The Internal Scorecard
I think there's a tremendous amount of misconceptions regarding achievement, productivity, creativity, ambition, work, work rate, work ethic, and so on.
So I'm thinking of publishing some analysis weekly with examples of what happened in the week, successes and failures, noteworthy events, what I'm reading and listening to, and so on. If it goes well, I can give you a picture of a workweek for me, intermix tactics and techniques, and give you practical guidance about what's working well and what isn't.
I'm not sure if I'll keep this up as an initiative. I might like this, or I might abandon it. But let's give it a try. Make sure to comment if you've got strong thoughts on the topic.
*The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire by Edward Luttwak (primary)
*Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port (I always have one business book going, even if my primary book is history/fiction/whatever).
*While choosing my next books to read this week before settling on Grand Strategy, I also picked up The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (I'm halfway through it and it's brilliant, but I don't have the mental bandwidth to properly read it slowly and reflect on it), and Making Money by Owen Johnson (not enough was happening early on to stay with it; I most likely won't pick it up again).
*I also referenced The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes and The Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer, both of which I've read multiple times, when looking for some references for consulting work I was doing.
*I'm listening to The Millionaire Mind by Dr. Thomas Stanley on audiobook; this is my second listening of it. (It's good)
Random point on productivity -- starting weeks on Sundays: This week I did my weekly review last Saturday, and started the new week on Sunday. While most people plan and run a standard Monday to Sunday week with Monday as the beginning of the week, I find running a Sunday to Saturday week (where the week starts on Sunday and ends on Saturday) to be much more effective. While I don't keep a traditional schedule, the weekends still wind up with less scheduled on them for me naturally because my clients are less likely to be working, people are more likely to be on trips, and there's generally less of an expectation for quicker replies on weekends. Given that, starting and ending the week with a weekend day is great -- especially Sunday, which I work very hard not to schedule at all. That means my week can start off with a bang of focused intense personal/creative work without any traditional Monday-morning type obligations.
Random point on productivity -- trying different kinds of planning: I'm always playing around with different planning mechanisms. Different ones will work well at different stages of your life, depending on if you're on one project or multiple, if in introverted or extroverted mode, if the period is highly commercial/money-oriented or not, if traveling or not, and so on. I enjoy different planning initiatives and experimentation and it's fun for me, plus mixing it up means learning different tactics and keeping things fresh.
How I planned this week, part I -- "Job description": My current method for planning is twofold. First, I have a "job description" that has exactly 17 roles on it that I perform right now. There's four categories: GiveGetWin related, Consulting related, Writing related, and Personal. The first three are obvious enough; the fourth encompasses the tasks that are "personal" but need prioritization into my work schedule and get equal treatment with those. The four areas under "personal" that I manage when I make my schedule are Fitness, Personal Habits, Finance, and Family. Meanwhile, I recognize that I can't make progress on all 17 areas at the same time. So I pick a particular set of interest for the week. This week GiveGetWin got the lion's share of my time, Consulting was oriented mostly around fulfillment of current projects, Writing did not get much time, and Personal did not get much explicit time. (Obviously, progress across all areas happens sporadically as ideas come, basic maintenance is done, etc, etc. This just details where I'll put my creative energy to try to do new things and make lots of progress.)
How I planned this week, part II -- "List of 10": After selecting which areas I want to make progress in, I then write down my Top 10 priorities, and (and this is important) -- then I estimate how many hours it will take to complete that activity, and round up so it's conservatively high. If you're looking for one actionable win out of this post, this one is it: If you're making a list of multiple things to do, do yourself a huge favor and estimate how many hours it will take to complete. By explicitly writing down, "Unpleasant important thing I don't want to do…. Six Hours" -- then you know the beast you've got to slay, you'll mentally prepare for it, and you're less likely to slack off of it later. Really, it's magical. Try it. You'll be amazed.
