Arjun Attam


23 Aug 2020

This post on how to not be a micro-manager by svs gave a name to something that has changed my life: cadence1. A recurring meeting scheduled with collaborators. svs shows how cadence is a powerful tool for managers at work. I have seen it work well even at self-management, as a means to tackle the volatility of motivation and let compounding run its course.

The list of extracurricular things I want to do but haven't gotten around to is long. The latest addition is getting better at chess. It's easy to add to this list—a moment of inspiration is enough—but outcomes require consistent effort. Cadence is a helpful forcing function:

There are at least 3 recent examples where this has worked for me.

Online courses

Completion rate of online courses is a known issue, and when Alokik reached out to me to pair on one, I was interested—because courses are fun—but skeptical about completing it. As of today, we have completed six weeks of lessons and have three more to go.

This was easy because he blocked a recurring 2 hour meeting, every Monday evening. I spend 30 mins before the call on pre-reads and then cover the lesson with him. We haven't strictly stuck with the schedule but as it turns out, rescheduling an invite is much easier than remembering to schedule one.

Cross-team collaboration

One of the things I like about working in a BigTechCo is the opportunity for organic collaboration with teams in different orgs. These "internal partners" can unlock non-core growth areas. But prioritizing this collaboration is hard, because the incentives that are natural to org structures do not apply.

I've also found cross-team collaboration to be exploratory: there's often only an idea to start and you need extra care to convert it into action. Setting up a 30/60 mins monthly sync is a great forcing function to nurture that care and attention.

Long distance

Just before I moved cities, Em and I spent a month figuring out how we were going to make our relationship work. Both of us had been in LDRs that fell apart due to lack of quality communication. A 12 hour time difference was going to make it worse.

A year later I can proudly say that we've done well. Our cadence is a weekly 2-3 hour "date night" on the weekend, blocked on our calendars. This complements unscheduled twice-a-weekday "small talk" before each of us starts our work day.

Sustaining the rhythm has revealed a second-order effect: meta-level assessment. Every once in a while we look back at the last few weeks, gauge them against an earlier period and evaluate the quality of communication all other things being equal. Making this LDR work has been a life achievement and we are now close to closing the distance.

To contrast, the lack of cadence is what killed Alokik and my attempt at podcasting with the Startup Green Room. Shipping regular episodes was hard, and while Alokik and I discussed releasing every 3 weeks frequently, but discussions were not enough. Same people, same levels of motivation, but missing a system.

  1. And now that I have a name, I can reference and apply it more. ↩︎