Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My dumbest productivity hack yet

I've talked about productivity before.  Figuring out new ways to work harder is almost always more fun than actually working harder.  For bonus points, you can efficiently organize how you read all your productivity blogs.

Enough editorializing.  Remember when I wrote about to-do lists?  Yeah, those are still important.  But behind every item on a list is a greater goal that you want to achieve.  "Mop floor", "Do dishes" and "Dust cupboards"  all have the goal of a clean, livable kitchen.  A more difficult challenge is determining what the overarching goal of "Organize Database", "Fix bug #133", and "Check analytics" is.  Clearly one wants to have good code and a better product, but what's the point?

Google knows what their point is, and it isn't "Don't be evil."  It's to organize and index all of the world's information, be it websites, books, or photos.  Whatever you do, there should be a goal.  Currently, our startup is looking at the state of education and saying "Yeah, we can fix that."  But "do something 'bout that" isn't a goal unto itself.  Acknowledging that something needs to be done and actually finding something to do about it are worlds apart (unless you're in politics - then the second bit is irrelevant).

So we've got a subset of the problem identified and are attacking it, slowly but surely.  We already had two pivots, one tech and one ideological.  The problem is that the answer to our Big Question [0] of "Heck, is this even possible?" is quite clearly no.  No matter what action movies say, two guys with computers simply can't change the world.

Our big ideological pivot has been from "Hey, let's build a thing" to "Hey, let's try and create something that other people will want to join."  Our startup will almost certainly fail unless we bring others on.  These others don't have to be additional co-founders (too may cooks will spoil the broth) but investors, supporters, and early clients.

So we now have a goal that all of our to-do items can point towards: Get others on board.  Despite arguments to the contrary, we still think that an accelerator is the best place for us as it will provide "others" better than we could solicit on our own.  Any accelerator worth it's salt will also know what others we need much better than we could.

We won't accept anything less than the best, and the best accelerator is without question YCombinator.  If you need any evidence of that, just read through Paul Graham's essays.  I certainly have, and it's made a world of difference.

The funny thing is that it's not the content of the essays that makes the difference (though it's immensely helpful).  Remember what I said about goals?  It's very easy to lose sight of the overall goal as you're closing bugs and documenting.  When I feel exacerbated and miss the whole point of what I'm doing, I can look at that tab and remember why it's all happening.

So there you have it folks: The dumbest productivity hack to date: A tab in a browser.  It's also one of the smartest - Set up your work environment so you remember why you're working.

[0] The reason that particular post is so poorly-constructed is due to the fact that I was confronting the reality that all startups must face (we'll fail at it alone) with the mentality that we must do it alone.  Die Hard, you're a great movie but you give terrible startup advice.

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