The not telling people “I am busy” plan.
I’ve been working on this plan for a while now. I just added it to my daily Lift habits so I thought I would write about it.
When I first started working in tech I regularly worked 10 to 14 hour days. I’d be home by midnight, sleep, get up, shower, and drive back into work. I had the energy to do it, and it seemed like a good use of my time, even though I was being paid for the same number of hours of the day as my friends in HR or accounting.
It felt like I was doing critical, valuable work. I had been made to feel like it was critical, valuable work.
Everything was an emergency. I had a high-strung boss who would alternate between panic that everything was going wrong and panic that something was about to go wrong. We’d set unrealistic deadlines for ourselves. We would congratulate ourselves on shipping 90% of the product only a week or so late. Go us.
But the truth is: nothing we did was all that important. Had we really been doing critical work we would have taken more breaks, spent more time sleeping, resting, and thinking. Instead we burned ourselves out because everyone else was burning themselves out. We “heroically” pulled all-nighters and then spent the next couple of days recovering physically and dealing with whatever dumb decisions we made at 2am while hopped up on Coke.
When I left Federated Media and started my own company I decided I wanted to try working a bit slower and with more focus. Since I could control the number of meetings I would have in a day (zero) and I could (mostly) control the flow of work, I decided on doing a few things differently.
I work until 6pm. I leave my work computer locked up in my office and make time to walk to work (with just my keys, phone, and wallet). We often take an hour for lunch and we talk and think a lot about what we’re building rather than just building.
During the six months we were making MLKSHK we shipped like crazy. When I look at the code now it makes me smile to see all the many things it does. That three four people were able to very quickly and thoughtfully get that much stuff out the door in such a short time makes me really happy.
So the final piece I have been working on is never telling people I am busy. Because no, I am not busy. Yes, I have a lot of stuff to do, but I leave it at the office after work and on the weekends. I have many things I am interested in, but I can always make room for something if it is worth doing.
Rather than say: “I am too busy, I don’t have any time for X.” I realize I can be honest and say I am not interested enough in X to do it.
EVERYONE has a lot of stuff to do because there IS a lot of stuff to do. Some of it is work. Some of it is hanging out with your family. Some of it is just laying on the couch reading a book.