Jocelyn Glei

Master of Productivity, founder and author of Unsubscribe

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 09, 2016

Discussion

Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
I’m a writer & author who’s obsessed with how we can make great creative work in the Age of Distraction. My latest book, Unsubscribe, is a modern guide to taming inbox overload and avoiding distraction—so that you can spend more time on the work that really matters. Previously, as the founding editor of 99U, I studied productivity, careers, and creativity for 6+ years, interviewing thousands of researchers, designers, and entrepreneurs about the art & science of making ideas happen. Ask me anything about your struggles with email addiction, inbox overload, productivity routines, or building better work habits.
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS@candriopoulos · https://medium.com/strictly-curious
Dear Jocelyn, it is great having you here. Have you identified steps (or a process) that curious people take to find the information that they want without getting sidetracked?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@candriopoulos I love this quote from the writer Sara Wheeler: "Let's face it, writing is hell, so an essay or feature curtails the agony. Producing a book, over the long haul, has a hostage-like feel. That said, I love the deep research a book demands. Everyday is a success when you research, everyone a failure when you write." I think this sentiment is applicable to most creative endeavors beyond writing. Typically I think the research is the "easy" part of a project while the execution, acting on that research, is the difficult, challenging, and often agonizing part of the process. In other words, I lump researching in with the idea generation part of the creative process, more than the idea execution part. So I think we have to be careful about lingering too long in the research/inspiration phase of our projects and make sure we're not just trying to avoid the hard work of execution. On a tactical level, it's all about laying out clear goals and accountability from the start. Or if we're talking about a writing project for instance, having a very clear outline in hand. So that you know when I have these things, I will be ready to execute. And you can't just spin your wheels researching, and researching, and researching. ; ) A broadstrokes answer but I hope it's helpful.
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS@candriopoulos · https://medium.com/strictly-curious
@jkglei Thank you very much for the insightful answer.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What tips for founders can you share on how to maintain work/life balance?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@bentossell It's about picking and choosing your values + your battles. I love the concept of the "four burners", which strangely I learned about from David Sedaris in this New Yorker article: http://www.newyorker.com/magazin... Here's how he articulates the concept: “'One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.' The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two. In other words, balance isn't about having it all, it's about recognizing you have limited time and energy + then making hard choices about how you will spend that time, knowing that you have to prioritize some people/tasks/values over others. I think that this beautiful Tim Urban piece called "The Tail End" also offers a way to start to powerfully shift your perspective about what matters most to you: http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/th... Someone actually made a Life Calendar app to help people put things in perspective based on that Tim Urban article I just mentioned. Could be interesting to explore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/...
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Is it ever ok to ignore emails?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@bentossell Absolutely. One of the primary motivations for writing my new book, Unsubscribe, was to convince people that it's time to let go of the toxic idea of Inbox Zero. That concept was originally popularized by Merlin Mann back in 2006 I believe, so a decade ago! In the 10 years since, the email load that we all deal with has increased exponentially, not to mention the first iPhone dropped in 2007 and now our email (of course) follows us around. So the landscape has changed drastically since the idea of Inbox Zero was floated. We now live in a world where anyone who has access to the Internet probably has access to you. And we have digital inboxes that can receive an infinite amount of messages. And yet the time we have in the day has never increased, nor has the amount of bandwidth that we have to respond to email. So, depending on your email load, I think we all have to accept the idea of making hard choices about how much we can respond to. That said, if the idea of ignoring emails truly bothers you, I think there's much to be done in terms of getting strategic about how we process email. It's a great idea to do an "email audit" for a week and just make a few notes everyday about what types of messages you're seeing come through your inbox, and what types of messages are really dragging on your productivity. Once you observer those patterns, it's time to get strategic: What messages truly require a customized response? What messages can tolerate a templated reply (perhaps using Gmails Canned Responses, Text Expander, or Canned Text)? Are there instances where you might use an auto-responder or direct people to an FAQ for repeated common questions? The key to email productivity, as with any type or productivity, is constant optimization.
Ayrton De Craene@ayrton · Code @ Product Hunt
Do you have any favorite apps or products for helping reduce distractions when working?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@ayrton For me the killer app is self-control. (Not the actual app by that name, but merely the act of self-discipline and focus.) But I'm a rather analog individual. ; ) That said, if you want to take a digital approach, I think RescueTime (https://www.rescuetime.com/) is great for tracking how you're using your time so you can start to observe negative patterns and strategize about how to change them. In a similar vein, I'm extremely excited about the forthcoming time-tracking device ZEI, which looks like a killer idea for documenting focus time vs distraction time: https://www.kickstarter.com/proj... I like Noisli (https://www.noisli.com/) to create soothing background noise to help me get into the creative zone and/or ignore surrounding noises that I'm finding distracting. See my response to @Tomstocklein for my favorite email clutter-reducing app, and you can find more useful apps specifically related to killing the tyranny of email here: http://www.asianefficiency.com/e... I also wrote a piece for 99U quite awhile ago now that lists some of the stalwarts in this app space, which you can find here: http://99u.com/articles/6969/10-...
