How to start a startup without ruining your life How to start a startup without ruining your life
For 6 years of my professional life, I worked only at startups. I saw myself as “the coder” – the guy that the brave hired to turn their ideas into real businesses. I never had the inclination to start my own? why would I risk a fairly comfortable life to pursue an idea that may not work? But then two years ago, I dived headfirst into running a startup – a code school in London – without really knowing what would happen. It was a fascinating, stressful and occasionally scary journey. In a few weeks time, I’ll be doing it all over again with a brand new startup.

Harvard Business Review: Your Scarcest Resource – Time, Wasted in Meetings

Harvard Business Review: Your Scarcest Resource – Time, Wasted in Meetings
Simplify the organization.The more management layers between the CEO and the frontline worker, the slower the information flows and decision making. All managers know this, even if many fail to act on their understanding. What they often don’t realize is that every additional supervisor adds costs well beyond his or her salary. Supervisors schedule meetings; those meetings require content that some people must generate and others must review; and each meeting typically spawns even more meetings. We have found that on average, adding a manager to an organization creates about 1.5 full-time-equivalent employees’ worth of new work—that is, his own plus 50% of another employee’s—and every additional senior vice president creates more than 2.6. The “caravan” of resources accompanying a manager or a senior executive, which may include an executive assistant or a chief of staff, adds further work and costs. (See the exhibit “The True Cost of Your Next Manager.”) As the work piles up, time gr

Incentive Pay Considered Harmful – Joel on Software

Incentive Pay Considered Harmful – Joel on Software
And herein lies the rub. Most people think that they do pretty good work (even if they don’t). It’s just a little trick our minds play on us to keep life bearable. So if everybody thinks they do good work, and the reviews are merely correct (which is not very easy to achieve), then most people will be disappointed by their reviews. The cost of this in morale is hard to understate. On teams where performance reviews are done honestly, they tend to result in a week or so of depressed morale, moping, and some resignations. They tend to drive wedges between team members, often because the poorly-rated are jealous of the highly-rated, in a process that DeMarco and Lister call teamicide: the inadvertent destruction of jelled teams.

Joel on Software: Things You Should Never Do, Part I

Joel on Software: Things You Should Never Do, Part I
We’re programmers. Programmers are, in their hearts, architects, and the first thing they want to do when they get to a site is to bulldoze the place flat and build something grand. We’re not excited by incremental renovation: tinkering, improving, planting flower beds. There’s a subtle reason that programmers always want to throw away the code and start over. The reason is that they think the old code is a mess. And here is the interesting observation: they are probably wrong. The reason that they think the old code is a mess is because of a cardinal, fundamental law of programming: It’s harder to read code than to write it. This is why code reuse is so hard. This is why everybody on your team has a different function they like to use for splitting strings into arrays of strings. They write their own function because it’s easier and more fun than figuring out how the old function works. The abundance of slowness The abundance of slowness

Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done. – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, Rework

Does this situation sound familiar? When a friend asks how you’re doing, is your default answer some version of “busy”? Do you feel a touch of pride when “complaining” about the busyness of your schedule to a friend? Do you dream about an easier life, but feel victimized by a slave-driving boss or company culture? (Here’s a hint: You’re not a victim. You’ve merely said yes to the wrong things). In the U.S., we’re trained to think that successful people are busy. If our schedules aren’t chock-full, we’re unimportant. We run around like chickens with their heads cut off, as my great-grandmother used to say. People who take long vacations or even long lunch breaks are viewed as lazy or untrustworthy. We’ve all heard about the inevitable burnout that occurs when people work too much. But we quickly forget these cautionary tales and rationalize our habits, because we’re afraid of what our lives will look like if we slow down and pay attention. Deep down, many of us wonder if we’re wasting our time on things of little consequence. So we keep skittering along the surface at a feverish pace, avoiding the mirror of introspection.

