Full on Keynes

Here are three possible explanations for why we all feel so busy:

  1. We all spend too much precious time telling each other how busy we are, as if it were something to be proud of. (ref: this blog post)
  2. We all mistakenly believe we can have it all. And multitask. (we massively underestimate the switching costs)
  3. Men, of course! (at least according to this recent book review in the New Yorker – it’s unclear, as a man, who I should blame, but maybe I just need to lean in more, I don’t know?)

By the way, Keynes’ prediction was actually right, in my opinion: most of us struggle to do three hours of productive work per day. How else would we find the time for so much reality television otherwise?

As an experiment I’ve been trying to stop using the negative versions of the words we use to describe our activity, when we are unconsciously sympathising with each other: busy, stretched, slammed, etc. There are alternatives which are much more positive: full (as in full of interesting and awesome things), focussed, engaged.

Of course, using those words to describe your day does force you to consider how accurate they are as a description, and if not, maybe think again about how excited you are to be “busy”.

Give it a try.

Related Posts:

Enough?

2013 Annual Report

chickenhavingfun

Never has a full year report been more accurately named. I tried to squeeze a lot in.

There were lots of exhausting but invigorating adventures…

I completed three of the Great Walks, without putting on tramping boots. We paddled the Whanganui River in the rain in January, I rode both the Queen Charlotte and Heaphy Tracks during winter, and then in September I ran the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (in 4h 44m).

I was a regular visitor to the Kaiteriteri MTB park and also completed a couple of rides over the Copper Mine track. I managed one night ride, and look forward to more next winter.

In spring I took our oldest on his first overnight tramp – from Caanan to Castle Rocks Hut on the Abel Tasman Inland Track via Moa Park.

We visited friends in Boulder Colorado and while there walked to the continental divide at the Rocky Mountain National Park.

There were also some less wet and muddy trips…

I spent two weeks in Singapore, on a return visit to the Joyful Frog Digital Incubator.

In Autumn, we spent a week in a camper van trip through central Otago, including my first trip over the Lindis Pass.

We soaked up some heat in Bali in July and I enjoyed some time in the snow (both cross-county and downhill varieties) in Queenstown in August.

We were delighted to attend a couple of family weddings – Josie & Lo in Stinson Beach California and Cam & Michelle in Auckland.

I saw some live sport, including both the All Blacks (v Australia) and the All Whites (v Mexico) in Wellington.

But without question the highlight was the Americas Cup in San Francisco in September (unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the whole thing, but left feeling pretty confident about the outcome, with the score at 4-1).

There was no shortage of work either…

It was my first full year on the Powershop board. I’m learning a lot.

I spent quite a bit of time in Wellington with the team at Southgate.

Early in the year we launched Triage. The critical response to that was overwhelming and flattering and unexpected. We briefly topped the productivity category and were featured in the US app store during the first week. However, we discovered in the process that financial success doesn’t necessarily follow from that any more. It was, in the first instance, a selfish project and it’s still the first app I use every morning.

We worked with Glen on Company Box, and later in the year we launched Rabble. We continue our search for the next big thing.

It was also a huge year for Vend.

We worked hard during the first part of the year to raise additional capital to continue to fuel our growth. In the course of just a few days in May it was exciting to announce the successful completion of that $8m round, welcoming some awesome new investors into the mix as part of that, and then to be recognised at the Hi-Tech Awards dinner in Auckland where we picked up awards for both Innovative Hi-Tech Service Product and the Hi-Tech Exporter of the Year (under $5M revenues)

Startups are squiggly, and unfortunately people mostly only tend to talk about the clean and easy bits. Vend is no different. Over the last year we’ve more than doubled the size of the team and the business has grown even faster. That creates some chewy challenges for those of us lucky enough to be working on it. It’s been excellent to be part of the story so far. Stand by for what we have planned for 2014!

In June I made a new investment, in Timely, and have enjoyed working with them too as they have started to build their team and hit their straps. I have high hopes.

It was an unbelievable year for Xero, which masks a bunch of other poorer decisions when you look further down the list of companies I’ve invested in over the last few years. It already seems nostalgic to look back on old tweets celebrating the day it passed a $1B valuation, way back in March.

I enjoyed Webstock in February, where I also MC’d at the Startup Alley and got to chat on stage with Derek Sivers.

As I look around there are no shortage of opportunities. It’s definitely an exciting time to be involved in early-stage technology companies in New Zealand.

I spent way too much time in my inbox. I received 13,653 messages and sent just over 6,000. That’s about the same volume as for the last few years, but having eliminated nearly all of the noise it subjectively felt like more of these required consideration than in the past. Even if I assume just one minute per message that still accounts for over five and a half full working weeks.

tweeted, probably more than I should have. And blogged, much less than I could have.

I spent 168 days away from home (taking 95 flights, visiting 20 cities in 6 countries and travelling over 82,000km, according to TripIt). That’s nearly half again more than the 113 days away I reported just two years ago, which I already thought was too many then. Not all of that was work, but I doubt that distinction matters to a 9 year old and 6 year old.

