Faced with a punishing week of distractions, the crew discusses their own techniques for remaining personally productive.
Starr: I'm sick of being discriminated against because of my name. It's like they have a better for a name but-
Josh: At least I have to pay 60 bucks for just a domain.
Ben: Change your name.
Announcer: So do those guys really named their App after a meme, huh? Buckle up fellow kids, it's time for founder quest.
Josh: I think mine was like ... for what it's worth star, my name was like $180.
Starr: Do y'all think that Dev domains are going to be like pogs?
Starr: Like beanie babies?
Josh: Like garbage pail kids.
Starr: Oh No. Garbage pail kids or a classic.
Starr: I just mean like when we started Honeybadger we did an io domain and back then those were pretty hip and so in 10 years our dev domain, it's going to be kind of ... right now people are like, oh an io domain, wow. Our dev domain is going to be like that in 10 years? I don't know.
Ben: Maybe the app domains, you know the.app.
Starr: That app, I kind of think dev is ... well, I mean it's going to be used for a lot of things, but I think one thing that it'll be popular for us, like get hub projects and that sort of thing. Like I said, like faker.dev would be cool to like forward to you're a faker project.
Ben: Would be cool. I'm just not going to pay 115 bucks for it.
Starr: Right? Yeah. Who bought honeybadger.dev? I'm like dying to know this cause I thought it was one of you guys because I was going to do it and I forgot. I think someone's messing with us.
Ben: We'll find out some day.
Starr: So I thought like this week we could talk about just productivity. Some people are really surprised when they hear that we're ... because I was going to say we're a three person company. We just hired another developer and we hired a marketing person a few months back. But we're still a very small company, so people are interested sort of like how do we do it? I mean, we must be super productive. We must all be super productive, including me despite the evidence, despite the soul crushing evidence. So what's our secret?
Ben: I think the secret to our success is that I wake up naturally at 4:00 AM every morning.
Josh: That's it. Yeah.
Starr: I do too. But I fight it. I fight it. Ben so much.
Ben: I don't think we have a secret of success. We're just standing up just regular folk doing some regular stuff.
Josh: I do have to say like I've been a lot less productive I felt since having kids, especially the second kid.
Starr: Yeah, well my secret, a reason for choosing this topic actually was at this week and the previous week I've been incredibly unproductive and so I'm really just trying to get my groove back on.
Ben: Just looking for tips.
Starr: I'm looking for tips guys.
Josh: Yeah. I had the same thought actually when you suggested and I was thinking about it last night and I was like, I'm actually looking forward to like talking about this because maybe I'll refresh. Get a refresher on it.
Ben: Yeah. So the past couple weeks have been rough for me too but the snow, really threw me off. School was shut down for like two weeks or whatever it was. I couldn't get to my office because driveway was buried in snow and that's on a hill. And so I was at home. At home, which is not usual for me and with kids at home, which is not usual for me. And so I ended up playing a lot of sports here and stuff. So I had to get back on the focus train and actually work on it. And so one thing that I did was the tomato technique, you know the 25 minute thing.
Ben: Yeah, Pomodoro. So I'm like, yeah because I always sit down and I would pick but get some work done and I would open up the laptop and be like, ha, I don't feel like doing anything. There's like 5,000 things I could do and I don't feel like doing any of them. And so when it came down to you, I was like, all right, you know what? I can't wait to feel like it. I just got to do it. And so I said, boom, set the timer for 25 minutes, I'm going to work on something and then I can be done and give myself a break, you know? And then of course, the 25 minutes ago that I'm heads down, I'm focused and so there's no way of taking a break right now. It's like keep working on for a couple hours. Right. So that helped me like get over the hurdle of I really don't like doing a thing.
Josh: I tried doing the Pomodoro technique for awhile, like long time ago and I liked it. Yeah. Maybe I'll give it a try again sometime here.
Starr: I like it too. It only works from you for certain things. Like, Pomodoro is really nice for me for things where I've got like a list of things and I'm going to sort of cycle through really quickly and sort of churn through. Is not so great for things that are more sort of loosey Goosey, kind of like writing and stuff. I don't really like having a timer going when I'm writing because I just feel so sort of constrained by it and like I've got this deadline looming over me and that's like-
Josh: "Be creative come up with something interesting in 10 Minutes.
