Productivity: When Does Your Week Start?

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I want to ask a seemingly obvious question – when does your week start? I mean for a lot of my readers the answer is “Sunday” since it’s the first day of the week we all sort of use. But that may not be the real answer – for many of us the week ends on Sunday and starts on Monday if we’re part of a normal US work week. For many of us even that doesn’t apply.

So when does your week really start and end? Why ask this? Because it’s a key to getting things done, and it’s best illustrated with two stories.

  • I use Scrum-style personal time management. Part of that is having Sprints, similarly-sized periods of work you plan and have reguarly. I used to use a month-long Sprint, moved to two weeks, then moved to a week as my life had gotten more variable. Originally my “sprint weeks” started on Sunday and ended on Saturday – which ruined my weekend. Now my “real” week is Monday to Sunday.
  • I’ve worked with development teams who use Scrum, and their Sprints are two weeks long. Despite having the usual workweek, their Sprints start on a Wednesday and end on a Tuesday. Why? Because Wednesday worked better, since no one wants to do elaborate planning Monday or Friday, and Tuesday and Thursday were basically Monday and Friday Junior. Wednesday was perfect (and worked really well).

So look at the way you plan your work for the week. What day is really the best day to end your week and make sure things are done? What day is really the best day to start your week and make sure you know what to accomplish. Your answer isn’t necessary going to be mine or anyone else you know’s – it’ll be yours.

The best day to end your week is one where you can catch up, round up, and plan for the next week. That could be a quiet Friday each week, or a raucous Monday when you figure out where you are after the previous week.

The best day to start your week is one where you can dive in and get going, knowing where you are and what is ahead of you. Maybe that’s a Wednesday, a hump-day where everything is clear and you can get energized. Maybe it’s a Saturday, and your “real” week starts with the weekend to relax.

But there’s more. Consider the other ways you can apply this “best time”:

Daily. What times of day do you work best? Are you a morning person? Evening person?

Monthly. What’s the best day of a week or a month to look at long-term plans?

Yearly. What month in a year is good to assess your big picture goals? Or to take a break from your elaborate plans.

Either way, start by looking at your week, your own personal week, and asking when it really ends and begins – in a way that’s best for you. With that knowledge, you can rethink your whole plans – and like me, you might be surprised.

Steven Savage

Writer’s Lean Coffee

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

At one of my writer’s groups I tried something out you may want to try – a Lean Coffee. Here’s a quick rundown and what happens. You can read up on it above, but I’ll sum up my experiences here.

At its heart, Lean Coffees are self-organizing ways for teams of people to pool knowledge, get advice, and discuss important subjects. It comes from lean business practices, but you can re-purpose it for just about anything.

First, how you run a Lean Coffee (for writers, but you can do it for all sorts of things)

  1. Get a group of people interested in the same subject.
  2. Give them notecards or some other equivalent (or even an online spreadsheet). Have them write down 1-3 things they want to discuss.
  3. Once the questions to discuss are done, everyone gets three votes and votes on what they want to discuss. In my experience, people don’t vote for just their questions, because people bring up topics they hadn’t thought of.
  4. Rank the subjects in order of votes and pick the top one. If there’s more than one top subject by votes, pick one randomly.
  5. Discuss the subject as a group for five minutes. At the end, vote if people want to go on another five minutes. I usually go by majority vote unless it’s close.
  6. Take the next subject by vote count and continue.

Encourage people to take notes or have a designated note-taker if the group is part of a larger team.

I’ve run this a number of times for Agile groups, and it’s always been successful – though sometimes you have to do it two or three times in a row for a team to gel. So how did it go for a random group of writers?

Really good.

First, we had a number of good subjects of discussion. I think that’s because the group had a history of good discussions, often focused on specific subjects-of-the-month. We were primed for this.

Secondly, because we had a diverse group of people, the discussions covered a lot of ground. Different viewpoints created more valuable results – and more valuable questions.

Third, it really got people talking. The Lean Coffee encourages people to talk, and the “bite-sized” discussions made it easy to prompt people who might go silent, and if someone had nothing to say one subject they may the next.

Fourth, the Lean Coffee method encourages solid discussions. People bring up things that matter to them, then vote as a team on what’s important to everyone, and discussion follows. Real quickly you focus on high-value issues, while having a bit of surprise to shake you up and keep you from getting into a rut.

Fifth, it created real team bonding. We shared our concerns and our insights, we got to know each other, we figured solutions to shared problems. I felt like we all left as more of a team.

I am going to repeat this with my writers group, probably every few moths, and may try it in other groups. I also wonder if it’ll work at conventions . . .

So give it a try, and let me know what you find!

Steven Savage

Worldbuilding: The Ecstasy, The Agony, The Stupidity

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I love worldbuilding, and yet I meet people who hate doing, even resent it. That’s because we forget what worldbuilding is for – our audience and their experiences.

Let me note upfront my obvious biases about worldbuilding, from stories to games. I love doing it, and have for years. I love looking at other worlds people created. I believe there’s psychological value in it. I also have and am writing a ton of books on the subject.

But other people I’ve met resent it. I’ve found they fit into a few categories.

  1. “I want to get to my story” – People don’t want to figure out the exact value of the Frbillian gold ducat of Slenderhome. They have an epic drama to write and none of their characters give a damn.
  2. “I don’t want to get lost” – You can easily got lost in worldbuilding, something I do joyously. You may be good at it and like it a bit too much if you get my drift.
  3. “I’m doing this for my audience” – You’re worldbuilding for the sake of the audience first, not to deliver something, but based on the assumption they expect “X” amount of worldbuilding or hate Y or something. Worldbuilding is part of a larger product.
  4. “I want to be like this person” – Which 90% of the time seems to mean JRR Tolkein. We’re busy trying to emulate other worldbuilders as opposed to asking what we need to do and want to do.

I’m sure some of these apply to you as a whole or in part. Worldbuilding can get onerous – even for someone like myself who loves it. I’ve experienced all of them.

Now how do we address them? Much to the surprise of absolutely no one, I’d like to discuss Agile Methodology. No, stay, this won’t take long.

Anyway, a big thing about Agile is focusing on value of something. You have an audience. They need something, and you figure it out and how to deliver it. Worldbuilding is the same way.

Your audience wants a story or a game – so Worldbuild enough to get the story or the game done.

You need a certain among of worldbuilding – Use this precision to avoid getting lost. Feel free to enjoy it, since you are also part of the audience, but also know when to stop.

Know your audience – Ask who your target audience is and deliver enough worldbuilding for them. If you find yourself with a huge list of different target audiences then you don’t have one in mind. You’ll get lost.

Worldbuilding is about delivering value, and knowing enough to deliver a game or a story or whatever. Keep yourself focused by asking how it serves your larger goal. Even if your goal is a world guide for an RPG, you have to ask what delivers value.

Let me close out with a suggestion if worldbuilding troubles you: Write down your target audience and sort them into no more than three categories. Next, ask yourself what these audiences want and list the top three things. This will give you a guide to how much to do – and not do – and make you think about your audience.

If you can’t answer those questions easily, then you’ve learned even more . . 

Steven Savage