The real reason why I’m building Holopod is so that I can help every individual design their ideal work day.
This is important to me because I’ve always struggled with consistent productivity.
I’ll have days and weeks of high output, and weeks where I just can’t seem to break through the noise. The world works against focus - Tweets, news, texts, notifications are just the start. Working from home adds another layer of complications - kids, spouses, pets, and the laptop always being a minute away.
Here’s what has worked for me. It’s not a productivity system, it’s not a time management system - it’s building the dataset that helps me figure out how to create an environment that maximizes positive work energy.
Typically, I wake up around 7am because my puppy is licking my face.
I’m often nocturnal, and work late into the night (or wake up in the middle of the night to write down some new ideas). I’d prefer to sleep, but have stopped worrying about it. The solution (that also helps me sleep) is to deliberately not have anything scheduled before 11am.
I try to block off my calendar from 8am to 11am for that flexible time. I obviously make exceptions for important customer or investor calls.
Some mornings, I start work right away and get focused work done.
Sometimes I take my time - walk the dog, go get a coffee, listen to a podcast.
I try to let my energy dictate the mornings. If I’m feeling the inspiration, I’ll create something. If I’m feeling burnt out, I’ll do what I can to get into a productive mindset.
Sometimes it’s as easy as a 10 minute workout and a few pages of a book. Sometimes it’s picking off a boring task and just getting it done.
The Holopod team is distributed, and my team chooses their own hours.
Wednesdays are blocked off for no meetings.
This is focused work day, and sometimes Whistler powder day. I truly encourage my team to take days off if the surf, snow, or mountains are good and there’s no urgent deadline. The beauty of the internet is that even if you get a full ski day in, you can be back at your desk by 4pm and work until midnight.
Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouniard of Patagonia is one of my favorite business books. Patagonia was way before it’s time - they built a remarkable culture of trust, exceptional product quality, and fun. That’s the kind of organization I aim to build.
Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays I block off 8am - 11am for focus time, and leave 11am to 5pm open for Zoom calls.
I use calendly to schedule those calls.
These are typically with Holopod customers, sales calls, and spontaneous calls with my team.
We coordinate our spontaneous calls through Holopod, by signalling with the “Co-working” status. I also block off 30 minutes for lunch every day.
Thursdays are when we have our weekly team meetings - stacked up from 8am to 11am.
Fridays are currently open, but I expect when the organization grows we will add some more social team events like lightning talks, demo days, or spontaneous hangouts.
We use Slack for asynchronous communication - posting updates via Loom or text. Random ideas are shared whenever inspiration strikes, and we encourage folks to post pictures of anything cool they’ve been up to. There is no response time expectations for anything on Slack, unless something is truly urgent. In that case we’ll use any means necessary to get ahold of the appropriate person. Ideally, nothing is urgent.
Energy management over time management
I believe in energy management over time management.
Managing your time is great, and useful. But managing your energy is far more powerful. I’m looking to create an environment that enables exceptional work. I don’t think exceptional work is done while stressed, tired, bored, or annoyed.
There are a few ways that I manage my energy.
Using Holopod to block off focus time.
I schedule focus time in my calendar, 4 days a week from 8am till 11am. I keep the 11am-12pm slot open for EST calls, and then block off a 1 hour lunch. I am transparent with my team when I’m taking a coffee break, going for a walk, or exercising during typical “working hours.” I encourage everyone to do what they need to get their best work done.
Often, a 15 minute break can save you hours of lost time. When I catch myself aimlessly scrolling Twitter, I switch my status to “coffee break” and go do something off-screen for 15 minutes. This habit alone saves me hours a day.
Conversations/threads with my peers
I’m lucky to have a group of friends also running (much larger) companies than mine, within close proximity. I try to have lunch or go for a run with my friends 2x week - these conversations are so important to my own mental health - running a startup ain’t easy, and it’s way harder to do it alone.
I need to exercise daily. 100%, no excuses, full-stop. I’ve been an athlete my whole life, and am a shell of a human being if I haven’t got my heart rate up every day. For short workouts, I use Zwift or a random “10 minute abs” youtube video. For longer workouts I mountain bike, cycle, or play squash. I encourage everyone on my team to find a sport they love, and tell the team when they’re doing it!
Eating healthy (mostly veggies and meat), minimizing caffeine, and not drinking alcohol during the week are easy wins. We aim to bake these habits into the organization, but also create the freedom for every individual to figure out what works for them. Introverts might not want to talk to other team members that often - and that’s ok. Some people might be happier
Holopod daily reporting
Our daily reporting is trying to help create that data set for the individual - helping you figure out what makes a great day, and how to have more great days.
Is this possible for every organization?
Probably not, but I think it’s more realistic than you might think. As we move to a remote-first world, a few things will change. Some of the best people will value freedom and flexibility more than salary.
Put another way, if you can’t compete on price (which is really hard with Google, Facebook, and Netflix looming) - organizations will need to find other ways to create an environment for exceptionally talented people. Hiring average performers because they’ll take a lower salary and be ok with a rigid structure and long hours is one option. I think it’s a bad one.
Creating an environment that allows top performers to design their ideal day is a better strategy. There are many great people who are burnt out from traditional tech jobs, and want a more fluid work day. Maybe they have a family they want to spend more time with, a surfing addiction, or are taking care of their elderly parents. If you can design an organization that allows work to fit in with life, you can compete for these exceptional people with something way more powerful than salary - autonomy. I believe the output will be better in the long run.