The work longer impulse

“This is an exciting new project. You will have to work longer, but it will be worth it.”

In our consciousness, new projects and working longer generally go together. Our ability to put in the hours for projects that matter is how we prove our mettle as dedicated workers after all.

Except, working longer is just one approach.

Instead of simply adding the number of work hours to the day, we could also do the following – cut existing low priority projects, streamline how we do our existing work, or build better processes to integrate the new project easily into our workflow.

Yes, we could work longer. But, we could also use the opportunity to work better.

Go where they want you

A happiness tip – stop trying to insert yourself into situations where you aren’t needed. Instead, go where they want you.

This is a common problem most consultants have faced. A partner sells a project to a senior executive. However, the folks on the ground don’t really want to have you. It is never fun. And, when contrasted with a situation when a client is waiting to have you join them, the difference is night and day.

This applies to every kind of job, of course. If you’re in sales, focus on people who implicitly or explicitly want your product. Similarly, move toward projects and teams at work that want to have you.

It sounds so obvious.

But, there is always that shiny new project we’d like to be on. As human beings, we tend to love going after clubs that won’t accept us and assume the grass is greener on the other side. And, sadly, we often try harder when folks on the opposite side play hard-to-get or are plain indifferent (there’s a few relationship analogies in here).

Re-orienting ourselves to be happy where we are and move toward places where we’re wanted is a game changer. Now, we choose situations where the incentives favor our success. Perhaps more importantly, we pick contexts where we’re likely to feel valued.  And, it is precisely in contexts where we’re valued that we push ourselves to become the best versions of ourselves.

Not because we have to.

But, because we can and because we care.

Keep calm and ship

There’s a very natural cycle when we ship a new project.

In the lead up, we experience hope. Hope is a beautiful thing as we’re in the land of what might be. It is beautiful and lasts until we start doing the work.

Next, there’s doubt. Could I really deliver on what I hoped? The reality doesn’t seem to be close to what I imagined. Is this going to go anywhere?

Once the work is done, we experience fear. Is this any good? Should I just pack up and leave? It is this stage that gets most projects. In response to that fear, we try making all sorts of last minute edits and changes. We forget why we wanted to do this and try and settle for something “people” will like. Or, we just stop and walk away.

Once we get past the fear, we ship. Ah! It feels great. We are elated.

For ten seconds.

Then, as we review what we shipped, we realize it isn’t the perfect product we’d envisioned. Why didn’t I catch that obvious flaw? Ugh.

Doubt and anxiety set in again. Are they going to hate it? Is someone going to write that horrible negative email?

A few hours pass. We still haven’t heard anything. Is this a confirmation of our worst fears? Should we be ashamed of what we shipped?


I’ve shipped many a project over these years. And, yet, I’ve always experienced this cycle of emotions. It is fresh in my mind as I shipped the first edition of the “Notes by Ada” project yesterday. I realized after I shipped that MailChimp’s formatting hadn’t worked as well on mobile. Bummer.

Whenever I experience this, I remember the following truths.

First, I have been ashamed of the first version of every project I have shipped so far. I always look back and ask – “What was I thinking?”

Second, we learn some incredibly valuable lessons when we ship. The best way to respond to them is to improve our creation process. And, you don’t really have a great process until you ship that first product, fall and learn. This attempt might not work, and that’s okay.

Finally, the questions to ask aren’t – “Was I good or perfect?”. They are – “Was I engaged? Was I paying attention?” As long as the answer to that was yes, we were doing the best we could. When we know better, we’ll do better.

Until then, keep calm and ship.

10 million gallons of gas

If you ran a delivery business, you might intuitively imagine that your delivery route optimization algorithm should optimize for the shortest route to the destination.

UPS, however, moved away from trying to find the shortest route. Instead, they avoid turning through oncoming traffic at a junction. This “no left turn” (in countries with right handed traffic) rule may mean going in the opposite direction of the final destination. However, it reduces the chances of an accident and cuts delays caused by waiting for a gap in the traffic, which wastes fuel.

