No Schedule Vs Pinned Tasks

Naval says (loosely paraphrased), it’s not about the book. It’s about the reader. Meaning one book can mean different to two people. And even to same person depending on when he/she reads it. I first read Marc Andreessen’s productivity guide at least two years ago (don’t remember the exact date but it wasn’t the last year or the one before). And the only thing I seem to remember from it was the idea of having just three lists.

  1. To do list
  2. To watch list
  3. And to latter list

First for things you need to do. Second for things you need to oversee. And third, for things you would do in a distant future.

Marc’s blog post surfaced again in my Twitter feed thanks to the tweet below.

Naval’s take out caught my eye i.e. to whatever extent possible don’t keep a schedule. I don’t seem to recall Marc Andreessen writing that. Though it’s something I am trying to have in my life now a day. So I read the post again. I was unable to finish it though because the first two points drove me into confusion. How can you advocate not keeping a schedule while in the next paragraph promote writing down tasks for the next day on a flash card the night before?

Marc’s no longer on twitter. Even if he was, my odds of getting a reply from him were low. So I decided to stop reading and practice the thing I wasn’t doing i.e. writing down a list of tasks that I would be doing the next day. After seven days I am much less confused, to say the least. Not that I ever doubted anything Marc says but seeing it in action is something different.

The difference between not keeping a schedule and having a list is obvious in hindsight. A schedule keeps you time bound. As an example “I will meditate at 7am in the morning” is a schedule. I will meditate first thing in the morning is part of a list. The first gives you the anxiety of not being able to wake up on time. The latter keeps you in check with little to no pressure as you go to sleep. Of course, making a list is not the point. Getting things done is. Hence it’s important to take the point in entirety.

Write down 3-5 tasks that you will do the next day. And then do them.

The other more subtle and yet insanely useful trick behind writing what you need to do the night before is it takes care of your priorities. While it’s ok to let your mind wander, the problem, of course, is getting lost too much into something new. New ideas are exciting. Working on them, however, not so much. Former is a function of heart, latter a function of the mind. Telling your heart what to get excited about does not work. Telling your mind where to focus always works.

The list takes care of the latter so you can have time for the former.


What’s missing from remote work

I am living in a remote village in Pakistan. And to almost everyone around me, the idea that I am working with a company based in Seattle, USA is absurd. Even more perplexing is my CEO does not go to the office either. He mostly works from home as well. I have this nagging feeling that for six months I leaving an office going job, my mother used to think I have grabbed a lottery. Sooner than later this is going to end (she likes I live with her) and I am going to head back to the city for “real job”.

She is half right though. Me moving to a city, in or outside of Pakistan, is inevitable. But not because I have to but because I want to.

Which got me thinking why? I had this imaginary reason in my head i.e. the city will give me a better lifestyle. On thinking a bit deeper though I realized that’s not the case. For the most part, my lifestyle is exactly what I want. I am just lonely. And that’s not going to change as long as I am working remote regardless of my location. I also realized that I actually have a better lifestyle of living in my hometown. I am living way below my earnings, something I am learning to appreciate. And I get to visit the city every other week to meet friends and enjoy stuff that I can’t find here.

The real reason I have come to the conclusion is that remote work has a ceiling. It’s great for stuff that you can do on your own. But not so much for things that need intense collaboration. I used the word intense deliberately. I think we are at a point where effective project management is possible via tools like Slack, Jira, Asana etc. Most of the problems associated with remote project management are just a hyped up problems of project management itself.

What I mean by intense collaboration is the type of collaboration that you need to start a new company. Or work on a new idea together. Or coming up with ideas, to begin with, while hanging out with friends/colleagues for no reason. And I believe that’s what I want to do. This seems like a very long way to say what Andreas Klinger has summed up in this tweet.

And it is. But I was interested in documenting the process through which I came to this conclusion. Not just because I wanted to write a blog post. But also because I am looking to find a possible solution to this if there is one. It’s important because my real, out of proportion, value to let’s say AngelList is not what Andreas tells me to do but rather in doing things both he and I don’t know I can do. At least not yet.