Pradeep Sharma@pradeep_io · Serial techpreneur, developer, reader
About a month ago I lost my smartphone and started using a feature phone. I have seen huge boost in productivity. I think I am not going to buy smartphone again. What were your aha moments, when you figured out this is how you can increase productivity?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@pradeep_io I *love* this! Good for you. To me the biggest productivity revelations are: 1) the best defense is a good offense. By which I specifically mean getting proactive about blocking off time on your personal or shared calendar to do the meaningful work that really matters to you. So you don't get caught up in an endless welter of meetings and calls. and 2) the idea that productivity is really about what you *don't* do in this Age of Distraction. Everyone makes a "to-do list" but I am finding it more and more useful to make a "stop-doing list" to keep me clear on what I need to ignore.
Haneesh Pherwani@hanish_ · Blogger, Entrepreneur, Digital Echoist
Dear Joceylyn, Is meditation way to being more productive ?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@hanish_ I think meditation and mindfulness are THE KEY to being productive in the Age of Distraction. We're all dealing with so many incoming requests, updates, offers, and distractions on a daily basis, that you really have a competitive advantage if you have the skill of being calm and present in the eye of the storm. I think that urgency is the root of all idiocy. If you have the ability to take a deep breath and make proactive (rather than reactive) decisions on a daily, and even minute-to-minute basis, you're going to succeed. So yes yes yes to meditation.
Anthony Stylianou@anthony_stylianou · Social Media Manager, CatchApp
I read somewhere that on average millennials check their mobile devices 140 times day. This is unlikely going to slow down given the growth of technology and it now becoming a habit/lifestyle. What do you do personally to unplug from everything or make yourself more productive? In simpler terms, how do you work smarter not harder?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@anthony_stylianou The numbers on how frequently people touch there phones on a daily basis are jaw-dropping. According to one study between 2500 to 5000+ times. I like to contemplate how very simple tweaks like using a bedside clock or just wearing a wristwatch can have an outsize impact on our behavior and productivity merely by changing how tethered (or not) we are to our phones. I wrote a more in-depth piece about this particular topic here. But in the big picture, I think we need to understand that in order to say yes to our priorities we have to say no to some opportunities—and distractions. But the only way to do that effectively is to make sure we are vigilant about understanding where we want to head in the big picture. So I sit down about every 3 months to identify my big-picture goals and the key actions I need to take to get there. I write them down and post them by my desk. Then, I have a separate daily calendar in which I track the "small wins" that keep me moving towards those goals—words written per day, key project milestones, etc. I think we need to spend less time blindly DOING, and more time DECIDING what we should be doing—especially now that we live in an age with so much opportunity for distraction and busywork
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
How do you start each morning to set yourself up for a productive day?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@andrewett Making your to-do list the night before is the key to a productive day for me. Then you wake up clear on your top priorities and ready to go. It a simple act, but it equips you to view any possible distractions—email, social media, co-workers—within the context of what you know you're trying to accomplish that day. Which makes it easier to understand what you can say yes to, and what you want to say no to. Beyond that, I try to go for a walk to get the blood pumping, not open my email before I've done at least 90 minutes of good work, and front load my schedule with all of my "deep attention" work. The natural circadian rhythms that most humans adhere to say that we're at peak energy and focus between about 9am-12pm, with declining returns as the day goes on. So for me, getting my key creative work done during that morning window is crucial.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What are you favourite tips for prioritising ever demanding work loads?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@ems_hodge Planning for imperfection is essential in today's chaotic and uncertain working world. I think we need to acknowledge that things are going to go wrong, that we are going to get interrupted and plan how we can be successful *even in the face of those distractions.* So that means blocking out time for deep attention work AND blocking out time for "slack", which can accommodate emergencies and interruptions without throwing you off course. You can find more details + tips in this piece: http://jkglei.com/a-new-approach... : )
Sabine@sabinestaggl · co-founder @Noisli
Hi Jocelyn! Where and under which circumstances are you able to do your best work? Do you have any tips for having more and retaining such uninterrupted work hours?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@sabinestaggl As you intuit, I (like most humans) am able to do my best work when I have enough uninterrupted time to get into the creative zone and think deeply. The key to doing this is something called "putting in the big rocks" first. Learn more here: https://zenhabits.net/big-rocks-...
Jorge V Mendoza@jorgevmendoza · CSA, co-founder @Codefuel
How do you structure your work day? Where do you start, important task or small (tedious) tasks? Is NO a common answer for people that ask you for things all the time? 😉
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are your favorite tools & apps to unsubscribe from promotional emails and unwanted newsletters? I've recently started using Unroll.me, which seems to be working pretty well.
