Discover more from Oleksii Sidorov
Overwhelming insignificance of things, or how I'm going to accomplish more by doing less
New Year's resolutions are for losers, I just happened to have time to make a step back and reflect on my life during the holidays.
The way I worked in 2022 can be described in two words: “till exhaustion”. I took a lot of responsibility, worked long hours without weekends, and put in an abnormal effort to sprint through the marathon while all the time I was running on a treadmill. I can’t say I produced no results, but I definitely produced less than I put in, and that’s exactly the opposite of how I want to work.
My work style became unsustainable and needs to be changed.
I had to take long breaks during the year at critical points to recover, and during the last of such breaks I had a chance to rest, think about my work style, read smart books, and listen to podcasts, which would inspire my thinking.
My path to a more productive and happy life
1. Cut the noise and leave only essential
My daily life is anything but boring. There is no problem of thinking what to do because there is always an abundance of things to do! Trying to be opportunistic and respectful to other people I participate in discussions, answer all the comments and DMs, read large chats, meet people offline, try to follow the news and newsletters, post content, take meetings, and do gazillion of other things, that feel productive (because I accomplished something I couldn’t ignore) but that hardly move the needle on the actual progress.
Generalizing, I’ve been very hungry for opportunities and staying up-to-date with the world, which is clearly an illusory goal. At some point this year I made a good decision to stop following the news, unsubscribe from newsletters that I didn’t read, and quit some groups.
I never looked back.
Most of the information and connections will never be useful. There may be occasional opportunities I miss, but they are never worth all the actually important things I have to sacrifice instead. And most importantly, it comes at the price of the ability to focus, rest well, and think deeply about my highest-priority tasks.
Catching opportunities instead of focusing on predictive work is like investing in lottery tickets instead of buying stocks.
In order to take the noise in my life under control I will need to say “no” to a lot of things, except the things that directly help me to advance on my goals:
No political news—this is the easiest and surest thing to cut, and never think about it again. The niche industry and tech news that I need can be organized in one block to consume without interfering with other activities.
No social network consumption including LinkedIn with its illusory importance. Since I stopped following my LI feed, I might miss out on some news or career changes, but can quickly catch up on it at the individual level when the time comes.
No DMs from people I don’t know (all new messages in TG from now on go to the archive). Most of them are asks for favors and potential new connections that I’ll have to turn down for the sake of focusing on close relationships and my immediate goals. Thank you for your understanding.
No “potentially useful content” like reading about legal structures or product-market fit when my focus is to hire one person and make 3 sales. Such content feels super useful while actually being marginally better than solving the problems ad hoc, as they arrive.
No active participation in communities/chats of accelerators’ alumni or just “founders”. They are an addictive example of “potentially useful content” mixed with social engagement. The best examples of such chats that I know work ad hoc—any time a member can ask a particular question and get an answer, while the rest of the time the chat is silent.
No comments for my writing in the TG channel (and potentially here, if I find how to disable them). I tried it, they can be nice and supportive, but more often than not people would try to challenge you, or ask for extra information, satisfying their personal interests which is not the goal of my writing.
No any other inbound asks, offers, or opportunities. Once you start doing it you see that despite FOMO, very few of them are actually in your interest, and you don’t miss out on anything by avoiding them completely.
Bonus: no noisy people. I don’t have a tendency to stick to new people unless I explicitly want to, but if you got a bunch of social weight that doesn’t help you live a better life—you know what to do with it 🔫
2. Shift my approach to work from “hard” to “easy”
I’ve been raised as a diligent student for whom the simple way would be to follow instructions and do what has to be done, and avoid the risk of hustle and failure while trying to come up with a creative workaround. Ultimately, it’s not just me, our global educational system engraves it in kids as they grow up. As the result, I approach the problems directly and expect outcomes linearly proportional to my efforts.
Does it worth saying that it’s far from how the world works?
Add perfectionism to it and you get an unemotional working machine. I know it, because it’s me.
Paradoxically, being occupied with linear dumb work eliminates the opportunity to take time to rest and come up with more efficient unorthodox solutions, seizing you in this dumb-effort loop.
Here are the memos, which I hope will help me to break out of it:
When approaching a task, think “how do I overcomplicate it?” and “what if it would be easy?”. The goal is not to break the matrix, but to distill the essence of the task from self-imposed requirements.
Never start with brute force. Think of unobvious ways to get close to the solution with a much lesser amount of effort.
Eliminate linear work that produces 1:1 results. If it’s repetitive—we say bye-bye to it.
Moderate my efforts by putting the upper boundary on my work expectations. It’s very counterintuitive not to try to maximize the result, especially when you can do it, but a slower steady pace is proven to bring you further long-term than occasional sprinting.
3. Take control of my time
Another thing I noticed over time is how chaotic my days are. One time I may be running like a headless chicken from one task to another, responding to inbound inquiries and feeling super busy, while not doing anything substantial, and the other time, I may wake up late, start wondering if I want to go out to eat, and procrastinate by my phone not being able to decide where. It feels like I don’t have control over my own time, and it hurts both, my work and my rest. Hence, I came up with a set of rules, in limitation of which I expect to find my liberation:
Keep a sleeping schedule. I used to have it back in school and know that it works like magic—you fall asleep and wake up effortlessly by your inner clock while being fully rested.
Set a block in the middle of the day to rest. Within it, pick at least an hour-long slot to spend without a phone or a laptop, doing literally anything (or nothing) and being alone with my thoughts. This is by far the most important change I want to try. There is enough evidence for its effectiveness, but it sounds a bit impossible, not gonna lie.
Move all my correspondence (aka emails) to one slot in the morning. So they don’t trigger me at random times when they arrive. Bonus hack: create a filter for newsletters, so they don’t even appear in the inbox, but can be aggregated and read in free time.
Keep meetings within separate slots. Again, doubtful how strict it’s going to be, but what I am confident about, is that other people are like gas—they’ll fill any space you let them take, so having fewer potential slots in reasonable hours shouldn’t be a dealbreaker, and will help me to preserve sanity.
Oh well, now it looks even more like New Year’s resolution, but I swear, it wasn’t a goal. Just that life becoming more difficult and I need to adapt my lifestyle to survive.
Honorable mention: things I didn’t mention because I already got them right
Physical activity—super important for high-intensity mental work and should have allocated a separate slot just as rest. I already work out daily (I hate it), so now just need to preserve the habit.
Logistics—any transportation of your body is tiring, distracting, and wastes an enormous amount of time. Since the summer, when I spent a few months nomading around, I realized that I don’t have the luxury of spending 1 out of 4 weeks a month for logistics and settling, and since then been happily grounded in Budapest with my environment helping me to save the time and not taking it away from me.
Bad habits—IYKYK, I’m not your mom.
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