Optimizing for energy

In the world of startups and investing and ideas, things are always chaotic and fluid, and as such a key skill is to somehow cut through the noise and find focus.  That’s on a micro level, like what do I do for the next five minutes, and on the macro level, like am I (or are we) heading in the right direction?

This may be true in other fields, but I find it to be especially true on the investing side, where situations are undefined, and there are infinity ideas and directions to explore.  On the operating side, things are slightly more bounded, but there are always large questions about direction and focus.

So I find myself spending a lot of personal time working on my own mindstate, and trying to find ways to help with this challenge.  One thing I have tried this year is to use a Volt Planner, which helps you structure goals on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis.  I have found this to be incredibly useful, and I can write more that later.  One immediate observation from using the Volt Planner is that I emerge from each session (on Monday each week) feeling a rush of energy, paired with an increased sense of focus.  It’s really nice.

And that energy is really the important thing.  It’s the foundation for all of the moments and decisions that happen, all day every day.  The more of it you have, the better.  It’s foundational.

So a little more broadly, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to optimize for energy in life.  I think that is some combination of exercise, diet, sleep, and writing.  Maybe that’s obvious, and the first three are things that anyone would tell you are good for your health.  But “health”, while obviously good and positive (especially compared to major injury or illness) is a little abstract, and for me at least, a little hard to motivate around on an everyday basis.  I suspect that will change as I get older.

Energy is the foundation of doing anything, and it feels like there are compounding / exponential results to having more.  I am not saying I have figured out how to really rally myself behind this idea on a consistent basis (which is why I’m writing this), but I think it’s worth figuring out which activities give you more energy and which suck it away.  Worth figuring out.

15 comments on “Optimizing for energy”

I like that your last posts are more about questions than answers.

Asking questions are the key to building strategy and that is what drives all action focused.

It is curious how this same observation or introspection has changed through my life. I agree with you in that optimizing is very important in life at the individual or group level. It can make a big difference in life and work. Kaizen can give these type of efforts some consistency.

In my fifties, I am now beginning to think about optimizing for happiness.


Thanks for this, Nick.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with identifying one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in moving from an operational to investment role. To add- I am inclined to believe one will never know when they’ve “figured it out”, because there is always something more to do, or something new to try. Perhaps just the effort of striving for a balance is enough.

Energy is best maximized when one has a psychologically aligned inner motive with their outer path. This requires introspection to discover what you currently aim for on a subconscious level and readjusting that aim to what your conscious mind thinks it wants to do (or vice versa). The process of directing yourself through internal introspection and external goal setting is the reason why your energy is perceived to be limitless: because as your internal sense of purpose and external goals sync, you tap into your fundamental source of energy. This is likely explicable by evolutionary adaptations that helped us navigate the world and conquer the unknown. And thus a very important idea to consider when entering the ‘unknown’ of investing (or whatever life presents).

To help with organization and be productive I wrote a few short shell routines. They allow me to printout 3×5 cards with lists from the command line. This is what I used to do by hand. write out 3x5s redoing them at the end of the day. Making up a card literally to tape to my desk as a reminder. Can shuffle the cards and so on.

In order to print the 3×5’s I had to buy a separate laser printer just to do that. It’s in the other room just like my main laser printer. Why? Because that way I get up and walk to it. It’s far for a reason. I have a big office and plenty of space so…

I then made another routine that can take a screen shot and place it nicely on the 3×5 just by dragging to the command line. This can serve as a reminder for a task, a person that I need to write to or contact or a host of things that I need to remember to do or to think about. And yes I know there are other software ways to do this (and I use some of them) but I have found the physical nature of the card works well in many cases and for certain things.

Most importantly it was fun setting this all up.

See this is my problem. I have nobody to appreciate all the handy work that I do! A guy who does woodworking can show off his creations to the general public for admiration. And his wife. A computer guy (and I am actually a business guy who has some skills) can’t.

This is one of the reasons that places like Stack Exchange work so well. Tech types are always looking for reinforcement and praise because they didn’t get it growing up or from their parents. So the give away all sorts of things they have learned and even code to gain acceptance in a group. Makes sense, right? Explains a great deal about open source.

Gotta tell you I have a really nice 2nd car that most people (who like cars) would love to have. But the pleasure that I get from that pales in comparison to writing a program to solve some problem or make something more efficient in my life. And that’s even w/o anyone to even say ‘cool’ like you did.

Yep, totally understand

I am the same way, with countless little invisible hacks around my life.
My favorite combo these days, FWIW, is Airtable + Zapier. By combining those two things, you can build a lot of sweet hacks.

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