This week's plan/priorities:
*Consulting I: Estimated 2 hours; actual 20 minutes + 45 minutes
*Consulting II: Estimated 4 hours; actual 2 hours
Note: I don't ever bill hourly any more, I just estimate for myself to plan the week (see above about the priorities). Though in both of these cases, there was actually more time than went into completing/implementing with my two clients than just the above; time which I hadn't budgeted when making my weekly plan. It all highly productive and valuable time, so no worries there.
*First GiveGetWin All-Hands Meeting: Estimated 1 hour needed to prep/make agenda; actual 40 minutes
*Followup/selling on a potential project: Estimated 4 hours (conservatively high, this would have included writing a proposal) but did not reach prospective client. This is one of two of the 10 priorities that didn't succeed this week.
*Recruiting GGW providers: Estimated 1 hour scheduled; actual 15 minutes for the particular task that I noted down, and then an additional 3-7 hours that weren't planned in advance
*Inbox zero: Estimated 7 hours total for the week, actual 4.5 hours to get clear at first, and then another 3 to 6 hours throughout the week (about 10 hours total, and it's not empty… yikes)
*GIveGetWin planning/systems building: 14+ hours estimated, actual was 20+ hours
*Logo designs for consulting: 2 hours estimated, and 2 hours actual (about dead-on there)
*Writing planning: 2 hours estimated, 2 hours actual (dead-on again)
*Buy workout clothes, socks/shoes, and workout 3x: 8 hours estimated, partial failure here and only 1.5 hours spent
*Do some preliminary calculating of expenses and finance: 1 hour estimated, actual went 5 hours and covered more ground than intended
I had pre-scheduled an estimated 16 hours for GiveGetWin, 8 hours for Consulting, 2 hours for Writing, and 9 hours for Personal.
In actuality, I spent 30+ hours on GiveGetWin, around 10 on Consulting, 2 hours on the specific Writing initiative I mentioned plus perhaps a couple more hours on this type of activity, and around 6 hours on Personal activities.
These numbers are kind of deceptive, though. I plan/pre-schedule "large initiatives" or "things that need watching" so to speak. Actual time spent writing my blog on a day to day basis aren't included in the Writing category. (It's for planning, writing large/long/extensive pieces, promoting my writing, and so on.) Likewise, I did a number of Personal activities which weren't counted. The numbers above just track my initiatives that fit a certain category of things that I'm paying attention to, and it wouldn't necessarily be intuitive to someone who doesn't know me extremely well and had seen me run through my system multiple times before and asked me why I classified things certain ways.
Calls and Meetings:
*I had 12 Skype calls scheduled this week. 11 of them happened; the final was a friend of mine who is a business owner and got caught in a negotiation that went longer than he expected. We didn't have a set agenda, it was just a fun/hangout/catchup call. I didn't miss, cancel, or reschedule any calls.
*I met almost every day this week with Dan Ternes to work on GiveGetWin things. I didn't track explicitly how many meetings we had; we'd often meet quickly around lunch, go do other things, and then put in a longer session around dinnertime.
A few high points:
*We had out first GiveGetWin All-Hands meeting. Everyone has been very enthusiastic about it, and really enjoyed getting to know each other in a huge group and we covered tons of ground. We used Google Hangouts for it (plus.google.com) and it was very smooth… amazing technology. This was our first GGW All-Hands so there was some minor points about people figuring out how to logon, etc, in the beginning, but overall was quite smooth.
*Dan Ternes and I started developing the training, mentoring, and credentialing system for GiveGetWin going forwards. I'm very excited for this.
*Chris Dame is working to improve the site design for GiveGetWin for higher credibility, usability, aesthetics, functionality, etc.
*Chris is coincidentally in Ulaanbaatar, and has suggested and gotten underway an initiative on the philanthropy side by visiting the largest NGO in Ulaanbaatar who we had previous contact with. My prior plan was to come in when we had tens of thousands of dollars (or more), but Chris advocated getting a win in the $200 to $1000 range so providers and donors can see where funds are going, we can get some positive impact now, gain domain experience, and so on. Good call on his part, love this initiative.
