INTERNAL SCORECARD #11 -- HIGH PRODUCTION, SHAKY HABITS
A little over three months ago, it occurred to me to write up some notes on what actions and production are happening on my end -- this could help readers see the real nitty-gritty of triumphs and setbacks as I put initiatives into place in organization-building, productivity, habits, results. You could also see get various recommendations on technology and processes. And it's quite good for me to stay accountable.
The experiment seems to have been a success and people really love these and look forward to them.
This is the eleventh Internal Scorecard I've published. For reasons that will become quite apparent in a moment, this is a scorecard that covers double the normal length, the two-week span from 28 July to 10 August.
RINGING THE CASH REGISTER
In any discipline, there are a very few activities that generate all the results. In baseball, it's getting runs on offense and outs on defense. Fooling a hitter on a great pitch for a strike or hitting a fierce double are good events, but don't contribute to winning a game by themselves. Neither does all the training, drills, or practice the players put in -- unless they lead to runs and outs in actual games.
The same is true in business -- almost everything is supplementary to delivering a great product/service/experience to the customer, and collecting the cash from doing so. All the administration, training, marketing, branding, positioning, getting the word out, running promotions, doing strategy, hiring, management, whatever -- these are all secondary considerations to delivering something great, and getting your cash.
But this brings us to an interesting question -- if you have a reliably good game plan for success that isn't being followed, but you're generating results anyways… is that alright?
In baseball, you want to taking batting practice, working on physical fitness, doing drills on defense, and otherwise honing your physical ability, understanding of game situations, and skill. But what if a player is doing none of these -- no fitness, no practice, no healthy habits, not sleeping well, not communicating with coaches and teammates, but yet is performing at superstar level, hitting homeruns or getting hitters out incredibly reliably?
It's an interesting discussion, isn't it? Sometimes, a player will play the game in a way that seems to contradict fundamentals, and yet be consistently successful. The baseball player Adrian Beltre was known for having strange and seemingly terrible fundamentals, but he had almost superhuman agility and reaction times, and is one of the best defenders in the game year-in and year-out. He's a case of the production (getting outs on defense) being more important than what you'd think would lead to production (standard defensive fundamentals).
Yet, at the same time, shouldn't you be a little worried when your fundamentals aren't in order? Making a ton of money while cranking down Red Bull and stimulants, never sleeping, eating terribly, not exercising, and then dropping dead at age 50 doesn't seem like a good plan. And yet, when you're 32 and killing it with bad habits, it doesn't seem like you're making that tradeoff.
GETTING THE PRODUCTION; SUSTAINABILITY
It's crucial -- absolutely crucial -- to remember that all the setting up for productivity and production must lead to actual production. I've become increasingly skeptical of accouterment and niceties, when prioritized over the actual production.
Yet at the same time, we consistently observe the most successful organizations and people setting up certain habits and groundwork, being patient and prepping to execute effectively.
That effective setup lets a person perform sustainably and keep getting the results. Getting the production is more important than theoretical supplementary activities. This is just true.
However, sustainability is a key and very real concern. You can push the production (make money, get outs in baseball, etc) in an unsustainable way. It typically leads to crashing earlier and not achieving what you could, and much lower quality of life.
So -- my answer is this: support activities unrelated to sustainability should follow secondarily to production, yet sustainability is key and needs to be constantly evaluated if you're running hard in the red.
RUNNING HARD IN THE RED
And that's where I was at the last two weeks. Miraculously high production, utterly shaky habits. The whole two weeks is a blur; I'm not sure I can remember everything that happened. I'm going through my calendar and time tracking / production logs to try to figure out what exactly happened.
Counting up on my calendar, I had around 68 appointments and meetings over the last two weeks.
This included a lot of building at GiveGetWin, doing a short-term consulting engagement and signing a new long-term client engagement, connecting with a few people socially especially for knowledge sharing on project management, and only a couple general social calls.
My sleep the last 14 days was erratic:
3.5 hours + 2.5 hour nap on airplane
~6 hours? (not marked correctly)
Not marked down
Don't try that at home, eh?
