Tag Archives: Cooking

Want to Do Less but Craving More?

When I was in college I worked 12+ hour 7 days a week: double majoring and holding down 2 TA positions, hey Duke ain’t cheap! After I graduated I actually spent a year just working a 40 hour a week job, and after that year got bored. So I went back to 7 days a week piling on a part time Masters. So from 18 to 24 I was working 7 days a week. How did I feel? Like I was working all the time… I had little to no life and I felt like I was going to spend my youth chained to my desk.

The second year of my first startup I made it a point to only work 5 days a week, freeing my weekends to pursue hobbies, and personal interests.

When I started my second startup I tried working 7 days a week, but I just couldn’t! I was no longer the 18 year old or 24 year old who could sleep 5 hours a night and work 12 hour days after drinking a double latte and eating cafeteria food. Instead I was the 27 year old foodie with social obligations, an active yoga practice, who craved traveling!  More to me means living a life full of worthwhile experiences.  So how was I supposed to hustle but still feel like I had a full life? Truthfully the first couple years I traded in my social life in for team building. However, this year I made friends and family a priority. This of course meant that I had to search for extra time in my schedule, which was pretty hard to do. So instead of trying to cram more into an already tight schedule I did a couple things.

First I created a list of priorities, things I absolutely had to do maintain my health, sanity, and also make others know they were important to me:

  • Call mom!
  • 5 days of yoga => 16-18 hours a week
  • Cooking 2 days a week => 2 hours a week (I made my brother who is my roommate cook 2 nights, and the other 3 are a toss up between going out and eating leftovers).
  • Housekeeping => 2-3 hours
  • 2 to 3 evenings with friends
  • Blogging => 1 – 3 hours a week
  • Startup work: sales, events, and employee 1-1s = 40 hours a week
Then I created a second tier of priorities.  These are things I wish I had more time to do, and in the event that my I have some extra free time I can and will do them, but they aren’t essential and I can do without them and still feel happy:
  • Reading => 30 minutes to an hour/day
  • Additional side projects (speaking and writing) => 2-3 hours a week
  • Self-improvement (learning a new language or skill) => 1-2 hours a week
  • Meeting new people => 2-3 hours a week

So where does the less come in, i.e. when do I have time to relax?  Well no matter what I try to pack in a 1-2 week vacation every 3 to 6 months, depending on affordability and easy of getting away without disrupting work.  When I do take time off I do absolutely no work, except for maybe checking in a couple times a week.  I’ve found that this helps me avoid burnout.  But even more important than vacations, is to have at least one evening a week to myself that is devoted to not working, socializing, or being actively engaged in an activity,  this is my veg night, and is usually a couple hours.  I find that having just one veg night makes it easier to get through the week, keep stress levels, low, and still be productive and happy.

I know it may seem its silly to have a process, but  I truly believe that if you want to live a full life you have to put a little thought into how you’re going to achieve and maintain it.  Discipline and adherence to a routine are part of that process.  But discipline isn’t just sticking to a schedule and staying organized, it requires have a good and healthy personal psychology, I have had to train myself to:

  • Not overcommit.  This of course means not feeling guilty about being unable to be present for everything and everyone.  It also means that I cannot feel like I’m missing out.
  • Be present and relaxed in social interactions whether its a meeting or party.  If I’ve set aside time to be somewhere or with someone then I want to give them my full attention.
  • Avoid drama like the plague.  I know shitty things happen everyday, and that is just life.  But self-inflicted drama through negative self-talk, overanalyzing situations, anticipating events that are beyond my control, or having high expectation of people or events are culprits that I know can bring me down and make unproductive.  So I do my best to avoid it.
  • Avoid keeping up with the Joneses.  Its easy to see what other have and want it too, but I like to ask myself if its something I truly want and need or if I just desire it because someone else seems happy because they have it.  Often times I’ve dug deep to discover the self-sacrifice, or even unhappiness associated with what others have.  Its important to have that context, and I think its overlooked because people are great at having a veneer of happiness and effortless perfection.

Finally, I take time to think about how far I’ve come, and accomplished.  Its easy to always want more and do more, but you have to stop and enjoy the things you have in the present.  I know that sometimes things are outside of my control, especially when other people are deciding factors.  When this happens its a good opportunity to actually do less in the moment, and wait for more to come.

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How to Keep Your Startup Engineer Sane

You worked hard to attract that so-called rock star engineer, thinking that they would be the golden goose who could bring your vision to reality, but now things have gotten rocky.  Iteration cycles are taking too long, buggy code is being shipped, or you find that your engineer is working on things that are not a priority.  Why don’t they understand your ass is on-the-line?!

Because you’ve probably made 1 of 3 mistakes:

Have you changed your vision or product roadmap more than once in the past 3 months?

Engineers need time to think, build, test, and refine.  If you constantly change your mind then it forces them to have to re-work what they’ve already done.  Here’s a simple example, if you went to a cake maker and said you wanted a chocolate cake, then changed your mind  to vanilla as they were mixing the batter for your chocolate cake, then you decide to go back to chocolate, when will the cake maker actually have time to make the batter, bake the cake, and then frost it?!   Same rules apply.  While software can be changed more easily and with less mess than a cake, there is still a process and your constant changes are interfering with the the final product.  This will ultimately demotivate an engineer, because they’re not solving problems.  It also make it hard for them to gain a sense of accomplishment, because the product is always in a half-baked state.

If an engineer is working on projects that are not a priority, its because you haven’t given them a clear roadmap, and they want to fulfill their need for efficacy by building something rather than nothing.

If you’re unsure about the product roadmap or vision for the company work it out before you start building.  You’ll have a happier engineering team.

Were you desperate to find a developer?

If you are not guilty of changing requirements or putting a very aggressive schedule in place, but still have a product that is very buggy or not being shipped on time, then its very  likely that the engineer you hired just doesn’t have the technical chops.  You need to have an honest conversation with them.  You’ll also need to get better about screening candidates to avoid this situation, and make sure you gauge their skill level.  This might be hard to do if you’re a business founder.  The two easiest solutions are to have someone work on a mini-project for a short amount of time to judge the quality of their work, or find someone who can run your candidates through a rigorous technical interview.

Are you calling the shots for technical issues that are actually outside the scope of your expertise?

People burn out and leave because founders breathe down their neck, and micromanage.  You heard Rails is the rage therefore your engineer needs to learn Rails…  First of all this is not a decision that you should be making.  Obviously you don’t want it built on something esoteric that makes it hard to recruit additional engineers or hard to maintain.  So your conversations should revolve around what is the skill set of your initial development team, how manageable will the code base be using that technology (programming language), and the final is when will be the right time to switch or entertain other technologies, and how to prepare for it.

If you know you hired well then give your engineer the benefit of the doubt.

Now don’t go beating yourself up because your engineer has gone awol 🙂  Its after all a startup, recruiting and retaining talent is hard.  If you think the relationship is salvageable admit to your mistakes and have them work with you on fixing the problem.  If you care about the success of your startup and want to build an effective and efficient engineering team, then take sometime to think through how you can be a better boss for the next candidate.  Technical founders can commit these mistakes too, its just about learning how to manage people, which is a hard and takes time.  Eventually, you’ll want to hire someone who can take this process of your hands like a VP of Engineering or a CTO, but until you have the funds to do so don’t  let your non-technical background stop you from moving forward!

If you’ve enjoyed this post and want to learn more ways you can recruit and retain technical talent then check out our Lean Product Development Course Learn more!

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