Social Media is a Highlight Reel

I’m not much of a professional sports fan, but I found this short post-game interview video this morning and thought it was on point and worth sharing. The interview goes on to focus around the importance of embracing failures but I wanted to focus on the first 20 seconds.

Your social media timelines and newsfeeds are “highlight reels” that don’t make you feel any better nor do they help you focus on the process vs. the goals. No one likes to post about their failures, so all you tend to see are “overnight successes” without any footage of the hard work and mistakes made behind the scenes. I’ve often found myself comparing my Stage 1 to someone else’s Stage 10 and assuming that I’m doing something wrong when I haven’t even put in any hard work.

I don’t regret my decision 6 months+ ago to install a Chrome Extension that blocked my Facebook Timeline on desktop. I’m not perfect, and I occasionally check the timeline on my mobile phone when I’m in a morning commute. As an extrovert, it’s a tough feeling to feel a bit disconnected to what’s going on in your friend’s lives.

The flip side is that it’s a great feeling to catch up with individuals and genuinely chat about life updates vs. secretly already knowing everything about their lives from social media posts.

Drastically cutting down social media usage has also helped me focus for longer periods of time without distraction and achieve deeper states of workflow. Try cutting down on your usage and see how it affects your productivity and your mental health.

Treat Yourself

For most of my life, I’ve tried to live a somewhat frugal and minimalist lifestyle, spending only on essential items.

Every now and then, I’ll re-evaluate what “essential” means to me and I’ll make a purchase outside of my normal spending habits, usually as a productivity experiment to see if the purchase will push my lifestyle to new heights. #treatyoself

Some of these purchases are used a few times and quickly discarded, while other purchases add such tremendous value to my life that I wonder why I hadn’t forked over the cash and bought that item much earlier.

As I grow older, I find that the category of value-add purchases tend to skew towards one of these 4 buckets: preserving health, making me smarter, saving time, or helping me get work done.

Even if these purchases are a bit pricier, the benefits they bring to my life over a long period of time tend to far outweigh the upfront costs.

Purchases that preserve my health:

  • Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar: This pull-up bar has an easy one-time assembly and having it available to insert over my door motivates me to get a couple pull-up reps in whenever I walk through my door. I’ve also started a mental tally of max pull-ups that I can accomplish and it’s a nice mini-goal to beat every day.
  • Yoga Mat: Every one has different yoga mat preferences but the important thing is just to get one. I use my mat all the time, whether for meditating or stretching.
  • TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller: I used to be sore after every workout and I constantly had to get massages in order to get knots out of my back. Spending a few minutes with this foam roller alleviates most of my back pain.
  • Duro-Med Relax-A-Bac Lower Back Support Pillow: Speaking of back pain, this is a one-time purchase that your lower back will thank you for your entire life, given how much we tend to sit at our desks (both at home and at work) with bad posture these days.
  • Coccyx Orthopedic Memory Foam Seat Cushion: This is the complementary purchase to above – this cushion helps prevent your butt from getting sore after extended periods of sitting. Grab both the above and this one if you can.
  • Casper Sleep Mattress: You spend half your life sleeping so you better make damn well sure that you’re getting great sleep. Casper is a company dedicated solely towards developing the best in class mattress. I’ve never slept better.
  • Superfeet Black Premium Insoles: If you walk or stand for a large portion of your day, grab these insoles to slip inside your shoes and your feet will feel tons better.
  • Zicam Cold Remedy Rapid Melts: This cold remedy is a godsend. One of my biggest life regrets is not discovering Zicam earlier – oh how many sick days I could have prevented. Whenever I’ve felt early signs of a cold or I already had a cold, taking Zicam was 100% guaranteed to kill that cold within the same or next day.
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: This book has helped preserve so much of my mental health over this past year. The book teaches you how to declutter, re-organize, and simplify your life. I guarantee you will feel both physically and mentally refreshed after you follow this book’s advice.
  • Jumpsport Fitness Mini Trampoline: I picked up this bad boy after learning about Tony Robbins’ routines. He jumps on his mini trampoline before he gets on stage in order to boost his energy. Every time I’m feeling down or antsy, I do a few rebounds on my trampoline and it gives me the exact endorphin boost I need.

Purchases that make me smarter:

  • Endless amounts of Kindle books: If I want to buy a Kindle book, I buy it with Amazon’s 1-click ordering and have it sent to my iPad, no questions asked. I love reading and I’ll never think that books are a waste of money (unless you hoard books and never finish them).
  • Apple iPad Mini 4: I talked about this in my last post but one of the best things I did in 2017 was get an iPad mini to carry around with me wherever I went so that any idle time such as commutes could be spent reading on the Kindle app vs. wasting time browsing social media on my phone.
  • Moleskine Classic Notebook: I used to be so cheap when it came to buying notebooks (old me: “why buy notebooks when I can use the back side of old printed papers!”) but now I carry a notebook and pen to every meeting so I can write down notes to reference later.

Purchases that save time:

  • Amazon Echo: Another one of my best purchases that I’ll never regret spending $200 for. This thing has paid off over and over again – buy 20 less cocktails in a month and use that money to buy this instead. Think of ALL the times you need to manually turn on / off your lights over your lifetime. Think of the times when you’re reading in bed and you’re falling asleep but you have to get up to turn off your bed light which causes you to feel awake again. Think of the times when you want to listen to the radio / music and you have to get up to play something from your laptop / phone. ALL of these tiny moments (yes I realize these all feel like #firstworldproblems) add up and take tons of mindshare. If you can automate all of these with simple phrases like “Alexa, lights off,” or “Alexa, play jazz” you’ll save hundreds of hours over your lifetime.
  • Extra iPhone chargers: Tired of constantly switching chargers between rooms whenever you need to charge your iPhone? Just fork over a bit of cash and buy a few extra iPhone chargers to leave around key rooms in your home. Similar to the Echo, this is one of those purchases that will save you a ton of time over a lifetime.

