MICHAEL SLIWINSKI is the founder of Nozbe, an online task management tool. Since he loves the freedom of being able to work from anywhere, it was only natural that he would build a remote company. He’s also a speaker, author of the book #iPadOnly, chief editor of Productive! Magazine, and a triathlete.
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His tips for working remotely:
- Regularly review the functionality of your home office and incrementally improve.
- Cut out the distractions and focus.
- Curate your notifications so you don’t get push notifications that you don’t need.
- Try banning email in your company and see what happens.
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Lisette: Great so and we’re live. So welcome everybody to this remote interview. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely and I’m super excited today because we have Michael Sliwinski on the line and Michael, you are the founder of Nozbe which is an online project management tool, you could say, we’ll get into it exactly. You’re a productivity expert so caught my eye completely. The author of iPad Only and the upcoming book No Office, and a chief editor of Productive! magazine.
Lisette: And a triathlete. I’m mean, clearly you’re already a super human, so like, I’m so excited. So welcome. Thanks for being here.
Michael: Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me. I love talking about this stuff. I love talking about productivity and especially I like talking about working remotely because this is something which is true to me, true to my…it’s in my blood.
Lisette: Awesome. So let’s get started. I’m really excited for the first question because I know you’re going to have an interesting answer which is, no pressure of course, what does your virtual office look like? What do you need to get your work done?
Michael: Yes. So, actually on my blog I have a series of blog posts. Like every year, almost, I change a little bit my virtual office. I prove it. I modify it. There’s a whole series…like…I mean, it can go back in time to when I started setting it up, when I was in a small apartment sharing it with my wife and my kids and then we moved to a bigger place and then bigger house. So, it changes almost every year but even now, I’ve been living this house for three years now. I already changed the furniture and the setup of this virtual office like three or four times now. So, I really believe in incremental improving and every year of doing a review of my home office and then seeing what works, what doesn’t, and so now at this point, I have a dedicated room in our house. It’s on the top floor which is good because it’s on the top floor so actually if you want to interrupt me, you have to climb up. So people in the family will have to just get out and climb up to interrupt me. Before that, when I was living in a different house, I was in the middle floor and then people go to your place more often. So, I encourage top floors. Then of course, if you want to get a coffee, you have to go down and go up again so you think twice, so that’s why I don’t drink that many coffees anymore, which is good for my health.
Lisette: It can be a good thing, yes.
Michael: Yeah, and so I have a stand-up desk. It’s from Ikea. I mean, before I recommended it a lot but now it broke down. They fixed it fortunately but it’s…so then I read on the internet that this kind of desk breaks, tends to break, but anyway I like it because it’s a stand-up desk that you can lower down as a sit-up. So actually what I try to do is I try to alternate between sitting and standing when I work, right? Right now, when we’re talking, I’m standing and when I’m writing, I try to stand because I just feel more in motion, more in action mode, you know, when I stand, but I also like to when I read or something, I have a small couch, just behind me. So I use this for example to sit down with my iPad and then read there. This way I just alternate. I like it like this and I have a small basketball because I’m a big fan of basketball and a small basketball, like a really small one, which I just stand to shoot but every two, three hours just be in motion, just do something, you know, stand up again, and just move some energy here.
Lisette: I can imagine it’s good for thinking, you know. If you think about something, you shoot it through a few hoops and yeah.
Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Of course, the problem is that when I shoot and then the ball bumps and then it sometimes just hits some things in my home office but, you know, that’s life. So I have to watch out that I don’t destroy everything while shooting hoops but I keep doing it anyway. And my main computer is my iMac which is on this stand-up desk which I use very often as like my canvas because it’s a big iMac with a big screen bit I prefer actually to work on the iPad and this way I wrote the book iPad Only because the idea of iPad Only is not to work on the iPad 100% but be able to work a 100% but work mostly on the iPad and this is what I do. I have iOS setup like this that I can actually work also on my iPhone also and I have iPhone 6S plus, so the bigger iPhone. So basically I can get everything done on my iPhone as well. So, when I leave home with my iPhone, I have access to all the files, all the tasks, projects, you know. Nozbe works on the iPhone, then Dropbox, Evernote. So I have everything actually on my iPhone as well. That’s why I’m set up like this so that I can…this is actually, I think, a good thing for a remote person like me, remote worker like me that even with an iPhone I can still be productive on the go but the iPad is my computer of choice and right now I’m working on the iPad on Pro, the 12-inch [unintelligible – 05:27] inch iPad Pro, so the big beast. I like it. I like it because it’s big. Again you have big canvas. You can just split the screen but it’s not as handy as the small iPad. I am right now testing the small iPad Pro and checking which one I will keep for most of my work. I’m a gadget guy, you know. [unintelligible – 05:52] Nozbe we have our product is for all the mobile platforms and desktop platforms so we support all these devices, Android, iPhone, iPad, and Mac, Windows, and Apple Watch. Gives me a perfect excuse actually to buy gadgets. So, you know, I always like…to my wife, “You know, honey, I need to buy this latest iPhone because…”
Lisette: For work.
Michael: “…of my work, you know. What can I do? I’m the [unintelligible – 06:13] guy who has to do it, right?” So, yeah. So this helps me really to actually motivate me even more to get things done because I have always this new shiny gadget to work on. Like just the other day, the iOS 10 so they [unintelligible – 06:31] feature of iOS showed up and I need to buy a new iPad to test it. So, you know…
Lisette: Yeah. It’s tough. It’s a tough world.
Lisette: But I like it because you do highlight some important things which I think is have good equipment if you’re going to work remotely, like, really have the right equipment anyway. But I got to…before we…because we’re going to get into this and I also want to talk about Nozbe and what Nozbe does but when you’re talking about these gadgets and you have everything on the phone or on the iPad and you can do this all on the go, let’s talk about a problem that I hear a lot from remote workers which is being always on.
Michael: Yes. So about that. I’m very…I curate my notifications. So I make sure that I don’t get push notifications from things that don’t need, I mean, my attention. So, for example, I love Twitter. I’m an addict to Twitter, really. I need a cure now. I mean, I need to go to [unintelligible – 07:29].
Lisette: I’m guilty as well.
Michael: So I love Twitter but I receive none of the push notifications. If I go to Twitter, I have to just [unintelligible – 07:37] launch the application to go to Twitter. There are no push notifications and somebody mentions me or whatever, no. Nothing. No notifications from Facebook or other…no Instagram or other social media. No notifications from email. So I don’t get notifications from all these distractions things. The only notifications I get are from Slack, if somebody mentions me somewhere or of course from Nozbe if somebody delegates a task to me or mentions me in a task, and Nozbe is our project management tool and we actually manage our whole company inside Nozbe so this is really important that I get these push notifications because, you know, something really important can be there but, then again, if it’s not important and I’m with my family, I just ignore it and that’s it. But, really, thanks to this, I don’t feel like I’m always on. I can be but on the other hand, I don’t feel like I’m always on because I am really, you know, curating these push notifications. So I’m not being called all the time, right?
Michael: So I think this is…
Lisette: I really like that.
Michael: I think…
Lisette: [unintelligible – 08:42] curate my notifications. I really like that.
Michael: Yeah, I mean, for example, I have the Apple Watch, of course, you know.
Michael: Gadget, yeah, I mean, you know, we have an app for the Apple Watch actually but I need it so, I mean, I’m the CEO so I have to have it and I love the Apple Watch also for this thing that when I’m with my family, it’s a good ad for Apple Watch now, so when I’m with my family, I leave my phone in my home office and I’m just with my Apple Watch. So if I get a push notification, I get it on the watch. So, if it’s something really important, I get a notification but actually I cannot do a lot on the Apple Watch. I mean, I would really [unintelligible – 09:20] write an Apple Watch Only book. So I cannot do a lot but, unless there is some emergency, I know about it because I will get a push notification because the Apple Watch actually uses not only Bluetooth but also Wi-Fi to connect with my phone. So the good thing is that, thanks to that, I’m not tempted to just have the phone with me and open the phone when I’m with my family. I spend time with my family. I get notification if there is something very important and, again, only for the Apple Watch, you can actually even curate the notifications even more so you can really make sure that only the important stuff goes in. So, this way actually, I think there is a way to have balance although you can [unintelligible – 10:03] anywhere.