This simple idea means the company saves 10 million gallons less fuel, emits 20,000 tonnes less carbon dioxide, while delivering 350,000 more packages every year. (Mythbusters confirmed this in a test)

Prof Kendall, writing on Quartz, asks – could we plan roads that make it more difficult to turn through the traffic? It would take a brave city planner to implement this, but if UPS can save 10 million gallons of fuel, how much could a whole city or even a whole country save?

The success of UPS’s policy raises the question, why don’t we all avoid turning left (or right, depending on what country we’re in), as we drive around cities on our daily commutes? If everyone did it, the carbon savings would be huge and there’d probably be far less congestion. – Prof Kendall on Quartz


Source and thanks to: Qz.com

This post is part of “The 200 words project.” I aim to synthesize a story from a book (and, occasionally a blog or article) I’ve read within 200 words consecutive Sundays for around 45 weeks of the year. I’ve also recently started a new Sunday project that synthesizes 5 things you need to know about tech this week – if you’re interested, more on that on NotesbyAda.com.

Good weekends

I’ve asked myself what makes a good weekend for many years.

A few weeks back, I finally had an epiphany. I realized that my definition of a good weekend involves four actions in order or priority – rest, connect, learn something and building something.

Rest means getting to sleep in for one of the two days and watching a game of football/soccer whenever possible. Connect involves spending quality time with the framily – ideally with some time outdoors.  But, a good weekend doesn’t feel complete until I feel I’ve learnt something and attempted to build something.

The best part about these four priorities is that I recognize they are a luxury. There are many on the planet who don’t get to take the weekend off.

So, these two days are a wonderful weekly reminder of the enormous amount of privilege in my life and, as a result, of how much I owe.

Maybe acknowledging our privilege with gratitude is what weekends are all about. We get to define what “good” is. And, in the process of doing so, we are reminded that there is so much to be grateful for.

Introducing The Notes by Ada Project | 5 things you need to know about technology every week

Tech, as we know it, has long outgrown “tech.” Technology is everywhere and is becoming fundamental to everything. There are many places you can go to to understand what’s going on in tech. Some of these places do news, a few do analysis and fewer synthesize.

I’d love to take a crack at synthesizing the 5 most important things you need to know about tech during the week in 1 email. These 5 things will likely be a mix of important news or compilations of key pieces of news into narratives. If that sounds interesting to you, do subscribe on NotesbyAda.com.

Why “Notes by Ada?”

It is my tribute to one of the greatest tech visionaries of all time. Ada Lovelace was the first to ever see the potential of analytical machines to go beyond calculating and number crunching. She did this when she translated the work of Italian military Engineer Luigi Menabrea on the analytical engine. And, she simply called them “Notes.” Oh, and “Notes” also contained the first ever algorithm.

That speaks to exactly what I’d like to do. I’d like to take pieces of news, add my notes to them and hopefully envision what’s coming ahead. And, if I emulate Ada in a small way, I think I’d be doing a good job.

Thanks Ada! | NotesbyAda.com

Ending extreme poverty

The “Our World in Data” team has a great blog post on the cost of ending extreme poverty. It is highly recommended. Here are 5 things I took away from the post.

1. Simplifying the economics, the post asks one question – How much money would we need then to lift the incomes of all poor people up to the global poverty line of $1.90 a day?  

The answer is $90B US dollars. To put that number in perspective, the US defence spending is $600B. This number is probably the lower bound as the process will be inefficient. But, even at close to 2x, we’re looking at around a quarter of the defence budget.

I think the comparison to the defence budget is useful because I wonder how much lesser terrorism (30%?) we might have if some parts of the world were better off.

2. It is also less than all of global foreign aid flows. I’m guessing foreign aid goes to fight numerous other problems.

3. The good news is that the yearly cost of closing the poverty gap has gone down. This is because, despite the polarization of incomes, the world has become a less poor place overall.

