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Category Archives: Getting Things Done

Why I will never work more than 40 hours a week

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In today’s society being a workaholic is esteemed. People that burn the midnight oil to get a project done wear their accomplishment as a badge of honor, but is it really an accomplishment? How is working MORE something we should aspire to? If you are putting in more hours at the office you are putting in less time with family, friends, and exercising. Something we all need to stay healthy.

Now let me clarify this. I’m not saying I NEVER work more than 40 hours a week, because there are certainly times where that is necessary, but it’s not the norm. Family, friends, and life are far more important than any amount of work you can do at the office, or building a business, even if that project can cure cancer. Time spent working comes at a cost, many times that is neglected relationships and/or personal health. Below are eight reasons why I chose not to overwork myself, in pictures.

 

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Camping

My daughter Abby at 8 months.

 Weekend rock climbing trips with my wife and daughter.

 

Town Lake - Austtin

Town Lake from the Lamar St. pedestrian bridge.

Running Town Lake with my daughter. Every other weekend we go on an 11 mile run around the lake.

Galveston Sea Wall Biking

Family biking weekend along the Galveston Sea Wall

 Weekend bike rides at the beach with my wife and daughter.

 

Fun photo at a friend's wedding.

Fun photo at a friend’s wedding.

 Date nights with my wife.

 

Baby Swing

Abby, enjoying the swing. Once she’s in, it’s hard to get her out.

Play time with my daughter.

 

Cactus Rose Ultramarathon

45.5 miles into a 50 mile race, and happy as a clam! Had I been working too much I wouldn’t have been able to train for this race, TWICE!

 Trail races, by myself, and sometimes with family.

 

Kristy and at Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Kristy and at Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Breathtaking views of the mountains.

 

Day of the Dead Festival that we randomly stumbled into during a family walk.

Day of the Dead Festival that we randomly stumbled into during a family walk.

Impromptu , family fun times.

Even if you don’t have a family; overworking only causes you stress and to miss out on more important things in life – people! Even if you do something for a living that you absolutely love (like myself), burning the midnight oil just to grow faster or get ahead always comes at a cost.

If you struggle to get lots done in an eight hour day I would suggest trying the KanBan system for prioritizing and organizing work. Since implementing this system my productivity has gone up significantly, thus leaving me more time to spend with family and do other things I love.

Personal KanBan a visual way to manage work

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I’m addicted to Evernote to some extent. I use it as a mind dump. I use it to manage my massive to-do list, take meeting notes, record receipts, track mileage, and store important information that I need to access frequently. It has many uses, but recently I have realized it fails in the way I need it most…managing my to-do list, and this is by far the most important need.

About two weeks ago I was so overwhelmed with my LIST, that it crippled me from moving forward. I couldn’t even figure out where to begin. But, a week ago  I met my saving grace, and was introduced to Personal KanBan. Personal KanBan is a way to visualize and complete work. It moves beyond the typical to-do list and allows you to see everything going on at once.

My biggest hang up with my LIST was that even if something was in limbo, or I was waiting on somebody to finish something before moving forward, it remained in the list, so it looked enormously huge, even though I was actually making progress on many of my tasks.

KanBan basically utilizes a horizontal and vertical column system to visualize work flow. For example, my Personal KanBan has 6 columns that work flows through: To-Do, Ready, Today, Waiting, In Progress, and Done (within this column I break it into horizontal columns by day).

Personal KanBan

My Personal KanBan at Bearded Brothers.

To-Do: Obviously, this is my list of stuff to get done
Ready: This represents the things I plan on working next, or things that are not, “future projects”, they are tasks ready to be worked on in the very near future
Today: Represents what I need to get done that day.
Waiting: Represents tasks I have started working on, but am awaiting a response to move forward, or waiting on somebody else to finish another piece of the puzzle.
In Progress: Simply means I have started the project, and I am the one responsible for completing it and need to take further action.
Done: Means I have completed that task and no longer have to worry about it.