Lisette: Okay. Yeah, I mean, I believe the same thing. I always tell people, “Put your own boundaries in place, whatever those might be, and then stick to them.” That’s the discipline that’s needed but for anything we have to have some sort of discipline so…
Michael: And especially if we are remote workers, we need this disciple. This is something we need in ourselves to curate. I mean, this is why some people just are not capable of remote work because they don’t want to have to discipline. They prefer to have to be forced to go to an office and then be told what to do. I don’t like that but, you know, some people do.
Lisette: Right. Right. I always say to people, it’s not a judgment on one or the other, you know, just know which one you are and then…
Lisette: …plan for that. So it’s good to just know. Let’s talk about Nozbe. I’m very curious about this. I was telling you I used to work on an online project management tool. When I saw this, it just really reminded me of that tool and so I want to get into it. What does Nozbe do and how do you guys work?
Michael: Yes. So in the beginning, Nozbe was just a digital version of Getting Things Done system by David Allen. I just read the book by David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I loved it but being a geek, I wanted to have a digital thing, you know? I didn’t want to write on a piece of paper and then…I didn’t like the non-digital ways to implement it. So, I searched for an online tool. I couldn’t find one and I built one over the weekend for myself and I started using it and then, after a while, I decided, you know, if I like it and it works for me, maybe I should not be selfish and just, you know, maybe tweak it a little bit and publish it to people. There might be some other Michaels out there that will find it useful. It’s actually what happened. In 2007, I launched it as just a web application for desktop and for desktop browser and it resonated with people. I mean, you know, in the first week, I got 10 users but then some press got interested and then suddenly I got thousands of users. So, it was very, very, very good and then it was the year of the iPhone so I actually built also the web version for the iPhone because in the first iPhone you couldn’t built apps, only web apps, and then it grew from there and over the years, it’s changed from just a personal tool to manage your tasks, manage your projects, manage your priorities to a tool that you can actually communicate through tasks, so communicate with others, share projects, delegate tasks, and in tasks, also have comments in tasks. This way you can actually, when you delegate a task, there is a comment, you know exactly what you have to do. If you don’t, you ask question, we get feedback, and in this way, in this way, I was really…I mean, it changed from a just personal tool, which is still great, I mean, Nozbe still works great for just one person to just manage their priorities, but then it’s now, I think, more of a communicate through tasks kind of thing because our company is like we have everything in Nozbe. We have all our projects, we share them in Nozbe. Most of our communication action-based is on Nozbe. [unintelligible – 13:20] but we use Slack only to just chat to just blah blah blah, you know, “Hey, I had a dinner or whatever, I had lunch,” but we use Nozbe for communication, you know, because it’s more efficient. You create a task…we even has this saying in our company because we don’t use email. I mean, we use email with external world, we emailed to get this done…
Michael: …but with…inside a team, I think it’s healthier to not use email but use a tool like Nozbe to communicate through tasks because this way you just separate them because then the important information doesn’t go through email with everything else and you have a better overview of the projects. So, this is what we do. We use Nozbe and we have this saying, “Create a task for me.” So if you want something from me, create a task for me. You know, don’t send me an email, don’t send me a message, create a task for me, and then, you know, I’ll do it. So, that’s [unintelligible – 14:13].
Lisette: Love it. What I love about the email based chat or the task based chat also I think it’s a really smart way of working is because you also have that history in the chat.
Lisette: So anybody new comes onto the project, they can look through the chat history, see all the conversations that have happened, and so that institutional knowledge, that’s brilliant. Plus, it helps you keep track of all the emails that go back and forth, all the emails around tasks…
Lisette: …when you’re working with a team. I mean, it’s really a problem, this whole [unintelligible – 14:45] movement, you see it everywhere. People are just completely overwhelmed by email.
