Sunday, December 18, 2016

History remembers finishers

This week I saw the movie Dangal trailer and the actor says "If you win silver medal, today or tomorrow people will forget you but if you win Gold medal you will become a source of inspiration".  Also today morning I saw K L Rahul got out on 199 runs and the commentators are complaining about his loss of focus on one ball and he got out http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/news/india-v-england-5th-test-day-3-rahuls-199-drives-india-to-commanding-position/articleshow/56045818.cms

This reminds me of Startups and Finishers, give up too close to the finish line and you wont be remembered but if you finish it you may become an inspiration.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Avoiding Burnout

Burnout is very common in startup and it hits you more often when you are at the same startup for 7+ years. Much of burnout is felt when you are working hard but progress is slow and you have high expectations of yourself and the team. I read this excellent article http://andrewdumont.me/avoiding-burnout/ and it felt almost Deja vu to me.  I work from home so it hits even hard to me as I have less people to share it with. Here are the ways I have been trying to curtail burnout and hope it help others too:

  1. Workplace:Keep your workplace organized and stick to a routine.  I have an office room at home and I am in work mode when I am in that office.
  2. Morning:Keep 1 hour in mornings on something outside work. I read a lot in morning and don't come online or check emails until that 1 hour is done.
  3. Workout: rain, heat or winter, I try to walk for 30 min in afternoon as much as possible. This gives you some time for meta thinking and de stresses you from the morning chaos. Many solutions to tough problems come on this walk. I don’t hear music or podcast on this, I tried but then it felt like more work, I avoid it.
  4. Silence room:Do some grunt work on weekends, be it doing vaccum in house or mowing your lawn, you need 1-2 hours of "Your own time" withot distractions.
  5. Email: fight this monster, I sent most notifications to trash and assume people will call me if they need me. Also when startup becomes big people will copy you on tons of emails so choose which battles are worth fighting and which aren’t.
  6. Hipchat: Avoid this also if you are on creator schedule, I am now a days trying to stick to checking it only if I am waiting for build to finish or have some time before meetings.
  7. Motivation: Set some tough projects for you and work on them. Even if you are making slow progress you should finish it by making some progress every week.
  8. Coding: I like coding so now I have reserved calendar time of 3 hours a day to it.  This is by far the best way for avoiding burnout for me.
  9. Buddy: Have a buddy who you can share some things, may be you will just vent out and he will also but it would de stress you.
  10. Vacations: I try to take 1 big vacation(2weeks)  every year and try to go to national parks for camping where there is no connectivity so you are really unplugged.
  11. HQ visit: this recharges me as I again get some more brainstorming on things outside my purview.
  12. Hobby: I recently picked up photography and I do read and practice that.
  13. Humans: I feel more burnout when I need to make something live and there are many humans in the process chain that makes things slow, things that should take 1 week takes months and then you are burned out as your baby isn’t live.  I try to automate and avoid humans in the process as much as possible. Its unavoidable but if you are lazy and think hard then its doable in many cases.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Finishing what you started

A quality of a good Startup engineer is "Finishing what you started". I value finishers more than people who talk good theory and start many things but don’t finish most of them. Most of the time people get excited and start many things concurrently but leave them in limbo or they finish 95% of the thing.  Over 7 years at my current Startup I have observed that in many projects doing first 95% may take you X units of time but its the remaining 5% that demands 10x cognitive effort and time from you. Its this last 5% where people either burnout or give up. Its the finishers who keep the compass pointing to North star, never give up and do what ever it takes to Finish( in indian mythology saam, daam, dand, bhed).

Recently One of my respected colleague "Sachin" left for a sabbatical. He was one of the Finishers whom I would hire any day on my team or would choose as a buddy to watch your back.  "Sachin" has a zeal like a Rhino or Triceratops to Finish what he started and for this I value him the most.  Best of luck to him and I hope he gets bored with sabbatical and joins back :).