Starr: And under the gun.
Josh: How do you guys typically start your days? How do you think about like what you're going to going to do first or what you're going to do during the day?
Starr: I've recently, after we came back from Christmas break, I changed up my routine and I've really liked it. So let me tell you a little bit about that. Previously, I just kind of started the day without like a plan or anything, like coming to work, check my mail, check Slack, figure out what my main task was, just start going heads down on it and not really think about it much. And that's fine when it works. But a lot of the times it left me feeling like I was ... while I was making progress on my main task, I was kind of losing sight of the big picture or maybe other tasks that are important but aren't really as major.
Starr: What I started doing, when we came back from break is that I started, saying, well, I've got a three hour window of intense work time. I've got three hours and I'm going to book in that with an hour on each end of sort of less intense, more open ended work time. And so what I've ended up doing is in the morning I come in, I get my coffee, I open up Slack and everything. I say hi to everybody. And I have a a journal now.
Josh: Oh, fancy.
Starr: It's a very nice-
Josh: It's not leather.
Starr: So yeah. So I've started a work journaling. I actually read about work journaling on a Hacker News, some articles, somebody had mentioned the comments that they find it really useful and I kind of like journaling anyway. I like getting my fountain pen and writing in cursive. It's just something very relaxing and fancy about it. It makes me happy. And usually every day I follow more or less the same format. It's really simple. I just kind of think, okay, well what's important to me today? What's on my mind, what's coming up in the next couple of days? Write a small paragraph about it.
Starr: Just to kind of clear away the cobwebs, get mentally unstuck. And then then from that I'll generally make a to do list and that will be my plan for the day. After that I sort of slide into my three hours intense work and then have an hour for email and random stuff like that. So I really liked the system lately I've been a little bit lax about it just because things have gotten thrown for a loop with our snow days, with some very personal stuff that's come up that you can read all about it on Twitter. But I really liked the system. I want to get back to doing it more consistently.
Ben: I don't have a daily plan per se. I have a daily schedule, like I said, I get up at 4:00, I do some meditation for a little bit, I read like maybe some RSS feeds or a book just to warm up the brain and then I just dive into whatever I had going on the day before. I believe in this concept of starting on a downhill slope. I try to leave my previous day's work at a finish point, but also a point where it's easy to pick up again. Like, Oh yeah, just keep going on that task. Right?
Starr: Yeah. I like that. That's a really cool concept.
Ben: I don't also plan day by day. It's just kind of rolling from one day to the next with that, starting on the slope. But what I do to set that up, it's on Sunday nights, I actually spend time thinking about my week coming up. And so I make a plan, I think about like what are my areas of responsibility. So I have family things I need to get done, have personal things I want to get done, like maybe clean up the yard or something, church things I want to get done and then work things I want to get done. I look at those areas and I think about the upcoming week, like what are some tasks that need get done and made some overall goals that I want to move forward on during that week? I make that list and then out of that falls and things I do every day, like, oh, today I feel like clean the yards, I'm going to go do that. And mark it off my list.
Josh: That came from a book of the like areas of responsibility in your life, like work, church, family ... I forget. Do you recall anything about that? It might've been Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Ben: Yeah, I love that book so probably.
Josh: Yeah, I think it might've been a Covey. But yeah, I liked too, I forgot about that, you reminded me of it. I do something kind of similar to the pre thinking about, I like to think about stuff than I before especially because a lot of times if I've got like work running through my head and I don't get it out, I can't sleep and it's causes extra stress. So I actually like to just ... I keep like a stack of index cards by my bed and if I can't stop thinking about work or something, I'll just usually like make a little like a shoe, very short to do list like three to five items usually for like the big things I want to do the next day. And then that's usually enough to get it moved to tomorrow and I can relax again.
Ben: That happens to me too. So that's a good ... I like that idea.
Josh: Yeah. I need to remember to .... I should start doing the Sunday night planning though again, I used to do that kind of a little bit like you were describing and I really liked it.
Starr: So my wife calls that the vague sense of anxiety before a Monday that you get on Sunday night. She calls out the Sunday scaries. I don't know if she made that up or if?
