Grounded & Steadfast

est. 2008

In a similar vein to Cal Newport’s 99u talk, Brianna West makes the case that focusing on what you love is misguided. The problem at the heart of this issue?

People usually can’t differentiate what they really love and what they love the idea of.

And this leads to:

Premeditating what we think we’d love to do without actually being in the thick of it is the beginning of the problem, and having too much ego to scrap it and start over is the end.

She finishes the article by focusing on how one should look for ways to give. And that’s a great point, one worthy of its own focus. But I’d like to highlight one other aspect of this topic. Wiest makes the following statement before turning to the idea of what you have to give:

There is only finding a job that suits you enough that the work doesn’t feel excruciating. There is only finding what you are skilled at, and then learning to be thankful.

I’d suggest that is one way to approach it. But there is also the idea of working on what you're good at, then that thing becoming something you love. Or, as you get good at something, the passion grows. Through focus and time and effort (as Newport calls it, deliberate practice), you can grow to love certain tasks.

An example for myself is gardening. I hated spending time out there as a kid, helping my mom weed. Now, I’ll relish my lunch breaks when I can go out my back door and putter around, pulling weeds, getting my hands dirty, and cultivating food for our family.

We change over time, so there’s always a chance that what we start doing is what we end up wanting to do long term.

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Is Calendar Based Productivity a Fad?

You may have heard these terms of late: zero based calendaring or time blocking. This latest trend is being touted by a lot of smart people (and I've shared a good number of links on the subject). What is it exactly?

It’s the practice of breaking the day into evenly spaced increments and then filling each and every one.

Why is this becoming such a repeated theme? Because as the Internet continues to expand and grow and absorb, one hard fact is becoming clear to the public conscience: time is our most precious resource. And zero based calendaring is one method that addresses this reality and attempts to help you make the most of the time you have.

Here are a few examples of people preaching this type of approach:

Now, not everyone will go so far as to schedule out every minute of every day. Other people have made the same realization about time, and have started to treat their calendars differently. But not to the point of planning each minute.

Instead, they are treating the calendar as a place to put the priorities of their life. The big tasks. The things that move their life forward in the direction they desire. Drew Coffman shares his take on this topic.

As with anything online, there are those who oppose the opinion being voiced. Ben Brooks is one such. He says:

Time boxing — setting aside chunks of your day for a specific category of work — is one thing, and while it doesn’t work for me, the purpose is noble. But planning each task on your calendar only works for the few people who have complete control over their schedules — otherwise life (kids, bosses, spouses, coworkers, pooping, etc.) gets in your way … I think this trend is stupid, and your time is far better spent learning how to stop procrastinating than it is planning out every waking minute of your day.

Ben’s point is understandable, but I think he slightly misunderstands the point. Plenty of people keep a running list of tasks (categorized and structured in various different ways) and accomplish much. But I believe the problem that has been defined and shared in different articles does require a solution.

The problem? Treating your task management system like a wish list without proper consideration of your most precious resource (time).

The approaches that people are sharing promote one key concept: use your calendar as a visual aid to remind yourself that the amount of time limits the amount of tasks that can be accomplished. In other words, to plan better. Your to-do list captures your desires, but the solution many are suggesting is to use your calendar to capture your realistic intentions.

The next level up would be what the folks behind the SELF Journal call zero based calendaring (aka time blocking). The idea here is to fill all your time with something, to be as intentional as possible. Including recreation, rest, and time to simply think.

Cal Newport practices this approach on the daily level and talks about it in Deep Work. Matt Perman recommends the same in What's Best Next, but on the weekly level instead of daily. That is the Shawn Blanc suggests in The Focus Course.

In the end, people work differently … so none of these ideas will please or suit everyone. But the vital concept to take away is to map that gigantic list of ideas and tasks to the reality of your life.

To be intentional with the time.

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I talk a lot about customer success here, and that will likely only increase over time. It’s what I focus on every day, after all. If you're new to the “field” or are curious of what it entails, this guide from Lincoln Murphy is a great place to start.

