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Weekly 3: Evaluate your environment

Summary: Let your goals determine your context. Manage the environment, not just the employees. Choos

Idea Journal Weekly 3

February 16 · Issue #126 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Let your goals determine your context. Manage the environment, not just the employees. Choose your calendar wisely. (~3 min read)
Note: Ideas #2 and #3 are taken from previous issues, and we’ve included them here because they fit with this issue’s core theme: evaluating your environment.

#1. Create an environment that supports your goals
Author Josh Kaufman writes in his book The Personal MBA that the structure of your environment is often the most influential determinant of your behavior.
If you want to change some behavior, don’t try to change the behavior directly.
Instead, change the structure of your environment and your behavior will change automatically: “If you don’t want to eat ice cream, don’t buy it in the first place.”
Kaufman tells the story of how he and his wife Kelsey used this principle during their three-year experiment with a vegan diet.
When they first decided to try a vegan diet, most of their friends and family responded in one of two ways: “Are you crazy?” or “That must be very difficult — I could never do that.” 
Family and friends marveled at the couple’s willpower.
But as Kaufman notes, instead of relying on willpower to resist the urge to order a pizza or cook a steak, changing the “guiding structure” of their environment was much more effective.
When they went out for dinner, they chose restaurants that served vegan food instead of steakhouses. At home, they threw out the food they didn’t want, and replaced it with healthier options that still tasted good. And they changed where they shopped — instead of going to the supermarket, they went to a natural food store.
As Kaufman recalls: “When I got hungry, I ate an apple or carrots or hummus — that’s what was in the refrigerator. Ordering a pizza or buying and cooking a steak took more effort, so I didn’t do it.”
#2. Create a "rockstar" environment for employees
Authors and entrepreneurs Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s write in their book Rework that instead of trying to hire a room full of rockstars, you should worry about the quality of the room itself.
They acknowledge that people have different abilities and interests, and simply creating a rockstar environment won’t automatically generate great work on its own.
But the organizational environment has a lot more to do with great work than many people realize.
For Fried and Heinemeier Hansson, there’s a ton of untapped potential “trapped under lame policies, poor direction, and stifling bureaucracies.”
Creating such an environment isn’t about casual Fridays or bring-your-dog-to-work days – if those are so great, why don’t people do them every work day?
Rockstar environments develop out of autonomy, responsibility, and trust: “They’re a result of giving people the privacy, workspace, and tools they deserve.”
#3. Matching the design of your calendar with the style of your work
Entrepreneur and author Paul Graham writes that there are two 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
“In the wrong environment, your creativity is compromised. At 30, I assumed my strengths would always be with me regardless of where I applied them. I was wrong. Truth is, your environment matters.”
– Entrepreneur, investor, and Behance co-founder Scott Belsky in an interview with Tim Ferriss
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