Productivity Hacks: Get Out of the Way


Okay, I’m implicitly preceding this with “Hire people who are smarter than you,” then “Delegate.” Maybe that’s cheating, but I figure that 1) it’s a cliché, nowadays, and 2) people who’re going to do it have done it already.

So, the hard part is knowing when to let go.

It’s hard to let go, but I did that for craigslist in 2000, after people helped me understand that as a manager, I suck. One smart decision was to hire Jim Buckmaster to manage the company, to hire people, and then I got out of the way.

To maintain my commitment, that included board membership and also committing to customer service work – the latter only as long as I live.

Sometimes I get the urge to do a little coding, but I suppress that, mentioning it only to put the scare on our tech team. (They’re directed to distract me with shiny gadgets to deflect any interest I ever have in doing programming.)

Bottom line: craigslist, led by Jim, gets far more done than I ever could if I was in the way.

Several years ago, I realized that I got in my own way when it comes to my public service and philanthropy stuff. For around ten years, at that point, I’d been helping a lot of groups, mostly regarding social networking. I figured I needed help getting my act together, and asked a non-profit pro, Susan Nesbitt, to list the maybe twenty or thirty groups I’d helped. Turns out that it was much closer to a hundred groups.

So, I enlisted a project manager and communications guy, Jonathan Bernstein, with whom I’d already been working. To help with traditional, old-school communications, we got another guy, Bruce Bonafede, and to help build the website and social media, we enlisted Rad Campaign, working mostly with Allyson Kapin and Justyn Hintze.

My deal is that smart project management and communications enable me to get way more done than I can get done on my own.

First thing, we created, which is the best name we could figure. (I like “craigsthing” but, well, you know…)

craigconnects focuses on areas of big concern to me, with the ultimate theme of helping groups which effectively give a voice to the voiceless. To me, another way of saying that is that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Currently, my biggest projects involve support for military families and veterans, then helping journalists find ways to rediscover trustworthy journalism. I expect voting rights issues to surge this year, since despite what the Declaration of Independence says about equal rights, some politicians have built strategies around stopping people from voting.

Turns out that starting things off, getting smart people to do their thing, and getting outta the way is effective in frightening ways.

My deal is that I loosely express what I’m interested in, maybe draft a few ideas. Then the team takes over, and does a much better job than I ever could.

It’s scary and scarier, since my team has been picking up my interests, taking my words and posting better stuff than I can write. They’re also pushing me outside my comfort zone, which is key to productivity. As a nerd, I’m passionate about understatement, which is often a bad idea.

To see this accelerating in the last month or so, check out my blog and note entries in support of the CrowdRise Holiday Challenge and support for veterans, and so on.

Having a really good team is a “force multiplier,” which leaves me free to quietly get stuff done. I’m learning what it takes to become even more productive, but that’s for another time.

0 thoughts on “Productivity Hacks: Get Out of the Way

  1. I used to be a “community moderator” on your help forum and I had a blast. It was way back when I first heard of Craigslist (I’m a late bloomer)
    I think it is great that you are open to connecting with people, projects and ideas – I hope you stay that way.


  2. This post, Craig, is just like you — unassuming, kind and just plain nice. Don’t ever apologize for being understated. In a world of too loud, too brash, too much, you are (cliche alert:) a breath of fresh air.


  3. We are fortunate to have people like Craig in the tech community that walk their values to the benefit of al–and help the moral arc bend a little easier and faster. Thanks for all you do, Craig!


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