5 min read


Yesterday, my wife had to get ACL reconstruction for the second time. She did really well – while it's going to be a bit before she can walk again, she's doing way better than the last time when I basically had to carry her everywhere for the first few days.

What this means for me is that I have to make sure I fit all of our other stuff – kid stuff, work stuff, writing posts and doodling, helping out at her CrossFit box while she's out – into the times when she doesn't need help.

I have to admit: I'd let myself get kind of inefficient with my time over the past few months. Part of this is because a lot of the work I've been doing requires deep thought, which is inherently inefficient. And part of it is because I don't have a giant team anymore that forces me to be efficient; spending my entire day in meetings used to mean that I would have to go through a lot of work quickly. Now, I try to only have 2-4 meetings per day.

This week, I've cut that down to the bare essentials on meetings, but there was still a little under two hours yesterday, ending at 930pm. I had to schedule it for a late start, because I knew my wife would be home and drugged up by them, and that I had a partial shot at getting kiddo in bed in advance (nope).

But I still have a lot of work to do, a tiny (and growing) staff that needs income, and so that leads me to being as productive as I can be in the limited time I have.

Here's what I do when I need to be efficient, and what I've done for years:

1) As I mentioned, I cut meetings. Unless the meeting really can't be an email, I don't do it.

2) I turned off all of my alerts. The best thing I can do for myself to help me concentrate is just not see the noise. I don't cure cancer, and there's nothing I deal with that goes to the level of true emergency – everything can wait until my regularly scheduled breaks. If someone really needs me, they call.

3) I use the snooze button in email aggressively to get down to inbox zero. I use my inbox as my primary to-do list, with secondary ones in my CRM system and my notebook. I try to get everything into email, though, and so if there's something I can't do right now or it doesn't need to be done right now, I snooze it so it's out of my mind. Not a long snooze – maybe a day to a week.

I actually used to ask my team at every company I've been at over the past 10 years to do those first three things as well, because they're the things that provide the biggest marginal gains. When you're not switching between tasks constantly – which includes thinking about the needs of different people who are sending you emails – you get a lot more done, a lot more quickly.

I do not understand why people think that they need to be "always on." Actually, that's not true. I understand it. I just disagree with it completely.

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4) I break, then I iterate. After I'm done with the first draft of this post, I'll go and do some other work. I'll come back to it in a few hours for a quick copy-edit, and that's when I'll doodle something, too. This is because getting stuff down on paper so I have something to react to later is the only real way I've ever been able to work. There are people I know who like to think a lot before doing anything; I'm not one of them. I dump on the page, and then I come back to it later. It's a bit of a sprint.

Sprinting doesn't mean being sloppy or rushing, though. In running, being a sprinter means that you have focused on every single aspect of your form, and you know exactly where your body should be and how it should be responding over the course of the 20-30 seconds you're going all out. It's not a jumbled mess.

Sprinting at work is the same. It's about repeating something that you know how to do so well, and knowing exactly where you are at any point in the process. Sure, my sprints might last 30-45 minutes at a pop at work instead of the 30 seconds that I'd last going all-out running, but it's still all-out: afterwards, my brain is exhausted on that topic, and I can't go back to it for a while.

It took me about 10 hours to get back to this post today between everything I had to do and mulling on what I wanted to doodle.

5) Coffee and tea. Because taking care of people and businesses and everything else is exhausting, and I make bad decisions when I drink beer at work. So coffee it is.

6) Exercise. At some point today, I'm going to head out and work out. I'm not going to make it to the CrossFit box (at least, not for working out – I heard my wife talking to her partner that they might need me to run the zamboni that they use to clean the floor), but I'll do something for at least 30 minutes. It's the only way I know of to flush out the bad and excess nervous energy that comes from working at a furious pace. [EDIT: I never made it to working out, or to the box, because I got pulled into meetings and then my wife asked me to make some chia seed pudding for her, which is a whole different post. Probably tomorrow's.]

7) And, finally, I go fast without rushing... but I guess you all probably got that from the sprinting thing above. Speed is important; it's just not as important as accuracy.

And now, this sprint is over.

Other neato stuff

Fancy feast has a cookbook... for humans: Fancy Feast’s in-house chef wants you to eat like a cat - The Washington Post

The Verge wrote this cool piece on how smart MySpace Tom was to cash out when he did.

It turns out that the secret to happiness in Finland isn't hygge or anything like that. It's reasonable expectations. So, you know, stop expecting to be a billionaire sleeping on a pile of money every night.

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