Jan Kubr

Archive for March, 2008|Monthly archive page

How to make it dead easy to separate waste

In Uncategorized on March 27, 2008 at 18:53

Curver Trio Bin

Waiting for the delivery guy..

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A book read: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2008 at 15:10

This might be a game changer for you. It opened my eyes to a few things I hadn’t been really realizing. And no, it’s not related to working four hours a week (although Tim has some good tips on how to boost your productivity).

Design your lifestyle now

The traditional career path is “study and work hard ~40 years, save a lot of money, and then retire and start enjoying your life.” The obvious problem with this is the money you saved might not be worth all that much after such a long time. Another obvious one is that you can die before you have the chance to retire. I realized this before reading this book and thought the solution to the first problem is to save really a lot of money or generate passive sources of income. And to the second one – well retire early enough. Which means working even harder.

Tim surprised me with another problem there is with this: How are you going to be able to “enjoy your life” if the only thing you did last 40 years was working 10-12 hours a day? What are you going to do? Note that it will be impossible for you to sit and be idle. If the the number one thing on your mind for the last 40 years suddenly disappears, what then? What will you use all this money for?

Tim quotes a friend of his who says that if he works 80-hour weeks for nine years, he would be making $3-10 million a year. When the author asked him what the hell he would do with the money, he said he would take a long trip to Thailand. You guess the problem; you don’t need three million to spend a few months in Thailand. And another problem: what would you do after the trip? Work like crazy other nine years?

So the biggest takeaway for me from the book is: Don’t postpone your real life. Don’t say, “I’ll only work here for a few years, save money, and then I’ll be enjoying life” unless you define what “enjoying life” means for you. Because without the definition you might very well be postponing the enjoyment forever. Try to define what your ideal lifestyle would be and think about how to make it happen. Now, not in a few years. You’ll probably realize that what you want is much less expensive than you thought.

Don’t be afraid to design your lifestyle exactly as you want it instead of what is common. Identify what the worst possible scenario is if your plan doesn’t turn out well. Often it is much less problematic than you think at first. For example if you decide to quit your job to start something else; having to find a new job is really the worst case scenario. No big deal.

Concepts and tips

Interesting is also the concept of relative income. It is great that you earn double the money of your friend, but if you need to work twice as many hours, you are equal on your hourly rate. And the friend has more spare time..

Mini-retirement. I want to do this: Work hard for a few months and then take a month off.

Oh and regarding the four hours. The book gives you some tips on how to spend only four hours a week on generating enough income that will support your other activities. (Note that the author doesn’t suggest you to work four hours a week and do nothing the rest of the time. The four hours should earn you enough money to enable you not to worry about your finances and can concentrate on what your passion is. Which might be again defined as “work” – starting a company for example.) These include:

  • Apply the 80/20 rule. Especially if you are an entrepreneur, it is likely that you spend 80% of your time on generating 20% of your income. Eliminate those 80%.
  • Have shorter deadlines on tasks and iterate. The more time you reserve for a task, the more time you’ll spend on it.
  • Delegate or outsource everything you can. Give your employees or colleagues more responsibility, don’t be a bottleneck.
  • Automate.
  • Don’t waste time in meetings and by answering emails.
  • Eliminate interruptions and multitasking.
  • Don’t work on unnecessary things just to have an excuse to put an important task off.
  • Don’t be busy, be effective.
  • Don’t work just to be doing something. Get the most important things done and save time for your passions.

The essence of 4-Hour Workweek

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2008 at 9:49

As you might have noticed The 4-hour Workweek has kept surprising me with inspiring quotes. The story below could be the summary of the what I take away from the book (was lazy to type it in, found here):

An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican of the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.
“Only a little while”, the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.
“I have enough to support my family and give a few to my friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basked.
“but…what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican looked up and smiled, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”
The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boar. In not time you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you will have a fleet of fishing boats.”
He continued, “instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the customers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, or course, and move to Mexico City then Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, senor, how long will this take?”
To which the American replied, “15-20 years. 25 tops.”But what then, senor?”
The American laughed and said, “that’s the best part, when the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”
“Millions, senor? Then what?”
“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with you wife and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos…”

Becoming a boss

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2008 at 11:36

“By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.”

Robert Frost

(via The 4-hour Workweek)

I’m so proud of not having a car

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2008 at 11:34

It makes me feel like a modern young European.

And, uhm, it sucks only occasionally.

Reading makes you lazy

In Uncategorized on March 11, 2008 at 10:37

Because I praised reading so much in my last post, this is to balance it out:

“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”
Albert Einstein
 
It is great to read a lot; but you still need to remember to act as well.
 
(Btw via The 4-hour Workweek I’m reading now..)

A book read: Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2008 at 20:34

Yes, I’ve finished reading another book. And not today, but on Friday. I’ve heard about this before, but now I’m actually experiencing it: If you get into the habit, you can read one book a week and later probably more. I wonder how that can change your personality. Ryan Davis said at last year’s RubyConf that the average number of books read by people from the IT industry is one a year. So if you read one a month, you’re on 12 times the average. And if you read one a week..

