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Thursday, April 28

☆ Individual talks with your team members. How? When? And... why?

I'm lucky to be running a small team of 20+ people that I get to know very well. I don't know how it's going to be with a team of 30 or 40 or 50 folks but I'm going to find out in the years to come, since we’ll eventually have to get to these levels to be able to spread Nozbe’s "good message of productivity" to as many people as we'd like. I guess we'll see. Now while I can, I still try to get to know my team as much as possible and be approachable to them. That's why I hold individual one-on-one talks with each company member every three months and this is how I do it:

Nozbe team Photo by Krzysztof Lenda

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

One-on-one meetings are important!

Again, I'm writing this from the perspective of a 20+ person company, not a 100+ one... so my opinion on this might change with time, but for now I think it's essential to meet with everyone one on one at least every three months. I schedule a 30- to 60-minute window for this conversation to make sure we give each other full, undivided attention. And it's important to be prepared for it, to actually have notes and topics to discuss.

Why are these meetings so important? Because in a longer, personal, individual chat people open up and you get feedback that you'd never receive via Slack or Nozbe... and you understand your people better. You get a better feel for people on your team and for the team as a whole.

OK, now that we know that this is super important, let's dive into some practical aspects. How do I do these meetings?

In person - at Nozbe Reunion

We all work from home but we meet twice a year at "Nozbe Reunions" when we spend a week working and playing together in a hotel somewhere. On Monday, I usually confirm the schedule of my chats with everyone and I spend each morning (Tuesday to Friday) from breakfast til lunch chatting with people one by one.

We either go to a cafe together or find another quiet place to chat... or play pool (which is my favorite activity... and as I'm a very average pool player, people tend to beat me :-))

Each meeting is usually around 45 minutes and I take five-minute breaks in between. It's a real marathon to do it every day like this but I love it and I do it for my team, so it's totally worth it :-)

Via Skype, when we can't be together

As we have our reunions only twice a year, the other two times I do individual chats I run them over a video call on Skype or FaceTime. I schedule them over a few days, always after noon. This way I can get some of my other tasks done before the calls. We just had our reunion this March, so I'll probably chat with my team around June or July.

Before the meetings - get feedback, be prepared

Something we really practice at Nozbe now is being prepared for a meeting. When we're not prepared, we cancel our meetings. We just don't want to waste people's time. That's why I want to be prepared for each and every individual chat. Here's what I do to get prepared:

  • I create a project for "individual chats" in Nozbe. I add each person as a task. I create a new comment in the form of a checklist for each person. The checklist consists of the topics I want to discuss with them, ideas, and feedback I got from other team members about them.
  • Yes, before I make this checklist I actually ask for feedback. Especially if the person I'm going to talk to is not one of my direct reports. Recently, I asked my two managers, Iwona and Chris, to give me feedback on their team so that I knew more about each person's individual situation.
  • When chatting with each person, I have my iPhone in my hand with their task open and the checklist available. I want the conversation to feel as casual as possible, so I don't have my iPhone in front of me all the time, but I look at it from time to time to review my checklist and make sure we touched on all the issues and I haven't forgotten anything.

After the meetings - review

The following week, after I'm done with all the individual chats, I go through all the "tasks" and check my notes to see what we talked about. I then write a short summary in a note in Evernote.

... and action!

Apart from connecting on a more personal level with each individual on my team and getting to know them better, there are always some actionable items at the end of my "chatting marathon." We often come up with great improvement ideas. Sometimes we’ve even decided to re-organize the company after all this as we saw some people willing to step into additional roles or take on some new projects inside the company. That's why we make sure to act on these ideas right away because we don't want to lose momentum.

... and rest...

Don't tell anyone on my team, but after such a marathon of chatting with everyone, even a social creature like me gets tired. Especially because I really want to give everyone my best and my 100% undivided attention. I do this for them.

That's why after all these individual sessions I get very tired and I try to have some slower days the following week.

