Having a sustainable workload provides you with enough time and energy to invest in yourself

Photo: © Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images

A few months back, I wrote about The Sustainable Workload Loop —how I keep my calendar sane by managing more than just time. After all, scheduling a full day of work is futile if you run out of energy or motivation or focus halfway through.

Yet the goal of that process is sustainability, not productivity. Sure, declining the junk work and delegating the things I do not need to implement myself saves me time. Only doing the stuff I’m ready to get done cuts down on overhead and context switching too. …

How to Shape Processes for the Collective Good

Another question from my readers:

What was your first successful leadership initiative (professionally)?

My first successful initiative came very early on in my career, and is interesting because it is a exemplary little case study of process engineering. It also checks the boxes for much of my leadership style, despite its age. Individual contributors shifting culture? Check. Working with a group to refine a solution to a shared problem? Check. Do stuff that made the team a lot more cohesive, but isn’t at all related to the work we were doing? Check and check.

The problem I solved was a…

Techniques for diagnosing problems effectively

Over the years, you start to see patterns. History repeating itself, people running into the same sorts of problems, asking the same sorts of questions. One question I’ve seen from students, new grads, and professors for decades now:

What is one thing that you wish new grads actually knew coming out of school?

And over the years the answers tend to be the same: source control, unit testing, SQL, and how to use their debugger.

I have grown to disagree with this common advice.

These skills are all great of course but those are things people can learn on the…

How to hit your dates with less headache

Today we’re going to be talking about estimates. My focus will be on time estimates (“when is this going to be done?”) but much of the advice can apply to budget or space estimates in some situations. You know your situation better than I do, so I’ll let you make that call.

We’re also going to be talking about fallacies today. Yes, coming up with estimates is often a fallacy in the first place! But this isn’t a #noEstimates article. You’re going to eventually find yourself faced with the question, and “when it’s done” won’t be a good enough answer…

Three ways a good idea goes wrong.

It never fails. As soon as someone has success, people copy them. You see it in sports, where one team’s plays are quickly copied by other teams. You see it in art, as trendsetters are mimicked by wannabes high and low. And you certainly see it in business as companies scramble to be competitive in a changing marketplace.

Most are not successful.

Some challengers fail because they simply lack the talent needed to reproduce the results. You can copy them all you want, but emulating Freddy Mercury or Tom Brady or Warren Buffett doesn’t make you as good as them…

Today we’re going to talk about one of the most important lessons I know about how to position teams for success within an organization. But first, we need to have a chat about Bruce.

Very early on in my career, I was The IT Guy at a Silicon Valley startup. And I was the total caricature: the scruffy know-it-all kid in t-shirts and Docs who oozed disdain while asking folks if they “turned it off and back on again”. …

Almost every manager I have ever had suffered from the same problem. You would look at their calendar and see meeting after meeting after meeting. One of those meetings was invariably “lunch”, and was double booked with something else. Not only was that stressful for them, but it led to a situation where they didn’t have much time to just sit and think about how to solve the problems that their team was facing. Some did that strategic thinking at home, robbing themselves of rest and undermining their personal lives. …

There is a little gem of a line early on in Avengers: Infinity War, as our heroes are bantering through some exposition:

Thor: Where we have to go is Nidavellir.
Drax: That’s a made up word!
Thor: All words are made up.

It’s a quick joke to break up the monotony, in the middle of a longer joke contrasting Thor’s seriousness and wisdom against the buffoonery around him. This quip is the sort of matter-of-fact Stoner Wisdom that defines Thor’s character in the later movies (and that Thor embodies a little more literally in Endgame). And like Jesus’ burrito there’s…

The team lead role is one of the most awkward positions in all of the tech world. You aren’t managerial enough to get manager gigs (even though a fair portion of these positions are player/coach roles which is exactly what you’ve been doing). Yet that leadership work isn’t valuable to most companies looking for “ninja” staff+ roles. For years, I would get the same question from people trying to figure out what bucket to put me in:

What do you want from your next role?

I never had a great answer.

The person across the table wanted me to convince…

Recently I went on a spate of interviewing. And as always, it was interesting to see certain common trends across companies that otherwise seem very different. Most are not particularly noteworthy: a trend towards FAANG-style algorithmic interviewing, self-serve availability scheduling, conscious approach to remote work.

One new question popped up in my interviews this time through. Interviewers seemed to like my answer, but it took a long time to explain. I’m writing it down here to hopefully cut down on that explanation time (and so I’ll remember when it comes time to interview again). …

Matt Schellhas

Dour, opinionated leader of software engineers.

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