I think reading broadens your view. Reading a lot broadens it a lot. Even if you can’t name all the things you found interesting in the book a few months later after reading it, I believe it is there somewhere in your mind and it not only influences you, but also will pop up when the situation is right.

Writing a summary like this helps me remembering the book even better and helps you decide whether you’re interested in reading the book yourself.

So. Don’t Make Me Think is a book about web usability. Mostly usability of web sites, rather than web applications, but still pretty useful for webapp developers as well. Since the author preaches the “common sense approach,” the advices are pretty simple:

  1. General advice: Don’t make people need to figure out what you meant by things on your page. Make it obvious (not dumb). The experts will appreciate it as well.
  2. We don’t carefully read everything on the web page. We scan it and click whatever first seems to get us where we want.
  3. Don’t force people make complicated decisions. They are OK with taking more steps if deciding on each is easy.
  4. Don’t have too much text on your page, especially if the text is not necessary (“Welcome to this page!” kind of thing or lengthy instructions).
  5. Navigation should show on which page I am, how can I get to the homepage, in what section I am, and where can I search. Steve is a bit sceptical about using breadcrumbs (a series of links showing how you got to the section you’re currently at) and so am I.
  6. Homepages should answer four questions: “What is this?”, “What can I do here?”, “What do they have here?”, and “Why should I be here – and not somewhere else?”.
  7. Usability testing is neither complicated nor expensive.

I think especially the part where Steve shows how to do usability testing very effectively and cheaply is very interesting. He is planning a whole book on this topic, so that one should be great as well. Btw there’s a lot of tips for further reading in the book, too.

A book read: Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2008 at 11:23

I have never studied marketing. Now when I wanted to start learning a bit about it I could start with classics like Phillip Kotler (at least so I was told that he is a classic). Which is basically like looking back and realizing what has been taught last century. Or – because many people say we are experiencing a huge change in how goods are offered to customers – I could try looking into the future. You guessed what I picked. I grabbed Seth Godin‘s latest book Meatball Sundae.

The book is officially about how to avoid a meatball sundae in your company’s strategy. That is when the way you market your product is not in sync the rest of your organization. In short, when you make average stuff for average people but try to use new media to make it look remarkable.

Great, but I have no marketing strategy yet, so this was not all that useful for me. Fortunately, what the book is really about is that identifies 14 trends of today no marketer should ignore (my comments in italics):

  1. Direct communication and commerce between producers and consumers.
    No middlemen needed anymore. Etsy is a great example.
  2. Amplification of the voice of the consumer and independent authorities.
    In the past you just had to please one reviewer. Now everyone has a strong voice.
  3. Need for an authentic story as the number of sources increases.
    Don’t lie. Today it is too easy to find the truth.
  4. Extremely short attention spans due to clutter.
    So you better communicate your message fast.
  5. The long tail.
    “John Gourville, at Harvard, and Barry Schwartz (author of The Paradox of Choice) have each argued that too much choice is a bad thing, that it leads to dissatisfaction and causes people to put off decision making. Too much choice makes the statement ‘I’ll decide later because there’s just too much risk of screwing up’ more likely.
    A trip to the mall certainly demonstrates that this is happening. Tons of empty-handed shoppers are all walking around looking for the perfect item. And often buying nothing.”
  6. Outsourcing.
    Are you doing something that can’t be easily outsourced (done by someone else far cheaper?). And are you using outsourcing to your advantage?
  7. Google and the dicing of everything.
    Don’t expect everyone coming to your homepage first.
  8. Infinite channels of communication.
    So you want your own ones, nothing general.
  9. Direct communication and commerce between consumers and consumers.
    They are going talk to each other about you. What will they be saying? And can they trade stuff among themselves?
  10. The shifts in scarcity and abundance.
    Used to be scarce and is not anymore: E.g. hard-drive space. It’s scarce now: E.g. attention.
  11. The triumph of big ideas.
    You better have something extraordinary to be noticed.
  12. The shift from “How many” to “Who.”
    Better reach a few people who care about you than hundreds who don’t. Now it’s easier to find people in your niche.
  13. The wealthy are like us.
    Because they are us. You are eager to pay a lot of money for remarkable things.
  14. New gatekeepers, no gatekeepers.
    You don’t need to hang out with the big guys. Just do something people will want and they will allow you to influence them.

And there’s more. This book is worth reading, don’t hesitate. Although Seth calls it “not short,” it will be a quick read for you. You can also check videos at Open Forum where people like Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) and Sean Parker (Napster, Facebook, Plaxo) express opinions on the same topics.

How come air travel is so cheap?

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2008 at 10:17

I still don’t get it. Steven Leckart created this chart for Wired showing how Ryanair’s covers the costs of flying a passenger:

Now that’s cool, but not everyone has two bags and hardly anyone buys anything on board. Does it mean a few people having many bags and buying so much water pay what it costs to get all the other passengers to destination?

Or are they just terribly losing money.

Have you ever

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2008 at 10:05

..had a date with your girlfriend or boyfriend in the middle of a work day? Why not?