If You Don’t Have a Tough Constraint, Make One Up

Internet entrepreneur and co-founder of Twitter and Medium Ev Williams had few constraints to deal with as he works on his latest project. He realized that this freedom came with a price — how could he ensure his team didn’t create something overly complex? How could he ensure they kept shipping, just like a small startup would? Williams writes:

Nothing clarifies focus like a date. (Or: If you don’t have a tough constraint, make one up.)

Historically, I’ve been constrained by engineering resources and money. These are good forcing functions to drive simplicity. It’s caused me no end of angst that I couldn’t make our products as great as I wanted to in the past.

With Medium, we have an engineering team that can build anything, matched with large ambitions, and plenty of capital. How do we ensure we don’t create something overly complex and/or fail to ship at all? By picking a date.

Read his entire post here.

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The Best Resumé Looks Like Leonardo da Vinci’s

By Charlotte Allen

By Charlotte Allen

We all know that your resume is often the very first thing to make an impression with a potential employer. But do you know exactly how impactful a resume can be?

Consider research done in 2000 by two University of Toledo psychology students. The researchers showed that any amount of time spent in an interview served only as a means to confirm whatever impression had already been formed. It takes just 30 seconds to make that first impression, and it’s your resume that undoubtedly sets the expectation.

How can you make sure your resume is creating the best first impression possible? Marc Cenedella recommends using the resume of Leonardo da Vinci as a template:

You’ll notice he doesn’t recite past achievements. He doesn’t mention the painting of the altarpiece for the Chapel of St. Bernard; he doesn’t provide a laundry list of past bombs he’s built; he doesn’t cite his prior employment in artist Andrea di Cione’s studio…Instead, he sells his prospective employer on what Leonardo can do for him.

…That’s exactly what your resume needs to do, too. Not the laundry list / standard bio that talks about you, but the marketing piece that talks about the benefits to your future employer and how you fit into his or her needs and desires.

This approach to resume-writing makes a lot of sense when we stop to think about it.

Writing about yourself and your accomplishments is tempting, but if you want to make the best first impression with your resume you’re better off giving details on how you can leverage your past experience in order to meet the needs of the company and provide value above and beyond those needs. The purpose of any job isn’t to impress, it’s to solve needs. Your resume should demonstrate that you are more than capable of filling those needs.

Creating the ideal resume requires researching first: the position, the company it is for, what problems/responsibilities you’ll be tackling in the role.

Giving explicit examples of how you achieved results in the past for similar needs is a good start (it’s the type of stuff Google looks for in a resume), but providing detailed examples of how you can apply the lessons learned from your past experience is what will help potential employers see exactly how valuable you can be for their business. Whether those examples come from work or your hobbies, as long as you can clearly describe how you can add value to the business, you’re bound to make an positive and impactful impression.

Remember: the best resume isn’t one that is about you, it’s about what you can do for the needs of the job.

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An 18-Minute Daily Plan For Finding Focus

By Jordan Pettitt

By Jordan Pettitt

You could take any of a million approaches to organizing your day. You could convert your to-do list to a Post-it system, ritualize a twice-daily prioritizing check-in, or wake up at 4 AM, work for five or six hours, then exercise and relax.

Shane Parrish of Farnam Street has a simpler idea. He describes a rock-solid 18-minute daily plan for managing your time and finding focus in your day, created by Harvard Business Review writer Peter Bregman. Here’s the gist:

Step 1 (5 Minutes): Your Morning Minutes

Bregman recommends planning ahead, [either] the night before [or in] the morning. Before you turn on your computer, sit down with your to-do list and “decide what will make this day highly successful.” Take the items off your to-do list… and schedule them into your day. “Make sure,” he writes, “that anything that’s been on your list for three days gets a slot somewhere in your calendar or move it off the list.”

Step 2 (1 Minute Every Hour): Refocus

Some interruptions help us course correct. “Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour and start the work that’s listed on your calendar. When you hear the beep… ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour.”