And, even when I was at home, there was always a lot going on there too…

We finally officially warmed our new house in March, complete with jenga, fireworks and feijoas. The lasting legacy of that weekend is a new haircut (inspired by Andre Agassi) and a street sign (inspired by a flippant comment on twitter).

I kept mostly fit and healthy. It’s now four years since I first dipped under 80kg and I haven’t been back since. But this is the third year in a row that I’ve ended slightly heavier than I started, so it would be nice to break that trend in the coming year.

There was some downtime, including a disconnected week in June. But, not nearly enough.

I started the year aspiring to focus, and failed miserably. All of the things listed above combined to mean I spent big chunks of the year red lining, feeling more anxious than vital.

I did a little experiment during the year – giving myself five points every day (roughly equivalent to one point for every three hours awake) as a way to track how I was actually spending my time. It made for some slightly uncomfortable pauses when I was asked what I was up to – I knew exactly, but didn’t always want to admit it. Various work commitments soaked up just over 800 of the 1820 points for the year (~44%), which is difficult to justify in retrospect. I did manage to carve out a decent chunk of time for myself (~16%) and family and friends (~28%), although both of those were significantly lower in the first part of the year (thanks, Observer Effect!)

Perhaps in 2014 I’ll be a bit more selfish?

Previous Annual Reports:

Much Ado About Nothing

For my own record, some tweets worth keeping from 2013:

But, what do you do?

We’re excited to see the number of companies and people listed on Rabble growing.

We’re now up to 360 companies and 558 people in the directory.

We’ve just added Clean Tech and Life Sciences categories, in addition to Hardware and Services categories which were added a few weeks ago, so please feel free to add your listing to those.

If your company isn’t listed you can add it right now using the Add a Company button in the top right.

If your company is listed, please check to make sure that all of the people associated are also listed. It’s excellent to see some companies with their extended management team, investors and advisors all listed – e.g. Vend, Parrot Analytics and Timely. We’d love to see more!

Anybody already associated with the company can add the names and details of others who should also be listed, or you can click the “+ Add me to this company” link.

One of the things we’re very keen to encourage is a short and succinct description of each company, so that anybody browsing the directory can get a quick idea of what you do and if that is something they are interested in.

As it says on the form:

“Please no marketing bullshit! This should be a plain-English, no nonsense description of your product or service from a customer’s perspective.”

When we were putting together the initial list of companies we added the descriptions ourselves – generally starting with the description from the companies websites. It was amazing how often we would read all of the words (sometimes hundreds of words!) on the home page and still be left with the questions “But, what do you actually do?” and “Who is this for?”.

The best descriptions, in my opinion, have this form:

[Description of your product/service] for [Description of your target customer]

So simple!

And, some have done a great job of this:

Rabble-RedSeed Rabble-GoVocab

Rabble-Mindscape Rabble-AcuteCrew
(especially Acutecrew – rules are made to be broken!)

And, last but not least, my current favourite:

Rabble-CropLogic

But, many seem to struggle. It’s amazing to see otherwise intelligent people suddenly develop verbal diarrhoea when they come to try and describe their business.

We reserve the right to edit descriptions, to keep the site looking clean and usable.

The first thing we do is remove the company name, which just about everybody starts with. The cards already display the company name in a big bold font, there is no need to use up precious space in your description by repeating that. Likewise, we don’t need full legal names so you can leave off the “Limited”/”Ltd”.

Next we try and remove the nonsense words. It’s staggering how many people describe their service as “an online blah” or “cloud-based blah website” (really, as opposed to the non-cloud based websites also providing blah?) We also see lots of “world class this” or “unrivalled that” or the ever popular “beautiful and simple to use whatever” (interestingly, nobody ever describes their product as ugly or complicated).

Finally we edit anything which is written from the companies perspective rather than from the customers. We want these descriptions to appeal to people who might buy your stuff, or to those who might want to work with you or invest in you.

We all just want to know what you do, so please help us out and make it easy!

Enjoy! :-)

PS we still have a small number of orphan companies from the initial list please let us know if you can identify the correct people to be associated with any of those and we will link them up.

The cake is a lie!

Busy Busy

Here is a little thought experiment…

How do you feel about somebody who fills their house to overflowing with stuff, shuffling clutter from one room to another just in time as each space is needed during the day, leaving no spare room to take in anything new?

How do you feel about somebody who manages their finances right on the edge, spending every last cent of their credit card limit, transferring money from one account to another just in time to cover repayments, never quite sure if their next purchase will tip them into the red?

Neither of those sound ideal, right?

What about somebody who manages their time like this – i.e. fills their days with work, constantly juggles their to-do list as urgent tasks come and go, and leaves no spare time to do things well?

That’s also not great.

So, why do we romanticise our busyness?

Them: How have you been?
Us (said with pride): Oh, you know, busy busy!

