The physical world has a funny way of revealing insights into the digital world. Earlier in the day the PivotDesk Engineering team demoed a new feature that’s “almost done”. As I walked through our “almost done” new office without Internet, a floor or paint on the walls I didn’t really think things were almost done. It reminded me how varying the definition of done can be and how important it is to define that for any project.
We use a MVP approach at PivotDesk and I believe in iterating to make things better and better over time. Walking through our office had me thinking about how much effort should go into projects and when. For example, if our office had an Internet connection we could move in, sit on the dusty floor and start working. We would be in the environment and give real-time feedback like “this office would be better if we had desks and chairs”. On one hand this is true early feedback that should be useful, on the other hand it’s completely ridiculous.
How much effort should you put into the first version of a feature you are building? If a little more effort, polish, investment was made, how would your user feedback change? If the feature was a bit more stable, how much extra time and reduced costs would that provide to the project?
I am confident our office is going to “launch” on time and on budget just as features of the PivotDesk platform do. The trick is finding the optimal time to let the “users” in the front-door.
I strive for Inbox Zero but am usually not there. I totally buy into David Allen’s GTD philosophy of “Mind Like Water”. An empty, processed inbox in which all next actions have been delegated, deferred to my projects list or simply done immediately (if < 2 min) is where I prefer to keep my head. In that state, I make better decisions about what to work on and can focus on “doing”.
The new Mailbox app enhances the processing phase of the GTD workflow. As you wake up to an inbox with 50 or so new emails as I do each day, Mailbox makes it very easy to archive, delay until later or reply.
The interesting part for me is the delay feature. You have to make a decision on every email you read and delay empowers you to control the context in which you want to deal with that email. Yesterday I received an email from a Vendor that had several contracts attached and was a page long. This type of email nags at me on some level if it sits in my inbox so I touched “delay until later” which will hide the email and show it again in 3 hours. In 3 hours I knew I’d be at work, most likely in front of my big monitor with headphones on ready to tackle an email like that which needs to be broken down into multiple actions, docs may need to be printed out, etc. This clarity enabled me to plow through other emails whereas with Apple Mail or other email clients these emails tended to pile up until I was a bit overwhelmed and put off by my inbox.
I hope you find some GTD power in Mailbox as I have. There’s a waiting list and it took me two weeks to actually get access to the app from initial download.
HBR blogger Umair Haque has a great post called “Have to Have a Year that Matters“.
In the post he asks “What breaks your heart?”
Follow your passion, we’re often told. But how do you find your passion? Let me put it another way: what is it that breaks your heart about the world? It’s there that you begin to find what moves you. If you want to find your passion, surrender to your heartbreak. Your heartbreak points towards a truer north — and it’s the difficult journey towards it that is, in the truest sense, no mere passing idyllic infatuation, but enduring, tempestuous passion.
When I ponder this, the collection of unsolvable global problems come to mind. But as I think deeper, I realize one common denominator in this collection is a fundamental lack of opportunity, people not getting the chance to try. Being pushed down, discriminated against, facing unfair rules and regulations, no education, no economic opportunity and being blocked by stupid shit that supports the status quo all crush opportunity. This breaks my heart.
As I look at my own career and co-founding PivotDesk, I realize how connected things are. On the surface, PivotDesk seems like a marketplace for office space, but there’s something deeper. PivotDesk creates opportunity instead of destoying it. PivotDesk helps companies be more efficient, to waste less and to do more. We say all the time that “this is not just about office space” and we truly believe that. PivotDesk is about setting people and companies up for success, doing our small part in helping them do something amazing with their opportunity.
I once heard someone say “When it comes to time, a women getting ready to leave is equivalent to a man saying when he’s coming home.”
In my life, this couldn’t be more true. I suck at being on time, especially when it comes to family stuff and getting home. Everyone I’ve ever worked with sucked at being on time. I’ve had so many conversations with myself or colleagues having one foot out the door knowing they should leave NOW but unable to resist work talk. Even more difficult is spending precious time with friends and wanting to squeeze just a few minutes out of the day to hangout with them just to let others around you down later. (see: choosing to have that second beer at Happy Hour instead of heading home)
Try this exercise, close your eyes and visually levitate over a situation in your mind, clearly understanding how each person feels in their own way (think: scene from Scrooge or overhead view of a RPG game). This is an exercise I try often and rarely achieve success. When you do, it can be powerful. Think about what a pain in the ass it is for your wife, friend or colleague when you are 45 minutes late, regardless of why you are. Use the overhead visualization technique to see that scene in your mind.
When it comes to time expectations, do these things:
1. Choose short term disappointment over long term trust damage.
Get used to over estimating the time it will take to do something or be somewhere. This is as true for your wife expecting you home for dinner as it is estimating delivery of a new software feature. Estimating high will yield short term disappointment but it’s worth it to not lose long term trust.
2. Schedules Matter
In my marriage, I have assumed synchronicity on schedules so many times and been wrong that’s it’s embarrasing. Schedules need to be taken seriously, not just treated as a minor annoyance. Big mistakes can be made by scheduling mishaps.
3. Reiterate. Reiterate. Retrospect.
As soon as you feel like you have your system dialed in it’s probably time to retrospecct on schedules. Never assume you have this figured out because life changes quickly which changes expectations surrounding this.
4. Always Txt
I have gotten in countless arguments trying to defend my guilt riden tardiness when a simple txt would have sufficed. Instead of texting “Running an hour late, sorry.” which would take 3 seconds, I skip that and send a mental message to my spouse that I am not thinking at all about her or the family, when in fact I’m stressed about running late. (I did this tonight which prompted this blog post.)
If you have a career or interest that involves attending after-work events, and you have a wife, family, friends, etc in which you have set expectations, don’t mess that up.
Good Luck. Being on time for meetings and presentations is one thing, being on time for your family and friends requires a different type of discipline.
Spending the summer of 2012 surrounded by 11 other amazing companies in Techstars Boulder meant constantly bouncing software development ideas of one another, talking markets and strategy and bonding over financing discussions, mentor meetings and late night weekly Techstars meetings. All of these interactions and activities can be summarized as the Energy of an Office.
After Techstars Boulder Summer 2012 ended, several teams stayed in the office to continue growing their businesses, PivotDesk is one of them. I am never the first one to the office, the lights are always on, there’s always buzz, phone calls, meetings and random important people that I don’t know walking around. I have thrived off this energy in just the few short weeks since Demo Day. Being around other smart people, saying hello around the water cooler, random chit chat about cycling, skiing and software….these things are important. The Energy of an Office, much like the ambiance of a restaurant, cannot be quantified but should always be appreciated.
Find a great home for your business, for now. Visit PivotDesk to find Office Space for Startups with great energy.