INTERNAL SCORECARD #2 --
Last week, I published my first Internal Scorecard -- a summary of interesting observations and lessons for the week that you can draw interesting points on productivity, organization, tactics, techniques, meetings, and so forth on.
There was a nice reception, and so I'll keep it going this week. If you find this useful, please leave a comment with your thoughts and questions. I greatly appreciated last week's comments.
CURRENTLY READING --
The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire: Almost finished with it. The verdict? Not a great book if you're new to history or strategy. Too dense, too big, too slow. And you need a lot of background knowledge. That said, if you know the region well and you're familiar with late Eastern Roman history, then there's some real gems in there.
Heroes by Carlyle (pdf): I wanted a dose of inspiration, and this is one of my absolute favorite books. I read about 20 pages of it, very slowly, across a few hours. Carlyle is such a clear thinker and beautiful writer. You'll no doubt disagree with many points he says, but others will uplift your spirit and get your blood flowing. Heroes is probably my third favorite book of all-time, behind Yoshikawa's Musashi and Dalio's Principles (pdf).
Getting Started in Consulting by Alan Weiss: A reader bought me a copy of it. Thanks. It's good, solid, and applicable. It covers much of the same ground as Million Dollar Consulting, but has a lot of good "if you don't have this yet, here's how to set up and improvise…" type advice. Start with Million Dollar Consulting even if you're brand new and haven't read either, but this isn't a bad refresher and has some good advice in it. I read almost the entire book in two sittings (it reads fast).
I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi: I saw a copy on my friend's bookshelf, and I've been working on finance-related things lately. I actually read it once already, but this time I read it fast, skipping the points related to being on salary and the advice on particular investments, and I got some good inspiration for the finance things I'm doing. This was my second reading of the book, and I recommend it. (It's still relevant for non-residents of America… maybe 30% won't be relevant if you're not in the USA, but it's still good.)
Masters of War: History's Greatest Strategic Thinkers, a Great Courses Video Course led by Andrew Wilson from the Naval War College. Quite good. You need a relatively high baseline of historical knowledge, because he moves very quickly through events and relates mostly to strategists and particularly noteworthy people. So, if you don't know the basics of Athens and Sparta, the Italian Renaissance Wars, and the Napoleonic Wars, I think you'll miss a lot. It moves very fast. I'm halfway through and there's some great points, but I think you'll get more out of it if you've already read Sun Tzu's Art of War, Machiavelli's The Prince, Clauswitz's On War, and have a solid grounding in Athens, Sparta, the Renaissance, the Napoleonic Wars, and World War II to get the most of it. And I'm only halfway in, so maybe you need more of a baseline. He does give you more background on China, perhaps not assuming the reader knows as much of it.
The Millionaire Mind by Stanley: Listening to it on audiobook as I go about my day. It's good.
DALIO QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Principle #168) "Don’t act before thinking. Take the time to come up with a game plan. Take at least a few hours to think through your plan. Those hours will be virtually nothing in relation to the amount of time that will be spent doing, and they will make the doing radically more effective." -- Ray Dalio, Principles
DISCUSSION ON TRADEOFFS
Let's introduce a point to think about, which was very relevant for me this week.
Ask yourself: "Is it better to be enjoying life, flourishing, and doing excellent work personally but not achieving much towards objectives you find worthy, or is it better to be feeling rather unhappy and stuck more of the time, and yet be producing the end results you find worthy?"
HOW THIS WEEK WAS PLANNED
Same as last week. Select the relevant areas of my "job description" to do this week; pick a top 10 based on that, estimate the hours for each category of the top 10. This week wasn't as smooth as last week, though. Highly productive, but not smooth at all.
THIS WEEK'S PLANS / PRIORITIES, WITH ANALYSIS
Before I talk success and failure, let's look at this week's plans and priorities:
Followup on graphic design for business cards… 1 hour
Followup on if the DNS is resolving correctly on new site… 2 hours
Design GGW training/mentoring/credentialing system… 10 hours
Large provider recruiting push for GGW… 2 hours
Plan trip to East Coast USA… 2 hours
Inbox Zero… 4 hours
Empty "1" priority tasks on capture list… 3 hours
Get (very important GGW deal) happening… 2 hours
1000 words of writing… 1 hour
Develop rough budget… 4 hours
Consulting Deliverable For Client… 3 hours
Proposal For New Client… 4 hours
You'll note there's 12 of them. The last 2 got added right as the week was getting underway, after my rough plan had already been set.
