Why I Hate All These Morning Productivity Blog Posts

I really don’t like blog posts that tell you to get up early, or go for a run in the morning, or get up even earlier, or focus on your morning. I even wrote some satire to try to get it out of my system, but it didn’t work because I’m writing this now.

I think these posts have some truth in them, but they also make a large group of people feel like crap and provide them a false belief about something.

These posts “work” because:

  • Momentum does matter, starting out well lets you keep going well.
  • For many people their diet makes them sleepy in the afternoon, so working before they eat enough bread to choke a horse allows them to work when their energy is highest.
  • For many people who have trouble with “haters” (internal or external), getting up early allows you to work before the inner critic wakes up enough to speak. Once you are going well, you can’t hear them over the humming of your internal engines.
  • For those that have a problem with social media addiction, their mornings are emotional rollercoasters, so telling them to not check their email and not check social media is a much more stable manner of working.
The advice in these posts works accidentally for some, and in a very limited way.

I don’t mean to demean the audience for these posts, and I have described a person who eats badly, is addicted to social media, and is not positive in their thinking. I don’t hate these people; we are all these people – the default settings of culture are pushing us in this direction. I get why these posts are popular.

What else is wrong with these posts?

  • Most people can’t get up any earlier than they do now. For many who work and have either kids or a hellscape commute (or both) reading these posts is like “yeah, right – I wish,” so they just make them feel bad. The stories of people who get up at 5 AM to write or jog are even harder for those that are already up at 5 AM. “Should I get up at 4 AM then?” The blog posts seem to indicate yes, of course, you loser. That works for them, so if you can’t get up earlier, I guess you don’t want it that much.
  • These articles never talk about the rest of the day. Do they stop work at 3 PM? They better to have any credibility. If you are looking to pile on to the “just work harder” category, I’m afraid it has reached its maximum occupancy.
  • People are wired differently, and working at night offers many of the same benefits of morning work regarding lower blood pressure and infrequent distractions.

I am, honestly, more annoyed by how limited these articles are, and by how they don’t tackle the large and more interesting problem of how to manage your energy for the entire day. Maintaining your motivation, inspiration, discipline, and focus is a large problem that plays into your systems, your mindset, your personality, and your environment. You can’t just say: “start earlier, work harder” – this is pure foolishness.

Where is my solution then? If you are interested in real productivity advice, I go over:

If you are interested in real productivity advice, I go over:

  • Global Truths about Super Productivity
  • How to Track Your Productivity
  • Guerrilla Tips on Staying Productive
  • Working to Your Energy, Not Your Time
  • and many other topics related to getting massive amounts of stuff done….

In my upcoming book, signup to hear about it here.

Remote Work Terminology

Jobs in which you don’t have to show up at an office have a large number of terms that are applied to them. The terms have shifted and will continue to change for a few reasons:

  • This concept, although very large and growing, is a new one to many people, so we adjust our language to fit the reality.
  • There is a generational shift with the popularity in working this way – many people graduating from college are used to working / studying with their laptop from all over and get jobs that work this way. Because generations shift the language, there are clear age differences in the terms.
  • Remote work had some early negativity on it, and it still fights some bad stereotypes – negative terms change more quickly than positive ones.

Here is a partial list of terms associated with remote work:

Telecommuting

  • This is an old term that isn’t used as much anymore, probably because the “tele-” part feels very old. We have dropped the tele- from telephone already. Also the second part is “commute”, eww.

Virtual Teams / Virtual Work

  • An early term for a team that was across geographic lines. Not used that often anymore because virtual feels pejorative here – we are a real team, not virtually one. The rise of the term virtual reality also killed this term, as VR is clearly not close to real life (yet).

Work from Home

  • WFH is a general term for those that are able to work from their home.
  • Many part-time clerical jobs fall into this category as well as digital professionals.
  • Googling “work from home” typically finds you lower-paying jobs (and many scams) than googling “remote jobs”, and “remote” typically means full-time while WFH can mean part-time.

