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Hey everybody and welcome to episode 222 of the Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Philip Morgan.
Charles: Reuven Lerner.
Reuven: Hello everyone.
Charles: I’m Charles Max Wood from Devchat.tv and this week we’re going to be talking about all of the things going wrong in Chuck’s life. No, we’re going to talk about burnout. I was telling the guys before the show that I am super burned out. I think a lot of it just goes back to, this summer has been absolutely nuts, there was a big family reunion and then Podcast Movement and then I went to Wood Badge.
I’ve been playing ketchup on my weeks where I’m actually working. I had a bunch of stuff go down this last month which forced me to rearrange some things with my business which has been work that I didn’t plan to do so I have this whole pile of stuff that I feel like I’m sort of caught up on and then a whole another pile of stuff that I just haven’t been able to get done and I don’t feel like I can just eliminate it or postpone it and so I’m not sure what to do with it.
I’m pretty tired and everything else because I’ve been pulling long hours trying to get it done. I’m tired which I think speaks a little bit to it too, it’s just that I’m physically worn-out. Because I’m so tired, I also don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with some of the things that should be relatively simple to deal with.
I’ve got a ton of stuff going on that I’m trying to manage. Mostly it’s the remote conferences, Mandy and I parted ways a little bit ago so I’ve been trying to make sure that the podcast keep going as far as guests and lining people up and making things work and all that stuff. And then I’ve been trying to get my book written, I’ve got a bunch of webinars scheduled this year. Anyway, so I go on and on and on with all the stuff that I’ve got going on but I am just exhausted.
We thought we would talk about burnout and how do you deal with this. I don’t know if burnout is the right term because I’ve been burned out before where it was just like, I just don’t want to work. I’ve been pushing this rock uphill for so long that I just can’t conceive of working. I’m not really to that point, I am just exhausted. I don’t know if it’s burnout or just worn out or overwhelmed. I don’t know. Those are kind of the words that I would use.
Philip: You have some questions.
Charles: Help, help I’m in this hole, help!
Philip: Well, let’s talk first before we pull you out. I’m always so curious about what other freelancers’ life is like. Do you have a set work day, Chuck? Can you give a few more ticky tacky details about how much you work or how you structure your work day?
Charles: During normal time or lately?
Philip: Maybe you have to speak to both but I guess let’s start with lately. I think that will help the folks at home better picture what you’re going through.
Charles: In the morning I get up and I help the kids get ready for school and I actually take them to school. Then I usually come home and spend a little bit of time with my wife and then I get to work.
I’m usually getting to work around 8:45 or 9:00 with the exception of Tuesdays and some Wednesdays. I’m usually working until about 5:30 or so, though lately two or three nights a week I’ll wind up working until 9:00 or 10:00 at night just trying to keep things going.
Philip: You work from home or do you have a separate work space?
Charles: I work from home. The last couple of weeks though I’ve actually been working from a co-working space in Provo which is about a half hour from here. But it’s a really nice space and I can plug in and get to work. I can put my head down on work if I need to but it’s also nice because I get some of the social interaction that helps me break up my day and not feel like I’m completely buried.
It’s probably two days a week that I’m working outside the house and then the rest of the week I’m here. But Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the days that I record the podcasts and so I’m usually here on those days and I have scouts on Tuesday evening so about 4:00 or 4:30 on Tuesdays after my last podcast, I’m usually pulling stuff together to be ready for cub scouts.
Wednesdays, it just depends on what’s going on. That’s kind of the week that I’ve been working. I haven’t started working on Saturdays or Sundays yet. I have room to improve, I guess.
Reuver: Sounds way healthier than my work schedule. Good for you on that front at least. I know, with my work, I often feel like, “Oh, I’ve got all these things to do.” I know. I’m getting ahead of it. By just working late at night or just pushing off this, just pushing off that, or just pushing off this or that often means things that will be good to do either for the family or for myself. Do you find that you’re doing that a lot lately also like saying, “Well, I got all this work to do, I gotta do that so I won’t X instead.” When X could be contributing to your family, mental health, marriage, however you wish to describe it.
Charles: Sometimes that’s usually what I’m doing in the evening is I’m going to work instead to spend time with my wife. I also get stressed out sometimes because she needs me to be here and be with the kids. If it’s with the kids, then I can leave my office door open and they’ll watch TV or do their homework or whatever and I can hear them. I can get after them if they need to do their homework or whatever. But if I have the baby, then I can’t work because we have a nine month old and she will play happily on the floor sometimes but there’s no space in my office for that so I’ll take my laptop downstairs but I’m not as effective when I do that. Sometimes she just won’t let me do that. She doesn’t feel good or she’s tired or she’s teething or something and she wants to be held and I can’t work when she’s screaming at me.