*Zach Obront continues to develop the Trello, recruiting, and project management system for GGW. He and Paulo Ribiero are now collaborating on the first GGW Deal that I won't be doing any of the five key roles on (Recruiting, Project Managing, Marketing, Copywriting, Fulfillment). This is incredibly exciting, because it takes away the "getting hit by a bus" factor from sinking GGW.
*Kai Zau and Jay Bobzin sat in on our first all-hands meeting. Brilliant guys. Both gave useful feedback which was very gracious of them.
*I love everyone I work with at GGW. Just amazing people overall. More on this in a moment.
*Both my consulting implementations went smoothly, and I finished those in the first two days of the week. It's nice when your "must do" things you're being paid for are done way ahead of schedule.
*I got invited to put together a bid for another project in Beijing with a couple guys I really like and I could make a big difference with -- I'm wanted immediately, but my schedule doesn't open up for another month or so. Whenever I get really busy and everything is clicking, I'm left scratching my head and asking, "Where was all this business back when I wasn't busy?!" So it goes.
*I'm also getting involved in a very interesting marketing/branding project. It's another one of those "add lots of value to something positive that's going to happen anyways, and put it over the top and increase magnitude" type things -- lots of leverage, because the guy behind it is immensely talented, has a very good scope, and will gain huge returns on the gains.
*I spent a number of hours on finances, corporate structures, taxation, accounting, and so on. I'm getting a much better grasp of how to plan for and run with irregular income. It's a nightmare and it sucks and it's awful (I can see why people get addicted to the regular paycheck), but I'm over time starting to grasp how to manage, budget, invest, structure, and spend given that my income swings incredibly. It helps that right now I'm not trying to earn and my top focus is GiveGetWin… ironically I'm feeling very positively towards money but am feeling very detached from wanting or needing to earn in the short/mid-term… off of people wanting to work with me and projects that were paid 100% upfront, I'm already cashflow positive over basic expenses for a while, and I'm turning down any work that I don't really want. Somehow, strangely, this is letting me get a more objective picture of how money, time, income, expenses, etc. interrelate. More on this in a moment.
A few low points: I'd like to point out that I fail a lot, and things are constantly off-track for me just like everyone else. Here's some of my failures this week:
*My diet was abysmally bad for most of this week. I went from bad to worse over the course of the week, descending the ladder from breads to pretzels to candy bars and ice creams, Red Bulls, sugary breakfast cereals, and… blah. I felt gross. Thankfully, it got so bad that I decided to have what I call a "kamikaze day" where I go totally overboard (force myself to hit rock bottom) and then re-quit and I'm 100% off carbohydrates for a while. When things smooth out more, I'll add fruit and some decent carbs back in. But for now, nothing. But most of the week was awful, I felt gross, and it was no good.
*I also missed my exercise goals. I got zero gym workouts in. I did manage to get one long walk up a mountain in on the last day (Saturday) of the week to halfway salvage things. But overall, that's bad too. I felt my health in bad shape and felt yucky about it.
*Maybe this will sound stupid, but I want to just share something here a bit transparently -- I got a bad haircut last week when I was in a hurry for some business meetings where I needed short-ish hair. The woman wasn't a native English speaker and didn't hear me well. When I said "50% shorter" she heard "95% shorter." So I had that "boy's regular" type haircut that I did when I was eight years old. I couldn't stop noticing it in the mirror and just overall felt a lot less good about how I looked. Every time I went by a mirror, it aggravated me. Every time I went on a video Skype, I cringed a little. Probably nobody cares, but sure, I'm just as vain and get upset at stupid little stuff like everyone else. I was also clean-shaved for those meetings, so I looked younger than normal. Thankfully my hair is already starting to grow out a little and I've got a solid beginning of a beard coming in and I feel marginally better about this. But it was actually bothering me all week. I'm not proud of this and I get that it sounds trivial, but this consumed way too many thought cycles.