Remote

  • General term for people that work from wherever they want, typically digital “knowledge workers” – writers, programmers, analysts, etc..
  • Over time this term has been starting to be replaced by distributed, as “remote” feels negative to some people (they mean remote minority, which we describe below) – and because you can’t say that you have a “remote” team without people thinking you mean an entire team somewhere else, you have to say “remote friendly” or “remote first”, which is longer.

Remote Minority

  • A term that I use to describe a scenario in which a few people work from offsite, but the majority of the staff are co-located at a headquarters. This is not an easy situation to manage, extra steps need to be taken to make this work.

Remote First

  • A term you apply to a company which means that pretty much everyone works from where they wish, and that the founders worked this way very early and have kept it up. These companies typically have strong support for remote work and processes which support distributed teams well.
  • Remote-first essentially means “remote-only” – there might not be any form of office space anywhere.
  • You might have to get on a plane to visit a coworker at a remote-first company.

Remote Friendly

  • This term carries little consistent meaning and ranges from “you can work from home on Fridays” to “we have entire teams that are remote-first”. Be careful applying for jobs that list this with clarifying what they mean. They also might not know what they mean.
  • You might be able to visit a coworker at a remote-friendly company, and they may want you to do it a few days a week.

Distributed

  • A nice term that describes quickly a team with remote and/or onsite workers, or a fully “remote” team – they are distributed all over the place. “Distributed worker” does not sound right though, this sounds like some sort a medical emergency.

Nomad, Digital Nomad, Nomading

  • A person that has a remote job on a distributed team that typically does not work from a “home base”, but instead travels from place to place while continuing to work from wherever they are. Think young people traveling across Europe but working from hotels or a family traveling across the U.S. while the mom works during the day from the hotel.
I’m writing a book about successfully working from home; click here if you want to know when it is complete.

How To Read 118 Books In One Year

This year I continued my odd quest to read a lot of books and ended up reading more than last year. This feels very odd since I’m a big fan of making things rather than just constantly drowning in consumption.

In fact I’d like to send a special message to the hundreds of people that have visited my website because they typed “Bad Effects of Reading” or “Why Reading is Bad For You” into Google: It isn’t always bad for you, but just reading crap all day long is.

How I Read Two Books a Week

My system for reading this much is quite simple:

  1. When I am in a situation in which it is socially acceptable (or encouraged) to be staring at your phone I read on the Kindle app instead of doing things on social media. These social situations are more frequent than you think and are probably more than 15 minutes a day.
  2. When I am working I take at least one break a day and read for 10+ minutes.
  3. Some nights, not always, I read to help me relax and fall asleep. Some days I drive in my car and listen to books on Audible, about 8-10 of the books were consumed this way.
  4. I read things that I like. If I get 25% into a book and I hate it, I close it, loudly shout a curse word, and then donate it to the library or throw it away. After I shout the curse word I don’t regret having wasted some time on the book, and I try to not ever regret buying a book that I never read.
  5. I surround myself online with other people that read a lot, thus making this amount of reading seem normal.

My Favorite Book This Year

I read a lot of very useful books this year – ones that were fun to read but also actionable – and one that continues to standout is The Obstacle is the Way (by Ryan Holiday). Great writing, good structure, interesting historical anecdotes, and direct relevancy that you don’t see in many books of this form. I am currently reading through the rest of Ryan’s books and have also enjoyed Ego is the Enemy.

What Else I Read This Year

What follows is a partial list of the books I read this year (some items have been removed to protect privacy).  If I recommend that you, dear reader, should also read the book I have included it as a link.

Fun To Read:
– Modern Romance
– Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread
– Silver Screen Fiend
– Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself
– Consider the Lobster
– Zombie Spaceship Wasteland
– Le Metier
– Mere Anarchy
– Funny Girl
– True Grit
– Microserfs
Temporary Stories
The Whites
– The Abortion
– So The Wind Won’t Blow it All Away
Big Fish

Not Fun To Read, But Needed:
– Between The World and Me
– Erasing Hell

Parenting:
– Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why
– Rules for a Knight
– Keep Your Love On

Things That Defy Category and This is a Compliment:
We Learn Nothing

Books That Defy Category Because I am Lazy:
Stories of Your Life and Others
– Turing and the Computer
– Dirty Library
– Calvin and Hobbes
– Ready Player One
– Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine

Advice That I Have Ignored:
– Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual
– The Short Guide to a Long Life

Memoirs and Biographies:
Bossypants
Yes, Please
– Little Black Sheep: A Memoir
The Inventor’s Dilemma: The Remarkable Life of H. Joseph Gerber: maybe 2016 wasn’t the right year to read about how quickly the Nazis took over, but a wonderful read overall about an amazing man.
– My Mother was Nuts

Work / Self-improvement:
Ego is the Enemy
The Obstacle is the Way
The Passionate Programmer
Building Great Software Engineering Teams
The Magic of Thinking Big
The Lean Startup
– The Greatness Guide
– The Greatness Guide: Book 2
– Awaken the Giant Within
– Flourish
– The Talent Code
Zero to One
– Catching the Big Fish
The Hard Thing about Hard Things
– Hooked
– Enough
– The Art of War
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
– Don’t Make Me Think
– The Difference Maker
High Output Management
– The 2-minute Leader
– Paper Towns
– Claw Your Way to the Top: How to Become the Head of a Major Corporation in Roughly a Week
– Manage Oneself

Distributed / Remote Working
– The Field Guide to Telecommuting
– Embrace Remote Working

Comedy:
– Egghead
– This is a Book
– Point Your Face at This
– My Life and Hard Times
– The 50 Funniest American Writers
– Fierce Pajamas
– Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans
– Sick in the Head

There is no such thing as Children’s Books:
The BFG
– Hatchet
– The Poet’s Dog
– The Phantom Tollbooth

Gerald Weinberg:
– The Secrets of Consulting
– More Secrets of Consulting
Are Your Lights On?
– Becoming a Technical Leader

Writing:
– The Elements of Style
– Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t
– The Writing Life

Written by Someone I Know, or About Someone I Know, or Just Self-Published:
– A Wicked Creature
– Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian
– Fearless Salary Negotiation
– Untethered
– The Zen Founder Guide to Founder Retreats
– What I’ve Learn from Failure
– Postmortem of a Failed Startup
– The Lost 10 Point Night

OK I guess but not something to base a religion on:
– The Four Agreements
– The Alchemist

Neil Simon Plays
– Biloxi Blues
– Brighton Beach Memoirs

Dave Eggers:
– The Wild Things
– How We are Hungry
– You Shall Know Our Velocity!

Written by Men with Mustaches Who I Wish I Could Meet:
– How to Tell a Story and Other Essays
– Armageddon in Retrospect

A Sudden Interest in Steve Martin:
– Shopgirl
– The Pleasure of My Company
– The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People
– Pure Drivel
– Born Standing Up
– Cruel Shoes

A Constant Interest in Elmore Leonard:
– Riding the Rap
– Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

Books That Took More Than Six Months to Finish:
– Fifty Great Short Stories
– 12 Essential Skills for Software Architects

I’m writing a book about successfully working from home; click here if you want to know when it is complete.

You Get No Credit for Talking

Most of my career has been spent working for companies with less than fifty people. My consulting career had me working with much larger companies often, and many of the stereotypes about big vs. small are true:

  1. At a small company you are a generalist; you “wear many hats” [Note: don’t literally do this – it confuses people].
  2. At a small company you have more responsibility – if you aren’t pulling your weight everyone can feel it.
  3. At a big company, there are more doughnuts and meetings. Also: office supplies.
  4. The coffee is better at small companies, but big companies offer better benefits in almost all other areas.
  5. People at small companies are much better at ping-pong.

How do small companies become big companies? By bringing on board people that might be from big companies. In fact, a common pattern is for companies to try to “level up” by hiring a Big Boy, Adult, More Experienced Leader, Other Mild Insult to Existing People. If the existing staff know what they are doing and are learners, and the new more experienced people are teachers then this can work out well.

But there is one minefield awaiting small companies hiring experienced leaders from big companies:

At big companies, you can be rewarded for thinking of potential problems even if you do nothing to solve them.