Step 3 (5 Minutes): Your Evening Minutes

“At the end of your day… shut off your computer and review how the day went.” Ask yourself three sets of questions: How did the day go? What did I learn today? Whom did I interact with?

The beauty of Bregman’s 18-minute plan is that it’s crystal-clear in its formulation, leaving no room for idiosyncratic interpretation. You check in and reset purposefully at the start of your day, throughout your day, and before you go to sleep. The routine also, in its hourly refocusing time, controls for inevitable distractions during the day (hello, YouTube) so you can adjust as needed.

Here’s the main question, though: as you’re investing all that effort into calibrating your time, how do you know what exactly to focus on? In an environment more overstimulated than ever before, with hundreds of emails, social media posts, alerts, notifications, and pings vying for your attention every minute, how do you identify where to target your energies? As you’re taking stock of the day ahead, or the day that’s just concluded, it’s all well and good to ask yourself what you think you should prioritize or what went right, but how do you make sure those choices are on track on the macro level?

Bregman, in an interview for Fox Business, sketches out his three-step process to establish your life focus:

Take a personal day to get your head around what is it that you should be spending your time on, and where is your focus and what should your focus be…. Know your focus, then you have to sustain your focus. In order to sustain your focus, it means you have to be strong and deliberate and intentional about what you’re going to say yes to and what you’re going to say no to…. Then the third is to protect it. You’re going to sustain it day in, and day out, and you have to really be conscious and aware of: am I always blocking out time for me to get done the most important things to me.

In carving out time, above and beyond the daily 18-minute routine, several times throughout the year if not once a month or once a week, to actually pinpoint your focus, you’re setting yourself up for maximal success. As Sam Spurlin writes on 99U:

[Focus] becomes less about tips and tricks and more about making sure you’re allocating the most scarce resource in the universe, your attention, in ways that most closely align with who you are and what impact you want to have on the world. It’s about eliminating the unnecessary tasks and demands that are eating away at your 150 billion bits so you can focus on something that helps another person or creates a little more beauty in the world or solves an important problem or makes you feel like you’re on this planet to do something worthwhile.

Challenge yourself to keep dialing in to how you want to spend your time, by staying focused and organized throughout the day, yes; but also by constantly questioning what exactly you’re here for and how you can make that happen.

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Don’t Work Harder, Work Faster

By Veiray Zhang

By Veiray Zhang

Few people have the authority to admonish you to work faster, even when you’re wiped. Gary Vaynerchuk is one of them. The best-selling author and founder of VaynerMedia is not only CEO of said social media brand consulting agency, he’s also a successful video blogger, co-owner and director of operations of a wine retail store, and a prolific public speaker. His advice on getting more done:

I always tell people to start working harder, to hustle. I truly believe that people could watch an hour less of Scandal and instead do some fucking work. But there’s another variable that I don’t talk about enough: be much faster in the hours you’re already in. Train yourself to do a little bit more in each hour than you normally would. Every day add something, and get it all done. The first few days you may not get it all done, but keep adding on, and you’ll get there. It’s training for a marathon. It takes time, but once you’re done, you’ll see that you’re doing much more in a day because you’re moving faster.

To get more, and better, work done, push yourself to rev your engines a little more. Cultivate a sense of urgency so not one chunk of time is wasted:

There is not one second that I’m down during the work day. On my team, we fight for minutes on my calendar. Even seconds. Every second I am doing something.

I used to think I was the biggest workaholic that lived. From twenty-two to thirty, I really thought I was all in. But I had enough time to bullshit about baseball with friends. I had time. Now, I’m dramatically faster. And I’m working more hours. That’s how it’s happening. That’s how I got to where I am. I had to realize it for myself, and now I’m telling you.

If you do an honest audit of your time, you’ll undoubtedly discover hidden pockets—a YouTube video here, a BuzzFeed quiz there—that you could repurpose into productive effort to further your latest project or your career goals.