4. This is true even in rich countries.

5. What can we take away from this? I love this paragraph –

90 billion market dollars is also not a huge number when compared to the net worth of billionaires. Chandy et al. compare the value of national poverty gaps to the net worth of billionaires in each country, and conclude that “In each of three countries – Colombia, Georgia, and Swaziland – a single individual’s act of philanthropy could be sufficient to end extreme poverty with immediate effect.”

We may not be billionaires ourselves but small efforts from many of us can go a long way in helping reduce extreme poverty. In economic terms, these acts have huge positive “externalities.” Areas with lesser poverty have better health, better sanitation and lesser crime.

Of course, if you know a billionaire friend or two, do send them this blog post. 🙂

You and future you

For the longest time, you didn’t have too much of a say in crafting the “future you.”

Even two decades ago, those who worked “above” you in your organization had a big say in what opportunities you got to work on. Want to make that big career switch? Or, want in on that exciting new project? You just had to wait to get picked by the powers that be.

But, that’s changed.

Now, you have access to an incredible set of media tools to shape “future you.” You could demonstrate your penchant for coming up with ground breaking insights about the industry you want to work in on your blog or on LinkedIn. Facebook or Instagram can be incredible platforms to show off your artistic abilities. And, Twitter is a great place to build a following around your comedic wit or knack for pithy dialogue.

Like all good things in life, these tools are entirely what you make of them. You can use them to consume an endless stream of sticky content. Or not. If you decide to do so, these tools can be your customized digital garage to work on projects that would open up opportunities for “future you.”

Here are 3 simple questions to help craft your approach toward social media –
1. What sort of projects would you like to work on in the future?
2. What do you need to learn and ship to get access to those opportunities?
3. Which 1-2 social media tools could you use to build that body of work? If you really love the consumption, pick one other tool to consume (guilty pleasure allowance) and nix the rest.

You could choose to unconsciously engage in social media in ways that simply benefit their parent companies and hurt you.

Or, you can harness the tremendous power these bring and pick yourself to do work that matters.

Open apps

“How many apps are open right now?” – I asked myself as I decided to close apps running in the background on my phone.

I guessed 4 or 5 apps. But, there were close to 20 apps open and running in the background.

This happens nearly every time I decide to close apps. I underestimate how easily app baggage accumulates.

It struck me that mental and physical baggage accumulates just the same way – silently and continuously.

So, it is our responsibility to create a regular de-cluttering routine to clear enough space to enable us to be conscious and engaged. This could be regular reflection, meditation, a walk in the woods or a shower. It doesn’t matter which approach we choose.

It just matters that we choose one.

Why your garage matters

A garage has had a symbolic role in innovation. We think of startups founded in garages – even if they hardly ever are.

As Steve Johnson writes in “How We Got To Now,” most innovations occur in the “adjacent possible.” And, a few make seemingly impossible leaps.

While the popular theory for innovation is that it is the work of a genius, there are plenty of high IQ individuals at any given time. If there is a common thread, it is that inventors worked at the intersection of multiple fields. Ada Lovelace could see the future of computers as she lived at the edge of science and art. Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are modern day examples of cross disciplinary mastery.

Staying within the boundaries of a discipline can enable incremental improvements – which are critical to progress. But, to make leaps, we have to travel across borders – sometimes geographical. These time travelers often have hobbies and interests in varied fields. And, this is one of the reason garages have such a symbolic role in innovation. After all, garages are peripheral spaces where hobbies are worked on.

So, what does this mean for you and me?

Pick a side project. Any side project will do. Work on something you care about and get better at it. It may seem like it has nothing to do with what you do to earn your paycheck. But, it’ll surprise you. When this one runs its due course, it’ll lead you to the next one. And, so on. Very soon, you’ll have a body of work that speaks volumes about who you are and what you care about.

These side projects serve as differentiation in our career – in ways we’d never have imagined. They also give us energy and cross-disciplinary ideas that we would never have dreamed of.

And, most importantly, our side projects are how we walk toward our future selves.

We build ourselves into who we want to be, in time.

And, all that tinkering in our garage plays a big role in that process.