Monday, December 4, 2017

📢 Nozbe Reunion - why, where and how to organize a company retreat?

All-company meetings in a "No Office" team - a step-by-step guide to a successful meet-up

In my „No Office” company we don’t see each other all that much in person. Yes, we have video meetings, but apart from that, everyone works from the comfort of their home office. That’s why a few years ago we started these annual, and later semi-annual all-company meetings, called “reunions”. We wanted to spend some quality time with each other in person, recharge batteries, get to know the people hidden behind their avatars... and basically connect on a different level. Now, that we did a few of these, and we’ve just had our fall “Nozbe Reunion Wrocław”, I’d like to share a few tips and tricks on how to prepare and run a successful “company reunion/retreat”. Why do we organize it? What do we do? How do we make it a success? Here’s our recipe with all the details:

Nozbe Reunion - why, where and how to organize a company retreat?

I originally posted this on Medium where I write about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. You should follow me there (and recommend my posts :-), thanks!

Why a “Nozbe Reunion”?

Just as I explained above - we don’t have a central office and we’re 25 people in the Nozbe core team. The “why” is pretty obvious - we need to connect on a personal level every now and then... and when you’re working “alone” from home so many months, you are really looking forward to meeting your co-workers!

How often do we organize this?

Twice a year - we always have a spring and a fall reunion. First, we held our meet-ups on an annual basis but later decided it wasn’t enough. Now, that we switched to a semi-annual model, we believe it’s just the right balance of time in the home office vs time with your team.

The choice of spring and fall is deliberate. In summer people want to take vacation time with their families and in winter it’s cold... and usually the fall and spring is a slow time for tourism, so hotels are empty and quiet and can offer us not only great rates but also comfortable stay... and with 25 people coming we’re the major group in the hotel and we feel like the place is “just for us”.

How long does a “Nozbe Reunion” last?

We typically arrive on Monday for a late lunch and leave on Saturday after breakfast. This way we dedicate the entire workweek for a reunion and leave the weekend to relax after an intensive week with the whole team. I’ll dive deeper into our schedule for the reunion a little bit later, so read on.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

📢 How setting up a new iPad Pro for work can is an exercise in minimalism and focus

The Minimalists coined a term “Packing Party” - which basically means that you pack all of your belongings to boxes like if you were to move to a different house and later you only unpack the things you really need... the same thing is happening to me and my new iPad Pro and iOS11 on it.

Minimal iPad for work - how setting up an iPad Pro can be an exercise in minimalism and focus

I originally posted this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. You should follow me there (and recommend my posts :-), thanks!

Setting up a new device from scratch vs getting it from a backup...

Whenever I set up a new device - iPhone, iPad or a Mac - to maximize my productivity and reduce the pain of not having everything set up correctly, I do two things:

  1. I backup the old device and shut it down.
  2. I boot up the new device and restore it from the old backup.

That’s it. Two steps. Done. Easy, right?

The result is that after a short while my new device has the same apps, settings and data as my old one had. I can almost instantly continue working the same way I used to. Almost no productivity downtime. Which is great.

Except when it isn’t.

You see, this two step process is a quick win, but comes with major drawback:

It restores everything from my old device, including the crap that I kept there and wasn’t ever going to use anymore... basically, it comes with my apps, settings, data... and crap. It also comes with my old habits.

Let’s do it the hard way - and set everything from scratch!

Here’s how (and why) I did it:

Friday, June 16, 2017

📢 Why I started doing webinars and why I'm loving them?

This post is about how I started doing productivity and NoOffice webinars and how this platform is changing the way I'm both teaching and learning new things! And I'd like to invite you to join my next webinar!

Why I started doing webinars and why I'm loving them?

I originally posted a version of this on Medium where I post about remote working as a part of NoOffice publication. You should follow me there (and recommend my posts :-), thanks!

Why do I love doing webinars so much?

Apart from running Nozbe what I also like doing is learning productivity - from you, from Nozbe users, from my Twitter followers... from everybody!

And as they say, the best way to learn something is to teach it... so I started doing webinars! Here's what my experience has been so far:

Friday, October 7, 2016

☆ My Company’s Pyramid Of Communication Revisited

How the Nozbe team uses modern technologies to communicate better and get more done.

Nozbe Pyramid of Communication

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!

