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Weekly 3: Doing work that suits you

Summary: Find the right context. Decide if you're a CEO or not. Use a schedule that amplifies your pr

Idea Journal Weekly 3

June 9 · Issue #90 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Find the right context. Decide if you’re a CEO or not. Use a schedule that amplifies your productivity. (~6 min read)
Note: Ideas #1 and #3 are taken from previous issues, and we’ve included them here because they fit well with the core theme: doing work that suits you.

#1. Are you working in the right context?
Author and management consultant Richard Koch writes in his book The 80/20 Principle that when you’re considering a career, the context of your work can be just as important as what you work on.
Koch advises that in order to find a career that will make you happy, you need to ask yourself 2 questions:
  1. Do you have a high drive for achievement and career success?
  2. Would you be happiest working for an organization, being a self-employed individual, or employing other people?
The box above illustrates the range of choices – which box best describes you?
As Koch points out, many people are frustrated with their careers because they’re operating in the wrong box.
He offers additional details on each of the box profiles below:
Box 1 people are highly ambitious, but they prefer working in a context organized and provided by others. Although large organizations may not be able to give their employees as much security as they could in the past, they can still provide structure and status.
Box 2 people often want the recognition that comes with being the best in their field, but they want to be independent and don’t fit well in organizations. They should avoid being professionally dependent on others, and should resist the temptation to employ other people – even if doing so might bring significant financial rewards.
Box 3 people are those who want to work with other people but not forthem. They are entrepreneurial and unconventional, and want to create a web or structure around themselves.
Box 4 people aren’t particularly ambitious, but they do enjoy working with others and should invest their time accordingly – either through a conventional job or volunteer opportunities.
Box 5 people don’t have a high drive for career achievement, but they desire autonomy in their work. Rather than set up their own business, they should be freelancers and work on projects that suit their convenience and interests.
Box 6 people may not have a strong need for their own career achievement, but they enjoy the process of organizing and developing others. As Koch puts it, for them “the journey is everything; there is no need to arrive.”
#2. Not everyone needs to be CEO
In an interview with entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, writer and creator of the Wait But Why blog Tim Urban says that you can group all careers into 2 buckets:
  1. Careers where you’re the CEO, and
  2. Careers where you work for the CEO
Careers where you’re the CEO include trying to start your own company, win fans and make a name for yourself in the arts, or work as a freelancer. These are all paths where you’re driving the ship of your career and making the key decisions.
Those careers where you work for the CEO involve being on “an existing ship that’s driven by someone else, and you’re doing a job on that ship.” For Urban, this includes not only obvious situations where you’re an employee of an organization, but also cases where the career itself is a predefined ship, like being a doctor or lawyer.
He acknowledges that our society glorifies the “you-as-CEO” paths, and can make people who don’t want to be the CEO of their career feel inferior. But it’s important to remember that “neither of these paths is inherently better or worse than the other – it just depends on your personality, your goals, and what you want from a lifestyle.”
As Urban points out, there are some smart, special, and talented people whose gifts are best expressed as CEO. For others, their gifts are best expressed when someone else is worrying about keeping the lights on, and they can focus on their work.
Similarly, there are some people who need to be CEO to find their work fulfilling, and others “for whom being CEO and having their work bleed into everything is a recipe for misery.”
#3. Are you a maker or a manager?
Entrepreneur and investor Paul Graham writes that there are 2 types of schedules:
  1. Manager’s schedules, used by people in positions of authority, are generally broken up into one-hour intervals.
  2. Maker’s schedules, used by people like computer programmers and writers, who tend to view their time in units of at least half a day.
In an organizational setting, problems can arise when these two types of schedules collide, usually in the form of meetings.
For managers, scheduling a one-hour meeting is merely a practical problem: the challenge is simply finding an open slot in the calendar.
But for makers, an hour is barely enough time to get started, and a single meeting can “blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in.”
Graham proposes two solutions to help resolve this conflict:
  1. Schedule office hours, with the participants and time slots agreed on beforehand.
  2. Makers should try to do their work when they are least likely to be interrupted (e.g., very early in the morning or late at night).
Quote of the Week
“Imagine yourself many years in the future, on the last day of your life, looking back at the things that you created, developed, nurtured, and contributed. What, ideally, would you like to see?”
- Author Pamela Slim in her book Body of Work
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