Changes in Work, Sleep, Learning, & More

In looking back at posts from previous years, I realized that I used to post more frequently about all of the other things I think go into running a business and being an entrepreneur. Stuff like sleep and happiness and work ethic. As I’ve slowed a bit with my posting, it seems like those posts have been fewer and farther between. This certainly wasn’t intentional, but it’s always easier to put off a post about sleep & productivity than it is a post about a new feature on one of our sites. Nevertheless, I don’t want to lose that balance, because I think it’s important. So I’m going to try to do some more posts to get that back.

In the past several months a lot has changed about the way I do things, all for the better in my opinion.

I’m getting a lot less customer service emails since we changed the way we handle errors on Detailed Image and are in the process of getting rid of Amazon and Tastefully Driven.  In terms of customer service, I used to handle all DI technical emails, all of Amazon, all of Tastefully Driven, all of SportsLizard, and then the other misc emails that trickle in now and again (Music-Alerts, Z.ips.ME, iPrioritize).  Knocking the first two off of my list has decreased my emails by about 65% (educated guess).  Don’t get me wrong – I love handling customer service issues. I love hearing the feedback.  It makes me an infinitely better developer.  But in these cases, the emails I was getting were repetitive and adding little or no value to the business.  Those are the types of emails I dislike, and therefore am really happy to rid myself of.

For the past ~6 weeks I have only been doing two warehouse days per week. That will probably go back to three once volume picks up in the Spring, but two is where I’d like to be back to by the end of Summer.  Hopefully we’ll have our full-time warehouse manager in place by then. We should each be able to do Monday + one other day, with a part time employee and the manager giving us 3 people per day.  The extra day off makes all the difference.  At least one day off is always primarily an errand day.  I go to the bank, visit my parents, grocery shop, shave my head, etc etc.  So by going from one additional day off to two, I can get a lot more of my project work done.

Speaking of which, I’ve really taken to batch processing my tasks based upon where I’ll be for the day.  For example, on my two legit days at home, I’m trying to do nothing but develop LockerPulse.  Those days I can go long stretches without being interrupted, which is really what you need to “get in the zone” and program effectively.  I try to save everything else for my warehouse days or my errand day.  Those days I often only get 15 or 20 minutes at a time to do stuff.  Especially on warehouse days.  There are interruptions left and right.  So when I add something to my to-do list that will take less than 30 minutes, I make sure I add it to one of those days and keep my days off totally free.

I’ve really taken to listening to podcasts when I’m in the car. It started when I listened to the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders and has kind of blossomed into a routine for me.  I really look forward to getting in the car now by myself.  I’ve got it to a point where the podcasts I listen to come out at roughly the same pace that I drive.   Originally I tried using my old iPod, but found it a pain to carry around, keep charged, and plug into my car, so instead I’ve just been burning a new MP3 CD every few weeks and just leaving that in my car.  When I start the car it picks up right where I left off.  In addition to the Stanford talks, I’m subscribed to the 37Signals Podcast, This Week in Google, TechStuff, Diggnation, and Business Week’s Behind This Week’s Cover Story.  If you have any suggestions for me I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Last but not least, I’ve changed my sleep schedule to get up an hour later.  Sleep has been one of my favorite topics on this blog, mostly because 1) it’s really really important for health and productivity, and 2) everyone I know (myself included) pretty much sucks at it.  Check out the sleep category if you want the full run down, but basically in Jan of 2008 I decided I was going to become an early riser and stop getting up late and sleeping erratically as I had for my entire life.  I worked my ass off and was disciplined as hell and after several months got my body on an awesome 10 PM – 6 AM schedule.  I didn’t realize how tired I always was previously until I did this.  One or two good nights sleep just don’t leave you feeling as rested, happy, and productive as months upon months of great sleep do.

Anyway, 10 – 6 worked great for a while.  It enabled me to get to the gym before coming to the warehouse.  Back then we also had clients, so it let me get a few hours of work done before they started harassing me with phone calls.  The past six months or so, I kept finding myself in more social situations that kept me out later.  The only way I could keep getting up at 6 was to nap a lot.  I love napping, it can be a great supplement if done right, but I didn’t want it to be an every day routine.  Napping is horribly inefficient when you factor in the time it takes to wind down and wind back up afterward.  I also found myself going to the gym on non-warehouse days after doing some work  (9 or 10 AM), so the need to be up at 6 wasn’t really there.  The last straw was when my girlfriend got a new job that will have her at the office most days until around 7 PM. I want to make sure we have some time at night to spend together. I finally decided to start getting up at 7 AM about three weeks ago.  This really wouldn’t be a big deal for most people, but I always thought I’d stick to my 6 AM forever and ever because of how much I liked it.  Since the change though, I’ve realized that it’s a much better lifestyle fit for me now.  I haven’t napped since.  I’ve never been tired at all during the day.  I just feel more relaxed and less stressed overall.

9 comments on Changes in Work, Sleep, Learning, & More

  1. Joshua Holt says:

    Batch processing based on where you are sounds like a great idea. Until reading your post, I didn’t realize it but I do something very similar. I have a little task list of small tasks that I generally work on during my day job (when I’m also only likely to have 15-30 minutes at a given stretch to complete the task).

    I’ll check my podcast subscriptions to see if I have anything that might interest you, but I did listen to my first audiobook last Fall and thought it was fantastic. If you haven’t read Chris Anderson’s “FREE: The Future of a Radical Price,” you can download and listen to it for free from which is what got me interested in the first place. Very much enjoyed hearing his ideas:

    If you get really interested, you can read Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker review where he challenges most of what Chris Anderson says:

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Thanks Josh. I did actually listen to FREE. Nethy, who always comments here, suggested it to me a few months back, which ironically is what got me on the podcast kick too. I’ve listened to a few other books since FREE – great for long trips – but they’re a little too expensive and for the time being I’d rather not pay for the Audible account since the podcasts are free and fit a 20-30 min car ride a bit better. I hadn’t read Gladwell’s review though…checking that out now 🙂

  2. nethy says:

    Hey Adam,

    Glad I started something useful. For me, podcasts don’t come out quick enough (I need them for running, walking & washing dishes) so I think I’m going to pick up an audible subscription.

    Other stuff you might like:

    – (I’m surprised you don’t already listen) Mixergy: Daily interviews with entrepreneurs.
    – Econtalk: Economist interviews interesting people. Check the archive for interesting interviews. I got onto Free via an interview with Anderson.
    – WNYC Radio Lab: Professional radio show touches on philosophy & science in story-like format

  3. Dale Ting says:

    Adam… I listen to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” from NPR. It’s a comedy/news game show type thing. I describe them as “intelligent slapstick humor.”

    I will hafta check out Mixergy… it sounds great!

  4. […] getting less email with our recent changes, I still get a decent amount of email.  Some of it needs a reply from me, […]

  5. […] from the CD.  I know some people who collect the album art.  I do neither, but I do use them for my podcasts.  I find it infinitely easier to just have a CD in my car that picks up right where I left off.  […]

  6. […] doing two things at once but one is using your brain and one is using your body.  For example, my new habit of listening to podcasts while I drive combines my brain (listening) with my body (driving), and it […]

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