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Avoid Regret with a Weekly Work/Life Check-In

By Brandon Kidwell

By Brandon Kidwell

A palliative nurse recorded the most common regrets of the dying and put her findings into a book called The Top Five Regrets of The Dying. Here’s what she found:

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
  2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
  3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
  4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
  5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”
If you’re not careful, work can consume all of your waking hours. And before you know it, life will pass you by. Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith turned down a $500 million acquisition, because he felt that it would negatively impact his family, himself, and ultimately his happiness (the company is now worth more than $1 billion). This moment compelled him to re-evaluate how he approaches work-life balance, and led him to create a weekly ritual:

Each week, I examine the categories of my life — father, husband, CEO, self — and identify the specific actions that help me feel successful and fulfilled in these capacities. This weekly ritual helps me feel like I’m doing everything in my power to address my needs and the needs of those around me. This is important because I can’t lose sight of the business agenda, and we’ve all seen or read about what it looks like when you lose sight of your family’s needs.

A hidden cost in the pursuit of success is your life’s goals. By breaking life goals into weekly tasks, you’ll avoid waking up one day only to realize that you’ve let major priorities slip.

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IKEA: Inspiration from Transparency

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Ikea’s design manager Marcus Engman believes that transparency between development teams is a great source of inspiration. In an interview with Dezeen Magazine, he explains process behind Ikea’s designs:

We try to be much more transparent so everybody sees what everybody else is doing – because I do believe that that is a good idea, because then you get inspired from each other. So we have a huge space for product development. It’s like 4,000 square metres, where all of the products are, physically. So it starts out from the first initial meeting, then you put up the drawings – the ideas – on a physical space, and then it turns into prototypes. We have our own prototype shop there, with craftsmen for every kind of skill, and 3D printing and everything too.

The company produces 2,000 new products every year along with maintaining and improving their existing 10,000 product line. With a designated space for the development of every single product, each team can see what the next is working on. Inspiration from others can come in many forms: maybe it’s a new material they are exploring or a way they solved a packaging problem. Take a lesson from Ikea and open up your development process to your peers. Inspiration can be found in all stages of the process, not only the end result.

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Find Inspiration in Travel: Both in Your Own City & Abroad

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By Heedae Yun

Traveling is at the top of every ‘How to’ list for finding new ideas and inspiration. However, travel for the sake of travel can quickly become a chore-like task when you’re simply checking off landmarks from a city guidebook. Bonnie Reese, a previous design researcher at Frog, recommends making your own “must-see” list based on personal passions instead of the more general ‘Must-See’ recommendations of travel guides. For Reese, that includes hitting up pools and public bathhouses wherever she travels:

Another less academic passion of mine, is bathing in foreign countries – whether for a swim or a wash. I always bring a swimsuit and read up about where to go for a swim or soak. I dove off the diving platform in the Olympic pool in Berlin with a line of impatient teenagers behind me chattering away in German, watched a Turkish mother battle over combing her toddler’s hair in a local bath in Istanbul, swam laps with older women in the middle of Paris, and sat naked for hours with local women in an outdoor spring in the mountains of Japan. My love of a good swim and a hot bath is the farthest thing from an intellectual pursuit but it always yields unique insights and a pleasurable experience. There’s no better way to contemplate cultures than sitting naked with the locals.

By mixing personal passions with travel, you deepen your experiences and open yourself up to new ones not found in any tour book. On Reese’s trip to Mexico City, she found herself visiting a barn-like structure hidden behind a school on her quest to see as many Diego Rivera’s murals as possible. She never would have discovered this secluded location if it wasn’t for her interest in art.

Visiting textbook locations will still provide an excellent source of inspiration due to the simple change of surroundings; however, more is to be discovered if you commit to a mini mission. For the coffee snob, it could be as simple as finding the best cafe near your work. For the cinephile, it could be exploring your local neighborhoods where movies have been filmed. If you really want to be inspired by your travels, you’re going to have to jump in the water. Nothing inspiring ever happened poolside.

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