*I had an incredible run on Sunday and Monday. I wound up working about 15 hours each day (30 hours total) and finished most of what I wanted to get done for the week. It wasn't on purpose, I just had early Skype calls both days, and then I stayed working until midnight or 1AM because I was in a good flow. So why is it a low point? As I've noticed before, often are an inhumanly productive session I crash for a while, and I ran off a number of low days from Tuesday to Thursday. All three days were very low productivity… I had a number of calls and meetings, which meant they weren't total wastes. But in most of my undirected time, I was procrastinating and doing nothing useful. Even worse,
*I got off my work computer/play computer setup. My work Mac is hard-designated that no internet surfing, games, etc happen. But Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday was a descent into chaos. Eating nearly entirely junk food, surfing Hacker News, playing online chess, checking sports scores, and just… not doing more than the minimum to prep for my calls and execute on basic action items. This needs to turn around right now -- so I'll set that as a priority for next week. If I really need to surf the net, I'll do it on my iPhone to get back on the work computer / play computer setup, which is so vital and so valuable. If my first attempt at this doesn't work, I'll go download Self-Control for OSX and block everything.
*I had a good prospective client to follow up with who I'd really like to work with. Neither of us is in a big hurry (his company is growing at a very good rate, and my schedule is mostly blocked out for a while now) but I wanted to grab the reigns and move forward a lot this week on that. There's no time pressure, but I dislike missing objectives.
*I'm tempted to complain about the awful weather in Germany in this "low points" section, but what's to accomplish there? But yeah, the weather sucked. It was probably a minor contributing factor to the Tuesday to Thursday negative run and the junk food. Though that's 95% on me, having a week of raining drab skies is no good. I personally like good weather and have built my life to minimize time in cold/rainy places (except London, which I curiously like and find charming even when it's yucky… ambiance or something). You should always accept personal responsibility for your own actions and results, but at the same time you should be pragmatic and look for patterns. Bad weather is like a -5% or -10% for me at least, still, despite my best efforts to be better than that. So it's a minor low point, though obviously much less important than the things inside my direct control.
Random point on productivity AND happiness -- only work with people you like: Right now, I really like everyone I work with. My schedule is very full, so I literally can't take on things unless they're bursting with joy for me. And you know, it's like paradise. Everyone I collaborate with on GGW and projects, all my clients, and everyone I socialize with are people I really enjoy. I'm never going back to doing it the other way -- for expediency, pragmatism, for short money, or whatever. It's been a while since I've only been working with people I REALLY like, and it's such a blessing. I always look forward to my work, even if it's very hard, because I like the people I'm with. This isn't a quick fix thing, but ask yourself: Do you like everyone you work with? Like, a whole lot? If you don't LOVE the people you work with and interact with regularly, you need to start searching and transitioning for a way to ensure you do. Life is exponentially more enjoyable when the people in your corner are people you admire, respect, and want to be around all the time.
Things on my mind lately:
*Finance, budgeting, investing, income, expenses, and generally planning around irregular income.
*I need to create more "anchor content" on the blog.
*I want to feature more of what's going on, more transparency, more sharing lessons hands-on, etc. This was a top request when I polled readers here a while back.
*Health and fitness immediately needs to be re-prioritized.
*I went shooting two weeks at a gun range with a new client of mine, and I've been thinking about going again all week. It'd been a while, but the interest is re-ignited very much so.
*I had a few different people say to me, "If you made X Product, I'd pay you for it" recently. Both people that I already know and have worked with, and two different readers reaching out to me. I've been thinking about doing that and trying to choose the right one if I do so.
*I've been thinking about incorporating in Dubai and setting up permanent residency there. Just mulling the idea over right now, no rush with it. I haven't been to Dubai since the boom ended, so who knows if it's still good. But I see a bunch of potential advantages to it.
*I'm leaning very strongly now towards visiting the USA briefly for the first time since January 2010. This is kind of almost overwhelming when I think of all the things I could do, people I could see, etc. There's a bunch of admin I could do -- driver's license, bank accounts, new ATM card, things like that. I'm not even sure all the admin I could do. And there's a ton of people I want to see, more than I could possibly go visit. So, that's tricky to figure out.