The system is amazing. I have never been so excited about a way to mange my work before. The only other methods I have seen prior to this were variations of the typical task list…just version 2.0 of Overwhelming.

I have only been using the system for a week now, and already feel way less overwhelmed, and I have an excellent grasp of everything going on. I’m going home at night with less stress; I don’t have my list swirling around in my head because I know exactly what I need to do.

I also plan on using it with my team at Bearded Brothers to manage projects and work flow. Since it’s column based the columns can be used to represent different stages of a typical workflow, and the project moves through the columns until it reaches completion, thus allowing you to track its progress and always know what the status is at any given point in time.

The best part about this system is that it helps you become more efficient in your work. As you use the system you will start to see where things are getting bogged down. For example; at the start of my week I had nothing in the “In Progress” category, but within a few days I had five tasks sitting in there, I also had 5 tasks in the waiting column. This lets me know I have a lot of things I need to follow up on, and possibly need to be more diligent in following up with people and/or making sure I’m doing everything I can to move projects forward. It will also give you a realistic idea of how much you can complete in a given day, how long projects typically take, and it will help you determine high vs, low value tasks.

I’m really excited about continuing to use this system and eventually adopting the digital version of my large physical KanBan, so I can work from anywhere. I have been making an effort this last week to work in the office every day so I can get a better feel for what KanBan is really all about, and I have honestly enjoyed taking my PostIt Notes, placing them on the wall, and moving them through the various columns until completion.

Here are a few more resources for Personal KanBan. I also wanted to say thanks to Gerry, our Couch Surfing guest from Canada that recently stayed with us and introduced me to this system.

Personal KanBan – Visualize Learn Improve
Blog post on Nomad8 – Also sells small physical KanBan boards
Lean Kit – The digital version of a physical KanBan baord

Take a break for crying out loud

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I’ve never understood the workaholic mentality. It’s though working 50-70 hours a weeks is a badge of honor for some people, but I see it as misplaced priorities. Even if you love what you do for a living, truly love it, nobody should be working that much on a regular basis. There is a time and maybe even a season for it, but it should never be the norm.

Everybody needs time off from work to rejuvenate, recuperate, and refresh (RR&R) the mind. We all need a bit of RR&R. The frequency in which we need RR&R may be different for everybody, but we all need it! Vayner Media is known for it’s unlimited vacation days policy because they know that everybody has different needs in terms of RR&R. One person might only need a total of one week off a year to get the rest the need from work, others might require 3-4.

If you are not used to this mindset you might see it as sucking away productive time, but I would venture to say you are likely to have more productive hours if you get plenty of RR&R, or rather just the right amount. It’s not a system to be abused, it’s put there in order to make team members more productive, not less. Burn out will only lead to frustration and lower productivity, but if a person is given the ability to re-charge and refresh as needed, they are going to have more productive hours when they are at work.

All this to say, taking some time off is good! This past weekend after a trade show in Las Vegas I stayed an extra day so I could get some rock climbing in at Red Rocks Canyon. It was just the refreshment I needed after a very busy month. For me, breathing mountain air soothes the soul, calms the nerves, and helps me rejuvenate so I can get more done, and I didn’t feel the least bit guilty for taking an extra day for myself.

Here are a few photos from my day on the rock:

Summit of Solar Slab in Red Rocks Canyon.

Summit of Solar Slab in Red Rocks Canyon.

 

About half way up Solar Slab, pitch 3 or 4 in climbers terminology.

About half way up Solar Slab, pitch 3 or 4 in climbers terminology.

 

Climbing high!

Climbing high!

 

Moon Rise in Red Rocks Canyon

Moon Rise in Red Rocks Canyon

Text messaging is the key to quick, effective communication

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I’m only 34 years old, but most of my team is about 10 years younger than I am. The generation gap is bigger than you might think. I’ve been using an iPhone for over four years now, and cell phones since college. You would think texting was one of my primary forms of communication. I might have thought it was, but in reality it wasn’t.

