Tag Archives: productivity


6 Jan

Image: posterize / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This year my simple goal is to put myself in more situations where I can achieve flow. These experiences make life richer and more rewarding.

Flow is an ultimate state of happiness–derived from being immersed in creative pursuits or other situations that put you “in the zone.” You can learn more about this concept named and studied by University of Chicago psychology research Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi by watching this TED Talk or this short interview.

I started to make this list of activities that get me into a state of flow:

  1. Listening to album-oriented music. Musicians who intentionally create albums–not individual songs–explore their art in greater depth than hit-makers. There’s a story in the collection of songs, like reading chapters in a book. I include current artists The Black Keys, Adele, Florence and the Machine, The Joy Formidable, and Arcade Fire among my favorites. Dvorak’s Cello Concerto (in particular the 1969 Berlin recording with Karajan and Rostropovich) is a “best of.” Listening to an album in its entirety is a simple luxury not to be missed.
  2. Writing. I am very lucky to work in a profession where I get paid for being creative. It feels good to get lost in the process of writing. I can do this for hours at a time, which can be very productive and works out quite well in terms of having this as a career. Professionally, I can write about topics that would probably be considered boring for most people, but I enjoy learning about them and translating them for wider appreciation to a broader audience. I also like to write in my off-work hours for personal enjoyment, a combination of blog posts, essays, and poetry.
  3. Yoga. I tried hatha yoga many years ago and was not able to truly enjoy it. It moved too slowly, and the poses felt disconnected. While watching more flexible people touching their toes, I was bored and felt inferior. Once I tried Ashtanga yoga, where the poses are connected and the movement is more aerobic, I began to appreciate it. The level of physical difficulty and endurance is a challenge that I enjoy. V Power Yoga is my favorite place locally to practice yoga in a group setting. I alternate between flow and asking myself “Is she trying to kill me?” when the instructor heads into the nth repetition of a series of poses, but it’s all for a good cause.
  4. Teaming with people I trust. When rolling up sleeves for a project at work, the experience is funner and more fruitful if the group can let go of expectations, personalities, limitations…and creatively solve a problem. I am grateful to work with folks that get into this mindset. Being passionate about creativity and productivity is a good thing.

There are more that I could list for myself. And for everyone the list is different.

Turning off this episode of flow. Must go to work now!

Collaboration: The Productivity Puzzle

28 May

Collaboration. Is it a blessing or a curse? The answer: Both, sometimes.

This Harvard Business Review article is a good reminder of the benefits and difficulties of team collaboration. I have to say I’m a fan of the approach defined here as “disciplined collaboration.” This is collaboration with a purpose, intent and timeline. In short, it’s collaboration framed by productivity.

I’ve been around for long enough to experience both sides of this “double-edged sword.” Here are some considerations to help determine whether your workplace’s collaboration is productive or not:

  • At what point does together time stop getting you closer to perfection and start being a pain in the you-know-what? There’s a point of diminishing returns with collaboration, and it’s different with every team and every project. If the results of the collaboration are highly valuable, a large investment of time is appropriate. If the results are more incremental in nature, it’s best to set more boundaries on the time spent collaborating.
  • Is the adage, “Together, we’re better,” always true? I think there are times when working alone can actually be the best approach, followed by a little virtual collaboration by team members after I’ve created a straw man.
  • My current organization, Battelle for Kids, is big on collaboration, and we’ve created some amazing things as a result. But the our leadership frames the collaborative structure by Quinn and Rohrbach’s competing values framework. As long as the organization can sustain the tension between the four sides of the framework — flexibility/discretion vs. stability/control, and internal vs. external focus —  creativity and productivity can co-exist.

What are your experiences with collaboration? Have you felt both sides of the sword?