It's Sunday, so I did my Weekly Review today.
Last week was a barnburner -- one of the most productive "normal weeks" I've had in recent history. A week at a conference or the culmination of a huge event might be highly productive, but I size those up a little differently than a week where I'm just going through the standard sets of work I typically do without some large external happenings.
Last week, an incredibly large amount of good and important things got done.
Thus, I was excited to review the week. How'd this happen? Why'd it go so well? What can I learn from it?
I'll give you the spoiler right now: 13 hours of great work accounted for just about all of the results this week.
My weeks start on Sunday and end on Saturday, which I think is infinitely more sane than the standard Monday->Sunday weeks that start with too many Monday to Friday days in a row and ends with too much weekend.
So we're talking about Sunday 17 January to Saturday 23 January.
Interestingly, surprisingly, Sunday the 17th did not at all start like a "traditionally productive day" would -- I screwed off to start the day... here's my notes:
[Woke 7:30AM… followed Patriots/Chiefs game while making breakfast and coffee, didn’t do much to start day]
I then did morning stuff and caught up on some little details until 10AM, and didn't start working until 10:25AM.
I normally try to wake at 3:55AM, ideally, 6:55AM at the latest, and get to work within about 45 minutes. So starting the day (1) later than normal and (2) following football (it's on in the morning in China) is not normally a great start.
I didn't get to real work until 10:25AM.
Then I did this:
10:25AM to 11:10AM: Studying my ops / notes / brainstorming what needs improvement
11:10AM to ~12:10PM: Working on ops more, starting new Master SOD
and lunch, and this:
12:50PM to 1:15PM: Working on SOPs
followed by more decent but not great quality time:
1:20PM to 1:35PM: 15 minute nap
1:35PM to 1:50PM: Habits, cleaning.
[1:50PM to 3:30PM: Web surfing. Blah.]
[3:30PM to 4PM: Walking]
4PM to 4:05PM: Trying to do more ops; confused; switching gears
4:05PM to 4:30PM: Weekly Review complete + updated Jan personal finance numbers.
followed by this:
4:30PM to 5:30PM: Journal entry, working on Theory of Defense, writing Defenses for current goals, added new Omnifocus category (Dispatch+Bonus)
5:30PM to 5:40PM: Documenting some of gains just made.
5:40PM to 5:50PM: Weekly Plan finished; Copy/Paste/Do elaborated
So that was Sunday. About 3.5 hours of planning and studying what's already going on. The amount of time I spent on important stuff was outpaced by miscellany (cooking, walking, cleaning) and even outpaced by doing distraction stuff like just surfing the web or following football.
I would traditionally not mark a day that had more distraction in it than focused work as a great day, and yet...
Here's how the numbers shook out for the week, which doesn't count some middle of the road type activities like research, email, and general stuff:
Approximately 13 hours of working on really great stuff
Looking at my calendar, I had 12 appointments scheduled accounting for about 10 hours.
I had another 10+ hours of face to face meetings that hadn’t been scheduled.
Here's the realization: all the gains came from setting up, and then doing surprisingly short blocks of great work.
On the Tuesday the 19th, for instance, I had 5+ hours of calls and appointments spread over from 9AM to 4PM -- not a formula for a highly productive day.
And yet, I got one really great stretch in, from 12:15PM to 1:50PM, that was breakthrough.
Thursday the 21st, I didn't get any big or great work done -- at 2:55PM, I'd been doing a mix of trivial stuff and having been off track when I went for a long walk.
I was originally going straight to the gym, but after a couple hours of walking, I had some ideas and stopped off at Starbucks, and worked from 4:15PM to 7:20PM in an inspired flow.
If not for those 3 hours, that day would have been "blah" -- with those 3 hours, it was maybe the single best day I've had yet in 2016.
This is somewhat remarkable to think about -- of the 168 hours last week, 13 of them spent excellently made the week incredibly productive.
In the past, I've sometimes focused on tracking how I spend my time minute to minute, and sometimes focused on tracking what I achieved in a day in terms of outcomes.
As silly as it sounds, this week is the first time I've rigorously done both... usually when I track time in great detail, I rank how good the time was and focus on spending time better in general.
I think that's perhaps led me in the past to not rapidly and desperately fast blitz out needed outcomes.
This week I got a lot done in odd lots of time, not something I used to be good at.
I didn't have much time on a few of the days, and yet I moved something big forward in blocks ranging from as small as 10 minutes to the largest block of 3 straight good hours.
This is making me rethink productivity a bit.
First, a day with the first 12 hours being useless web surfing, distraction, and miscellany can be turned around by just rapidly marching out a few outcomes.
This requires, though, getting out of a "working is virtuous" Protestant work ethic type mindset, and get into just rapidly tearing into things, dispatching them, and creating outcomes.
