Category Archives: Change

Running Naked 41

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 1 of the new plan leading to my Triathlon in Philly on June 22th. The plan switches focus from weight lifting and swimming to endurance in swimming, biking and running. Also, in a sop to my wife who generally gets out of work at a reasonable hour on Wednesday, my new plan will be tracking Wednesday to Tuesday, with Wednesday being my day off training.

Subjective Data

It was strange to do a week almost totally devoted to cardio training, but I did a lot of swimming, biking and running this week. I’m still following Dan’s advice on swimming slowly, and also finagled the use of a 25-yard pool this week. I discovered that a longer pool really helps me develop a sense of rhythm, so I’m going to try to keep going there.

By end of week, my legs (in particular) and my arms are quite tired, but in a good way.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Note: Where are all the graphs? I’ve run into an Excel 2007 ‘bug’ or feature where you can’t have multiple pivot tables of the same Excel ‘table’ so I need to rebuild my spreadsheet for the new plan. Grumble. I’ll try for next week, but I’m still tracking actual correctly. If someone knows some good software that tracks both future plans and actual, let me know.

Assessment

Overall I’m happy with the work this week. My foot, in particular my right foot (the injury that knocked me out of the marathon) is feeling a little squirrelly, but not sore. I’ll keep monitoring that closely.

My increase in cardio time meant I had little time for yoga and weights this week. I’m going to think a little about that and see how to best readjust.

Plan

Two key goals for this upcoming week: Maintain cardio workout; Find a way to work in Yoga and 45-90 minutes of weight lifting as well.

Reminders

I’m planning to try (again) for the NYC Marathon in November. If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June) with me, or the Marin Century (August) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Running Naked 40

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 18, and the last week, of the winter plan. The results: I hit my strength goals, I kept my waistline where I wanted it, I gained about 6 lbs, and I missed my swimming goal. I have created my spring plan, but it’s not ready to be posted yet as I work on some formatting issues, so that’ll be in next week’s update.

Subjective Data

I worked hard for the last week. The weather bordered on Spring on Sunday, so I got my first bike ride of the season in. I kept my weight workouts short, but with little rest between sets so it was more intense than the graphs show. And my weight crept down a little, and I was OK with that.

By Saturday I was really tired, and ended up sleeping-in on my last spin/swim/run combo, but I felt that was OK.

My swim workouts continue to be drill focused.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Assessment

I felt good on the week, and felt OK about my winter plan. Overall, I’d say a B-. I’m sad that I missed the swimming target, but gaining 6lbs while keeping the waist at 32 inches is pretty good.

Dan’s suggestion on the swimming drills really does seem like the way to go, so I’m going to do some self-teaching on that. I’m planning to head to a triathlon store in New York (yes, we have a store just for triathlons) and get some fins to help on some of the drills.

Plan

I have created the spring plan, which focuses on one and only one goal: Finish the Philly Triathlon. I don’t have it in an easy to parse form yet, but I’ll try to have that for next week’s output.

My weight room goal is going to be maintain muscle, keep body fat between 8.5% and 11.5%, and not worry about overall weight gain or loss beyond that. And I plan to keep up at least one yoga session a week.

Reminders

I’m planning to try (again) for the NYC Marathon in November. If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June) with me, or the Marin Century (August) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Nude Numbers 39

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 17 of the winter plan. One week to go, and the results are: missed the swim goal, hit the strength goal, and within spitting distance of the weight-gain goals.

Subjective Data

This was a light lifting week, and coupled with some schedule pressures, I missed my weight room time on Friday and my Saturday morning workout (long night…). Still, felt pretty okay for the week.

I did cut back on running as I promised — substituting a tough hill workout on Thursday for my long run — and my foot feels a little better now. I also re-laced my right shoe to take pressure off the top of the foot and we’ll see if that works.

On the advice of a friend, my (limited) swim workouts this week were all at a slow pace and focused on drilling. I’m going to try the same next week to see if I can get any gains that way.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Assessment

This was a very light week, but I didn’t have time to make my Spring plan. That needs to happen next week 🙂 I found that the swimming drills were peaceful at least, and while I didn’t do as much ‘yardage’, I was much less frustrated and felt more balanced in the water. Of course, it could just be wishful thinking.

Plan

I need to create my spring plan, so I’ll try (again) to get that out for next week. I have officially switched to my maintenance diet, so hopefully body fat figures should start falling week over week to cut out the fat gained while I “bulked” for winter.

As for the upcoming week, it’s another light week: 35%, 15-rep, 5-set, 45″ rest in the weight room, and hopefully an increase in swimming, running and biking time over prior weeks.

Reminders

I’m planning to try (again) for the NYC Marathon in November. If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June) with me, or the Marin Century (August) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Nude Numbers 38

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 16 of the winter plan. Two weeks to go, but at this point I think we can start seeing how my goals will likely shape up….

Subjective Data

J and I had a weekend getaway in the Poconos this weekend (Friday-Sunday) and as a result, I wasn’t able to make it to the gym those days. I subbed in running on Saturday for swimming and spinning.

My running mileage was way up this week as a result of that, and now the top of my right foot is a little sore. Saturday’s 3-mile run was on a ridge overlooking the Delaware River, which was my first time doing hill running since my injury.

This was a hard lifting week (85%/4-rep/5-set/45″ rest), and my lifting ability at that level was pretty low. By my 5th sets on Monday and Wednesday I was dying. I didn’t get a chance to lift on Friday due to the trip to the Poconos, but truth be told I was in no condition to lift anyway.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Assessment

The trip to the Poconos screwed up my Friday and Saturday workouts, and hence my numbers; on the bright side, I got a run, a fun hike, and some yoga in during the trip.

This weekend I took a moment to step back and look at the winter plan. I blew my strength goal out of the water. My weight gain is at the low end of acceptable (and had I not gotten the flu, I’d be on track there). But my swimming is way off. As I said last week, I know I’m going to miss that goal (1,000 yards w/o stopping) for 3/31.

But my ability to hit goals week on week was pretty mixed. I think I bit off more than I could chew, and when pushed came to shove, I spent more time on the weight-training (which I was doing well at) than the swimming (which I’m struggling with).

<vent>That’s a little disappointing and frustrating. I can run 7 miles easily; I can spin all day; I can lift better than any time in my life. But after 100-yards in a pool I’m spluttering and need 3-4 minutes to get my breath back. </vent>

Now, what do I do about that…

Plan

I had originally planned to adjust my numbers for a spring plan this week, but I realize I need to do more research on what’s reasonable. I know that I overshot in my goals for the winter plan, and would like to do a better job of concentrating effort for the spring plan.

The big goal is complete the Olympic distance tri in June, so swimming needs to take priority. I’m extremely worried about my ability to do an open-water 1-mile (1,760 yard) swim, even if wearing a wetsuit. Plus, there is a significant chance that I may have to withdraw because of logistics; J and I are moving cross-country the week after the triathlon and may need that weekend for movers, etc.

But, even if I end up having to withdraw because of logistics, I want to train as though I’m still going through with it. So I expect my goals will have a swimming, a running and a biking component with some weight-training, and a goal to main weight at current levels through June/30.

I’m going to try to find some good tri-training materials this weekend. If anyone reading this has some recommendations let me know at aclarke (at) abclarke.com. I’ll try to have the spring plan posted and be working against it by 4/1.

For the upcoming week: it’s a 30% (woo-hoo!)/15-rep/5-set/45″ rest week. I’m going to cut out running completely this week if there is any pain on my left foot by Thursday. If I’m pain free, I’m going to shorten my long-run anyway (drop from 7 to 5) and try to add in a short run on Saturday as well.

