But It’s Only Just Mostly Dead!

Listen, if you’re trying to get a startup off the ground, learn a new skill, change a habit, or otherwise make rapid, large scale changes in your work or personal life, you need to let things go.

You can’t accumulate demands on your time and attention and expect anything to go better than it went before. Like when you make a task list that’s too long? You never get it done. So what happens the next day? It’s longer. But Future You is magic, right? Future You can do more shit in less time. Not like lazy Yesterday You. What a loser.

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To Have Focus is to Begin Again… and Again and Again

Always beginning.

I understand: You focus so you can finish. But focus is hard. We aren’t built for perpetual laser focus that blocks out the world and shines a spotlight on the one vexing problem we want go deep on for hours at a time. It’s physiological.

We’re built to make quick judgements and move on. Attention is expensive and in the world of our ancestors, it could cost dearly. It’s expensive in that your brain is the most energy-intensive organ in your body, consuming half of the sugar your body uses in a day. And not just any of the dozens of sugars our bodies use– only glucose, which it must pull from the bloodstream. Think a lot and your blood sugar drops.

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How to Never Waste a Meeting (Part 2)

Yesterday, I shared the TTAP method, a simple way to get clear on meeting structure. TTAP helps to reduce frustration for everyone involved by creating some “ground rules.” Of course, ground rules don’t get anything done.

Today, I want to add the juice that makes meetings really work. It’s not fail-safe (because people aren’t), but it’s damn close.

Oh, and it’s super-sexy, too.*


Who owns the meeting? The next task? The outcome? If you aren’t prepared to make one individual responsible for the outcome– or take that responsibility yourself– what is it you’re meeting about? To gossip? Complain? Talk in circles?

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How to Never Waste a Meeting (Part 1)

Why do meetings get such a bad rap?

The very idea that two or more people sitting down to talk about something is inherently flawed, is silly. It says more about communication skills than it does about the act of communicating face-to-face. I happen to like meetings because they can accelerate progress.

No joke.

More than 10 years ago, I was taught a trick that serves me to this day, so long as I commit to using it. It’s kind of magical, really. (But only if I use it.)

Thank You, Time, Agenda, Purpose

It’s called TTAP, pronounced, “tee tap,” and there are several ways to use it.

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Are you living in a task-valuation bubble?

Alright, this is the startup geek in me coming out. Allow me to explain.

When we talk about “bubbles” these days, we usually mean some kind of investment is over-hyped and over-valued and therefore going to crash (or burst, as the case may be).

Many in the startup world are openly declaring the confidence game is over for startups. As if the big girls and boys who invest in those companies can be taken by the pitch “trust us and we’ll make you a lot of money.” The thing is, they’re all in on it together– trying to prop up valuations until they can dish it off on the investors who come later. That’s the game.

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Meta work is not real work.

Work about work, preparing to work, organizing before you can start, getting ready in the morning, scrolling through emails, filing, arranging your desk, scheduling meetings, thinking without producing an artifact or action item, getting your “ducks in a row“…

These kinds of activities can keep us busy– fill our days, in fact– but none of them are real work. They are what I call meta work.

At best, meta work helps your real work time to be more productive. At worst, it’s simple avoidance. It’s laziness masquerading as busy-ness. We all do it. I have fallen into meta work traps, too. While I’m still mildly prone to them, years of working on startups and my own businesses have made me acutely aware of how important (and really how easy) it is to choose actions that 1.) have no roadblocks or dependencies and 2.) directly contribute to my objectives.

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Create Artifacts of Your Effort

Do you make task lists just to check off items? Have you (like me) added things to your list that you already did, just so you could check them off? That’s because we like completion. The culmination triggers a dopamine hit in your brain.

When we waste time cycling on things– starting loops that never stop, meetings without resolution, thinking without action– we don’t give ourselves that completion.

Artifacts remind us that we made progress and help ensure we don’t repeat the work or thought process again without resolution. A mentor of mine once said, “Never have a meeting that doesn’t produce an artifact.” Otherwise, you’re doomed to revisit old topics, forget key strategy items and simply waste time on low priority stuff, especially when multiple people are involved.

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Know what you don’t know.

The myth of the rugged, independent, self-made man is as antiquated as it is wrong. First, because it’s defining feature is “manliness.” In my experience, women tend to be much better at getting shit done. Observe any mother.

Second, being “self-made” fails to address current realities. You, as an individual, are not scalable. You are not accountable. You only have one perspective. You only have certain skills. You cannot keep up with the pace of innovation. You only know what you know.

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So much wrong in such a little space.

You’re going to do a lot of things today, but rest assured, you will not screw them up like this.

I get what Vanguard is trying to do here in this ad, but it had the opposite effect on me. They tried too hard and got too cute. Time and temperature makes people look, fine. So does a picture from my own local area. Neat. From there, it just falls apart.

Focus on less, you'll get more done.There’s no doubt that Vanguard tests their ads, but you can iterate and improve anything– especially something that starts out so bad. That doesn’t mean you’re even on the right track.

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Productivity Hacks are the Devil

I’ve never met a highly effective person who, despite her killer instinct, drive and determination, was nevertheless thwarted by her inability to “hack” her day.

Email hacks, sleep hacks, scheduling hacks, marketing hacks, diet hacks… Stop it. Stop being a hack. I bet Warren Buffet has no hacks.

Look, I get it. Hacks are alluring and sometimes very helpful, but rarely are they so helpful as to create a watershed moment that changes everything. You change when you take an action that supports the kind of person you want to be, not when you “hack” the process.

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