Turning Productivity into a Game

Part of the allure of applications like Foursquare or Get Glue are the badges that participants can earn.

The premise is simple:  you share information like your location or what movies/books/music you like and, in return, you earn badges like Foursquare’s “Photogenic Badge” (check-in to a place with a photo booth) or GetGlue’s “Murakami” badge (named after one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami).

These badges seem silly but their appeal is undeniable.  Once you join any of these social networks, not only will you want to collect badges, you’ll want more badges than your friends.  Trust me.

What if you turned productivity into a similar type of game – where you are awarded points for productive behavior and you could compete with your friends, connections, colleagues for leaderboard clout?

That’s what 750words and 0Boxer set out to accomplish.

  • 750words is a website for people who write for their job or their hobby.  The object is to write 750 words per day.  Each day you do that, you gain a point.
  • 0Boxer is a plugin for Chrome or Firefox that encourages people to reach the ever-so-zen inbox zero.

By rewarding points and badges, these sites reward their users.

How can more organizations turn productivity into a game?

Extra credit: How can they turn it into a game that can be played on a mobile device?

Checking In – Reflection on Maker’s vs. Manager’s Schedule

Hi Everyone!  It’s been quite a few days since I’ve updated here.  After reading Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, I realized that I’ve been working under a manager’s schedule when the growth of this site requires me to follow a maker’s schedule or at least come up with a better compromise.

First, let me summarize how the article explains the two schedule types.  A manager’s schedule breaks up the day into hourly chunks or intervals (i.e., daily planners, Outlook calendars, etc.).  You designate the times you’ll check your e-mail, e.g., 8 – 9 am, 12 – 1 pm, and 6-7 pm.  You arrive at the office at 8, check your e-mail until 9, and then you focus on the next item on your agenda.  You return to your e-mail at 12 pm to answer any updates and so on and so forth.  Through short bursts of undivided focus on a certain task, a manager’s schedule encourages efficiency and productivity.

On the other hand, it’s not optimal for a maker – writers, architects, programmers, builders, etc. – to try to accomplish what s/he needs to do within the constraints of a manager’s schedule.  An hour may be enough time for a writer to stretch his or her creativity muscles, outline an article, or brainstorm a thesis but it’s hardly easy to write a novel in hour increments.  Lawyers, think about writing an appellate brief – even if you ignore the research , the Bluebooking, or formatting it correctly for the court – think about the process of crafting an argument that shows the court why the correct interpretation of the law or facts supports your client.  Now, think about how frustrating it is to get into the groove only to get interrupted by phone calls, a staff meeting, or a mandatory CLE.  Or, better yet, think about writing that appellate brief in hour intervals only and producing something worthwhile.  (As an aside, I found this post extremely insightful about the obstacles of scheduling creativity.)

As a solo entrepreneur, I am both the manager and the maker.  For me, the manager’s schedule lends itself to accomplishing the day-to-day tasks that make the business operate. It makes sense for handling PR, follow-up marketing, and the ultimate time-drain: administrator.  Therefore, lately, the manager’s schedule has worked for me because I’ve been trying to get the word out about the job listings column, I’ve been registering subscribers as site members, I’ve connected with people via Twitter and e-mail, and everyday I spend time perusing the industry news.  It’s fast-paced, it’s people-oriented, and it makes me feel productive.

On the other hand, there’s no reason for me to work on a manager’s schedule if there’s nothing to promote or no operations to handle.  Making things – coding the website so it’s more user-friendly, creating content, adding more features – these take hours, days, sometimes weeks to finish and there’s no immediate gratification.  It’s hard to internalize that you are making progress when you’re not posting or updating.

So, back to why I’ve been MIA.  I’ve had 5 major projects and aspirations for this site that have taken the backburner since, well, around November!  Because I had been running on a manager’s schedule for the last few weeks, I decided to dedicate last week and this week to a pure maker’s schedule to chip away at those projects.  Since last Monday (2.22), I only completed the manager-type tasks that required my immediate attention.  It may not have been the best solution but I needed a strict detox regiment.  I had to go to one extreme to get out of the other so that I could eventually find some sort of workable compromise.

I still haven’t finished the 5 projects – I didn’t think I would – but I am much further along in the process.

To give you a preview, the projects include:

  • Publishing the Am Law job listings posts as a sortable table using javascript.  No more need to leave the site, sign into Google documents, etc.
  • Adding more job listings columns – e.g., bankruptcy positions, IP positions, location-based columns.
  • Creating an easy method for site viewers to support the site financially.  (Hey, we all have student loans to pay off.)
  • Writing a few e-books that will be free downloads

I’m still around and I’ll get better at dividing my time.  As any solo practitioner or entrepreneur knows, it’s a learning process.  I hope you’ll stick around. 