At around 20 people I'm still able to have these chats every quarter. I wonder if it'll scale with 30, 40 and 50 people. I'm not sure, but we'll see. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.

And how often do you chat with your team?

Ask yourself this question. Or if you're an employee, make sure to schedule a chat with your boss every now and then. It's totally worth it!

These individual chats help us stay aligned with our goals and make our journey of building the best productivity tool on the Internet so much more enjoyable.

Wednesday, April 27

▷ The Podcast #44 - Productivity Fudges

New episode of your favorite weekly podcast about "technology, productivity tips, business, publishing, and whatever else comes to mind..." is out! This time we share stories from our last week and weekend that we spent together in Warsaw attending different conferences:

The latest episode of The Podcast

I talk about my "productivity talk" in front of 1000+ people, our first ever Nozbe booth and experience of getting to know Nozbe users in real life. Face to face. So cool!

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And please let me know what you think about my new podcast with Radek - post your comments over here or on our podcast site. Thank you!

P.S. And if you really like what we're doing, don't forget to rate us on iTunes, we'd really appreciate it! :-)

Wednesday, April 20

▷ The Podcast #43 - Not that smart

New episode of your favorite weekly podcast about "technology, productivity tips, business, publishing, and whatever else comes to mind..." is out! This time we discuss our relationships with books and audiobooks especially:

The latest episode of The Podcast

Thanks to audiobooks I'm reading a lot of books a year now but I wasn't like that all the time. We also talk about how books changed our lives and give you tips on getting started.

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And please let me know what you think about my new podcast with Radek - post your comments over here or on our podcast site. Thank you!

P.S. And if you really like what we're doing, don't forget to rate us on iTunes, we'd really appreciate it! :-)

Monday, April 18

✔ What my new iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard taught me about productivity

As you know, I’m a huge iOS fan. I love iPads. Worse. I’m the “mad guy,” who went completely iPad-only and uses it as his main computer – for work and fun. And when I’m not using my iPad, I use my iPhone Plus. That’s why, when six months ago Apple showed the even bigger iPad Pro, I decided to buy it straight away. But getting used to working on it was a little more complicated. For several reasons…

iPad PRO productivity lesson

Note: The following article appeared first in the 4/2016 issue of iMagazine - the leading lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts in Poland. I'm a regular contributor and write my monthly productivity column there.

First of all, I didn’t quite like the size of the iPad Pro. A little too big and not that convenient as the Air 2 - I thought… And it didn’t fit in most of my bags. In short, it wasn’t love at first sight...

Wednesday, April 13

▷ The Podcast #42 - Bottom Line

New episode of your favorite weekly podcast about "technology, productivity tips, business, publishing, and whatever else comes to mind..." is out! This time we talk about "throwing money at problems" or better yet, when to do things on our own and when to hire someone or something to do the job for you:

The latest episode of The Podcast

I'm also recording from Rome where I'm on a honeymoon with my wife. And I have a few tips on "getting vacations done".

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And please let me know what you think about my new podcast with Radek - post your comments over here or on our podcast site. Thank you!

P.S. And if you really like what we're doing, don't forget to rate us on iTunes, we'd really appreciate it! :-)

Tuesday, April 12

☆ If you want everyone on the same page - you're doing it wrong!

I am a person who runs an "all remote" company and you might already know my opinion on so-called "open offices." Exactly! I hate them. I think they're great for socializing but really bad if you want your team members to perform at their best. However, many smart people defend these setups with the premise of "better collaboration" and "openness" and my favorite one: "keeping people on the same page." Well, let me explain why this kind of attitude is anything but helpful for keeping your people productive, focused and doing their best work. People shouldn't be "on the same page" with their entire team all of the time. Here's why:

Same page

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

Your developer doesn't need to know your up-to-date "lifetime customer value"...