Reuver: You have poor concentration skills there. Baby instead of coding.
Philip: But you have help. You have podcast editing help, you have other forms of help, so that people can get a complete picture of your situation. How do you outsource stuff?
Charles: Up until last week, Mandy was working on the conferences. I had just switched to Podcast Motor for the podcast editing, show notes and transcripts.
Philip: So you just show up and then the rest is handled by someone else?
Charles: Mostly, yes.
Charles: And then I have a guy in the Philippines that’s been helping me with YouTube and things like that but I basically have him full time so I realized late last week that I had been under utilizing him. I’m definitely picking things up there and handing him more things to do.
I actually just interviewed, one of my neighbors had a sister that had done some online marketing. I interviewed her just to make sure that she understood what I needed and I’m probably going to hire her this week to help me with some of the marketing and email details and things like that as far as getting speakers lined up for the next couple of conferences and getting the word out on those and helping me manage my online presence.
Reuver: I have a weird question, Chuck, in two sentences, can you describe how your business makes money?
Reuver: Because I’m realizing I actually don’t know. I’m asking from my own benefit here.
Charles: Right. The primary income for the business is podcast sponsorships, that’s just to pay for my time organizing everything for the shows. In two sentences, primarily we make money from the podcast and we also make money from the online conferences. We promote the online conferences and we make money from that too.
Charles: There’s affiliate stuff but that doesn’t bring in very much.
Philip: That’s interesting. I have a pipe up and throwing not like any advice here but just a story about what I’ve been up to. Normally, I would try to take August off, like the whole month. Reason being normally like a year ago, normally for me would be doing client work and August tends to be a terrible month for client work because people are on vacations and getting in that last vacation before school starts and stuff like that.
Historically, at least for my business, August has been a slow month. It’s a good opportunity to just say, “You know what? I’m going to take some time off.” But my business has been shifting more away from client work and more towards, I guess similar to the kind of business you have, Chuck. Not that I have a sponsor or anything but the type of work is more similar in that it’s not building things for people, it’s creating educational content and selling that.
Charles: That’s the direction I’m going in now, that’s part of the pile of work that I’ve overwhelmed with.
Philip: Yeah. Our businesses are not totally dissimilar in that they’re not building stuff for clients, they’re building stuff for me which I then sell. You’re doing the same thing with the podcast. It’s something you build for your audience and then monetize. I started working the three day work week in August and it blew my mind because it started to rewire how I think about time and I’ll help myself here. I had a very unhealthy view of time before I did this or what I think is unhealthy for me, at least.
I just thought of my business as an engine and the fuel for that engine was time. If I wanted the business to make more money, my choices were to put more time in, give it more fuel, or somehow try to make it more efficient at converting time into money.
Even though it had been a long time since I billed hourly at all, I haven’t built a client hourly in well over a year, maybe two years. It’s not that I was billing hourly but I still had that mindset that I think is a by-product of hourly billing which is, if I can just work a few more hours, I can get more done and that’s what’s going to make my business better.
Moving to a three day work week, I work Tuesday through Thursday. Essentially, I have a four day weekend. I wasn’t able to perfectly adhere to this because I had some stuff that I just couldn’t get done in just three days. But it really has changed how I look at how I create value and it’s challenged me to look at the parts of my business that make money without adding more time and think about what I can do to amplify those parts of the business or make those be the things that I’m really focused on.
I’ll confess Chuck, that’s why I was interested in hearing your two sentences explanation of how you make money because I wonder if there’s an opportunity to just cut anything that’s not related to that or just to post the question of what will be the long term effects if you did not do things that fell outside that scope of what makes you money.
Charles: Oh, that’s interesting. I’ve been working more time to trying to get these things done but most of it is around getting the marketing done for the conferences and lining up the speakers. That’s been my main focus especially because I have a conference that starts a week from tomorrow as we record this. I’m trying to get the marketing out so that I can get people to sign up.
As far as finding sponsors goes, the big things there are basically just reaching out to them and also just growing the audiences for the shows. As I get that as a focus, then maybe I should prioritize for the sponsorships simply because I tend to bring in more money that way but I’m also trying to think ahead and podcast sponsorships, there’s a lot of movement and I’m not sure if it’s up or down for me.
I’d like to get some other sources of income that aren’t sponsorships just in case there’s a major shift that shifts away from people wanting to sponsor my shows. I’m not convinced that’s the case but I’d like be a little more resilient to that.