Lastly, I plan to make spring finally arrive in NYC this week; I’ll let you know how that goes.

Reminders

I’m planning to try (again) for the NYC Marathon in November. If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June) with me, or the Marin Century (August) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Nude Numbers 37

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 15 of the winter plan. This week I discovered the flu took a lot more out of me than I thought, and have admitted that I’ll miss my swimming goal by at least a month. Read on for more.

Subjective Data

This was the first week back after the flu, and wow things were really hard. I had intense time pressures from work and some volunteer commitments that made me miss some swimming sessions, but the real reason the numbers were low this week was I felt weak and unmotivated every time I was at the gym. I’m chalking it up the post-flu fatigue for now.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Assessment

The flu wiped more out of me than I thought. Take a look at the weight loss numbers for one (a -3 lb loss). That coupled with my higher-rep/more-set/lower-rest weight routine this week knocked me out. I cut swimming and spinning on Tuesday and Saturday partly due to time pressures, but mostly due to feeling sore and worn out.

I did however start to feel better towards the end of the week, so I’m thinking I just need to be patient and keep at this.

As for the goals, I may now miss my weight goal of 168 by 3/31, and I’m definitely missing my swim 1,000 yards by 3/31 goal.

Plan

I’m also going to move my swimming goal from 3/31 to 4/30.

I’m going to drop the weight-gain goal because I need to transition to tri-training over weight-gain, and my weight will become whatever it becomes as I go there. That said I’m going to stay at a calorie-maintenance level or slightly above while training for the tri, so I may gain weight anyway.

And I’m going to continue lifting because that’s the right thing to do for tri-training anyway, although I may drop the hours I shoot for each week. This week is 85%, 4-Rep, 5 Set, 45″ rest.

I’ll adjust plan numbers next week.

Reminders

I’m still undecided between running a marathon in New York (November) or in Dublin Ireland. If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. I’m not going to decide until around April. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Nude Numbers 36

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 14 of the winter plan. The story of last week: Flu. I got hit hard on Sunday and didn’t even venture outside again until Wednesday. Based on that, I took the entire week off to make sure I could recover. Note to those who haven’t gotten the flu this season; don’t get it. The flu sucks much more than a cold.

Subjective Data

Not much to say here beyond I got the flu, but was good and took the entire week off to recover.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Assessment

Well, not much I can say on the training, but have to face facts; it looks like I’ll miss my swimming goal by at least 3-4 weeks. I’m still not calling it, but it’s hard to imagine I can somehow gain enough swimming endurance to go 1,000 yards without stopping (given that 125 yards without stopping is my current record).

My weight gain period is now over, and the plan is to go to a maintenance (but not cutting) diet. This means no more ice cream and cookies. Boo hoo.

Plan

I’m going to try getting back to the gym and see how things go. The weight training plan is 50% of max, 15 reps, 5 sets and 45 seconds rest. I imagine that’ll suck.

Reminders

I’m still undecided between running a marathon in New York (November) or in Dublin Ireland. If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. I’m not going to decide until around April. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Perspective

The Worst Month of my Life?

Folks who’ve worked with me know that I love data.  Regular readers of my blog have probably gathered that too.  But I’ve also maintained that numbers don’t tell the entire story.

And this week, I have a great example of that in action.  Take a look at my most recent training numbers and you’ll see that things have been spotty.  I’ve vacillated between strong weeks and weak weeks.   Looked strictly numerically and it would look like things are not going well.

And if you think things look spotty this week, wait until you see next week.  I already know I’m going to miss almost all my goals this week.  Why?  Because starting Sunday morning I came down with the worst flu I’ve had in 9 years!  I wasn’t able to stay standing for more than 5 minutes until about 2 hours ago (Tuesday around 1pm).

Yup, looking at all that data, and you’d think that things are sucking pretty hard right now.

And yet, I’ve just had one of the best months of my entire life.  What gives?

Another Perspective

What happens is that numbers cannot and do not catch an entire story.  They are useful to be sure; you can bet the numbers saying I’m struggling with my swimming goals are helpful.  You can bet I weigh more now than a month ago.  But they don’t capture everything.  In the best of cases, they only capture what you intended to measure – and often they don’t even do that.   So you have to be careful to always look at numbers in context.

And here’s the context: In my case, the numbers I’m publishing are tracking my fitness goals, but they are not tracking my other life goals.  And despite a few weeks of missing gym goals and despite being so sick I couldn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time for 48-hours, some pretty amazing things have gone down lately in the other goals in my life.

What the Numbers Don’t Show

First, for those who don’t know, my wife J has been applying for teaching positions in Neuro-Oncology.  Her New York fellowship ends in June, and she’s now about to begin the first non-training phase of her medical career.  About three weeks ago, after a long process, she accepted a teaching and clinical research position at UCSF in San Francisco.  That means that come July we’ll be returning to the Bay Area.  We’re both extremely excited.  J is really excited about the job, and even though we love New York, being here has also taught us something valuable: we’re Californians at heart.

Secondly, I’ve been working on my company Vlideshow for about 5 months now.  Up until now it’s been a one-man-show, but over the past 6 weeks I’ve been working part time with a potential business partner in the Bay Area to see how well we might work together.  It went really well, and last week I travelled out for a quick trip (sorry for those I didn’t stop by and visit, but it really was a working session) to see how thing went in person.  The answer: things went pretty well, and just this week (and I still hope it’s actually true and not flu-induced wishful thinking on my part) he has accepted my offer to join me full time as a co-founder in Vlideshow.

To borrow a phrase from my friends Mike and Rick, I’m as happy as a pig in shit right now.

That’s a lot of really exciting change in four weeks, and one that doesn’t show up via metrics.  So despite the flu, despite a couple of aches and pains, and despite the fact that I’m probably 4-6 weeks behind on my swimming goals, looked at in context, the numbers look great.

The Point

The point is (despite letting folks know I’m returning to California) is that you must treat data as just one part of a story.

Think of it like the sound-track in a movie: it tells you something about what’s happening on the screen, but you’d be a fool if you didn’t open your eyes and watch the movie to see the actual story being told.

– Art

Nude Numbers 35

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 13 of the winter plan. It was a week of mostly misses; some planned (due to a business trip) and some unplanned (due to work getting the better of me). Strangely though, even though a very light week, I felt pretty weak and unmotivated during my Saturday workouts. Hmm… I wonder what that was about… (see next post).

Subjective Data

This was a week of big misses, but not entirely unexpected. From Sunday through Wednesday I was out of town on business, and didn’t have access to good work out facilities. Plus, the one day I had time to go running, the skies opened and I couldn’t find the motivation to start running in the rain.

Later in the week once back in NYC, schedule pressures conspired against me and I had to restrict my workouts to an hour on Thursday and Friday. Saturday I didn’t feel quite right, but still got yoga in. Oddly I felt really sore and tired for my entire yoga workout.

As it turns out, my feelings on Saturday turned out to be a portent of things to come… but more on that in the next blog post.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Weight Log Book

Assessment

It was a week of misses, but a few positive things came out of it. My swimming workout on Thursday, while short, was actually quite good. My form was much better, and I didn’t have to rest much between drills.

At this point, I’m pretty sure I’ll meet two of my three winter goals: the strength and weight gain goals. The swimming goal (1,000 yards without stopping) is unlikely to be hit, but I’m still trying for it.

Plan

As planned, I’m going to switch to a weight maintenance diet on 3/1 (well, technically 3/3: my brother and sister-in-law are visiting on 3/1 and I plan to pig out a little with them).

Also, I know that this upcoming week is going to be a big miss in terms of workouts because, well, read the next blog post for why.