Making Hard Choices

Nerves are good. They are a sign that you are onto something. The way to tackle them is not to assume that you are not nervous. But rather in accepting that you are.

Being emotional is fine too. Until you don’t dread. Let your emotions be genuine and come in short bursts.

You (or your life choices) don’t matter as much as you think you do. Most people will be fine with or without you.

Take good proteins just before. And exercise.

It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride. Be patient and humble as you move along.


Smart vs Hard Work

It’s a long standing debate which is yet to settle down. Perhaps because the proponents from both sides don’t understand each other. I am on the smart side. Being smart does not mean that you choose less effort over more. It’s about choosing better results. It has nothing to do with how much effort you put in, its more about the output you gain in result. Aren’t two the same thing or at least directly proportional? No, they aren’t. E.g. If I have an idea or concept which I need to translate so that someone else can understand. It’s better for me to put it in words than to sketch. Because I am better at writing than sketching. And even if I put more effort into the later, the end result will still be poor.

Doing smart work means putting your hard work in the right direction. It means finding your leverage and building on top of it.

For startups the leverage is normally an innovative product or marketing idea. From Breaking Smart:

There is a whole painful genre of entrepreneurial motivational commentary based on fetishizing the pain, blood and sweat of certain kinds of struggle into something sacred and noble. This is smarmy bullshit. You should not avoid hard work where it is the only path, but you SHOULD use every available trick and hack to mitigate the need for Sisyphean efforts.

Do read the entire newsletter.


Apple, now you are hurting me

I love iPad. More than any other product from Apple. And that says something because my work life is dependent on MacBook and iPhone. I cannot function without these two. I can, however, without an iPad. But I don’t want to. That’s the beauty of it. Yet, like so many other people, I can’t help to ignore it. And Apple is to blame for that.

Yesterday, Apple made an existing remarkable product even better. iPad Air was super awesome. Every iteration after that is plain brilliance. And yet that’s not iPad’s problem.

Ben Thompson wrote a three piece series on the topic back in 2013. The conclusion makes me cry even today:

The “why” of the iPad, then, lies in its magic. It’s in the experience, and, crucially, it’s in the apps.

The iPad is not an iPad, yet-another-Apple device to weigh down your bag and your wallet. Rather, it is whatever, and exactly, you need it to be.

If you are a musician, the iPad is your instrument, your studio.
If you are an artist, the iPad is your paint brush, your easel.
If you are a student, the iPad is your textbook.
If you are a child, the iPad is your storybook, or your entertainment.
If you are a grandma, the iPad is your connection to your family.

If you are human, the iPad is your magic wand. And, honestly, who does not want a magic wand? And why isn’t Apple selling it as such?

And yet Apple insists on selling me specs. A replacement for PC. I don’t want that. Since when you started championing corporate productivity, Apple?


The Inner Game of Tennis

I have started avoiding self-help books recently. I felt like I was not getting anything from them. I was just looking for dopamine hit. So I don’t know why exactly I picked this one up—maybe because of tennis. But I am glad I did.

I won’t call this a self-help book anyway. It’s more about managing your brain. The analogy used in the book is so helpful that I have started to caught my procrastination behaviours more often now. It’s also an old book that’s very short which makes it more compelling.

P.S. I originally wanted to write a long form review of the book. But thought otherwise because I don’t want to give anything away. Bear with tennis analogy and this is worth every bit of your time.


Using your intuition to make product design decisions is harder than you think. It’s harder because you are the only one thinking that way. Unlike making decisions based on market research where you have lots of data to support you.

What customers seek though is your intuition. Because that’s unique.

One way to hide from this uneasy choice is to garner support from people who don’t have a stake in your company.


Why Facebook copying Snapchat everywhere feels wrong?

I actually admired when they first did it i.e. Instagram stories. It was a much cleaner version of Snapchat and there was real business opportunity—Instagram’s large user base compared to Snapchat. But since then it has become a cesspool.

By focusing too much on Snapchat, Facebook is forgetting what they are good at. They are good at giving people means of presenting their best self. By copying Snapchat they are trying to be equally good at giving people a mean of presenting their real self.

There is a limit to how far you can live with these contradictions.