A long reflection on getting more out of each hour

One of the people I met through the MaRS Entrepreneurship 101 course asked me what brought me to the sessions, since it looked like I was doing well already.

I like going to tech and business meetups that have talks. I get so much more than most people do out of them, I think. For many people, presentations are like lottery tickets. Sometimes the talks are directly relevant to their work, and sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they’re at the right level of experience, and other times, talks are too basic or too advanced for them. Sometimes an hour’s talk more than pays for itself. Many times, though, it’s an hour that they won’t get back. Their return on investment is highly variable.

I like getting multipliers of value out of my time. I spend the same hour that everyone spends listening. By taking notes, though, I make myself listen more actively, create something that I can use to trigger my memories, share with other people, and add more to my blog archive. I used to take a lot of text notes. Over the past two years, I’ve switched to taking more sketchnotes because:

  • drawing is quieter than typing (no distracting clackety-clack noises!), and it’s obvious I’m not doing e-mail
  • drawings are easier to quickly review than text notes – you can get an almost visceral reminder of things in a glance
  • drawings are easier to share with other people who might not take the time to read a liveblogged post, but who’ll find drawings interesting

So that gives me even more ways to get value from the time I have. Here’s the Evil Plan I shared in my e-mail response about why I go to the entrepreneurship course:

…I mainly attend for sketchnoting practice and long-term network building. Every session gives me exactly what I want: better real-time drawing skills, an excuse to delight and follow up with experts, stronger connections with event organizers and business resources, serendipitous encounters with potential entrepreneurs in person and online, the ability to give something to a pretty large audience, and material for blog posts and compilations. :) All for maybe two hours’ total investment of attention and a few subway tokens… As far as Evil Plans go, I suspect it’s a good one. ;) Five, ten, twenty years down the line, it will probably lead to something wonderful.

Some people are more productive because they require less sleep – my dad belongs to this category. Me, I like getting between 8-9 hours of sleep each night, averaging 8.3 hours over the past 321 days (standard deviation of 1.6 hours/day). That means I just have to get more value out of the time I have – not so much multi-tasking, but getting multiple kinds of value.

Right now, it’s easy to squeeze out more value from the dish sponge of life. I’m in the awesome part of the learning curve, where I’m getting tons of value out of going to things because I learn so much. When I hit the plateau of mediocrity, things might be different – or maybe I’ll get better and better at structuring things so I’m always getting lots of different kinds of value from the same hour: learning, skill-building, relationship-building, knowledge-sharing… In 2009 I wrote about how my interests complement each other, and the new ones I’m picking up – drawing, publishing, learning how to build a business – snap right into that framework. But there’s so much more to learn about learning and living. What can I possibly know even now, at 29, with so much more of life ahead? This is nothing, a tiny fraction of what’s possible. It’ll be wonderful to keep learning, to find out what it’s like to get even better at making the most of time. I’m looking forward to it. Any tips? Anything I can help other people learn?