Rands This is a different forever situation

WFH

Up at 7am. Check the outfit, the professional outfit, on the floor to make sure it still fits my mood. Adjust as necessary. Shower and put on the outfit. Consider wearing shoes, but don’t. My shoes are lonely.

Upstairs. Coffee (black) and a glance at the view. Santa Cruz Mountains. No fog today. Walk into the office and appreciate the lights are already on. A prior WFH project involved office automation. I never turn lights on or off during the work week. Sit down at the desk and spend five minutes on a tidy. This daily tidy keeps the desk a wide-open space save for a Zebra Sarasa .5 black gel pen, a Mile Marker Fields Notes, a box of Altoids, and a bright yellow cloth to clean my glasses.

Close to 7:30am now. Office is well-lit and tidy. Most days, meetings don’t start until 9am, but on Mondays, I give myself a ramp. Today is a Monday. No meetings until 11am so that I can cache the entire week. Examine the calendar for the entire week. Determine:

  • Meetings to decline (No agenda, no specified role for me, or historically low signal).
  • When preparation is necessary. Specifically, note said preparation in Field Notes.
  • WTF? Ask a human a question about the nature of the meeting in Slack. If they don’t respond in 24 hours, decline.

A sip of coffee. Another glance out the window. I purchased a bird feeder on Amazon to hang on the office window, but the birds haven’t found it yet.

Slack now, but music first. A playlist I’ve likely played before because it can’t be novel – it’s background noise — Thompson Twins for some reason. Slack triage is fast. Determine:

  • For direct messages, which need a response now or which can wait? Respond to critical messages and then move messages sans response to the correct sidebar (Fires, Hiring, Planning, and Grab Bag).
  • Once initial responses are done, scan sidebar for pre-existing messages that need a response. Respond. If it’s been there more than a day, reflect on why.

Three significant Slacks (Rands, Work, and Destiny) can be scrubbed in 15 minutes. Ok, mail now. The very achievable goal is inbox zero. Monday is 2x the inbox because most of the world has been sipping their Monday coffee longer than I and are fired up to send some mails. Determine whether to:

  • Respond now.
  • Flag to respond later – set a reminder, so the mail is no longer in the inbox.
  • Research why this unwanted mail is in my inbox and then act accordingly immediately (Spam filter, mail rules, mailing list unsubscribe).

Repeat the mail process for work mail. Capture this week’s relevant work notes in Field Notes. Smile at all the blank screens and take another sip of coffee. It’s 8:15am now.

Stand up and tidy the room now. Small piles of stuff have emerged over the past week, and these are devious piles. They claim they are important clutter, but they are just clutter. Disassemble the piles into their constituent parts and place them in the proper place. If a proper place does not exist, reflect on a strategy for developing a proper place, and either create the place or note proper place creation thoughts in Field Notes. Likely a weekend project.

Stare at the timepieces on the left side of the desk. Like the outfit, the watch complements my mental mood. Serious? Playful? Colorful? All business? They are called timepieces, not watches because they are objects I’ve taken care of in finding, they are a reflection of design I care about, and the act of selecting one is comfortably deliberate. Omega Speedmaster today. The moon watch. A classic.

A blue jay is on the deck railing now. I suspect he can smell and/or see the birdseed. He’s bouncing around. He can see me and doesn’t give a shit about my thoughtful outfit nor my classic timepiece.

8:30am. The hard part of Monday. Caching the entire week. Determine what data do I need at my fingertips to answer hard questions? Run bug queries, read presentations, scroll around in Slack channels, send clarifying DMs, and review agendas. The prior week calendar review has illuminated most of the critical questions, but the caching process creates more.

The blue jay is still bouncing around on the railing. Sunflower seeds are in his future.

The hard part of the weekly caching process is focus.

Caching and the resulting research fills the hour and drains the first cup of coffee. Before I stand up for cup two, review the day now and mentally note which meetings can occur outside via audio. During these meetings, I will walk the property, pull weeds, admire redwoods and oaks, and discuss important work topics of the day, but these meetings are mostly defined by being outside of the office. Two a day – minimum. Critical mental health investment.

Stand-up, walk to the kitchen and pour coffee number two. The dogs are sitting in the living room looking at me expectantly, and I tell them as I tell them most mornings, “I don’t feed you. Claire does.” They mistake the spoken word for a food commitment and get excited, but droop when I walk back to the office. Sorry, Marleau. Sorry, Gracie Lou.

9:45am now. I understand the week now. I am amply prepared for obvious hard questions, moderately prepared for curveball questions, and have queries to smart people where I don’t know answers. Glance again at the calendar: Is it stocked with useful and productive meetings? Yes? Good.1

Ok, cache the world now. Let’s start with the markets. Up a lot. Why? Optimism. Everyone desperately wants to return to normality. I am a professional optimist, but we are not returning to normal. Ever. This is a different forever situation, and the sooner we realize that and start to plan accordingly, the sooner we will feel unstuck.

Scan the news. Anyone talking about facts rather than feelings? Nope. Keeping scanning. BBC and NPR tend to be the highest signal. Ok, now Feedly. Writings of cherished friends. Treasured time. A section for entertainment because I miss movies. I skip the news section but spend a good amount of time on video game developments. Articles are never flagged for reading later – if they don’t make the cut this morning, they are gone forever.

That was about an hour. Glance again outside. It’s still sunny, but there is a thick blanket of fog hiding the valley. Across the way, the top of a small mountain pokes out the fog like an island. I’ve always wondered why this happens at this time of day. I suspect the growing heat of the nearby central valley is sucking marine air inland, but I have no facts save for the fact the blue jay is nowhere to be seen.

Getting close to my first meeting of the day. Delightfully, it’s outside. Go downstairs and walk to the sliding door on the side of the house facing the forest. My slippers are here on the floor from the last meeting of last week. This what I wear when I walk around the forest. Slippers.

My shoes are lonely.2


  1. Remain deeply worried that I don’t think we know how to do brainstorming or other crucial creative meetings in this new context. 
  2. Thanks to Ben Stewart for asking me about my WFH routine on the #ask-rands-anything channel on the Rands Leadership Slack. I started typing the answer when I discovered there was a blog post there. 

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3 Responses

  1. You mention moving direct messages to the correct sidebar in Slack (Fires, Hiring, Planning, and Grab Bag). Can you elaborate on that? Are these sidebar sections where you move the entire DM conversation?

    • Sure. Everything in Slack is a channel including direct messages. Any channel can be “starred” to any section. It’s handy.

  2. Ivan Belyna 2 weeks ago

    https://www.paulsmiths.edu/bird-safe-adks/

    ^tips on reducing bird – building collisions.