Let's get back to how we use modern technologies to communicate better and get more done in an all-remote team

A few months ago I posted about my company’s pyramid of communication, which we also discussed on the 18th episode of The Podcast. We recently revisited the concept on the 65th episode of The Podcast “Request for Comments” and thanks to this I wrote a whole book on the subject with the concept revisited, please let me know what you think:

Friday, August 26, 2016

☆ TGIF - My team's attempt at working less, but better

Last week I decided to try a new policy at Nozbe. Something that might not seem logical from my perspective as a CEO. After all, I should want my team to work more. As much as possible, right? Well, I proposed something totally different. Let's work less, let's have fewer meetings and let's make more time for self development and weekly review. We called this new policy “Piąteczek” (in Polish), which you could translate to: TGIF as in “Thank God It's Friday”. Here's what it's all about:

Yoda helping us work less but better

Note: 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!

Note 2: If you prefer a different “audio” version of this article, we discussed this new TGIF policy with my co-host Radek at the #60 eposide of The Podcast.

Introducing an experimental policy that will give us a more productive, yet shorter workweek with more time for a weekly review and for learning new things… or not.

We're already quite an unorthodox company. We all work remotely from our homes and we don't have a single physical office. We've been working like this for almost a decade and hundreds of thousands of users of our Nozbe app don't seem to mind that at all.

But we're not unorthodox just for the sake of it. We are like that because it works. Because we enjoy a better lifestyle thanks to our “No Office” arrangement.

After all, we're a productivity company. When we experiment, we do it for a reason. To work better. To be better. To grow better. And this new policy is supposed to help us exactly at that.

And it all started with 3 questions that I couldn't get off of my mind:

Monday, June 20, 2016

☆ How banning email improves team productivity

There's a new book "Under New Management" by David Burkus coming soon that includes some unconventional management practices, and one of them is apparently "banning email.” Something I did in my company three years ago. Something I didn't think was new but now I see it really is. Whenever I talk about "No Office,” people ask me about my email policy and they're surprised that we banned email in our company. They give me this "Can you do that?" face. Of course you can. You actually should if you want to have a productive environment for your team. Only allow email to the "outside world" and ban email within your team. This is how it's done:

Ban emails in your company

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!

If you manage your projects through email you are doing it wrong!

Email is bad for you and your team because we get too many messages every day and the important internal emails get mixed up with other correspondence with people from the outside world.

To solve this problem we designed a new way to communicate: we use email for the outside world and something else for "internal communication.” We use two apps for that: Slack and Nozbe. This is how we communicate:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

☆ 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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

☆ 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:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

☆ 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.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

☆ I don’t have an office. Why should I anyway?

Running a business has become synonymous with owning an office. While planning to start a company, almost every entrepreneur’s main concern is where to set up the office. The question is: will our clients visit us there? Most likely not but we mainly need the office for ourselves. To have a sense that our new company is “serious”. But in reality, it’s not the office that gets the work done, it’s you!

I don’t have an office.

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!

I’m not even working on a “serious” computer…

A few years ago, when I switched to the iPad as my main computer, many people thought I was crazy. They kept saying that for “real work” you needed a “real” computer. That the iPad is just a touch-screen toy and you can’t use it for work. That it’s not serious.

This reminds me of an old definition of the word “revolution”:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

☆ How a company without an office makes a great team… better?

Exactly 9 years ago today, I launched my productivity startup: Nozbe. I wrote this web application to help me get things done and decided to show it to the world. Back then, I was a one-man-shop. I did all the coding in Javascript+PHP+MySQL, I wrote the website copy, I designed most of the graphics… and I was the one responding to emails in case someone actually tried it and had a question. When I launched premium plans, I was the one to write the payment system and automate accepting money. And for the rest of 2007, I was doing all of that. Part time!

NoOffice Team

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!

From a part-time one-man-shop to a team of 30+ people...

That’s right, for the first year Nozbe wasn’t my full-time project! I still had my day job as an “Internet Marketing Consultant” for my past customers. I’d start working on Nozbe after my “day work” — between 4 pm and 9 pm. I decided to go full time with Nozbe a year after the launch — in Spring of 2008, and then I hired my first developer. Today he’s still with me and he’s the CTO. A year later, I hired a support person, then another one… and as Nozbe grew, I kept hiring.

Today we’re 20+ core team and 10+ contractors working on Nozbe. And we have an amazing team, here’s why:

Monday, January 11, 2016

☆ There is no office…

I’m a big fan of the movie Matrix. It has quite a few memorable scenes. One of the best is when a boy is “bending” the spoon. In this article I’d like to explain how this scene has everything to do with how we get things done every single day:

There is no spoon

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!

Try to realize the truth: there is no spoon.

In this scene the boy is telling Neo, the main character, that bending a spoon is impossible… but as they are in the Matrix, the truth is that there is no spoon, and the only thing they can bend is themselves… not the spoon.