That’s where some of these other things come in with the ebook and things like that. I suppose I could postpone the ebook or postpone it at least until after this next online conference. But beyond that, most of the stuff that I’m doing is focused directly around the conferences and the sponsorships and just making those happen.
Philip: Yeah. The reason that I did the three day work week in August and now I’ve turned it into an ongoing experiment or not quite what I would call burnout. I associate burnout with the feeling of dread around facing your work or the challenges of your work. I don’t know if that’s how everybody thinks of it but that’s how I think of it.
I think of it as you’ve pushed yourself too hard and something snapped in your psyche and you just can’t get excited about things. I feel like there’s always an upside to it, it creates an opportunity for transformation and usually makes things better. I wasn’t really facing that but I was in the situation where I felt like I was just too tired in my interactions with mentoring students and even being a panelist here, I just felt like I was losing my edge and I needed to rest more.
I don’t know where I’m going with that but I know that feeling of just being exhausted and not feeling like there’s enough time to handle it. I’m not at all saying that, “Oh you should do a three day work with Chuck, it’s going to fix all your problems.” But I’ve never been more clear about the importance of asking a question like, “How should I spend my time today in a conscious way?”
I was reminded of that when you’re talking about, well, do I emphasize growing sponsorships or growing audience or growing secondary sources of revenue so I’m not 100% screwed if sponsorships change. Again, I don’t know the answer but I just know that you really feel that question in a big way when your supply of time is limited.
Reuven: We’ve talked a lot in the past on this show about the importance of saying no to people and it always seemed to me like the whole point of saying no was to focus your business and really be sure what you’re doing and make it clear to yourself and so on and so forth.
I’m a little lacked behind Philip in terms of understanding of time. I’ve always, for as long as I can remember, easily 20 years and probably longer, I basically just push myself to squeeze as much as I can into a given day and or night and just keep going and learn more and do more. On one hand, it’s very nice to feel I’ve been doing a lot. On the other hand, I’m definitely getting to the point and the age and the family situation where it’ll be nice if I don’t have to spend all my time doing all this stuff.
I started to have these inklings of thoughts like Philip described of what if I weren’t to spend all of my time doing what I’m doing now? What if I were to pick out the things that are most profitable and overlap with most interesting which overlap with best for me in the medium to long term? Will I still be doing everything I’m doing now?
I’m starting to get the feeling that no, maybe I will be refocusing. For instance, I’ve been talking for a long time about doing some recorded classes which I know that people pay for and some people made just incredible, shocking amounts of money from which I keep saying, “Yeah, yeah I’ll do that at some point.”
Maybe if I were to be a little smarter in terms of refocusing myself I’d say, “Well, an investment of a week, two weeks, three weeks now would big time pay off in the future.” But it requires not only doing that, it requires saying and then in the future, I will not spend the time working, I will spend the time relaxing because that is an important thing to spend time on.
I think over the last year, and maybe I don’t know, I’m 46 now, I think I’m just getting old or something, midlife crisis sort of thing. I started thinking, “Well, I can’t do it all.” For the longest time I said, if I just push myself harder, I can do everything. I’m starting to realize that’s just not the case, I need to prioritize for myself, for my family and for my business and this is all coming together.
It’s a very sobering realization, truth be told, to realize that I can’t do everything that I want to do and I have to choose. It’s also an opportunity to think about it. I wish I had thought of that years ago. I think to some degree, part of the deal with being tired of worrying burnout is to really start thinking find a little relapse.
What do you enjoy doing, what is there market for, what do you want to be doing and what do people want and then what’s profitable? If there are a few things that are that, then consciously say, “No, I would love to do these other things, they’re cool, they’re interesting but they’re not as cool as interesting for me,” which is very hard and I’m still very, very bad at.
Philip: Yeah. I’ll say for sure that working fewer hours, fewer days out of the week, whatever, creates a vacuum. I think it’s very tempting to think all these great things that I enjoy doing rushed to fill in that vacuum. Maybe it works that way for some people, it’s not worked that way for me partially because I would suspect a lot of the folks at home will resonate with this.
You start working for yourself and you fall in love with what you create. It’s not like a breakup or a relationship ending but if you shift the balance you’re not spending so much time on that thing that you still love, you’re not just going to automatically show up on a beach with a little drink with an umbrella in it just because you decided to not work on Fridays or whatever.
You actually have to construct something to go in there and be fairly disciplined about it. This is sounding preachy, I don’t mean it to be that way, it’s just something I found about shifting the “work life balance.”
Charles: Yeah. I try and be fairly deliberate about how I spend my time. I put the stuff in my calendar and put all the stuff that I have to get done in the calendar as well. That’s hard is that there is more stuff than there is calendar.