[Product Review] Central Desktop for Lawyers


Central Desktop

After playing around with Central Desktop, all I can say is, “WOW.”

Central Desktop allows users to create “workspaces.”  The number of workspaces and whether these workspaces are public or private (default) depends on your pricing plan.

While you can add features to each workspace later, when you first create a workspace, you can choose between setting it up as a project management, wiki, database, corporate blog, user forum, or create your own.  Because you can add each of these features to a workspace later, I’d recommend creating one based on the main purpose of the workspace.

And, now, to break down these features one-by-one…

A project management workspace allows you to “manage projects, organize tasks, milestones and track project statuses.”  Like Basecamp, LiquidPlanner, Wrike, and others, this type of workspace on Central Desktop allows teams to collaborate on projects across the web, keeping track of tasks, and milestones.  Users can assign tasks to other users and also designate the importance of tasks by clicking on the red, orange, or yellow bullet.  You can sort tasks by due date, assign them to different folders, and link them to a milestone on your calendar.

Although Central Desktop does not plan for all contingencies like LiquidPlanner, it does run reports for those who like to keep track of completed tasks, events, or workload.

Wiki

Central Desktop recommends using a wiki for a department or team intranets.  Wikis also serve as a solution for knowledge management. For me, someone who is rather tech-oriented, wikis and their purpose still seem foreign.

In spite of the news calling today’s work environment “The Wiki Workplace,” I had no idea how to create a wiki.  I found through stupid trial and error a few years ago that you can’t just go to wikipedia.org (oops!).  However, websites offering wiki platforms, then and now, do not seem to advertise as well as the blogging services such as Blogger, TypePad, MoveableType, or WordPress.

Since I started my search for tools to create a corporate wiki, I did find WetPaint. (Eds. note: Also, PBWiki!)  However, Central Desktop’s ease of use makes implementing a department wiki or organization wiki a cinch.

Moreover, with all of these features, the true benefit with Central Desktop is that everything is in one place.  You no longer have to go to one site to add to your wiki, one site to check your calendar, and one site to manage your projects.  It’s all in one place and it stays an affordable!

Database

This is by far my favorite feature of Central Desktop: the ability to complement project management with discussions AND supplement both by creating your own databases.  This solves many collaboration, knowledge management, activity management, planning issues for any organization – large or small.

Central Desktop states that the database as a workplace is “Ideal for managing customer and partner contacts, product listings, price lists, corporate compliance or custom workflow.”  In addition, Central Desktop offers templates that you can manipulate to match your precise needs.  You can also create a database from scratch or easily import data from another database or excel file.

Corporate Blog and User Forum

Central Desktop also offers the option to create your workplace into a corporate blog or a user forum.  Whether your goal is to connect with coworkers or outside teams with which you are collaborating, both of these tools are great for building rapport and keeping in touch with key project members who may share similar project goals but not the same physical space.

Looking closely at all of Central Desktop’s features, it seems like the company – through the service it offers – truly understands that communication is key in an organization – but needs to be managed more efficiently.  (Think:  no more clogged inboxes!)

Okay, okay.  I know that I’ve been praising Central Desktop left and right.  (I promise, they don’t pay me any more than the other products on these pages.)  However, there is one more tool that I think is worth noting.

Web Meetings

Central Desktop allows users to host web meetings – conferences over the phone and computer – with chat rooms, a call-in number, a whiteboard, and other collaboration tools.  True, this tool may not be as fancy as GoToMeeting.  And, unfortunately, it’s not free like freeconferencecall.com. (To add this service through Central Desktop to the lowest plans cost $35 extra/month for 1 concurrent web meeting with 15 attendees).  Nevertheless, there is the added benefit of using one interface for most of your needs.  This lessens confusion, eases familiarity, and increases the probability that people will actual USE! this benefit.

Finally, taking testimonials to the next step, Central Desktop offers a page with customer feedback based on industry, business-size, and specific features.

I will say that along with Adobe, Box, Highrise, and our webhosts (StartLogic, Bluehost, and MediaTemple), Central Desktop is one of the tools that allows RecruiterEsq to focus on productivity while keeping operating costs low. (We may slowly use Central Desktop to replace Box and Highrise.  We’ll let you know!)

Further reading:  Another lawyer raves about Central Desktop.  In 2008!  I should have listened then!

If it’s good enough for a winning presidential campaign, it’s good enough for me.