Reminders

I’m still undecided between running a marathon in New York (November 2) or in Dublin Ireland (October 27). If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. I’m not going to decide until around April. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June 21) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Nude Numbers 34

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 12 of the winter plan. I hit most numbers, but was too tired for Yoga again this week. I’m out of town for a lot of this upcoming week with a last-minute business trip, so my numbers next week will be below original plan.

Subjective Data

The plan was to lift lower-weight/higher-reps this week, so I did that while concentrating more on cardio/swimming. By the end of the week, I was again really tired, and had to cut out Yoga again (just too sore to go). Still, swimming progress did get better, and I’m now able to go 150-200 yards at a stretch between rests. Hitting a goal of 1,000 yards without resting by 3/31 seems at risk though.

I continued eating more, and my weight gain increased. This is to plan though, even if I don’t like the look of creeping over the gray.

I also did one long run on Thursday that (due to my not remembering how long the central-park drive is) was longer than plan by a lot. The good news is no lingering soreness from that.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Assessment

I’m getting concerned about the ability to hit my swimming target, but I’m also doing all I can to meet it at the moment. Not sure what else to do but keep practicing.

Also, I know the weight gain is to plan, but I still worry about it; it took a lot of hard work to cut out the excess weight I had before.

Plan

Despite my assessment, I’m not making any major changes to the plan. I’ll continue with the gain-weight diet through at least 3/1.

I’m going to miss most numbers this week due to a business trip I’m on. I’ll try to get a run in on Tuesday, but I have no access to a pool or a weight room during the trip.

And for the record, the upcoming lift plan is 50% of max weight, 12-rep sets, 5 sets, and 45 seconds between sets.

Reminders

I’m still undecided between running a marathon in New York (November 2) or in Dublin Ireland (October 27). If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. I’m not going to decide until around April. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June 21) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Nude Numbers 33

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 11 of the winter plan. The plan was to do a week of heavy lifting, and it was harder than expected; I had to cut out almost everything else to finish the week. Still, it looks like I’ll easily hit at least one of my three winter goals (my strength gain goal).

Subjective Data

I was better about eating this week, and I’m back to gaining weight again. Of course, some of it is going to the abdomen area, but I have some room to spare still for my target.

The plan was for a very heavy lifting week – 90% of max. This turned out to be more exhausting than I expected and I found myself cutting back on all other activities as a result. I ended the week very tired, with an especially exhausted back, but I had a lot of fun max-ing out in the weight room.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Assessment

I concentrated on lifting this week as I planned, but it was even harder than expected. As a result, I didn’t get the swimming, spinning, running or yoga done to plan. But that said, I listened to my body and it was clear I shouldn’t push harder.

It became apparent by the end of the week that, even though I’m in week 10 of a 30 week lifting plan, I’ve made a lot of strength gains already. Hitting my 5% increase goal for March looks too easy.

Lastly, I did get one longish (500 yards) swim in on Thursday, and that goal (1,000 yards without stopping by 3/31) looks hard.

Plan

This week is a 40% of max lifting week, so I plan to concentrate much more on the cardio and swimming. I’m going to try doing a short swim on lifting days to increase my comfort in the water. Other than that, I’m going to keep with the heavy diet (so I’ll go even more out of target weight range) for a few more weeks and will try to be “all in the gray” next week..

Reminders

I’m still undecided between running a marathon in New York (November 2) or in Dublin Ireland (October 27). If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. I’m not going to decide until around April. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June 21) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Riding with the Devil (continued)

A Kimchi Valentine

I don’t like Valentine’s Day.

In high school, when I first realized the day had social significance, it was a source of dread. Who (if anyone) would give me a card? Who should I give a card to?

Once I got a steady girlfriend I thought it would get easier, but alas, now I had to figure out what to get her. Would my gift be too cheap(1) or would it send the wrong message? Now, thirty-three-years-old and married, I still dread the day a little.

But this week, I found the solution: I’m moving to Korea!

Why? Because in Korea, the girls give the guys gifts for Valentine’s Day(2). No worrying about what to get my wife; she’s just got to get stuff for me. What’s not to like!

A Naked Soul

For both of my long term readers, you’ll remember I started this blog to chronicle my attempts to become a better person, in mind, body, soul and spirit. I’ve spend a lot of time writing about my attempts to improve physically, and spiritually. I’ve demonstrated how my twisted mind thinks (at least in a business setting).

But I’ve spent relatively little time being “naked” and transparent with respect to growing my soul. I consider the soul to be the part of me that wants to and needs to give back to the community, and I last wrote about it in my post titled Riding with the Devil. In that post I said:

I have to force myself to find more diversity in life … So once I finish up with the current charity commitments I have … I’d like to try something that forces me to get out more in the community, and meet people who are leading wholly different lives from me.

So in this post, I feel it’s time to report progress.

Thank You

First off, thanks to two friends who gave me explicit suggestions for how to follow up on the goal I stated. Jane pointed me to Volunteer Match, and Brigitte pointed me her friend Neil in New York who is very involved in the community here.

Through Volunteer Match I found an organization (The International Center) that caters to recent immigrants who are trying to learn English. And through Neil I found a great after-school program (the New Song Learning Partnership) in Harlem that needed mentors and tutors to help current and recent high-school students improve in their classes, apply to college, and get a job.

Starting in November I began a six-month commitment at the Internal Center where I spend two hours a week helping new immigrants practice their English through conversation. And in December I began spending two to three hours every Saturday helping at New Song.

Thoughts so Far

Have I gotten what I was looking for? The preliminary results are a resounding yes.

For example, I discovered the fact about Korea Valentine’s Day during a conversation I had with a young woman from Korea. For the past three months I’ve been chatting with her and another young man from Korea, and learning a lot about Korea’s culture and practices, about how difficult it is to be a student in the US who speaks very little English, the real importance of family when you’re in that situation, and how much church groups really stitch together some of the gaps in our society. I’ve learned how different Korea’s social mores can be, but yet how familiar they are as well. And I’ve learned that even though folks come from a different cultural background, they share the same types of hopes, dreams and fears we do.

The International Center has definitely helped me meet people who lead wholly different lives from me. That’s been fun.

But it’s been the Harlem after-school program that’s been the most eye opening. I’ve met some really smart and fun kids who come from a totally different background than I came from. And it’s been challenging; I’m struggling to connect with some of the students. I find it very difficult to relate to some of the issues they have, and I don’t always understand what they’re saying.

Now, here’s the fun thing. The main reason I’m having trouble connecting is not because the students are black, or because some of them come from a less-affluent background. As I wrote about in Riding with the Devil, that reaction is wrong.

No, I’m having trouble connecting with some of the students because they’re teenagers and I’m a nerdy 33-year-old.

It turns out that in the past 15 years new slang, new technology, new pastimes and new teaching methods have been invented (did you know there’s a new SAT test format, and that you now get points deducted for wrong answers on some sections… I didn’t until four weeks ago).

But the great news is I share the challenge with a bunch of the other motivated volunteers, of various races and backgrounds, who all are trying to figure out how to bridge the age-gap as well. It’s hard, but it’s been very rewarding as well, and slowly I’m learning how to engage with the students.

My big ah-hah(3) has been that human beings, no matter what our backgrounds, have far more in common with each other than we have as differences. Now, I always intellectually thought this, but getting involved with these two great organizations has really helped me to emotionally know this.

From Here

I’m just starting with this, and I hope to continue being able to at least make this relatively small time commitment (4-6 hours a week). It’s been harder than raising money (sorry folks, but sending e-mails is pretty easy), because donating money requires far less time. But it’s also been commensurately more personally fulfilling.