Now, I'm a big subscriber to the idea of "do the hardest thing first."
So my rough order of priorities would probably be --
The 3 hour consulting deliverable first, the 10 hour GGW project, the 4 hour budgeting planning session, the 4 hour proposal, and then all the little miscellaneous things. You can always squeeze in answering some email, or picking off to-do items on my capture list in the gaps in time, but those big focused things don't happen on their own.
What wound up happening this week is something else entirely. I had a number of meetings scheduled with a colleague to work on this training system, but they got thrown off due to him getting hit with a whirlwind vortex of stuff -- immigration/bureaucratic work issues, and the birth of his first niece. Unfortunately, both of those came on unexpectedly.
The end result was 3 days where we started very late behind schedule, and/or the day was canceled entirely.
I think it's good to analyze objectively and analytically why things go wrong. With the big 10 hour project not getting my action, and my time already mentally blocked out for it, I kind of sputtered around. This has often been a flaw of mine -- I plan my days a little bit the night before, but I do poorly when my day gets thrown off track. Skype calls that don't happen, for instance, generally just burn the 30 minute or 1 hour slot they were in, unless I had work I was immediately working on that I was going to work on right up until the call happened.
I don't know why exactly, that's just one of those things with me. It indicates either a skill or mentality I need to develop -- the ability to re-prioritize on the fly when my day breaks.
I lost about three days of high productivity to that, and it probably affected my mood a bit on a fourth day. The end result on actions --
Followup on graphic design for business cards… 1 hour… INCOMPLETE
Followup on if the DNS is resolving correctly on new site… 2 hours… INCOMPLETE
Design GGW training/mentoring/credentialing system… 10 hours… PROGRESS, HALF COMPLETE
Large provider recruiting push for GGW… 2 hours… (Made irrelevant by some big successes on the organizational level; intentionally dropped as an initiative)
Plan trip to East Coast USA… 2 hours… COMPLETE, 4 HOURS
Inbox Zero… 4 hours… 95% COMPLETE, 8 HOURS
Empty "1" priority tasks on capture list… 3 hours… INCOMPLETE
Get (very important GGW deal) happening… 2 hours… (Progress on the organizational level made the exact actions irrelevant)
1000 words of writing… 1 hour… INCOMPLETE
Develop rough budget… 4 hours… COMPLETE+++ (did far more than expected)
Consulting Deliverable For Client… 3 hours… COMPLETE
Proposal For New Client… 4 hours…. COMPLETE
So you'll see, out of 12 objectives, 5.5 basically succeeded, 2 were intentionally semi-canceled because there was success on an organizational level that made them irrelevant, 4.5 failed.
On the one hand, that's below the mark I shoot for. On the other hand, the 5 successes were 5 of the top 6 things that needed to get done.
Like most people, I thrive on momentum. I'd plan to work on the Training System and parlay those successes into then whacking little items off the list. When that didn't happen, I just had a couple bad days and the time was dissipated. I didn't redeploy it very well towards knocking off little things in that time, and then I had poor moment and three whole days were shot.
This week was actually a tremendous success because a number of other good things happened, which I'll detail in a moment.
A FEW HIGH POINTS
*Paulo and Zach collaborated to do the first GGW deal that I didn't have to intervene at all on… that's amazing, the risk of the organization failing if I personally get hit by a bus just went way down. They both kicked a ton of ass on the Tim Kenny deal.
*Additionally, Zach broke new ground on marketing on Reddit. Awesome to watch him really connect with people there. Just… tremendous from both Paulo and Zach collaborating, and really cool to see.
*On Thursday, I had my first "Operations Call" with an entrepreneur friend of mine. He suggested the idea -- he's scaling a business up and said we're both interested in operations a lot. We agreed to each bring one point on ops to cross-teach each other, and one question we're working on. It was an AMAZING call. Instead of demo'ing one system, he broke out four templates and systematic approaches he takes. With a 5 minute briefing on each one, I got some huge actionable gains. I asked him to write about some of this here, so I hope to be able to bring you his insights soon. He loved what I brought him as well, and we'll be making the Ops call a regular thing for us. Very, very exciting.
