282: Working in Seasons

This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:

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Happy Monday!

For anyone else learning Solidity, I'm starting to put some videos on YouTube based on different projects I've completed. You can find the first one here on how to create an ERC20 token.

Alright, on to the newsletter.

Seasons & Work

When I look at the last eight years since I started working, one theme that stands out is how my work seems to move in seasons.

I typically go through some significant work shift or change around the end of the year or the beginning of the next. A bit under a year ago I was stepping out of Growth Machine and starting on my rapid career sampling.

The year before that, it was diving into Roam and creating the course as well as opening the Cafe (ouch).

Before that in different years it was starting Growth Machine, starting my current blog, starting my first startup, getting into content marketing, starting my first blog... it's always around that time.

Spring and into Summer are also often characterized by an intense focus on some project. Last year that was getting Growth Machine through COVID. This year it was learning programming.

In the fall, I tend to be less productive. Not sure why. Maybe it's a relic from school starting and me resisting doing anything related to school until the absolute last minute. Whatever the source though, it tends to be a slower season.

I rather like this ebb and flow. Six to nine months of focused output, a period of rest, a period of reflection and planning, then another push forward.

One thing it has led to too is very irregular earning. In the last few years in particular, it seems like most of my income has been generated in very short periods of time. Usually some kind of launch or another concentrated event. Then the rest of the time, I'm earning much less at a steady rate.

What's nice with those irregular income events, and a seasonal work pace, is that it ends up enforcing some natural constraints and budgeting. If you make $100k in a week then $50k the rest of the year, you'll probably live slightly above the $50k income. You won't assume you're going to have a $150k salary to live off of.

It also makes it easier to work extremely intensely for periods of time, since you recognize they're temporary. There were times this summer where I was going through such an insane amount of programming education material that I was getting headaches and tunnel vision from trying to cram so much info into my brain. But it was temporary! And worth it.

That sprint of work could be extremely intense and stressful, but that's probably fine if there's a sufficient period of recovery afterwards. We know how harmful stress is to our bodies, but I suspect that's mostly from chronic stress. Not periodic. If we have seasons or times of intense work, followed by plenty of leisure, that could be perfectly fine.

I think there's an extreme boon that comes from earning periods of semi-retirement. Once you have the opportunity to not work for 3-6 months, you quickly realize it wasn't necessarily work you wanted to escape. But rather something about the work you were doing. Maybe the lack of control over your time, or the type of stress you had to deal with, but everyone wants to find some kind of meaningful work, we just don't often get the opportunity. And if we spend 40 years working on a normal non-seasonal schedule, we never get the opportunity to find that space and reflect on what we're really missing in our work.

So far, the seasonality of my work has been largely coincidental, though I'm sure driven by some deeper psychological current. Could I make it intentional though? Or would it lose its magic?

Could we all identify what parts of our year seem to be very low output, what parts foster reflection, and what parts foster extreme productivity, and design our work around them?

For certain kinds of work we certainly could, but I recognize that's limited to a rather narrow scope of people. If it's an option available to you though, I think it's worth trying.

Maybe you designate two to three months of the year for minimal output and maximum recovery. Or try to push hard for four to six weeks at a time, followed by an equal amount of recovery.

A month of 12 hour days followed by a month of 4 hour days feels more sustainable than a lifetime of 8 hour days. But I suppose we'd have to try it to find out.

Either way, I'm going to have to embrace a certain amount of decreased productivity the next few months. And while that's scary in one sense, I'm also looking forward to it. And I'll be curious to see what it leads to in the Spring.

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