I’m not planning to write much more about this, mostly to respect the privacy of the folks I’m working with, but I wanted to come clean on where my progress was. By the way, if anyone is interested in getting involved with either organization, drop me a line at aclarke at abclarke.com and I’ll hook you up.

– Art

(1) I’m from Cavan County in Ireland, and the cheapness of Cavan Men is legendary there, as is their general lack of intelligence. Cavan Men are the butt of almost all Irish jokes. See here and here for examples.

(2) OK, turns out Korea has “White Day” on March 14th where the guys are supposed to return the favor, but I figure I can fly back from Korea by then.

(3) My second big ah-hah is that Harlem has some kick-ass food! There’s a bakery on St. Nicholas and 116th (whose name I can’t remember) that’s the best I’ve been to in the city; and I’ve been to a lot of bakeries!

Nude Numbers 32

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 10 of the winter plan and, despite a minor cold, I’m still broadly on track.

Subjective Data

I continued to increase calories this week, although I found it harder than I expected. I’ve trained myself to not eat unless I’m hungry, and to eat small meals, wait 10 minutes, and then only eat if I still feel hungry. To hit 3,000+ a day calories I have to eat even when I’m not hungry. I did ok, but most days I only ate around 2,500 to 2,750 calories. It’s amazing how much of a habit light eating has become for me.

This week my swimming improved quite a bit. I’ve been getting aerobically exhausted really quickly while swimming, but on Thursday my coach watched me and suggested I try something odd – not expelling water in my mouth by blowing out. Instead, he said just leave my mouth open when I turn my head under water. Voila, the water just flows out, and I don’t waste oxygen expelling it. For some reason, this really seemed to help me control my breathing and increase the # of laps I need to take before resting.

On Thursday afternoon I finally caught a cold my wife had been incubating for a week. Getting the cold was annoying, but I was good and rested through it. That meant no Thursday run, no lifting on Friday, and no spin class on Saturday. I did sneak in a swim Saturday afternoon that I probably should have cut out, but I wanted to see if the breathing technique I found on Thursday still worked. The answer is yes 🙂

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Assessment

This week, despite the cold, was another good week. And the cold symptoms were pretty mild and they’re gone now. I still feel broadly on track, and feel excited that my swimming is markedly better now.

Plan

I made a few adjustments to the plan moving forward this week. Next week is a HEAVY lifting week, and so I’m going to cut back on spinning during that week to focus on lifting instead. I’m going to try to do 5 lifting days of 45-minute sessions instead of 3 days of 90 minute sessions. I also pushed my running ramp-up out another 3 weeks; I don’t need to really ramp running until after March to be able to do the 10k tri-distance easily, and I have enough things going on right now between this and work to keep me more than busy. But apart from that, just another week to try to forge ahead with gaining weight, gaining strength, and increasing swimming endurance (i.e. the winter goals).

Reminders

I’m still undecided between running a marathon in New York (November 2) or in Dublin Ireland (October 27). If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. I’m not going to decide until around April. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June 21) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Staying Sane: Lead, Don’t Manage

(5e of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

Trying to stay sane as a manager? This is the final step in doing that. Warning: there is some profanity in this article.

The Shit

I’ve worked with some pretty smart people(1), and when thinking about this article one of them consistently came to mind.

This person, whom I’ll call Todd(2), was an extremely smart engineer. Not only that, Todd had a lot of personal integrity, had strong opinions he could persuasively argue about, could persevere through a lot, and could be, when times demanded it, quite charming. Todd had all the right talents for getting shit done, and so should have risen up high in the organization.

But he didn’t – instead the organization shat all over him!

He had risen to a mid-management level, but he wasn’t able to rise higher. And, he wanted to. He made clear to me many times how he desired to be seen as a leader by his peers, be given a title that reflected his leadership, and be afforded the respect that his clear talents warranted.

Yet constantly, the organization blocked him; his management would not give him the title and leadership position he knew he deserved. What’s worse, his prestige seemed to be waning. When hard problems came up, senior management turned more often to one of Todd’s co-workers, a guy named Bill(3). Bill’s opinion was solicited by others when making strategic decision, whereas Todd found he had to force himself into strategic conversations. Bill was approached for fun new projects first, whereas Todd had to explicitly ask to be involved. (Now, Todd had been at the company for a long time and so, given his seniority, was able to force his involvement, but he knew he was doing the forcing.)

Eventually Todd had enough of this shit and decided to leave that company to try his talents elsewhere.

Why Lead?

Which brings me to the topics I have for this final essay: why you should aspire to lead; and how to become a leader.

Todd wanted to be a leader, and it was easy to understand why. If an organization sees you as a leader, your ability to get shit done increases exponentially.

Why?

If you’re just managing people, you’re trying to convince them to do things they probably don’t want to do. But, if you’re leading people, they do what you need them to do because they want to do it.

The difference is night and day. When you’re leading, people go above and beyond what you ask them to do because they want to impress you and they don’t want to disappoint you. You spend less time having to track how others spend time, and you start getting almost double out of your team.

I’ve managed teams where I was just seen as a manager, and it was hard work and not fun. I felt I had to constantly watch over people’s shoulders to make sure things were on track. I had an upset stomach almost the entire time.

But I’ve also managed teams where people saw me as a leader, and wow, did we get a lot more shit done together then. And it was more fun to boot – I looked forward to coming to work, and felt a lot healthier as a result.

If you’re the type of person who likes to get shit done, who wouldn’t want to be a leader?

So given that, how do you become a leader?

How to Lead

That’s easy; it’s the simplest rule of all the Rules of Naked Management:

Stop aspiring to be a leader! Instead, start getting shit done.

Todd constantly talked about what a great leader he’d make. He made his case to lots of people by letting them know all the great stuff he would get done. And had he actually done the stuff he was talking about, the entire engineering organization would have followed him to the moon. But people didn’t follow him because frankly people don’t like to follow people just because they’re told to by titles, or positions, or reputations(4). Instead they aligned around Bill because Bill didn’t worry about being perceived as a leader; Bill worried about getting shit done, constantly got new shit done, and kept challenging himself to get even more shit done. And as a result people followed him.

Think about all the leaders you’ve followed in your career, and you’ll probably notice the common theme: none of them worry most about being seen as a leader; they worry about getting lots of different shit done. (Oh yes, sometimes they have to be seen as a leader to get some goals accomplished, but it’s the goals that are obviously motivating them, not the leadership position.)

And then ask yourself why you considered that person a leader?

  • Was it because they asked you to follow them and you agreed because you were asked? Nope
  • Was it because they demanded you respect them? Absolutely not.
  • Was it because he or she was a nice guy? Probably not.
  • Was it because other people saw them as a leader? Probably not.
  • Was it because you felt this person could get the right shit done consistently? Absolutely.

So, right now if you think you want to be seen as a leader, SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Instead, focus on getting shit done! And be warned, once you start getting shit done, you’ll find that people will start asking for you to help, will start asking you to weigh on important issues, and will start following you.

Constantly get more and different shit done, and one day without even realizing it, someone will point out you’re a leader.

Getting Shit Done

And Getting the Right Shit Done is what this series of articles has been about. And, almost four months after I started what I thought was going to be a 4-week set of articles, this series is now done. Hopefully some of the techniques work for you.

I’d write more, but I’ve got a bunch of shit I need to be doing for Vlideshow right now, so I’m going back to that. By the way, if you happen to be a Flex & ActionScript or Flash & Actionscript genius and want to work at a cool company, drop me a line at aclarke at vlideshow.com.

