6AM: I go to my “cloffice” and start my day by connecting with WordPress.com users via live chat. This is always exciting, as I never know the questions I’ll get, or what issues our users are facing.
8AM: Coffee and breakfast with my family.
8:30AM: Back to live chat, catching up on e-mail, and multitasking a bit, now that I’ve had some coffee!
11:30AM: Break to go to the gym, eat some lunch, and shower 🙂
1:30PM: At this point, sometimes I choose to go to a coffee shop to continue my workday. I then reply to some more messages, and work on different projects.
2:30PM: A 30-minute chat with a co-worker. We are encouraged to do this and have work “buddies” who can help us and be helped as we navigate the excitement and challenges of remote work. I always enjoy these calls.
3PM: If I’m home, I take a short coffee break and enjoy a few moments with my wife.
3:30PM: Back to the computer! I now check on our team goals, projects, and commitments and see whether we are moving at a healthy pace to reach our weekly goals.
4PM: Answer some more customer emails, follow-up on anything that needs attention before the end of the day.
5PM: Close the computer and end my work day.
This is a pretty typical day for me.
One of the neatest parts of my day is life’s little “interruptions.” Let me explain: Because we homeschool, my awesome wife Amy and our kids are home all day. I have an open-door policy, so they can always come in and give me a hug or tell me something they want to share – even if I’m working. Apart from the few times when I’m on an important call, these little interruptions do not distract me from what I’m doing. In fact, they remind me of why I work in the first place.
Automattic is a great company to work for, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work on something meaningful, while at the same time witnessing my family life from a front-row seat.
Just as I did last year, and after seeing the great results that I got, here is my post with my 3 words for 2017.
These are the three areas of my life which I intend to focus on, so decisions about how to spend my time and efforts will be guided by these words this year.
Why 3 Words?
First of all: new year’s resolutions suck. They are too vague, and they are too generic. “I’ll get in shape in 2017.” What does that mean? Get in the shape of what?
After realizing that, I swung the other way: instead of resolutions, I decided to set goals that were SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound). They work fantastically well. That’s how I wrote and published a book, for example. The problem with specific goals is that they are too specific. If you set a goal for yourself in January, and later in July you lose the passion or the desire to achieve it, dropping it will feel like giving up. So you either spend a lot of time and effort to achieve something you’re not crazy about after all, or you give up and feel like a failure. Goals are great if you really know what you want to do.
A word, or a theme, is a much more flexible target without being as vague and unclear as a new years resolution.
Themes, rather than specific goals, guide you in the decisions you make during the year. They are like a compass. If you have a compass, you can always go to a different place if you change your mind.
For example, one of my words for last year was “strength.” I wanted to get stronger. That meant a number of things: eating better, exercising, etc. It was not a specific goal (“I will lose 20 pounds by September” or “I’ll be running 5 kilometers in 30 minutes by July”), but it did guide my decisions when it came to how to spend my spare time, what snacks to eat during the day, etc. At the end of the year, I can say that, yes, I did get stronger and I’m happy with the decisions I made throughout the year.
So here are my 3 words for 2017.
OK, that’s two words 🙂
In the last couple of years, as I focused on work, writing, podcasting, changing my career path, exercising, etc, I feel like I have lived mostly on the outside of myself. With that, my spiritual and interior life took the backseat.
I believe that how you live on the inside is what really matters in the end.
So this year is the year I refocus on my interior life.
This will mean I will take opportunities to retreat, to pray, to meditate. I will work on being more humble, on thinking less about me, and on being there for others.
This is another word for better focus.
I multitask a lot. This means that rarely do I give my undivided attention to something or someone. I’m going to change that.
2017 is the year in which I become better at focusing with intensity. This is the year when I stop multitasking and learn to really lean in to the task before me. This is when the duty of every moment gets my undivided attention.
In 2017 I will do one thing at a time, and I’m going to do each thing well.
The result of that is that I will be able to immerse myself in projects, and at the same time, give of myself to those who need my time and attention.
I plan on regrouping my thoughts so I can focus on fewer projects. This means I will re-think my writing and podcasting, as well as my hobbies.
I’ll have to plan my time better. That will mean thinking carefully about my projects and scheduling time in my calendar to ensure I will have the margin to dedicate myself to one thing at a time.
This will also mean that I’ll be looking less at my phone and social media. Unless, of course, it is the right time to do so.
The last few years I created a lot of output.
Whether it was blogging, podcasting, writing a book, or making new people, I produced lots.
As a result, I feel like I haven’t really taken much in lately. I miss reading. I miss learning new things. I find that I am not growing as much as I would like to.
In 2017 I will read more. I will read at least 2 books per month.
I will also learn new things. I am blessed to work for a company in which there are many opportunities for learning, so I will take them as often as I can.
I will learn to cook more meals so I can help more at home in that area.
I will go back to learning code.
In 2017 I will feed my brain.
Let’s get started!
I hope this serves as inspiration to you to do better this year. If you’d like, go ahead and share below what you’d like to do in 2017. Be bold. Think big. And have an amazing 2017.
All of our 500 employees are distributed – this means that Automattic does not have a central office where employees go to work. We can work from wherever we want, and as a result, we have automatticians (how we refer to ourselves) living in 50 different countries.
Many companies have tried the “work from home” approach, but it seems like Automattic is one of the few which have made it work. In 2016, when we are tethered to our smartphones and communicate with people around the world instantly, figuring out a way to make remote work a viable reality is a huge deal.
