Monday, June 25, 2007

Hummingbirds and Woodpeckers

Hummingbirds and Woodpeckers

Birds of an Opposite Feather

I was thinking today, that there's two different styles of daily working. Hummingbirds flit from project to project, back and forth all day, getting a little bit done at a time. While woodpeckers hunker down, and spend all day jackhammering away at a project until it's quitting time.

I myself am a woodpecker. But there have been points in my career where I was forced into hummingbirding, which I believe was always detrimental to my work. But then, I suspect some people are excellent hummingbirds. What's the trade-off for them? Maybe they lose steam on a project that's been forcing them to woodpeck? Maybe they need that constant change of focus in order to come back to work with fresh eyes?

So I pose some questions. What are you? Woodpecker? Hummingbird? Do you think that one is better than the other? Can a business get by better by letting the hummingbirds hum and and the woodpeckers peck, or is that an impossible dream?

Additional Note

Stefan Marjoram decided to draw up a little example of how a hummingbird/woodpecker hybrid would work.

Comments on this Article

There are currently 46 comments.

[ Add one of your own! ]

Florian Pichler

Most of my work is done in hummingbird-style. But I'm not sure if it's the best way to do so, I just have to do so for now.
I think, focusing on one project makes me far more efficent so I find myself very often closing everything, moving all stuff away and just picking out one single project again.

Really something I should do more often and take more care of. Thanks for this short article, it make me think.


So you just kind of drift into hummingbird style naturally? Just too many projects coming at you at once, perhaps?

Florian Pichler

You nailed it.

I'm glad to still be able to find my way out of this after some hours of messing around. (Well, this is the odd thing, too, right? It takes me a couple of hours to realize what I'm doing)

Russer Butter

I am also a hummingbird. I normally have a dozen or so projects going on at the same time, and I do get frustrated by having to put all other projects aside to woodpeccker down on one thing, but then again I rarely ever get any project truly finished, so I would not say my hummingbirding is really that great of a work strategy.


But ironically, all your projects are actually pollen collection. And there's so much out there, how can you ever finish?


Ah yes, the woodpecker, the beaver of the sky.... that sounds like me.

Filip Salomonsson

I'm a total hummingbird, but I have to admit I'm the most productive when I'm in some sort of bastard-humpecker-child-mode. But then I fall back into hummingbirding. Probably because I'm just a complete scatterbrai-- oh, look! Pencils!


I'm definetly a Woodpecker at heart, it bothers me immensly leaving something unfinished. However ike you there have been times where I have to try to be a hummingbird, so I suppose that would make me a mocking bird????


I'm a woodpecker. Well, a woodpecker who procrastinates. Oh, and I like to hum whilest I work.


Gerren - Hehehe "Beaver of the Sky" NICE!

Filip - Do you feel happiest as a hummingbird?

Shane - Haha - mocking bird... yeah, I think most people are going to be forced to hummingbird every once in a while. And I know what you mean about leaving things unfinished - that KILLS me...

Malibu - How would a woodpecker carry a tune if not by humming? Or do they only stick to rhythmic songs?


I usually get down with the intention of 'pecking wood' (?), but as my neck becomes peck-weary my hummingbird eyes wander wantonly to fresher things.

Thus forcing a humming session until I can face that damn wood again. peck peck hummm - peck peck hummm...

Filip Salomonsson

Happiest? I wish.

I feel happiest actually getting shit done, which does require some woodpecking. But I need some humming in between, too, to keep my soul alive.

The humpecking woodingbird sings because he's happy.


I do best when I have a palette of projects to choose from. I'll make some progress on one, focusing exclusively on it for a few hours. Meanwhile, the rest are percolating in the back of my mind, until they explode in a flurry of activity. Sometimes I work on no projects while I post responses to blogs and think about my projects.

In that sense, I don't know that either the woodpecker or the hummingbird describe me. Perhaps walrus would be a better fit, as I appear to do nothing for quite some time, but then I produce a tremendous amount of work in a brief flurry of activity.