Michael: Yes. Yes and that’s why it’s really healthier to separate that and, again, as you said, you have the whole history when you have a chat inside a task and then you know where you are coming from and also in Nozbe, for example, we support attachments to comments. So, for example, you can use Dropbox, Evernote, or just drag and drop a file to Nozbe and people use it, for example, as [version control], like, you know, I have a task for you with a Word document and then I attach it to the task and I delegate it to you. You download it, check it out, improve it, modify it, you upload it back, and delegate task to me back. So we have the whole version control because we have the old version, the newer version, and we know exactly where it was done, who did that, so really we have a better transparency, you know, in projects and in tasks, and I think it’s really important, especially in a remote environment, because in my company, we haven’t mentioned that I think in the show yet that in my company we are 20 plus people and we all work from home. We are all….really…we don’t have an office, no central office. Nothing. There’s an address. It’s official. There’s an official address but nobody works there so if you got here, sorry, nobody will open [unintelligible – 15:58]. It’s not like we’re not polite but we use the online thing, you know. Our address actually, Nozbe.com, is our [unintelligible – 16:04].
Michael: That’s all there is there and for many people, this is actually strange, you know. Whenever I talk about my company, they’re like, “So where are you based?” “So we are…we are from Poland but we work all from homes and then we have people from different countries and everything.” “Okay.” “We don’t have an office. We all work from home.” “Okay, okay. So where are you based?”
Michael: So it’s hard for people to understand but…
Michael: …but we are like that and it was my lifestyle. It’s our lifestyle choice and we love this choice.
Lisette: What do you personally love so much about working remotely?
Michael: I mean, there is this…have you seen the movie Braveheart?
Michael: Yes. Freedom. Alright?
Lisette: [unintelligible – 16:51].
Michael: So, there you have it. Mel Gibson freedom. This is what I love about it, I mean, because, you know, I started as a remote consultant so I was a web consultant. I was helping others sell their stuff on the internet and I was, you know, [one-man shop] and I was just having my laptop and we moved from city to city because my wife was changing jobs and I would just follow her with my laptop and I loved it because nobody really cared where I was as long as I had internet connection, so that was the only thing that was required and, now, in 2016, we have internet connections everywhere so it’s really…
Michael: …and so for me it was always I loved that freedom. I can work from anywhere. I can do anything and then through the internet, thanks to the internet. If we didn’t have internet, I don’t know what I would do. I mean, I really have no clue. So, it’s really important for me and I love this freedom and then, now, for example, we have this thing that we hire people, we hire talent from anywhere, you know, and this is for me cool, I mean, and on their side, like, for example, last year, we hired a designer who works from a really small city in southern Poland and he got job offers because he’s a very good designer. He got job offers from Warsaw but they all said, “You have to move to Warsaw, to the capital, to actually work for us.” He didn’t want to move. So and then he got a job offer from us and also a very good job offer, you know, like, a very good one, but then he didn’t have to move. He could just stay where he was so, for him, it was like, “Yeah, this is the perfect match for me,” right? So this way, we can really build a team, I mean, I can, whenever we hire people, we can hire people from anywhere and they don’t have to change their lifestyle just because we hired them and I think it’s also great. So there’s this freedom for us and freedom for them. So I think this is the most important thing and the work-life balance. I mean, on one hand, I think I work more because it’s closer to home, right, but on the other hand, I can be at home in the hours where there is nobody usually at home, right? Or I can…like, in the middle of the day, I mentioned I’m a triathlete. I’m an amateur triathlete. I’m just doing this because I want to be in shape and I don’t…I’m not a medallist or anything like that but what I like about it is that, you know, very often, like at 2 pm, I just see my energy going down, I cannot work anymore. So I just go out for a bike ride or for a run and I just feel better. I just come back, shower, and work again and then the endorphins kick in, you know. I’m happier and I’m more productive. So, again, try doing this in a normal office, you know, just go out for a run and then come sweaty. I mean [unintelligible – 19:40].
Lisette: Right. [Few] hours later, I mean, if you’re going out for a long run or if you feel like going longer or whatever…
Michael: Exactly and people are judging you because you’re not in the office, you know. “You should be here because we’re paying you,” whatever, and in my company, we don’t have [that]. We just…I…we trust and that’s the last thing, I want to mention. Trust is the basic, you know, it’s the basis of our company instead of control. I mean, there’s this German saying, “Trust is good but control is better.” I think it’s the other way around. Control is good but trust is better. So, like, we are forced to trust each other because I don’t have webcams installed in the home offices of my peers, of my colleagues. We all trust each other to deliver work and I think this also makes the dynamics of the company better.
