Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Didn't Have Time

I really try to avoid this phrase.  It's total bullshit.  You didn't have time?  Everyone has time. You should instead say "I didn't make time for [whatever]."

No matter what it was, you could have chosen to spend your time on it and you didn't.  Don't cop out and say, "I didn't have time" when what you really mean is, "After I did everything that I wanted to do and that was either important to me or urgent, there was no time left over for the unimportant thing you asked me to do" or more succinctly, "I chose not to."

You could have slept a little bit less.  You could have watched a little less TV.  You could have left work a little earlier or stayed a little later.  You could have cancelled that dinner with your friends.

But you chose not to.  Own it.  Time is the one resource you have that cannot be replaced.  It is precious, and how you spend your time defines who you are.  You are right to be stingy with your time.  Deciding how to spend your time involves making tradeoffs.  It's impossible to do everything.  People understand this intuitively.

So think again the next time you're about to say "I didn't have time."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sleeping Enough?

The Wall Street Journal published an article today: Go Ahead, Hit the Snooze Button  The article is all about the link between sleep and productivity.  One stat in particular jumped out at me: "30% of the civilian workforce [doesn't] get enough rest," defined as people getting less than six hours of sleep.  How much sleep are you getting?  I bet you think you know, but you don't *really* know.

But I do.

Turns out, I've been tracking my time for the last eight years, on and off.  And I've been doing it without interruption since August of 2011, so I have pretty good data about trends in my sleep patterns.    I'll share two things with you today:

  1. I slept an average of about 6.6 hours per night across all of 2012.  Check out how that breaks down month by month below.  Man, September was brutal.
  2. I've slept six or fewer hours 30% of the nights so far in 2013.  I should really be getting more sleep.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Introductions, the Right Way, Opt-In and BCC

I've gotten much better over the years at handling introductions, although I was certainly no good at this early on in my career.  With a little advice from smart folks all over the internet (see the links below), this is how I handle introductions.  Note that you may be anyone of these three people at different points in a given day, let alone over the course of your career.

Let's assume I want Brian to introduce me to Joe.

  1. I send an email to Brian saying something like this: "Brian, looks like you and Joe are connected.  I want to talk to him about X and Y.  Would you be up for making an intro?  Thx/Andrew" [Note: If you have other things to talk to Brian about, send a separate email for those topics.]
  2. If Brian DOES NOT want to intro or isn't comfortable doing it, he can politely decline or simply ignore my email.  Obviously the polite decline is preferable.
  3. If Brian DOES want to make the intro, he'll probably forward my email to Joe and say something like "Joe, You up for talking to this guy?  Here's his LinkedIn profile: [link].  He's a smart dude who did X, Y, Z.  I know him from [context]."
  4. Joe replies to Brian with a yes or a no.  
  5. If Joe says NO, Brian should send me a polite decline, but may opt to just skip it.
  6. If Joe says YES, Brian then sends an email to both me and Joe saying "Please meet." And may provide some detail about each of our backgrounds.
  7. (If I don't hear back from Brian for a while, I may follow up: "Hey, did you get a chance to reach out to Joe yet?")
  8. As the person who requested the introduction, I should reply to Brian's introduction email. This next piece is IMPORTANT -- I should reply-all, but I should move Brian to the BCC field.  In the body of the message, I should thank Brian and note that he's been BCC'd.  Then I should dive into my message to Joe.
This series of steps may seem like a lot of work, too slow and full of opportunities for drop off.  But it does all kinds of great stuff for each of the people involved.  Do it this way, please, for the good of the community.

David Crow: reply, Reply-All and bcc [nice graphic at the bottom of the page]
I'm sure I'm forgetting someone here who was influential on my thinking.  In particular, Chris Dixon pops to mind, but a quick search didn't turn up the relevant post.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Business School Applications & Recommendations

Five years ago, I was applying to business school and I find myself today working on recommendations for someone else applying to business school.  Couple thoughts:

  1. I am deeply honored to be writing a recommendation for this person.  I hired him a while back and he turned out to be a star.  Having an opportunity to help him advance his career is a great honor and I am delighted to be writing nice things about him.
  2. All of the top schools ask essentially the same questions for their application essays, but each school words their questions slightly differently.  Prospective students can reuse themes and stories from school to school, but they can't reuse the essays word for word.  Adjusting and tinkering with essays each time was a surprisingly large amount of work for me.  I was originally planning on applying to five schools, but I was so exhausted after four applications that I stopped.  (I suppose the fact that I'd already been accepted to one of the schools made it easier to cross that fifth school off the list...)
  3. The recommendations follow that same pattern.  The schools all want to know basically the same things about the applicant, but they've phrased their questions slightly differently with slightly different word limits.  It's annoying.  I can understand making prospective students do something just for you, fancy business school.  You want applications from people who really want to attend your school, so it shouldn't be too easy to apply.  But when I'm writing recommendations, make it easy.  Have a standard form across all b-schools.  Ask the same questions with the same word limits.  People writing recommendations are busy people.  Give us a break.
  4. I am TREMENDOUSLY grateful to the three people who wrote my recommendations back in the fall of '07.  I was always thankful that they took time to do the work, but I didn't realize how much went into it.  I applied to four schools.  Writing those recommendations was a non-trivial amount of work for three extremely busy people.  Thanks, recommenders!
UPDATE: All b-schools ask recommenders to rate applicants on things like "Works collaboratively with others".  The scale is always something like Top 1%, Top 10%, Top Third, etc.  But almost no schools ask who you're comparing the person to.  Are you comparing them to the ~7 billion people in the world?  The small pool of outliers who pursue MBAs?  Kudos to Chicago's Booth School of Business for being the only school I've seen that asks: "Please indicate the reference group for this comparison."