I mentioned in my last post that even though I had a ton of free time on my hands while I was looking for a job, my productivity went downhill. I got very little done and just felt generally gross. This was in contrast to when I was working in my previous job (with pretty normal 9-5 hours) and I was getting a lot done in the morning and felt good about what I was doing.
Since I’ll be starting a new job this week, I’m very excited about getting intro a productive routine again. I feel ambitious, and I know significantly more about the conditions in which I can do work effectively.
Below are my broad goals for the next year:
Fitness: I want to develop a habit of weight training and running. I am significantly more focused on establishing the habit rather than having an external fitness goal, however, I may start thinking about training for an ultramarathon at some point.
Side Projects: These include both TrekDek and this blog. I’m not sure what direction I want to take these in quite yet, but I know I want to keep working on these projects. They provide an outlet for me to experiment with new techniques and theories and skills. If TrekDek doesn’t make me millions, that’s ok. If this blog never takes off, that’s ok too. I enjoy working on both and I think establishing a habit of working on a side project will help me maintain my creativity and entrepreneurial mindset.
Work Projects: After reading the Four Hour Workweek a few years ago, I believed that entrepreneurship, specifically the “passive income” web business, was the only good path to living the life you want. It’s not, and Tim Ferriss, the author, never claims it is, but for various reasons I decided that I needed to create a drop shipping web business that was maintained by a group of outsourced contractors. It’s still appealing, but now the idea of doing really awesome at my new job and getting promoted and making more money and establishing a career track is also really exciting. It’s like I’ve come full circle to “do a great job at work and work your way up the ranks.” I think I was wrong to dismiss that line of thinking after I read Tim’s book. I’m currently embracing Cal Newport’s becoming “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” philosophy which says that once you become extremely valuable, you can cash in that value for things that will make your life richer. That could be money, it could be more time to yourself or it could be the opportunity to work on whatever you want.
Given all that, I’m allocating some time during my week to work on side projects that would help me become a rockstar at work. I don’t know what specifically yet, but I’m going to spend enough time to find out what’s important to the company and then become really good at it. Tim Ferriss’ book will actually help in this case.
Schmoozing: It’d be nice if I could accomplish all my goals alone, but the fact is I can’t. I got my current job because a few people were kind enough to take time out of their day to meet with me and give my very useful advice. I also enjoy helping people when I can or connecting them to other people who can.
I’ll be allocating 15 minutes every morning to send e-mails to people. This could be people I already know or new people that I’d like to meet and talk to. The focus of the e-mails will be a) staying in touch and b) trying to find ways to help the other person. By doing this for the next year I think I could expand the number of meaningful relationships I have in my network that I can both help and be helped by.
If you look at these goals, you’ll notice that I didn’t really talk about the external outcomes that I think these activities will lead to. This is because focusing on outcomes excessively is unhealthy. Let’s say I have an external goal of making $100,000 dollars next year. I center my schmoozing activities and side projects around that outcome and I could potentially reach that goal. That’s great, but I think it’d be stressful. If I fail, I may get depressed and not do anything productive.
That’s why I’m not saying to myself “network with the goal of meeting Barrack Obama,” I’m saying “spend 15 minutes everyday e-mailing people and you’ll probably meet some interesting people along the way.”
By focusing my energies on establishing productive habits, I will make a lot of progress without the mental burden of having a specific outcome in mind.
Here’s what my upcoming daily weekday schedule looks like now:
0455 – 0515: Schedule my to-do list, have my first cup of coffee.
0530 – 0630: Weight training or running.
0700 – 0715: Schmoozing e-mails.
0715 – 0830: Alternate days between side project work and extra work related projects.
0900 – 1700: The actual job.
1800 – 1900: Dinner
1900 – 2030: Side project or work related reading.
2100 – 0455: Sleep
Any gaps you see are transition times (shower, traveling, etc).
Some of the things I thought about when creating this schedule:
- I am way more productive in the morning. I’d rather wake up early and do things rather than save it all for the end of my day.
- Reading is a good way to be productive in the evening. I usually get another burst of creativity in the evening when I read so it’s a good time to takes notes and write down any ideas I may have.
- I’m not scheduling anything for the weekends (including Friday night). I don’t have much desire to work on weekends so I’m not really planning to. I may do things if I feel like but I don’t think it’ll be necessary.
- I’m allowing for failure. If there are some days I don’t go running or some days I just don’t feel like working on a side project, that’s ok. I’m going to try to get it right 80% of the time.
This schedule may not work out and I’ll be tweaking it along the way but so far it looks pretty reasonable. I think the biggest danger I face is general fatigue. Going to bed early and maintaing healthy eating habits will be critical.
If anyone has any suggestions or examples from their own lives I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.