Should You Work on That Idea?

Using Domainr, I can see if a domain name is available

Here’s a little trick I use to decide if I actually want to work on a project:

Let’s say I’ve got an idea, and I get really excited about it. I buy a domain for the website for the project, and start jotting down notes. I’m convinced that this is my next big idea!

The next step’s been a game changer for me: I go and add a note to my to-do list — one month in the future. I remind myself to revisit the idea then.

And then I do nothing — at least for 30 days.

Often, a month later, I look at the idea and go: Why was I so excited about this? That’s not a bad thing, I think — I’ve just saved myself a bunch of time and effort on an idea I wasn’t all that excited about!

But if I’m still excited about the idea a month later, that’s how I know it’s worth the investment, and that’s when I actually start to work on it.


I like to use Domainr to come up with domain names. But I don’t think is my next project!

Learning How to Work Weekends With a Kid.

A sharpened pencil sits on top of a blank spiral notebook.

Weekends are different now as a new dad. Before my son was born, I’d often spend a little time on the weekend doing some work. That might mean a little time on a Saturday morning doing some writing, and then time on Sunday evening prepping for the week ahead. If I had the time, I might cross a few other things off my to-do list.

But this year, the routine’s had to change. What I realized is that on a weekend with a baby, I might be able to carve out two or three hours for work. But in that window, I’d probably only get one or two things done.

At first, getting so little done on a weekend felt like failure. I’d find myself feeling stressed on a Sunday night about how little I’d accomplished.

What I needed was a shift in mindset. Getting 1-2 things done on a weekend isn’t a failure — I’ve got a kid now! I’ve got other responsibilities!

If I get 1-2 things done, that’s a very good day.

That shift has made all the difference. If I get a few hours to take care of work, I’ll look at my to-do list and figure out what the priority task (or two) is. That’s all I’m working on that weekend. If I get through those tasks faster than expected, I don’t go back to the to-do list for additional tasks. I leave everything else for Monday morning.

Getting those 1-2 things done is more than enough.

Everything else in my life has shifted since becoming a dad — it makes sense that the way I work on weekends needed to, too.


That photo of a blank notepad and pencil comes via Kelly Sikkema and Unsplash.

Every New Experience Can Be a Learning Experience.

a rainbow of colors on a bookshelf

I’m lucky to have a job where I learn new things every day.

Every new client brings me questions I haven’t had to answer before. Every new project introduces challenges I’ve never dealt with before. Every new year brings opportunities I’ve never had before.

And that’s just what happens at work. When I come home, being a new dad means I learn all sorts of new stuff every day — sometimes, a few new things a day. (Sometimes, that new stuff involves learning ways to not get peed on.)

You try, you do, you screw up, you learn. I’m not going to say I get smarter every day — I’m still working on that part! — but every new experience is a learning experience. You just have to be willing to see it that way.


That photo of a bookshelf comes via Jason Leung and Unsplash.

Find What Works For You.

I talked with a group of publishers a few weeks ago, and they told me they’d just come back from a conference where a speaker told them that the right number of links to include in email was 15. They wanted to know: Did I agree?

And I told them what I know to be true: There is no “right” strategy for email.

There is no right topic.

There is no right format.

There is no right number of links.

There is no right number of emails to send per week.

It’s up to you to figure out what works for you and your audience.


That’s my first BuzzFeed newsletter. It had just five links. We tested it — and figured out that we could add a lot more!

Your Imperfect Next Step.

I was on a call with a client a few weeks ago, and they told me they wanted to build the best possible email strategy in 2024.

“That’s great,” I told them. “But I don’t want you to be thinking about what’s best. I want you to be thinking about what’s next.”

Thinking “best” can lead to magical thinking, to dreaming of blue sky situations where you’ve got all the budget and resources you need. It can lead to planning for a day that may not come.

Instead, take a look at what you’re doing right now and ask yourself: What’s the next thing we can do to make our newsletter strategy better?

It might be a small step, and that’s OK. Some of the best newsletters out there were built thanks to a lot of small steps forward.

The next step may not be perfect. It may just be… what’s next.


I took that photo, more than 15 years ago, while walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Be Willing to Get Lost.

A splash of white light on an otherwise darkened staircase.

I read Andrew Leland’s new book, “The Country of the Blind,” this week. It’s a memoir about a writer who has been slowly losing his sight over the previous decades, and he uses the book to better understand life as a blind person in the United States. It’s a fascinating read, and a reminder of just how much sight shapes the way I think about the world. (Even in trying to write that last sentence, the first three phrases that came to mind — “a glimpse into Leland’s life,” “an illuminating read,” “an eye-opening experience” — all reflect a bias towards sight.)

One chapter towards the end of the book truly struck me. Leland visits the Colorado Center for the Blind, a place where members of the blind community stay for months as they learn new skills, from woodworking to cooking to navigating the outside world. Leland meets a younger student at the Center, Ahmed, who offers some advice about how to get around as a blind person:

The single most important skill for blind travel, Ahmed later told me, is that “you have to be willing to get lost, and be confident in your ability to figure it out.” In the early days of his blindness, he once took three hours to traverse a route that would have taken him five minutes with a sighted guide. Eventually he got better at navigating Washington, DC, learning the direction of traffic, the patterns of certain stoplights, the way the sound of another person’s footsteps changes as they begin descending a set of stairs. In Colorado, he learned to use cardinal directions, and can now often figure out which way he’s facing from the feeling of the sun on his face. But, he added, “it’s not like once you leave [the Colorado Center for the Blind], you’ll never get lost again.” … Getting lost is not always comfortable, or pleasant, but it is an organic and fundamental part of the human experience. The more one is able to accept it, rather than fight it, the more skillful one becomes in one’s travels.

