Organization can be counterproductive for creative types like Caterina Fake, co-founder of the photo-sharing site Flickr. She gets the most done when she goes where her curiosity and energy take her. Fake's new start-up is Hunch, a website in New York City that takes user input to make recommendations on thousands of subjects.
My schedule is completely random. I work on whatever instinctively feels like the right thing at that moment. I don't do things at set times unless I'm trying to coordinate with someone. But I'm one of the most productive people I know. When you work on stuff you want to work on, when you have the energy to work on it, productivity becomes kind of effortless.
For me, a productive day is when my colleagues and I have built something or sketched something or created a prototype. We've thrown down ideas for what could be a successful product. Even if we've just walked it through as a thought experiment, that's very gratifying. There's too much emphasis on productivity in the factory, Ford-assembly-line sense of cranking something out and not enough emphasis on having ideas.
I think it's a sickness in business to always try to do more things in less time. I try to spend more time. People read all this information and think they've accomplished something, but what have they really taken in? What can you take in that's important in 140 characters? I read books and articles, and I take a lot of notes. I put stickies in passages I find interesting, and later I write them into my notes, because that reinforces them in my memory. And I'll make a point of going back and rereading them. Otherwise it's like cramming for a test in high school where you don't retain any of the material.
I have a to-do list so I don't forget things. But I don't prioritize tasks. I just know what needs to be done, and I check tasks off in the order I do them. Sometimes I feel like checking off all the little things. Mail this letter. Respond to this e-mail. Sometimes I want to figure out the entire strategy for 2010. As long as everything gets done, it doesn't matter in what order.
Interaction should be constant, not crammed into meetings once a week. You just turn around in your chair and bounce an idea off one of the other 10 people in your office. Keep the floor plan open so people can talk to each other. As the company gets bigger, keep dividing it into smaller and smaller groups. Follow Jeff Bezos's two-pizza rule: Project teams should be small enough to feed with two pizzas. At Hunch, we don't have meetings unless absolutely necessary. When I used to have meetings, though, this is how I would do it: There would be an agenda distributed before the meeting. Everybody would stand. At the beginning of the meeting, everyone would drink 16 ounces of water. We would discuss everything on the agenda, make all the decisions that needed to be made, and the meeting would be over when the first person had to go to the bathroom.