GSD: The Maker’s Schedule for the CEO?

We’re a couple years into our “startup” journey with Fahren and, oh man, am I learning a lot about how NOT to manage my schedule. But, I think there might be a better way.

While I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do in our short time, I’m one of those guys that can’t stop thinking about how to do more and do it better. As the CEO/Founder, it’s my responsibility to make sure we’re on track and driving this whole thing forward. It’s humbling to say it, but “clock management”- my time management skills (or lack thereof) – might be one of the things that is creating drag for us. If we want to accelerate, I have to be better at GSD.

My whole career has been an attempt to excel in what Paul Graham calls the “manager schedule”. Its been a schedule designed around 1-2 hour meetings, lot’s of variety throughout the day, and, a blend between quick decisions and deep consideration. Successful managers and directors and VPs were the busy ones, stacked up in meeting. A day full of meetings typically indicated more busy-ness and, by the power of the transitive property, more busy-ness meant “success”. In other words, a typical workday in corporate America is mixed bag of start/stop, high and low pressure, inefficiency. In those days, I had to come into work at 5 AM to get my “deep work” done in the quiet hours before the meetings started. It was a weird schedule, but, I was pretty good at that.

The team at GoKart Labs (RIP) were super talented makers, some of the best, most creative folks I’ve ever worked with. There, I learned the importance of the “Maker” schedule, where the focus was on the deep work that resulted in smart, clever solutions to gnarly problems, whether it was technical, creative or product strategy. I understood (and still do) the problem of context switching, and the lost creative momentum and productivity that happens when you are on the hook to make something great, but your day is broken up into 1 hour meetings. Back then, because I was a manager at the time, that was sort of a theoretical problem. Now the shit is real to me.

At Fahren, we’re building the business and, as the CEO/Founder, I’m a both a manager and builder, too. I’m a maker of things: Proposals, strategies, concepts, blog posts, etc. I’m supposed to be both a doer while I work “on” the business (i.e. figure out our healthcare plan options, pick some software for X), a doer while I work “in” the business (e.g. work on client engagements) and a maker (of ideas, posts, industry analysis etc). I’ve been trying to do all of it on a “Managers” schedule and it’s not working especially well. I have to make some changes, fast.

This isn’t an unexplored dilemma. These days, we’re all dealing with it to some extent. But, it’s one thing when your clock management skills get in your own way, and another when your lack of skills is holding back the rest of your team. Managing the balance between the two types of work is, I believe, a critical skill that any “ready” leader needs to hone. So, I’m going to try a couple adjustments.

  • Workshop Mornings – I’m going to pick at least one morning a week to block off as my “workshop” time, where I can focus on doing the deep work: writing, researching, planning, etc.
  • Meet and Greet Blocks – I’m going to block off a couple afternoons a week for the kind of meetings that would otherwise get interspersed throughout my schedule: Intro meetings, interviews, sales calls, regroups, etc.
  • Office Hours – I’m going to leave my schedule open for a 2-3 hours each week for random, drive-by talks. If folks call or want to video conference, these would be the time slots to do it.
  • No Meeting Fridays – I’m going to try (really hard) to not schedule meetings on Fridays if I can help it. If a client wants to meet, I’ll do it, but I won’t schedule it. In general, Fridays’ don’t seem like the most productive days and, at least in the summer, not much gets done after 1 PM anyway.

I’m going to try this for the 3rd quarter of 2020 and see how it goes. I’ll make adjustments at the end of September. If you’ve cracked the code on this balance, please let me know how you did it. I’m all ears.

Beliefs into Action: Fähren Events & The Community

tl;dr: Leaders should lead by supporting the communities they work in

When Joe and I started Fähren, one of our foundational beliefs was we needed to be good supporters of the Twin Cities business community. More specifically, we wanted to put our beliefs into action by creating the events, ideas and connections that spark the insights that innovators need to keep growing.

We can help spark those ideas through our words, our writings, and the conversations we have with our clients and partners. And, we can do it by bringing together other exceptional thinkers to share their work and experiences and ideas.

Tonight, Fähren is hosting a unique group of strategists who are on the front edge of the next wave of consumer, digital experiences. Our event is called Voice is the Interface: UX Lessons Learned Designing for Voice and the speakers will include folks i know and trust to share some hard-won insights from the early days of figuring out what happens we stop clicking and swiping, and start talking to our computers.

The move to voice-only or voice+screen is going to be seismic, a transformational change. But it will take years to generate best practices and trusted design patterns. The work to figure out which practices are “best” vs “good” will take lots of conversations, collaboration, trial and error and sharing between practitioners. It will take a community effort.

Why are we putting on an event about leading edge UX stuff?

Reason #1: Fahren is a talent company focused on business leadership. We’re in business to help leaders drive change, faster. So, we see it as our responsibility to support the leaders and the thinkers who will invent, test and advocate for those design patterns, methods and best practices so we can get to the future faster, together.  One of my favorite business leaders helped me understand the truth in the saying, “All of us are smarter than any one of us.”  Sure, its good business, but it’s also just good.

Reason #2: We see innovation opportunities and we want to help figure those out. As long-time digital nerds, we’re really interested in how the computing environment will change our behaviors as consumers (and how fast businesses will have to move to keep up) when voice becomes the primary interface. It’s going to be as fascinating and fun as the move from desktop “programs” to web “pages” to mobile “apps”. Creative destruction is on the horizon, which means creative opportunities for innovators.

We’re excited about our role in the business community and we’re looking forward to the conversations ahead. We’re working on our 2019 event plans now.  Let us know what you’re interested in and if you’d like to join us as we put our event and community plan together!