This is not pejorative, this can be good at a big company – there are people that are just thinking ahead, strategically and proactively.  These people struggle to exist at small companies, because at a small company if you bring up a problem without a solution you are just creating extra stress. Within the typical culture of a small company if you bring up a problem you are now tasked to solve it. Since you are already overworked when you come across a problem, you might not speak up. In the worst case, nobody is thinking far enough ahead because it is too painful to do so.

But then you start interviewing people, and they say things like “Hey, have you thought about the Newman protocol, and how you would perform under an audit?” And you think to yourself “Nope”, so you hire them to find and fix that problem.  And instead they sit around; at their old job their work was complete at this point, and here it is just getting started.

Ben Horowitz explains a similar dynamic well:

Your executive has been conditioned to wait for the emails to come in, wait for the phone to ring, and wait for the meetings to get scheduled. In your company, he will be waiting a long time. If your new exec waits (as per his training), your other employees will become suspicious. You’ll hear things like “what does that guy do all day long?” and “why did he get so many options?”

Well if the problem is so obvious then why are there so many bad hires from large companies? Ben’s list of screening questions is certainly effective, and I’ll offer my perspective to detect this as well.

One summer I rented an office in an old motel near my house. I was tired of working from home and wanted to change things up. This worked out pretty well until my second week when the air conditioner stopped working and the Georgia heat started to bring the air temperature up to sunspot levels. A few doors down from mine a small internet startup of four – five people was always around busily working and they did not leave when it happened. One of them went out and bought a few floor fans and they opened all their windows.

On the second day when the building manager announced that the air conditioner would not be fixed until the next week, the leader of that same group left but then returned with a saw and two wall unit air conditioners and installed them without permission. They didn’t appear to know what they were doing and made a mess of it, but their rooms were cool and comfortable.

When I’m interviewing a person from a big company I always ask myself if they would be the type to say: “We have a problem here, the A/C is out” or if they would be the type that would say: “I’m driving to Home Depot, buying an A/C unit, and cutting a hole in this wall”.

I’m writing a book about successfully working from home; click here if you want to know when it is complete.

Be A Digital Adult

 

Most of us reading this post are adults. We take care of those around us, hold down jobs, pay bills, shower daily and do other things that are considered mature. We avoid the struggles of children: petty conflict, biting others, and openly weeping when our bananas break.

But the world has changed and done so quickly. There are new skills to be learned, and if you don’t keep up you will continue to act like a child while those around you move forward and have to take care of your weak childish self.

Let’s learn how to be a Digital Adult – an adult in this new data-rich age run on technology:

Security

Attention and Focus

  • Manage your email like your time is valuable. Manage all of your time as if you live in an attention economy. Don’t waste your life watching other live theirs.
  • Practice the ability to focus on actual work for long periods of time; what some call “Deep Work
  • Read things that people spent time making (like, I dunno, BOOKS), not crap like social media and celebrity gossip.

Accuracy of Information: News

You should read the news to know what is happening in the world, and not to be entertained. Read actual journalism, not things that are written as entertainment.  A good metric of this is: would the person who wrote this go to jail for a source? Also: was this “paper” around 15 years ago? Does this site seem always to print things that feel like conspiracy “we just can’t be ahead” theories?

Some things to read about this further:

Accuracy of Information: Healthcare

There is a lot of good information about our bodies and how they work online. Also, we can learn more about nutrition, fitness, and injury prevention than we have ever been able to in the past. But there are a lot of for-profit health “care” information sites that are just pushing their solution.

See the below slideshow and ask yourself if a site is driven by profit or public good.

Now, go and be an adult. Don’t let the big scary people trying to steal your allowance and energy stop you from playing and working.

I’m writing a book about successfully working from home; click here if you want to know when it is complete.

Help with the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique is a rare productivity tool: simple, powerful, and popular.

Years ago when I first started working by myself, I used the technique to train my mind to focus for longer periods of time; my previous job had so many interruptions I was wired for only ten minute periods of actual work. I organized my day into Pomodoros of longer and longer length to increase my endurance. It was not fun, but it worked.

While I don’t use it every day anymore, I do find myself using it to kickstart myself when things get hard. Typically, when I return from lunch I’ll set a timer to warm everything back up.