...unless they are working on a piece of code that is exactly correlated with that metric. You see, your developer should know the "overall direction of the company" and the specifics that relate to his or her work. Nothing more. Everything else is just noise and unnecessary distraction to them. Any additional information won't help them write their best pieces of code... and when you're trying to keep them up to date in an open office, you're not even letting them get into "flow" - the state in which the real magic happens.

Ask yourself - why did you hire this amazing programmer if you're doing everything to keep them from entering the flow state. With the distractions of an open office or up-to-date info you're effectively disturbing them and not letting them do their magic! Trust me, you hired them for their magic!

Let people have access to info. Keep them updated. Some - weekly, everyone - monthly.

Yes, in my team people are not on the same page all the time. Eventually they are. From time to time. In regular intervals. But not every minute. Not even every hour. Not even every day. A big part of my team is updated every week. And everyone else gets on the same page at least once a month. And that's how I think it should be done. Here's how I do it:

Friday, April 8

▷ The Podcast #41 - Never Grow Up

New episode of your favorite weekly podcast about "technology, productivity tips, business, publishing, and whatever else comes to mind..." is out! This time we talk about business of task and project management, our competitors and why we're very bullish on our future in this space (it's got to do with passion and productivity, you know?):

The latest episode of The Podcast

We discuss Asana's last round of funding and what it means to them, to us and to everyone choosing a tool that helps them and their team get stuff done.

Jump to listen to the episode »

or

Subscribe through iTunes

And please let me know what you think about my new podcast with Radek - post your comments over here or on our podcast site. Thank you!

P.S. And if you really like what we're doing, don't forget to rate us on iTunes, we'd really appreciate it! :-)

Thursday, April 7

☆ How "No Office" makes us… better?

When I talk to people about the way we work at [Nozbe,][] that we have a team of 30+ people (core team and collaborators) working from homes, I get mixed reactions.

Very often, people think we will "grow up at some point" and get a "real office." This is quite funny, taking into account that we’ve been working like this for the past nine years.

Others think I’m just stingy or that the business is not doing so well if we cannot afford "a real office," which is also not true, because our business is very healthy. Selling subscription-based software, we enjoy really nice profit margins which we can then re-invest into the team, sales and marketing.

Better

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. I'd appreciate if you followed me there and recommended my posts, thanks!

What the people I talk to about the remote work don’t know and what I tell them is this:

Not having an office made me a better CEO in five different ways.

Wednesday, March 30

▷ The Podcast #40 - Overcollaboration is dangerous

New episode of your favorite weekly podcast about "technology, productivity tips, business, publishing, and whatever else comes to mind..." is out! This time we talk about why having people "on the same page" all of the time is dangerous:

The latest episode of The Podcast

Again, talking about our way of working and keeping people in the loop when we see fit, or better yet, when we think this benefits their work. Why we prefer to leave people alone working on their stuff in a focused way. Plus some follow up after our reunion. And my iPad Pro story.

Jump to listen to the episode »

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Subscribe through iTunes

And please let me know what you think about my new podcast with Radek - post your comments over here or on our podcast site. Thank you!

P.S. And if you really like what we're doing, don't forget to rate us on iTunes, we'd really appreciate it! :-)

Friday, March 25

► How to write. Fast. Interview with Sean Platt for the Productive! Magazine 32

A great interview with Sean Platt - speaker, published author, and founder of the Sterling & Stone Story Studio, and most importantly - DAD.

He talks to Michael Sliwinski about the way he learned to write really fast as well as about getting into a flow and looking for excuses. Sean also offers some advice for aspiring authors and tells how his usual writing day looks like.

More details in http://ProductiveMag.com/32

Question: What do you think about the fast-writing method described by Sean? Do you agree?

Please post your comments below, thanks!