I don’t think this is going to be forever and I do see that if I can get some of this stuff done, then eventually I can work with three day work week. But I’m not there right now so I’m also wondering, do I just push until I get to that point or maybe I can get there sooner and there’s some other way of thinking about it that will get me that kind of lifestyle.
Philip: I want to be clear that I did not, the three day work week was not me getting to the point where I was working four days a week and had nothing to do on Fridays. That was working three days a week and had nothing to do on Thursday, Friday, it was a cold turkey thing. It was like okay, I’m showing up for my WA meeting for workaholics and they’re saying, “Well, you just gotta go cold turkey man.”
Of course it would be better to do some kind of incremental thing, I think. Definitely not saying well, you’ve got this all wrong Chuck. I am very sympathetic to that place of having the to do list that’s on my long and everything truly is important. I’m not saying this is a prescription to fix that. I’ve been there too.
Charles: No, I understand that.
Philip: I’ve been there too. Maybe some sort of cold turkey thing might be suitable or maybe some sort of investigation into how you could get more value out of the things that are already producing the most value in terms of revenue so that you can let some other stuff go or I don’t know. I don’t know what the answer is, I’m just in not that different a situation and have really have been there myself in the past.
I had about a three months stretch that about killed me as I got behind some client work obligations and I just was working literally working seven days a week, not very effectively, I might add.
Charles: Yeah, I’ve always tried to do everything I can to avoid working on Sundays, it’s as much for religious reasons as just for just having a day off. A lot of the rest of this is okay but then I wind up killing myself the rest of the week trying to get crap done.
I think some of what you’re saying makes sense as far as okay, prioritize, figure out what you need to be focused on and then just do that. But I feel like also I’ve made some of this commitments that I have to keep.
For example, even if I decided, I think I can make it all go on podcast sponsorships. I could just make it work there and then I just focus on making the podcast awesome and finding sponsors. I made commitments to people regarding these online conferences so I feel like I need to make sure that I’m fulfilling what I said I’d do there. Some of the other things that I’ve got doing on, again, it’s okay. I told people that I was writing this book and I’ve promised people copies and help in this area. I don’t feel like I can back out of that and keep my integrity intact.
Philip: That’s why I had that three month period of working seven days a week and really not enjoying it was because I was unwilling to say to anybody well and I’m sorry, I’m actually kind of a flake and you’re not going to get this thing I promised you.
Charles: Yeah. I can definitely spend some time thinking about do I want to do the online conference next year or I could spend some time thinking about what can I do for this folks in lieu of the book so that I feel like I’ve done right by them.
Philip: Yeah. Maybe there’s an opportunity to ship a more minimal version of the same book concept. I think you’re the one who mentioned that book, Procrastinate on Purpose.
Charles: I did. That was me.
Philip: Have you read that book?
Charles: Yes, I have. That’s what I’ve been working on, is this like okay, well what can I eliminate? There are things in there that I don’t feel I can eliminate. And then okay, so what can I delegate and there, and there are things in there that I feel I can delegate. A lot of the marketing stuff, they don’t have to be an expert in Angular to promote a conference. Anything that they do have to put in there that’s specific to Angular, I can help them with that but that’s fifteen minutes of my time instead of two hours of my time.
I’m working on the delegation right now and in the meantime, I’m also working on automating stuff. Podcast guest on-boarding is getting automated. In fact I’m pretty much done with that but there are few things I have to work out of it. The podcast release stuff, I’m working with Podcast Motoro make sure that that all happens the way I want it.
Eventually, those things will go away or mostly go away. But in the meantime, it’s not something that is gone. But then there are other aspect that I don’t feel like I can put off and I don’t feel like I can give up. It’s those things I’m looking at and going okay, I’m going to delegate as much of this as I can, I’m going to automate as much as I can, and I’ll have to do the rest.
Part of delegating and part of automating is the setup and training and so that’s another thing that goes into that pile of stuff that’s right in front of me. I can see that as I plow through this and I get some of it automated and some of it delegated that yeah, eventually I’ll come out the other side and it’ll be like okay, I have another one of these things, automate, delegate, and then spend the minimal amount of time I have to spend on it to get it done.
But right now, I’m trying to set all that up and it’s just tricky. I’m spending so much time working on the nuts and bolts of the business that I don’t get to do the content creation that I want to do. I don’t get to focus on growing the podcast audiences like I want to because those are the things that really are the things that get me excited but those are the things that I don’t have time to do because of these other things.