A lot of my favorable little routines dissolved amidst this highly productive chaos, though I kept my fitness mostly intact (haven't lifted since flying to Beijing a few days ago, but will get back on that soon).
Eating is interesting. I'm running a caloric deficit and tracking calories as I move towards single-digit body fat. I have less lifestyle restrictions, but look to run that deficit. What's interesting is that eating a large portion of high calorie / low satiety food once in a day (for instance, sugary breakfast cereal) means problems later in the day. Whereas eggs, chicken, fish when combined with vegetables means high satiety and easily running the deficit.
All of these habits got shakiest in the midst of the busiest time when prepping to fly to Beijing… I wanted to close a lot of campaigns and needed to get ready for new ones, but all of that happened and things are somewhat quieter now.
I tracked all my spending during this time, but didn't try to constrain it at all. I'm generally good with money anyways, but my personal daily expenses were probably somewhere between 40% and 80% higher than normal, because I just wasn't worrying about it too much, and consuming lots of coffee at cafes, etc. That said, a couple years ago when I was over-bandwidth as much as I am now, my spending would have been 100% to 500% higher than normal. So, that's an adjustment that's been made in my head. I'm not constraining my spending consciously, but my defaults are still pretty good even when in a hurry, and the money I make is dropping down to the bottom line pretty effectively for me and my family.
A constant problem for over-bandwidth people is following up on the details to ensure that deals get done and executed, details get polished, finishing touches are made, gains are consolidated, etc. I did carve out two entire days during this busy cycle just to keep those things under control, which is key for sustainability and long-term results. Here are those --
THE NEW DASHBOARD
I've got approximately 10 impact areas --
*Focus on each of my consulting clients, ensure they're succeeding
*Develop one creative asset a time (currently: The Strategic Review)
*Connect with people
*GGW's 4 key areas
*Coordinate with each GGW team member
*GGW Prospects and Upcoming Deals
*I'm making a push to improve deal marketing quite a bit at GGW; that's a main focus
*Develop my own character
*Have excellent studies, learning, and leisure
I've been tracking these in six places:
*A time tracking sheet (Grand Ascent)
*Weekly Scorecard (this)
*Flowformer: nice website to create a mantra for the day and keep looking at it
*iDoneThis: Good for tracking what's accomplished
*Evernote, set up with priority tags and with one note per to-do action
*(And Trello, which doesn't need to be listed on Trello, and my calendar and email, both of which I go to so often that I don't need to remind myself at all to do that)
I need to add:
*Improvements to Evernote organization
*A more detailed weekly review looking at upcoming deliverables, changes in net worth, opportunities, etc.
*Periodically I re-write a "job description" for myself, which is useful for staying focused. It's been about four months since I last did it in Japan. Time to do that again.
*A list of all my projects. (I don't have one. Shame on me.)
*I've been working to reduce total inputs/information.
*Better finances on the personal and household level. Mine are solid right now, but more gain can be gotten from doing them better.
Also, you'll see "Kill Reminders" marked as Done. I tried using the Mac "Reminders" app but I had too many things in too many places, so I got rid of it and consolidated it into Evernote.
IS THIS ALL REALLY NECESSARY?
Is this all really necessary and worth the time?
No. Yes. No. Maybe.
1. No, it's not really necessary. You just need to focus on results.
2. But yes -- for me, I keep analyzing why things are broken or inefficient, and come up with solutions to that. None of the things mentioned above I created for the sake of creating them… it was all to address areas that more juice could have been gotten off, that doesn't happen naturally.
3. But, no. Sometimes analytical and planning-type people love this stuff, and want to geek out on it. But the key is to focus on production and taking action to get production… and then observing what happens. I need a "Followup List" of people, for instance, to follow up with… because there's somewhere between 30 and 100 people I'll have to contact, at least, within the next 3 months. I can't possibly remember everything that needs to happen there, hence the list. But if you only had 5-10 close contacts for the phase of your life/career, you shouldn't necessarily create a followup list. Don't add accoutrement without focusing on production.