*I've been giving a lot of thought to how to make it easier for people to join GiveGetWin as volunteers or providers. Noah Gibbs cold emailed me and asked if he could do GiveGetWin and it was a huge success; I'd like to make it very easy for people to reach out that way.
*I'm always thinking about where else to recruit new GGW providers.
*I want to get more exposure for GGW deals with smarter marketing and more outreach on them. This is happening anyways, but I'd like more of it to happen faster, which is going to require a bit of a creative spark (and then good execution of course).
*I need to learn how to elegantly put out a press release. Or, hell, inelegantly. We need to be putting out press releases at GGW and getting in touch with the media. We're interacting with a lot of noteworthy people and doing noteworthy things -- I want to share everyone's interesting stories and get the word out more.
That's it for this week.
This took a while to write up. Did anyone actually read it all? Was it useful? Feedback? Questions? If you got all the way through this, you really owe it to yourself (and perhaps, me?) to comment and share your thoughts. I read all the comments carefully, and questions and requests do really hone my future content quite a lot, so let me know what you're thinking and you'll get more of what you want going forwards.
I like the hair cut comment. While to some it may seem trivial and vain.. it's a good reminder that we are all human after all. And we all have certain areas like that where our performance will suffer a little if we don't take care of. I'm similar in that when my hair gets too long, I feel more sloppy.
Consider: Putting "If you're looking for one actionable win out of this post, this one is it: " at the bottom or the top.
Consider: Either a weekly recap of posts, or your favorite post of the week.
*I had a few different people say to me, "If you made X Product, I'd pay you for it" recently. Both people that I already know and have worked with, and two different readers reaching out to me. I've been thinking about doing that and trying to choose the right one if I do so. --- I'd love to help.
Your work was not in vain! (I read it all.) The honesty about your failures is something that I admire immensely. While being honest about them publicly is impressive, just using that as evidence that you're honest about them with yourself is paramount - in my opinion.
The point that rang the most true with me was loving the people you work with. As I continue to take projects and make business, it's becoming clear to me that this is actually the number one indicator of my personal life-satisfaction.
Took me a while to get back to it, but yes, I read it. My analyses are typically long like this too. They're a lot of work, but I'm so much more aware of my progress this way. Love that you shared it.
I think this is a very useful insight about your day to day. Like other commenters are saying, your ROI might not be great on this kind of post, but it is greatly enjoyed. Perhaps instead of explaining everything you can create a sort of shorthand that will still transmit 90% of the information but will take you less time.
For example, Skype calls: 11/12. 1 was for friend.
High Points: Love people I work with. Beijing Bid.etc.
As someone starting out on this I love the honesty about the down time. It's make it seem more achievable for some reason. We all struggle at times, even you, and it's okay. It's awesome to have that reminder.
Thanks for the hard work in this post!
To be honest, I'm not sure that the post delivered enough content given its length for it to be worth the amount of your time it likely takes to write it. I would gladly continue to read such updates, though.
I enjoyed reading it. I don't have any specific comments on what you wrote; I think it's more important to do another one (not necessarily right away; it's a lot of work) so you and we can notice trends and add another dimension to our observations. Of course, we already can compare to the past.
This is what sets you apart, Sebastian...You and Tynan are always so honest about your activities, levels of achievement, slip-ups, successes, etc....For those reading your site for inspiration, it is incredibly satisfying to read about someone being so truthful, so accountable, to both the highs AND the "lows"....Thank you....
Really enjoyed this. All of it. I hope you'll keep it up for a while.
For the first 14 weeks of this year I did weekly reviews, with weeks starting on Monday and ending on Sunday. This started to fall apart and I devised a new system that's been working pretty well. Instead of 7 day weeks I've been tracking my business, financial and personal progress in chunks of time that are related to what I'm doing at moment. 4 day trip to Norway, 10 day hike in the mountains, 8 day children's camp, 12 days in the US - and all the time between each event becomes its own period as well.