By the way, next week I start a new series of articles. I don’t know what they’re about yet, so feel free to send me suggestions 🙂

– Art

(1) I like to be the person on any team who brings down the “smartness” average.

(2) Not his real name.

(3) Also not his real name.

(4) In a funny twist, all the members of the senior management team told me separately that they would love to give Todd the title he wanted, but first they wanted to see him do the job without the title for six months.

Nude Numbers 31

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 9 of the winter plan. Coming off a rest week things were a lot harder than I expected. But mid-week I decided to increase how much I ate and then things got much much better. Looks like it’s back to big-eating again.

Subjective Data

After the week off last week, and the fact that this was a light-ish lifting week (50% of my 1-rep max weight), I expected things to be easy. But starting off on Monday, my first day back, I found the lifting to be exhausting. By Wednesday it was clear I hadn’t recovered as much as I thought. So I tried something wacky; I increased how much I was eating.

As you can see from the weight data, my weight had been stabilizing and actually decreasing. But with the intensity of my current program, I was wearing down quickly. So I upped to about a 3,000 calorie diet on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday my lifting session was awesome – I got all the lifts done, spent almost 2 hours at the gym, and only left because I had a salsa-dancing event I had to go to that night. And Saturday, I absolutely rocked all over my spin and short-run.

Lastly, I didn’t get as many swimming drills as I wanted to get in on Saturday due to a little sleep-in, but salsa was fun so that was worth it.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Assessment

With the exception of swimming, I hit all my goals for the week. But only because I decided it was time to eat more.

I think the moral of this week was I need to prioritize my goals and allow some constraint to relax; and that constraint is going to be my diet.

My big goals are to by March 31st: gain weight to 168; swim 1,000 yards without stopping; and keep my waist in check. For now, I’m going to relax the last constraint, and figure I’ll cut-calories after March if things get out of control.

Plan

This week is an even lower lifting week: 40% of my 1-rep maximum weight, and the week after is a hard 90% week. I’m going to continue the basic plan, keep my spinning workouts light (not too heavy on the climbing), and increase my calories to gear up my body for the 90% week. Hopefully I’ll end up next Sunday less tired than I feel right now, and ready to rock all over a 90% week (yikes).

Reminders

I’m still undecided between running a marathon in New York (November) or in Dublin Ireland. If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. I’m not going to decide until around April. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Staying Sane: Kill Some Puppies

(5d of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

Trying to stay sane as a manager? This is the third step in doing that.

Back on the Farm

I grew up on a farm in Ireland where at one time or another we raised cows, chickens, rabbits, turkeys, peacocks, goats and pigs. Every one of those was a cash crop, and while it cost us money to feed them, my father knew that ultimately we’d sell them at market for a profit so it was worth the short term cost.

But we also had dogs, and while arguably the dogs could assist in hunting, the truth is we kept them purely for companionship.

When I was about 8 my father got a puppy(1) for each of his four children. But no one in our backwoods part of Ireland could afford to pay a vet to neuter dogs. As a result, by the time I was eleven, we had 22 dogs on the farm(2). You couldn’t move in the farmyard without stepping on one of them.

To someone not familiar with living on a farm, this might even seem cute. But on a farm that every year struggled to make a profit (and therefore feed our family), these dogs presented a real problem: every day they drank an entire barrel of milk, and given our farm only produced 30 barrels a day, they were consuming over 3% of our dairy output. In good years, my father would only eke a small profit from his farm, so literally these dogs were threatening to eat us out of house and home.

Something had to be done. The question was what? We couldn’t give away the dogs; there were already too many dogs on farms in Ireland. In reality there were only three options:

Feed all the puppies

Certainly the best short term option for the dogs, but bad in the long term for them. If the farm went out of business, then all the dogs would starve and die. Not good.

Starve all the puppies

This would potentially keep the farm profitable and therefore in a position to starve the dogs for a long time, but would ultimately lead to sickly dogs spreading disease everywhere. Not good.

Kill some puppies

A horrible thought, but for the surviving dogs, it meant sufficient food, and for the farm it meant survival as well.

Ultimately there was no choice, and so my father, against the cries of all his sons, made the only rational choice.

He killed some puppies(3).

Managing a Puppy Farm

So, what does this have to do with staying sane as a manager? Last week I talked about how to do less more, but pointed out it would require you to not do some things that are on your list of responsibilities.

But in a management context, it’s hard to say no.

A former VP at Tellme explained it like this to me: every day you come to work and you have 10 different things you have to do but can only get 8 done. It’s like you have 10 puppies, all looking up at you with their big eyes, and begging to be fed. And the reality is you only have enough food for 8. What do you do?

In order to stay sane you need to do the same responsible thing my father did; you need to kill some puppies. Why is that?

Well, let’s look at the same three options again:

Feed all the puppies

You could increase the amount of time you work so that you can spend time with all your tasks. This will work in the short term, but you’ll exhaust yourself very quickly and this can lead to burnout, which ends up hurting all the things you work on. Not a good option.

Starve all the puppies

You could spend a little time on each task, but not as much as necessary to do a good job. But, you’ll find pretty quickly that that will results in things getting half done or worse, and you’ll feel pressured to spend more time fixing problems that came about because you didn’t do it right the first time. Not a good option.

Kill some puppies

This means you decide not to do some things, and you tell people in advance. In the short term they are disappointed, but they adapt quickly, and soon you find you can spend more time on the things that matter. In other words, short-term pain but long-term effectiveness.

The only rational choice is to either feed a puppy, or kill the puppy, but never starve the puppy. In other words, either fully work on a task or problem, or don’t work on it. But don’t ever try to half-do it. Again, this idea isn’t unique to me (IBM’s management team used the expression “feed a monkey or shoot a monkey, but never starve a monkey”).

Assuming I’ve convinced you that you need to NOT DO some tasks, then the question becomes how do you not do something when you have lots of puppy owners yelling at you to feed their puppies. Here’s the ways that have worked for me.

Know Your Puppy Owners

The first trick here is to know your puppy owners. Make sure you’ve build strong relationships with any decision makers who are going to depend on you, outside the context of just your job responsibilities. If you’re given a big project that they depend on, take them to lunch first and get to know them as individuals before you have to tell them no. Find out about their families, and their lives. Share information about yourself. Get to know them as a person, and help them understand that you are a human being too – not just a resource in another team.

You can’t always tell when you get a project that you’ll need to reprioritize it later, so always invest in getting to know the people upfront. Ultimately if you need to reschedule or renegotiate a deliverable, it’s much easier if you actually like your counterpart and he or she likes you.

As a side note, don’t try to build a relationship in anticipation of saying no. In other words, if you already know you’re going to tell that person no, but don’t have a relationship yet, it’s too late to try building one. Instead, you need to recruit other supporters who have relationships with that decision-maker, and you have to fall back on the other options here.

Find Three Ways to Kill a Puppy

Sometimes you can tell people no directly, but in business that’s often not an option. So instead, fall back on this rule. Never say “no” directly; instead present your decision maker with at least three solutions they can choose from to move forward. This rule was explained to me as follows:

One is an ultimatum; two is a dilemma; three are options!

When you have to renege on a commitment, don’t just tell the person who you have to disappoint “no”. That raises their defenses and gets into a pissing match. Instead before you say no, think from their perspective (which is why you should know your puppy owner first) and try to figure out at least three different options you could offer them. Sure, they won’t be as good as had you gotten what they wanted done, but if you’re disappointing a higher-up decision maker, but you present them with three options to move forward, your discussion will center around your options (so you’re controlling the fall out) and the higher-up will usually appreciate the effort you made to think of solutions(5).

