The number of warm summer days remaining in 2023 is dwindling. Fall’s approach signifies the end of the cold brew season and the commencement of pumpkin-spice lattes. Before we call it quits on cold brew, I thought it would be nice to sneak in a September edition of What’s in the Mug. Today, we’re drinking a French Toast flavored brew from Red Barn Coffee. I’ve never been one to buy flavored coffee, but Red Barn Coffee has a ton of flavors, and last time I was there, I decided to give it a go. Cold brew and flavored coffee are a match made in heaven, and I’ve been making Red Barn almost exclusively for the past few weeks. We buy whole beans, grind them as coarse as drip coffee, and soak a full bag in the Coffee Toddy overnight. The end result is a smooth, subtle maple delight that’s highly caffeinated and keeps the sleepies away.
For entrepreneurs, the importance of effective organization, clear prioritization, and unwavering concentration is becoming ever more apparent. Human beings are generating more information than ever (source), and staying on top of it all requires a systematic approach that’s realistic and manageable. Processes that are too strict aren’t followed, and processes that are too loose aren’t effective. It’s especially important to devise a systemic approach to energy management when you’re moonlighting (link) and trying to start your business in your spare time. Time management is academic; people who build successful businesses are masters of the pragmatic art of energy management.
It’s easy to be overeager, over-schedule the calendar, overload the to-do list, and chase your tail trying to be an over-achiever. Solopreneurs have limited bandwidth and can only work on one thing at a time. The lack of parallel processing means new tasks enter the queue faster than they leave. To be effective, entrepreneurs have to work single-mindedly on important tasks at a pace that is sustainable for the long term. To be maximally effective, expectations have to be realistic, and to-do lists have to be actionable. For a to-do list to be actionable, only tasks that can be completely accomplished in one day should be present. Opening a to-do app to an unmanageable mountain of pending tasks is dreadful and demoralizing.
Business owners need to be excited about their ability to execute to be the most effective, and entrepreneurs must be eager to conquer every day. Having important tasks organized linearly avoids decision fatigue and allows operators to enter the flow state and reach their maximum sustainable rate of productivity for the maximum duration. Time must be allotted for rest and recovery so that small wins turn into epic victories over time. Whenever someone pushes through tiredness and fatigue, they are borrowing future energy. Over time, energy debt racks up to the point where it must be serviced. Just like financial debt, energy debt can accumulate to the point of default, aka catastrophic burnout or energy bankruptcy. It’s important to be aware of the signals the body sends the brain, knowing when to listen and when to override.
Exhaustion hit me like a truck today. Going into the long Labor Day weekend I was excited to have the opportunity to catch up on a myriad of tasks I was hoping to accomplish for Working Dev’s Hero. Unfortunately, it took me almost the entire day to get my engine in gear. Looking back at summer 2023 I noticed a pattern over over-commitment, and under-delivery. I got excited about the possibilities using AI to be hyper-productive, but didn’t allot enough time or energy to dive as deep as I had hoped. As a result, items began stacking up inside of Todoist, and I wasn’t managing them properly.
Going forward I’m looking to make the following changes in order to make my pace more sustainable, and allot more energy to the things I truly would like to focus on:
- Defer answering requests and making plans. I strive to be a people-pleaser. I get an immense feeling of fulfillment from making other people happy. At the same time, making time for others without making enough time for myself is a long-term losing strategy, and the optimal strategy is to strike a balance between doing things for others and doing things for myself. Before agreeing to something, I need to consider the opportunity cost of saying yes or no and respond only after weighing each option completely.
- Organize Todoist every morning before doing anything else. For the last two months or so, I’ve had an average of 30 items scheduled for my day in Todoist. Items piled up slowly over time as I struggled to find the energy to organize and prioritize my list of tasks. I tried to push items out far enough into the future so that I could pick up on them when I finished my current batch of tasks. Unfortunately, urgent and important tasks kept coming in, and my task list snowballed out of control. Moving forward, I will only schedule a list of items I can complete within the day and leverage the inbox feature to add tasks as my capacity allows.
- Post natively to each social media platform. Finding motivation to work on a project where growth is visible and measurable is much easier than working on a project that feels like it has stalled. Thanks to relevant advertisements at opportune times, we saw some early growth in our Facebook, Instagram, and X followings. Unfortunately, our follower count hasn’t translated into as much engagement as we had hoped, and we believe platform algorithms are negatively affecting our reach. Social platforms de-incentivize content that links to external sources, and since we primarily post tools and articles that aren’t platform native, we believe that our reach is being throttled. We are working on an AI-powered tool that will help us generate platform-native social media posts, but in the meantime, we plan to post platform-natively the old-fashioned way.
Resting and reflecting today was a nice change of pace and allowed me to adjust my aim, and reset my compass. I’m hopeful that I will wake up tomorrow with both the energy and motivation to right the ship, and get the train back on the tracks. Having great coffee on hand all the time is both a blessing and a curse – caffeine is a tool that needs to be used, not abused, and space needs to be made for recovery and relaxation.