

2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.

3. There is no editing stage.

4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.

5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.

6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.

7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.

8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.

9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.

10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.

11. Destruction is a variant of done.

12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.

13. Done is the engine of more.

By that pithy maker of many things Bre Pettis, who’s well-known on the interweb for many a thing, but best-known to me as someone who used to live in a cool NYC loft with my friends Ernie and Bert. Thanks, JP, for the tip.


January 2, 2009

Freedom is an application that shuts off your access to the Internet for whatever length of time you specify. You can get back online ay time by shutting down & rebooting your computer, but in the meantime, you might actually get some work done. The app works on Macs running OSX and is free (the dude asks for a little donation; I just downloaded it without donating and I set a reminder for myself to donate to him if I like it & decide to keep using it). This looks pretty promising- will keep you posted if it makes my computer blow up or anything.
Thanks to Reub for finding it.

To generate quality, prioritize quantity.

September 19, 2008

Blogger Alice of Finslippy wrote a good post about writing.
This anecdote stood out to me:

A ceramics class is divided into two groups. The first group is graded on quantity: it doesn’t matter how good their stuff is, just how many pounds of work they end up with. The second group is graded on quality: it didn’t matter how few pots they create, just how perfect the final product is. Can you guess who ends up doing the best work? It’s the quantity group: the students who churned out work day after day and learned from their mistakes. Meanwhile, the quality group had wasted time mulling over how they could achieve perfection, so by the end of the class they had “little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

There’s also a video in the link featuring Ira Glass, so you know it’s of the zeitgeist.