Even though the technique is dead-simple it does have some common problems for practical use at work; here is what I hear from people who have tried to use it:

I get interrupted too much at work; I can’t exactly ignore the phone.

Please don’t use Pomodoro if you are a 911 operator.

Otherwise, if you have a job where you have to respond to interruptions with great urgency then you may have to lower the “robustness” of your use of the technique, but it can still help you make the most of the time you aren’t interrupted. In this case, it might make sense to try to lower the Pomodoro time (to less than 20 minutes) so you feel yourself completing them.

For the rest of us we probably just think we have to respond when we don’t. We have been trained to respond to instant messages immediately much like we have all been trained to answer a ringing phone even if someone is right in front of us. These tasks might feel urgent, but are not typically important. If the message isn’t an emergency then ignore it or tell them “I’ll get back to you in 12 minutes”. Once you do this enough you will establish a reputation for being attentive when you do speak with someone.

To help with this you can of course simply communicate that you are using the Pomodoro Technique to get stuff done and therefore might be a bit delayed in responding to IMs. There are also ways to integrate popular messaging tools with Pomodoro tools so you can passively communicate “Do not Disturb” semantics.

If you really never have time for deep work sessions, I’d recommend just creating yourself one time for it, and to use Pomodoro only in that time:  This will keep your endurance up and allow you to keep your ‘focus muscles’ ready for those rare times when you get a few hours to work.

The 5-minute breaks are so dumb. I just check my email or look at the web – what a waste. (Or – the 5 minute breaks aren’t long enough to get a cup of coffee)

You might not be taking effective short breaks, or effective long breaks.

It is tricky because 5 minutes is hardly any time at all to some deep thinkers and too much time for the NADD among us. This will need to be closely managed at a personal level. The idea is to clear your head during the work enough that you are essentially catching your breath a bit but not getting fully out of work mode (that is what the longer breaks are for). Think “stop pedaling during a bike race as you round a large corner” rather than “get a cup of coffee and a doughnut” or “go walk the dog”. I typically stand up, squat, look out the window, take some big deep breaths then freestyle rap for a bit (you know the standard combination) and then sort of let my mind be blank and suddenly the 5 minutes is up and I sit back down.

I don’t want to stop every 25 minutes, once I get going I want to keep going.

Pomodoro doesn’t force 25 minutes as the timeframe – it is just a wise default amount of time. You can increase, as I did and many do, the amount of time for each block of work as it better fits the type of work that you do and your ability to focus. I increased from 25 minutes to 45 minutes with longer breaks; make sure these stay in a sane proportion or you will miss out of some of the benefits of the technique. You control the joystick – if you feel like you can keep going then the timer going off can simply be a reminder to stand up or rest your eyes or some other simple break. The point is long-term endurance rather than exact compliance to a technique.

This puts too much structure in my day man, I need to just ‘feel it’. I’m not a robot; I work when inspiration strikes.

This is true you are a unique snowflake – everyone knows it. Pomodoro works for multiple reasons:

  • It makes you stay in your chair.
  • Because it forces you to catalog all your interruptions it makes you focus on how much you interrupt yourself.
  • It is a form of mental interval training which is a great way to improve your focus and mental endurance.

I agree that doing it as prescribed all day is sort of nuts; I certainly don’t do this. This said, sometimes you have to turn into a robot for awhile to gain the advantages above. And to return to the objection about inspiration – let’s agree that the “work when you feel it” is clear bullshit. All people who have accomplished large works have done it by having a worker mentality that to you might look like a robot. I can’t say it better than Pablo:

La inspiración existe, pero tiene que encontrarte trabajando.

Inspiration exists but it has to find you working.

– pablo picasso

I’m writing a book about successfully working from home; click here if you want to know when it is complete.

Thoughts on the Kindle Ecosystem

I read books using the Kindle ecosystem; having such quick access to books has changed my reading life and increased the quantity and quality of books I read each year. I love how I can start reading something at night on my (physical) Kindle and then use the Kindle app on my phone the next day waiting for a doctor’s appointment, and it saves me from having to carry around the ten books that I am (sort of) reading at any one time.

I occasionally use the iPad Kindle app as well, and the Mac app or online experience less often. While in the car I listen to Audible books about half of the time I’m in the car and gross hip-hop music the other half.