Ben: The Sunday scaries is nice.
Starr: Yeah. Which is funny because like I still get those even though I literally ... I don't think I can legally be fired guys. I still get the Sunday scaries and I don't know, maybe writing stuff down would sort of help with that.
Josh: Yeah. Do you guys ever feel like, like guilty if you feel like you're not being productive enough or you're not getting enough done or you just don't feel like working. I know Ben is like always working, so he probably isn't affected or afflicted by this, but I don't know sometimes.
Ben: Yeah, I totally get that. Yeah.
Starr: Oh yeah. That's like half of my life. You guys have no idea how much you have no idea how much a mental anguish I've like put myself through being like, am I doing enough? Am I ... we've engineered this life of luxury and leisure that so supposedly, but you can't really take the workaholic out of-
Josh: Yeah, exactly.
Starr: You can't take the work out of the workaholic.
Ben: Yeah. It helps that I liked to work. Right. But still there are times where my daily schedule and typically in the office from 9:00 to 2:00, I like to take off early and go do other stuff. But even then, it's taken me years of Honeybadger to get to a point where I'm comfortable just being done for the day.
Josh: Yeah. It's nice though. I like the direction we're going. Being able ... yeah, not feeling bad about like not killing yourself.
Starr: It's silly to say this, but it came to me a couple of years ago as kind of an epiphany that I am not morally obligated to make the absolute most money possible in my lifetime. That's not a moral requirement.
Josh: You're not?
Starr: No. I have to support my family. I've got to try and be a good member, the community and everything but if I don't want to like kill myself to make millions and millions of dollars, like that's fine. But who cares?
Josh: I don't know man. If I'm not as Zuckerberg, I'm not happy first of all.
Starr: You got to answer this question, if you were Zuckerberg, would you be happy? because that's-
Josh: Oh, that's existential, that's sick burns coming from me. I wasn't going to tell you about one other cool, morning routine type thing that I picked up. Somewhere I think it was like last year sometime and actually I think this was like a thing that Ben Orange Dean who's currently building two bull, I think he like blogged about it and it was like a while back and then posted about on Twitter and that's where I saw it. But he basically like keeps a bash. I think it's like a bash at alias called, start on his work laptop. What it does is you like just type start into your console or whatever and it brings up a new vim window that has like basically a little agenda, checklists for the day that helps you do the routine things that help you get started.
Starr: Every morning it's kind of a pain in the neck to have to bring up all my programs, put them in the right windows, I use a Tiling window managers or everything's got to be in the right spot or else I won't ever be able to find it.
Josh: You just have to commit your layouts to source control.
Starr: Oh God. See, I really enjoy a lot of the tools that people have for interacting with their computers is like power users and stuff. Right. I've got the Tiling window manager, I use Linux and all that stuff, but really I get it to the point where it's good enough and I never quite am able to make myself spend the time to get it to the point where it's just truly amazing and excellent.
Josh: You're on Awesome. Right? So I switched. As you know, I was on the hardest of the hard mode window manager's XMONAD for a long time. But recently I've, I've started walking myself back from the edge of that and I switched to I3 recently.
Ben: How do you like that?
Josh: I really like it. It's the exact opposite as far as like configuration management of the window manager. It's basically just a flat single file that's kind of declarative. So it's a little bit like Yam or something. So it's just like options versus like with XMONAD you're building, you're actually kind of like building your desktop with Haskell, which is a ... yeah.
Starr: The thing about XMONAD I found is that you're building in Haskell and all of the snippets that you find are all in like 20 different styles of Haskell, and if you don't know Haskell, who knows which one of those is right?
Josh: I'm not convinced anyone knows Haskell.
Starr: So Josh, a few months ago you mentioned to me there's a book it's called, Weinberg on Writing. And in this book he describes his method of writing and it's called The Fieldstone Method. And if the listeners don't know Weinberg, I forget his first name.
Josh: I think it's Gerald Weinberg.
Starr: He's as sort of legendary computer, author, consultant guy back from a long time ago, from the 80s, I think, were his heyday, so he was flying all over the country doing really expensive consulting gigs for all these big companies on their mainframes. And he wrote a lot of different books and he also wrote this book called, Weinberg on Writing where he describes how he writes. And how did you learn about that Josh?
