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Time & Energy Are All You Need To Succeed
Part 3 of how to build a Personal Operating System: Resources
In my previous role as a Strategist in one of the largest investment banks in the world, I learned 2 big things:
1 - How to build Strategy
2 - What you need to execute it
Strategy alone is useless IF not accompanied by execution. Successful execution of a bad strategy may still lead to failure, but poor execution of a top-tier strategy will also curtail success.
As Derek Sivers says, ideas are just a multiplier of execution.
Strategy is a multiplier of execution.
When we built out strategies, there were two kinds of preliminary resource planning exercises we usually did
Financial budget & projections
In other words - Labour and Capital
Companies have entire departments focussed on resource planning and allocation - FP&A (Financial Planning and Analysis), HR - Human Resources; Some of the largest software companies tens of thousands of people to build Enterprise resource planning software (ERPs)
Maybe you work in one of these departments. You need these teams and software when you're dealing with hundreds or thousands or 100s of thousands of people in a company.
But resource planning and allocation is equally important for you and me at the individual level.
Let us begin.
Types of resources
There are 3 main types of resources - Land, Labour, and Capital; we're not concerned with land (or natural resources for this essay); We will focus primarily on (your) labour and capital
Labour includes derivatives of Time & Energy, namely
Money, Stocks, Options, Bonds
You use a combination of labour and capital to build or accumulate more capital and tools
Everything ever accomplished by anyone, everything you see in the modern world, is through the successful accumulation and deployment of some combination of the above resources and tools.
To achieve your goals, you need to figure out which resources are critical for your success, acquire them and then deploy them in the right amount.
Your entire existence runs on it, but you can't see it, can't feel it, can't buy it, can't share it, can't store it, can't know how much you have left, can only use what you have right now, and everyone around you feels like they don't have enough of it.
Everyone wants to be rich, but if you're young (and lucky), you're probably a time-billionaire.
1 million seconds is ~11 days
1 billion seconds is 31 years
But if you still feel you don't have enough time to do what you want, here's how to make more time for the things you need to get done
How do you make time?
Start with an audit of what you are spending your time on.
In The Effective Executive - Peter Drucker writes about how to start with a Time Audit - unless you know where you are spending your time, you can't know what to cut and what not to
The easiest is pen and paper or just use your online calendar. Maybe your phone also has time-tracking tools inbuilt.
If you've already completed an audit of how you spend your time - the next step is to cut things out. If you've already read through the previous parts and defined your priorities - anything that is not a part of that list should be something you can safely ignore.
If you need some motivation in deciding what not to do - a reminder I've found useful -
We all have about 4000 weeks on this planet.
If you’re 30, you have about 2500 weeks left. (A silver lining - You’re still a Time billionaire)
Maybe that scares you; hopefully that emboldens you to do the work that matters.
Unless you take some time from all the things that are currently taking up your time and allocate it to your new goals - you will not make progress on them. Anything meaningful will take a big chunk of your time for a couple of years, if not a couple of decades.
First, make time for all the big things in your life, then turn to the little things.
But I still don't have any time!
A couple of options:
Work on weekends when you can - As Naval Ravikant says - Work as hard as you can
Before I quit my previous job in 2022, for 9 months, I worked Mon-Friday on my day job, then spent another 15-20 hours on the weekends on my part-time gig, which ultimately led to my current role at OSV. Before that, I spent my weekends making music, programming, or doing improv.
Cut out what you can - Netflix, video games, partying, doom-scrolling social media. There are many things that can be cut out to get back a couple of hours a week.
Use constraints - For e.g., work commute - If you use public transportation, use the time while going to or coming back from work for your creative work or learning things that might help you.
I used to spend 2-3 hours every day commuting. While coming back home at night, I'd draw ideas on my phone on the bus and post them as Instagram stories.
Constraints breed creativity.
2. Manage Energy, not time
Time is what you need to get work done, but just because you have time doesn't mean you will get the work done.
Free time without the energy and spirit to get the work done will find its way to other things.
You can manage your energy in 2 ways
Choosing what to work on
Choosing when to work on it
How to identify the right things?
Things that bring you joy, that light you up, that give you more energy than they take.
Pre-covid, I would work 12 hours in the office on a weekday, then spend an hour to go to the open mic at 10 pm to perform a 5 min set for 3 people.
Despite the long day, I never once felt tired after performing. Same thing with improv comedy. It did not matter how long or tiring of a day I'd had before - if I performed, I seemed to gain energy.
Look at the things you are regularly working on
What are the things that drain you? Irritate you?
What are the things that you're always ready for and want more of?
Categorize the activities at work and at home into energy draining or energy replenishing. Remove the items that drain your energy (and spirit) from your life. If you can't remove them, can you delegate them?
Procrastination is the body's way of telling you what it does NOT want to do
Listen to the whispers of your body. Beware of ignoring them for too long. If you ignore them long enough, they no longer speak.
