Roger Swannell

Tag: productivity

Methods for working together

A few years almost every meeting I went to was face-to-face with only a few phones as rare exceptions. This year it feels like at least half my meetings are group Skype calls. Although the technology isn’t always perfect being able to work with someone who isn’t in the same place has meant we’ve been able to get more things done more quickly.

So whereas before we only had one method for working together, now we have two. I think we need more. We need more clearly defined methods of working together that make it easier to people to know what is expected of them


Workshops follow a step by step approach to achieve a clear output. They need to stick to the structure, e.g. Design Sprint, and not vere off track. They are all about action and production, if by the end of the workshop the group hasn’t actually produced something useable (not just useful) then the workshop was a waste of time. They might involve blank sheets of paper, wipeboards and post it notes.


Discussions are more informal and less structured. They are about collective information gathering. Everyone talks freely about the topic, sharing their experiences, knowledge and opinions. They require strong leadership and good listening skills from everyone, but they are great for uncovering stuff and getting it all in the same space. The output of a discussion should be shared understanding.


Interviews are likely to be one to one or two to one. They are about getting answers. They require that the person holding the interview comes prepared with questions that they want answers to. The person being interviewed brings their knowledge and tries to frame it as answers not discussion points. The output of an interview should be documented specific answers to questions.

So far, all of these are synchronous methods, that is they require everyone to be working at the same time but I think we need some asynchronous methods too that enable people to still work together when they can’t be together at the same time. We all work asynchronously most of the time, but this is about trying to formalise some methods for asynchronous collaboration.


Reviews require a number of people to read a document, consider it in light of their knowledge, assumptions and experience, and then feedback comments, questions and any concerns. Reviews are best conducted by people on their own at a time they can concentrate and not be distracted. The output from a review should be the collated feedback from however many people were involved into a single source.

The To/CC rule for sending email

When sending an email:

‘To’ is for action

If you want someone to do something, then you send the email to them.

‘CC’ is for information

If there is something in the email you are sending that you think someone should know, but they don’t have to do anything with that information, CC them.

If the reply is likely to contain some information that you think someone should know, then CC them and hope the person replying clicks ‘Reply-all’.

Delaying gratification to increase productivity

You’ve got a list of projects to work on or tasks to complete. How do decide which to do first? You could use an important/urgent matrix to help you prioritise the tasks but there is a flaw with this kind of approach; it assumes that all tasks are equal. But they aren’t. Some of these tasks you are looking forward to, some you are dreading. Some you’ll enjoy, others will be a chore. Some will be exciting, others boring.

You can get more tasks complete if you understand your tendencies to procrastinate, to avoid the difficult tasks, and to convince yourself that you really should do the things that you’ll enjoy most first. Delaying the gratification you get from doing the fun things first by completing some of the tasks are aren’t looking forward to, and then using the fun/interesting/exciting tasks as rewards means that not only do you get more tasks done but you also get the things you don’t want to do done.

What I want from Evernote

I love Evernote. I’ve used it for years. I’ve also used lots of other online platforms including: Trello, Google Docs, Sharepoint & Word, Todoist, Dropbox and Dropbox Paper. They all do different things, and all have their strengths and weaknesses, but Evernote beats them all for everyday writing and recording things, sharing, collaborating and easy task management. Some of the things I love about Evernote are that it works offline, is seamless between devices, and is really simple to use, but it isn’t perfect. Here are a four things I want from Evernote.

1. More formatting options

Simplicity is good, but a few more formatting options such as headings, and auto-generating a contents/menu using the headings, would make the notes more presentable.


Adding comments to highlighted text in an note would make working collaboratively in a note far easier.

3. Show a calendar view of tasks.

Notes can be made into Tasks by adding a deadline/to-do date, but the views of tasks is limited to a chronological list. Having a calendar view (especially if you could add a length or end time to tasks) would make task planning much more effect.

4. Embeddable notes

Being able to embed the contents of notes in other notes, webpages, etc. would be a great way of pulling multiple ever-changing content into a single location.


I know, I know, maybe these things would take Evernote away from the simple, robust, really-usable platform that it is, and I’m sticking with Evernote regardless, but having these things would take Evernote from super to superhero.
Evernote Superhero

Copyright © 2018 Roger Swannell

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