The trouble with the default

Nobody ever looked at an empty calendar and said, “The best way to spend this time is to cram it full of random meetings!” Nobody ever said “The most important thing today is everybody else’s whims!” Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky – Make Time As water flows down hill, as elements tend to iron, so jobs, meetings, distractions wriggle through…

“The successes pay for the failures”

They say that publishing works on this basis, with the most successful books subsidising the disappointments. Within the limits of publishing’s Rule Number One (“Remain solvent“), this is a useful mindset for other parts of life: stationary, socks, gadgets, software, tools, books. The pleasure and use we get from the good ones repays our investment many times over, compensating us…

“I did my best.”

Great! Was it any good? What are you going to do to make your best get better? This might be about: Improving concrete skills Working on your attitude Or the way you made others feel while you did your best Or working on the wrapper – the systems around the work you do – so that you can do more…

If someone keeps letting you down

Because you’re waiting for their help, but they don’t make time; Or don’t do what they say they’ll do; Or do it badly; Or can’t do the job they’ve been given; Or only do it inconsistently; Or aren’t engaged when you need them to be; Or damage relationships and reputations; Or otherwise hold you or others back… It’s probably time…

Quick decisions

All things being equal,* a quick decision is better than a slow one. You can feel confident in making a quick decision if the decision… Is easily reversible at low cost; Has only trivial or short-term consequences (i.e. you will rarely notice the difference or will only have to live with a poor choice for a short time); Is between…

Gordon Ramsay on mise-en-place

So where do we start? With the absolute basics, of course. Before you even get to turn on the gas, the first job in any new kitchen is always, always, always to get to know your environment, to get familiar with the layout and be comfortable with where everything is. Are the pans within easy reach? Are your sieves close…

Making things nice

… is an underappreciated skill. It goes beyond tidying up and things having a place, to the details that lift the atmosphere and make things kondusif* to whatever you’re up to. Things like: Tweaking the lighting Adding the right music Eliminating an annoying background sound Table decorations Well thought through stationary or tools Appropriate art or other prompts Well designed…

Values in tension (2): resource allocation

How we allocate our scarce resources – particularly money, time and attention – shines a bright light on how we prioritise between values. Most of us can have most of the things we value: wealth, physical beauty, time to ourselves, family, a sense of meaningful contribution, a fabulous car, deep friendships, fitness, artistic accomplishment, solidarity with those who have less,…

Nothing precious (tools for the job)

Of course you want good quality tools. Definitely not the cheapest available. (These usually get in your way.) Probably not the most expensive. (These usually take you out of the 80/20 performance/price sweet-spot.) You want things that are highly functional: free from frills (or bells, or whistles) but still designed and executed in such a way that it they give…

The unglamorous work of doing good (2)

I recently delivered some food parcels to families in our area. This was “helping those who have less” in one of its clearer and more concrete forms. I was happy to do it, but it didn’t feel that great: I loaded up my car, delivered the packages to some people who said thanks, and then drove home. It didn’t feel…