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Why You’re Not Working as Much as You Think You Are

Authors

This is the summary of the discussion we had with Michael Sieb and Ionut Radu Munteanu during our 7th episode of The Productivity Talks.

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Guests:

⚈ Michael Sieb is building Type Studio together with three of his friends. At Type Studio he is responsible for everything that has to do with growth and marketing. Together with his team they did 6 successful launches on Product Hunt and hit the first page with each of them.

⚈ Ionut R Munteanu is the Founder of Reefkig and WebDigital - PPC Marketing Agency - the first PPC agency in Romania. He has embraced the wonders of Digital Marketing over 15 years ago, rounding up more than 20,000 hours of hands-on work and mentored more than 60 people. He is a father of 2 beautiful children, a teacher, and a digital marketing evangelist & entrepreneur.

Ice-breaker - A questions that each guest has to ask

Together with my co-host, Cristi Cioflan, we thought it was a good idea to start our conversation by giving our guests the opportunity to ask a question they feel like asking, where each of us had to answer.

πŸ™‹ Ionut's Question

Ionut:

This is a super general question, but I think that each of you has struggles. I mean I do have struggles. So my question is: "How do you handle your personal procrastination when it comes to all these tools, all the stuff you can do and still struggle with procrastination?"

πŸ™‹ Answers to Ionut's Question:

Cristi:

I try to split the task into manageable, decent portions, then try to get excited about them, as if I have the curiosity and enthusiasm and some feasibility in approaching it usually goes well in moving towards the end goal.

Michael:

I like to break the task into smaller pieces. It is very helpful to me to achieve the smaller steps. I am writing them down on my iPad with my hand and then I am crossing them step by step for every task. It sort of gives me the perspective that it is progressing and something is moving forward.

Viorica:

I do the same in terms of I am writing down the tasks. I usually do it the night before. When it comes to how I deal with procrastination, it usually depends on the task. If it is a task that overwhelms me I try to have someone who keeps me accountable for it.

Michael:

This is great, we are doing it with the entire team, every day. We have to tell everybody else, what we are working on during that day and I also feel the accountability part very well.

Ionut:

It's so cool to answer at the end, you can say that you do everything that the rest of you said and that would sound very simple to answer. The idea is that I do to-do lists where I write down the top 3 and then the second top 3. In terms of pen and paper, I used to do that as well, but then I saw how my team was taking notes and was very frustrated with how much time they spend after the meeting to process the notes. From that moment I started to takes notes only digitally. Although I understand the fact that if you don't actually write it, your brain doesn't get much of the accountability on that task. I do understand that, but I still feel the frustration, but let's say I am fighting with that.

πŸ™‹ Michael's Question

Michael

What kind of productivity tools do you use?

πŸ™‹ Answers to Michael's Question:

Ionut

My first productivity tool is email. I developed during my career a very specific way on how I get to my zero inboxes. Another tool is the calendar because it manages my time. I do a lot of collaborative work within tools like Google Docs. When Google went offline a few months back, I thought my world has ended.

Viorica

For me, I discovered Notion a few years ago and I fell in love with it. I also discovered the app called TimeStripe, which gives me a perspective over time. I can split the tasks within days, weeks, months, years, life. It simply freaks me out of the tab where you can see every second of your life passing. I use Google Calendar as well. I also use MyFocusSpace whenever I feel like I am in a low state of energy.

Cristi

I also use email, calendar, and Google Drive. I also use Trello, which is basically like Notion and I use it to organize all the tasks I need to do. As I am working most of the time in programming, I use Git for version control. My close friend here is the whiteboard, at least half of the board is occupied with what I need or could do that week. This helps me to have an overview of what's going on over the week.

Michael

I love the whiteboard as well. We have one here in our office as well. In the beginning, we also used Trello, but now we use Notion to have everything in one place. Notion feels right now a little bit clunky as it is so full of tons of tasks and it gets very slow, so our development team switch to kitemaker which is a new start-up from Bay Area. It's like Trello, but we work with shortcuts, which allows us to use the keyboard very fast.

⏳ What is it that you do? How many hours do you work per day?

Michael

I am not sure if I am the right guy to speak about this topic. Actually, we are very dedicated to growing our start-up and we have been working in our studio for over 1 year. We are basically living in our office. We are spending around 40-50 hours in our office and then we go home into our apartment where we have just a bed to get some sleep and rest. We work from Monday to Sunday. Of course, there are a few hours during the weekend where we try to get some free time to play some football. We love working on TypeStudio. It's very rewarding that people actually use our tool.

Ionut

Congratulation that you work so much. I don't know how your family situation is, but for me, because I choose to have my family as a priority, I don't work as much as I want to. That's why it forced me in a way to find a way to be productive in the time I have. 10 years ago when I built the agency, I was investing myself entirely. There was no separation between work and my personal life. Now I sort of feel I am betraying the entrepreneurial persona as I am not as much dedicated as I built the first company. Now I am doing 6-8 hours a day and sometimes I push it on Saturdays, and of course, this is not even close to how much I want.