Good executives know that the unexpected happens and that some things don’t get done the way they were planned, but reward their managers to think through solutions to get around the unexpected.

Never Kill a Puppy by Surprise

Peter Drucker said:

Never give your manager a bad surprise. And there is no such thing as a good surprise.

This dictum is a great thing to remember when dealing with your own manager, but it especially applies to saying no. Never inform someone that a deliverable or project was missed after the fact. If you do, you will lose their trust very quickly (you didn’t even give them an ultimatum). This means keep good track of who you owe what to (I use the task list I talked about last week) and every day, figure out who you’re going to disappoint.

People don’t like to get bad news, but they really appreciate it when given the news with enough time that they can react to it.

Kill Puppies in Public

This last rule is extremely important. Assuming you’ve informed all affected decision makers, given them their options, and guided them to agree to a solution, you must make sure to publically let folks know the puppy is dead.

Why is this? During renegotiations to “kill a puppy” your stakeholders will usually agree to an option; that’s because they are in crisis mode. Hard decisions get made when folks are in crisis mode.

But once they feel the crisis has passed, there is a very human tendency to fall back on the way things were. That might include their assuming “oh, Art couldn’t do it this one time, but he’ll get it done the next time.” As a result you may find your puppy coming back to life over and over again.

To minimize the chance of this happening, document the decision and communicate widely that the puppy is dead. If a project just got killed, e-mail out the decision in a short e-mail to all the project teams and stakeholders. If you’ve just agreed to divest some responsibilities and some other team agreed to take them, announce it at the largest meeting you can find, and take questions with your other stakeholders there. Once you’ve publically declared something dead, and your stakeholders have not objected in public (and how can they since they just agreed to the same thing in private) it becomes much more difficult for them to back out of their agreement.

Of all the rules for killing puppies, this one is most often ignored, and yet it’s probably most important. Like the rest of the principles of transparency that apply to Naked Management, transparency in killing puppies makes you even more effective.

Finally

But here’s the truth. If you do the things I suggest to stay sanelove thyself; do less more; and kill some puppies – your life will become more livable and you will become a better manager. But you won’t become a great manager. That’s because there is one last thing you need to do, and that’s “lead, don’t manage.” Which is the last (finally) rant in this series of rants, and I’ll talk about it next week.

– Art

(1) This story is actually mostly true, with one slight detail switch. In reality, we had 22 cats, not dogs. But I’m changed the story to puppies, because when I learned this analogy for the management principle from a former VP at Tellme (now working here) her expression was “killing puppies.” By the way, I’m confident she didn’t mean this definition of “killing puppies.”

(2) It appears that Irish dogs (well, cats) are Catholic.

(3) As I mentioned above, the actual events happened with cats, not dogs. And technically my dad didn’t kill them; instead he gave them all away to a factory that produced pig food. Now, before you get too appalled let me explain. He thought he’d have to kill a couple of them because no one usually would adopt 18+ cats, but when discussing it over beers with a friend who owned the pig factory his friend suggested a solution: The pig farm had a big problem with rats eating all their pig food and my dad’s friend realized that feeding the cats milk, if they took care of the rats, would cost him less than the lost food. In this case, a good solution was found at the last moment, but the fact is my dad had to get rid of the cats. As a manager, you also need to get rid of the puppies or kittens you can’t feed. (4)

(4) OK, funny (and still true) story here. Two years later the pig factory owner convinced another farmer to give him about 5 extra dogs he had. Why? Well, it turns out our cats had figured out that there was an easier way to get fed than catch rats all day; the cats just started eating the pig food. Instead of killing the cats, the farmer decided to get dogs to chase them away. I don’t know what happened after that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the dogs started eating the food and the factory-owner got a horse to chase the dogs away. In a way, the pig farmer was just like the old lady who swallowed a fly.

(5) By the way, be open to fourth and fifth options that become apparent as you discuss things with the decision maker. By already bringing 3 to the table, the decision maker will often use their powers to come up with options that are even better for both of you.

Nude Numbers 30

 

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 8 of the winter plan. Given some knee pain, and a general feeling of aches all over my body, I decided to take a week off working out. Read on for why.

Subjective Data

By last Sunday evening, my normal rest day, the pain in my knee was still there, and I felt aches all over. I was also feeling rather cranky and having some trouble sleeping for the days before then. Based on that, I made the call to take a week off training, since they’re all classic over-training symptoms.

My eating stayed ok for the week, but because I wasn’t working out as much (but didn’t change the amount I ate) my weight as expected crept up a little.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Assessment

My plan from last week had been to take it easier so really I just modified it slightly.

But I really think I made the right call to cut out a week. Did I mention I’m trying to listen to my body more? (OK, admittedly it’s a little depressing to see all my blue lines above go to zero.)

At this stage, there is no pain in my knee, and most of the aches are gone. My right adductors and glutes are still a little sore though.

Plan

Now, I’m going to ramp back up slowly this week. That means light spinning (no climbs), 45-50% of resting-max lifting, and swimming drills. Basically what I said I’d do last week before I took the week off 🙂

My swimming plan is currently: Tuesday – long swim; Thursday – swim lesson; Saturday – Kicking drills.

The eating plan will continue for at least one more weeks, and then I’ll revisit to see if I should eat more to gain faster.

Reminders

I’m still undecided between running a marathon in New York (November) or in Dublin Ireland. If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. I’m not going to decide until around April. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Staying Sane: Do Less More

(5c of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

Trying to stay sane as a manager? This is the second step in doing that.

Why Do I Write This Blog?

It’s Friday at 6:30pm now, and as I write this I’m asking myself why. It takes time for me to this, time that would be spent on Vlideshow, time that could be spent at the gym, or time that could be spent having fun. It’d be so much easier to just punt this, and “do it next week”.

Heck, would it really matter if I didn’t write this at all? I mean it’s important to me in the long term as part of my philosophy of running naked(1), but it’s not really urgent. I think I’ll skip it this week.

The Trap

The reality is I have more things to do each day than I can possibly do in the time allotted, and several of those are urgent things. Today for example I had a meeting I agreed to take with another entrepreneur, I had a meeting scheduled with a recruit, I had some Flash coding (yes… I’m writing code these days) for my upcoming Vlideshow user test, a call with a business mentor, a meeting for a board I’m on, and a bunch of other things. And I had to write this blog entry. I was totally overcommitted today, and I knew it as soon as I got up.

I’ve mentioned it’s a trap; and it applies to the Entrepreneur as much as it does the manager. As you progress as a manager and get more successful, you’ll be asked to do more and harder things, but because they are harder things you’ll actually be able to effectively do less and less. The traditional answer is to delegate (less of an option for me these days), and while that’s necessary, it’s not sufficient. You’ll find that even after you’ve delegated all the things you can away, you still have more to do than is possible. You need to do more than just that.

The Answer

The answer is simple: don’t try to do everything. Do less. And the trick to that consists of two parts:

  1. Learn the difference between important and urgent tasks and concentrate on the important.
  2. Recognize you’re not going to get everything done, and choose the right things to not do.

Let’s talk about the first one of those parts.

Urgently Important

Urgent tasks demand attention. Urgent tasks are the person from finance yelling for your quarterly sales projections; Urgent tasks are your boss demanding you to fix a programming bug that is crashing your company’s website; Urgent tasks are the instant-message window that just popped up from a friend asking where you want to go for dinner tonight. Urgent tasks are the e-mail from a development manager asking you to read a 12-page product presentation they have and give them feedback in 2-hours before their meeting with the CEO. They are the things that if you don’t respond in the moment, someone gets upset.

Important tasks are the things that if you don’t do will eventually result in you failing in your goal.

