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Disconnect for more Thinking Time

At some level many of us want more time to think and write, I talked about my struggle last week in the midst of 3 kids a dog and a 20 year marriage…all of which need my time so they stay healthy. Add in my passion for cycling, and regular house chores and life is busy.

But then we see cool projects like Keegan McNamara’s wooden computer which boots a custom version of NixOS (my currently preferred Linux distro) and Emacs1 for writing. So McNamara turns a key to start his computer and then can sit down and write without being able to flip over to news, YouTube, or whatever distraction is your current flavour.

What always inspires me about these types of projects is the thought of thinking and writing without distractions. I acknowledge that McNamara doesn’t have the extra responsibilities of family that I have as a 43-year-old father, but still the simplicity sings to me.

After last weeks talk of family and lack of time I’ve been asked by a few people how to get more time as they sit in a similar position. Watch for more thoughts on time and attention coming.


In issue 086 I talked about the need for thinking time. A number of people reached out to me (hey Steve, Jessica, Sam) via email about tips for getting thinking time. So let’s start by talking about work and burnout.

One of the most freeing things I realized in my career is that the people I work for don’t care about me. The only reason they talk about “family” at work is so that I invest and they get more time/effort out of me. If I get cancer and can’t work, it’s just business and I don’t have a job. They’re no going to show up at my house to help my family, or continue to make sure my kids can eat.

Coupled with this I realized that I can’t make any project more important to me than it is to the stakeholders in the project. If I ask for information and they don’t get back to me for a few days, they’re saying that the work isn’t that important to them and I stop stressing about it.

So I suppose my first tip is to say “no” more. When work wants you to stay late to do a bit extra, say no. When that client finally comes to you with the information you asked for weeks ago, don’t rush the job. They decided it wasn’t important and you can put the work back on your schedule when you have time.

You can apply this to volunteer efforts as well. After 6 months of trying to get access to my local cycling club website I decided to just say no. I don’t have time to chase down information and if they’re not willing to give me what I need, I’m going to find other things to do.

Oh, many of the rules for reading would apply too so check them out below.

Some Rules To Help Your Reading

Some of these are mine, some I gleaned from other sources like Ryan Holiday. I don’t remember which is which at this point.

  • Put your phone down when you come in the door, and stay away from other screens.
  • Put a book on the coffee table in place of said device, you’ll be more likely to pick it up.
  • Keep a book with you so you can just read when you have a moment.
  • Keep a pen (and a notebook for me) with that book so you can take notes.
  • Use the footnotes of a book you enjoyed to get your next book
  • Read your favourite books more than once. Fiction you’ll just enjoy it again. Non-fiction…you’re a different person and new things will speak to you. This one reason I don’t mark up books and instead I write in a notebook. Notes in a book mean I focus on the same things that interested me the first time
  • Don’t sweat it if you’re behind a “goal”. I usually aim for 52 books a year, but this year isn’t close to that. I’ve finished 25 books thus far and that’s fine.
  • If you think it’s a book, it’s a book. I just read the first two volumes of Invincible. Each one is a book on my list of books read. It’s my list I’ll put whatever I want on it.
  • You do have time to read, you just probably have to stop doing other things
  • Read books you disagree with and think about why you disagree with them. Write it down and come up with some coherent arguments to support your ideas.

Something Interesting.

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This week we talked about cars being more a nightmare than you though, and the fact that networks matter to your success.

  1. Boo Emacs…Vim all the way.