Quote: The magical power behind deadlines


[To write a novel] You need a super-powered, diabolical device that will transform you into a bastion of literary accomplishment. And I’m happy to report that this implement is in the house, and it’s just waiting for you to pick it up.

Without hyperbole, I can say that this tool is the most awesome catalyst that has ever been unleashed on the worlds of art and commerce. Nearly every beautiful and useful thing you’ve ever touched or witnessed was born in its mighty forge. It’s portable, affordable, and nonpolluting. 

[…] What you need to write a novel, of course, is a deadline.

Deadlines are the dynamos of the modern age. They’ve built every city, won every contest, and helped all of us pay our taxes reasonably close to on time for years and years.

Chris Baty. Why deadlines are every writer’s secret weapon

I first published in my school’s newspaper when I was eleven. Since then I started to write a novel at least three times, never achieving more than a dozen pages.

Then NaNoWrimo came to scene, with its gigantic deadline. 50.000 words. 30 days. A novel from start to end, while doing your best to keep up with your life.

NaNoWriMo. A challenging but clear goal in an agreed, achievable time box. I couldn’t do anything but commit.

A deadline is, simply put, optimism in its most ass-kicking form. It’s a potent force that, when wielded with respect, will level any obstacle in its path.

Chris Baty. Why deadlines are every writer’s secret weapon

Optimistic ass-kicked as I was, I won. Four times. Thanks to the magical power of deadlines.

Related: How to make deadlines actually work, Jason Fried at Inc.com
Related: Why deadlines are every writer secret weapon, Chris Baty at NaNoWriMo.org
Related: About NaNoWriMo at nanowrimo.org
Related: Quotes on planning


The subject is the message. 3 simple rules to write more efficient e-mails

The medium is the message. – Marshall Macluhan

E-mail is cheap, both in time and in money. People can send it to an arbitrary number of people, lists, aliases… People can send it from their desktop, while commuting, while having dinner with their boss or their family.

So now, you receive, let’s say, some hundreds of mails per week. Some of this mails require an answer from you. Some of this mails are just to keep you informed. Some of them can wait, but some of them needs an answer right now.

But you need to open them, just to tell which is expected from you.

Only if we could have a look without needing to open them.

Yes, we can.

Just taking advantage of the subject of the message.

Rule#1: Always read the subject before answering. If the subject doesn’t relate anymore, adapt it to the new theme. Particularly if the subject has become just a bunch of chars like “Re:FWD: RE:RE:RE: Fwd Re:FWD: RE:RE:RE: Fwd: Yesterday’s meeting minutes”.

Rule#2: The FYI (for your information) mark is pretty useful. Why hiding it into the body? Just include the FYI in the subject.

Rule#3: If it’s a short message, don’t even use the body of the message. Just type the message on the subject and use “(eom)”  (End of Message) to tell the recipients they don’t even need to open it.

Great bosses will want you to work less

Not more.

Great bosses leading successful companies won’t want you to work more.

They want you to be more productive. To bring better results in less time. Since…

Productivity = Work done / Time spent

Dilbert's Pointy-haired Boss asking you to work 178 hours a week

When some kind of (pointy-haired) boss asks you to spend more time at work, they are asking to increase the divisor. Increasing the divisor, by itself, will only DECREASE productivity.

Some other type of boss (not as pointy-haired but still kind of) could ask you to increase both the divisor and the dividend. The trick then is that if you would spend an extra 20% time at work, you would need to get at least a 21% increase in the work done to be more productive. This could seem plausible… but by definition extra work is done AFTER you’ve work your normal hours, so it’s unlikely that those extra hours would be the ones getting the most work done.

And all of this leave great bosses with the only strategy able to let them increase productivity. They must make sure to leave alone the divisor. The people is working as much as they should. So they need to INCREASE THE DIVIDEND. More work done in the same time.

How can you accomplish this? Let’s see some strategies:

  • Automation. Every time you need to have something done several times a week (or a month, or a year), please, automate.
  • Change the point of view. People shouldn’t wonder how many extra hours do they need to get this work done, but how is the best way to have this work done in as few hours as possible.
  • Remove obstacles each time tech people is stuck doing other things than their work. E.g. blurry requirements, old-fashioned hardware difficult to work with, dealing with licenses that expired, tough procedures to ask for holidays or reporting progress, …
  • State clear channels for communication. Avoid email lists. Define information radiators. Death penalty on the bosses who arrange long meetings with everyone involved.
  • Focus on focusing. Everyone working in one task at each time, until it’s done.






Gimli, son of Gloin, on software development

How to measure the productivity of a software developer has been an ongoing debate for years.

