Tyler from Less Annoying Business here. Here's what's new:
Giving early hires skin in the game [Podcast]
Rick and I discuss how to structure a compensation plan with an early hire to make them feel like a true partner. Most startups give equity, but that isn’t a very compelling perk for a company that doesn’t plan on exiting.
Funding your startup with a day job [Podcast]
We talk about balancing a full-time job with running a startup, and a bunch of other stuff.
Sorry, no new blog posts this month. I've been spending my deep work on other things (more on that below).
What I'm working on
New approach to timeboxing
I've always liked the idea of timeboxing, but the problem is that my best creative work doesn't happen on a schedule. When I'm doing something like coding, design, or writing, I work best when I have long stretches of unstructured time. This allows me to be unproductive for a while, and as soon as inspiration strikes, I can take advantage of it. Traditional timeboxing requires more of a rigid schedule, and you need to be productive during the scheduled times.
Recently, I've been trying something new: I'm alternating weeks between deep work, and what I'll call admin work (smaller tasks that require lots of context switching). I'm currently in week five of this approach, and it's been great so far. During my deep work weeks, I mostly ignore my backlog of tasks (I still respond to time-sensitive things that come in of course) so I have the mental freedom to explore, learn, and dive deep into my most important/challenging projects. During the admin weeks, I know I'm not expected to get deep work done, so I don't feel guilty when I spend all day handling smaller tasks. With this approach, I'm both more productive and happier.
Working on design
Last month, I wrote that one of my goals for 2022 is to get better at design. So far, I'm off to a good start. I've been spending my deep work weeks not just making designs, but also taking time to learn. I'm doing that in a few different ways:
- I'm taking an online design course called ShiftNudge. I'm still early enough that I'm not sure I can't recommend it strongly, but so far I've found it helpful.
I've watched some Youtube videos showing how professional designers do their work (There's a link to one in the next section). The course is helpful with theory, but I prefer a more hands-on approach to learning, so watching a pro at work is a better fit for me.
- Note: One of the main things I've learned from watching others work is how to use more advanced features in Figma, my preferred design tool. This is a reminder that whatever it is you do, a great way to level up is to invest in becoming a power user of the tools of the trade (design tools, code editors, no-code tools, marketing analytics platforms, etc.)
- I hired a designer (Brian Lovin) for a small project he calls a "crit". It's not really meant to be an educational experience, but I'm picking up small learnings here and there by watching him work. I'm jealous of people who work at big tech companies because there are so many other people to learn from within the company. Bringing in domain experts for small freelance projects is a way for smaller companies to get the same effect.
Good stuff on the internet
I'm sorry that this newsletter is so design-focused (hopefully you can find some interesting parallels to your own work) but most of my links this week are related to the design work I've been doing...
Build it in Figma: Create a Design System [Video]
This is a multi-part video series explaining how to create a "design system" using Figma. I originally watched it because I needed to create my own design system, but I actually ended up learning a ton about how Figma works. If you find yourself needing to do a bit of web design but you're not great with the tools, I'd recommend watching this to step up your Figma knowledge.
Note: If you do watch this, you should know that the component tools have been much improved since this was recorded. It's worth watching to understand what components can do, but you should watch a more recent tutorial to understand how they work now.
Design Details [Podcast]
This is Brian Lovin's (mentioned above) podcast. It might seem weird to listen to a podcast about design since podcasts are audio-only and web design is mostly visual, but there are actually a lot of interesting discussions to be had.
When is the last time you audited your interview questions? Bringing in new, fresh perspectives to review your interview questions can help catch bias. As your company matures, some questions should be let go or redefined. Hiring processes should be iterative.
January 20th 2022
It's probably good general advice to iterate on everything at your business, but I think this is especially true with hiring. Nothing impacts your long-term outcomes more than the people you hire, and hiring well is hard. At LACRM, we do a postmortem after each hire and brainstorm what could be better.
Maybe one of the questions we asked had a high failure rate. Or maybe interviewees expressed confusion about a certain part of the process. Or maybe we noticed a specific type of person performed differently on a specific part of the interview (e.g. on average men seemed to handle a question differently from women). All of these are opportunities for improvement.