There are 96 15 minute intervals in a day


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How busy are you, really?

A day starts with 96 15 minute-long sections – you have a limited number of these in your day – and you are not going to be 100% available during all of them. By most people’s count, you probably need to spend between 28 and 32 of these 15-minute periods asleep, or you’ll be incurring a sleep tax during the rest of the day. Add in 6 intervals for eating and 3 for personal care, you’re down to about 57 intervals daily. Many of us also commute for 6 to 8 intervals in a day. And you probably need 4-8 intervals of family time beyond that. That leaves about 45 15 minute intervals for effective action during your entire day.

You are also distracted. Right now, you might be thinking about three to seven things that have nothing to do with this post. You might simply be scanning the first few words of every sentence, and you might be working or listening to music when you’re reading. It’s okay – I’m probably distracted too.

I guess this explains why that day flew by.

What would you do if you had a limited time to make an impact in a single day?

You might do a few things differently, including identifying a few of your key priorities every day; shortening or aggressively declining meetings, and spending some time at the end of each day seeing if you got your Most Important Tasks completed. You might read about key planning techniques that other people use to be Amazingly Productive. And you might start a habit. Which is great until your day strikes and activates your lizard brain.

There are many things that happen in a day that are unexpected. From emails that prompt action to just-in-time meetings, some of them are genuinely important and others are not. Sometimes, you do need to drop everything and focus on something else.

Planning and executing in an interruption-driven culture is really challenging.

The best laid plans often disappear in the face of whatever is happening that day. And you can combat that distraction with ruthless triage, if you can focus. What is the most high-value thing I can work on right now? And what can I get done in the next 30 minutes or 1 hour?

And what if I can’t focus? Do whatever you have to do to get in a focused place. You might need to turn off your phone. You might need to close your computer. You might need to have nothing else in front of you but an empty whiteboard or an empty piece of paper. On the paper, you should write: your desired outcome, the goals that will reinforce that outcome, and the strategies you will use to get there.

You might not know how to get there yet – the first step might be to ask for help from someone on the team – and you might not feel great about your contribution that day. And you can move something forward in the next 15 or 30 minutes.

“Those with resilience build on the cornerstones of confidence — accountability (taking responsibility and showing remorse), collaboration (supporting others in reaching a common goal), and initiative (focusing on positive steps and improvements).” —Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Are you making the best use of your time right now?

The “best” use of your time is to combine the best action you can take with the best planning you can take. On the best day, that will be your most important tasks done at the right time with enough buffer to handle everything that the day can throw at you. On your less-than-best day, it might be just enough to move one of your most important tasks forward.

You don’t have to be perfect. The best use of your time is to make the time you spend more intentional. Multi task less. Single task more. And remember that done is better than perfect. And also remember that some things must be done perfectly.







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There should be an App for a Personal API

 There should be an app for that

There Should Be An App For That

Apps and websites (and features) are becoming single function, best-of-breed experiences.

And in the future (and the present) customers want to knit them back together into a mix-up of their own creation.

Services like Zapier ( and IFTTT ( are just the start. These services enable a kind of personal operating system where you identify the “channels” (where stuff happens, e.g. Twitter, Salesforce, Facebook – there are hundreds), the “triggers” (what causes this to happen, e.g. receiving an email, creating a calendar item, or posting a tweet), and the “actions” (what data is transferred or referenced in another channel, e.g. When I post on Instagram, also post it for me on Flickr; or make a calendar appointment for me automatically when I get this type of email.)

The future belongs to startups that help you make “Data Glue” and “Personal API” management, sticking together all of your best of breed digital exhaust and interactions and photos and stuff into one coherent management view. Yeah, yeah, I know – you keep all of your stuff in Facebook or on Twitter or on Google. But do you? Do you really know where all of your online stuff lives?

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends presentation is a must read.
What is there was a personal API where you could see all of your stuff?

Today you share a lot of information online. And you don’t have a good place to review all of that data, understand how it’s shared, and stop sharing it when you want. We need an API of Me that gives you one place to know what you’re doing and sharing online. You might argue that this is dangerous to connect all of the streams of information and to put management controls in one place. I might argue that it’s potentially dangerous to not know all of the information that’s being shared and connected to you with and without your knowledge.