*I connected with another reader of this site who has very similar interests to myself -- absolutely brilliant guy, good at diagnosing and solving problems, and also interested in some of the points that I'm interested in about generally doing business internationally, corporations, finance, etc. He taught me a lot of useful concepts, especially sharing some starting learning resources about breaking patterns. If you want credit once you see this by the way, go ahead and grab it -- that was an awesome call and great to meet you.
*Major win on the personal/business finance side: I set out to do some budgeting. It's difficult for me, somewhat, because my income is irregular. I'm very frequently being given choices related to, for instance, making an intangible investment like going to a conference, buying a piece of hardware, getting a thank-you gift for someone who helps me win business, traveling to meet a prospective client, hiring someone either short-term to produce something useful or long-term as part of my infrastructure, etc, etc. I might have just cracked that this month -- I think I'm going to pay myself a fixed salary from a corporation in the form of director's fees, and budget all of my personal expenses, personal (non-business) investments, and savings based on that amount. Then I made two budgets -- a "max frugal" budget and an "ideal spending over the next 3-5 years" budget. Finally, I think I've got a good set of starting criteria for what questions to ask before making a business investment, how to classify them, and how to evaluate and prioritize them. I feel much, much more in control of my cash now. Still a lot to be done, but I was doing a lot of this on intuition before, like many entrepreneurs. I'm almost to the point of having a concrete system that nails down exactly where every dollar in my life came from, went, and what the impact of that dollar wound up being. It's very, very exciting.
*I did a piece of writing that was thrilling for me to write. I want to edit it more before publishing, because I think it could be very, very good. It just needs a bit of work on the pace and clarity in some middle sections of it. The title is tentatively "Haunted Dreams" and it's about people with the Type-A personality on days things are going poorly, why they procrastinate, etc. We'll see if I can make this as good as I think it could be, but just doing the writing was insightful to me and I think potentially powerful for others.
*I completely fixed my diet. No carbs. Got in three exercise sessions (one weight training, two long walks up a mountain). Withdrawal effects at first, but now feel great.
*Our internal GiveGetWin HipChat is thriving. By the way, HipChat is a great piece of tech and the people there are nice to offer free nonprofit accounts. Thanks, HipChat. Very nice product and our channel is a really fun place to hang, and very productive now.
*A variety of other good conversations and incremental progress. We've had a lot of provider recruiting success and a lot of action is happening at GiveGetWin, and it's been really fun on that score, too.
*Oh, one more: I got invited to play a Magic the Gathering draft here with Dan. I haven't had so much fun in a long time. And just as importantly, I got some huge realizations. The guys there were all top-notch players who used to play on European tours, and I only played around a bit with it 6+ years ago, and only played significantly over 10 years ago. It was a really fun night playing and I held my own, and I also wound up with some realizations. Playing MTG against top players is incredibly mentally taxing and suspenseful, but there's no stress/neurosis the way there is if you're trying to close a deal. And I ask, why? Because trying to close a deal might not even require as much concentration or analytical ability, and the rewards are much greater. Yet MTG can just be a lot of fun, whereas trying to close a deal that's very large can be nerve-wracking. I started journaling some on the topic, asking the question, "How can I make writing, publishing, doing PR, and working on deals just as engaging, interesting, and low-pressure as playing Magic?" It's an interesting question, eh?
A FEW LOW POINTS
*About three days this week were totally shot. This pointed out a flaw of mine to me that I've known I have for a while, but it just came into the limelight: I don't re-prioritize/re-focus when my expected work fizzles out. I actually do do well in crises or when there seems like there's a "good reason" things are broken, but when things just anticlimactically fizzle I usually wind up in something of a daze. I'm going to work on this on a character/habit level going forwards, but that was 3 lost days this week.
*Following from the above, I never got around to items prioritized #7 to #12 on the list. Though following up with an outsourcer and checking to make DNS is correct and fiddling with it are both very easy, they're harder when you're on negative momentum. By mid-week, it became nigh-impossible to meet all my commitments sustainably. So, I did the biggest items on my list and got everything to the people that needed them, and I still took Friday night off to play Magic (which was great). But a lot of that little stuff fell through.