In an effort to promote relationships and collaboration, every year the company organizes the Grand Meetup (GM). The GM is a week-long get together where we are encouraged to get to know each other and collaborate on projects, learn new skills, and cross-pollinate ideas across virtual silos.
To do that, Automattic tries to create environments for employees to meet each other in different contexts.
Here are some of the things we did this past week:
Flashtalks: each employee did a 4-minute presentation on a topic of their choosing. Some of these talks were funny, others educational, and some just plain silly. There was a Spanish automattician who showed us images of his home renovation. I learned about the wines of Portugal. I shed a tear when someone presented the life lessons he’d learned from his dog. It was fascinating, and I learned a lot about the people presenting.
Projects: in the weeks leading up to the GM, we suggested mini projects to be worked on during the meetup. These projects included improvements to our product, a new internal tool to make our jobs easier, the creation of a new app, and many others.
Classes: we could also choose one of a number of classes to take.
Meals: we went out to dinner in Whistler Village in groups of four. The dinners were all pre-arranged by the organizers, and they made sure we were dining with employees we had not yet met.
Town halls: we had several town hall-styled meetings in which we could ask questions of our CEO Matt Mullenweg and other leaders within the company. It was great to see how people communicate- discussions were open and frank.
Fun activities: we went hiking, zip-lining through the mountains, mountain biking, running…. We also sang karaoke, swing danced, played with virtual reality, played board games, showed off our talents during an “open mic” session, etc. It was really cool to see my coworkers in these unusual situations.
There was a lot more, including an epic closing party with live music performed by automatticians themselves.
So, where do I start?
Automatticians are a special bunch.
During this week, we took over two big hotels in the heart of Whistler Village, and had access to an open bar for the entire duration of our stay.
I saw people having fun responsibly, being respectful to each other and to hotel staff. I also saw countless examples of people helping each other.
Another amazing example of the spirit of my coworkers was when we all got together for a couple of hours to do actual work. We noticed that the support ticket queue was really backed up, so we spontaneously organized to work and get the queue under control.
I’ve never been part of an institution in which everyone is so happy to be in it.
What’s the secret? I think it’s a combination of factors.
First, Automattic produces services and products that are awesome. The company’s motto is to democratize publishing by making it available to everyone around the world. We all feel like we are making a difference.
Then there’s the culture. There’s a shared sense of responsibility. Though we are often in t-shirts and funny hats, there’s a feeling of being around grownups. I don’t mean “grownups” in a sense of having a diversified portfolio and owning a lawnmower, but in the sense that we are all responsible for our future and for the future of the company; that we have a job to do, and that it is important.
Complainers are scarce. Whiners non-existent.
The result is a group of socially aware, smart, attentive people who do the right thing, efficiently, and with panache.
And finally there’s the company itself.
I mentioned at the beginning that Automattic is redefining work. As a result, we are doing things in ways that nobody else is.
The upside is that we are leading the corporate world in how to tackle work in the 21st century.
The downside is that we have to make it up as we go. There are no consultants we can hire, no books we can read, no seminars we can take to learn how to do what we do, or what to do next.
As we discussed our products, how we work, and what to do next, we found ourselves often baffled by the unknown. The problems we have don’t yet have solutions. So it’s up to us to iterate and find the best way forward.
As I pondered how Automattic works, I kept remembering a scene from an old Disney cartoon called Saludos Amigos.
In that scene, Donald Duck is riding a llama in Bolívia, going across a suspension bridge. After a few mishaps, they find themselves standing on just a few boards, hundreds of feet up in the air. As the llama starts to walk forward, Donald grabs the last board and moves it to the front, so the llama has something to stand on. He then repeats that process, so the llama keeps walking forward:
Why did I keep thinking of that?
Because at Automattic, we are at the forefront of work. We are doing things that have never been done, in ways that have never been tried.
We create the path we walk on.
We are riding the wave, but as we look around, we can see that it is because of our disturbance that the ocean is waving.
Automattic is meta. Matt’s name is literally in Automattic. We are self-referential, we have inside jokes, and we all blog using WordPress, the product we ourselves create. Our logo is a circle. We love looping GIFs.
Some of this self-reference is due to loving what we do. But some of this looping and inwards looking is a result of having no one else next to us to look at as we lead the way.
While this can be exciting, it does not come without challenges.
I truly believe that years from now, Automattic’s true legacy may not be WordPress, but how we created exciting products that impacted the world in a positive way, redefining workplace communication, creating an environment of respect and support, and having a ton of fun along the way.
I feel privileged to be a part of this group.
Thanks Automattic for the amazing 2016 Grand Meetup. I look forward to surfing some more.
I have heard variations of this quote from Robert Kiyosaki, Dave Ramsey, and a few others. The gist of it is this:
When investing in something, you make your money when you buy the something, not when you sell the something.
For example, when buying real estate, the deal is not in selling for more than you paid, but for buying for less than it’s worth. This takes a lot of work and patience up front, and the passing up on many opportunities that are less than ideal. Continue reading “You Make Your Money When You Buy”→
We live in a small house, considering the Canadian/North American standard.
We also have three children.
So when we finished our basement, we had to think very carefully about how we would divide the space. I think we did a pretty good job, here’s a timelapse video of the construction: Continue reading “The Cloffice”→