There's a new interesting blog/newsletter called The Observer Effect by Sriram Krishnan which has posted two interviews so far: Marc Andreessen and Daniel Ek. Both are fairly long, so be warned. A lot of themes are covered, but the topic of productivity and personal time management is strongly present in both.

While Marc's and Daniel's daily scheduling routines were pretty different, one common thing I noticed was that the time for reading and workouts was routinely booked on both calendars.

Marc Andreessen

  • Reading: Mon 18:30 - 20:30, Thu 21:00 - 22:30, Fri 18:30 - 20:30, Sat 18:30 - 20:30
  • Reading total: 7h 30min
  • Workout: Tue 18:30 - 20:00, Wed 18:30 - 20:00, Fri 20:30 - 22:00, Sun 14:00 - 15:30
  • Workout total: 6h

Daniel Ek

At 7:30, I go work out. At 8:30, I go for a walk – even in the winter. I’ve found this is often where I do my best thinking. At 9:30, I read for thirty minutes to an hour. Sometimes I read the news, but you’ll also find an ever-rotating stack of books in my office, next to my bed, on tables around the house. Books on history, leadership, biographies. It’s a pretty eclectic mix – much like my taste in music.

So let's say 45min a day for workouts, 45min a day for reading.

  • Reading total: 5h 15min
  • Workout total: 5h 15min

So, we have a guy who's managing $12B venture capital investment fund and sits on the board of directors of Facebook; and a guy who runs a company operating in 92 countries, having 4405 employees and $6,7B in revenue (and has 2 kids). It would be an understatement to say that they have a lot on their plates. Still, both are treating workouts & reading as first-class calendar items. They're not "if I have some extra free time" things. They're on the calendar, and they're going to happen.

One of my dear hobbies is triathlon, and my annual training hours are currently around 400-500h. That usually includes a couple of intensive camps/trips, so my weekly training hovers somewhere between 7 and 10 hours. My routine is to have a quick weekly planning session each Sunday when I review & construct my calendar for the upcoming week. Those training slots get moved during that session from TrainingPeaks (a separate system where my coach assigns me the workouts) to my Calendar app. So I have my training sessions on the same calendar with client calls, focus time for work projects, time boxes for the constant firehose of things flooding from various Slack channels and e-mails, and various domestic responsibilities. I've noticed that morning slots work best for my training sessions because there's a much smaller risk for them to get overridden by either some production crisis or by the insurmountable lack of energy (perceived or actual) after a tough day at work.

Truth to be told, reading (or deep thinking) doesn't receive the same treatment from me as my triathlon workouts. It has been purely a "if I have some extra free time" thing. Which usually means that it's overridden by everything else all the time. I need to work on that. If those guys can arrange time for it (while training almost as much as myself, while running huge businesses, while having families), I should stop making excuses and start booking some slots on my calendar.