They studied professional programmers with an average of 7 years’ experience and found that the ratio of initial coding time between the best and worst programmers was about 20 to 1; the ratio of debugging times over 25 to 1; of program size 5 to 1; and of program execution speed about 10 to 1. They found no relationship between a programmer’s amount of experience and code quality or productivity. (Steve McConnell, Rapid Development)

Imagen de Legolas y Gimli en la peli de 1978

Gimli le explica a Legolas la vida del programador

From the number of lines of code written to assigning function points to each part of the code depending on complexity, there is a whole set of proposals out there.

Consider both points above together – your coworker codes 25 function points in one day, but they’re all simple validations (if text box “a” is not a date, throw an error…)

In the same day, you stared at the screen for six hours, whiteboarded a lot, then rewrote one line and deleted fifteen other lines, making a major part of the data processing engine faster by two orders of magnitude.

So he wrote 650 lines and 25 function points, you wrote *negative* fourteen lines of code and no new function points.

Who’s “better” ? (Joel On Software Forum)

J.R.R. Tolkien, in The Lord of the Rings,  was so kind as to take some time to explain, through the words of Gimli the dwarf, the most complex and marvellous part of a software developer’s work.

We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them. With cautious skill, tap by tap – a small chip of rock and no more, perhaps, in a whole anxious day – so we could work, and as the years went by, we should open up new ways, and display far chambers that are still dark, glimpsed only as a void beyond fissures in the rock.

Trying is harmful

Do, or do not. There is no try.
(Master Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back)

  • We’ll try to meet tomorrow
  • I’ll try to be on time
  • We try to improve every day
  • I’ll try not to let you down

The verb ‘to try‘ is the shield behind which we hide when we are not sure, when we don’t really feel like doing something, when we try to avoid uncertainty, when we don’t want to make a commitment.

The verb ‘to try‘ is a wild card, is the way we can walk through without burning any bridges.

Up to what point does inserting to try into the sentence affects our mood, our will, the results of our actions?

Are we doing our best when we are just trying? Or are our words leading to a path of failure?

How different do the words sound when we rule the lack of commitment, the laziness and the fear out!

  • We’ll meet tomorrow
  • I’ll be on time
  • We improve every day
  • I won’t let you down

How different do they sound when we stop trying and start doing!

Don’t hire firemen nor heroes

Andrea: Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero.
Galileo: No, Andrea: Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.
(Bertolt_Brecht – Life of Galileo)

A firemen feels confident, useful and brave during a fire.

A hero without anyone to rescue feels under-used and undervalued.

If you work with firemen and heroes, you’ll spend all day heroically fighting fires. That means you will work on mitigating the urgent instead of on solving the important.

If you have the chance to hire any of them, please don’t do it. And if your staff includes firemen and heroes, you should better train them to do normal, easy-paced, work flow, or get rid of them.


  • Don’t be a Hero (signal vs noise, DHH)Being a hero is all about sitting aside all costs and winning anyway. That’s not a prudent way to drive everyday development. […]Every time you play the hero card, you’re jeopardizing the next game.”
  • The Hero Complex (Making things happen, Scott Berkun) “If things work out well, the survivors look on their heroic efforts as a large part of why they succeded.[…]However, there are bad habits hiding behind this logic.”
  • Fast vs Cheap vs Good and the Covery Quadrant “Finally, quadrant 2, non urgent and important things, is what will give you the chance to offer good and cheap (in the long run). What quadrant of the matrix are you willing to live your life into?”

Fast vs Cheap vs Good and the Covey Quadrant

GOOD CHEAP FAST: You can pick any two

As the sign says, you can offer three kinds of service:

  1. Good and Fast (and expensive)
  2. Good and Cheap (and slow)
  3. Bad, but cheap and fast

The sign says you must choose one of the three. Please, don’t.

If your company needs to be able to keep pace in the long run, if you want it to be a great place to work in, you simply CAN’T AFFORD the cost of offering cheap and fast BAD service.

Bad service will give you angry customers in the long run, when they’d forgotten about how cheap and fast you were, but everyday remembers how bad you were.

Fast and cheap is easy to do, as long as good is not a requirement. Besides, there always be one competitor out there who is willing to offer cheaper and faster bad service than yours.

By the way, here is Stephen Covey’s matrix.


Quadrant 1, the important and urgent things, is what allows you to serve good and fast.

Quadrant 3 is representing cheap and fast service.

Nevermind about point 4. Just don’t do it.

Finally, quadrant 2, non urgent and important things, is what will give you the chance to offer good and cheap (in the long run).


What quadrant of the matrix are you willing to live your life into?