Lisette: So how do you then know what each other are doing? I’m assuming Nozbe, clearly, because it’s a task management system.
Lisette: But I mean you’ve got 20 people now and I assume they’re all superstars but not every company has superstars and how do you know somebody’s slacking or how do you give the feedback? How does that work with you guys?
Michael: So, you know, we have several systems that we use like for example, like the developers and the programmers, for example, every day, at 10 am, they have stand-up meting which is not really a stand-up meeting because they just connect via Slack actually, Slack audio, to just say what they’ve been working on yesterday and then say what they will be working on today and what problems they’ve been experiencing and this meeting, we have 10 developers and designers in the team, and this meeting lasts 20 minutes. So it’s really fast. So you just say things and that’s it and then the product manager tells you or gives you some feedback or something. So it’s a very short meeting but they do it every day. This way [unintelligible – 21:33] they know what they’re working and what they’ve been working on. But, actually, I think in remote work, if you have tasks and you communicate though tasks and you have things you have to, you know, deliver, it’s actually harder to slack off than in a normal office. In a normal office, you go to all the meetings, you are active, you speak up, and then people think you’re productive in a normal office but if you’re working remotely, you have to deliver things. If you don’t deliver the goods, like, once or twice, you know, we can understand but then if you keep on not delivering things, not delivering the things you promised, we see that. It’s just obvious and then we are like, “What are you doing? What happens?” You know? So I think in remote work, actually, because it’s based on delivery of results, it’s really results-driven, it’s harder to disappear and especially in a team that relies on each other. When we, really, we, like, we depend on each other because we have to deliver things because we’re doing something for the user, you know. We have to deliver our app. We have to bring new version and then we have to market it, we have to ship it. It’s all, you know, we are on the same boat. So if somebody’s slacking off, we can clearly see that.
Lisette: Yeah. I love that. I think that you’re right. It’s a clear thing. It’s…as remote workers, it’s great we have all this freedom and then we also have the great responsibility of delivering value.
Michael: Yes and when you finish the day and then you see from the tasks that you haven’t done so much, you feel bad, really, and then you…it’s really I think it’s really more motivating to work remotely this way because really you have to want…you want to show the team that you’re delivering.
Lisette: Yeah. So I’m dying to ask you about productivity because you are the productivity expert with Productivity! magazine and a productivity podcast. I’m just like, I’ve got to know, I’ve got to know. I mean, I’m sure and there was a course that I read about. It was like top ten productivity…people sign up on your mailing list, they get a course.
Michael: [unintelligible – 22:43] productivity, yeah.
Lisette: Awesome. So, I’m going to…you’ll be seeing my name shortly after we’ve finished this interview.
Lisette: But if you could give top productivity tips, if you…what do remote workers…what are the best things that they need to know about productivity?
Lisette: [unintelligible – 23:58] big question. Sorry in advance.
Michael: Yeah. I can…I mean, how much [unintelligible – 24:02] time do we have?
Lisette: [unintelligible – 24:04]. It’s true.
