Owning your time during a pandemic
"Everything Starts Out Looking Like a Toy" (No.21)
This week’s toy: retrofitting a vintage Atari joystick to work on a Nintendo Switch. Sadly, this won’t help my ability to do better in Player v. Player games with my gamer son. Edition No. 21 of this newsletter is here - it’s November 21, 2020.
The Big Idea
One thing I’ve been thinking about during this pandemic is how to become more productive. I don’t mean logging more stuff that I can mark “done.” My goal is to spend more of my time on productive work, and less time wasted. The thesis: we only have so much productive time in a day, and there’s no way to make that more elastic.
What does “Owning Your Time” Look like?
The image above is a good prompt for thinking about your time. If time is a scarce resource, then you have a few options for maximizing it during a day. A few ideas include:
Shrink the time of any recurring items in your schedule - if you plan every 30 minute meeting to have 20 minutes of content and every 60 minute meeting to have 40 minutes of content, you will have extra slack in your schedule.
Do the hardest things at the best time of day for you - if you’re a morning person, pick your hardest task and do it first thing in the morning when you’re fueled up with coffee. If the task is a planning task, you can still schedule time at the beginning of your day with a goal of exiting the session with progress toward your plan.
Be specific about your commitments - clarify what you’re going to deliver to your team, or time-box the effort when you don’t have clarity about your projects yet.
Take Breaks - it’s easy to think you can sit in front of your computer for the whole day and get all of your work done. Unfortunately, most humans don’t work this way and definitely need breaks, probably at least once an hour for a few minutes. Take a lap around your house, a walk outside, or just something different to get your brain off of the problem.
Note: owning your time doesn’t mean ignoring the things you don’t want to do. It means sequencing what you have to do into the chunks that are most useful for you.
Change the Calendar
When you make your calendar work for you, you can also tap into patterns that help you get more work done. The right pattern is super personal - I’ve often been inspired by Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule but not every organization can work to these extremes.
The goal is to find the time you are most productive and then capitalize on that time. Some people place vendor meetings only in afternoons, schedule 1:1 meetings on the same day and reserve entire calendar days as “no-meeting days.”
Whatever method you choose, being deliberate about your schedule while also making it clear to your team how you will meet your commitments will help you stay on course and improve your productivity. Not every day will always be productive, and when you know what you’re going to do next it will help you break through the inevitable slumps that happen.
What’s the takeaway? Some amount of structure in your daily schedule helps you adapt to the chaos of the day. To the extent that you can shift your schedule to the way you work best, do it! Future you will thank you.
We’d like to know …
Bitcoin has re-entered the tech conversation this year as it’s spiking anew. Do you own any cryptocurrency?
Click the tweet to tell us how you’re voting.
Links for Reading and Sharing
These are links that caught my eye.
1/ At least one thing will be easy to do today - I’ve found the Least Scary To-do List in the universe. Seriously though - repetitive tasks have been found to increase creativity, so why not this one?
2/ Privacy is a big deal - The Digital Standard and Consumer Reports have authored a study on Consumer Attitudes about Privacy. If you’re wondering, 65% of American consumers say they are slightly or not at all confident that personal data is private.
3/ They don’t make ads the way they used to - 1980s car ads were … something. When compared to car ads today there is less utility, more style.
On the Reading/Watching List
The Mandalorian, Season 2. This series is going beyond a cute Yoda puppet and getting really interesting. It’s both a Western and a fun Star Wars romp, taking the ideas of the Star Wars universe to a new place while keeping the serial feel (streaming on Disney+)
Another season 2, this time from His Dark Materials, based on the Philip Pullman novels. Lyra Bellaqua is a teenager who has discovered a pathway to another world. The acting and visuals in this series are particularly striking (streaming on HBO MAX)
What to do next
Hit reply if you’ve got links to share, data stories, or want to say hello.
I’m grateful you read this far. Thank you. If you found this useful, consider sharing with a friend.
Want more essays? Read on Data Operations or other writings at gregmeyer.com.
The next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy.” - Chris Dixon