Merlin Mann - Time & Attention

A couple weeks ago I drove up to UW-Madison to see Merlin Mann talk about Time & Attention. He was an amazing, really passionate speaker and you could tell that what he was talking about (the way you spend your time and attention) was important to him and that the conclusions he drew from his life were hard won. You can find a video of his talk (not the one I saw, but the same topic) below.

Knowledge Workers

  • Money is the reason people say they leave the job, but culture is what made it an issue.
  • We don't understand what each other does, that's what makes knowledge work hard.
  • Knowledge work is people not understanding what you do, why you're good at it, or how much work you have to do right now.
  • If the "good job" exists, it's for us to create. We can't count on other people to provide it.
  • Knowledge workers define what the task is. If you're doing something a robot/monkey/shell script can do, stop doing it.

On Email and Meetings

  • Email isn't good or bad - it's questionable, you have to spend time to figure out if it's useful. That's why it's frustrating.
  • Email is too many demands and responsibilities that you probably didn't even agree to. No one cares about your calendar, your email system, or what you have to do to find the time to do the things they're asking.
  • Prioritizing your email is like alphabetizing your recycling bin.
  • Email is like rain - you can't control it, you can only deal with the effects of it. Meetings, comparatively, kill people.
  • Have you noticed that your meetings start happening more often, meetings with have no agendas, and every meeting starts late AND ends late.
  • No laptops or cellphones in meetings. If you have to be checking them constantly, you're too busy for meetings.
  • "For someone on the maker's schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn't merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work." - Paul Graham

Prioritizing and work/life balance

  • Working harder isn't the solution to too much work - that isnt sustainable.
  • People who are effective solve the right problem at the right level with the right solution.
  • We judge how important something is based on how much *we* want it. Take ownership of your own stuff! Don't send emails to other people asking them to do your work.

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