Josh: I think it had been on my list for a while. I had heard a bunch ... I've heard various people talk about it over the years and just never really got into it. But I think most recently and my friend Joel had mentioned it to me because I've been trying to do more writing for Honeybadger marketing material. Specifically I've been doing it writing an email newsletter for developers. And so I've been kind of trying to come up with ways to write for that, come up with topics and organize my thinking.
Starr: So have you been doing it? Have you been using that particular method?
Josh: I have. I don't know if I've been doing it as efficiently or effectively as he would. But yeah, I've been kind of like .... I've been trying anyway. It's really helped me write the last couple articles I think because with the method, The Fieldstone Method is basically the ... it uses the metaphor of a field stone wall. So if you're building a field stone wall, it's made up of all these individual, like very unique stones that people typically collect from fields. And so you can't build a field stonewall by like just stacking bricks one on top of the other. The idea is that over time you want to collect these things and eventually you'll have a wall. But until then you're kind of like in collection mode.
Starr: So you're always keeping an eye out for interesting things in the world. You're always writing little paragraphs about things in this kind of stuffing them away in some sort of system.
Josh: Yeah. I've been doing a lot of reading over the last couple of years. I've always loved reading, but I've been trying to read a lot more than I even used to. It's worked out really well if I'm reading, especially like a technical book or a book on programming or something. Or even recently read a couple books on Dev ops that were really good. You can kind of like extract ideas as you're reading and just throw them into wherever you keep your notes or whatever and then you can come back to that stuff later. And oftentimes you'll have a good writing prompt for maybe something related to a topic that you're writing about.
Starr: Well, I've been doing it too, right? I've got a ... So Honeybadger, we use Notion for a internal documents and wikis and I set up my own personal Notion account that's just all about these field stones, right? These different little snippets that you collect here and there and I made it my own personal account because some of it doesn't really have much to do with the business. I don't want you guys to be able to steal that for me. And like I'll be reading a technical book.
Starr: Recently I've been reading, Building Data Intensive Applications and it's pretty cool because you see something that's like, oh, that would be a great blog post. So you just pop open the app and take a picture of the page or whatever. And there you go. Now you've got something to write it or something to talk about in a blog post or maybe it's an idea for a blog post.
Starr: Personally, I've found that collecting these little notes and snippets of writing, it's useful for constructing the actual blog posts, but it's even more useful for coming up with ideas because my main problem in writing has always been, not necessarily doing the writing, but coming up with ideas for things to write about that I can do without having to spend five days researching it.
Josh: Because if you're writing a full blog post or article or something or even a book like you need, it's made up of a bunch of different concepts that kind of come together to illustrate whatever point you're trying to make. At least that's how what I found and so like coming up with those individual, what are the best tools that you're using basically to get the idea across. It helps if you have ... if you can quote something interesting from a book or something versus just like coming up with something on the flies.
Starr: One thing that I struggled with for a long time was that I kept thinking, well, I just don't have ideas. Right. It turns out that's false. I have plenty of ideas. I'm constantly doing stuff. I'm just constantly doing work for Honeybadger and thinking, oh, this is interesting. This new thing I learned is interesting. Or Oh, I learned some lesson from this mistake I made or whatever. And that stuff is constantly happening to all of us.
Starr: The only thing is that, well normally that might happen to you and you might think, well, I need to write a blog post about it, but that's a big thing. I'll deal with that later. And then you just forget it because you're constantly being bombarded with all these little interesting things that are happening.
Starr: But if you say, well, I'll just write two sentences about it or a paragraph and throw that into my Notion setup and not worry about it. And then so later on I can go back and access that and be like, oh yeah, that was really good idea for a blog post or whatever.
Josh: Yeah. I think my favorite takeaway from that book ... the method is great. But the way it changed my thinking about writing is that it kind of demystified the idea of like writing as like you have to write this finalize like piece. Like you're an artist creating some work that has to be ... it's like a super creative process that inspiration has to strike basically and then you write. A lot of times that's where like writer's block will set in and then people think like, well, I've got writer's block, I just can't write.
