Walk a Day in My Shoes – Starr

Inspired by Ben Franklin:

5 Occasionally wake early & read
Family 6 Read & prepare a simple breakfast
Family 7 Wash & commute
8 First meeting of the day
10 Design project
12 Business Lunch Meeting
1 Or extended reading
2 Alone Zone
4 Closing meeting
5 Commute (audio book)
Family 6 Dinner at Home with Family
7 Read or Evening Meeting
Family 8 Kids in bed
9 Read or movie with wife
10 To bed
11 Sleep

If interested in more details:

Sometime between 5:30-6:30 AM I rise with or without an alarm. If I wake before an alarm, I start my day.

I am almost always the first one awake in my house. I make coffee, a simple breakfast (cereal, oatmeal, banana, etc), & begin reading. Or, as Ben Franklin would say, “persecute the present study.”  I try to learn something profound right away. This sets my mind in a proper direction.  Learning is a key input to meaningful output.

On weekdays, I normally prepare breakfast for one to three children depending on their schedules and alarms. My wife takes coffee black. “No talkie before coffee.”

On weekends, I just continue my morning reading until my wife is ready to talk or my brain bursts. Some days this occurs around 9 am, other days it’s not until 2-3 pm.

On most mornings, the children go upstairs to dress themselves (which I am grateful for) and I shower and dress.

During the week, I take the kids to school on my way to the LEV office in downtown Lafayette, IN.  We sing songs, talk about the day ahead and otherwise laugh together. On mornings where I have a meeting before 8am or require some travel, my wife will take them. This is worked out as far in advance as we can. Her flexibility allows both of us the ability to maximize each other’s effectiveness. I am super grateful.

I park and walk about five blocks, mostly because I’m too cheap to pay for parking, but partially because this forces me to walk. Some days I’m listening to an audiobook or Bible audio, other days I just walk.

Once at the office, I normally have an initial meeting that requires deep thought and intense conversations right away. This normally lasts for an hour and a half or two… sometimes longer with LEV management team, during our aptly dubbed “Jam Sessions.” I rarely prepare an agenda, mostly because Neil does and my role is often to pull us back up to big picture strategy, or jar the group out of a hurtful pattern. Mikel forces edge case testing. He’s great at it, to the point it sometimes drives Neil and I crazy… but in a good way that we find a better answer. Anyways, if you ever schedule a meeting with the three of us first thing in the morning you are in for a doozy.  We are guns blazing by 8am.

Ideally, at this point I do some more quiet work, including spreadsheets, to-do lists or similar which requires little input from the outside world. These projects are normally predicated on trying to simplify some complex situation into a compelling structure that others can duplicate.  Or I may write down my thoughts to help clarify my thinking.  This may never be read by anyone else, or it may be used to help me more effectively communicate at a later time.

A business lunch occurs most days. I see this as another window in my schedule for intense dialogue, and ideally with someone relatively new. My preference is to spend this window of time trying to help someone. This normally occurs around noon.  If there is no lunch meeting, I will read a business book for one to two hours in the middle of the day. I always feel guilty, but it’s amazing how different my brain works while reading in a lounger at the office.

(You might notice by now that I have absolutely zero time allotted for news. I even removed Facebook from my iPhone and turned off all notifications other than text messages and phone calls. Read blog post “Protect your Priors” and book “Deep Work” by Cal Newport for a glimpse as to why I am intentional about this. I am almost always a very poor conversationalist at a cocktail party… unless people want to talk philosophy or work, which is rare.

After the lunch-ish hour, I normally dig back into a spreadsheet and blend in outside research now. This is when I read 10-K’s, due diligence on a private company or some complex matter for an internal company. My objective is to move quickly to a decision for the most pressing. I’m also blending exploratory thought patterns from earlier studies to see if I can apply them to this matter. It helps me retain new books for longer.

After about another hour or two I try to slam my mid to late afternoon with additional meetings. Ideally these are phone calls or web conferences. If Mikel or Neil are in the office we are probably working on some big picture strategy thing again by this point. If they are not, they may be joining me on a call, or running their own calls. I find a 5 minute or 30 minute phone call to be increasingly effective as I get older.

By 4pm the day in the office begins to wain. I try to bring closure to new topics and wish the team well. I take a deep breath, put away my stuff and gather up my briefcase, laptop, etc. around 5pm.

Then, the 5+ block walk back to my truck (yes, I drive a pickup truck. I want a car, but my wife likes me driving a truck.  Weird, right? I guess you don’t always get what you want.) Anyways, I almost always listen to an audiobook on my way home.  Between the walk and the Bluetooth connection at 3x speed, I’ll consume at least one or two books this way in a week. If I run out of Audible credits, I’ll re-listen to existing books to try to memorize lessons.  If I’m sick of my audiobooks, I’ll soak up podcasts.

I arrive home most days between 5:30-6pm. My wife thinks I should be able to teleport from 5pm and be home by 5:01pm, but Lafayette, IN does not have this service. By this time of day our household is a complete and absolute whirlwind.  Allison cooks dinner a lot and takes care of all three kid’s homework and breaks up fights and otherwise cleans up their craziness. Anna is maybe crying or sulking about something from middle school.  Alexa is trying not to do cartwheels while practicing a memory verse.  Gabby is sneaking candy and trying to watch television. Poor Allison. All I want to do is grab a beer and sit down. Some days I do, and she is patient with me. Some days we talk. Mostly, I try to help gather food and pick up a little, because it’s the thought that counts… especially at 6pm.

We eat dinner at the table, together. My parents did this and they taught me so much during this time of the day. Actually, I don’t know that we do it as well as they did. We wind up on our phones occasionally and it makes me mad as I write about it. Our kids interrupt each other (we were never allowed, but it was only four, and we have five!) I’ll try to do better.

As dinner wraps, Allison has calmed down and I’m beginning to relax… a lot. I often wind up in my recliner at this point while Allison loads dishwasher.  Isn’t she great?! We talk some and kids come and go.

Then it is the bed time routine around 8pm. We always do this together as well. It’s really a special time. Baths and pajamas.  Stories and questions. We have some of the best talks with each kid individually at this point in the day. We say our prayers, give kisses and hugs and tell them to STAY in BED!

As we move downstairs the kitchen needs finishing touches. I help if warranted at this point (I’m not a complete slob.) If it’s wrapped up then I wind up on recliner for sure and Allison goes and washes her face. I know this is a funny thing to share, but it works in our house. I’d much rather her have some peace and quiet then have me begin to blab her ear off and us become irritated with each other. She will listen to some nice music or watch a show on the laptop while she does this.  I picture it like meditation for her.

For me, I’m back to persecuting the present study. I’ll soak up several chapters in 30 minutes or more. Some evenings we’ll watch a movie together or visit. Other times we each just read, with an occasional comment about what we are reading or something a kid said or did, or some current event.  This time frame is about the extent of my news intake. Who is having a baby? Which hurricane is decimating some vacation town?  Oh, one of our kids wants a snack? Sure, just don’t spill any on the floor.

Okay, back to bed.

“the Alone Zone” is from ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

“Long stretches of alone time are when you are the most productive. When you don’t have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done. (Ever notice how much work you get done on a plane since you’re offline and there are zero outside distractions” (p. 105).”


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