Question: What Plans Have You Made for 2011?

This week’s question is about goals and plans – namely, what plans have you made for 2011 in respect to your business? Have you written them down? Are your goals SMART – Sustainable, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely?

Getting Work Done

Last week, I asked a question about where your favorite place is to go when you need to get some work done. I copied the question to LinkedIn, and was pleasantly surprised to get many answers. While some answers reflected idealism, for example, Hollywood and Disney, most reflected the nature of the question – in your reality, where would you go to get work done.

Interestingly, just before I wrote this article, I got another answer I had not been expecting – 3 AM in bed, because that’s when the best ideas seem to come to mind.

What I was hearing from people is that the best place to get work done is wherever you feel inspired – and it varies between people and between types of work. As expected, those in graphic or creative roles tended to provide answers which had some level of distraction – but distractions that could be controlled (for example, a place with music). Those doing rote work preferred quiet spaces, with few distractions.

Perhaps this is, above all, what causes the designers of offices so much grief. Each person in the office is doing something a little different, and finds different distractions tolerable, desirable, and irritable. Trying to design an office that will be inspiring to everyone working there to be productive can be an exercise in frustration.

While Jason Fried in his presentation wanted to put the onus on managers and meetings, this is really only part of the problem. The elimination of meetings and manager interruptions might increase some productivity, it ignores the fact that each person needs a unique environment to be productive. There are good managers who don’t impede the productivity of their staff, and they too would have difficulty with getting their staff to choose the office as an ideal place to work.

I think Jason makes a valid point that many companies have large numbers of people attending all meetings, where the meeting itself is unnecessary, or could be handled with a much smaller number of people. Yet his approach of banning all meetings one afternoon a week avoids the real issue – that people need to learn how to run better meetings, so that everyone at a given meeting is really necessary, the length of the meeting is appropriate to the decision being made.

In terms of a preferred place to work, though, despite the best efforts of the owners of the business, unless you happen to have a bunch of people working who all enjoy the same workspace, designing the office is an attempt to please everybody, and is more likely to end with pleasing no one.