Michael: Yeah. So the thing is that, I mean, first thing, appreciate the time you have. So, really, make sure that you get distractions out of the way. That’s why I was so highlighting the curating of my notifications. So to make sure you have really time to deliver your work, you have time for [unintelligible – 24:22]. Like, just after this conversation, I have to review a contract so I want to make sure I’m not getting distracted. I just can review the contract you know, read it. So I’m going to just dedicate a full, like, Pomodoro, so a full 30 minutes to this and just really try not to do anything else. So, I would say really make sure that you’re not being distracted all the time because the one mistake that I see we do as remote workers is that we get all these push notifications from all these places, from all these people and then we get distracted and we just don’t deliver things but because we’re remote, because people cannot literally come to our office and tell us, “Hi, I need a thing,” you can actually shut things off and I think is a luxury that we have that we can shut things off, focus on things, and come back and people will be fine. The world will not end in 30 minutes or one hour when you’re off and you were off working on an important thing. So I would say that and, for me, which is really helpful is to have like a morning routine and to set up like, the three main things, three main big rocks, big tasks the day before. So the day before, I write them down before going to sleep. I don’t know. I heard somewhere that, you know, you’re mind is working on them as you sleep. I don’t know if it’s really true but I think it is. I believe it is and then in the morning, I wake up, I have a morning routine, I review these three tasks and then I try to actually work on these three tasks and, with my team, I have this kind of understanding that up until 12, up until noon, I’m not really going to talk to them as much. So if they want to chat with me or, you know, they have some questions, they better leave it for later because only at 12, I connect with the team, I review [unintelligible – 26:10] and all these things because I want to have time, like, the early morning, for these big things, for these big tasks because if I don’t do them, then I’m just going to have a worse day. So, I would say these three big rocks and then try to really have this time for these things and then allocate it. So I think it’s…and, you know, there are really lots of things but the Pomodoro technique that I mentioned is also very good [unintelligible – 26:37] half an hour, you just, you know, put the timer there and just work on something. There are apps for that on the iPhone and for the Mac. So I encourage you to do that and there is a very cool technique I mentioned in my blog. It’s called Unschedule. It’s like you schedule the cool stuff so for example you schedule when you’re going to run or when you have a meeting or when I have a podcast interview. You schedule these things and then you see how many holes you have inside your day. So we can then, you know, do your work inside these holes and then you are looking forward to the next step. So, for example, in 2 hours, I’m going to run. So I have these 2 hours now, work on my stuff, and then in 2 hours, I’m going to go out and have a run. So I’m looking forward to the run but I know I have to get certain things to actually allow myself to go running. So, there are lots of things that you can do but I think, you know, really minding your focus, minding your time, trying to work with as few distractions as possible is really key and we can do that because we can shut things off.
Lisette: Yeah, love it. What is your morning routine? Can I ask? I love people…on the Tim Ferriss podcast, he always asks everybody their morning routine and I’m always fascinated. Like, some people check their email right away. Some people say, “No, no, I never check my email.”
Michael: Yeah. So, one of the parts of my morning routine is that I check Twitter, which I really shouldn’t be doing, but because my customers are mainly from the US and I live in Europe, so in the morning, I get all the news from the US because there was day there when I was sleeping. So, I really like that but, you know, in the morning, the first thing I do when I wake up, I have my iPhone charging at the other end of the room so I have to actually…to turn it off, I have to stand up, go get my iPhone, turn off the alarm clock, and then I go to the bathroom, you know, brush some teeth, and, you know, do the things there in the bathroom and then I sit down and on my iPhone, I write my journal in the morning. So I write a small journal, [unintelligible – 28:43] what happened. I have actually from Tim Ferriss actually, I have a very cool template, you know, with questions so I have a few questions that I’m answering. What I’m thankful for yesterday? What was the small thing that I’m thankful for? Like, these kind of questions.
Lisette: Yeah, I bought this journal for my sister from [unintelligible – 29:01].
Michael: So based on that, I just created a small template and I just fill it out on the iPhone and I put it there and then I review my big rocks, my big tasks for the day, and then I pray because I’m a Christian Catholic so I pray. So it’s like my meditation. I pray then and then after that actually I go down to drink water with lemon and then I brew some coffee for me and for my wife and then after that, I’m off for the race, you know? I can do anything. I mean, I either bring kids to school first and then start working or right now it’s vacation time. They’re not in school anymore so I will probably do some sports first or just right on to work, depending on the day.
Lisette: Okay. Super interesting. I love…we have very similar routines in a lot of ways. It’s super interesting. So I want to a little bit…so it sounds like everything’s really great at Nozbe but what are the challenges? What do you guys struggle with in this way of working?
