Issue #35

In this edition: how to get GROSS with your bloated processes, reset with some Dutch niksen, why to make meetings hard to schedule, what you can learn from others' 1-star reviews, artistic leaf raking, cutting things in half, and more.

Issue #35

Happy Monday, and welcome to another edition of Idea Surplus Disorder. I'm visiting my daughter in California at USC later this week, and Filament is off on Monday, so I made this week's edition doubly good. See you again on October 23rd!

In this edition: how to get GROSS with your bloated processes, reset with some Dutch niksen, why to make meetings hard to schedule, what you can learn from others' 1-star reviews, artistic leaf raking, cutting things in half, and more.

I’m Matt Homann, the founder of Filament, and I’m glad you’re here!


  • October 11 | Bookstorming: This month, we're reading books with creative takes on personal productivity. It's not too late to sign up!
  • October 24 | NSFW – Your Company's Annual Review: It’s annual review time — but this year, instead of giving feedback to your employees, consider the feedback you’d offer your own organization. In this edition of Filament’s New Skills For Work, we’ll help you build a simple-to-run company “performance review” meeting and share tools that will help you make it valuable (and fun) for your entire team.
  • October 27 | Filament Friday: Back by popular demand, join us, work in our space, meet some innovative folks, and play some bocce!

Ideas + Insights

If your organization has lots of bureaucracy or legacy processes that just don't work any longer, perhaps you need to launch a G.R.O.S.S. Initiative.

Get Rid of Stupid Stuff (GROSS) launched in October 2017. Clinicians were encouraged to identify anything in the EHR that was poorly designed, unnecessary, or just plain nonsensical. The submission form was simple and easily accessible on HPH’s internet.

We've had a busy September at Filament, so I'm going to lean into some niksen (the Dutch art of doing nothing) next Weekend:

To niksen, you only need to be idle for a time without trying to be productive or fulfill a purpose. That’s it. It seems about as easy as curling up in your favorite chair. Yet in practice, it’s far more difficult.
Imagine, for example, that you work remotely, and you take a break to clean out the dishwasher. Is that niksen? No. You’re using your time to be productive, and that’s not doing nothing. What about scrolling through your Instagram feed? No, because you’ve used the time to catch up with all the online happenings.

If you have too many meetings, maybe you should stop making them so easy to schedule:

Meetings should be rare, as they should only be called to gain consensus. And the party calling the meeting should complete three steps before the meeting can happen: First, meeting organizers must disseminate relevant information and ask for feedback through asynchronous channels before scheduling a meeting. Second, organizers must circulate an agenda for the meeting, structuring how attendees will address the problem. No agenda, no meeting. Third, they have to give their best shot at a solution in the form of a brief, written digest. The digest need not be more than a page or two discussing the problem, their reasoning, and their recommendation.

Speaking of meetings, which one of these seven do you hate the most? Here are the two our clients frequently complain about:

This Isn’t a Meeting; It’s a Lecture Bunch of people. Check. In a conference room. Check. He’s talking now. Still talking. It’s been 30 minutes, and no one else has said a thing. Why are we meeting? Why is there only one human talking? Not a meeting, by the way.
We’re Aimless We know why we’re here. We have the right people, but no one is referreeing, and now we’re off into topically irrelevant foreign lands.

Stuck? Ask yourself these three questions:

  • What haven't I done yet? Why?
  • What's stopping me from doing this?
  • What is making me frustrated or discontent?

I love this tip from the Do Lectures newsletter for future authors trying to find the right niche for their book:

Read 1-star book reviews in your market. This will tell you what they were looking for when they bought the book but did not get answers too.That is what is still missing. The gap. Can you fill the gap by answering their unmet need?

Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) has some brilliant advice on how they develop their act:

(We) knock around ideas. We are not in any way supportive. As soon as the germ of an idea comes up, the other person tries to crush it, because if there’s something bad about it, we want to find out as soon as we can. We never compromise, because that can only lead to mediocrity. If one of us doesn’t like something, we try to come up with another idea we do both like.

The higher the likelihood that a job can be done remotely, the greater its potential exposure is to AI-driven change.

Salesforce's Mark Benioff has a simple four-step management technique for keeping his direct reports aligned with their goals:

  • Each team leader submits a plan (grow 20% is Benioff’s metric)
  • If you’re hitting the plan, meet once a quarter.
  • If you’re missing the plan, meet once a week (until you hit the plan)
  • Ask: What got done? What worked? What didn’t work? How do we know it worked?

Though an organization might have to tolerate one toxic employee (for a while), never accommodate two:

Two is too many, it feeds on itself. You can’t have two toxic employees. One toxic but hyper-talented team member drives everyone nuts, but doesn’t change the culture. But two do. They feed on each other, hire other toxic people, and turn the company against the mission and each other.

This quote from Annie Dillard is about writing and creativity, but it really hit me, so thought I'd give it a bit more attention:

One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

Fun Finds

  • Artistic Leaf Raking
  • One Second App forces you to take a deep breath before opening an addictive app on your smartphone.
  • Rephonic is a super helpful discovery tool if you're looking for new podcasts in your industry.
  • Answer the Public listens into autocomplete data from search engines like Google then quickly cranks out every useful phrase and question people are asking around your keyword.
  • Quick, free AI QR Codes
  • Halfsies is a surprisingly difficult game that challenges you to cut things in half.

Words of Wisdom

"If you don’t know what to write in your diary, you write the date at the top of the page as neatly and slowly as you can and things will come to you.” – Lynda Barry
"Our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable." – Twyla Tharp
“Your purpose is not the thing you do; it’s the thing that happens in others when you do what you do!" – Jade Simmons
"It is awfully hard work doing nothing." – Oscar Wilde
"Peace is happiness at rest, and happiness is peace in motion. You can convert peace into happiness anytime you want. But peace is what you want most of the time. If you’re a peaceful person, anything you do will be a happy activity." – Naval Ravikant
"I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” – Meryl Streep
“Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust—it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.” – Daniel Coyle
"How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around and don’t let anybody tell you any different." – Kurt Vonnegut
"Whoever echages happiness for money can't exchange money for happiness." – José Narosky

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