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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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The Rhythms of My Life

Comments (29)

I was in a board meeting yesterday with a company planning a major commercial release of their product “at the end of summer”.  We managed to turn this into 8/31/09 at 11:59:59pm pacific time (since I don’t believe you can release something unless there is a time/date stamp associated with it.)  As part of this discussion, we spent some time discussing the notion of a daily / weekly / monthly rhythm for both the CEO/CTO as well as the product team.

This morning, I read through an interview I recently did with Brian Roger (I’m the MyVenturePad Blogger of the Week.)  Why my mom assures me that she’s proud of me for accomplishing this status in life (i.e. “Blogger of the Week”), I was intrigued by the amount of “rhythm” Brian incorporated into his interview.  While some of the quotes make me sound like an overly rigid tool (e.g. “Each day he’s up at 5 a.m. – ‘regardless of the time zone I’m in’ – to begin ‘a two-hour information routine.’”), I’ve always felt that the notion of a strong rhythm was a critically important part to how I operate.

When I think of rhythms in my life, they break down into daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, and decadal.  Here are some examples of how I think about it.

Daily (M-F): Get up at 5am every day.  Spend the first two hours of the morning in front of my computer (a) consuming info and (b) catching up on any email.  Exercise (usually a run.)  From 9am on, follow my calendar until the day is over (which my assistant Kelly manages – it’s very dynamic – and I try to schedule every phone call and meeting.)  When I fly somewhere, I try to do it either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day and I try to sleep on the plane from take off to landing.

Weekly (S-Su): Sleep until I wake up.  Hang out with Amy. Go for a long run.  Catch up on email.  Stay off the phone.  Go to a movie.  Read a book.  Relax and rest.

Monthly: Life dinner with Amy (on the night of the first day of every month) – exchange gifts, review the previous month, and talk about goals for the next month.

Quarterly: One week vacation completely off the grid (no phone, no email) with Amy.  36 hour offsite with my Foundry partners (both backward and forward review as well as 2x / year facilitated performance reviews of each other).  Deep review of all financials (personal and for every company I’m involved in.)

Annually: Once a year three day weekend trip with my dad.  Once a year “Feld Men’s Trip” with my dad, his brother, my brother, and my two cousins. 

Decadal: Personal review of my life (usually happens over a few months.)  I’ve done this at age 30 and age 40 and expect to keep doing it.

Now, these are not complete (e.g. there are plenty of other specific things that happen in each rhythm interval), but they should give you a feel for what I mean.  While this won’t work for everyone, I find that it has a huge impact on me and helps me focus on what is important, gives me plenty of time to reflect and process what is going on, and allows me to have plenty of rest and recovery time.

  • David Semeria

    Brad, I've got lot's of respect for you, but this list is really, really depressing. You can't live your life like one of Mussolini's trains. Where is the random element? Where is the *noise*? Have you ever seen the film Silent Running? You remind me of the three little robots floating along contently in space.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Really?   There’s an enormous amount of randomness in it.  Every day is scheduled, but I end up having tons of “air” in the schedule to do whatever I want (like respond to this comment right now).  My weekends are totally flexible.  My day’s end “whenever they end” – anyone that knows me knows it’s a lot easier to go out to dinner “on a whim” than it is to schedule a dinner.  Every three months I get a full week of “whatever I want to do with Amy.”

      I guess I do sound like a tool!  My goal was to try to lay down some clear patters that persist over time and repeat with regularly periodicity.  At the same time, it’s a “rhythm”, so it’s not a rigid framework.

      It’ll be interesting to see what the other reactions to this post are and if it gets interpreted the same way by others.

      • David Semeria

        No, you don't sound like a tool, just somebody who feels very comfortable with structure. I bet your desk is very tidy. No offense intended, btw.

    • Steve Newman

      Yes, Huey, Dewey, and Louie…as you say they were content..probably the only ones left in the universe at that point…so its not so bad to be compared to that in my book

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/barnwilliams Brian Wynne Williams

    Brad — thanks for sharing this. Having 3 young kids I find my schedule largely unpredictable day-to-day (mostly in a good way), but I like the longer-term cycles.

    I'd be curious to hear more about how you and your Foundry partners do performance reviews of each other. Any chance you can share some details?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      I’ll write a post about our internal performance review process at some point.  It’s something I think every partnership or management team should do at least once a year.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    No offense taken!  I thought your comment was great – it made me sit up and thing for a bit.

