Incomplete things drain you

Things you didn’t say. Tasks that haven’t been completed. Open tabs with things you want to look at.

Everything we don’t finish cost a little bit of mental energy. Just a tiny amount. But over time these things will drain all the energy you have.

Do you think I’m exaggerating? Try this: close all your tabs, and delete all your tasks, then ask yourself, how do you feel?

Being more creative, by being lazy

I recently re-read Show Your Work and noticed something I had missed on the first read, and I’ve been trying it out this week.

In order to be creative, we need to give our minds space to work. This is why you get so many new ideas while walking. New ideas and solutions can’t be forced, your brain is not a muscle, but your mind can offer up ideas when you give it space.

When you take a break, let your mind drift without input. Just like while taking a walk, just let it do it’s thing. Organising and synthesising the information we’ve consumed.

I’ve been trying this for a few days, and it’s surprisingly enjoyable. I take a break every 25 minutes to stretch my legs (I work sitting on the floor), and I’m not allowed to consume media on those breaks. Automatically reaching for my cellphone is a problem, my discipline has been far from perfect, but I’ve had great results.

I may be slightly more creative, but a lot more relaxed. I’ve put in more focused hours according to Rize and yet spent more quality time with my fiancé.

Try it, and let me know how it went.

Delegate or Do It Right?

Have you ever thought “It’ll be faster if I do it myself, I’ll do it the right way the first time”? Or maybe you’ve recognised this thought appearing in your managers mind when you asked too many questions?

I think this idea is a obstacle to delegating effectively. We instinctively feel that we can do it correctly ourselves. But someone else might need a few tries, or the result might not even be as good.

I think this thought is a self delusion. The truth is that the process of doing the work often defines the intended result. We’re exploring just as much as executing. We know what “good enough” is when we see it.

Whenever this thought appears in our minds, we probably haven’t defined the outcome well enough. If I can’t instruct someone to do it, I probably don’t know what needs to be done.

Learning faster through play

I spend a lot of time trying to learn new things, so I was a bit flustered yesterday when I heard the following (paraphrased) on the TopicalMBA podcast:

Hard work and learning from reading is not the key to real growth. You have to experiment and play, to try out new ways of being to get different results.

I had to stop my deadlift set and re-listen to this a few times. Because this feels like an obvious truth that I’ve just neglected for a long time.

We all know instinctively that we can’t learn to ride a bike or skateboard by reading a book about it. At some point we have to get on the wobbly board and crash over and over again. We even know that this is normal, and while it might be a bit embarrassing it’s obvious that if we just try crashing and falling off a bunch of times we’ll learn.

So why do we retreat into books, podcasts, and listening to others when we’re learning about things like entrepreneurship? Shouldn’t the obvious step be to get on the wobbly board and expect to fall?

I think this ties nicely into the idea of Resistance from Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, which if you haven’t read you should. When we’re doing things that are important to us, that importance increases our nervousness about the unknown. So we struggle to control the unknown future by basically procrastinating.

Avoiding to actually do the thing we instead prepare infinitely. There’s always another important book to read, another google search for the answer, another conference where we’ll learn the true way of doing the thing.

The insidious truth is that we do learn from others. It actually does help us get closer to the goal. Just not as fast as if we just experiment and play. And fall off.

This insight was profound for me, and I hope it might help you also. How much time do you spend researching, and how much of that time might you spend simply selling or building or playing around with new tools instead?

My typical day

Inspired by Anton Sten’s post on the same topic I wanted to share what my day looks like. Seems it’s a twitter trend originally, and I think it’s a valuable exercise. Both thinking about one’s own day and learning from others.

Because I lift heavy weights and have a history of insomnia I have quite a strict schedule for routine things like eating and sleeping. My days looks mostly like below, but I only work out 3 days per week.

07:00 – I wake up from my Apple Watch buzzing. I stretch and get out of bed. You can’t snooze and sleep well with insomnia, so I haven’t since I was a teenager.

07:00 – 09:00 After I get up I weigh myself on my WiThings scale. I’ve done this for years now, and it’s a good way to track if I’m eating and sleeping right. I only care about the body fay percentage.

After that I have coffee, maybe walk around the block, and if I’m not exercising I have a shower, ending with 30s of cold water. Final step of my morning process: meditating 15 minutes.

Then I catch up on notifications and read if anything catches my eye, which something usually does…

09:00 – 12:00 This is my main work block. I try to avoid meetings during this time, but my current client has a bunch of checkins so there’s at least a morning standup. I usually check my calendar, make sure I haven’t planned too many todo’s, and simply start whatever is most pressing.

12:00 – 12:45ish Lunch break, this is my first meal of the day. I try to keep it light as I tend to get really drowsy in the early afternoons, but since this is a workout day, I eat about 800kcal. Carb and protein split at around 50/50.

This is also when I have my last coffee. Can’t drink coffee in the afternoons and still get a good nights sleep sadly.

13:00 – 15:00 My second work block. This is usually meeting time, or email time, or both.

If I’m not cautious and get to sedentary during lunch, there’s a risk I get drowsy and end up doom scrolling twitter at this point. I’m not proud of it, I just haven’t found a solid fix for this yet.

15:00 – 17:00 It’s time to head to the gym before it gets too crowded! I used to go later in the day, but the pandemic imposed severe restrictions on people per square meter, so I learned to leave early. 15:00 has been my approximate time the past few months. Though I expect meetings in the fall will start pushing this later in the day.

17:00 – 17:45 Time to eat again, and then shower. This meal is usually quite obscene, as I need to eat 160g of protein in a day (which is a lot). I eat something like 1000kcal in this meal. Unless we’re not having popcorn later, because if we don’t I need to push it into at least 1500kcal.

18:00 – 19:00 My final work block. I finish up lose threads, or replan the things I didn’t get to. Usually I’m quite tired at this point, so I’ll do less creative things and focus on simple tasks.

19:00 – 21:00 My life partner and I will relax together. Usually eating a ton of popcorn and watching something, or listening to a podcast.

Lately we’ve been exploring classic cinema, and I’m happy we’re no longer participating in the gotta watch all the latest shows frenzy.

21:00 Time to get ready for bed. My sleep schedule is really strict, as a slight deviation can leave me with several days of bad sleep.

21:30 I read for about an hour before falling sleep. I tend to become really into either fiction or non-fiction for periods. Currently I want to read all the Harvard Business School strategy books, but because I’m on “vacation” I’m forcing myself to read fiction. Loving Bonjour Tristesse and A Moveable Feast though.

22:30 Lights out.

Write it down

I’ve been practicing documenting every decision and piece of information that might be of interest for the last few years with clients. It has lead to increasingly asymmetric impact just because the stuff I work on stays around for longer. And is therefore valuable to the organisation for longer, even when I’m not there anymore.

But I have just found the best example of how powerful it is when people write down institutional knowledge: The GitLab Handbook… It’s a mind-blowing tome, some 13000 pages of highly actionable insights and information tid bits like this:

Don’t wait. When you have something of value like a potential blog post or a small fix, implement it straight away. Right now, everything is fresh in your head and you have the motivation. Inspiration is perishable. Don’t wait until you have a better version. Don’t wait until you record a better video. Don’t wait for an event (like Contribute). Inventory that isn’t released is a liability since it has to be managed, becomes outdated, and you miss out on the feedback you would have received had you implemented it straight away.

The GitLab Handbook

Do you realise how powerful this is? How much time just writing things down could save you in the aggregate?

Don’t wait. Start writing things down today.

(incidentally, I’ve been working on a service for networked thought specifically to solve the issue of taking more valuable notes. It’s not ready yet, but if you’re interested you can find it here.)

Life commitment exercise

I happened upon this amazing motivational speech by Stelli Efti earlier today. It’s a short video about what committing really looks and feels like, ending with a short exercise. Listening to it I felt inspired and shared it on twitter. To my great surprise Steli actually replied:

After someone as busy as Steli took the time to kick me towards better prioritisation, I felt like I needed to try the exercise. And you should do it with me!

1. Write down what you’re doing

List your commitments and projects. All the areas of life where you spend your time. Don’t get into the details, but list them out. Start with family and occupation. Stop when you get to that instrument you haven’t touched in a year.

2. Sort into two categories: commit, or participate

Commit is where you are really commit. Where there’s no plan B, you’re gonna do it or fail. Not failing slow, not letting things fizzle out. Commit is where you need to do it.

Participate is where you’re going through the motions a bit. You’re showing up but there’s always a side track, always an escape route. Maybe it’s something that doesn’t crash if you stop for a week. Maybe it’s more of an intention than a must?

3. Ask yourself the hard question

Are you really committing to what you want out of life?

My result was, just like Steli said, really insightful. In short I’m not truly committed to anything except my family.

All of my projects right now are all full of plan Bs and safety nets. I’m not committing, failing, and learning. I’m more wandering around and exploring safely. Lazily drifting from interest to interest…

Now that I know this. I should just pick one, and commit. Making hard choices is a lot easier when you’ve got some perspective on why you need to make them.

Thanks Steli.

Living fully committed

Listening to Steli Efti talk about avoiding having a half-assed life by committing fully to whatever we’re doing. Being ready to give it our all, not hedging the bet, and letting something fail if it doesn’t work out.

It’s a powerful message, and I’m feeling very inspired to be less distracted and hedge less. The idea ties together really well with Derek Siver’s axiom Hell yeah or no.

Here’s the original tweet Steli is talking about: