The Disorganized Mess of Shipping

Amy and I shipped the final draft of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur yesterday. “If you are interested in this book, go pre-order it now on Amazon to help our pre-order numbers“, said Brad the Book Salesman.

The backlog of things on my to do list is at an all time high. I’m normally super responsive to everything and have zero backlog. That is not the case right now.

The only thing in front of me for the next seven hours is the Detroit Marathon which I’m going to go suit up for after I finish writing this blog post. I don’t expect this to be a pretty marathon – I haven’t been running very much, or consistently, since my bike accident six weeks ago, but I’m running to support my partner Jason Mendelson who, along with Jill Spruiell and Becky Cooper from Foundry Group, are running their first marathon. Our partner Ryan McIntyre is also running today, along with Andrew Tschesnok of Organic Motion. I think it’s pretty cool that 36% of Foundry Group is running this marathon.

While my backlog is huge, I’ve been focused on making sure I’m responsive to all the top order stuff. In my hierarchy this is Amy, my partners, the CEOs of companies I’m an investor in, anyone else who works for a company we are investors in, and our LPs. That’s it – everything else is in “the next bucket.” I’ve gotten plenty done outside of this, but all my excess available time over the last thirty days has been allocated to shipping this book. If you check with Kelly and ask about my schedule, she’ll suppress a laugh as she tries to fit you in somewhere.

Every time I ship something I have new respect for all the entrepreneurs and people who work for the companies we are investors in. I’ve had a lot of time (almost 30 years) to work on my “prioritization algorithm” and feel like I’ve got it well tuned. I’ve always had a continual overcommit problem – where I take on slightly too much and then have to back off on some optional stuff – and this cycle repeats itself regularly in my life. However, when you commit to shipping something, like a book, you have a deadline and suddenly have to execute against it. The high order priorities come into clearer focus. The separation between them, and everything else, become crisp. When I’m sitting in a hotel room at 11pm after a day that started at 5am, I no longer am thinking that I’m going to get through all of my email. Instead, I’m learning the brilliance of using Google Circles to search my inbox for circle:”foundry ents” label:inbox and make sure I get all of those done before I go to sleep.

While I’ve got a ton of other things I want to get to that are interesting and relevant to me, none of them are either timely or important, at least to me. I realize they are timely and important to the person on the other end so I’ll eventually get to them, but the prioritization filter gets tight and the first constraint to enforce is timeliness. I try not to spend any time on stuff I don’t think is useful. As Amy likes to tell me “I’ll be the judge of that” – and I am the judge of what I want to spend my time on, and I’m sure I get this wrong some of the time.  If you aren’t in the “inner circles” (yes – Google really got this right) then you have to wait. I’ll eventually get to it, but it won’t be first.

Everyone I know talks about how busy they are. And I’m sure they are. But if you haven’t shipped a product lately, I encourage you to configure something you are working on to look like a product that you are shipping. If you don’t have an external deadline, give yourself one. When you are working on something that has to ship in two weeks, you realize how much stuff is trying to get your attention that isn’t a priority, or even relevant to your mission on this planet. It’s a good way to remember how to prioritize. And it’s an excellent reminder to me about the pressure the people I invest in are under who continually ship products.

  • This will indeed not be a fun marathon 🙂 Having a busy schedule does force one to pick his/her priorities and how they keep up with them. It is very interesting to read your opinion about Google circles. Since I got my new iPhone5 (major upgrade for me), I do find myself checking Google+ for posts (the app on the iPhone is terrific)

  • Jeffrey Hartmann

    Congrats on shipping your final draft, being an entrepreneur in the weeds with building product and seeing it effect my work life balance I am very excited to hear how you and Amy have built up a system to handle things.

    I find that giving myself deadlines is a great tool to make everything else melt away. Being an engineer, I tend to break down code I am working into several small deadlines. I think this is a very powerful tool, and I recommend that people use it for any sort of work they are doing. Decomposing work is a powerful tool to bring focus and to begin critically thinking about the tasks at hand. I tend to break things down in detail on a weekly basis, looking at a macro level high level plan to help. While the macro plan is probably more fluid, once you commit to your weekly detailed plan you should hold to it and treat it like a deadline. Even if you don’t have an exact deadline for your macro plan, I find for myself at least that I can get some of the same powerful focus by pushing myself every week to execute to my small deadlines.

  • I love this post.

    Family and customers create their own priorities below them.

    Best thing I’ve done for myself and my clients (boards and advisory things) is to start two passion based products. Self funded. Bootstrapped all the way.

    One in my core passion wine ( community marketplace), the other in partners core passion, green and raw foods (smoothies and raw deserts).

    My time is hyper focused, My writing better. My consulting more valuable and my ‘products’ really exciting and maybe even, businesses after all.

  • It’s like a big load off is your shoulders. Great feeling indeed!

    Nothing like a deadline to get things done, whether others impose it on you or whether you impose it on yourself.

    Congrats for knocking off another future best-seller from that book series.

  • This is the book in the series I am really looking forward too. The last one was a good read though. You know you should swap out the hyperink book ad for this one… you know, pre-orders and all. I suppose the maker summer is finally over, well done.

    and wtf… circles in my gmail… this google+ thing is a weed.

    • Yeah – I need to refresh the sidebar.

      I find very interesting uses for Google+. They are often subtle but once you notice them they are amazingly powerful.

  • Brad, have you ever read What I Think About When I Think About Running by Haruki Murakami, the Japanese novelist who many thought would win the Nobel this year? He is a serial marathoner and it is a book about both running and writing. Great stuff.

    • It is an absolutely beautiful book.

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