I don’t think it’s a question of whether or not I can solve it today or tomorrow or whether or not I can cut the hours that I’m working. It’s mostly just a matter of how effectively and quickly I can get this stuff off of my plate and either on to somebody else’s or into a system that just does it for me.
Philip: Yeah, and training someone to do something is a huge upfront cost. That’s been one of the things that kept me from being an effective delegator for sure.
Charles: Yeah. One thing I will say for that though is that, this guy that I have in the Philippines, if I show him how to do something and then critique it once or twice, he gets it.
For example, I’m putting up landing pages for the webinars because I promised people that I would do those too. I’ve got webinars just once a week, I have to prep for them, I have to write the material for them. But as far as setting up the landing pages and setting up the pages for people to watch it on and things like that, I can show him once or twice and then he can do it from there.
Since I’m basically having him set up ten webinars for me, even though I’m spending what would take me one or two webinars set up worth the time to show him how to do it, it saves me the other eight. With that, it’s been worth it. Similarly with the conferences, I show somebody how to send emails out to invite people to either submit to a call for proposals or invite people to come speak and I basically just have to give them a template.
Reuven: That’s fantastic, actually.
Charles: Things like that that have very low setup time but they would take me an hour to do and I can have somebody else doing it in five minutes. Those are the kinds of things that I’m trying to push off first. And then as I get to the other stuff, then it’s just a matter of, okay, let’s grind through this but I’m definitely aiming for those quick wins first.
I will also point out the talking about this is making me feel better just because I feel there’s a description of the problem and then the description of the solution, does that make sense?
Charles: Yeah. I think of actually, I’ll get to the point where I’m just working on the important stuff and then if it’s not all week long, it is not all week long.
Philip: This points out a really important point because I’m such a critic of those blog posts that are just like on these productivity gurus and then they’re just like, “Do these things, and then the problem goes away,” because I find there’s always this lengthy, awkward, difficult period where you can see the solution, it’s obvious to you, but you’re stuck in the remnants of the mess that I created for myself a year ago or whatever.
You’re stuck in the status quo but you’re trying to change it and it takes time and effort and emotional support from people who don’t just think you’re a flawed person because you have this problem.
Charles: Yeah. Well, in the way I see it too is that do I walk away from the crank because if I walk away from the crank then nobody’s going to turn it. But if don’t walk away from the crank, then I’m not going to find anyone else to turn the crank for me or be able to buy a generator or an engine or a motor to turn the crank for me.
It’s talking to people like you guys and having you say, “You know what, it’s okay to be tired when you’re turning the crank and it’s okay to walk away to try and find help periodically.”
Philip: Yeah. I’m looking up alternatives to caffeine right now. We’d get together, a group fight and whatever it is for me to get through this period, Chuck.
Charles: Yeah. What Philip’s referring to is I’m Mormon and Mormons don’t drink tea or coffee. There are some debate within the church as to whether caffeinated sodas are okay or not.
Reuven: I speak knowingly, every religion needs esoteric arguments that to outsiders seem totally bizarre.
Charles: Yes and that’s definitely one of them, I totally understand why that sounds completely weird to anybody outside.
Reuven: No, believe me, Jews have a lot of those. It’s okay.
Charles: I know a few Jews. They’ll be talking about one of those and I’m just like, “What are you guys are talking about?”
Philip: We got to get a case of whatever that is.
Charles: Yeah and why does it matter?
Reuven: Something that I’ve tried doing, I’m not very good at it again, but it’s sometimes just saying because I’ll try to push myself just to describe my work schedule. I tend to get up early, I get up 6:00 every morning, my Chinese lesson and then I get the kids off to school then I go to do my teaching.
Typically, I’m teaching for six, seven, eight hours. I came home with my family. Then, when they all go to bed at 9:00 or 10:00, then I go for another two hours to three hours finishing stuff up. If you’re doing some math and realize, “Hmm, that’s not a lot of sleep.” Yes, you win the prize for mathematics.
I’m really, really, really trying to sleep more because I recognize when I do sleep more, I’m sharper, I feel better, people see it around me, people see me as more calm. What I sometimes to do is interesting, you know what, it’s reached whatever time, I’m going to bed.
Nothing is so important that I have to stay up and do this. Now, how effectively do I make that argument with myself depends on what I’m doing. Sometimes I’m much more convincing to myself than others. Being able to say, “My sleep is more important, my time is more important, my family is more important,” is a hard thing to do for someone like me where I’ve been in business for so long for myself and I’ve had this schedule for so long and yet it’s crucial, just like the first step to say that the world will not end if you walk away from doing this work right now.