Paul Annett

I get most of my good work done as a woodpecker, and get an enormous sense of satisfaction out of it. However, my natural state is that of hummingbird, and actually getting into woodpecker-mode is where I struggle.

Often after a 'woodpecker session', I will return later as a hummingbird to look at my work, and think "what the hell was I doing..."


GMS - Yeah - I find that my eyes wander, but when that happens it's more often than not to something fun, rather than another project...

Dave - ...and... you have tusks. Long, work tusks.


I see them working quite well as a team. Every woodpecker could use a little humming once in a while...


...If everyone could see how clever I think that I am, they would simply explode! ...or get gas.

The Colonel

I myself am a German Panzerkampfwagen V tank. Only instead of shells, I fire excellence.

Of course, that not being an option, I'll say hummingbird at work, woodpecker at personal projects.


As much as I wish I was a woodpecker alas I am a humming bird. Deep down there is a frustrated woodpecker waiting to get out, but the humming bird in me is stronger. Perhaps the Rambo of humming birds...



Colonel - Hahah... Colonel.. if I was drinking milk, it would have gone up my nose with laughter! Luckily, I WAS drinking a glass of mucus, so no harm done.

Owen - Haha - so you don't like being a hummingbird? Woodpecking has its drawbacks as well...

Terry Tolleson

The company I work for has a hummingbird environment when they need a woodpecker-based system.

If I had to choose, I would say I'm a woodpecker. This, of course, can conflict with my job, hehe.

There are some days where I feel like an albatross. I suck at getting started, have a graceful flight pattern, and then crash violently when I try to stop.


Is there a bird that puts off it's work for as long as possible and then rushes like mad at the last minute?

It's probably died out.

diane witman

Can you be a woodpecker and a hummingbird? I think I switch back and forth depending on the demands of the day. Great analogy!


Like Terry, I'm an albatross. I just kind of hover around without really doing anything, and it's generally viewed as a sign of bad luck to kill me.


I just wanted to say I haven't enjoyed reading a thread this much in, well, maybe ever. Thanks for making my day.

I will say I'm the most like the aforementioned walrus.


Terry - Hahaha - NICE. And, I've learned a little something about albatross that I didn't know before...

Stefan - HEHE... NICE AS WELL. You and Terry should go on the road together...

Diane - I believe that's possible - though they would be termed "Superheros" instead of woodpecker/hummingbirds. At least in MY book.

Feaverish - Really? That's bad luck? *kevin calls and cancels hitman*

Eli - You know, when I posted today, I hadn't even considered the Walrus being a popular choice. Perhaps I need to reevaluate the title of this post.


"And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo!"

Until your boss
Shoots the Albatross
And gives all bad luck for tomorrow.

Though given the options, I am definitely a hummingbird that takes several coffee breaks. All that different-tasting nectar is hard to suck down sometimes.

Jon Culver

I work much more efficiently as a woodpecker, but my curiosity draws me to hum around on new exciting projects, so I end up juggling too much at once. I need to learn to say no—or perhaps, sprout more arms to juggle with?


I was going to say that I'm a bit of a Hummingpecker but that sounds naughty so I'm glad I didn't. I do however seem to switch from one to other though. If a project demands complete attention then that's what I'll do. If things are a bit looser I'll happily dabble in one thing or another until something catches my attention enough to devote more focused attention.


Evan - Several different coffee breaks... and then different bathroom breaks. And let's not forget the poetry jam breaks!

Jon - You know what - with new projects, where I'm just feeling out what they are... I do sort of hum myself. I guess when there's no pressure to finish it's easier for me to shun something aside...

BigA - I can imagine you doing a fair share of hummingbirding. But we must woodpeck at the secret project that involves Plums!


I'm definitely a hummingbird but I don't think it's because that makes me a better worker; I think it's because I have the attention span of a pygmy marmoset. My eyes are less beady, though.


Working in the porn industry i tend to think of my female 'colleagues' as woodpeckers if you catch my drift.