It’s a longer piece of writing and covers his definition of customer success, several tangential thoughts about what it is and isn’t, then he gets to the practical. The end of the guide is broken into a list that covers “the role of customer success” in various activities of a business. How does customer success play a role:

  • customer development
  • technical support
  • customer and user onboarding

And on it goes. This is the part of the guide that I’ll refer to from time to time. Whenever I’ve been in the weeds, deep in the details of a given initiative, I’ll come up for air and start thinking strategy at a higher level. Then I’ll review this list and ask myself where our team could focus next.

I don’t agree with all of Murphy’s ideas (he focuses a lot on the sales/renewals aspects of SaaS), but this is a helpful resource for anyone who works in (or wants to work in) customer success.

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How Many Solopreneurs Can a Healthy Economy Support?

If the early web was all about sharing and connecting (first with blogs, then with social media), the adolescent sure seems to be all about “going out on your own”. It seems like everyone and their dog wants to start their own business and call their own shots. Entire businesses have sprung up to help people do just this.

And I’m not knocking that; I’ve done it myself. I’ve been in jobs where I was less than satisfied and there was this big ol’ internet encouraging me to start something on the side, so I could make it into my full time gig. And there are no ends of smart people doing crazy things to earn a living, finding what they’re passionate about and turning it into an income.

But I wonder if there’s a dark side to this as well.

For one, working a full time job and doing your own thing on your side is a serious commitment. It’s very doable for young people with little to no family to support, but it’s a bigger deal for folks raising children. And what about community involvement? Internet based side gigs often have community, but it’s not often the face to face kind.

And most important, I wonder about a state of general discontentment. If the moment your full time job becomes less appealing, a little dreary, or starts to feel like a chore, should you go looking for your own thing? Is there no value in perfecting the craft you're already a part of? I think there’s something to be said for working at enjoying your job, even when you don’t feel like it.

There’s no right or wrong here. People like Justin and the folks at Fizzle are crazy talented and I love their work (I’ve only recently gotten into the Fizzle podcast, but dang … Chase and Corbett are top notch). If you feel a burning itch that needs to be scratched, these are the type of people to pay attention to.

But count the cost. Burnout is a serious reality for people trying to juggle two professional focuses at once. And there’s nothing wrong with working towards someone else’s bottom line, if they treat you well and enable you to do your best work.

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I’ve resisted the idea that tasks should be added to your calendar. Something of a purist in me rejects the idea, but it may be that I’m coming around. Shane Parrish makes the case for the practice.

He starts with bravado:

SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DON’T MAKE TO-DO LISTS.

His solution:

The real value in life comes from saying no. To help you say no you need some friction. The solution to the to-do list problem is actually pretty simple. You have to make one change: schedule it.

Anything you want to do, put it in your calendar. I’m not fully onboard with this yet, but I do appreciate the purpose.

Being more productive isn’t always about doing more, it’s about being more conscious about what you work on and putting your energy into the two or three things that will really make a difference.

Sounds familiar. Shawn Blanc routes the same concept in The Focus Course:

A schedule is meant to be a framework for how you intend to spend your time. It’s for helping you make sure you’re spending meaningful and consistent energy on the things of your work, life, relationships, and health that matter most to you.

This idea is growing on me. Not all tasks fit in the calendar, but some deserve that kind of investment.

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Austin Kleon shares how he and wife try to cultivate a space and a time where one can get away from the world.

Kids, jobs, sleep, and a thousand other things will get in the way, but we have to find our own sacred space, our own sacred time.

I give this a hearty, “Amen!” As one who values some daily time away from all the activity and people of my life, I appreciate the idea. And I can understand the need for both a space and time. Oddly enough, I appreciate both.

During the workday, I appreciate the space, my office. It allows me to separate from the goings-on of our busy house of 6. But then, my digital space is crowded and busy as well. So I also enjoy my early morning or late evening times of reading, writing, and pondering (I’ve long been an early riser, but as the children get older and bed times get later, I find myself switching to the evening … which has the added benefit of less noise in my digital spaces).

The entire concept also fits well with Jack Cheng’s Habit Fields. Although my main workspace is down in my office, our family computer is where I tend to work when the house is quiet. It’s where I do most of my writing. It’s the same basic device in both locations, but the activities that take place tend to be different. One is more hectic, then other peaceful.

My bliss station — I like that.

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