But, it’s worth noting that not all tasks are urgent, and not all tasks are important. Some tasks are urgent but not important (e.g. responding about dinner). Others are important but not urgent (e.g. for me, writing this blog entry). Broadly you can categorize any tasks you have based on how important and how urgent they are and figure out which of the following categorizes it belongs in:

The trick do “Doing Less More” is simple. Each day:

  • Do all the tasks in box 1 that must be done;
  • Do at least one task in box 2;
  • Try to avoid tasks in box 3, but recognize you’ll have to do some of them;
  • Don’t do any tasks in box 4 until they “graduate” to box 3.

Doing Less More

As usual with me, this isn’t something that I invented. Lots of folks have recognized the difference between “important” and “urgent” (sometimes called “tactical” and “strategic”). For example, see Getting Things Done. But here’s how I do it.

  • I maintain a list of “strategic” things I need to do (with corresponding due days), and a list of “tactical bullshit” I need to do (with corresponding due days).
  • Every night, I create my to-do list for the next day. I used to do it on paper (in a black book I would carry) but these days I just do it in Microsoft Word. I always leave the top entry on my to-do list empty to start.
  • I fill in the remaining entries with first any urgent and strategic things that must be done (box 1 above).
  • I then start listing any items from box 3 that must be done tomorrow.
  • And then, I look at box 2. I take one item from box 2, and I fill in the blank top entry on my to-do list. That becomes my top priority for the next day.
  • In the unlikely event that my to-do list has less than 5-7 entries, then I add other things from box 2 to the bottom of the list.
  • If my entry has more than 7 entries, I look at every entry below 7 and find some way to punt it (e.g. delegate, or just don’t do it). Seriously – I kill those puppies. I don’t do it. It sometimes means I piss people off, but that’s the nature of killing puppies.
  • Then, the next day at work, I start working off my list and I DON’T STOP WORK UNTIL THE TOP TASK ON THE LIST IS DONE.

There are two odd things about how I do this (different that things like GTD recommend):

  1. I prioritize one non-urgent but important task (box-2) above all the other urgent-and-important tasks (box-1). Why? In the short term (when I started doing this) it meant I had to work hard to get through all my box-1 tasks and get the box-2 tasks done, but after a while the investment I made in “farming” box 2 started paying off, and my box-1 tasks decreased (because I wasn’t procrastinating as much).
  2. I choose 5-7 tasks because as a manager I found most tasks took me about 10 to 30 minutes, so doing 5-7 filled up about 50% of my day, leaving time for other interrupts. If a task takes longer than 30 minutes, then I schedule fewer things for that day. You need to recognize as a manager that at best 50% of your time will be under your control.

It sounds like a lot, but with practice you can get very fast at it. At this stage, it takes me 60 seconds to do this exercise every night. Most folks I know who have similar systems also spend no more than 1-2 minutes each day maintaining it. And during the day, as things get out of plan, I just start jettisoning things lower on the list. For example today, I punted on my flash code so I can write this blog (which since it’s not on my software critical path right now, is the right decision to make).

What Happens When You Do Less

A strange thing happens when you do less. I’ve found that once I started doing this, I pissed off some people in the short-term, but usually (sorry) they were people who cared about non-important tasks, and there was little long term damage to me. But I also found I developed a reputation for getting “important things” done, and people started giving me more important things to do.

Why is that? Well, come review time it becomes obvious: people care that you got the important things done, not that you reacted quickly to some urgent tasks 4 months ago.

What Happens When You Don’t Do Something

Still, just deciding to “not do something” may seem hard. And it is. But fortunately, there are ways to make that easier too, and that’s what killing puppies is all about. Which I’ll continue next week.

– Art

(1) In the short term it absolutely wouldn’t matter. I know that. But in the long term, if punting became the pattern, I’d lose sight of my goal of Running Naked. I pledged to write long pieces about once every week exploring different topics that are important to me, and if I can keep a track record of doing it, I believe the discipline will help me think through a lot of my approaches to life, and ultimately help make me a better person.

 

Nude Numbers 29

Nude Numbers are my weekly progress reports on my fitness goals. See About Running Naked for the philosophies involved.

Summary

Week 7 of the winter plan. I’m broadly on track, but nagging pains are telling me to cut back for a week or two. And so that’s the plan. Read on for more if you care.

Subjective Data

It was a heavy (85% RM) lifting week, and I’m exhausted writing this. I took an extra rest day at the start of the week (Monday) but then kept working hard through the rest of the week. On Friday, I cut out of work a little early (5:30pm) and went nuts (see the data if you’re really curious). Still, it was a fun week.

I have a weird pain in my left knee (after Yoga yesterday) which hopefully will go away soon, and a tightness/soreness in my right hamstring/adductor area that is annoying me a little (nothing too serious though). My one run this week was in Central Park (the weather in New York was unseasonably pleasant) and I was reminded that hard-street running is harder on my foot than the thread-mill.

My swimming kick isn’t as strong as I thought it was, and my long-swim on Tuesday really exhausted my upper body (which is pulling most of the weight). So Saturday I restricted my swim to just the kickboard, and I’ll keep trying that for a few more Saturdays to get the feel.

My eating stayed good all week – that eating 6-times-a-day thing is really working for me right now.

Objective Data

Blue lines == actuals; Gray areas == my target range for that week.

Assessment

The appearance of some pain is not very surprising (I’m not that young anymore), and does mean I should cut back a little. On the bright side, the plan calls for that anyway, so it’s good timing. I have to be careful to not let good weather make me run outside for now, so shame on me for doing that this week.

Eating is going well, and the data is starting to show that. I need to make sure I don’t lose weight – just stabilize.

But all in, I’m actually quite happy with progress. Swimming is slowly getting better, and I am gaining more muscle than fat.

Plan

I’m going to adjust the plan to be lighter on my legs for the next two weeks, to see if I can get the nagging soreness to abate a little. Specifically it means reduced weights for glutes, hamstrings and adductors, and holding back on climbs in spinning classes. I’ll do no more than 45-50% max-RM during my lifting. I’m going to keep spinning though as it’s the only real cardio work I’ve got going at the moment.

My swimming plan is currently: Tuesday – long swim; Thursday – swim lesson; Saturday – Kicking drills.

The eating plan will continue for at least two more weeks, and then I’ll revisit to see if I should eat more to gain faster.

Reminders

I’m still undecided between running a marathon in New York (November) or in Dublin Ireland. If you’re interested in running either with me, let me know. I’m not going to decide until around April. Also, if anyone is interested in doing the Philly Triathlon (June) with me, you’re welcome to join the team!

Presentation Notes

These notes are always presented in SOAP Note format. Click here for all the Nude Numbers posts.

Thanks for reading.

– Art

Staying Sane: Love Thyself

(5b of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

Trying to stay sane as a manager? This is the first step in doing that.

My Wife Is Flawed

I love my wife deeply; those of you who know me closely know how true that is. We started dating almost fourteen years ago, got married six and a half years ago, and I am more in love with her today than I have ever been.

But allow me to bitch for a moment: my wife isn’t perfect! Were she a diamond in a jeweler’s hand, he’d spot all sorts of inconsistencies, imperfections, and flaws(1).

I know: woe is me!

Aw Shucks…

Yet, I love those inconsistencies, and I love those imperfections. I accept and would not want to change any of those flaws, even though I’ll admit I don’t understand some of them. To me that’s the nature of love: truly accept what you cannot change.

My wife may not be perfect, but I still wouldn’t change a thing: she’s perfect for me.

Filling The Gaps

OK, hopefully you’ve finished throwing up now. Although I do mean what I wrote above, this article is still about Naked Management so let’s get back to the topic.