Michael: Yeah, so, several things. I mean, first of all, there is the problem of course of direct contact. So like, you [really] want to be with people and especially we really like each other a lot in our team. We have a really fantastic. They’re all super starts from my point of view and we really hire slow and fire fast so, really, our process of hiring is really slow because we want to make sure that we get the best people and we know they have…when we hire them, they have still 3 months to prove themselves and to prove that they are part of the team. So we truly really hire really good people. So the thing is that we really want to meet so what we do is, first, we meet twice a year for like a Nozbe reunion. So what we do is we actually rent a hotel somewhere for a week and we go there and we spend quality time there. So we work, we show presentations, this kind of things, we interact, we go out, we have really good food, good drinks, I mean, just have fun together and bond together as a team. We do it twice a year because we really need that contact. The thing when you are a remote worker is that you have to actually switch your mindset because, normally, what happens is that when you go to an office, you interact with people there and then when you come back home, you actually don’t want to interact with anyone because you’re tired. You just….you have your family there and then nothing else. You just…you want to relax now. When you’re a remote worker actually, I crave in the afternoons for some time with people, you know. I actually plan afternoons to go out with somebody, to maybe have this play date with my kids and, with some other family, to just spend time together to watch a game or, I don’t know, go out and have some dinner. So it’s a whole new mindset because during the whole day, I’m not really…I’m talking to people like you, I’m talking to my team sometimes because we sometimes have meetings and also video meetings because we use Zoom actually too for the meetings. Yeah, it’s fantastic.
Lisette: Great tool, huh?
Michael: Great tool, yeah. So we use that for our meetings but so I don’t feel like I’m really not connected but really I feel because I’m an extrovert so I really need that connection in the afternoons and I like it because the thing is that people I meet in the afternoons are not people related to my job. They are not coworkers. They are people from totally different backgrounds, totally different jobs, and the only thing that’s connecting me is that we like similar things or we have children in the same school or whatever. So, I meet with different people and I think I really appreciate this variety, you know, this thing that I meet with, you know, other people but I feel in my team that we need more contact. That’s why we have these reunions and sometimes people meet also personally, you know, even travel to each other’s cities just to see each other, you know, for a second, you know. I think this is, I mean, the biggest drawback of working remotely, I think.
Lisette: Yeah. The actual physical human connection, it’s really not replaceable. As good as the video is, I mean, I’m curious about the holograms and the virtual reality coming. I’m really curious how that’s going to change things but, for now, [unintelligible – 33:12] really, really crave the human connection, I can imagine, and twice a year, I can imagine, is just enough, twice a year a week at a time is just enough for people to really connect and then you can go off again and kind of keep [unintelligible – 33:25].
Michael: Yeah I think so. We tried once a year first and once a year was no enough. I mean, twice a year is great. Some people want to have it even more frequent but then it’s really hard, it’s really a logistic, a logistics problems because we have people working from many cities and even countries so really get them together, it’s a logistical issue, but twice a year is already great. I mean, it already helps us recharge the batteries and see each other again and we love that. I mean, this is the difference also in office and [not office]. I mean, if you [have] work in an office, you might not want to have a retreat with your people because you see them every freaking day, right?
Lisette: Yeah. It’s true. Like, the last thing you want to do is go and spend the weekend with them after you spend [unintelligible – 34:03].
Michael: Exactly, exactly. In this way, and we’re really looking forward. I mean, right now, we are planning our October retreat so our October reunion and so we have already dates scheduled. We’re looking into hotels now. So it’s really exciting, you know. We like planning this and our families are okay with that, with us leaving the families for a week because, I mean, apart from these two weeks, we are home every day. So, they’re really [fine with it].
Lisette: They’re like, “Get out. Get out.”
Michael: Exactly and, “Go out. I’m tired of you. I’m sick of you. You’re here every day,” you know? So, they’re really okay with us leaving and we found out also by testing that we used…we do reunions without our spouses and without our partners because then we can really spend quality time together as a team. We don’t have to mind other people who are not a part of the team. We just focus on ourselves, on the team, and it’s a really good team bonding experience. So yeah, this is what we do.
Lisette: Okay. So we’re running out of time but I want to ask another question which I think is useful for people which is if people want to start out like if you want to start your team out on a tool like Nozbe, what advice would have you have for people that want to try your tool out and switch to sort of having everything in one system?
