We venture capitalists are often asked about our every hours. To answer, I charted the 168 hours in a week pre-COVID19, and then revisited it after a month into quarantine. I recommend going through this exercise to determine if you are spending the right amount of time on the right things.
My 168 Hours Looks Vastly Different During Quarantine, and That’s Okay
Netflix rocked the HR world with their vacation policy and many in tech followed suit. “Get the job done and you can take all the vacation you want, right?” The number of workers who are clocking in for a job is shrinking. However, customers and investors are eager to know how much of your time do you spend doing the thing they are backing, even though time-spent on a task does not correlate to outcomes.
As you can tell below, I spend most of my week on MiLA, and the hours are much more than the typical knowledge worker spends on their job. When you are doing something you love, it doesn’t feel like work and you tend to want to throw yourself in even more to chase the thrill.
I tell people that when I am not working I am focused on the family. That seems to be reflected here. The sleep number looks surprisingly massive on the pie. It should, but for many sleep experts my slice is actually on the low side. When my family and I went into quarantine, I took on added household responsibilities including operating the home school on Wednesdays. I noticed an increase in sleep, for sure, and it’s hard to explain why. Perhaps it’s Zoom fatigue. Or maybe the extra sleep can be explained by the effort and strain of managing increased family challenges.
In quarantine, obviously, my travel number is now non-existent. It was previously high because of my commutes. Last year I spent 43 days of the year in another city, and when I am in Los Angeles my normal commute is 45 minutes on highways each way. I have enjoyed that time as I fill it with phone calls and podcasts. In quarantine, that time shifted to family and I have taken on more duties while my wife prepares for a full day of home school.
There are two small items here that keep my Limited Partners (LPs are the institutions like endowments and pension funds that invest in venture capital funds) up at night and they make up 6% of my time: Operating Businesses and Previous Angel Portfolio companies. It surprised me that this small sliver has caused the most friction with LPs. Other than being a small percentage of my actual time, my LPs discount the fact there are tremendous network effects across these worlds as well, and I tend to see that 1+1>2.
As a person coming from an operations background, I have been trained to do the impossible and delivery products in unrealistic timelines. When you are an operations person turned investor, you can empathize with Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jack Dorsey who have all spent time in the trenches of major businesses and end up running two or more at the same time. They see enough synergies across the board and are able to move multiple organizations forward. However, they are not able to spend 100% of their waking moments thinking about just one thing. And that’s a good thing. Personally, I feel that when I add too much to my calendar, it crystalizes what tasks are truly important in an outcome and allows me to eliminate the irrelevant.
Even investors and advisors spend a great percentage of their own time on public boards. Do investors ever ask potential investees how much time they spend playing golf, or fortnite, or in yoga class? They don’t, and that is the way it should be. However, I only spend 1% of my time on these self care activities. Some people I know spend more time on these activities than the family pie slice of mine, and that seems troubling.
The qualitative “why” of time commitments is more interesting than the quantitative data
A much more interesting question than the number of hours is the reason behind the hours. Once people get over the time-commitment issue, the obvious question is why one would make those choices.
In conversations with LPs, I am able to share how fortunate I have been to grow a company because it exposes you to a variety of sized businesses. In that journey, I realized a few things:
1) I enjoy the early stages. I love getting into the trenches and helping out on the market discovery piece. It’s like being tossed into a strange country and every day you get slightly closer to fluency and truth. I get my dopamine hit from the camaraderie of the struggle and the wins along the entrepreneurial journey.
2) I discovered that I am very much a purpose-driven person. My purpose for decades has been to grow companies in a more sustainable and resource-efficient way. With my background in manufacturing and consumer goods, I have seen waste across the ecosystem from material to labor to capital, and I know that I can solve it with one company. I work in venture to amplify my agenda, to magnify my philosophical viewpoint, and to leverage myself for greater impact.
MiLA has been by far the largest time commitment. Working with early stage companies dominates what I think and dream about. I have been obsessed with this for the past 5 years, and have had a crush on the concept for much longer.
This obsession manifests positively but also has a dark side. When given a choice, I find it easy to weigh trade-offs in the short-term and prioritize MiLA above sleep, self-care, friends, and family. My friends often nudge me to get other hobbies and I resist knowing that in the short run something else will suffer. I am dedicated to the concept that the world has misunderstood hardware investing and there are better ways to build those companies and capture the value inherent in the price arbitrage I see. This has been a calling for me, and will be my legacy.
What I have learned was that before quarantine I felt I was spending the right amount of time on the right things. And while in quarantine, the weeks look vastly different and I spend significantly less time on my calling. However, I am learning to not beat myself up over it. I still feel like I am spending the right amount of time on the right things.