Email Is For Action.

Before you send an email to a colleague, ask yourself one question: What do you want them to do when they get this email?

The best emails are the ones that have a clear next step. Email’s the perfect way to:

      • Get a quick answer to a question
      • Set up a meeting or call
      • Review a document
      • Connect two colleagues

And when you send the email, make sure the subject line of your email conveys that immediate action. (For instance: “Here’s the contract for our upcoming work”, or “Can you review this document by Friday?”) Get right to the point, and make sure that the call to action is right there so you get the fastest possible reply.

Email’s great for action, but unfortunately, it’s a lousy place to start a discussion or have a deeper conversation. I’ve always found it far better to have that sort of conversation elsewhere: In person, on the phone, or even via a chat tool, like Slack. If you need that kind of depth, send the email to set up the meeting, but then move things to a better forum.


Be Good To Each Other. Enjoy Every Moment.

My grandma passed away this week — she was 96 years old. The past few days, I’ve been thinking about something she told us a few years ago. My brother and I went to visit her, and at the end of our visit, Grandma made sure to mention something to the two of us. She said: “Be good to each other. Enjoy every moment.”

When I think about her today, and always, I’ll try to remember those words.

The First Thing Isn’t The Biggest Thing.

When you’re just getting started with something new, you’re going to run into some roadblocks. You’ll start with some momentum, and suddenly, you’ll hit a snag. Your project’s just begun, and already you’re at an impasse.

The first time you get stuck like this, it’s easy to make a big deal of it — often, too big a deal of it. This is the biggest obstacle you’ve run into so far, so you think: This must be the biggest obstacle I’m ever going to face.

And that’s just not true. It’s probably just the first of many hurdles you’ll have to clear, and you can’t let this first one stop you.

I ran into this exact situation a few weeks ago. I was working on a project, and I ran into a brand new obstacle. I hadn’t run into anything like it before, and I was really upset about it. Instead of taking it head on, I spent some time replaying in my head the steps that had led to there. I fretted, I worried, and I mostly just paced around the house. For a day or two, I didn’t get anything done.

And then when I finally took on the obstacle, I found a way to get by it. It wasn’t all that big of a hurdle, it turned out — it was just the first time I’d faced an obstacle like that, so I didn’t have the right plan to take it on initially. But once I worked through the problem, I realized that I knew enough to get by it and keep going.

Don’t let the first obstacle slow you down. There’s always a way forward if you’re willing to work for the right solution.


That illustration is by Katerina Limpitsouni for unDraw.

One Door Opens Another.

Think about this for a moment: What’s something you’re working on right now that, a year or two ago, wasn’t even on your radar?

I remember at BuzzFeed when we launched our Royal Baby newsletter. There wasn’t a Royal Baby section at BuzzFeed, and we didn’t have many tools we could use to grow that newsletter. So that led to one big question: We tools do we actually have? What are we good at when it comes to newsletter growth?

Once we learned a few things, it led to another question: What could we get better at? So we tried a half-dozen new ways to grow our lists, and a handful worked well. We doubled down on those.

Once we had that set of tools, we had a new question: Which of these promotional levers could we automate? Was there anything we could do to save our team time to keep testing new things? So that led us down a new road with our product team.

Over time, these answers consistently led to brand new questions, and we kept searching for answers. Every time we asked a new question, we discovered there was even more to learn — often things we didn’t even realize we didn’t know until we’d reached that point!

One new door often opens another. The thing you’re going to be excited on in a year or two might not be what you’re working on today. But by being curious, by asking really good questions, and by seeking new answers, you might be able to open up that next door — and open yourself up to all sorts of new possibilities.


That photo comes via Christian Stahl for Unsplash.

There’s No Single Right Way.

It’s easy to get locked into a certain way of doing things. You get used to a certain way of working. You start thinking that there’s only one path forward.

Doing the work is a little like writing a song. Here’s one to consider: Neil Young’s “Helpless,” one of those songs from the 70s that’s absolutely perfect. I’ve listened to it too many times to count, and learned it on guitar. I didn’t think there was any way to do it better than the way Neil did it. It’s sparse, solemn, and beautiful:

But I stumbled on a cover version a few months ago that made me rethink Neil’s original version. It made me realize: There might be another way to approach that song and imbue it with that same sense of loneliness and despair. Give this a listen:

The lyrics are the same, and the intention is the same, but that’s not the same song. When I listen to that Angie McMahon cover, I hear a singer taking a completely different route to that same end: A song that’s sparse, solemn, and beautiful.

It’s a reminder for me: There’s no single right way to do the work. Keep trying new approaches, and keep bringing in new voices and new ideas to put their spin on the work. Listen to others. Read a lot. Keep learning. You never know when one of those new perspectives might help you find a brand new “right way” to do the work.

One Lesson From Remote Work: You Have To Find Time To Pause.

I’m just a few months into working remotely as I grow Inbox Collective. There’s a lot I like about it. For one: I’m writing this from Utah, where I’ve been working for the past 10 days. It’s been fun getting to work in a new place (and then getting the chance to ski when I can).

But something I’ve learned about remote work: Your office is wherever you are. If you’re on a plane and there’s decent WiFi, that can be your office. If you’re on a chairlift checking your email, that’s your office. If it’s midnight, and you’re at home, on the couch, laptop open, well, that’s your office.

When you’re remote, it’s easy for the work to follow you around all day. I wake up, walk over to my desk, and often start my day by 7 a.m. But if I’m not careful, it can be 10 p.m., and I’m still there, working hard. And I’ve learned quickly that that’s not a recipe for success. If I try to work long hours every day, including weekends, I’l burn out.

