Introduction: If you can’t find the tool you need, then design and produce it yourself! At least, that’s what Michael Sliwinski did with his popular productivity management system called Nozbe. In a recent interview, we talked to Michael about productivity tips, what it’s like to run a startup business, and how you can use technology to make the most out of every day.
Typesy: One of your recent blog posts mentions “stretch goals.” What is a stretch goal?
This is a goal that you can’t achieve by using your regular procedures, planning habits and tools. This is an ambitious vision rather than a goal and it requires you to go out of your comfort zone and “stretch” your capabilities beyond the usual performance.
Goals like these might be really discouraging and cause frustration – I experienced that not so long ago while planning new Nozbe marketing strategy for the end of this year and the entire 2016.
I am a great advocate of a small steps method so I was a little bit at crossroads with these bold goals I set to myself and the whole Nozbe team. In the end though, I realized that there is no inconsistency between having stretch goals and working step by step with “small wins” to get them done. I think they will let us go outside the box and inspire us while planning and looking for solutions.
Typesy: Did you ever have the specific goal of running your own company, or did your Nozbe venture simply evolve over time, from your own personal tool to one that people around the world are using to help manage their productivity?
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I couldn’t really imagine myself in any other place. I guess I was raised to run a business – and these are my entrepreneurial parents who are to blame (You can read more about them in a blogpost I wrote a few years ago – https://sliwinski.com/parents/). When I graduated from college many people were questioning my choice of going on my own. I had a quite nice resume – two business college degrees, three foreign languages spoken fluently – they suggested I could get a really good job in a prestigious international company. But I decided to try myself and build my own startup. Well… I failed at last three times to finally hit it with Nozbe. And it is still a learning curve and I love every minute of it. My parents supported me all the way. They proved to me that you can switch jobs, try, fail, learn something new, fail again, succeed, change again… and that it’s all very exciting and rewarding.
Nozbe has, indeed, evolved from my own personal time and tasks management tool that was a product of my need and of my interest in GTD that I discovered at certain moment. I was working as a freelance consultant at that time and I had many various clients and projects. As a geek, I wanted to have a nice tool to implement GTD but couldn’t really find any suitable software on the market. So I wrote a web app which only some time later turned out to be a life-saver for other people too Then Nozbe started to be my side project to finally become a core business in 2007. First from one-mans-shop, through only being 3 people to currently 20+ folks in the team, Nozbe keeps evolving and I keep growing as an entrepreneur.
Typesy: You welcome new listeners and viewers to your website and your regular Productive! Show podcast, where you talk about a range of issues related to technology and productivity (and the latest Apple offerings). Can people ask you questions as well, or request specific topics for your podcasts and articles?
Of course! I am open for discussion and any suggestions. I appreciate constructive criticism and like to know whether my work helps other people. It motivates me. I always encourage my readers to share their views and opinions in the comments below any blogpost/podcast episode etc. My e-mail address as well as social media contacts are public and available on my contact page.
Typesy: Much of technology has evolved around the keyboard, and it’s still one of the most popular ways to interface with systems and society. How has typing skill – or lack of it – impacted your business and personal life, or that of people that you’ve helped in the past?
To my way of thinking every person considering themselves as “productive” should be able to touch-type. It saves so much time! You need to invest many hours to learn it but you will be blown away with the results. If your job involves much typing, transcribing, replying to e-mails, copywriting, creative writing etc. you definitely need to “lose” time on learning to touch-type in order to save thousands of hours in the future.
I’ve always been pretty proficient with my use of keyboard, but when I saw my friend touch type around 10 years ago, I decided to give it a try… and now I type 3 times faster than I used to! Not 10-20% more, that’s a 300% improvement. I think all the kids should be taught this at school!
Typesy: You offer a free book titled “It’s All About Passion” that talks about your development as an entrepreneur and the things that you found useful. What role does passion have in business?
It has a huge role that can’t be ever overestimated. Obviously, there are many reasons why companies, projects or startups fail but what I discovered was that most of the time it all comes down to one major reason:
Passion… or the lack of it.
Passion is what inspires people and what gives them the drive to move forward. It gives a reason to live, to wake up in the mornings and stay up late at night. Running your own business takes a huge amount of time and requires sacrifices in your private life with your the loved ones. At he beginning you actually work on a project which you don’t know whether or not will ever succeed. You have no clue if your effort ever pays off.
That’s why it is so important to be passionate about what you’re doing. Without this, you are ten times more likely to fail.
I quote many famous and successful people in my book – everyone of them emphasizes the role of passion and devotion. Even late Steve Jobs in his famous Stanford Commencement Speech said that “you’ve gotta love what you do, if you don’t, keep looking, don’t settle”. It’s really all about passion and all the types of passion I mention in the book keep me going to this day and hopefully for the years to come!
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