After you've identified the right things, you want to work on them at the right time.
Use your energy at the right time
If you've carved out enough free time for yourself at home or have a flexible schedule at work, you'll enjoy an immense luxury - the luxury of deciding WHEN to work on WHAT.
When is the right time? The easy answer is when you feel like it - when you feel at your absolute best.
The longer answer is it depends. It depends on your environment, your dependents, your own mental state, and your energy levels that day.
Maybe a set time every day works for you, then do that. Maybe you work only when inspiration strikes, then do that (as long as you're getting work done)
Inspiration is perishable. Act on it immediately.
The approach that works best for me is usually fixing a deadline and then working on it when I can, alongside a predictable schedule. For e.g., I wrote the first draft of this essay on a 17-hour flight at 3 am to hit a weekend deadline. (The only reason I remember that is because I took a photo because it was so unusual for me)
I've had times where I've stayed up all night programming because I was so into the thing I was building at the time. I've had weeks where I couldn't wait to get up early in the morning to work on something.
If you've chosen the right thing, the timing comes automatically.
If you're managing your time and energy, then you probably want to spend them either building something or selling it.
The only way to get them is to put in the time and energy required to learn them. No one else can learn skills for you. (You can hire others with the skills you need by giving them money, but that's not really helpful if you're trying to impress your future lady love by playing the guitar for her).
Once learned, skills fade slowly, and muscle memory can last decades.
I can still play Fur Elise on the piano despite barely practicing it for a decade now.
More importantly, skills make you independent and allow you to build and do things without relying on others.
And skills compound over time, so the value you derive keeps increasing with experience.
The same idea applies to meeting new people and building a Network
Maybe you've heard the line "Your network is your net-worth," and it is true to an extent.
It takes a village to raise a child. For most people, building anything valuable requires the help of other people.
The more people you know well, or even better, the more people know you well, the more your opportunity set increases.
A big personal network increases your luck surface area.
And just like skills, the effects of a network compound. After a point, people will want to work with you because everyone knows you to be someone of value. You see this most easily on social media. The bigger accounts keep growing, in part because they are already big.
The social proof is enough.
How do you build your network? By creating something of value and providing it to others.
Help people you can. Provide value. Share your ideas and thoughts online. Build and sell products. Create something incredible! Over time, you establish yourself as a reputable authority. Lead with value with no expectation of reciprocity.
Posting online is a great way to build something and find your tribe.
Every post you make online is an opportunity for other people to get to know you and your work. It is an invitation to engage with you. It is an opportunity for you to build familiarity and trust with new people, while inviting them to be a part of the world you’re building.
If you've used your time and energy well, building skills and a network, then amassing capital becomes almost inevitable.
Money. The primary benefit of money is it is the most convertible form of capital. You can use it to buy whatever you want. You can buy labor, tools, or other forms of capital.
Money is the ultimate form of optionality.
You don't need to worry about how to use it now; you can use it however you want, whenever you want. And if invested properly, it generates more and more money.
Capital is arguably one of the most important resources in achieving your goals.
If you want to start a company, you need some starting capital to operate. If you want more time, you need to spend money hiring people or buying software.
On an individual level, more money provides a safety net to explore other interests without fear of falling behind. It also gives you the ability to buy the tools you need and hire the help you need to achieve your goals.
Hiring a good personal trainer can cost a bit, but you are basically buying expertise. Instead of figuring it out yourself, you're hiring a professional to guide you on your fitness journey.
If you don't have money, the modern world offers enough opportunity for you to start learning the skills to make it.
“The best teachers are on the Internet. The best books are on the Internet. The best peers are on the Internet. The tools for learning are abundant. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.”
In terms of how much money you need, and how to manage and invest it. I like Morgan Housel's approach
How to bring it all together
What is the immediate next action you can take to implement what we've covered above?
Start defining your commitment to your goals in terms of the resources you need.
Here's an example:
Goal: Lose 10kgs
5 hours a week of exercise, 5 hours of meal-planning
Do you prefer working out at home / going to the gym / playing sports? Do what energizes you
Hire a trainer / sign up for online classes / premium fitness app subscription/meal service
Find a gym buddy/accountability group / play a sport weekly
Fix an amount you’re comfortable spending every month
By adding in the details of your commitment, you start clearing the roadblocks you might face ahead of time. If you use all the resources you have at your disposal to go after the things you want, you drastically increase your odds of success.
Apply this framework to your goals. I use it in conjunction with The Life Framework to keep things clear and simple.
It changes the level of seriousness with which you pursue your goals.
And that can make all the difference.
Thanks for reading! After finishing this series on How to build your personal operating system, I’ll start publishing shorter essays/notes that are easier to read and digest. I hate digital clutter, so you’ll still only receive 1 email every couple of weeks; I will include links to all the latest posts in it. Cheers!