Michael: Yeah, so, again, it’s a lot and yesterday I actually had a webinar on that [unintelligible – 35:29], yeah. One of the things was try…because it’s really hard for people to switch from email. They’re used to email and email is…it’s so common and then start having things in the tool. I always say try with one project. Like say, “Okay, this one project we’ll manage in Nozbe. So we’ll start an account. We’ll share a project there and we’ll just put tasks there and then comments in the tasks and only there. If you send me an email about it, I’m going to forward this email to Nozbe,” which can be done very easily, and this converts this email to a task. So just ban email, literally ban email for this one project and you will see the difference between managing everything else in your email and then managing this one project in Nozbe and then, after that, I’m sure you will want to switch more projects to Nozbe and, in the end, you will do what I did in my company, just ban email entirely inside the company and just use email for the outside world.
Lisette: You banned email entirely within the company.
Michael: We don’t use Nozbe. We don’t use email. We don’t use email inside Nozbe. If you email me, my assistant will convert it into a task anyway. So just faster would be just create a task for me, right? So, because you have access to me because when we work together, you have access to me, you have access to projects that we share, so you can easily create a task for me if you want something from me. It’s really that easy so why would you email me then?
Lisette: Love it. Super efficient. I totally love it and I want to introduce you to Yegor Bugayenko who runs a company called Teamed.io where they don’t talk over the phone or anything. They do everything through a ticketing system, everything.
Lisette: Never even met them, so it’s very extreme but…
Michael: Woah, this is really extreme.
Lisette: …[I really think] you guys should know each other, I think, because..
Michael: Alright, yeah.
Lisette: …you would at least appreciate each other’s style of working. So, [unintelligible – 37:14].
Lisette: So, last question which is [unintelligible – 37:18] I could go on for really a long time but okay we have to…all things must end. All good things must end. What is the best way for people to get in touch with you and to find out more? I know you said Twitter. So what’s your Twitter handle?
Michael: It’s complicated because it’s my last name. So it’s msliwinski.com. msliwinski. msliwinski is my Twitter handle but you just go to sliwinski.com which is my sir name, my last name. sliwinski.com is my blog. Also, on the Nozbe blog, so nozbe.com, you can find on Nozbe blog my posts and link to my blog, and on my blog, you can have links to my Twitter, my Instagram, you know, all the goodies. So you can connect with me there and there is a big About page about me with all the links, with all the information about me. So you can get everything there and yeah, and then from there you can see my book. So my book about passion which I self-published or my iPad Only book which [was] also self-published. So, everything you want to know [is] sliwinski.com and, you know, you can write me an email. I’m still using email for the external…for other people than my team mates. So it’s fine.
Lisette: Until the world converts to Nozbe…
Michael: Yeah, exactly.
Lisette: …some…yeah…[unintelligible – 38:27] email, yeah, it’s true.
Michael: Yeah, you know, at least that but we’re working on that that everybody converts to Nozbe and then…I’m sure would be the more organised place.
Lisette: Yeah, for sure. More transparent, also, which would be very nice.
Michael: Yeah this is actually sometimes an issue with the teams when they share a project, they’re like, “But then everybody on this project can see everything,” but that’s god, you know? [unintelligible – 38:52].
Lisette: [unintelligible – 39:52]. Yeah. Go for it.
Lisette: Yeah, I agree. I agree it’s a better way of working. People filter themselves and that’s much better than having the information filtered for you.
Michael: Exactly, exactly.
Lisette: I would think, for any company, that that would be a good thing but, yeah, we’re not all as evolved and sophisticated as this yet but yeah we’ll get there.
Michael: Yeah, that’s why I want to write…I’m writing…I’m in the process of writing my No Office book. So it’s coming in 2017, the No Office book, and when it’s published, I hope that we can meet again and talk about it again but really No Office is something that I’m really looking forward to just to convert this way of thinking to people that, you know, it’s a modern way of work, that you don’t rely on, you know, meetings and being all the time in the office because, even if you work in an office, you’re not always in the office, you know. You are on business trips, you are on…like…you should change the way you work and, thanks to the internet, we can do that.
Lisette: Amen. Totally love it. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. I really wish you all the best success. We’ll definitely talk when the book is published. I would love to. I’ll be pre-ordering as soon as I can. So thanks so much.
Michael: Thank you so much. Thank you.
Lisette: Aright, everybody. Until next time. Be powerful.