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Getting Stacked Value From your Daily Activities

Published 2/7/2020

The amount of time in a day is the same but the amount of margin you have in your day can vary. In today's episode, we're talking about some heuristics for choosing the best activities for your time and value output.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What makes something worth doing? I'm asking this at the personal level, the activities that you do with your moments, with your hours, or perhaps with your days. How do you decide what activities are worth doing? It's pretty obvious that we all have the same kind of restrictions on our time. No matter how much money you have, no matter how much success you have, the amount of time in a day is essentially the same. The amount of margin that you have might be different depending on your life circumstances, much of which is controllable at a high level, but our days are mostly the same. The incorrect assumption to make is that the people who are incredibly successful or incredibly productive, or whatever your desired outcome is, that they somehow do much more than you, that they've found a way to extend that time. Of course, rationally, we know this is preposterous, that we all have the same time restrictions, but somehow some people have found better use of their time. In today's episode, I want to give you some heuristics for thinking about choosing your activities so that you're picking the right ones. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developer Tea. I go on the show, I'll help driven developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. It's easy to imagine that our time is on one axis, and our value output is on another. Per unit of time, we assume, and this goes back to our original assumption that we talked about, we assume that we can only output a certain amount of value. In this binary way of thinking, we either are outputting value or not. This reflects in the way that we think about our working hours. We're either on the clock or we're not. In order to get more value out of our days, specifically out of our work days, we try to find more time on the clock. That value delivery is somewhat static. It's the on switch, but it's incredibly important to reject this assumption, rejecting the assumption that just being on the clock or just putting in the hours is the value delivery that you're looking for. If instead you think about how can I deliver the most value with a single activity? You see, the other wrong assumption is that in order to deliver extra value, we have to somehow try to find a way to multitask, to take on more than one thing at a time. We think that our brains are multi-core processors, that somehow we can achieve two jobs at once. Unfortunately, even though we get both of those jobs done at the same time, the quality or the speed of finishing those jobs is probably going to suffer. Therefore, likely the value output is less than if we were to just do those things sequentially. Instead of thinking about value delivery in terms of how much you can do, trying to increase the volume of work that you're doing or the volume of activities that you engage in, I want you to think instead about activities that do that multitasking for you. That's the shift that I want you to make in your mind in this episode. We're going to take a quick sponsor break and then we're going to come back in detail more about how you can think using this heuristic of putting the effort onto the task itself, rather than trying to do multiple things yourself. But first let's talk about today's sponsor, Lynneud. With Lynneud, whether you're working on a personal project or managing your enterprise's infrastructure, Lynneud has the pricing, support and scale that you need to take your project to the next level. They have 11 data centers worldwide, including the newest data center in Sydney, Australia. So you're not going to deal with latency issues. You can pick something that is close to you and have super fast access to your servers. You get S3 compatible storage options. The next generation network, Lynneud delivers the performance you expect at a price that you would never expect. You can get started on Lynneud today with a $20 credit for listeners of this show. You'll get access to native SSD storage, 40 gigabit internal network, a very mature API, version 4, Python CLI. You can have a Nanode plan that starts as low as $5 a month, or maybe you need a super-powered CPU or even a GPU. They have GPU compute plans that are suitable for AI machine learning or video processing. Go and check it out. To Lynneud.com slash Developer Tea, you get started today, use the promo code Developer Tea 2020. It's Developer Tea 2020. Check out for the $20 worth of credit. Ace again to Lynneud for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we're talking about getting the most out of your time and the most common misconceptions about time and effort. The idea that you need to try to work faster so that you can get more things into your day. You can cram more into that minute or that hour and so much of our attempts to increase our productivity are about finding ways to do things faster. One valid approach to this is to try to offload those tasks to something like automation. So instead of you trying to get more done faster, you're offloading some of the work, some of the repetitive action is not particularly valuable for you to execute yourself. So that's a different discussion than what we're having today. Instead we're talking about this misconception that you can do more yourself with the same amount of time. Instead, I want you to think about this with the heuristic mind of offloading the responsibility of that value delivery or that value increase to the task itself. So what does that mean? Well, in effect, it means choosing the right things to do. Picking your tasks carefully. Picking your activities carefully. What are the activities that you can participate in today that are going to give you multiplicative value? The task itself, not your effort. Your effort isn't multiplied, but the task does that multiplying for you. You can think about these tasks as kind of the simple machines in your value delivery. Some examples of this. If you are familiar with the process of sizing, some people call this estimation. If you look at a chunk of work and you're forced to make some kind of guess about how complex that work is, this is a high value activity. Why is it a high value activity? This activity accomplishes multiple goals for one, it forces you to get clarity on the work that you're talking about. Because you can't really estimate the complexity of something unless you have some level of clarity about what you're estimating. And so the process of estimation also includes or is precluded by adding detail, understanding something thoroughly before you estimate it. Doing this estimation process with another developer is also adds another layer of value. Because the other developer may have a different estimation than you. And in that difference, you may learn something new about what's going on with that particular feature, with that particular piece of work. And so what we're talking about here is some kind of task that doesn't have linear value. It has a scaled value. And in particular, in this particular example, we've talked about a couple of what are called forcing functions. It becomes true in a particular process, right? In that particular function. So in this case, the forcing function is in order to estimate something where required to have clarity on it. Or in order to come to a consensus, we're required to talk about the differences between our estimates. But here's the interesting part about these activities. Very often, the activity itself can be very simple. You're looking for activities that have multiple kind of stacked types of value to you. Outside of a working environment, you might have, for example, a scheduled walk in the evenings. This requires you to get outside, that's a forcing function. If you have that scheduled walk, especially if you have scheduled it with a person, it requires that you stop working at a certain point, which, depending on your goals, might be helpful, might be healthy for you. If you tend to work later, then you kind of really want to work. If you have a bad habit of working late, then having that schedule is, it could be a forcing function, or at least an encouragement function, if you will. And of course, the more obvious value is the exercise itself. Now you can compare this with a midday walk. A midday walk may have a different type of stacked value, or it may have less total value to you than the evening walk does. These kinds of activities are important to find in your own life and to take note of. Things you won't necessarily know what the value is, and it's worthwhile to ask yourself at the beginning of each day, or even periodically throughout the day, what extra value am I getting out of whatever work I'm doing at this moment in time? Is there something else I could do to get more value out of this time? Look for activities that have multiple dimensions of value, and that have cascading effects into other areas of your life. Look for things like forcing functions or encouragement functions, things that create natural boundaries. These are always that you can add value to what it would otherwise be kind of a linear value of a given activity. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Leno for sponsoring today's episode. You can get started with Leno by heading over to Leno.com slash Developer Tea. Use the code Developer Tea. 2020 to get that $20 worth of credit. Check out. If you enjoyed today's episode and found it valuable, I encourage you to share it with another person that you think will find value as well. Speaking of stacked value, this is valuable for you, and it is valuable for the show as well. The value to you is that you've actually given someone else the same kind of value that you found in the show potentially. You're likely to take your recommendation of a podcast rather than just going and searching for a random podcast. But additionally, of course, it helps this show out as well because as the show reaches more listeners, we can continue making more episodes. Today's episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.