*Similar to the haircut thing last week (which is growing out, thankfully), I'll share another petty/stupid thing with you just so you know that, no, it's not only you. One thing I do is work very heavily in cafes. I figure this is a great deal for the cafe owner, and I go out of my way to make sure I'm ordering enough. This one cafe I was working at here, I was staying 6 to 8 hours a day there, and I'd order something like two meals and 3-4 coffees across that time. That seems reasonable to me, and indeed, 99% of the time I work at cafes I don't have a problem. But to make a long story short, on Tuesday morning I've been there for 90 minutes and ordered a coffee and breakfast from them (~10 euro total so far), and the waitress says, "What else do you want to drink?" I said, "I'm good for now." She replies, "The boss is getting kind of pissed off you're not ordering enough." Now -- wait, what? I spent somewhere around 300 to 400 euro in this cafe in the short time I've been coming every day, the place is almost never full, and I'm not causing any problems for anyone. The place seems more full because I'm there, which draws business. I'm ordering plenty, and I'm being polite. So, I left and didn't go back. But that had me in somewhat of a bad mood for the rest of the day. Why do I share that? Because I think most people get an idea that they should be superhuman, and they beat themselves up that they let stupid events affect them. That happens to almost all of us (and the few people it doesn't happen to usually have gone through advanced training for regulate their moods or thoughts). I analyzed the cafe thing a little bit (probably too much, actually) and the only things I could think are that possibly, (1) I had an occasional Skype call in English; I don't think I was too loud but maybe it bothered someone, (2) they don't like someone using a computer there for aesthetic reasons in general, (3) the boss didn't realize quite how much I was ordering/spending (maybe not paying much attention), or (4) the boss is a moron. I'm leaning towards #4. The irony is, I wound up buying two meals and four more coffees that day, which would have been their business if they hadn't acted like that. The real low point isn't rude service, it's that I let it get to me somewhat for the rest of the day and spent too much time thinking about it. As a side note, if a customer starts coming to your cafe every day, the right thing to do is great them, get to know their name, maybe comp them a free drink or meal after they've been ordering a lot, thank them for their business, tell them to bring their friends, etc. Well, only do that if you want to make money.
*I had some minor withdrawal effects from getting off sugar, and felt pretty run down for the first few days of the week. I still feel it a little bit; I reckon it'll pass completely in a couple weeks. That's par for the course but it's part of what makes it hard to get off the stuff.
TECH THIS WEEK
HipChat: Growing nicely into our chat channel at GGW. Recommended for team collaboration. Free nonprofit accounts too, which is generous of them.
Trello: We run a lot of GGW recruiting stuff through Trello. It's a godsend. And free. Recommended for team collaboration if you need a very visual way to represent moving pieces.
SelfControl for OSX: Free Mac OSX app that blocks websites. I put it on to get over my poor internet usage from last week, and it helped.
Offline Gmail For Chrome: Since I picked up a new Mac 3-4 months ago, I never reinstalled an IMAP email client, and just did my email online only. This week I spent significant time offline, so I grabbed Offline Gmail since it's faster/easier/lighter than setting up a full IMAP client (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc). Not a bad patchwork short-term solution for answering email offline. It was very smooth getting it working on Gmail, took longer on Google Apps and required some finangling on the Domain Admin level. Works well, lightweight, nice UI.
THINGS ON MY MIND LATELY
*Still thinking about finance, budgeting, investing, expenses, and planning around irregular income. Making progress there. Continuing to develop the decisionmaking criteria and evaluative criteria for business investments. Leaning very-slightly-more towards incorporating in UAE than last week, but it's still not urgent.
*Still thinking about what product it would make sense to develop, if any.
*Thought a lot about why medium-intensity tasks with a near-guaranteed success are so much more attractive to work on sometimes than 50/50 shots at something 5x or 10x bigger. That holds a lot of people back, myself included. Hitting the sure single instead of taking a shot at the home run. I'm okay in this department, but could be better.
*Realized I need to work on my re-prioritization/re-focusing ability when plans fizzle out.
