Focus, Focus, Focus

Last week I tweeted this.

A friend asked me to elaborate on this. Why is that the theme? What does this mean for me?

My Answer

To me, focus is more of a mindset than a verb. It’s a way of operating that guides your actions and decisions.

It’s a mindset of prioritization. Setting a goal and creating a prioritized list of actions that will cause you to achieve it.

It’s being relentless in pursuit of that goal. Delegating more and understanding how to best use the resources you have.

It’s force-ranking everything. Eliminating anything that distracts from achieving the end goal.

What This Means For Me

This means changing how I spend my time. There’s a lot of calls and meetings I would have said “yes” to that I’ll now say “no” to. It means being protective of my calendar, rather than at the mercy of other people’s schedules. It means structuring my day in a way that optimizes my time and moves the company closer to our goal.

Nothing great in life gets accomplished without focus. So focus.

Structuring A Day

I didn’t publish a blog post yesterday. An urgent request upended my morning. It took me until 2:30pm to finish before doing any other work (or eating).

This is not the way I like to start my day. Unfortunately, it happens in a startup. It’s the nature of the beast. On all other days I have a specific day structure I like to stick to.

The optimal structure of one’s day depends upon who that person is and how they operate. I’ve designed mine to take advantage of the creative thoughts I have in the morning. I then batch my meetings, phone calls, and “manager time” in the afternoon.

If you’re not familiar with the idea of a maker’s schedule vs a manager’s schedule, I recommend this post (and/or this one). If those are too long, here’s a great video that I showed our team this morning when discussing this very topic.

The Structure of My Day

I like my mornings to be for making. I write. I work on product. I think and problem-solve. I try not to check email until I’ve completed at least one big “maker to do”. I’m not always successful in that but I’m getting better.

Around noon I switch from maker to manager. The rest of my day breaks up into 30 and 60 minute blocks of calls, meetings, and administrative work.

Each week I audit how I spent my time and adjust from there, optimizing for the highest yield activities. I break those activities into inputs and outputs.

My highest yield inputs = talking to people (to gather information), reading, and research.

My highest yield outputs = talking to people (to deliver information), writing, and product work.

I work to structure my day and my role to optimize for these as much as possible. It’s an exercise of continual iteration and improvement. Time is a finite resource. It’s the most precious thing we have. How are you spending your’s?

Content Begets More Content

On January 1, 2018 I started writing this blog with a specific goal in mind. The goal is to “write everyday and/or publish 300 posts”.

I phrased the goal in this way because “write everyday” isn’t a well-structured goal. While that is what I’m doing and it’s a habit I’m working to form, it doesn’t set me up for success. If, for whatever reason, I have to miss a day and can’t publish a post — I’ve failed and missed that goal for the year.

By saying “and/or publish 300 posts”, I give myself room to have days where life gets in the way. And should I miss that day, that’s okay. I’m still on pace for the 300 mark and the daily ritual of writing will get me there (and likely above it).

Today is the sixth day of this ritual and I’ve already found an interesting side effect. The more I write and publish, the more I have ideas for other things to write and publish.

I wrote in the initial post (of writing)…

“It allows me to offload the top-of-mind thoughts and make room for the interesting ones hiding below the surface.”

Not only has this proven true, but it feels phenomenal. I’m more energized and stimulated mentally. It’s having the desired effect, which only motivates me to keep it up.

Getting to sleep

I’ve always had issues getting to sleep. Without a doubt — I’m a night owl. When it’s time to go to bed, I struggle to shut my mind down and get the rest I know I need.

In the past I’ve always had the TV on and/or been messing around on my phone. Clearly not effective. I’ve tried a number of tactics and hacks throughout the years to fix this. The only one that seems to work for me is reading.

Everyday I read on my commute via Audible. But that’s not effective at night because, if I fall asleep, I completely lose my place in the book. A physical copy is the way to go.

The next issue to get past is the light. My fiancé goes to bed earlier than I do. She puts her head on the pillow and is out. It’s almost as if she has an “OFF” switch… a true gift. I don’t want to put on the bright lights because 1) it may wake her and 2) I don’t want to have to get up to shut them off as I’m falling asleep.

So I’m going to try the Phillips Hue lightbulbs. The ability to dim is a plus because it won’t wake my fiancé and the different hues you can set will allow me to “set the stage” for sleep. Finally, when I’m primed to drift away into dreamland, I can turn them off completely via my phone.

At least that’s the plan anyway… I’ll let you know how it goes.

New Year, New Blog

I imagine I’m not the only one starting a blog today. It’s January 1st. A day many kickoff new habits, routines, diets, etc.

I’ve also blogged before. I’ve written a number of posts for different publications over the last few years. So what’s different now? Why am I doing this?

1) To flex the muscle.

My main objective is to write more. I love to write. It’s cathartic for me. It allows me to offload the top-of-mind thoughts and make room for the interesting ones hiding below the surface. It’s also an exercise for me to better understand myself and make sense of all the information I take in on a daily basis.

2) Increasing frequency.

To achieve the above, I need to make this a habit. Something I do everyday. And to do that, I need to change my style.

3) A new style.

In the past I’ve spent way too much time editing and revising posts before publishing them. No more of that. I’m pushing outside my comfort zone and spitting in the face of the need for perfectionism. No individual or blog post is perfect. Accept that and publish.

What this also means is that my posts will vary in length. Some will be a paragraph or two. Others will be 1,000+ words like most of my previous posts. It will depend on the day, the subject, and my schedule. I’m not committing to a certain style — I’m committing to the frequency. Making the exercise a habit and forcing myself to hit ‘Publish’.

So, no, this blog isn’t for you. It’s for me. It’s to get myself in the practice of writing everyday and ridding myself of the debilitating search for perfectionism. And if, along the way, some of the posts prove to be valuable to others… then great. That’s my new definition of perfect.