So I’m trying a few things this year that are a little different to make sure I keep that balance between work and play. Here’s one: I’m pushing myself to make 90 minutes every day, in the middle of the day, for a pause. I can go to the gym, take a walk, step out for lunch, or get coffee with a friend — but I have step away from the desk for a little bit.

Here’s another: I’m going to set a time to shut down work at the end of the day. (It’ll be around 7:30-8 p.m.) I’m thinking of this as the “pencils down!” request your teacher probably gave you in high school at the end of a test. There’s always going to be more work, and I can’t just work all day. I’ve got a lot on my plate — consulting work through Inbox Collective, work on Not a Newsletter, and speaking gigs. I know I have to find time to pause.

We’ll see how this goes in 2020. I’m hoping that creating this time for breaks gives me the time to focus on the other things happening in my life — and hopefully, gives me the energy to come back and tackle bigger work projects in the long run, too.


That illustration is by Katerina Limpitsouni for unDraw.

Setting A Simple Goal For 2020.

In 2019, I decided to set a simple goal: I’d do 10 push-ups, every single day. I didn’t keep exact tabs on this — I added a recurring to-do to my to-do list, and tried to cross it off more often than not. I missed a few days along the way due to travel or illness, but otherwise, I did it pretty much every day. Over the course of the year, I easily did more than 3,000 push-ups — which, to be perfectly honest, was probably about 2,900 more than I’d done in the previous two years combined.

And I discovered something: I actually enjoyed doing push-ups! I plan on keeping that habit going in the new year.

But I also want to add something new to the mix in 2020. As I wrote a few months ago about my push-up goal:

It’s a simple goal, and a small goal. But by committing to the task every single day, it’s going to build to something that, by year’s end, I can be proud of.

So here’s one for 2020: I’d like to start practicing my Spanish again. I was a Spanish minor in college, and I spent six months studying abroad in Spain. But more than a decade removed from that experience, my Spanish is poor — and I’m a little embarrassed at how bad it is.

A few weeks ago, I downloaded Duolingo, and started finding a few minutes for it every day. (I recently added the Lupa app, too.) My goal for 2020 is to keeping making some time to practice — and to see how far a little work every day can take me.


That wildly generic LED sign at top comes via Jon Tyson and Unsplash.

A Wish For The Year Ahead.

As we wrap up 2019, and look towards the new year, I wanted to say:

In 2020, I wish you the courage to take a risk — to try something new, something big that frightens you a little. I wish you the opportunity to build a community around something you love. I wish you the freedom to be as weird or silly as you’d like. And I wish you the ability to focus, to stay in the moment, and to be able to pull yourself away from the work to make time for the people you love.

May 2020 be a year of growth, health, and good luck. 



That photo was taken by Roan Lavery for Unsplash. Wherever that photo was taken, I wish to go there in the new year.

Shit Happens. How Will You Move On?

What I’ve always known — and what this year reinforced for me — is that the road will be full of the unexpected. Things don’t just go wrong — things *will* go wrong. You’ll leave 60 minutes before that presentation, but the New York City subway system will turn a 20-minute trip into a 55-minute adventure. You’ll get stranded at the Detroit airport for, somehow, 48 hours. You’ll fry a laptop at the airport just before boarding a 13-hour flight home. (All of that really did happen this year.)

Things are going to go wrong, and no amount of prep work is going to prevent that from happening. So the big question is: When it happens, can you still find a way to make it work?

When things go wrong, I try to look for all the best possible outcomes. Stranded on the train? Well, that’s an extra 20 minutes to prep for the meeting. Stuck in Detroit? Let’s get a hotel and reschedule those meetings as video calls. Laptop’s dead? That’s OK — did you know the Duty Free store sells Mac laptops now?

Shit happened in 2019, and I’m sure 2020 will be full of many more unexpected (and unwanted) surprises. Here’s my wish for you: When it does, don’t dwell on it. Text your loved ones (“You won’t believe what happened to me THIS time!”), give yourself a minute to regroup, and then figure out what doors are still open for you. Whatever happened, I promise it’s just a speed bump along the way. If you look carefully, there’s always still a path forward.


That’s a photo I took at the Brisbane airport back in November. I’m holding the laptop I bought at Duty Free a few minutes earlier. I wouldn’t usually recommend an impulse purchase like that, but it turns out there are circumstances that call for such a purchase!

Never Too High, Never Too Low.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago on my annual Things I Believe post, about my work through Inbox Collective so far:

I tend to oscillate between “This is going to work!!!” and “Holy shit, what am I doing???” on a weekly basis. I’m scared and excited, but never bored, and always thrilled to be doing this work. That’s how I know I’m in the right place.

And this is true! Since I started this, I’ve traveled to Australia, Brazil, Canada, and France for work. I’ve got a great group of clients, and I’m thrilled with the work we’re doing together. I’ve learned so much about how to do this work, and every breakthrough is exciting. Things are good for the moment!

But at the same time: This business is more than a little terrifying! Things are good… for the moment. I have no idea what comes next.

I’m learning that that fear can be an incredible motivator. I’m hustling as much as I can to find clients I can work with for a long time, and to figure out ways to make this thing last. I’m loving the work right now, and I want to keep this going. I want to make this work.

What I’m starting to learn is that it’s easy to get too high or too low, and riding that roller coaster distracts from what I need to focus on. The real challenge is in staying focused on the work, and staying on that even keel. Some days are good, and some days are rough, but neither seems to last long. Every day, I try to learn a little more and to do a little better. It’s all about the road ahead.


That image of a roundabout comes via Avi Waxman for Unsplash.