Cristi

Ionut you were working way more, but it was the family that made you do the change, whereas for Michael, I guess you were working less, but the dedication that came along with founding this company made you push it stronger.

Michael

Definitely, maybe the advantage we have right now is that we are young and have no families. We can work like this for a few years, but in the long run, we definitely have to change it, it's not healthy.

Ionut

Maybe it's not possible. My take away from this is not that it is healthy or not. I think if it is good stress, it doesn't matter if you keep going for a couple of years. But I think life brings you different situations that can delay you from the possibility to work non-stop. I envy you in a very positive way that you can put so much effort as I was doing when I was younger. I worked even during my holidays.

⏳ It sounds so good to work all that time? Is that true? Are you working focused all the time? If you work 8h, are you working focused during all those 8h?

Ionut

It's not possible to be focused for 8 h in a row. In a way I doing fractional work (like with the Pomodoro technique): sometimes it will be 20 minutes, sometimes it will be 1h. I would use a Pomodoro to answer some emails, pretty focused, then I would take a break then I will work again, then I will eat, then work more. My team would get emails from me at 2 am and it wasn't a problem, they knew they should not answer immediately to me. I didn't do much task switching, I was working fragmentarily.

Michael

I like that you mentioned the Pomodoro technique. We also use it, we printed our own 3D clock. (You can find about TypeStudio 3D clock - here) There is no way you can do the focused work 8 hours in a row because there is a different kind of tasks that can do.

⏳ Do you think it's better/more useful/more healthy to behave more compressed and efficient work on a task or sparse and relaxed work? Why?

Ionut

6 years ago I read the book - Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time - and decided to give my team 1 day off out of the 5 working days week. Microsoft did it after me πŸ˜† . We did this as a test for 1 year and then I extended it for 5 years, thinking that the work will be democratized. Now, because of the pandemic, the work is democratized, and all the companies were forced to work remotely. In this context, I think that spreading the work throughout the day is the best solution. As an employer, you don't know what your employees do, you can keep them accountable, maybe record the meetings, but you can't record them 8 h in a row or expect them to stay in front of the computer the whole day and be productive. For that reason, I think we have been pushed from the outside, to look into this and say "well I think, it's going to be split". Now I did it split because I had the power to understand that I had to go and follow the results. Now the democratization of the work made the same thing happen. Now when it comes to productivity and if you are a programmer maybe it's more productive to spend 5 hours to write the code and fix the bugs. I think it depends on the tasks you need to do.

Michael

I will definitely agree. You can't expect your employees to work the whole day, so you would rather have them working on specific tasks for a couple of hours, and then take a break. In a start-up there are so many things that come at you, you are like a firefighter and sometimes you don't finish the tasks you wanted to finish for that day. Sometimes this feels exhausting, but if the mindset is that the work has to be done, we can't work just for 8 hours and then stop.

Ionut

To fight the firefighter persona I do this - I try to find some specific moments when I am trying to be a firefighter. Of course, I am not doing that all the time. I am doing my best to help people know that I am not a firefighter 24/7. That's why I love email because if you send an email you don't expect people to be firefighter, but if you call somebody, then you expect them to be firefighter. The younger generation doesn't give much about messaging, if I am messaging you on Messager or WhatsApp, I stay on the conversation, and when I see people just texting "how are you?" and then they disappeared, that's a bit frustrating. I understand when there is a time zone difference and the person gets back quite late, but the younger generation, they don't care. For me is, if you text me, it means instant feedback. I don't do instant feedback on firefighters. If you have a life/death situation it's ok, if not then email. I also set aside some time designated for firefighting. That's how I dealt with it.

Michael

I totally can relate to that. Especially with emails. I used to send emails back and forth. Now I check my email twice a day: in the morning and in the evening.

πŸ›‘ When is the moment to stop?

Michael

It really depends on our start-up and how far we can take it. I can see myself working on this for a few more years then switch to maybe spend weekends maybe other staff.

πŸ™Œ Whenever you slow down/stop this involves scaling up and involving others? How did you do it?

Ionut

So that you understand, I didn't intend to give up my weekends. It was the family life and the kids that in a way forced me to have my weekends off. I didn't wish for this, I did because it happened organically. I think that empowering other people to grow is essential for your business to grow. You need to learn to delegate to help them learn how to move the business forward. Unfortunately some of the decision to build their own businesses, which is great in a way. If you are able to help other people develop and also keep them in your team, that's the most powerful thing that an entrepreneur can do.

πŸ”₯ What’s next?

In the next episode of The Productivity Talks on Clubhouse we will talk about: Double your output (while working fewer hours). Follow us on Linkedin to get notified whenever we post more details about our next talk or about the guests.

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