*Thinking a lot about PR and press.
*Thinking a lot about marketing, marketing materials, and marketing channels.
*Thinking a lot about why Type A people are neurotic, and identified about six factors that work together to contribute to it. Wrote first draft of Haunted Dreams about that. I hope I can edit it well enough to get the feelings and abstract concepts into words that are paced and elegant enough to get the point across emotionally/aesthetically in addition to just factually.
*I need to get my mailing list at this site going again. Why haven't I done that already? What exactly should I send out, and how often? Decisions, decisions.
*I've started to replace the words "should" and "need" and "must" with "want" or "would like." So the last sentence would actually read, "I'd like to get my mailing list at this site going again. Why haven't I done that already? What exactly do I want to send out and how often? Decisions, decisions."
LEAVE A COMMENT?
That's it for this week. If it was interesting for you, please leave a comment or question. These take a while to write up, I'm curious what sections you find most interesting, least interesting, your feedback and input, etc.
Thank you, Sebastian, you are always inspiring, I'm going to read your post two times more.
One remark here. You write:
'Ask yourself: "Is it better to be enjoying life, flourishing, and doing excellent work personally but not achieving much towards objectives you find worthy, or is it better to be feeling rather unhappy and stuck more of the time, and yet be producing the end results you find worthy?"'
It is not always for you to decide. :-). Take Albert Einstein. During the years 1905-1925 he was fantastically productive. But, his physical theories encountered doubts in those who appreciated him, and fierce opposition among the enemies, whom he very easily managed to create. His marriage with Mileva Maric was unhappy and ended in catastrophy. However, precisely at the time when both special and general theory of relativity finally became fully appreciated, and everybody was in awe while thinking about photoelectric effect and Brownian motion and condensation of cold gases (the so-called Bose-Einstein condensation), Einstein's productivity faltered. Not everybody knows this, but the last thirty years of Einstein's life was, scientifically, almost a total failure. Not because he didn't try (unlike Paul Dirac, who decided to quit serious research quite early to enjoy playing tennis after getting a tenure in USA). Einstein worked all the time, with utmost concentration and dedication on the grand unified theory, and failed coldly. He also lost the famous polemics against Niels Bohr about quantum mechanics. The only really successful paper authored by Einstein (in 1935) was that about the so-called Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox. But the paper, while very famous, with thousands of citations, was polemical, not truly creative in its nature, and the main idea was Rosen's.
At the same time Einstein was able to enjoy life in his own way, financially safe, liked or loved by everybody around and treated by everybody with flattering respect as the greatest living physicist, or, possibly, even the greatest living scientist, even though he had to leave Germany.
It is not always for you to decide and choose...
Maybe Einstein's and Dirac's examples, while somewhat bitter, give a rather trivial lesson: try the second route while you are young, and slowly(!) accept the first one while you become old.
I wonder if the waitress was truthful. Maybe that comment was her 50/50 shot at getting 5x the tips, increasing her income by invoking someone else's "authority" to make you order more :)
Maybe so. But if she was truthful, then I think the business owner is incredibly stupid and tactless.
1. Sebastian was not taking the space of more lucrative customers
2. There was no explicit expectation that he spend more
3. Most important: in this age of social media and Google results, a single pissed of customer can have a disproportionately negative effect. Pissing off one under-paying customer just doesn't seem worth it. (Then again, I don't know Asian culture very well. Maybe people there don't care about these things.)
Now, I'm all for firing your worst customers (Tim Ferriss style) but in that case it needs to be handled with more finesse and respect so that people don't feel singled out. The owner could just make it explicit that he expects such and such spending per hour. Or, heck, create a monthly membership fee for entrepreneurs who just want to buy 1 coffee and hang out in the café all day (I've seen this model work successfully in real life). Or just keep asking the customer if he wants to order more, without disrespecting him.
"Thinking a lot about why Type A people are neurotic, and identified about six factors that work together to contribute to it.-"
-->I look forward to reading your findings on this; psychology has always fascinated me--what we do and why.
Thought a lot about why medium-intensity tasks with a near-guaranteed success are so much more attractive to work on sometimes than 50/50 shots at something 5x or 10x bigger. That holds a lot of people back, myself included. Hitting the sure single instead of taking a shot at the home run. I'm okay in this department, but could be better.