Check it out:

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Wednesday, March 23

▷ The Podcast #39 - Make Nozbe Great Again

New episode of your favorite weekly podcast about "technology, productivity tips, business, publishing, and whatever else comes to mind..." is out! This time is special as we're recording live from our Nozbe Reunion as we analyze how our entire week with our Nozbe team went and what we've learned from each other:

The latest episode of The Podcast

We talk about feedback loops, things we do to improve ourselves, our company and our peers. My individual chats with everyone and how coming prepared is key to any kind of meetings.

And I have a new mic :-)

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And please let me know what you think about my new podcast with Radek - post your comments over here or on our podcast site. Thank you!

P.S. And if you really like what we're doing, don't forget to rate us on iTunes, we'd really appreciate it! :-)

Wednesday, March 23

✔ Get focused in 5 simple steps - intro to Productive! Magazine No.32 with Sean Platt

The new issue of Productive! Magazine has just been published. I hope you find an article that will prove really timely for you and that will help you stay in control of your time. Right – time. Because time is your most precious resource. It’s one of those few things you simply can't get back no matter what you do. We both know that the real key here is not the amount of hours you stay at work, but how you actually use this time. Efficiency, [process optimization][opt] and persistence are very important. And so is the focus!

prodmag32

This is the Editor's Note that I wrote for 32nd issue of Productive! Magazine. See how you can regain your focus within 5 simple steps.

Wednesday, March 16

▷ The Podcast #38 - Rules of the Game

New episode of your favorite weekly podcast about "technology, productivity tips, business, publishing, and whatever else comes to mind..." is out! This time we focus on reviewing our New Years Resolutions for this year so far. We also focus on what we learned in the process:

The latest episode of The Podcast

Getting New Years Resolutions done is not that easy. But regular routines and weekly reviews help with that. Find out why:

Jump to listen to the episode »

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And please let me know what you think about my new podcast with Radek - post your comments over here or on our podcast site. Thank you!

P.S. And if you really like what we're doing, don't forget to rate us on iTunes, we'd really appreciate it! :-)

Wednesday, March 9

▷ The Podcast #37 - Batch That Frog

New episode of your favorite weekly podcast about "technology, productivity tips, business and whatever else comes to mind..." is out! This time we talk about batching tasks to achieve maximum productivity:

The latest episode of The Podcast

And frogs. Just like in Brian Tracy's book "eat that frog" about doing your most important tasks early in the morning. And Radek achieved his weight goal!

Jump to listen to the episode »

or

Subscribe through iTunes

And please let me know what you think about my new podcast with Radek - post your comments over here or on our podcast site. Thank you!

P.S. And if you really like what we're doing, don't forget to rate us on iTunes, we'd really appreciate it! :-)

Tuesday, March 8

★ My Home Office 2016: whiteboard, stand-up desk, chill-out sofa and less stuff

Every year I'm changing something at Nozbe headquarters, aka my home office and tonight after work I decided to change a few things as well. Here's how my 2016 home office looks like with highlights:

home office 2016

Whiteboard front and center

I've already sang praises to it, but really, whiteboard is my favorite tool for planning and brainstorming. Lately I've been doing a lot of that so I've moved it a little more to the center of my wall to make sure I can take advantage of every inch of it.

Stand up desk still rocks

I've been standing a lot recently while working and I enjoy it more than sitting actually. And when I do want to sit I just lower the desk and use the pilates ball as my chair or...

Chill out sofa is there!

Haven't had that in a few years in my home office so I decided to bring it back. Makes the space more "cozy" and will be useful for reading or sketching on my iPad.

Less stuff and clutter...

As always when I modify my home office I always end up questioning lots of things there and getting rid of clutter that always piles up. My environment here is now cleaner and nicer!

That's just my home office...

In my company everyone works from home and if you're curious how other people on my team work, feel free to check out our home offices as well as our Nozbe customers offices. Hope these set ups will inspire you to improve your workspace just like they help me improve mine every year.

Question: How does your productive workspace look like?

Sent from my iPhone 6 Plus