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Return from Hiatus
Hello! I’m Aaron Kardell. In my Sunday newsletter, I pick one random topic to go deep on and have some disparate quick hits at the end.
¡Hola! It’s been a minute since I took a hiatus from this weekly newsletter in early June. So, I thought I’d take a few words to catch up on life…
My wife, Kate, was able to take a sabbatical for June & July, and we used that opportunity to spend much of it in Europe with the kids. We traveled all around Spain, Portugal, and the south of France, and we had shorter stays in Germany, Sweden, and Denmark before heading home. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’m grateful things worked out so we could take the time together as a family.
I may devote a future post or two to broader trip takeaways. For now, I’ll just say that Sweden was our surprising favorite stop for all four of us. We also loved the beaches in Portugal and various small towns across Spain and France.
We ended Kate’s sabbatical with a final quick trip for all four of us to LA to catch Taylor Swift in LA on the Eras tour. I’ve already written about how I unexpectedly became a Taylor Swift fanboy, so I won’t devote too many more words here. But suffice it to say, it was a fantastic show. As we were about to enter SoFi Stadium, we were pulled aside to get interviewed by a documentary crew that wanted to interview Dads with their families. My “Dads are Swifties too” shirt was the spark to tee up the conversation.
All that to say, this summer has been good for my soul. I’m grateful for the support of my coworkers and boss. And I’m continuing to enjoy the season I’m in.
It wasn’t a true sabbatical for me, though. I did quite a bit of work while I was traveling. Nevertheless, I was much more intentional with my time, and changing environments also allowed my mind to wander. I also had the good fortune of pausing or canceling many recurring meetings during this time. Which leads me to this week’s main topic…
Zero-Based Budgeting of Time
One year at HomeSpotter, our CFO advocated for using a zero-based budgeting process for next year’s budget. Unfortunately, we didn’t pursue it then, but in hindsight, I wish we would have.
Zero-based budgeting is a financial planning and budgeting approach where each expense must be justified for each new budgeting period. Instead of rolling over numbers from the last quarter or year and making minor tweaks, you return to square one with a bunch of zeroes. You question each line item. Is this expense absolutely essential? Can we live without it or find a more efficient way to cover the need? It brings sharp intentionality to the budgeting process by forcing you to focus on your highest go-forward priorities instead of just carrying forward what you’ve always done in the past.
Recently, I had an opportunity to take a zero-based budgeting approach to my time. Those of us in corporate roles naturally accumulate many recurring meetings on our calendars. Sometimes, these meetings are necessary, unavoidable, and/or even productive. But many other times, there’s an inertia of doing the same thing that’s always been done. If you’re not looking out for and protecting your most precious resource – your time – no one else will.
Returning from vacation with many recurring meetings temporarily removed from my calendar provided an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate my calendar moving forward. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m trying to apply increased intentionality regarding where my time is spent – both during the work day and beyond.
It all starts with a question… if my calendar for the next day, week, or month had nothing scheduled, where would I allocate my time? This often isn’t realistic. I end up doing things that aren’t high on my priority list. But it’s a good forcing function to help guide you to a schedule that better aligns with where your priorities are.
As I write this, I realize this is just a little different spin on the need for prioritization, intentionality, and ruthless elimination… and that I’ve written a few times about such topics this past year. But I’m revisiting it because I need to be reminded of it personally. Hopefully, it’s an encouragement to you as well.
Return to Writing
As I’ve run through this exercise of zero-based budgeting of my time, I wondered whether I wanted to return to writing this Sunday newsletter. The hiatus from weekly posting was a nice break. And I’ve had several posts this year where I felt like I was forcing a weekly post.
Ultimately, there was motivation to return to writing, though. I value clarifying my thoughts as I write these posts. I’ve had several topics during the hiatus that I want to write about. So, I decided to add weekly posts back to my schedule – with a few caveats.
Previously, posting times on Sunday were ad hoc, based on when I write, which is usually whenever I find time over the weekend. I sometimes had a sinking feeling as Sunday stretched on that I “had to” post, and I still didn’t have anything good written.
Moving forward, I plan to write a draft of a post no later than Saturday and set a publish time for Sunday between mid-afternoon and early evening. If I don’t have anything I’m compelled to write, or I’m not pleased with Saturday’s draft, I’m just not going to post that week. I won’t put any undue pressure on myself to write and won’t apologize for not posting on a given week.
Also, I will probably take a couple months off of writing every summer and a month off around the winter holidays. One of the weekly newsletter writers I respect, who’s been doing this for many years, follows a similar pattern, and it works well for him.
This Week’s Quick Hits
Tim Ferriss’ recent post on Threads struck a chord with me: “These days, more than any other question, I’m asking “What would this look like if it were easy?” If I feel stressed, stretched thin, or overwhelmed, it’s usually because I’m overcomplicating something or failing to take the simple/easy path because I feel I should be trying “harder” (old habits die hard).” Since he posted it, I haven’t remembered asking myself the question much. But when I do, it’s powerful.
Sean Muldowney wrote a thread on Twitter/X about pastoring and politics. Whatever your politics or religious background, it is a compelling read.
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