Purchases that help me get work done:

  • Lapgear Jumbo Lap Desk: How often have you brought your laptop to work in bed only to overheat your computer and burn your thighs after a prolonged period of time? I use this lap desk every time I want to finish up some work in bed or watch a movie.

There’s Never Enough Time

“Wow that’s really cool. I wish I could do _____ too but I just don’t have enough time.”

“How do you have time to work during the day and yet be so involved with _____? I’m so busy, I don’t know how you find the time”

“Oh yeah I definitely plan on doing more of _____ this year. I just need to clear up my schedule and make some time.”

I’ve made so many of these excuses over the past few years. Starting a new hobby? Not enough time. Working on a side project? Not enough time. Learning a new skill? Not enough time. Reading more books? Not enough time.

Speaking from first-hand experience and guilt, it’s so much easier to tell people you don’t have time vs. re-prioritizing your time and getting started towards building a habit.

In order to read more books this year, I’ve taken some great advice from a friend who mentioned that he carries around a Kindle everywhere he goes, so that any idle time (including commutes) can be spent reading books on his Kindle vs. browsing his smartphone.

Shoutout to Nikunj Kothari

Per his advice, I’ve been carrying around an iPad mini with the Kindle app installed (didn’t want to spend money buying a separate Kindle device) and I’ve started to re-prioritize all idle commute time towards reading.

In one week, I’ve managed to get through half of a book that normally might have taken me a month. The trade-off? Less time browsing e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram on my phone – things that don’t matter anyways in the long run.

If blocking off time during the day is too difficult for you, take some baby steps  like I did by thinking through time in your day that you’d normally spend on time-wasting / shallow activities and fill those moments with whatever you want to work on instead.

 

Personal Roadmap

Near the end of 2016, I promised myself that I would begin to write / blog more often. If not for myself, blogging would be a legacy I could leave for my children and for the rest of the world once I’m gone.

To start 2017, I’d like to discuss a personal roadmap planning template that I recently created after thinking through some of the cross-pollination I could bring over to the venture capital industry from my time as a product manager.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve always held lofty / ambitious personal and work goals but I’ve decided that in 2017, I want to focus on ‘Deep Work’ (to be expanded upon in a later post) and a part of this involves simplifying and minimizing the number of goals that I focus on every quarter. As a result, you’ll see that the themes I set for myself will be entirely work focused.

7 months ago, I started a new role as a Venture Associate at an early-stage Venture Capital firm, FundersClub. As with any new industry career move, I typically spend a great amount of time dissecting what it takes to become knowledgeable / the best. I aimed to do the same for Product Management (www.productmanagerhq.com) and I intend to do the same for Venture Capital.

In order to become the best, I’ve learned that it’s important to first deconstruct the qualities of the greatest in the industry. In my research, I created a digital ‘artifact’ (with some borrowed components from similar personal roadmaps that were created during my time as a PM) which has became the basis of my current personal roadmap.

If you are a product person or someone with product management process experience, you’ll undoubtedly recognize some of this but I’ve opted to keep this significantly simpler.

Personal Roadmap

Example of 2017 Personal Roadmap

I’ve listed the overarching 2017 theme at the top of the Google spreadsheet, as well as the specific components of that theme that I’d like to focus on for Q1 of 2017.

Given that my overarching theme is to ‘Become a Better VC’, I’ve broken out the qualities of great VCs (created through independent research as well as validating the list through some of the best VCs I know) into 5 separate buckets.

By breaking down the individual detailed components of the qualities that make up great VCs, I’ve codified and created actionable targets for myself that I can more objectively achieve.

Secondly, to better focus my actions this quarter, I decided to focus Q1 goals on developing specific qualities within this larger list, specifically:

  1. Developing a personal brand (somewhat exemplified through this blog)
  2. Understanding core venture concepts (i.e. venture finance / legal)

At the end of each quarter, I’ll be able to go back to fill out the rows in this sheet that tied to my quarterly goals: specifically outlining achievements that demonstrated mastery, areas to improve, ideas for next steps, rating myself quantitatively, and seeking an external party to rate me quantitatively (ideally someone on my venture team).

Sprint Planning

The second part of this roadmap involves quarterly sprint planning, where you break out your quarterly theme into actionable ‘sprint tasks.’

Example of quarterly sprint planning

Whereas your personal roadmap may guide you in the right overarching direction, this sprint planning doc tactically lays out the individual behaviors you need to be completing in order to hit your quarterly goal(s).

In this example screenshot, becoming a better VC may involve individual sprint tasks of blogging more & doing more research on specific topics in order to blog / speak about them.

I’ve also linked this doc back to my original personal roadmap spreadsheet for quick reference.

My hope is that laying out my documentation / thought process here will guide you in establishing your own personal roadmap as well as sprint planning every quarter. As with most things in life, this is an ongoing experiment and I will probably need to update this process over time but I’m excited to see how it goes.

You can try making your own copies with these template links below (click ‘File’ -> ‘Make a Copy’)

Part 1: Personal Roadmap Template

Part 2: Quarterly Sprint Planning Template

 

Credits to John Saddington for inspiring me to teach everything I know and publish this post.