1. Slow down. Someone once said “the trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” When we slow down, priorities become clear. I once asked Peleg what activities could/should be removed from my life. His response was that I was asking the wrong question. If you’re busier than you’d like to be, don’t try to curate your life. First, slow down. Focus on the here and now. Get present. Pay attention to where your energy is drawn, the good and the bad. Healthy priorities will naturally reveal themselves and your life will start to curate itself.

2. Stop trying to be a hero. Commit to a schedule you can sustain and tasks you can complete without killing yourself. No one will go into cardiac arrest if you turn down a project.

3. Go home. Leave the office by 6 pm, or earlier if possible. Have dinner with family or friends, relax and get a good night’s sleep. You’ll feel refreshed and focused when you arrive at work in the morning.

4. Minimize meetings. Sometimes meetings are wonderful and necessary, but more often than not they are straight-up time wasters. Respectfully ask coworkers or your boss if there might be a more efficient way to make decisions. Offer suggestions. Get creative.

5. Go dark. Switch your mobile phone to airplane mode. This will temporarily disable incoming calls (they’ll go straight to voicemail), GPS and internet access. For myself, this is hard. But we have to acknowledge that our communication addictions aren’t making us happy or productive. Create an atmosphere of minimal distractions. Stay offline unless you truly need to do some research. Do your important work first, and answer emails later. Be proactive, not reactive (I’m still working on this one). And for crying out loud, stay the hell away from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter unless you’re taking an intentional break. The comment your cousin made about a former coworker’s dog’s sweater vest can wait.

6. Leave your desk for lunch. Let’s be honest: eating lunch at your desk is just sad. Read a book, take a walk, visit a museum – anything to change your environment and unplug for a bit. This is a good time for airplane mode. Sometimes I’ll write a few lines of poetry, or just have a good long stare at nothing in particular. The change of scenery is refreshing, and I’m ready to tackle the afternoon’s work when I return to my desk.

7. Give up on multitasking. Others have said it, and I’ll throw my hat in the ring too: multitasking isn’t sexy. It’s inefficient. You might be able to go broad when juggling several tasks at once, but you can’t go deep. People who claim to be gifted multitaskers are lying, either to themselves or to you. Instead of spreading yourself thin, set aside large chunks of time to focus on one task at a time. Let coworkers know you’re unavailable. If they give you crap for it, who cares. They’ll stop when they see the results.

8. Say no. When deciding how to respond to a request, ask yourself if saying yes would be driven by love or fear. If the answer is the latter, politely say no and suggest an alternative. This is another opportunity to get creative.

Try this for a week. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much you accomplish, and how much beautiful, free, slow time you have on your hands. Conversely, if you find that promoting smart work over hard work in your place of work is truly untenable, then it’s probably time for you to move on. Sometimes giving up is the bravest, kindest thing you can do. It might be the wake-up call that company needs.

From our experience, I can say that my team and I are more excited than ever to arrive at work each morning. The quality and variety of our design work has grown. We spend time with our families. We have lives. We close the shop at 2 on the first Friday of every month. We get things done on time. Our business is growing at a sustainable pace. We’re far from perfect, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Trae Vasallo: Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Trae Vasallo: Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
When I started looking for opportunities to include my kids in my work, I’ve found more than I expected. Just last week I spoke on a panel at Stanford. It’s the middle of summer and my 10 year old was needing some special Mom & Mer time, so I invited her along. She was petrified that “it wasn’t allowed” to bring your kids. Despite a packed room full of over-dressed adults, my daughter and I crashed the front of the room and waited for my panel. During the panel, I looked across the room and saw her beautiful beaming smile. The pride in her face said it all. Afterwards, several adults came up to her to congratulate her for the great job her mom did on the panel. It doesn’t take much to inspire kids, and there’s more we can all do to make science and technology more aspirational. I helped coach my daughter’s robotics team this last fall. Google graciously hosted the competition. After incredibly friendly hosts, fantastic facilities, and free ice cream, Mer looked up and me and said, “mom, I think I might want to work at google someday.” It really doesn’t take much to spark them, but it does take exposing them to as much as possible.