I also like the idea of organizing your responsibilities by the different job descriptions you hold. I may try this out.
I like your idea of setting review periods related to the activity you are doing rather than arbitrary time periods like a week. Perhaps requires more discipline to remember to do it vs forming the habit of reviewing every Sunday... your thoughts on that?
It also relates to an idea for setting an intent for an activity and using the start and end of an activity as boundary points for creating magical occurrences and coincidences within the time period. Kinda like casting a circle if you do wicca magic but doing it in the time dimension.
I've actually found it much easier than when I was on a 7 day system. I'm a freelancer so my work schedule doesn't fit into the typical mold anyways, devising my system around my personal life has been much easier.
My average period tends to be 10-15 days, but some are as short as 4. I try to pick a main project and habit to focus on for each period. Often times they span two or three periods.
That was awesome. I've been thinking for ages that it'd be cool to get the inside scoop on all the stuff you're doing (both work and personal) and the openness does an amazing job of counteracting the publication bias stuff you just wrote about.
It'll be useful for you to look back on too - like a diary.
Yes I read all of it. Got some good ideas, including a new book to check out and an old one that I read years ago to re-read. I liked the idea of adding estimates to my task list - I did think about this before so good to hear that you find useful. I will think about doing something similar in my weekly review. I know when I did co-coaching with a friend a few years ago we did this kind of weekly check in and found it useful.
Have you considered scoring your days satisfaction/productivity to help spot patterns against exercise, diet, weather and other factors. I know when I did this I found some patterns related to the food I ate. Also how can you apply the 80/20 rule to some of the stuff you are doing and tracking? Is there anything on your list you could delegate? For example I live abroad and I have my ATM card delivered to my US PO Box and a VA mails it on to me where ever I am right now.
Definitely recommend getting a foreign residency or two. Can help with taxes (you don't have to follow the IRS 330 day outside of the US rule) and also may lead to a useful second passport down the line. I assume you keep your assets in several foreign accounts in banks with high reserves. If not that is a risk to consider looking at in the post Cyprus world... I think Dubai banks have high reserve ratios, I know Singapore ones do, there are a few other places that are good. Most US banks are terrible with only 2% reserves and often enormous derivative positions too.
I've had massively productive runs in the past -- probably you have too. So, what's different about this one?
I've been cutting and cutting and cutting back to try to get the core, essential, most important functions and projects in my life. AFter getting down to the most important business and personal projects, it was still more than could be done -- except with the help of best practices and organizing principles.
So, what's different about this 90 days? I plan on coming out of it feeling healthy and stronger than ever before. No huge run of work that sacrifices health and well-being. Instead, just best practices, good organization, and so on -- so, a massive push in work projects, personal life, and coming out of it even better.
I spent a considerable amount of time getting down to this list --
Areas of Interest
I'm thrilled that Tynan is coming to you with two things -- first, he's offering a breakthrough session through GiveGetWin. It's geared around doing more of the kind of excellent work you want to do, becoming more internally focused with your emotions, having a more enjoyable life, building great habits, and producing a lot of value in the process. There's five spots, so check it out now.
Second, we have this wonderful tour-de-force interview: it starts by covering how Tynan made the shift from unfocused to focused, how to derive internal enjoyment from things, useful actionable exercises you can do right now, Tynan's method and mindset for producing creative work consistently, how to set up great habits and an excellent mental and physical work environment, and how to make blogging work and similar endeavors work for you.
Total Focus; Total Enjoyment by Tynan, as told to Sebastian Marshall
When I turned 30 and I had a minor freak out… I thought, "I'll be 40 in not long, and then 50… there's things I want to do in my life, and they're not happening at this pace."
Before that, I had a general idea of things I wanted to do and have in my life, but I went about in an unstructured way. It was good in a lot of ways. It made be a broad process, but not much depth.