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Interview with Scott Berkun

Interview with Scott Berkun

Scott Berkun is one of the writers on the web who known by many people – articles such as Why smart people defend bad ideas, How to learn from your mistakes, Work vs. Progress are linked by many blogs and discussed by many people.

Scott Berkun Photo

    He was a program manager at Microsoft, leading some major projects on design and development. Through his experience on the previous job, he is able to venture his own project management and product design consulting business, wrote a book on project management, and continue to write articles for his web site. Knowing him will be quite interesting for me and also for lifehack.org’s readers, with a bold heart I asked him to spare a time for interview.

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    Lifehack.org: Would you tell me more about yourself? You were a program manager at Microsoft Corporation for quite a long time, and you have been successful on leading your team. Does it set an expectation for you on how you pursuit your life?
    SB: I’m the kind of guy that wants to do great things. I try to never do anything by half – either do it, and do it well, or don’t. I think many of the skills I learned as a program manager apply well to anything: being clear on goals, being honest and open, and working hard to get what you’re going for. My success so far with writing and consulting have definitely come about with help from those skills.

    … I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity.

    Lifehack.org: What makes you set a life goal on writing books?
    SB: I love books. They represent many of the best things about our species: sharing knowledge, expression, creativity and commitment. Books have changed my life many times and I wanted to find out if I could do the same for someone else. Or at least write my thoughts down so I don’t have to remember quite as many things.

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    Lifehack.org: This year you have passed a very big milestone for your life – the release of your book The Art of Project Management. Why would you choose this topic for your first book?
    SB: I wanted to capture what I thought I’d learned from being at the right place at the right time during the dawn of the Internet age. If I’d waited 5 years to write a book like this I doubt it would have been as straightforward, practical and useful – it was all still fresh in my mind enough to tell it all honestly and give advice pulled from experience.

    Lifehack.org: Are they exact challenges and experience you had faced during your work at Microsoft?
    SB: Many of them are in the book – all the stories in the book are true (though some names have been changed here and there). I certainly made lots of mistakes: but what’s funny is that as you get older it’s the mistakes that have the most value and make for the best stories. Making mistakes is good for you!

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    Lifehack.org: What is the most important thing to be a leader in your work or personal life?
    SB: I think leadership comes from integrity – that you do whatever you ask others to do. I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity.

    Lifehack.org: On top of writing books, you also have written some short articles which are freely available for online readers. Articles such as “Why smart people defend bad ideas” and “How to learn from your mistakes” are some of the most popular articles around blogs and web sites. Would you tell me your thinking process on how to come up with a topic to write?
    SB: I think about things i wish someone else would write, but that doesn’t exist. Or I’ll find it and see another way to attack the same question. Then I get going. Essays take lots of time to write and many of them don’t work out well enough to publish, but that’s the basic process. I’m a curious person and I try to follow that curiosity when I sit down to write. If I’m being open, I never know where the essay is going to go.

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    Lifehack.org: How do you manage your time with many responsibilities from days to nights?
    SB: Everyone gets 24 hours a day. I try to make each day represent my priorities. So I write every day (even weekends), work on my consulting business every day, and exercise and do silly things every day. I figure if I can manage each day well, the weeks, months and years will take care of themselves.

    Lifehack.org: Do you have other projects coming up?
    SB: I write an essay a month on the site – the blog that’s been up there has been mostly supporting the book, and that ‘s changing now. I expect to write shorter pieces up there. I’m planning an east coast book tour for October (if anyone wants me to come speak, contact me). The next book is a novel (fiction) and it should be wrapped up by late September. After than it’s back to non-fiction. The next book will likely be about managing ideas and creative thinking.

    Lifehack.org: Scott, it is my pleasure to talk to you. Looking forward to read your book very soon. I am sure the book will help me a lot on my daily job. All the best on your consultant work and book writings!

    Essays by Scott Berkun
    Project Management, Web design and product usability services
    The book: The Art of Project Management by Scott

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder of Lifehack

    Book summary: A Technique for Producing Ideas Finding Your Inside Time 10 Ways to Extend Laptop Battery Life Bob Parsons on His 16 Rules for Survival Free note taking templates and techniques

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    Last Updated on September 16, 2019

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    More About Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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