4. And, finally, maybe… because it depends on your situation. Production becomes the watchword and final word on the situation. Add infrastructure, controls, and bureaucracy slowly, and only as you need it to produce sustainably. Attempts to enforce order top-down rarely work. Instead, you need to start working a rough plan as rapidly and action-oriented as you can, and then periodically evaluate where it's creaky, inefficient, or broken. Then design potential solutions. But if you're not Principal of a consulting firm simultaneously with Executive Director at a growing charity, you probably don't need as much structure, reminders, information management, and controls. I'd recommend against it -- produce, produce, produce. Then evaluate where production is flawed, and build systems around those, originating from the immediate problem.
SQUARING WITH LAST TIME
Last Internal Scorecard, these were listed as key work --
*A new time-tracking sheet in Evernote [I'll post my most recent version in the next few days]
*iDoneThis, single person account
*General to-do list
*Planning the day the night before, referring to the plan throughout the day
*A list of every team member on GGW, to be looked at daily to ensure nothing falls through the cracks
*The GGW Trello with a list of all deals I'm to work on
*A text file with a list of everyone I have to follow up with
*Expense tracking and calorie tracking in Evernote
I'm pleased that every single one of those is working correctly during this run, except possibly the General to-do list of medium-priority stuff which has needed to be re-worked a couple times to try to work well.
LOOKING FORWARDS, BALANCING THINGS
My caffeine use is out of control. To compensate for the low-sleep, I'm drinking tons of caffeine. To run at a caloric deficit on the days I've eaten poorly, I'll slam a coffee or iced tea for the stimulation instead of food. That's just a disastrously bad long-term plan and is not sustainable. I might keep it up a while longer, but will then transition off caffeine using the "go to pharmacy and get 100mg caffeine pills, start taking them 4x or 5x per day, then ramp down to 3x per day, 2x per day, 1x per day, and then off caffeine entirely" method.
I need better sleep discipline. This is a function of turning down social functions in the evening and early morning as appropriate, and being disciplined to go to bed early. My problem is I often start doing breakthrough work in the mid-evening, and then I want to keep running it out… and I don't have a great schedule, lifestyle, or setup for compensatory napping right now. This will be an area to watch and try to stabilize; my way has produced a lot but has some severe consequences down the road if let go the way it does.
The diet piece just calls for adjustments; traveling often throws off dietary regime. I actually wasn't totally off the rails; just had some below-optimum days… not too bad, but better to be consuming more lean protein and high fiber (vegetables, etc). High caloric density / low-fiber is a recipe for disaster if trying to run a caloric deficit.
Overall though -- none of these are truly large threats, if handled. They need some work and balancing to lead to being sustainable, but the large pushes and structures that are generating high production should keep rolling along well.
OH, GET A COPY OF THE STRATEGIC REVIEW
Final two thoughts --
I'm always having creative ideas for assets to build, but I used to build them many-at-a-time, and have lots of 80% done stuff in my graveyard of projects. Now, it's one at a time -- and the fruits of labor have been re-launching a newly designed, even more impactful newsletter, The Strategic Review:
That's something I've been meaning to do for a while, but I didn't have the discipline to push through when I had many competing assets to build. But, by the limit of 1-creative-asset/project-max and working on it until it's finished, TSR launched and I'm incredibly excited about it.
I'd recommend you sign up:
http://www.thestrategicreview.net -- there's going to be some fantastic material from historical and present-days leaders in their fields, with immediately actionable tactics, strategies, and operations you can put into making your life run better and your business earn more money right away --
Again, that's http://www.thestrategicreview.net -- and do leave a comment here, I really appreciate the feedback on these Internal Scorecards.
Hey Sebastian, long time listener, first time caller.
Your challenges with a productive yet erratic / uneven schedule reminded me of a phrase we use religiously at my company - "Eliminate single points of failure". Originally learned during my four years as a cadet at the Air Force Academy, and refined as an active-duty officer, most of my operational shortcomings can be traced to ignoring this single concept. While at the academy, we purposely built schedules for young cadets that were not humanly possible to see how they responded to the stress.