Josh: With The Fieldstone Method, it's much more about doing the work. And even like just making, writing something where you don't necessarily have to write like a complete ... you don't have to write a novel in order to write. You could just write a little, a couple of paragraphs like you said on something like a little interesting idea that you got from a book you were reading. And even that in itself might just be a fun exercise or maybe that'll go into one of an article or something that you're writing that will actually get published somewhere.
Starr: Yeah. And I think the key takeaway is that while yes, writing is a creative activity, it's very difficult to sit down and be creative on demand. But if you are just living your life doing interesting things, you have these little moments of creativity and if you can capture those when they happen, well then you're ahead of the game.
Josh: Yeah, totally.
Starr: So how did you find out about Notion Josh? I remember like a while ago you were, you came to us and you said, "I want to use this new note taking app and I ... I'm a grumpy old man." I don't think I really said this out loud, but in my head I'm like, "Oh Jeez, another note taking app kids. Why are you getting in my face about this?" Like haven't we figured out in note taking by now, but it's actually really nice. I'm now a complete convert. I've got the APP on my phone, I use it all the time.
Josh: Well, I think I would normally call myself a grumpy old man too. I might just be a little bit behind behind where you are, but it did take me a little while get used to ... kind of like see the value in it. But once I did it's a really, really cool tool. And I forget where I saw it. It had launched semi recently and I think a lot of people were talking about it, a lot of people have been switching to it. And even, I think there's a few competitors out now, but basically like ... I don't know how to describe it. It's kind of like a new note take on like collaborative note taking slash like company Wiki.
Josh: It's a bunch of different things rolled into one and it lets you create like databases. But essentially it's all built out of basically like built out of like just pages of content. The thing I like about it is that it makes it really easy just to like anywhere you are in it, you can just start writing. It's kind of like captured this. It doesn't make writing feel like this daunting task where you have to get all set up and whatever, get your word at your word processor out and do writing. If you have an idea you can just like throw it in to Notion and then organize it either then or later.
Starr: Yeah. And one cool thing about everything being a document is that, for example, we have our editorial calendar in Notion, which is, it's an actual calendar with things on it, but it's also, there's a view of it where you can do it as a combined board. And so what you can do is you've got these items, which is sort of like things to write or things that are written and you can just pop open the item. And because everything is a document, everything is equally editable and all this stuff, you can just write the actual article in the to do item so that there's no, "Oh, I wrote the article, it's over here now I've got to go update my to do lists. I've got to update that editorial calendar." It's just all there. And that just kind of blew my mind when I first saw it. That was when I was originally like, well, there's something pretty cool going on here.
Josh: Yeah, the editorial calendar was the thing that converted me too because I've been trying to set up a good process for that for a while now and I've tried a bunch of different tools and nothing actually allowed me to actually produce the content in the same tool that I was managing the schedule in. And when that's all in one place, it seems to be a very, it's a very streamlined process and it actually helps, I don't know about you, but it's actually helped me, get more writing, more actual content done because I don't know, for some reason it just makes it really easy to sit down and work on something.
Starr: Yeah, totally. It's just ... I don't really know how to describe it because we're saying like, well, it's a Wiki, it's a document editing and all that sounds kind of weak source. But then when you see it all put together, just the way they've done it is so nice. It makes things feel way easier to do than say, back when I used to use Evernote, it was just kind of of a struggle. You felt like you were fighting against things, but I don't know, I guess maybe that's why people hire good user interface designers.
Josh: Yeah, something like that. I'm curious, Ben, how would you describe Notion?
Ben: Yeah. To me, it's a collaborative content editing solution. That's pretty vague and general, I guess that's where I found them, It'd be useful for us. I think it's like this morning, it was really neat. I was chatting with Ben Lane, we were talking about some marketing related stuff that we wanted to do and he gave me a couple of things he wanted me to do. So I just opened up Notion. I went to my to do Kanban board, I create a new item and that was writings and content. And then in that item I just created it to do this. Like, here are the things that I need to do to be able to finish off this item.
Ben: And then like one of those to do items with something I needed from them. And so I said, I signed that, I an add to that, I'm like, here, I need this surgery. And so we were able to collaborate on that. And so now I can .... it's on my to do this. I'm not going to forget about it. I had a list of things in that item to track. And then as I'm filling in those items, I'll just write it right there on the page. So to me it's like a very collaborative environment focused on generating content, and getting things done. I like it.
