I have a wife, five (almost 6) kids, two dogs, and a cat. My life is full, fulfilling, and of course, complex at times. I start work early while still seeing the kids a bit before school. I do school pickups and sometimes drop-offs. I often play the role of unpaid Uber driver, errand runner, venture capital funder (with no expectation of a return on investment, aside from my kids' happiness), and chore taskmaster. Is it a bit hectic at times? Sure. Would I choose it all over again? Absolutely.
Of all the things I've mentioned so far, you may be wondering what the hardest thing is. Interestingly, the hardest thing I have to deal with in my personal life is also the hardest thing I deal with in my professional life; they just look different.
Forced task switching is the hardest thing I deal with at home and work. It's that moment when I'm trying to focus, I'm in the zone, I'm ready to accomplish something, write something, think through something, and then, at the worst possible moment, I'm interrupted. But, I'm not just interrupted by one kid; that would be easy to overcome. Instead, I'm interrupted by one kid wanting breakfast, and 30-seconds later, another asking a question, and 2-minutes later another asking to go to the store. Then, when they are all either dismissed or taken care of, depending on how good a dad I am at the time, the dog starts barking, the doorbell rings, and someone calls me, usually all at once.
Work is the same way, just slightly more subtle. I open the document I need to write, I've carved out focus time on my calendar, and I start writing. Then Microsoft Teams alerts me of a message; a team member has a question. I accidentally flip over to the screen with my email, happen to see a waiting message, am intrigued by the subject line and preview sentence, and find myself reading that email, and the next, and the next. Just when I think I have gotten back to focus, I get a question over Slack from a nonprofit where I volunteer. Next is a text message, and lest I leave out any communication tool, a message over Discord. Then, back to focused work, only to lose it again when my phone rings.
Over and over, every day is a fight for focused attention. At home, having time just to have a complete conversation with my wife is a herculean task, requiring the threat of time out if we are interrupted again. At work, focusing long enough to produce deep, quality work requires closing down at least five applications and putting notifications on silent for the hour.
I'm guessing that my hardest thing maybe yours too. Very few people live a life without interruptions. So, what are we going to do about it?
At home, I'm learning to focus through the chaos. Sounds impossible, I know, but I can't expect a 5-year old not to need me frequently or a 15-year old not to want to go to a friend's house at a moment's notice. As I'm writing this, two of my boys are playing Mario in the same room with the volume a tad higher than I'd like, but I still managed to write 611 words.
At work, I choose the times I will do focused work. I carve out time on my calendar, and during those time slots, I close down all five communication apps to be sure I'm never distracted. Sure, I'm a little less available, but the quality of my work is better, and my communications, though more sporadic, are improved as well because they are not rushed.
How about you? What's your hardest thing? Or, how do you focus to make sure the most important things get done?
Leadership reading from the week
Hustle culture is cancelled. Here’s a better way to look at productivity - I love this! I’m so done with the idea of working 100 hour weeks to get ahead. It’s dangerous and rarely worth it.
Want to Be Smarter at Work? A New Harvard Study Says This Simple Change Pays Off Big Time - The short answer here, get outside for a walk :)
The magic your meetings are missing - I kind of love this. I’m always looking to make meetings better! I’m going to try it with my team and see what we think.
Something I’m thinking about - Staying Focused
I’m still reading Deep Work and loving it. The big idea is that focussed work is the best work. So, to that end, I’ve gotten Rescue Time running on all my devices now. There is a great feature in it called Focus Sessions, where you can set a goal for how long you will focus, track that work, and then at the end of the day, see how much focused work you did. It’s great!
Interesting reading from the week
Stop Wasting Your Time — 8 Hacks Based on Science - I already knew most of these, but it was still a good reminder.
Pretend to Be the Best Version of Yourself - I love this idea. It’s not always easy to be our best self; we just don’t feel like it. In those moments, just pretend to be our best self, and then we can roll with it from there.
Try this technique to learn just about anything (even the complex stuff) - This is an interesting approach if you want to learn something new.
Interesting podcasts from the week
Setting the Stage - The Dropout - This podcast is about the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the now-defunct Theranos. It’s one of the largest startup fraud cases of all time, and it will be interesting to see what happens.
According to Need: Prologue - If you want to better understand people experiencing homelessness and you want to hear a piece of amazing storytelling and journalism, this is a fantastic podcast!
My Podcasts to check out
Tech Talk Y’all - My tech/comedy news podcast.
Real Pink - I host the national podcast for Susan G. Komen. If you want some inspiration or information about breast cancer, give it a listen.
TechBridge Talks - A podcast about using technology to end generational poverty.
That’s a wrap!
Did you find anything helpful here? Pay me back by sharing it with someone. Thanks for reading!