Work Guidelines

I try to hold myself to the following points. They aren't comprehensive in any way, but I add to them as I run across them. Most material liberally borrowed from those wiser and more experienced than me. Please hold me to my own admonishments if we work together.

By the same token, since these are representative of my expectations of myself, they should give you a clear sense of what sorts of behaviors I will be happy with if we work together. If you don't see yourself working well in the following way, let's talk about it before we embark on any projects together.


As "company values" go, this one is nearly always on the list and nearly always totally vapid, but here are some examples of ways I think one can show it in a work environment:

  • Use passive and time-saving forms of communication when possible. It can be easier to call someone on Skype to ask a quick question so that you can keep going with your work, but planning ahead as best possible can minimize interruptions for others. My preference is email before resorting to IM, IM before phone, phone before meetings.
  • Explain, and trust others to be doing the same. Responding to an email with simply "I don't understand" doesn't help the conversation. Whomever sent the original email should be working hard to explain what they meant, so it's best to do the same favor back. Asking "did you mean..." or explain what in particular is confusing can make the conversation much faster and a better experience for all involved.


Value effectiveness over efficiency: work on the right thing rather than getting through all of the wrong things fast. That said, getting the right things done fast is best. Here are some ideas about doing that:

  • Meetings with more than four people are just parties where no one is having fun. The same is true for meetings with no clearly defined purpose or agenda and if there is no decision made by the end of the meeting. People are present who aren’t making a decision or giving inputs necessary to make a decision shouldn't be in the room.
  • Meetings can be bad parties if they have no set length, no single person in charge and no one documenting.
  • Understand the purpose before starting a task or assigning one. People often ask for things that are simply a task list that is meant to support the actual goal that they have. Knowing what that goal is often saves a lot of work on aspects of the project that might not be particularly pertinent. For the same reasons, it's bad form to ask for anything without explaining its purpose.
  • When communicating a problem to someone else, come up with at least one proposed solution. The proposed solution might be a terrible idea, but just the act of coming up with one can sometimes make a problem that seemed baffling suddenly start to crack. Having something to propose also proves that the issue has been thought through, which shows respect for the time of that other person.

Assuming Nothing

Whenever possible, it helps to re-frame questions as if there are no constraints. Figuring out the optimal solution in that scenario will often lead to knowing which constraints are worth working to remove and which don't matter.