I'm a hummingbird by birth. And I suppose most of us will be. Indeed the woodpecker is only a limit, an asynthod (is that english? i can't say) to which every one of us can aim, an probably succed with large amount of effort ...

Ruud Welten

I have to say I am definitely a hummingbird while working. I simply lose interest in a project if I keep working on just one.
And just as a lot of hummingbirds that posted above I am far more efficient working like a woodpecker ...


Most certainly a hummingbird. My hummingbird has OCD, however, and gets extremely into one flower for long periods of work.

All of a sudden I'll look up, realizing that there is still a world outside, and as soon as I've looked up, there's absolutely NO way I can go back to work on that project. I have to do another one.

I get stale very quickly working on one thing. I love keeping 5 or 6 things going at once. My work stays fresher and I stay interested. I've been forced into woodpecker-dom here and there, and it makes me kinnd of resent what I'm working on.



Ok, back to making that coffee.


Definitely a hummingbird, but definitely dislike being so. I get a lot more done when I am a woodpecker, and getting stuff done is very satisfying to me. But strangely I often leave off a task right before I'm about to finish it, as if I can't bear to finish something in one go, but then I always find it immensely frustrating later not having finished it. Oh well, I suppose this is what they make ADD drugs for. ;-)


i'm a hummingpecker... i hum around several different projects until i'm a couple hours away from my deadline(s) and then i peck them out with lightning speed.

i'm really quite spectacular to watch, if i do say so myself


(oh yeah... and i'm humble, too)


Elinoire - Is this a pigmy marmoset? Seems like their biggest problem has less to do with their attention span and more to do with their being crushed by humans.

Mister Rockford - OHHHH man... I totally follow your drift. So... this is bird porn, right? HOT!

Tiberio - Interesting point of view!

Ruud - Ah... yes, that does seem to be the general consensus...

Herocomplex - True... I've found that some projects DO have to be put aside, or the quality starts to dip. Five or six things is quite a lot to juggle for me though. I can handle maybe 3 projects at once at the most.

E.Eeog - Heh, hehe... your pain is entertaining me :D

Zoe - Is that what they make em for? I thought it was to keep me from seeing through time...

Martha - Haha - that's a convincing description - your hired! Mojo can be your secretary!


we must woodpeck at the secret project that involves Plums!
Indeed we must. Is there anything quite so frustrating as trying to be a woodpecker when all around you are humming away?


I work at a part-time, unpaid internship all day. I get saddled with these big projects to woodbecker at but most of the time I find myself at the papercutter cutting pieces of paper or taping them together. It's zen-like.

Nikki Noodle

Obviously with your fifty million comments, this article was a hit! But, I have to compliment you on the simplistic art. Thinking of doing more in that style?


Colin - Ahh... I remember my internship... I got very familiar with papercutter usage. And also spray adhesive. I'd say 90% of my adhesive-related brain damage occurred during my internship.

Nikki - Thanks Nikki! I was pretty happy with it too. I'd like to do more of it, but I think what made it nice this time was that it was a nice change... hey! I was a hummingbird!

Adolfo Tavizón

As a Project manager I´m a kind of slaver hummingbird and my boys here in the office are chicken slaves

Dan Mall

I'm more of a opposum. I usually just play dead until the project is over.

Russer Butter

Funny story I went out to eat and ordered a hummingbird sandwich. It was of course only a name, and no actual hummingbirds were used in it's making. Needless to say I was a little disappointed.


I'm really surprised how many hummingbirds are out there....and other random wildlife. I probably would've bet that the bulk of people were naturally woodpeckers but because of time constraints, we're forced to be hummingbirds. Interesting...

[ Back to Top ]

Recent Articles

[ Visit Article Archives ]

Who Carols Mojo and the Leaves MUSTACHE! The Symbol For Jerk Interpreting Excelsior Dead Love The Big Sandwich Mojo The Bounty Hunter Sketchbook 22 Live! Six-Penny Anthems II