Category Archives: Idea Management

The Benefits and Pains Of Creating In Public

Who is this for? Anyone considering launching a project and iterating it publicly before it is ready. This also may apply to those whose fear of making mistakes keeps them from ever making their ideas a reality.

When Mike Vardy and I first had the idea for Workflowing, we intended to form a plan. That plan would be thought through again and again and again until we felt it was sound enough and we were prepared enough to implement it. Once we started implementing, we would have had a clear vision of what we wanted to create and have every next action carefully plotted. From there, it would have been up to us to do everything in our power to execute on our plan and turn the idea into a reality.

Just as we started to plan, we were inspired by Patrick Rhone to take our early vision and allow ourselves to iterate the concept publicly. Rather than creating the shape the work would take, we wanted to let the work help create the shape. We had a strong sense of what we wanted to do, but we were unclear on the details and far from ready to implement them. We jumped in anyway.

And How Did That Work Out?

The honest answer: good and bad.

The Good

The site exists. The value of this cannot be understated. It’s not something we might do. It’s not something we want to do. It’s something we are doing.

We’ve created a few original posts that we’re proud of. We’ve been able to get the link posts up, running and sharing properly on social networks. We’re experimenting with the running list concept to see how we can make better long term use of short-term link posts. We have a design that, while imperfect, is a sound starting point. We’re learning more about what the site is with every single day and every single action. We’re creating work that we’re proud of that we believe meets the spirit of our initial idea.

The Bad

It doesn’t exist as it would had we waited. The value of this cannot be understated as well. You only ever get one chance to make a first impression.

The accelerated timing made it difficult to dedicate as much time to Workflowing as we should have. The concept of creating in public allowed us the freedom to make mistakes, but it also gave us enough room to neglect our new baby when things got busy. As mentioned in the previous post, it also happened to align with a particularly busy and challenging time for both myself and my partner in crime, Mike Vardy who has now moved on from the project (so the we I keep mentioning is more of an I). The newsletter, something we believed would be a core feature for the site, has proven difficult to properly express to potential contributors and would require far more time and attention than we ever could have anticipated.

Would I Do It Again?

As I’ve been talking with Vardy and other trusted souls to figure out how to proceed moving forward, I’ve found myself questioning if creating Workflowing in public was the right decision.

In theory, had we kept this quiet I wouldn’t be shuttering a newsletter I never launched and we probably would have figured out that this project wasn’t ideal for collaboration long before anyone even knew that a collaboration even existed.

In reality, I don’t regret it one bit. I sacrificed a first impression, but I care more about the lasting one. I’m changing things, but that was the plan. I did things this way so I could work my way towards a clear picture of the project. I started something that I really wanted to do and I’m looking forward to continuing to improve it. I’m building something that I’m proud of, I’m testing my desire against my reality and am forcing myself to clarify the kind of work I want to continue to do moving forward. This is worth any early loss or minor embarrassments.

The truth of the matter is this, had I been patient the initial impression may have been better and the initial vision may have been clearer to others. Still, that same patience could have led to procrastination, which could have led to abandonment and this project may never have seen the light of day. I may have gotten started, but there would be no guarantee that I’d ever actually get it out there. It very well could have been yet another thing that I really wanted to do, but didn’t.

I also cannot understate the value of all of the amazing feedback I’ve received. When I shared the early idea with friends, I was met with encouragement and enthusiasm. When I launched Workflowing, I was met with ideas as to how to make it better and had an actual place to test them. When it really comes down to it, this is why I will never regret the approach I’ve taken and will likely create in public again the next time I’m serious considering a new idea.

If you’re struggling to get your idea to a place where you feel it’s ready for the world, consider getting it out there. It may be uncomfortable at times, it may be imperfect, but whatever it is, it will exist. And once something exists in the world, its far more likely to get better.

Create Your Alternative Settings

Who is this for? Those looking to make more of the time they spend (or waste) waiting.

I’m captivated by the video that was created from a 2005 commencement speech from David Foster Wallace.

Like some, I’ve been fortunate enough to change some harmful default settings. This isn’t always easy. It forced me to observe habits and routines that were deeply ingrained and then decide to remake them.

For far too long my default setting was “Waiting.” I commute for over 80 minutes a day, there are long lines at the supermarket regardless of when I shop and there are often lulls between projects at work. All of this time spent “Waiting” was wasted. Without even realizing it, I let my situation limit my opportunities.

At some point I got fed up. I chose to no longer allow circumstance to dictate my choices. Just because I had to wait in line, on the train or at my desk didn’t mean that I had to wait. Since I didn’t want to change jobs or pay even more to get groceries delivered, I had to change the one thing I could control, my own default setting.

Rather than change circumstances—a common overreaction to a real-life limitation—I set out to make better choices. I changed my default settings for the previously squandered moments spent “Waiting.”

Now when I find myself “Waiting” in line, on the train or temporarily without anything to do at work or home, I choose between the following settings:

  • Making: While you can’t do everything while waiting in line or sitting in a car, you can do a lot more than you’d think. When I decided to write regularly, I still had the realities of a job and a family to manage. Deciding to watch way less TV went a long way towards freeing up some creative time, but it would not have been enough had I not found a way to write while on the subway or expand on an idea while waiting in line.
  • Learning: Long commutes and checkout lines are ideal places to learn. Rather than encouraging your brain to go numb, pick something better to capture your attention. Just about every smartphone and tablet out there gives you access to a wide range of books, blogs, audiobooks and documentaries. Take advantage of them.
  • Maintaining: This isn’t ideal when waiting in line or stuck in a daily commute, but it’s the perfect choice for downtime at home or at work. With 90% certainty, there is some level of cleaning up, filing or organizing that you could be doing right now. There’s value in regularly scheduling this kind of maintenance to ensure that it gets done, but getting it out of the way when you have downtime give you more free time.
  • Enjoying: All too often, we overlook the value of that which cannot be tied to a tangible result. Vegetating in front of the TV is often the thing that keeps you from doing what you really want to be doing, but in moderation it can also be a treat that allows your mind to wander somewhere unexpected. You’d also be surprised by what you’ll notice when keeping a watchful eye online at a supermarket or stuck in a daily commute.

Your default setting and your alternatives may differ from mine; that’s fine. Take a hard look at your own, determine the ones that are holding you back, then create the alternatives that help you to do better.

A Framework for Creating

Who is this for? Those struggling to stick with their ideas and bring them to fruition.

During the second half of last week’s Back to Work, Merlin Mann shared some of his “Unified Field Theory of Creativity”, a framework that borrows from Roger Von Oech’s Explorer, Artist, Judge and Warrior model from A Kick in the Seat of the Pants. His walkthrough begins at 1:08:40 and provides a basic overview of the modes required to take an idea and make it a reality.

The Productivityist Workbook

Who is this for? Those looking for some introductory thoughts, tips, tools and tactics on better managing their ideas, time, email and tasks.

From our very own Mike Vardy:

Becoming more productive doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t require an incredible amount of time spent searching for answers and reading numerous “how to” posts. It doesn’t need to overwhelm you. You can improve your efficiency and effectiveness using simple ideas and simple actions.

You can pre-order today through May 14th to get additional bonus materials.