I’m ashamed to admit that I am just getting around to reading What’s Best Next, Matt Perman’s excellent book on productivity, and perhaps one of the most talked-about productivity books of the last five years. I say ashamed because I love the topic and I’ve long respected Matt’s voice in the area. But the book has been sitting unread in my “to-read” pile because…well…I apparently have productivity issues.
Knowledge work…brings us face to face with the first villain in this story: ambiguity. Ambiguity is not necessarily a villain in itself. It is a good thing that knowledge work has at its essence creating clarity out of ambiguity and making good decisions…But when we don’t know how to do knowledge work, ambiguity becomes a villain because it ends up frustrating us, making life harder, and sometimes defeating us…Many in highly specialized vocations, such as doctors, engineers, web developers, business analysts, pastors, and so forth, are taught in great detail how to do the activities of their job itself…But they aren’t taught much about the process for managing their work, managing others, or leading others.
Here are the questions I’m processing as a result of that one page:
What is my ideal work style? Do I prefer flying solo or working with a team? Do I like to have multiple plates spinning or tackle one project at a time? Do I perform better with a longer runway or with a fast turnaround deadline?
What is my ideal work environment? Have I finally gotten used to an open office concept, or do I still need some quiet time? Can I effectively work remotely or do I need to be at my familiar desk?
What kind of supervisor do I thrive under? Do I want a micromanager who gives lots of instructions, or a cheerleader who turns me loose to lead? Do I prefer regular check ins or less frequent touch-base meetings?
What kind of people do I need on my team? Would I rather have a group of clones, or people who think differently than I do? Do I want “yes men” or people who are unafraid to push forward great ideas?
What kind of rhythms do I need? Can I successfully pull off a series of weeks that are anything but typical, or do I need an ideal work week? Am I a “steady as she goes” ship’s captain or do I need bouts of excitement offset with seasons of calm?
Do I know what’s most important? Am I good at keeping busy, but missing the right things to be busy about? Am I doing the things that only I can do?
I have a feeling that as I make my way through the rest of What’s Best Next, that last question is going to be the most haunting. So what is your work process? How would you answer the questions above?