Later in the chapter, Leland describes the experience of Ahmed and two other students heading to a local store. As Leland writes, not only do Ahmed and his classmates make it to their destination safely, but Ahmed is so comfortable on the walk that he does some it while walking backwards!

Anyway, I’ll be thinking about this line for the rest of the day: “You have to be willing to get lost, and be confident in your ability to figure it out.”


That photo of a darkened staircase comes via Unsplash and photographer Carolina Pimenta.

I Am Not The Wolf.

I was rewatching “Pulp Fiction” on a flight the other day. My favorite chapter of that movie is the scene with Winston Wolf, the fixer. Vincent Vega and Jules Winfield get themselves into hot water, and The Wolf gets them out of it.

And I was struck by a thought, rewatching it, that a lot of people think that my job at Inbox Collective is basically that of The Wolf.

Some teams come to me thinking that I’ve got all the answers or magic fixes. I often do not.

What do I actually do? A good advisor isn’t there to have all the answers. My job is to help you ask the right questions — and figure out how to find the answers together.

I’ll admit, it’d be fun to be The Wolf, to be able to come in, survey the situation, and identify a quick fix.

But my job, if I do it well, is to do more than fix the glaring short-term issues. I’m here to help teams build the right strategy in the long term.

All of that starts, not by having all the answers, but by figuring out the right questions.

We Ain’t What We Gonna Be.

A mural of the "I Am a Man" protest that took place in Memphis, TN, during the Civil Rights Movement.

I’ve just finished Jonathan Eig’s biography, “King: A Life.” It’s a remarkable portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I found myself jotting down lines and quotes as I read through the book, but one stuck with me. It comes at a rare quiet moment in what Eig describes as the non-stop travel schedule that was the final dozen years of Dr. King’s life. It comes at a moment when he’s talking to two ordinary Americans, trying to keep their spirits up.

“We ain’t what we want to be, and we ain’t what we gonna be,” he tells them.

King had a vision both simple and radical, one that pushed for huge changes in our society. Those dreams are still unfulfilled today.

And yet, there’s that quote, something he said not in a pulpit or in front of a camera — the promise of better days tomorrow, of change ahead, for each of us, and for a nation.

We go still, onward. We are not yet finished today.


That’s a photo of the “I Am a Man” mural in Memphis, Tennessee. The mural was created by Marcellous Lovelace with BLK75. The photo was taken by Joshua J. Cotten for Unsplash.

If You’re Going to Take Time Off, Take Time Off.

We took the week off last week to go to Guadeloupe, a small island in the French part of the Caribbean. There are a lot of reasons I love Guadeloupe — this is my second trip there — but what I especially love is how disconnected I can be there.

Most of the tourists in Guadeloupe are from France or Quebec, which means you’re not hearing people talk about the news or politics. The TV channels aren’t American TV channels, so you’re not watching much TV. I put my phone on Airplane Mode when I land, so I’m not constantly hearing the ping of texts and emails. And the internet connection at the hotels isn’t great — which ordinarily would be an issue, but it means that on a vacation like this, I’m generally not looking at my phone as often I would.

All of which meant that I got to take a true week off, save for two brief windows when I actually responded to emails just to make sure I didn’t come back to hundreds of unread messages. Otherwise, I spent the week enjoying the beach, reading, and unwinding.

There are trips when I’ll spend some time working and take calls, but there’s something special about those weeks when I truly get to unplug. Weirdly, it can be hard to take time away — it’s so tempting to grab the phone and try to stay connected to what’s happening! — but it’s also so necessary to actually take the time off.

And if you’re going to take time off, you should mean it. Go read a book. Do nothing for a while. You deserve it.


That’s a photo I took at the beach on Guadeloupe one afternoon.

How I Knew.

Here’s a story I’ve never told before.

In the spring of 2019, I was starting to think about leaving the New Yorker to start Inbox Collective. But I was still nervous about it. Was it the right time to leave? Was I ready to take on the responsibility of building a new business?

And that’s around the time a recruiter reached out to ask about a job.

It was a good job with a big title at a major news organization, making more money than I’d ever made it my life. I wasn’t looking for another job, but I interviewed anyway. It was the kind of offer I had to at least consider. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Within 20 minutes of the first interview, I knew what I wanted to do next.

I wasn’t excited about the idea of taking another job. I still loved my job at the New Yorker.

But more than anything else, I felt excited about the idea of starting my own consulting business — well, equal parts excited and nervous. Whenever I feel nervous, that’s usually a good thing. It’s a signal that I really care about something.

So I started to ask myself: Why, exactly, am I still doing the same old thing if I’m ready for what’s next?

By the end of the month, I told my bosses that I was leaving to start Inbox Collective.


That’s a photo of me talking to a group of newsrooms in Sydney in fall 2019, a few months after starting Inbox Collective.