Verbal communication and detailed emails were still my go-to forms off communication.  I was horrified when I began to have team members text me questions, or even worse, text me when they were “calling” in sick. That sort of communication was never acceptable in my previous job, nor was it acceptable in my mind, but over time I began to embrace the text message. Although I still don’t allow my team to call in sick over text. That still warrants a phone call.

Here is why I’ve decided to succumb to the generation gap and embrace texting:

  1. Texting is quick and easy. It takes seconds to send a text, versus a few minutes to draft an unnecessarily wordy email…. texting is to the point!
  2. It’s timely. Lets say you need a quick response to a simple question. A text is more likely to get a quicker response than email, as not everybody is sitting in front of his or her email all day.
  3. Less distracting. Lets say I’m in the middle of a project and I randomly think of a question I need to ask a team member. I can quickly fire off a text without diverting my attention away from the task at hand for very long. If I open my email, I’m more likely to get distracted by other emails. Texting takes away less of my attention from the important tasks at hand.
  4. Like email it allows people to respond when they are available. For example, one of my team members drives around town dropping off orders. I would much rather send her a text with a question that she can respond to at a delivery drop, rather than call her and distract her from what she is doing: either talking to a customer or driving to the next location. Plus I will get a quicker reply than sending an email.

What it all boils down to is quick, easy, effective communication. Simple questions, call for simple answers, which can easily be transmitted through a text message. Plus, this form of communication is becoming more widely accepted and has become an alternative of sorts to email. So, if you are struggling to accept text messaging as an effective way to communicate, I think it’s time to give in.

Disclaimer: I believe texting should be left to friends and team members (and the occasional client). I would never text a vendor asking, “where is my order?” There are certainly situations that are not acceptable for texting.

Strategic planning in Arkansas

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Relaxing in a Kammok Hammock!

Relaxing in a Kammok Hammock!

After reading a recent post on A VC about strategic planning, I realized this was something we haven’t done much of since starting Bearded Brothers. Sure, we had a general mission. We knew the general direction we were going, but we had no timelines set for those, and had never discussed the how.

I had asked Fred (of A VC) in the comments of his blog what he would suggest for a startup like us that is “too busy” to take time for these meetings. His suggestion was to just take a weekend retreat and spend time hashing things out. So, we did just that.

Chris and I also thought it would be a good opportunity to spend time together not just as business partners, but also as friends and to relax a bit. Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas was our destination of choice. We chose this because it offered Rock Climbing (my favorite activity) and Disc Golf (Chris’ favorite activity).

We spent our mornings doing activities, and our afternoons and evenings discussing the business. We not only got to have a bit of fun and escape the grind, but we also got a lot done in terms of planning the future of the company. The 10 hour drive from Austin was especially beneficial for this.

In some ways our trip was a parallel to our journey with Bearded Brothers. Our first day there, the weather didn’t cooperate. The plan was to go climbing, but rain was keeping that from happening, so we decided to go on a hike instead along the Buffalo National River. The result was discovering a 50ft triple spring fed waterfall! Pictures, and video of this can be found on our Instagram feeds: Caleb SimpsonBearded Brothers.

This was something we would have never seen if something hadn’t gone wrong. Similarly, throughout our growth when things have seemingly gone wrong, we are inevitably led to a waterfall. For example, we have been in several different kitchen spaces since we started, all of which were affordable and accommodating at the time. But, with every space something would go wrong that lead to us having to find a new space. Each time this happened we had to go through the frustrating experience of finding (very hard to find) kitchen space in Austin and repeat the required health inspection processes. But at the end of each hike, it ended up leading us to a waterfall – a new bigger space that accommodated our growth. Our latest move is to our very own 7,500 square foot production facility/office!

We also left our trip refreshed and recharged – ready to get back to the work of growing our business! I highly recommend startups invest time in strategic planning. But at the same time be careful not to turn this into a business plan, which I feel is not worth anybody’s time. The clarity you will gain from these meetings is amazing! Strategic planning will give you clarity of mind and help you set goals, which gives your business something tangible to shoot for rather than driving around aimlessly.