    Yes – my desk is very tidy.

  • Patricia

    Brad, I've been following your blog for quite a while now (got here via Ask the VC), and I find myself looking forward to these "work-life" posts as much as all the other great stuff.

    Different strokes for everyone, I guess, but I find the idea of actually articulating a rhythm like this, in general terms, really appealing. I'm coming off a year where I've allowed work to crowd out pretty much everything else, and I've been either barely maintaining my outside interests, or letting them slide badly. And so as I move into a new phase professionally, and defining reporting cycles for a new "spin out" has been a recent focus at work, I realize I need to do the same thing for my life. It would at least help me frame the chaos and keep moving forward on more fronts than just the professional. Thanks for the inspiration!

    So count me in the "craving structure" camp (she says from her messy desk) …

  • http://wanderingstan.com/ Stan James

    As a messy-desk person myself, I found this post a good call to bring a little more rhythm to my life. In fact, I just added monthly, quarterly, and yearly events to my calendar. There are so many things that are important but always too easy to do "tomorrow"–writing thank-you notes, taking a good look at your finances, assessing life goals, etc…

  • Mark Phillips

    Do you go to bed at the same time every night?

  • http://www.adentalonline.com Chithra Durgam

    Brad,
    Nice post. I'm pretty busy. My biggest interest is processing information from various sources so I don't think about it again. I follow some principles of Getting Things Done by David Allen. Could you elaborate on how you handle the following:
    (who is “systematized – both in terms of how I process information and when I process – so it doesn’t distract me during the day.” )

    Thanks in advance for considering.
    Chithra

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      I'm not sure what you are asking here. Can you try again?

      • http://www.adentalonline.com Chithra Durgam

        You mentioned that you are systematized in how you process information. How do you go about doing that. You must be getting information from so many sources, different people asking questions and the need to prioritize your time. How do you keep on top of it all so it's not overwhelming? How do you relay these intentions to your assistant so you are both working together?

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

          I use a handful of information filters (most significantly Gist and Filtrbox).  I have a “daily” tab in Firefox with about 15 web sites I open up (all the stuff I read once a day, plus Flitrbox, Gist, and a few others that I use).  After reading through these / processing them, I don’t open this tab up (or visit any of the sites) until the next day.

          My assistant is superb and a critical part of all the scheduling stuff.  She schedules everything (I don’t do any of my own scheduling) which cuts down a ton of noise and email traffic.  She also knows what my limits are so when I’m getting over scheduled, she backs off and “schedules” me some chill out time.

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  • http://markgslater.wordpres.com mark slater

    wow – this is amazingly rigid. its not a criticism as i dont know you, but i prefer alot more random stuff – in fact i search for it daily.

    The real question is whether you are happy i suppose.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      I am extremely happy. Remember, this is just “a rhythm”. It guides me but isn't rigid. For example, today I'm in LA with my dad just wandering around d exploring the city.

  • http://markgslater.wordpress.com mark slatere

    thats whats important right!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Usually between 10 and 11 but not always. I'm pretty useless after 10pm.

  • Walter Wong

    Brad,

    Great post.
    When you get up at 5 do you need an alarm or is 7 or 6 hours all you need during the work days? I am trying to figure out if you are a bit sleep deprived during the week.

    Walter

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      I definitely need an alarm and – yes – I get a little sleep deprived during the week as evidenced by the fact I can (a) fall asleep immediately on airplanes and (b) I often sleep 12+ hours a day on the weekend.

  • Walter Wong

    Only reason I was curious was that I read (no links immediately available but I believe it was from a New Scientist article) that suggests a full sleep allows for more brain circuit refreshing/rebuilding and to allow for better recovery from physical exercise.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Yes – that’s definitely true.  I’m constantly playing around with this as I work on getting the right amount of rest for my marathoning.

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  • http://www.organicwisdom.com Jennifer Matthews

    Thank you so much for the re-frame around routines. I have been avoiding routines and structure my whole life but now thinking of my life being a rhythm with room to breathe, move and shift is so exciting. The creation of a rhythm is definitely something I can ground all part of my life into. With Gratitude.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    You are welcome.  Give it a try and tell me how it works for you.

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