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I write about design, technology, and people. Sometimes I share photos of places I visit.

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Winter bridge

A short wooden bridge over a shallow river during a cold
winter night.

Darkness comes early. Cold is ever-present. No more enjoying long days under the sun; better stay under a blanket next to a night lamp while snow trickles outside. Nature rushed from summer to winter in the past few weeks like running over a short bridge. It happened almost as a surprise.

I feel my energy changing too. I’ve been drawn to different types of tasks and activities. For me, this is the best time for reflection, deep thought, and planning. And hopefully, a lot of reading.

Indra Nooyi memoir

Indra Nooyi's new paperback memoir.

I picked up Indra Nooyi’s memoir after listening to several interviews with her in the past year. She gave an impression of a competent and kind person, leader, and executive. In the book, she talks about her life and career and the work and family tradeoffs she had to make over the years. She speaks of the time when her daughters were small. She spent a lot of time traveling and staying late in the office; she was there for children’s important events and when support was vital, but her day-to-day involvement was minimal. As she says, “I think of these days with great sadness.” At the same, she impacted thousands directly and probably millions of people indirectly while she was leading PepsiCo.

I appreciate when accomplished people openly talk about topics like that. It troubles me when I see others following in their footsteps without thinking about consequences. I wrote last year:

Keep an eye on a common bias—when observing others, we usually see what others have chosen, but we don’t know what sacrifices they had to make. If you ever have a thought, “I want to be like that person,” ask yourself if you would be willing to take on both their successes and failures.

We can do anything, but not everything. As long as you chart a course for yourself knowing what you have to leave behind, you’re good. Indra Nooyi chose a path, the best path for herself. As a result, she can be a role model for both women and men regarding her business success and her honesty and transparency about her journey.

LEGO Architecture Tokyo

Architecture LEGO set of famous Tokyo landmarks.

I had played with LEGOs a lot when I was a kid, and I’m doing it again with my kids (even reusing some of my old sets). Recently, I got an opportunity to build an architecture set that is not aimed at kids. It was part of a team socializing event, and I thoroughly enjoyed the focus it took to make it. And when I was done, I had a nice piece to put on a shelf.

The biggest improvement

The biggest improvement in my work performance followed significant improvements in how I sleep, eat, and exercise. No app, trick, or life hack has ever come close to the sheer magnitude of how much more mental power and focus I can wield. None of the improvements happened overnight, and they usually happened in parallel because they’re closely related. If you sleep better, it’ll be easier to make better food choices; if you eat better, you’ll fuel and prepare your body for exercise; if you exercise, you’ll feel good after it, keep your body (brain) healthy, and you’ll sleep better.

I was reasonably successful in keeping all three in check, so I incorrectly thought that marginally improving them wouldn’t make much difference. I was wrong. Due to having two small kids and a demanding job, there are always periods in a year where I can’t maintain my healthy routine. During those periods, I consistently observe that I perform tasks longer and the output is not up to my standards. For example, a task—for which I would routinely need an hour—takes an hour and a half, and I have to revise it the next day.

If I’m honest with myself, this is all boring advice, probably along the lines of what your parents or grandparents would tell you. But sometimes boring works.

The effects of remote work on collaboration

Microsoft gave anonymized logs to researchers to explore how people interacted mid-last year as the pandemic spread worldwide. The researchers published a paper with this summary:

Our results show that firm-wide remote work caused the collaboration network of workers to become more static and siloed, with fewer bridges between disparate parts. Furthermore, there was a decrease in synchronous communication and an increase in asynchronous communication. Together, these effects may make it harder for employees to acquire and share new information across the network. Read more

If you want to read more, check out the archive.

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