This has been driving me crazy for a long time. I'm not risk averse (I'd take that bet in a casino every day) but when it's a personal project rather than a straight bet, things just feel different. Why? The best answer I can come up with is that my ego gets attached to the project and to fail 9/10 times (even if that's par for the course and the success is a 50x bet) is mentally taxing. It's why cold calling jobs with target conversion rates of 0.1% are so tough.
Unrelated question: Do you think knowing that this Internal Scorecard is coming at the end of every week and you're publically accountable helps you be more productive? I'm considering doing the same thing when I'm back in Canada next month and settled into a routine.
> This has been driving me crazy for a long time. I'm not risk averse (I'd take that bet in a casino every day) but when it's a personal project rather than a straight bet, things just feel different. Why? The best answer I can come up with is that my ego gets attached to the project and to fail 9/10 times
We already know the answer on a purely theoretical/logical level -- losses hurt more than gains feel good. And missed gains hurt way way way less than mistakes/failures.
That said, just realizing this doesn't do much. Some problems resolve themselves by knowing of them, but this one not so much. Need to do logical planning and training to get through it.
> Unrelated question: Do you think knowing that this Internal Scorecard is coming at the end of every week and you're publically accountable helps you be more productive? I'm considering doing the same thing when I'm back in Canada next month and settled into a routine.
Yes. Of course. Give it a try, definitely. Email me a copy when you do and I'll check it out, too.
That was unbelievably rude of that waitress. Good riddance.
Also, I'd like to know more about ops calls and consulting books.
Weiss' books are linked, and good. Ops Call... hmm, not really condensable, it'd be like a hundreds or thousands of word post. I want to get more of that happening, though.
-->I couldn't get the above links to work properly..
How do you feel caffeine affects your productivity levels? I don't drink coffee, so I can't speak from experience, but 4 cups per day just seems like a lot. Interested to hear your response.
Wow, really complete report there. Cool. A couple of things --
"Is it better to be enjoying life, flourishing, and doing excellent work personally but not achieving much towards objectives you find worthy, or is it better to be feeling rather unhappy and stuck more of the time, and yet be producing the end results you find worthy?""
I guess I made my decision a couple of years ago and I'm always working for big things since then. But, generally speaking, when I swing by low emotional seasons, I keep asking myself why the hell I just can't be happy with common things as other people. I guess it's something one just accepts and learn to live with it. As Uncle Ben says "With great powers, come great responsibilities" or as Abraham Maslow put it :
What a can man be, he must be.
It's a little sad, actually, how people just don't seem to understand how to make clients feel better. Damn, it's so simple to improve the experience, y'know? But nobody pays attention. I'd say there's a lot business opportunity out there, specially in markets with low entry barrier, to anyone who wants to jump in, copy the whole process of the competition, and just improve the Customer Care. Just it, same business model, but treating people better would go long way.
Thanks for writing, insightful as always.
EDIT: Ah, this TTC course seems cool, I'll go through it soon. I recommend TTC Strategic Thinking Skills; I started it recently, but I'm enjoying it a lot. It's really aligned with your philosophy.
Anybody interested can find both courses on a pirate bay somewhere in the internet sea.
Got a good question from a reader about sleep. One of my goals is to sleep less than 8 hours/night
Hello, and thanks for inviting your blog visitors to email you directly. I just came across your site today, and got some good reading out of your "top stories" list. What compelled me to write, though, was a trend I noticed on some of your "goals" posts: sleeping less than 8 hours per night.
It caught my attention, because at first glance it looks counter-intuitive. Yet I understand exactly what you mean.
Cut. Return to monologue later. Get to the askin':
How is it working out for you?
So back in January, I wrote out my 7 goals for the year. It's been two months, so let's see how I'm doing :
1. Become FULLY polyphasic
I'm close on this one. Many days I go perfectly, sometimes if I have nothing to do I oversleep and then skip some naps during the day. I'm actually pretty satisfied with that, as I'm only sleeping 2.5-4.5 hours per night, I'm never tired, and can always count on being awake early and staying up late. I'll keep pressing to be more consistent, but I'm satisfied with where I am.