"A few great hours are where the huge gains come from" doesn't seem like some huge revelation -- I probably always knew that.
But I was missing its corollary: non-destructive mediocre hours aren't the problem as long as those few great hours happen.
PS: Are posts like this interesting to you? A surprisingly large number of people have said over email that they liked my now-years-ago posting of notes from my weekly reviews, habits spreadsheets, etc. Let me know.
For my February column at Ciara Pressler's new Pregame Magazine, I'm taking questions on community, finding exceptional friends, building out your social circle, etc.
I'll answer all questions at least briefly, and go into depth on at least one of them.
Leave your Q's here in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org -- regards,
... and that makes me really happy.
I haven't done any promotion since re-launching The Strategic Review. Nothin'. And yet, over the last 5 days, we added over 80 new subscribers just through word of mouth. Awesome.
Here's what people are saying --
I get a lot of inbound requests for personal consulting which I've had to turn down the last couple years. My commercial projects often have me becoming effectively the right-hand man for a CEO of a growing company, and I haven't had the bandwidth to take on clients who don't need that level of intensity, or who are looking for something other than the type of commercial work I typically do.
One thing I wanted to start for 2016 is to start working with people at scale more.
Hence, I developed this new offering --
Productized Service: Get Your Next Project On Rails
“In peace there's nothing so becomes a manAs modest stillness and humility:But when the blast of war blows in our ears,Then imitate the action of the tiger...”
Back in 2013, I had a newsletter that people really liked called "The Strategic Review" --
It got popular and people were raving about it, but I didn't have the bandwidth to support writing it. Each issue took too much research and too many hours to put out there.
Annnd we're at the home stretch. We had a great event at Harvard two days ago -- one of the best we've had with really top to bottom great talks, and super actionable Q&A -- and that means we're three dates from wrapping.
NYU: Sunday, 25 October at 2PMNYU Silver Building (Room 405)31 Washington Place New York, NY 10012Link to free ticket reservation for NYC
MIT: Tuesday, 27 October at 11:45AMMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyE51-395, Tang Center (70 Memorial Drive), Room 395Cambridge, MA 02138Link to free ticket reservation for Cambridge
CESA: Thursday, 29 October at 7:30AM
CESA - Salon Alvaro Valencia TovarCra. 6 N.° 34-51Bogota, ColombiaLink to free ticket reservation for Bogota
Forgive me if this post makes no sense -- it's technical and I'm too new to this to be able to simplify it intelligently. I hope the gist of it comes across at least a bit and primes some interesting thinking in you.
I was introduced to Graph Databases yesterday by a really smart and expansive-thinking attendee of Kai's salon in Las Vegas --
My mind is on fire. I couldn't sleep last night. I'm really, really excited about this.
I track and capture a lot of data -- spend, calories, adherence to habits (I'm currently on Week 77 of tracking my habits on the Lights Spreadsheet, with only maybe 3-5 weeks disrupted in that timeframe), and lots more.
The Third Annual Gotta Be Good Tour is going to be across the USA for all of October.
The first date is Austin, Texas on October 2nd.
Zach Obront, Taylor Pearson, Carlos Miceli, Marian Zizzo, and myself are speaking -- it's going to be a blast.
Spoiler: The answer is, "No, of course not."
But where's the question come from?
After three decades on this Planet, I've only noticed how often I ask that question to myself.
"Do I have to do that?"
It comes in response, ironically, not to really painful and unlikable things like doing one's taxes. (The answer to "Do I have to do my taxes" is: "Yes.")
I've been saying, "I'm anti-hardcore. Being hardcore is stupid. Don't be hardcore" for a few years now.
But it never quite sounded right.
Here's what I meant: being "stupidly hardcore" is continuing to exercise or train through an initial injury, not respecting your body if you're underslept, fatigued, stressed, ill, over-heating, dehydrated, or similar -- and not just physically, but also mentally, and also in terms of teamwork and leadership.
Take Bill Walsh, the NFL coach. In the excellent book The Score Takes Care of Itself, his son reminisces:
"He [Bill Walsh] recognized that the old boys' network that defined the NFL management and ownership in those days [didn't appreciate that] his style was not traditional, not heavy-handed. It was more professional or corporate in style than the shouting and screaming, intimidation, and punishment that were the usual tools of old-school head coaches in the league. Here's a very small example: In those days, one method of "toughening up" players was to prohibit them from drinking any water while they were on the field during practice. Bill Walsh allowed it, because he saw no gain in the policy. In fact, he felt that depriving players of water during practice was counterproductive; it lowered performance. The "toughening up" approach, however, was the one owners felt comfortable with because it had been around since the start."