Starr: Yeah, we've run into a couple of problems still with that around ... not really problems but just I think we were using it for things it wasn't designed to do really.
Josh: Oh, like team communication.
Starr: Yeah. It's not really built for ... it's built for editing documents and editing content. And also sort of keep taking track of things like to do lists and stuff, but it's not really built for ... it's not like a message board. Right?
Ben: One of the things that we use Basecamp for a long time too and one what things that we really liked about Basecamp being a remote team is that, we have an idea for something and want to build or if we have something we want to change, like write a proposal basically. Like, here's something, an idea that I had or I think that I want to do and let me describe it in a couple paragraphs and then notify everybody so that everyone can come back and comment on it and give me their feedback and then I can decide how I want to proceed on this thing.
Ben: We use that ... I think that was our primary use case for Basecamp and helps us keep track of decisions that we make and make an informed decision with all the teams input and have a good place to keep it all rather than Slack where stuff just gets lost. Right. And I think we wanted to use Notion and that kind of way too, but it didn't work out so well. One of the things being that it's hard to follow up conversation and two, notification is just much weaker than in Basecamp was in that regard.
Starr: Yeah. Like the cool thing about Notion is that you have these documents, you have to do items and all these things and you can actually sort of put them wherever you want. You can make ... like Ben was talking about, you can make a document that contains to do items assigned to somebody else, but it's not like there's a place called to do's and so it's this very moldable thing. But as a result of that, it's kind of difficult to ... It makes it a little bit harder to discover new content because it could be kind of anywhere in there.
Ben: Yep. I like to keep a track of what's going on across the team by seeing what everyone is doing. Like where is the blog post that started just right origin and what does the marketing experiment that Josh just did, right. And like when we are using Basecamp, you could log those things and you can write those things and everyone gets notified. And so as every day I can check my email and say, oh, here's the things that people are working and they knocked off and Notion doesn't have that. And so I felt kind of lost because it's like, oh, what are people doing? So I think, we're trying Geekbot right now and Slack.
Starr: Yeah. I love Geekbot so far.
Ben: Yeah. Pretty cool. Have a daily check in and that's ... I feel better, I guess maybe it's-
Starr: What does Geekbot do?
Ben: Just asks us every day, It's like a daily standup. Right. And now since we're a remote team, we don't actually have daily stand ups because we're not in the same office, but Geekbot will ask you a questions but you can configure. So we have our set up every day to ask us, what did you do since yesterday? What are you planning on doing today and is there anything blocking your progress? And then all those answers show up in our channel and Slack so that we can see, oh, Josh migrated the blog yesterday. That was cool.
Starr: I did discover one critical flaw and Geekbot the other day though, is that when you when you answer a question with memes, it doesn't actually display those. And the slack channel, it just shows you a link.
Josh: Yeah. That's messed up.
Starr: That's disappointing. I want to be able to answer, are you blocked by anything with a funny meme, right? Because this is who I am people.
Josh: We'll get that fixed. We'll get that worked out Starr at some point. I'm sure that's good because I know there's other people that you cannot be the only one that is very upset about that issue.
Ben: It's like an in modern day collaboration apps. You have to support a few new key features and one of them is Emoji. That's like [inaudible 00:31:18]. Number two is probably like APP mentions. And then a close three. I think we'd be meme support for sure.
Starr: Yeah, definitely man, they should even ... I think I would pay extra for that if there is a little Giftly search bar like there is in Twitter.
Josh: Yeah. Well actually you can, there is, we can add the Jiffy. There's a jiffy slash command that you can add.
Starr: Well, I feel like I'm going to be much more productive next week, now that I've gotten this awesome tips from you guys.
Josh: Yeah, same here.
Ben: Me not so much. I'm just going to slide off.
Starr: That's fine. You've built up enough credit, Ben, you've built up some stuff, but I think we've done a pretty good amount of work just right now. We can take a break now, right? That's Friday. Yeah. What time is it? Take the day off? It's almost noon time.
Ben: At lunch time?
Ben: Yeah, that's great.
Josh: All right. Peace.
Starr: Well, bye guys.
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