Curiously, the decision didn't distill down to "what's more important?" but "who was I willing to piss off?". In my case, I would rather take a tongue lashing from one of my uniform-wearing professors then spend 20 minutes with one of my vindictive upperclassmen while in the push-up position while shouting out military quotes, "Sir, war is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things, the decayed and degraded state of society is much worse ..." And in the following years while an officer, I used to dread the annual updating the of the unit continuity books - in fact we would be rebuked (sometimes publicly) for allowing ourselves to become a single point of failure when some task wasn't completed while we were on leave.
Interestingly enough, that lesson was forgotten when I transitioned into small biz ownership. And I (and eventually my team and clients) began to feel the inevitable side-effects of single-points of failure ... well .. failing.
So I finally asked myself the right question (plagiarizing you a bit there): What is my company's biggest weakness?
The painful answer: me.
And the uncomfortable (but very prudent) solution: delegate or decide.
Delegate even the really important stuff, and Decide who you are willing to piss off when it doesn't work out. Admittedly, some expensive mistakes were made by my team during this transition into a robust organization, and I sometimes would rubber-band back into doing these tasks myself only to burn out, and have re-delegate those same tasks in state of desperation instead proactive management. I also decided which clients I should fire, which friendships I would put on the back-burner, and allowed my ego to take the brunt of the upcoming blows.
Hell, that was a long ramble. Thanks for reading, and keep writing. These internal scorecards certainly keep me on my toes.
- Nate Wright -
Owner, Small Biz Triage
P.S. I'm happy to hear that you connected with my client Kevin Archbold, the project management expert. I suggested he call you when after your public call for pm's. I'm a good at managing projects, but he is great. I trust that it will be a mutually beneficial exchange.
I liked the "Is this necessary?" section. I do something similar to your scorecard, and every time someone asks me about my system their eyes get big and they're like "Do I have to?" Well, no, not necessarily. But there are really some phenomenal benefits to be had if you do.
Sebastian, Have you tried using myfitnesspal app to track your calories and coinkeeper app to track money expense?
Myfitness pal is free and simplifies the process a lot in my humble opinion and coinkeeper has great utility for the low cost.
By the way thank you for keeping posting the scorecards they are very insightful.
Wow, this is like productivity on steroids.
I just started using Trello to organize my reading material, and I could definitely use your above described template. Also, just signed up for the strategic review.
Wow, quite a write up Sebastian. Is that picture above from Evernote?
trello.com -- free, good app.
Sebastian, great post as always. Does any of your data feed from other sources flow into Trello, or do you manually have to update everything?
Thanks Sebastian. I'm die hard Evernote now (I can't ever see myself changing!)
INTERNAL SCORECARD #10
This is the tenth internal scorecard I've published. I started it as a bit of an experiment -- I thought it'd be interesting to share and show my thoughts on production and productivity, and it would be valuable for readers here to see ups and downs that come with building a nonprofit organization while maintaining a solo consulting practice, and then mixed with personal interests in creativity, health/fitness, etc.
So far, it's been pretty good and people seem to love these. This one covers 21 July to 27 July.
A STUDY IN CONTRAST
I remember reading a book as a young boy, maybe eight years old. One of the characters was described as square-jawed, confident, rough-and-tumble, and of bold nature. I thought to myself, "I want to be like that!"
I've been very successful in my quest to eliminate hardcore competitive video games from my life. By using Stickk, a friend, a monetary incentive, and accountability, I've hard-quit League of Legends and repurposed the hours a week that I was spending playing games.
This next year is going to be very exciting for me, but is also going to require a lot out of me as a person. It is going to require me to become a different person if I want to have what I will consider a "successful year."
There are no financial, travel, or social goals planned for 2013 at all.
Instead, I will call 2013 the Habitual Year. The only true "goal" that I have for the year is that I commit to implementing or quitting one habit per month using the framework that has worked so well for me this past month. The way I see it, if I implement or remove a total of 12 major habits (think nutrition, exercise, meditation, socializing, etc) then 365 days from now there really is no way I can have a bad year.
I need to focus on habits that other people can easily see if I have accomplished or not. For LoL, it was easy because there are 3rd party websites that track gameplay, allowing Jon to see if I'd played or not regardless of if I wanted to tell him the truth. This needs to be the case in any future habit challenge.