Why Routines are Sexy (Growth Without Thinking)

I try to make as few decisions each day as possible.

Here are some of the things I’ve “automated” about my day, and why it matters.

Years ago, I started with automating the trivial parts of my life:

  • What to wear
  • What to eat for breakfast
  • When to get up
  • When to begin work
  • What time to break for lunch
  • When to go to bed

I rarely make those same choices every day as if they were “new”. I’ve mostly become boring about the trivial stuff, so that I don’t have to think much about it every day.

Next, I removed as many of the non-trivial decisions from my day as possible as well.

I did this by creating routines for growth in my life. Things such as:

  • Reading habit
  • Writing habit
  • Workout routine
  • Sleep routine
  • Automated finances
  • Date night

By creating routines for growth in each area of my life I don’t have to think about growth decisions every day. Instead, I simply have to show up and stick to my routine.

By “automating” parts of my day, it means two things…

  1. It keeps me focused and growing in the areas of my life that I love.
  2. It gives me a LOT of energy to think about other stuff

See? Routines are sexy.

By automating parts of my daily life, I don’t think and decide about the same things over and over and over every day.

This lets me save my “decision energy” for the things that really NEED it. Such as being present for relationships, creating new things, and solving interesting problems.

Why Routines are Sexy (Growth Without Thinking)

How to be held back by schleps and egos

In this excellent article from Paul Graham, he talks about the fact that a lot of work kinda sucks — that’s the nature of it a lot of time. And so you have to just dive on in and do it.

But, unfortunately, a lot of people and teams will shy away from the work that sucks — because, well, they don’t want to do it. Who does? But it’s often the unpleasant work that leads to big breakthroughs and successes.

And so, a Paul says, that’s not to say you should go out of your way to seek out unpleasant work, but neither should you shrink from it when it’s on the path to something great.

This reminds me also of something from Scott Belskey:

There is an inverse correlation between how much you value your time and how much “luck” you encounter (i.e. noticing opportunities around you and capitalizing on them).

New successes require lowering your expected ROI on your time.</blockquote

This is how inflated egos extinguish new possibility: the more important you think you are, then the less open you are to non-obvious opportunity and the more limited your chance of success in new vectors and relationships.

How to be held back by schleps and egos

Some Favorite Games at “Casa Blanca”

Our boys just had spring break and since spring in Kansas City means sunny and 68 degrees one day and rainy and 42 degrees the next, we spent a decent amount of time playing games (we are a gaming family anyway).

Here are some favorites of ours right now.

  • Root: This is the top game at our house right now (thanks, Mike!). It feels like Settlers of Catan meets Risk. This is definitely more advanced and in-depth — thus my younger two boys (5 and 8) struggle and I have to help them with their turns. My 10yo is great at it. We already have plans to play this tomorrow (Saturday) after breakfast.

  • Skyjoe: Perfect for casual game night with anyone at just about any age.

  • Bang: This has been our family favorite for a several years now. There are several expansion packs as well, and about once every six months we will get a new expansion.

  • Bannanagrams: We will often sneak in a round of Bananagrams before bedtime, or during lunch.

  • Crew: If you like card games such as hearts, spades, etc. Then you’ll enjoy this.

  • (Bonus) Dominion: This is a deck-building card game that my family got into back before we all started having kids. We got so many of the expansion decks that I had to build my own custom card box. Anyway… we haven’t played it in ages, but listing out all these other games reminded me how much fun Dominion is. :)

Some Favorite Games at “Casa Blanca”

Set a 5-Minute Timer for Those Boring Tasks

A reader recently asked me about procrastination, and I pointed them to this article about The 5-Minute Rule.

There are many activities in life that are worth doing but that aren’t always easy to get started. A few things that come to mind for me include:

  • Cleaning up the house at the end of the day
  • Starting a workout
  • Writing
  • Reading a book

When it’s time to do one of these activities, and I don’t feel like it, then I will commit to 5 minutes.

I’ll spend 5 minutes putting away the dishes; 5 minutes warming up; or 5 minutes writing whatever crappy prose comes to mind.

Then, after those first 5 minutes, if I’m still not into it I give myself permission to move on to something else. But most of the time, it only takes a few minutes for the momentum to kick in.

Set a 5-Minute Timer for Those Boring Tasks

How I spent my recent Sabbatical (with pictures!)

This was something like the 30th sabbatical week that my company has taken since 2017.

After years of these regular, week-long sabbatical breaks, I’ve discovered a few things that help me make the most of my time out of the office.

One of the best ways to get the most out of a sabbatical week is to know the difference between true rest and counterfeit rest.

True rest will leave you recharged with more energy. Thus, you want to find restful activities that give you energy rather than draining it. I love to say that if you work with your head, rest with your hands (such as cooking, woodworking, landscaping, etc.).

And so, here’s the thing: true rest usually takes a little bit of effort.

Things like reading a paperback novel, cooking a meal, going out for a walk, having a conversation with someone, listening to an audiobook with your significant other. Heck, even just sitting down, alone, and not having a phone or screen can take some effort.

And so, during my sabbatical breaks, I focus hard on getting a healthy dose of that restful and creative work.

My aim is usually to have one big project that I can get done during the week in addition to daily anchors such as exercise, getting out on a excursion, having a meal with someone, etc.

