I met UJ Ramdas at a charity event in Toronto last year, and was really blown away. He's a rare mix of hyper-realist and hyper-optimist — he seems to have a super deep and intuitive grasp on the legitimate difficulty of doing great things in life, while simultaneously being optimistic that we can, step-by-step, get there with diligence and focus.
He runs a company called "Intelligent Change," most famous for making the 5-Minute Journal.
At the start of every year, I refine all my personal systems and do some experiments to set the year up well — so I bought a copy of the 5 Minute Journal and have started using it, and... I think it's so very cool.
Right away, it's very clear that the 5MJ is beautiful. It's just really nicely designed.
After you crack it open, there's about 30 fast-moving pages of some theory and best practices.
If you've studied performance psychology or habits at all, there's nothing too surprising in there — but it's pleasant and enjoyable reading. For someone who hadn't come across these fields and read into them some, it might be a total game-changer.
So... so far, so good. Nothing surprising but all very sound.
But then, where I was really impressed was the initial lightweight guided exercises to ensure you actually use the thing.
With my work, I know most of the theory and it makes sense. But the prompts to actually analyze when you'd use the journal or not, setting up routines around it, etc — these are very smart.
I'll confess to actually being a bit stumped as to what to write for rewarding myself for using it for five days. I normally don't set up rewards for myself — I mean, the work itself is the reward. But that's probably a large part of the value of engaging with a well-designed thing like this. I noted I'd take a "luxurious bath" if I went through with it. I don't know, I guess that's kind of arbitrary, but I'll go one of those sea salts bath things and do it — it's always something I enjoy doing, but very rarely do. Fair enough.
As for changes to make, these days in my role as CEO, there's often 20 things going on ranging from moderate to extreme importance, and often a mix of things that are urgent but low-ish value, and things which are totally non-urgent but will be hugely beneficial to set up for three months from now.
I'm pretty good on systems and performance, but occasionally I get above some "Chaos Threshold" where some measure of distress sets in. I perform well despite it, but it's unpleasant. My big intention for the 5MJ is twofold — getting myself either building systems or doing growth activities every single day, no "routine business as usual days" — and gradually converting distress to eustress if/when over a chaos threshold. I perform well under stress anyways, but oftentimes, it's just a mindset shift to go from "holy **** there's 10 million things going on" to — "whoa, this is awesome, there's 10 million things going on."
So yeah, color me very impressed by the setup work — this thing is built to actually get you to get crystal clear about what outcomes you want, and then to actually use it. I settled on always placing the 5MJ on top of my computer at the end of the day — to journal before I open my computer in the morning — and then placing it on top of my pillow after that, to always do the final debrief before sleeping at night.
Then, the real crux of it is the daily routine —
True to its name, it's under five minutes. And it's quite cool. Here's my first entry —
Of course, I'm running Work Marathon II over at Ultraworking — and I'm moderating for 10 hours straight today. Actually stopping and reflecting on how cool that is, how grateful I am that I get to work alongside some great people... it was a really nice use of just a couple minutes.
I already plan my days pretty thoroughly, but writing again in my own handwriting the goals for the day — shipping an OKR-related doc since we're installing OKR's at Ultraworking as well as upgrading how we track Growth-related projects, and then acknowledging good pacing across the 10 hours — that was... really a quite good use of five minutes.
As technology gets more pervasive, I think there's going to be a trend of engaging in physical tools and systems like this for more groundedness, deliberateness, focus, and well-being.
So far, very impressed with the 5MJ. I'll report back after I've used it some more, but already seeing some benefits in very short setup time.
"Your Step By Step Guide To A Perfect Life" —
I don't know if I'd quite promise a perfect life, but it was really really good episode. Austin Fabel is a terrific interviewer. Tons of useful points on there.
In other news, we're midway through the Work Marathon —
We're doing live Work Cycles in 20 cities.
It'll be a great way to get a ton done and meet some wonderful people — the type of people who come out to live Work Cycles are consistently exceptional and cool.
Free registration for all events here —
True story —
We decided to do a contest. Sebastian Marshall (cofounder) goes to Kai Zau (cofounder), and says,
“We should give away an iPhone. It’ll be awesome.”
Kai says, “An iPhone? What’s that have to do with our business? Anyone can give away an iPhone. That’s so f***ing lame.”
Sebastian says, “I tried to find something that’s on-brand for us, but I don’t got anything.”
Alright, I'm super excited to make this announcement.
Over at Ultraworking, we had a lot of success with the Pentathlon and various free offerings we put out, but the biggest question we kept getting was, "This is great but I want more of it."
So I'm very pleased to now announce The Work Gym —
At that link, you can read about our long-term plan to make it the best resource on the internet for hitting peak performance if you're interested, but the big relevant thing is we're starting with two rounds of live Work Cycles every single week, on Saturday and Sunday at 4PM Eastern Standard Time (1PM Pacific).
I. Teamwork: that shouldn't be too hard, eh?
Sooner or later, most people who want to make a difference in the world start thinking about how to have highly effective teams, teamwork, and collaboration.
On the surface, it seems like it should be simple and straightforward — if you and someone else both believe in the same cause, you're both competent at your individual roles, and you get along well between the two of you, you should be able to be an effective team.
Finding a third member of the team would just mean getting someone else who cares about the cause, is competent, and gets along with the two of you. And so on. Building teams should be easy and straightforward, no?
If you've got a company, organization, or social group that wants to get a ton of work done in a short span while learning something cool, I'm happy to host some free or close-to-free(*) Work Cycles in North America in the next few weeks.
We regularly host events at Ultraworking, and of the most popular is Work Cycles. Work Cycles is a way to get an immense amount of stuff done in 4-5 hours.
A round of Cycles regularly leads to 20% to 400% increase in measurable performance, even for people who are already very effective. We've got literally hundreds of reports back like this,
"The biggest thing I realized is that when I focused during Work Cycles, I can get a workday done in 3 hours... By getting the work done in disciplined cycles, that then frees me up to work on bigger things, as well as showing me where I was wasting time in the past." — Glennn Holman, Consultant; Dallas, Texas
“The more competent I become, the greater my willingness to push the boat way out, the tighter the hands grip the throat. No other game can train me for it. It’s a stupid activity, but name one that isn’t — to someone somewhere.”
— Mark Twight, Kiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber
Seat 33A. Window seat.
I'm constantly on the lookout for words and phrases that map well to reality.
If you study history and if you study language, even just a little bit, you wind up realizing that for most of history, there was often a distinct lack of words and phrases crucial to understand reality.
I'm not just talking about technical terms — obviously we didn't know about "DNA" before its discovery and codification from 1869-1953.
No, it's easy to understand how scientific concepts were missing from our vocabulary before the relevant discoveries. Rather, what I'm on the lookout for are concepts that map well to human nature and how individuals and groups of people interact with each other — things which are real but which lack precise wording around them, thus making them harder to think about and talk about.
The modern usage of the word propaganda dates only to the late-1700s, and only truly hit its modern form of the word in the 1920s. Of course, there's likely been at least simple propaganda since the dawn of human civilization, but we didn't have a simple word for it.
From my journal. Status: quite speculative, but there's something here.
We could probably put a -5 to +5 scale of behavior together that was logarithmic about the enduring good/bad impact of various activities.
Something totally neutral — say, neutral leisure that’s not particularly recharging nor distracting — that might be 0.