Reuven: Of course, you will. Maybe you took on too much and it’s really hard for me to admit sometimes that taking on too much. Any normal human would look at what I agreed to do and laugh and be freely considering that’s not the case.
Philip: Something that’s related to that, Reuven, that I see in my own work is as part of this three day thing I’ve started saying okay, I need to plan this time now because it’s not like I can be frivolous with those three days or be unproductive and everything is going to be okay. I don’t have a trust fund funding me, my business funds my life. It needs to work.
What I have decided I need to do is do the planning when I’m not in the middle of it, in the fray of doing the work. That means planning the week, ideally planning out the week or at least planning the next day the night before when I’m relatively in a clear headed space about what’s important.
I find that I am really tempted to alter the plan, you reminded me of that when you talked about staying up just a little longer so I can finish this thing I’m engaged in, that’s probably how it works for you.
My feeling is like, okay, I’ve got this plan, there is just these three big important things that need to happen today but let me just squeeze in this other thing, or I’d rather do this other thing or whatever, the excuses are endless.
I’m beginning to realize that I am not in the best place to decide how to allocate that time when I’m in the middle of doing the work. It’s like two different frames of mind or two different forms of thinking. It’s not easy, man, and I’m not saying again that this is a recipe for anybody but for me, I think it’s going to be important that I stick to the plan, dude, otherwise those three days are going to be much less effective than they could be over the long hall.
Charles: Yeah, I do that. I put things into my calendar and say I’m working on this at this time and this at this time and this at this time. A lot of times, I’m able to stick to it but sometimes, in fact probably half the time, what happens is my wife has some kind of emergency, she has to go pick something up or pick someone up or some other thing comes up or some other opportunity presents itself and I don’t want to miss it. Then, my schedule gets completely whacked out and so then I’m trying to rearrange it on the fly even though I set it up when I had a clear head.
Philip: I think for me is I’ll get into that trouble shooting mindset. I’ll get into one of two mindsets. One is like, okay, if I can just troubleshoot this a little more, I can figure it out. Maybe that would be trying to setup a landing page on some platform like LeadPages and it doesn’t go quite like it’s supposed to.
That troubleshooting mindset is one thing that derail me from the plan and it’s always a judgement call, maybe it really does need to be a troubleshot and figure it out in that moment. The other thing is just perfectionistic tweaking of stuff, is the other thing that will take me away off the plan.
Charles: I never get sucked into that.
Philip: I just fell another 16 hours on this. It’ll be perfect.
Reuven: I’ve tried doing things like that. Okay, today I’m going to work on the following things. I guess what I really need to do is just avoid being laughably optimistic or outrageously laughably optimistic where I’m probably not going to be able to do all thirty of these things today so I should set up my schedule so that I won’t feel bad at the end of the day for not having gotten it all done and then try to push myself and so on and so forth. Having a realistic sense of what I can do in a day is probably the starting point there.
Philip: I am the worst at that. You look at it on paper and you’re like, okay, clean up my drip account. That’s two words, it sounds like about two hours. Now that’s more like 20 hours or so work when you really get into it. I’m the worst at estimating stuff like that and I have no solution for people other than just to be pessimistic I guess.
Reuven: When I’m estimating projects, I am fully and I’m on dramatically different ends of the spectrum. I am Mr. Super Optimistic and he’s Mr. Super Pessimistic so it’s always very useful to run things by him. That’s for projects, it’s a little hard to do that on a day to day basis.
Should I do the paperwork for the accounting, do I contact the insurance agent or should I work on this new course? I gain that sort of feedback, what I should be doing is very personal and I think I need to be tougher with myself in making these decisions.
Philip: Yeah. I think business requires far more discipline than most of us think when we get into it. I certainly very arrogant perspective towards this like, “Oh, it just seems easy, create value and sell it people.” That’s how you have a business.
Charles: Yeah. Just turn the crank. That’s all you have to do, just turn the crank.
Philip: Yeah or just bill hours. But really, when you start hearing your business, I think it asks more of us in terms of discipline and maturity and mental toughness and all that.
Reuven: I know that many people limit when they read and respond to email during the day. I’m often tempted to do this. Okay, let’s be realistic. I often like the idea but I often feel like no, I couldn’t do that. It’s going to be useful to read the email, it’s almost addictive, even though I know it’s bad for me to do. Have you guys ever done that? Have you found it useful and effective?
Charles: My problem is getting myself to do that. I tend to schedule everything else and I’m like, “Oh, I got to check my email.” Then what winds up happening is the way that I primarily land sponsorships is by emailing back and forth a few times, I know the sales process pretty well at this point.
