Tag Archives: productivity

The 4 Day Work Week?

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

I’m going to put my geek job guru hat on for this column and discuss the idea of the four-day workweek. I’m sure we’ve all heard about Iceland’s experiments in such an arrangement. I want to go into how it’s possible to do so with little interruption – but there’s something else to address first.

Namely, a lot of current working arrangements are awful. People are underpaid, abused, work in bad conditions, etc. We must fix these things, and we must have a robust social safety net. Also, a four-day workweek would be good for mental health, period.

With that out of the way, let me explain why I think a four-day workweek is possible for many jobs. I believe that people can be just as productive, with some exceptions. I also don’t care about the exceptions because I think a four-day workweek is a good idea.

But, anyway, a four-day workweek is possible because many businesses and organizations burn a lot of time on useless stuff. Imagine if organizations worked to do things better and that saved time meant less time on the job?

FIXING MISTAKES IS A PART OF TOO MANY JOBS: And I’m not talking QA or editing, but fixing mistakes that should be rare. People burn cycles going over poorly filled-out forms, bridging gaps that shouldn’t exist, and so on. Ever know someone whose job boils down to “talk to people who don’t talk to anyone else?”

TOO MANY BUSINESS PROCESSES ARE TERRIBLE: The reason so much goes wrong is many business processes are awful. Endless forms with no guiding documents and poorly implemented reports suck up time. Many people waste time doing things that don’t work very well as no one wants to fix them.

MEETINGS: Somehow, in the last two decades, meetings got even further out of control. I suspect technology has made it even easier to schedule time-wasters – meetings with no point or where only a few people are needed. What if we, you know, had less?

USELESS TOOLS:  I remember being excited about business tools – programs, spreadsheets, etc. However, they may not solve problems and can even create more if they’re not the right ones. How many times did you give up on something and use Excel (the duct tape of tools).

NO IMPROVEMENT: Agile has taught me how to focus on improvement. However, a lot of businesses don’t seem to want to improve by, you know, improving. THere’s not much bottom-up feedback (like Agile) but plenty of consultants ready to take your money. In the end, it seems not enough changes anyway.

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY: I have heard this since . . . forever. It’s hard to know what’s going on in any large organization. This may not be nefarious – sometimes miscommunication happens. But when you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t plan.

BURNOUT:  All of the above leads to more people burning out. Burnout leads to failure, resignation, inefficiency, etc. If you had fewer of these problems, you’d have less burnout. Burnout makes bad things worse.

I firmly believe if organizations committed to a four-day workweek, many could make it happen by making things run better.

For fun, spend a week or two and ask yourself what tasks could be more efficient – or removed altogether. The answer . . . well, it won’t surprise you.

Steven Savage

The Ability To Know The End

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

While editing “A School of Many Futures” last night, I realized I could see the end in sight. For a minute, the world froze as I knew the book would be done. It’s strange to have the bolt of inspiration not be “the start” but “oh, good, this’ll be done.”

Sometimes it seemed I wouldn’t complete it – and the Pandemic didn’t help. I had written the book, rewritten it, had it edited, rewrote it during editing, edited it, and took prereader input. It seemed like it’d be forever, even as time ticked down on my well-constructed timeline.

This lightning bolt of understanding led me to another realization – the ability to know something is done is a skill.

I work in the software industry, where many people advocate for a “Definition of Done” for parts of projects. The idea is that you should know what means a program, update, etc. is ready to go. After all, if you don’t know what “done” is, when do you stop?

(I’m sure that sounds familiar to many writers and artists.)

I know people who are just good at done. They can assess end states, itemize needs, and figure out where you need to go. I’m sure you have something you’re good at where you can know done. That skill might not exist in every part of your life.

In the case of my novel, between the Pandemic and challenging myself, I hadn’t asked what “Done” was. In fact, I hadn’t done it for my first novel as well. Clearly, this was a skill I could develop.

I don’t have this problem with my nonfiction work. Perhaps I find such ease because it’s very technical, or that fiction has much more potential. Perhaps my return to fiction is showing gaps in my knowledge. Either way, I’ve found a skill to build.

Perhaps I can start by creating Definitions of Done for my work.

How good are you at figuring out “done?”

Steven Savage

Fly My Chaos Monkeys, Fly!

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

I recently attended a talk by Si Alhir on Agility and Antifragility. I’ve discussed Agile many times, but Antifragility is a concept I deal with less. Antifragility is about being more resilient and adaptive, and can be a trait of a person, group, or organization. Si’s presentation was very relevant to our current lives and led me to some thoughts.

In Si’s concept, a way to become Antifragile is seeking and creating deliberate challenge. By being challenged, a person or institution becomes more resilient. Both you and I have had experiences of pushing ourselves, but within a framework of safety.

Most people I know who are resilient and creative challenge themselves. Being able to push oneself to grow – but not be harmed or overburdened – is a skill. It is also an ill-defined and ill-taught skill to judge by the overstressed people I’ve known.

But there is a helpful metaphor to challenge us (sorry) to see this Antifragility differently.

This idea of “Antifragility via challenge” made me think of the Chaos Monkey of Netflix fame. This software would randomly create problems on their network, allowing them to find flaws and build workarounds. The company had forged a challenge to their complex systems to keep them on their streaming toes.

Giving something a name is effective, so now I can ask the question, “what Chaos Monkeys do I need?” I can also ask you, my reader, the same thing – what challenges would help you?

I invite you to ask if you need a Chaos Monkey or two in your life. Your Disorder Primate may be pushing yourself to write at a different time. Your Mayhem Chimpanzee may be deciding to focus intensely on one subject more than you do. You may find you’ve already unleashed plenty of Havoc Baboons instinctively.

I also invite you to ask if you need any more Bedlam Simians right now. We have a Pandemic that is more of a Chaos Kong than anything else. It may be time to tell your personal Chaos Monkeys to go settle down for a while as they’re not required. The disaster of the moment is keeping us all very busy, thanks.

Every Chaos Monkey has its time.

Steven Savage