Productivity, planning, goals, Getting Stuff Done

The Hemingway Bridge as an End of Week Unplug Process

When you adopt the concept of managing your energy and not your time, the ability to unplug, turn off the noise and recharge becomes the most important tactic. Optimization of anything, your health, your athletic ability, your problem solving skills, your emotional state... it all requires rest and recovery.

Have you ever had one of those weekends where you get off work on Friday, wake up Saturday exhausted from the prior week, you then waste the day away thinking about the things that you need to do.. because you don't want to forget them. Then you begin feeling the creeping dread starting on Sunday as you brace yourself in anticipation of those things that need to be done?

I used to do this all of the time, it was my normal routine. But I stopped a few years back by introducing a simple planning process... maybe process isn't the right word... ritual? Anyhow, this is how I did it.

The Hemingway Bridge

I started using the Hemingway Bridge when I was at Juno in 2019. I didn't really know the name of the tactic until reading Tiago Forte's book about building a second brain.

The tactic is called the "Hemingway Bridge"...

Earnest Hemingway had a rule for himself when he was writing. He would write each day, and he would only stop writing when he he had clarity on exactly where the plot and story were going next. Rather than writing for a period of time or until he was exhausted he would simply keep at it until he could see the next step. At that point he would capture the idea, take the proper notes that would allow him to pick up where he left off, and then disconnect knowing that when he returned he would have a "bridge" from his prior work into his future work. This allowed his future self to to pick up right where he left off.

The key idea here is that you don't just work to exhaustion every day, you reserve some momentum and pay it forward to yourself into the future.

My Friday Routine

Anyhow... Although I did not know the name of this creative hack, sometime in 2019 I discovered that by taking the right notes and setting up the right queues on a Friday afternoon I could completely unplug until Monday morning.

Maybe this is common sense to most people, but not to me. I had to learn to trust the process.. that I could use a few hours on Friday to create a bombproof Monday plan that allows me to completely shut off work mode. No more worrying or stressing when I am trying to spend time with family or focus on non work projects. Mini vacations every week.

Here is my process:

Make Time:

I will make a point of blocking out a 3-5 PM slot on my calendar every Friday and guarding it ruthlessly. The planning time is sacred.

Select a Setting:

I like to find a place between work and home to do this work. I have a number of local microbreweries and craft beer tap rooms that I like to visit to do this. For me, this is the ideal setting. There are typically dogs running around, craft beer available, food trucks and people having fun. I have a list of haunts that where I have yet to run into anybody I know except the waitstaff. This type of environment, total chaos and a pair of earbuds, puts me in the right frame of mind to be creative.

I actually think that the setting is important. You need to be creative, not reactive. Find a place that shifts your mindset.

Close Out Last Week:

Get everything to a safe stopping point. Clear the email queue, wrap up actions, close the loop on conversations. Don't leave anything hanging that might wake you up in the middle of the night over the next few days. You don't have to complete everything, just bring the things to an acceptable pause.

Now Build Your Weekly Plan

Here is the bridge into next week:

1) Carve out time. Step 1: decline meetings. I will ruthlessly decline meetings where I am not the presenter, influencer or decision maker. If I can get a summary of the outputs and outcomes later, I don't want or need to be there. You need to make sure that you have space in the calendar to drive your plans, goals and agenda. Time is a finite resource.

2) Identify the top three things that you need to accomplish next week to drive your plans, goals and agenda. I shoot for three because I can usually hit that.

3) Break the week down by identifying the daily things that you need to do each day to drive your plans, goals and agenda.

4) Add any residual actions or leftover work from this week into next week - ensuring that the actions complement your workstream.

5) Identify the people that you need to check in with, support, or connect with next week. This is actually, in my experience, the most important step and biggest value of the process. Who needs your help and how do you help them? Add these notes to your organization system and set up time with the people who need your help.

6) Build your unplug plan. You now have the bridge into next week. It takes a little practice but after a few times you learn when the plan is done and the bridge is built. Now, identify what you will do between the time you get home until the time you return to work and be intentional about it. Your notes are waiting for you Monday morning, there is nothing to worry about.

Without question, this habit/tactic is the best thing that I have learned over the last five years working at biotech start ups and turn around projects. It has consistently helped me fight burn out and hit the ground running on Monday morning with clarity in action. It also has helped me take back weekends and time off and really optimize that time for other projects that have nothing to do with biotech, start ups, and business. Hoping it can help somebody else out there too.

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