I email people back and forth a few times and then I do a Skype call with them. I have to be checking my email in order to email them back and forth a few times and I don’t check my email that often. It’s not by any design, it’s just because other things are more important to me. I have to force myself into it so I have the other problem.
Philip: Yeah. I’m probably on the opposite end in that it’s very easy for me to dwell too much, spend too much time in my email inbox. I sort of loosely adopted the habit of pushing, responding to emails until the end of my day, whatever that is. Maybe around 4:00 or 5:00, I’ll have the intention to jump into my email inbox and patch up any replies that I need to do.
I am scanning it throughout the day, looking for stuff that’s high priority and surprise, surprise, 99.9% of the time that doesn’t happen that there’s something that shows up that could not have waited until 4:00 or 5:00 Pacific time that day.
I guess I have a sort of hybrid of that best practice of only actually looking into your email inbox, peering into the void two times a day maybe. It’s helped to at least say okay, most stuff can wait and that’s a mindset that I think has been helpful for me, but I still have some progress to make in actually implementing that.
Reuven: What about things that have to get to, there’s no such thing.
Philip: Like what?
Reuven: I don’t know, I guess like earlier today, I had a client where they contacted me and said, “Hey, this is a sort of an emergency.” As it so happens, they called me and they said, “Can you get on Slack because we’ve got this.”
Charles: I was going to say you have my phone number.
Reuven: Right. I guess that’s how it works then. If it’s really an emergency, they will find a way to get in touch with me and Slack shows up on my phone. If they really need it, they can do that too. I just answered my question, okay, there you go.
Philip: Yeah. I have to say is same thing with me that anything that tends to be urgent or time sensitive, there’s another communication channel where that you usually shows up like a Skype instant message or Slack. If you include all of that under the umbrella, because it used to be that people would use email for that. I think as a group, as a community of people involved in technology, we’ve got another option now which is a more real time feeling sync feeling thing called Slack or chat or whatever.
I get interrupted by that all the time and I allow it because that’s part of how I produce value for people in my mentoring program, being available for quick answer via Slack so I let that happen. There are time when I have to close down Slack to get something done.
Charles: Yeah. Where I’m at, if the sponsor has a problem with the banner or the ad read or something, if it’s in an episode that’s already gone out there, there’s literally nothing I can do other than try and make it up to him some other way. If anyone else is frustrated or upset with me and they send me an email, that’s pretty much understood that I’m not sitting by my email waiting for them to email me because it was an out of ban, not expected communication anyway.
And then the people on my team, we have a Slack channel but even then, most of the communication in there is, “Hey, I got this done, can I get some feedback on it?” The person that I’m hurting by not replying is myself because they could conceivably be moving ahead with whatever it is that I’ve prioritized for them. None of those things are emergency things.
If the website goes down, like Devchat.tv, if that goes down, or something dies there, I’ll get some tweets, it’ll be down for a few hours but ultimately, it doesn’t fundamentally change anything for me if it takes a couple hours to come back.
The kinds of emergencies that I’m dealing with are still things that can wait a couple of hours. If something is really down, all of the people that I have working for me, that are checking on this stuff because they check the firstname.lastname@example.org email address, they know how to make my phone buzz. That’s kind of where things go from there. I’ll see if I have notifications from Slack when I wake up in the morning and then I’ll go restart the server.
Reuver: Five years ago when I was doing mostly web development and I even had people working for me, I remember saying at some point, my sister’s a doctor and I would say to them, “Look, if my sister makes big mistakes where she doesn’t pay attention to someone overnight, people can die. With us, it’s just a website.
I have clients for whom that is true and I have clients for whom, no, no, actually if it goes down like the client who called me earlier about their emergency, they were running that big ecommerce thing and they needed to be up because otherwise their customers are going to be upset and we’re upset. You have to know how important it is but it’s still not going to be life and death.
Charles: But even then, there are systems that can automate notifications and things.
Reuven: By the way, you mentioned before Chuck that you feel better talking about it. I think that’s also an important point. Very often, just talking about these things is really, really useful and knowing that there are other people going through it and knowing that it’s not you, it’s not only you and that things will get better.
Charles: Yeah. Like I said before, I feel like I can name the problem and I can name some ways to find a solution or I can name the solutions and just seeing them and talking through them with you, it just gives me this road map where it’s like, okay, it was a big dark canyon, but now I can see the road up away and I get the idea that yeah it’s going to be a climb but it’s possible.