There is no office… there is only work that needs to get done!

It’s so funny to me that the modern pre-requisite of getting job done is the office. It’s like there is an equation between the two: work = office!

Maybe, but if you think about, why would you need an office? Here are a few reasons:

Monday, December 14, 2015

☆ Open spaces: the Industrial Age of the 21st Century?

If Facebook, the $300B company is building the “biggest open space in the world”, they have to be doing something right? Right? Wrong… Why? Because productivity.

In January of 2010 I was traveling to Silicon Valley. It was my second trip to this “Mecca” of startups. I was just about to celebrate my third year running my own small productivity company, Nozbe, and my friends from Codility invited me to join them on a trip to the Valley and visit some of the best companies in the world. It was so great. To me personally, visiting different offices was so much fun. Just seeing how the best of the best organize their work and get stuff done was eye-opening. But my eyes really popped out when I finally visited the offices of Facebook. I saw this:

Open Office

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!

Facebook is “fostering collaboration”, right?

Industrial Age of the 21st century…

I was in the office of the most successful company in the Silicon Valley. That same company that was growing like crazy and “aqui-hiring” the best and most talented small software companies in the world. They were famous for hiring or getting the best engineers around…

And then they put them in that office. Seriously.

It was a huge “open space” where everyone would sit next to each other like workers in the factories of the Industrial Age in the 19th century. Yes, they’d give them the best tools of the 21st century, like iMacs, screens, chairs… but then they’d just cram them next to each other.

And they’d expect them to do their best work.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

☆ Remote worker's luxury: changing offices for different tasks and better productivity

At Nozbe we all work from our homes. We're really a "No Office" company. And as the CEO I usually work from my home office. I really love my home office. It's the best place for me to work. But not this November. We have a renovation going on at the house and we had to move to a rented apartment for a month. And because of the works at the house, my home office has no electricity at the moment, so I can't work there. So I took a month off... right? Nope. No I did not. I couldn't. November is usually our busiest time at Nozbe so I had to work even more than usual... and I had to make it happen in these unusual circumstances. What I noticed over the last month was that I was working at different places depending on my tasks. I was living a remote worker's dream: "if there is a specific task, there is an office for that". Here's how it went down:

My different offices

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!

Let's start with the Internet connection...

At my home people are working so most of the house has no electricity. That's why I moved my router to the garage (level -1) and thanks to that I had my high-speed broadband connection right there in the garage and in the kitchen above it.

In the apartment we rented there is WiFi... but it's very slow and unstable. So it does work most of the time, but you cannot rely on it. And let me repeat that: it's painfully slow...

Most of my devices have 4G/LTE sim cards: iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Pro, iPad Air2, so in theory they are connected all of the time. I sometimes use my wife's Macbook Pro which solely relies on the WiFi unfortunately.

Now that we've defined how I'm connecting to the Internet, let's get down to my tasks and my different offices, here goes:

Friday, November 6, 2015

☆ The Pyramid of Communication in a Remotely Working team

In the 18th episode of The Podcast with Radek we talked about how we use different tools for different types of communication. The credit for this idea goes to Radek (just listen to the episode and him explaining the thing) but the credit to the way we’ve developed it goes to the entire Nozbe team. And I strongly believe companies NOT working remotely should also pay attention to this because this is how you get meetings done efficiently. And when you’re located in the same place, you might be abusing one form of communication and under-using another one. OK, I’m getting confusing now. Anyway, this advice below is good for both, remotely and non-remotely working teams. Here goes:

pyramid of communication

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!

The Foundation — Level 1: Asynchronous communication with Nozbe and Github

The tools we use most are Nozbe (to manage our projects and tasks) and Github (to manage code — we’re after all a software company). Communicating through these tools is slow, but more deliberate and most efficient. When you share a project with someone, you can create a task for them, add a comment… and you expect the other person to deal with it when they see fit. You know this task is now on their Priority list and when they review the list, they’ll see the task and get on with it. The same goes to Github. You work on code, you commit it, you review other commits. You add comments. At your own pace.

Communication here is asynchronous because what you do in Nozbe and Github requires blocks of focused time. And responses from other people require also focused time. So these tools are not designed to bother others (although we do have push notifications there if we want), these tools are designed to get stuff done effectively with full focus on tasks and code at hand. With these tools we move projects (and code) forward together, while each of us moves at their own pace.

Again, the key word here is “focused time”. This is what we, knowledge workers need the most to get things done. And I’d argue that we, who work remotely, have more of it than the rest. But I digress, let’s move on to the second phase: