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?

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.