Reuven: Right, for sure. When I was really desperately upset about the progress of my PhD, it looked like it’s never going to happen, never going to finish which was quite a bit of the time. One of the member of my committee said to me, “Listen, the way this works is, it’s a war of attrition where like every day, you just make a little bit of progress and after a month of that, you’ll say I made not a bad amount of progress, After a year of that, you’ll really have a sense of accomplishment.”
I really, not only is that great advice for doing a PhD but it was great advice I found for doing a lot of things where the day to day feeling is that you haven’t done that much. You have to have that perspective a little back over time, over weeks and month then realize, “Yeah, actually I have got a lot done.”
Charles: Does that mean I get a PhD at the end of this?
Charles: You’ll buy me one on the internet for $10.
Reuven: Right. It might not be the way you want.
Charles: Just put some little pieces of paper over it. Charles Max Wood, earner. You missed this spot, dude. Alright. Well should we get to picks? Reuven, what are your picks?
Reuven: Alright. I’ve got two picks. The first is the Gimlet folks, the folks of [0:45:00.9] of few other good podcast. They have a new podcast, they started because they brought it all the way from Australia. It’s called Science Versus and it is fun and funny and interesting. It basically takes on modern questions. Burying questions and says, “What does science have to say about it?” They are not afraid to take people off as necessary.
They had two episodes on the very non, shall we say, hot debate of gun control in the United States, what does science say about that, and they had another one about organic food. It’s only been that for a few episodes but the ones I’ve read so far are as I said very clever and very funny.
Pick number two is as you guys know, I do a lot of traveling. The last two months, I’ve seen a ton of ads for the new Huawei P9 phone. I don’t think it was that, that made me to get it. I think it was more the fact that my old one was running out of storage space and my elder daughter’s phone died and I gave her my old one. I just got a P9 and I am so, so happy with it. It’s fast, it’s snappy, it has a beautiful screen, it has this super fancy camera on it which if I ever use, it’ll be quite the modern miracle. Huawei P9, it’s really, definitely the best one I ever used. Anyway, those are my picks for this week.
Charles: Awesome. I have a couple of picks today. The first one is yesterday was a holiday, was Labor Day here in the US. Since everyone had the day off, including all of my family members who can’t just take a day off because they feel like it, or take a day off without checking with their boss, we all decided to go down to the local trout farm. All the kids got to go fishing, our foreign exchange student got to go fishing with us. We had a good time, we fried up the fish afterward and had a barbecue as a family and it was a ton of fun. I’m going to pick fish farms and fishing.
The next thing about the fish farms is it’s pretty much guaranteed catch. The fish does have to bite still but the nice thing about it is that they bait the hooks and everything else and all that stuff and then they stock the pond with enough fish to where you put the worm in there long enough and you’re going to catch some. We had a great time.
The other thing I’m going to pick is just family and family time.
Finally, the last thing that I’m going to pick is neighborhood groups on Facebook. Now, we have a group for our neighborhood. When I was talking about hiring help on programmers, they mentioned, “Well, why don’t you ask your church group or your neighborhood group.” And so I did and that’s how I found this girl that I’m going to be hiring here within the next couple of days. It turns out she had the experience I wanted. She had done most of what I was going to be asking her to do before and her current part time job wasn’t providing her opportunities to do it and she was excited to be able to do that stuff again.
If you’re looking for help, I’m just going to make the recommendation that you reach out to those kinds of groups. Those church groups or neighborhood groups or family and friends groups. Incidentally, I have two sisters that were looking for work but I’ve heard enough horror stories and talked to enough people that they all convinced me not to even try and hire family.
I wound up finding this girl. I think she’s 19 and it looks like she’s going to be able to take care of everything that I need her to in my business. Anyway, those are my picks. Philip, do you have some picks for us?
Philip: Philip’s picks are the following. I have one pick and I was so engrossed in the conversation. I didn’t do my homework on picking which you would think I would do before the show but well, I usually do not.
Re-recordings of existing albums are an interesting thing. I always love covers of other artists’ work and then occasionally an artists will re-record an entire album. They’ll do different arrangements of the same songs or just rerecorded I guess, more modern technology.
Cowboy Junkies did one with their Trinity Sessions album which I don’t like the rerecording at all. And then I just across another one by Natalie Merchant, she re recorded her Tigerlily album, this one is called Paradise Is There and it’s great. It’s like different arrangements, sort of different take but the songs are the same and it’s good.
That’s my pick for this week, is that her most recent album, Paradise Is There. The new Tigerlily recordings by Natalie Merchant. Check it out if you like her music, don’t do it as an exercise and masochism if you don’t like her music. That’s my pick for this week.
Charles: Alright. Well, thanks for helping me feel better about my life and we’ll catch everyone next week.