Let’s talk about personal growth and how most of us approach it.

Early in my career I took a look at myself, set a vision, and asked what I needed to achieve to get there. I then identified gaps to fill, imperfections in myself, and started filling them in.

  • I felt I needed sales experience? Check, I joined a sales team.
  • I felt I didn’t know how to effectively influence executives? Check, I designed a modification of my boss’s organization in my head and then influenced a reorganization.

This was the path I followed for several years until 2004: find the next flaw, the next weakness, and fix it.

Falling Into The Gap

At first I got huge returns on my investments, but gradually “filling the gaps” became harder. For example, in 2002 I got it into my head that I needed to learn more about design and pick up some skills in that area (I picked voice design because that was what was done at my employer). I started (as a sales-engineer) suggesting designs for automated phone system interactions.

Today I’ll happily admit any of my attempts (which took hours of work on my part) were easily bettered by 5-minutes of effort on the part of one of Tellme’s talented designers. Worse, my meddling efforts pissed off several designers, so not only did I fail to pick up this skill, but I did myself measurable political damage.

Talentless Hack

In retrospect the reason I never got good at design is because inherently it’s not a skill; it’s a talent. Some things are inherent talents; you either have it or you don’t. You can improve upon the talent by learning new skills(2) and someday you can become great! But if you don’t have a talent for something, you can work hard, learn all the skills you can, and at best (with a lot of work) you’ll be merely good. Only with an innate talent will you achieve greatness.

And when it comes to interface design, I have anti-talent.

Now the difference between talents and skills is well recognized, and the advice given by many people on it is quite good. I’ll summarize. To become great in your career:

  1. Invest heavily in skills that hone your core-talents; under-invest in skills that attempt to hone talents you don’t have.
  2. Avoid positions and circumstances that require talents you don’t possess; instead try to change the circumstances to rely on talents you possess.

Official management doctrine does not suggest you ignore areas you don’t have talent in; only that you invest up to the point where it is no longer a show-stopper for your career, but no further. Better yet is to avoid (or delegate away) the responsibilities that require a given talent.

But there is one thing extra you must do that I didn’t realize until 2004, and it relates back to the fact that I love my wife.

Anti-Talents

I believe I have a talent (which is not say I’m great at it, only that I have an innate passion and ability for it) that separates me from most people: I love and thrive in times of change and chaos. My adrenaline fires up when things are going wrong and I work hard to bring about change to fix a problem. But this talent(3) comes with two flaws, one of which I always realized, and one of which took me until 2004 to realize.

The first anti-talent, the one I’ve known for years, is that when things are not in chaos or the chaos is something I’ve seen and know how to solve, I get very unhappy. Once a problem is fixed, I get bored. Once the chaos is in order, I’d rather gag myself with a spoon all day than go to work. I’ve learned to work around this by hiring people who love and excel managing during good times, and then getting out of their way.

But I only realized the second flaw in 2004. I (like most people) have a large ego. OK, I have a super large ego. Sue me. And I believe given a little time and some resources, I can solve any new problem. I still believe that today.

But the flaw was I believed I could change anything about myself: I inherently believed every flaw I have was fixable. Every imperfection was smoothable. And as I continued on my path of career growth, and my ability to change some things about myself started to wane, I grew more and more frustrated and threw myself more and more into trying to fix the unfixable. It ate me up alive.

While my burn-out occurred on a spectacularly fucked-up and mismanaged project, the reality is I was headed in that direction anyway by following the personal growth path of fix all flaws.

In short, I did not love myself.

Sanity and Love

And that’s the first trick to staying sane: Accept and love yourself.

I started out this essay by pointing out that I love my wife. That means I love both her good attributes and her imperfections. And I accept those imperfections and don’t try to change them (well, except for her penchant to remind me I’m too wordy in my writing; she’s got to stop that!).

In 2004 I realized I needed to do the same for myself. I needed to accept that although there were things I didn’t like about myself, some of them were unchangeable and I had to accept them. I will never be a great designer. I will always get bored with day-to-day operational tasks.

And my fatal flaw? The one that ultimately felled me in 2004? I will always be compulsively obsessed and addicted to something. In 2004, it was my job. I had no sense of balance and was putting my job before everything else in my life: my wife, my family, and my health.

For me it took of a crisis to jar me to life, but I’ve come to accept this flaw in myself, and now I try to use it as a talent. I’ve been trying to apply my compulsiveness to building a balance of body, mind, spirit and soul, as opposed to just succeeding at a job. And since doing that, I’ve also learned how to be more effective at my jobs, and much more content at my place in the Universe.

For each of us the flaws are different, but the key step in keeping your sanity is the same:

  1. Know your talents
  2. Know your flaws
  3. And while you should always try to improve, accept that you are who you are.

If you can do that, the other steps in keeping your sanity are just details. Really.

– Art

(1) Now, I’m not the world’s smartest man but I’m also not the world’s stupidest man, so I’m not about to detail those flaws here. Suffice it to say she has flaws.

(2) As usual, I’m not the first person to realize the distinction between skills and talents. Here’s another framework recommended to me by my friends Naomi and Rich for understanding the difference, and a tool that helps some people discover their talents versus their skills.

(3) I believe all talents come at a cost, and everyone who is insanely talented in one key area is also fatally flawed in another. And nothing they can do will ever remove the fatal flaw; they just need to manage around it. It’s almost like we were given $100 to spend on talents when we were created, and some of us choose not to spend it evenly on all talents. I imagine Jimi Hendrix choosing to spend $99 of it on musical talent, leaving self-control underinvested in. But on the flip side, if we didn’t do that, how much more boring and ugly would this world be?

The Rules For Keeping Your Sanity

(5a of 5 in The Rules of Naked Management)

In prior entries I talked about the keys to running naked teams: Figure out the most important thing, run a naked team, grow your naked team, and grow the individuals on your team. With all that stuff to follow, how can the Naked Manager stay sane? That’s what this last article focuses on.

The Management Paradox

A trap awaits the successful Naked Manager. It consists of two truisms:

  1. You will be asked to do more and harder things with each success
  2. You will be able to do less and less with each success

The first truism happens because other managers always give their stars more and more to do – track-records are valued more than anything else. The second truism occurs because the problems get harder, require more time, and require more thought, and despite efforts by scientists to solve the problem, there remains only 24 hours in each day.

Left alone most managers at some point (myself included) fall into the trap of taking on more and more and relying on brute-force, intellect and ego to keep up the track record. Some managers (myself included) eventually cave under the pressure.

It happened to me in 2004. I feel into the trap of working 80+ hour weeks for three months in a row and I spectacularly burned out in my job and had to take 3 months off to recover. It was the second biggest failure of my life(1), but…

Breaking the Paradox

…I had the luxury at the time of working for a company that welcomed me back (which I’ll be forever grateful for) and the time off gave me some time to create a new framework to approach my job (and my life) with, which I applied and tweaked in my next go-round of the management merry-go-round. In reality what happened was one of the best things to ever happen to me.

This series of mini-articles will detail the approach I came up with to stay sane. These are the steps:

I’ll fill in the links as I post the details. I can’t guarantee it’ll work for everyone, but I’ve had some other friends and co-workers adopt the framework and reviews are very positive. Stay tuned for the details…

– Art

(1) I may write one day about the first. However, in both cases, the lessons I learned from the failures far outweighed the pain of the failure. I’m become a real believer that failures are the key to growth in all aspects of life. In the first failure I learned what it means to really love another person (my now wife). In the second failure I learned what it really means to love myself (and no, that’s not a masturbation reference 🙂 ).