A personal API could bridge this gap by giving you better control over the information you choose to share and understanding where it’s shared. There are some technical hurdles to making this happen and a start might be: allow consumers to create their own chunks of information that are connected with an API using oAuth to publishers. It’s the same way a company might broker and share this sort of information, only you would be brokering the information and using it as a “pass-through” for the information you currently share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other services.

There would need to be a minimum amount information that would be always be shareable and discoverable – for example, you might use as your key the username that you share on those networks (your Twitter handle, LinkedIn ID, etc). As a start you might simply provide extended information to those services. If this is a valuable service to share highly targeted information, then those services might start using you as an API provider.

What if there was a way to package up that data and sell it to people who wanted your stuff and to get payment?

In a world where you had better control over your personal data, you might choose to give it away freely or sell that information. Today there is a Creative Commons license that allows you to give away content easily and it’s much harder to centralize the way that you sell data, mostly because you are often operating under the auspices of other organizations when you create that information. Who owns a Tweet? Who owns a Facebook post? Who owns the digital exhaust of an interaction that you create when you move from place to place?

The future will include:
– tightly controlled views of uncontrolled data
– custom bundles of seemingly random information that have value when aggregated
– individual micro payments for actions online and offline

Would you use an “API of Me”?

5 Steps to Surviving and Thriving in Startup Life

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On Climbing the Startup Mountain

Life in a startup is a non-stop business. Whether you are aware of it or not, your work-life balance suffers, your relationships are strained, and your personal health and motivation may waver. Yet it’s the most amazing rush in the world.

Working in startups gives you the freedom, opportunity, and responsibility to build an uncertain product for am uncertain customer in an uncertain market. There is more change in a startup day (and sometimes, intraday) than most businesses see in a week or a month. And that change brings stress, excitement (sometimes anxiety) and an intense need for resilience.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” 
-Nelson Mandela

Failure Happens. How do you get up?

We often fall in startups. And we need to get up stronger and faster to make the changes that prevent the same mistake from happening again.

With that in mind, here are 5 steps to help you survive in startup life as you scale new heights:

Continue reading “5 Steps to Surviving and Thriving in Startup Life”

Don’t Miss These 5 Reasons To Use a Standing Desk

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Standing up, all day? Really? What are some of the main reasons you might consider using a Standing Desk as your primary workstation?

Reason #1 – Using a Standing Desk Promotes Healthy Habits

Using a standing desk is a great example of a tiny habit – a change in a behavior because you had an epiphany – perhaps because you realized that sitting down all of the time is not great for you. Taking small steps toward this goal is a good first start. You might not be able to stand all day and every day for quite a while, or you might have health constraints that prevent you from doing that. But realizing that you ought to move around more, taking the steps to do that, and making a commitment to do that every day is a key component for behavioral change.

Reason #2 – If you Track One Thing, You Might Track Another.

You might be interested in a standing desk because you are a “quantified self” person – interested in tracking changes in your health and behavior with technology – and using devices like a Fitbit or a Jawbone up can help you to know the equivalent steps you’re taking as you stand up during more hours of the day.

Reason #3 – You’d like to be Thinner.

This one’s pretty much a no-brainer. Stand more, burn more calories, eat the same amount, and lose weight. It’s a relatively small change (300 calories a day for a 180lb person, but over a year of working that could add up to 20lbs (300 * 5 * 48 / 3500).

Reason #4 – Using a Standing Desk Stimulates Your Brain

Walk more (and move around more), and researchers have found that moving increases your working memory]. So it’s reasonable to conclude that the act of balancing your body and holding it in space keeps you more awake.

Reason #5 – Using a Standing Desk Might Improve your Mood

There haven’t been many studies to address the question of using a Standing Desk as a potential anti-depression method, but this study is promising. For the people who participated in the study, standing and working produced a statistically significant improvement in mood.

How can you get started using a standing desk? There are some easy hacks, including this one, many IKEA versions, and other ideas. (I use a drafting table raised to elbow height when standing, and prop my monitor with some heavy books.)

You should be incorporating some stretches, drinking water, and taking plenty of breaks. It took me several weeks before standing up all day felt natural.

