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  • Writer's pictureJack Winston

Forest Time, Your Bedroom Habits, and the Urgent vs. Important


The Friday Focus is a weekly newsletter where we highlight:

  1. A piece of content we love so you don’t have to doomscroll to find something interesting

  2. A tip to help you reduce your screen time

  3. A quote that has us thinking

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Blog Post We Love 📝

This blog post is written for product builders at software companies, but I strongly believe the lessons here have implications for everyday life.

As a startup founder building software, I’m constantly trying to learn from the best product people in the world. Oji is one of the best. He’s currently the Chief Product Officer at Typeform, but has also held product leadership roles at Twitter, Calendly, and Atlassian. He’s super accomplished and I love his musings on how to build great product.

One of the things Oji preaches is that as a day-to-day product builder, you only ~10% of your time is spent on setting the strategic direction of your product (i.e. designing features and your product roadmap) and the remaining 90% of your time is executing on that vision.

In other words, it takes way more time to execute on a vision than to come up with the vision in the first place. That means that there is significant opportunity cost if you’re not heading in the right direction.

And as product builders, one of the problems of being in the trenches day in and day out is you can easily lose sight of the strategic vision. When you’re facing an urgent problem, all you can think about is how best to solve that problem in the moment. It’s really difficult to step back and face problems in the context of the long-term vision. It can be hard to see the forest for the trees.

But this doesn’t just happen in product orgs - it happens in all of our daily lives.

It’s so easy to be caught up in the day to day grind of everyday life, running from one urgent task to the next, that we forget to think about the big picture.

We prioritize our time and attention based on the tasks and problems that present themselves in the moment. We ask ourselves “how do I solve this problem” when instead we should be asking “does solving this problem fit into my long-term goals?”

We are reactive instead of proactive. In terms of the Eisenhower Decision-Making Matrix, we focus on the “urgent” problems instead of the “important” ones.

This inhibits long-term thinking and can lead to that awful feeling of time passing without feeling like you made progress on any of the important things in your life.

For product leaders, Oji recommends taking 1-2 days off from work and really thinking about the strategic vision of your company or product. Most high achievers don’t like to take time off because it doesn’t feel productive.

But because so much value can be created by setting your direction and correctly choosing what to focus on, it can pay massive dividends.

Similarly, in our own personal or professional lives, it’s important to take time to step back, disconnect, and really think about the direction we’re heading in. Ask yourself the important questions like: what are my long-term goals? Are my daily habits and activities helping me achieve those goals? If not, how do I shift my attention to actions that will?

This was crucial in my journey to becoming an entrepreneur.

Before I started Present, I didn’t like my job. I knew I wanted to quit and start my own company. But because my job was hectic and because I was conditioned to be a high-achiever, all my mental energy and time went to the job that I didn’t want in the first place.

But once I took a step back and really thought about my long-term goals, it was clear that instead of working late grinding at my day job, I needed to focus more time on things that would actually further my goals.

So if you want to make some big changes in your life, the first step can be to give yourself the time and space to remind yourself what you actually want out of your life. This way, it’s easier to identify what actions further your goals and which are just noise.

Tip to Reduce Your Screen Time 📱

Don’t sleep next to your phone!

It’s so easy to wake up, roll over in bed, and start scrolling.

But this is the worst thing you can do because you’re setting the tone for the entire day. When you overstimulate yourself first thing in the morning your brain will be craving those same dopamine hits for the entire day.

My rule of thumb is you want to wait AT LEAST an hour after waking up to look at your phone. Not even to check notifications. This let’s your brain be still and naturally wake up.

One of the best ways to do this is to not sleep in the same room as your phone. This way, even if you have an unconscious habit of grabbing your phone from your night stand, you won’t be able to look at it right away.

A lot of people use their phone as an alarm clock. Easy fix: get a cheap alarm clock from Amazon. I use one and they’re great.

Quote That Has Us Thinking 🧠

“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower


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