I also keep my same sleep schedule. It would be easy to toss discipline into the wind for that week and treat it like full-on vacation mode. But honestly, that leaves me feeling more exhausted and behind at the end.

Anyway, for me, this past Sabbatical that was just last week seemed to be themed around taking pictures and cooking food. I smoked about 40 lbs of beef brisket and I got out several times to make photos with my Leica Q.

One other thing, on April 12 I began posting daily videos to Instagram. You can’t schedule these videos ahead of time, I was on Instagram posting them every day, which definitely led to me spending much more time on social media than I normally would.

My Screen Time Report for last week shows an average of more than 90 minutes / day on Instagram. Ouch. Even though a lot of that was time spent in the app to create my daily videos, it’s still a lot of time on social.

Anyway, if you’re curious what an average Sabbatical week looks like for me, it’s not too far off from how I spent last week’s break. Here’s a rundown:


Smoked a 12-pound brisket, just for fun. I woke up early on Monday morning to get the brisket on the smoker. Then spent most of the day tending to the food and prepping the sides. And, because we live in Kansas City, of course I separated the point and chopped it to make burnt ends. It was fantastic.


My youngest son was home from school on Tuesday, so he and I got to work together to build new storage shelves in the guest room closet downstairs.


It was a beautiful day for a drive in the CJ-7. I took my sister out to lunch. Made some photos with the Leica Q. And, later in the evening, I lit up the backyard fire pit for dude’s night with a good friend.


Finished building the closet shelves.


Made dinner: Korean rice wraps with bulgogi beef and bulgogi tofu. Not gonna lie, the tofu was on point.


Smoked more brisket! Not one, but two (!) briskets for a fundraiser at our church that was happening Sunday. I made them the day before because they needed to be dropped off on Sunday morning and I did not want to be up and down all night tending to the brisket and hoping it would be ready in time on Sunday morning.

I personally did’t get to try the brisket (I delivered it wrapped and uncut), but I heard it turned out great. And, of course, I also made burnt ends and I did taste test those and they turned out just as incredible as the same-day ends I made on Monday.


Anna and I have made it a focus in life to go on a date every week. Sometimes we go out, and sometimes our date nights are at home because we want to stay home or maybe we just can’t find a sitter. Sometimes we sit on the back deck or walk around the neighborhood.

It has been an unusually busy month at home for us, and this past Sunday we were actually we able to get out of the house and go on a date. We went to sushi dinner, got ice cream, and enjoyed some beautiful weather walking around downtown area snapping some photos with my Leica Q.

. . . .

As you can see, my week above was a somewhat “normal” week. The only really different thing is that I didn’t go into my office to do any work.

But I still kept to my same basic daily schedule: I go to bed and wake up at the same time as I do on weeks when I am working. I kept my exercise routine and did my normal rowing and lifting workouts. Ultimately, for an average sabbatical week, the biggest change for me is that the 6-8 hours / day that I normally would be working, I instead will spend that time on personal projects — cooking, woodworking, making photos, and extra family time.

These regular sabbaticals give me the space and the time to pull back from work. I also love how the sabbatical creates a clear and consistent stopping point for our focused work cycles, that help us to avoid biting off more than we can chew and to get more work done in less time.

How I spent my recent Sabbatical (with pictures!)

Are you too busy to be strategic?

Being “busy” and “productive” is not the same as being strategic.

We all know the tips and tricks and best practices for how to be productive. But we don’t know how to be intentional and strategic — because strategy can be subjective and it’s not always obvious.

Here’s how to be strategic:

  1. Get clear on your desired outcome
  2. Pick one thing you think will move you in that direction.
  3. Stick with it for long enough to determine if your actions are working.
  4. If they are working, keep going. If they are not working, stop and try something new.

Don’t become so busy that you’re just doing random acts of focus and never have time to be strategic.

Are you too busy to be strategic?

The Law of Tradeoffs

There are 8 Laws of Focus and one of them is the Law of Tradeoffs.

As David Allen said, you can do anything but you cannot do everything. In order to give your perpetual devotion to any one thing it will require the perpetual neglect of many other things. Focus, therefore, requires tradeoffs.

You can only focus on so many things at a time. And you can only focus for so many hours during the day. Instead of ignoring the limitation on your energy, embrace it and find ways to routinize and automate the non-trivial areas of your life so that even when you are not giving them your full attention and devotion, they are not being fully neglected.

The Law of Tradeoffs

Meta Work vs Doing the Work

There are 4 necessary steps to doing work that matters:

  • Identify
  • Plan
  • Act
  • Celebrate

Only one of those steps is actually doing the work. The other 3 are what we call “meta work”.

Meta work is the work that happens before and after the work itself. If you are cooking dinner, meta work is doing your meal planning and going grocery shopping and then cleaning up after dinner. If you are writing an article, meta work is scheduling your writing time and topic.

There are so many times when we feel like meta work is a waste of our time. Planning, meetings, reviews, etc… why bother!? Let me get to work!

To be sure, we never want the meta work to get in the way. But neither can we skip it. When you look at the meta work in context of the bigger picture, you can instantly see that it is necessary. You cannot skip any of the steps or else you will short-circuit the whole process. But, of course, neither should you spend too much time on the meta steps.

Meta Work vs Doing the Work