Need some more ideas?

Check out these articles

Two of the Dumbest Business Mistakes I’ve Ever Made

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//Read about more mistakes in the newest Startup Edition

“Do not fear mistakes. There are none.”
-Miles Davis.

We all make mistakes.

I’ve made a few mistakes in my time. I’m not talking about the garden-variety mistakes you might make in the course of the day. I’m talking about product development whoppers, or the kind you look back on several years later and wonder, “What was I thinking!?”

You make the best decision you can based on the information you know at the time and your framework for making decisions. There are a few decisions I wish I could take back, because if I could change them now, they would be great companies (or at least, I could feel like I made the right decision 10 years later). They were ideas for products that I still want now, that still solve a concrete problem, and that people are still willing to pay money to solve. (These ideas also work because they enable the businesses that use them to make more money and get more yield out of their current investment.)

What was my biggest mistake?

My Biggest Mistake was not trusting myself to make the right decision with the information I knew at the time. I didn’t have all of the answers – how to execute, how to find the money, how to deal with the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur – and I let that feeling of being out of my comfort zone make my decision for me. The lesson for next time? Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Trust my gut more, and be in the moment when struck by a big idea that wants to be real.

Now, you decide whether I should have gone forward.

Here are the ideas that I had and decided not to do. Read them with the knowledge that you have in 2013, and decide whether you would pursue them today: I would.

Big Idea: Make the Grocery Store Easier.

Idea #1: Imagine if the next time you went into your local grocery store, there was a way for your phone to tell you the location of every product in the store, to remember your past preferences for shopping, and even to direct you in an optimal aisle-by-aisle route to minimize the time in store? And what if you received loyalty rewards and marketing offers that pertained to you? And what if you could check out of the store simply by scanning each item with your phone as you placed into the cart. That idea sounds promising and real in 2013, and quite similar to the idea my friends are pursuing at qThru.

When I thought of a very similar idea in 1999, even though the hardware and software was off the shelf and readily available, I didn’t go and build it. I made the decision that “I wasn’t the type to do that,” and “I’m not an idea guy” and let self-doubt make my decision for me. I can’t have that decision back, and I know that what I was really feeling in the moment was, “oh crap. I have no idea how to even begin thinking about that much less how to build and monetize it.” And, it happened again.

Big Idea #2: Make Waiting at a Restaurant Better.

Idea #2: Imagine you arrive at a popular restaurant. Because they are very busy, they ask you for your phone number so that they can text message you when your table is available. At the same time, they ask you to join their loyalty program so that you can participate in drink specials, learn about special events, and play games or trivia while you are waiting in line. It exists today – it’s called TurnStar – and I’ve used it. It’s pretty slick.

Why didn’t I build my version? It was called TextMyTable, and I was ready to go with the vision, the business plan, and the execution play. It was September 2008. Then all of a sudden the economy did a flip-flop and all of our assumptions about what was a normal business turned on their head. Or did they? I was stuck because I didn’t know how to raise the money to start the business or to grow the business in such a way that it generated operating capital.

What’s the Commonality?

In both of these ideas (and in others it’s not important to share here), I had an idea for a product or a service that was innovative. The ideas capitalized on a consumer need, solved an actual problem and had a reasonable chance at being successful. We could argue about the size of the market and the relative degree of success, and the fact remains that they were good ideas. And I made a mistake in not pursuing them.

What did I learn and what would I do next time?

The first thing I learned is that you can’t find out whether you’ll succeed with an idea until you try it. (Duh.) The ideas I think that would have been successful might have been abject failures, wild successes, or more likely somewhere in between. And I don’t know because I didn’t try them.

The second thing I learned from these mistakes is that collaboration is everything. I needed to do more to ask people to tear apart the idea instead of trying to build the whole business from start to finish inside my head. Groups like Startup Edition are a great place to get feedback, learn from other perspectives, and to reframe your questions.

And finally, I learned from my mistakes that it’s impossible to know what you don’t know until you do it. (Sounds like a Zen koan, doesn’t it.) What can you do about that? Admit that you’re going to make mistakes. Try to make different ones the next time you approach a problem, and learn from the results. Trust your gut.

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