Here’s what he had to say.
Q: Michael, as an avid technology buff, how has your obsession with productivity and technology come together to directly impact your career?
The obsession really started when I faced the harsh truth that things weren’t quite coming together in my career. I wasn’t progressing as quickly as I would have liked and began to accept that a big part of this struggle was my inability to keep track of and finish my work. I was so focused on trying to get through the day that I never took the time to figure out how to best move through it. I’ve still got room to grow, but ever since I took a step back to rebuild a better foundation for myself, I’ve started seeing progress.
It’s also helped me be far more realistic about my own abilities. I’m just not capable of managing my ambitions in my head and I’m not capable of doing it on paper (I’m fairly certain that paper is the root of all evil and that it is out to get me). Technology has always been the right tool, but taking the time to find the right technology and crafting the right workflows is starting to help get my career back on track.
Q: Are all of the changes you go through positive?
Of course not. Change, even positive change, can wreak havoc in one’s life and career. I’m trying to discover the best way that I work, but I also have to be realistic that my way will not always work for those who work with me. So it’s a matter of finding a system that works for me, but has the least possible negative impact for others. I’ve mitigated this as much as possible by letting others know what I’m attempting to do and asking them to be honest when it gets in the way.
I’m also a bit concerned with tech addiction. I’ve come to count deeply on devices and that means they are never all that far from my side. It lends itself to bad habits (like constantly check them when I shouldn’t be). I need to be doing more to balance this out, especially at home around my wife and kids, but one struggle at a time…
Q: Does your specific way of working limit you at work?
I don’t think it has. As I said earlier, I do my best not to let my workflows get in the way of others and I feel as if I’m dropping less balls. I am, however, only one of two Mac users in our office, so this can create some friction. I always make this friction my problem and find a way to work around it. I’m also lucky. The Citrix server we run in our office makes it easy to get into our main system while remaining on my Mac. I’ve run into a few challenges over the years. Most of them had more to do with file compatibility than anything else, but more often than not, I’ve found that there’s a solution. This decision also means that I have to serve as my own IT department, but I tend to enjoy that (probably a bit too much).
Q: Does your genuine curiosity with these things tend to benefit you?
I certainly hope so, but it depends on the context. My curiosity for the technology itself is often a distraction. A new Apple device or new app isn’t going to necessarily improve much (regardless of what that voice inside my head tends to tell me). I’m prone to trying shiny new things, but I’ve found that the time spent switching and learning a new app rarely pays off when you already have something that’s working.
That said, the curiosity surrounding workflow has provided a far greater return. By discovering the best way that I can work and identifying what my problems are, I’ve had a far better track record of identifying the right tools and tactics for improving. As my understanding of the way I work improves, so has the filter for deciding where to spend my time rather than wasting it on every new release. Knowing what I’m looking for keeps me from trying everything that comes my way. Otherwise I’ll only manage to think about how I do the work and never quite get around to actually doing it.
– How do technology and workflows affect the way you work?