I recently read “Getting Organized in the Google Era” by Google’s former CIO Douglas C. Merrill. The book outlines some of his information organizing strategies and philosophies. When I first saw the cover, I figured that it would be very straightforward, like a guide. But as soon as I started flipping through it, I realized that Merrill’s book could change my way of thinking.
Merrill suffers from dyslexia and he had to work very hard to overcome it: sometimes he relied on technology, sometimes he asked friends for help, whatever he had to do. He constantly had to figure out how to overcome the limitations of his learning disorder so it wouldn’t negatively impact his future. He even designed his own study methods. Eventually Merrill earned a PhD and is now universally recognized for his brilliance.
Aside from some very helpful tips, the most important thing I learned from Merrill is that you have to have to be willing to discard methods that aren’t getting results and try new things.
In his book he challenges conventional wisdom. There were two topics that I found particularly interesting.
- Do we really have to work from 9am to 5pm?
- How do we find a work-life balance?
I’m going to share what I think about the traditional 9am to 5pm working day. I also want to hear your opinions.
I think the 9am to 5pm working day is unnecessary. For a while I was sent to work in Beijing. In that city, a ridiculous amount of your time is spent commuting to work. It doesn’t matter where you work, or what route you take on the subway, you can count on your commute taking at last an hour each way. Once you get off the subway, you probably have to walk 10 to 20 minutes to get to your office, or hail a taxi.
Finally I looked at a map and realized that Beijing is the same size as half of Taiwan. We were commuting within the limits of one city, but in Taiwan the distance we traveled each day would be the same as going from Keelung to Chungli!
But in Taiwan, people have to endure tedious commutes, too. If we look at the 9am to 5pm workday from this perspective, then doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of the Internet and telecommute or work flex hours whenever possible? It is really necessary to have every worker in the city shoved into subway cars during rush hour, packed in like sardines?
At our company, we feel that is totally unnecessary. It doesn’t help us if our employees spend their commutes stuck in traffic or packed into buses or trains. As long as you can communicate with your team members and do your fair amount of work, then why can’t you determine your own working hours? That way you can avoid the hell of rush hour or even just work from home if possible. Or maybe you can even find a nice café or some other place where you feel the most productive.
To summarize, I felt that Merrill put it very well when he said “Just because one method is commonly used doesn’t mean it’s the best method.”
If you feel trapped by anything in your life (like, for example, your working hours), then you have to think of a way to break through. How do you challenge conventional wisdom and “hack everything”? If you can talk to your boss or supervisor, why not ask them if they can let you try working flex hours?
Of course, face-to-face communication is always ideal, but if you can use video conferencing and still work effectively with your team, then why not try that for a week? If it doesn’t work out, then it’s OK. Working hours are a problem, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. The bigger issue is how to increase productivity and bring about greater value. The focus is on creating a mindset where everyone feels free to challenge conventional wisdom.
Let’s keep brainstorming a solution that will help us work more effectively together!
Photo Source: Google