I’ve caught myself replying like that a lot, over the last few months especially. I’ve been keeping an unsustainable number of plates spinning, and often finding myself lacking the time to do as good a job as I can and should on any one plate without exhausting myself. And, it’s clearly irrational when I put it like that, but people are generally impressed when I explain how I fill my days, rather than asking why I would possibly want or need so many plates.

Why do we do that?

Maybe it’s what we expect each other to say? Like the exhausted and knowing nods exchanged between two parents of newborns, safe in the knowledge that neither is getting enough sleep, perhaps we take comfort from connecting with others in the same situation.

Maybe it’s just easier to measure inputs, than to look for evidence of outputs? It’s easy to assume that if lots of work is being done then lots of things must be getting completed and completed well. It’s even easier to confuse activity for progress.

But, the cake is a lie.

Doing a good job nearly always means focus, and focus means saying no.

You can be busy or remarkable, but not both.

What do you choose?

Unavailable

A while back I made myself unavailable for a week. That is, I was still connected and online, but I turned off all of the various services which make me visible and available to others.

This was a bit of an experiment, and these were the three things I learned:

1. I was much more available than I realised

I made a list of the various apps that needed to be disabled, and was slightly shocked by how many things I had given permission to interrupt me:

  • Phone (even in a normal week I normally only answer calls from people in my address book, but in this week I decided to turn my phone off completely for most of the time)
  • Email (I use Triage, which makes it easier to disconnect, but if you have push mail setup on your iPhone you’ll need to turn that off, and turn off the unread count badges if you didn’t already – I also set an out of office auto-responder, so anybody who did email me would at least know I wasn’t paying attention)
  • Calendar
  • Twitter (I took the slightly extreme step of deleting the app from my phone, so I wouldn’t be tempted to check in during downtimes)
  • iMessage (if you have this setup on multiple devices you’ll need to disable each independently – on OSX you’ll need to delete the account from iMessage completely otherwise you’ll still get notifications)
  • Skype (if you have the Skype app on your iPhone/iPad make sure it’s not running in the background)
  • Google Chat/Talk/Hangout, or whatever it is they are calling it at the moment (I had this installed and logged in to both of my Google accounts on both my phone and laptop browser)
  • Dropbox/Google Drive (I disabled the notifications which pop-up when others update files in shared folders)
  • WhatsApp

There were a bunch of others which I no longer use, but which were still setup for notifications – including Facebook. LinkedIn, Trade Me, Game Center (which I only ever really used for LetterPress), MessageMe, and Podcasts.

I also made an effort to contact everybody who was likely to try and get in touch during the week in advance, so they wouldn’t be frustrated by my unavailability, and left an out-of-office notification on my email accounts suggesting people call if it was urgent (I only got one call during the week).

2. The withdrawal symptoms were worse than I expected

I intentionally did some properly offline jobs the first day and a long run the second morning, to give myself a clean break from staring at a screen and all of its tempting distractions.

But, even then I was surprised how often I would reach for my phone to quickly check emails or tweets, including first thing in the morning and when I was in the middle of a conversation with people physically present. That’s not good behaviour, but useful to have that habit highlighted and hopefully now broken.

3. It wasn’t an entirely positive experience

It was lovely to be able to focus and be without distraction for a while, although in most cases I only made a minor dent in things which have languished on my to-do list for ages. At the end of the week they were quickly replaced again by more pressing things.

The main thing I discovered from the week is that very little of what I normally fill my days with is actually urgent and nearly everything that I defer is important.

That’s a little depressing…

Lies, Damned Lies & Kindles

On a recent flight, for the first time, I watched an air hostess actually enforce the “turn your phone onto flight mode, then turn it completely off” two-step masquerade.

When I’m sitting idly during those few minutes at the start and end of every flight when everything electronic is out-of-bounds I like to imagine how it would be if my humble iPhone actually could magically connect and interfere with the planes navigation systems, as they claim. You could have some real fun with that, eh!

Do you think, if there was even a remote possibility that this was possible, they would let you have the phones onboard, and (most of the time) just trust you to do the right thing? Or would everything electronic be confiscated at security along with the nail clippers and 125mL bottles of deodorant?

And, who is “they” in that previous question anyway?

Wouldn’t it be so much better for everybody if we were honest. We could simply say: “it’s safer if you have stuff like that put away during take off and landing so that everything is clear in case of emergency”, although that would force us to address the reality that a book or newspaper is just as distracting or dangerous as a Kindle if an evacuation was required.

Then again, this kind of misinformation is pretty harmless, right? It’s all part of the security theatre that is now an ingrained part of travelling. Just turn off your phone and don’t make a fuss.

While you’re waiting, maybe you can read an interesting article about the two sides of the global warming debate or the risks associated with the MMR immunisation?

Anyway, enough cynicism .. I hope you all have a good long weekend. Think about why it is you have a couple of days off work and enjoy the goodies the magical bunny delivered.