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@tomstocklein I've been loving the app EasilyDo Email for it's fantastic one-touch unsubscribe feature. Basically, there's an unsubscribe button at the top of all promotional emails that you can tap to unsubscribe without ever leaving your inbox. It's incredibly useful for clearing out clutter. The app also has some other nice features like snooze, auto-sorting of bills, flights, and receipts, and other goodies. I recommend.
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
How do you structure your day in terms of tasks and activities? What are some examples of items on your to-do list that you'd typically prioritize and what are things that you (almost) always say no to?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@tomstocklein This is a list of what I don't do: http://jkglei.com/getting-things... I would highly recommend making your own stop-doing list. ; )
Elmar Haneveld@qrafts · Design Thinker and UX/UI Designer
I sometimes hear that we should get rid of email all together. Do you think we should and, if we would come to that point, what alternatives could replace it?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@qrafts If you think about everything bidding to replace email, apps like Slack or Facebook's new Workplace, etc, they are all privately owned companies. Email is the last great "unowned" technology. That means it has different objectives and can be more adaptable. So I don't think email is going anywhere. Asynchronous communication will always be incredibly useful for collaborating with and reaching out to people you don't know at all or don't know very well. Instant messaging apps and the like excel in other areas: like real-time collaboration. I don't think we should get rid of email, I think we should just become more strategic about how we deal with it. Using it when it's the appropriate medium and opting for something else when it's not.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What's your take on team chat tools like Slack for reducing email load? Do they help or provide another source for distraction?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@ems_hodge See my answer to @anselm_k above for more detail. I think Slack is great for real-time collaboration for people working remotely. But that is a fairly narrow slice of how people work. For all types of work outside that slice, I think it's largely a distraction. Basecamp founder Jason Fried articulates this very well here: http://jkglei.com/getting-things...
I always find myself more often than not, wondering about what I have done with my time. How can I easily keep track of what I do without constraining my creativity?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@anselm_k See my response above to @ayrton for advice on apps that can help you track your time. But the simplest possible way to do this, is to take 2-5 minutes at the end of your day and write down what you accomplished that day. Perhaps just use a standard calendar and make very short notes about what you accomplished each day that felt meaningful. You will either see that you are accomplishing more than you thought, or you will see that you are perhaps spending more time on busywork and less on your best work. Either way, the key is to create a super-simple system for tracking a few metrics so you can see the patterns.
Mihnea Stoian@mihneastoian · work @firmex, consult @fusedlabs
Do you see email losing ground to specific communications apps? Slack, Hangouts, Whatapp, etc? We're slowly moving internal and 'close' communication more to apps, and are using email mainly for subscriptions and engaging new contacts.
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@mihneastoian See my responses to @anselm_k and @ems_hodge above. Alas, I think email is here to stay, but should be supplemented or replaced when other types of conversations are more efficient and less distracting.
how did Kierkegaard influence your view on work / life balance and your work on productivity?
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@anselm_k That is a surprising question, but YES very much so. I would certainly recommend his book The Concept of Anxiety to one and all. I think Kierkegaard intuited much of the anxiety that we feel to realize our full potential in this creative age hundreds of years ago. It's quite incredible. His notion that "anxiety is the dizziness of freedom" was ahead of its time. A great piece on this in the NYT here: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes...
@jkglei that is a great piece, thanks! I loved this quote in it from Kierkegaard: "“Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate.” How far are you on that journey and have become more productive as a result? I feel technology which supposed to make life better is bringing more anxiety, so it is important we learn to be anxious the right way if we ever want to "tame inbox overload"
Moss Pike@mosspike · Director of EdTech at Vistamar School
What suggestions or strategies can you share to help change/shift organizational culture rely less on email? Despite my own changing approach to it, I still find myself wed to my inbox on account of my responsibilities to others.
Jocelyn K. Glei@jkglei · Writer & Author
@mosspike I think we have to be more conscious of how we set expectations for others through our own email behavior and management. By which I mean, if I always respond to your emails within 5 minutes of receiving them, you begin to *expect* me to respond to emails within 5 minutes. But what if I only typically responded within 2 or 3 hours, or 24 hours, would your expectations start to shift? They certainly might. So I think we have to examine how we ourselves might be complicit in shaping the email culture that we find so distracting and interruptive. I also think it's totally worth having an open dialog within your own team about email. We don't do it enough. Getting clear with your boss and/or your reports on what your email expectations are: How do you use email? When? What type of speed of reply is expected? Do you have to check email afterhours? We frequently make our own assumptions about ppl's answers to these questions, but sometimes they can surprise us. And it certainly can't be a bad idea to get those expectations out in the open. If you haven't already, I would certainly recommend trying to process your email in batches, setting aside say 3-4 discrete times per day to check your email, and trying to ignore it so that you can focus more fully on other tasks when you're not in those email focus times. It's quite difficult at first, but quite frequently the world doesn't end in the way we think it will. And if there are certain emails you HAVE to respond to urgently/immediately, set up VIP notifications or something similar on Apple Mail so you get alerted and can feel comfortable ignoring your email without missing something crucial.