Being a software developer by trade, there are a few things that I notice from using all these apps to read about 100 books a year:

Please Learn About Me

There are exactly zero acceptable times in which any Kindle app should ever be “Learning my reading speed” given that it should have rough data on about 500 books of all forms and one person (me) reading them. I accept that I read some books faster than others, or that some types of books always slow down fast readers. I also understand that people might read faster on an iPad than a phone or computer, or at different speeds at different screen sizes or font configurations. I reject that you don’t have all the data behind this and that you couldn’t put something smarter in there than “Learning…”.

And Then Tell Me You Know Me

When you do know my reading speed, you should have a more accurate value for it. For some books (they seem to be ones with pictures in them or tables) the Kindle is off so much it is useless. I have read entire books in which the entire time the Kindle app says “1 minute left in chapter”. The entire book.  Other times the estimate is simply too high or low – I read a bit faster than average but am in the middle of the bell curve here.

Make all Products Seamless

Audible, GoodReads, and Kindle seem to be three completely separate products – with GoodReads integration only on the Kindle proper (I have the Paperwhite version). Audible is an Amazon company and GoodReads *should* be. Goodreads recommendations are better than Amazon’s. Full stop. Why? Because GoodReads reviews are easier to do, and who buys something versus who reads something (and then enjoys it) are completely different sets. I would love to change the “People also bought” to “People also bought, but we don’t know how it worked out” under a book on Amazon.

Relevant Ads for Books

The physical Kindle hardware is of high quality for readers: battery life, screen, durability, etc. The lock screen has an advertisement on it that changes every time you lock it. This means that every time I look at my Kindle to start reading you have my attention for a second. I have never, NEVER, seen a book that looks interesting to me there. Instead, somehow, ever since I have self-published a book I am served ads by self-published authors, most of which seem to not align with my interests. The Audible, Goodreads, and Amazon “Recommended for You” books seem to be much higher quality lists – why are these not used?

Upsell me on Audible More – I would buy more

The Audible and the Kindle experience are separate apps; Amazon seems to be spending a lot of money on Audible TV and VOD ads (I see them often), how about you encourage people like me to stop spending $10 on a Kindle book and spend $25 on an audible version instead?  I read about ten personal business productivity books a year, but hate reading them and would prefer to listen to the deep lovely baritone of someone reading them to me.  You should know this about me, and use it to take my money every year.

I’m writing a book about successfully working from home; click here if you want to know when it is complete.

Work from Home: An Anniversary

In honor of Halloween (the absolute best day of the year to work from home) and it being roughly the 7th anniversary of my working this way I’d like to present a few snippets of the last seven years of my work-from-where-I-wish life:

  • Being involved at my kid’s school so much that when we are out kids randomly wave to me while I stare blankly back at them.
  • Getting to see the train go by (which only happens during the day).
  • The lack of sunshine this time of year not really affecting me.
  • Getting to eat lunch with my wife x100 more than the average husband.
  • Being snowed in for 10 days during a very bad snow/ice storm, and having work continue without fail
  • Setting up a stationary bike in my office and training for a 150 mile bike ride without it affecting the family schedule at all.
  • Working from a coffee shop near my house so often that my kids thought that I worked there as a barista and asked why I didn’t know how to make the drinks.
  • Working from a Dunkin Donuts, and eating many donuts.
  • Working from a Sweet Tomatoes, and not eating any salad.
  • Muting a conference call because I was standing on a railroad track in a quiet place, when suddenly a train came by
  • Working from my hometown, at the dining room table that I ate on as a child
  • Working at night on Friday and Saturday nights while watching Jason Statham movies on a second monitor without any sound
  • Listening in on a training webinar while holding / changing / rocking / talking-to / enjoying a 3-month newborn.
  • Conducting a phone interview from the hallway outside the Neonatal intensive care unit of Atlanta Medical Center
  • Not meeting any new people in my field in meatspace for an entire year before realizing I need to attend more conferences and industry events. And also develop a personality, etc.
  • Realizing through a few small talk sessions that the parents of the other kids where my twins go to preschool think I’m serially unemployed.
  • Wearing shorts 90% of my life.
  • Gaining 10 lbs, and then not losing it, and then gaining 30 more lbs.
  • Riding my bike up Kennesaw Mountain, which is closed to bikes on Fridays and the weekend, at least 25 times over multiple long lunch breaks.
  • Going for walks. So many walks. Pretty much 0 runs, but many walks. Learning things on the walks like where the geese land during migration every year, and the best place to see deer (behind the bowling alley, at dusk).
  • Working from a coworking place, only to have it shut down, and then another only to have it shut down. Driving an hour to work from another coworking spot which I loved.
  • Working from a restaurant for five hours and only ordering breadsticks, and not being able to remember the restaurant.
  • Learning that most places use their phone number as the wifi password.
  • Working four hours in the morning, then four hours after the sun went down, and having every afternoon off for a few months before I almost dropped dead from exhaustion.
  • Working from a sandwich shop a mile from my house and literally being their first customer ever (and later, one of their last)
  • Moving from working quietly and without human interaction at my local coffee shop to now seeing people I know there every time I go.
  • Converting a room into a nice office with standing desk, sitting desk, and then invisible desk.
  • Turning that room into a play room and using the top of a bookshelf in the corner of our bedroom as an office
  • Writing some code to show my daughter what I do and to help her with her math homework.
  • Signing for many UPS packages, monitoring many cable installers, plumbers, and Jehovah Witnesses.
I’m writing a book about successfully working from home; click here if you want to know when it is complete.

The False Dream of a Clear Path

I have this fantastical daydream that I entertain often: I get a week (or weekend) to myself and I am able to do all the work, all the projects, all the catching up that I want to do. Sometimes I go on a trip to achieve this, or maybe a blizzard has me stuck in some hotel room in the Midwest with nothing but Wifi and a computer. Perhaps all regular work stops and I am able to work on what I want to work on without financial pressure.

This fantasy is fed by stories that I hear about artists and writers who move to little cabins in New England to focus. Annie Dillard did all her work in a one room shack in the backyard of some small lovely town near Seattle; Harper Lee was given enough money to work on To Kill a Mockingbird for one year.

Whatever your exact conditions for dream productivity let me fill you in: this is a terrible, false dream. No real work has been created under ideal conditions. In fact, the more important the work the more obstacles you will face.

Any who have attempted bold things has felt this. Try doing something timeless like raising children, starting a diet, trying to help others – you will meet resistance on all sides.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
– Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

We are all full of excuses and awful stories of sick children, serious personal injury, our common time and energy constraints, and unexpected family crisis.

But we shouldn’t be surprised, we should be joyful, because when you meet resistance, when you feel those distractions this is when you know that the work that you are doing is important.

Raising kids is a direct spit into the overriding rule of disorder in the universe, and we will feel it push against us.

When we have troubles, we must expect them, push through them, and win. For we are doing higher work, and we have our own forces and must call upon them.

Bring Your Own Team

Now here is an interesting idea: front-loading an aquihire by hiring a functioning team rather that a single person. As many of us know developers travel in packs anyway (I have worked with many former colleagues at new places) so bringing on a pre-existing team is an interesting idea.

Some immediate thoughts:

  • Developers might travel in packs, but it is usually over time and not all at once.  If you imagine an entire team leaving a company this seems very disruptive; the entire idea makes more sense for people that have shifted to consulting but tend to still work with a core group.
  • Navigating the waters of interviewing people individually vs. as a group: do you do traditional “tell me about your resume” interviews (ugh) or have them do a pilot project as a team?
  • What do you do when you like half of the team? Once it is time to make the hire / no-hire you might find that one person doesn’t fit your expectations but is crucial to the overall team’s output.
  • On that subject the post mentions engineering being the main focus, but what non-code-writing roles will they end up hiring for?  Would the person to lead the team be a pre-existing Stripe team member?
  • Hiring an entire team means you could need work carved out for them already (this is hard apart from greenfield projects)
  • Maintaining your culture would be harder as they would have a stronger pull towards whatever team culture they have already built.

Interesting idea; and some interesting feedback on the Hacker New comments.