Switching Jobs

Over the past four years, I haven’t (ever) considered changing jobs. I’m still at my first job outside of college; my planning was constrained to one degree of freedom: “how many more years do I have to work at my current job, before retirement is feasible” rather than “what would be best for my career/sanity – and also lead to financial independence?” I earn quite a bit of money; I naively assumed that it was probably more than I would make elsewhere. Furthermore, I recognize that I have terrible interview skills; I don’t have a good memory for algorithms/data structures and my knowledge of languages is mostly restricted to a proprietary language where I work.

But things have changed, due to the following:

  • I’m increasingly unhappy at my job. I’m under a ton of stress, I’m working 10+ hours every day and 12+ hours two days per week. I’m no longer learning as much as I was a year or two ago, and although over the coming months I might pick up a little bit of java knowledge I’m certain that it’s not as much as I’d learn in a new job. And java is hardly the sexiest programming language! (Scala or Python look like fun).
  • I had a frank conversation after work, with a few co-workers who felt that staying at my job another year would hurt my career. They said “whatever raise you get this year is probably not going to be as good as switching jobs,” and “you’re reaching a point (4.5 years) where switching becomes increasingly difficult.” And I think they’re right.
  • I don’t really know my value on the market. Without interviewing, I can’t establish how much I’m “worth,” or understand whether I’m over/under paid.
  • At this point, I think I can find another job where I’m happier. Ideally, in such a job I would: be learning more broadly applicable and marketable skills, in a more socially useful profession, while working fewer hours and earning more money. Is it optimistic to assume all of the above would be true? Yeah, but I know jobs which fulfill these criteria are out there, so why not try to find them? I’d consider switching for the same salary if I knew the other three things would be fulfilled.
  • Although I think that it’s unlikely that I’d be laid off, my known weakness in interviewing is something I’d feel more comfortable remediating.
  • I’ve been programming professionally for 5 years but sadly, my knowledge is so narrow I can’t do cool projects I want to. I’m no longer thinking outside the box.

In the end, the fundamental problem is that I don’t have enough information: I don’t know my value on the market. I’m also intimidated by an obvious weakness: although I think I’m an excellent employee, my skillset is almost entirely disjoint from the skillset required to interview well.

So, the first thing I need to do is practice my interview skills, and go out and interview as much as possible. There’s no reason not to do so. I build up important skills, might get a good offer, and start to get a better intuition for whether I’m underpaid. My plan right now is to start working on code katas and little interview-style puzzles to learn a new language, and then start exploring other options in January/February.

Early Retirement as a Theology

There’s a peculiar sort of parallel between the broad ‘belief’ of early retirement and Christian theology.

Broadly speaking, the popular understanding of a ‘Christian’ life, is one of someone striving to be virtuous. This entails cultivating various positive characteristics, such as charity, faith, tolerance, etc., and resisting various temptations, such as lust, gluttony, anger, etc. Should one successfully cultivate and resist, there is a reward: heaven. On the other hand, succumb to temptation, or remain uncultivated, and there is only agony in the future.

Broadly speaking, those in the early retirement community have an understanding of a ‘good’ life. One must strive to be virtuous, while avoiding sins. Virtues include self-reliance, frugality, creativity, etc., while sins include gluttony, lust for objects, sloth, etc. Should one successfully cultivate virtues and abstain from sin, there is a reward: retirement. On the other hand, succumb to temptation or remain unvirtuous, and there is only work stretching into the future.

There’s an awful lot in common between these views of the world. One difference that stands out, though, is that most religion actively shuns evidence, and makes a fetish of faith. On the other hand, the early retirement community tends to seek concrete evidence: numbers in spreadsheets, active calculations of cost reductions, factual stories of retirement dreams achieved.

An End in Sight

When I first started thinking about retirement, it seemed really far away. Once I understood my expenses, I knew I had at least 3 and probably 7-8 years to retirement.

As I brought my expenses down, that number dropped a bit – but it still seemed uncountably long.

I naturally focused on retirement more whenever things were tough at work. When I had to work long hours, or had a demoralizing shift, or felt unrecognized, I wanted an escape.

Through all that, I never put a timeline on a quitting date. Counting the days felt morbid, and 2000 days (or whatever it would be) is an awful long time to count.

I recently had a change of heart, established a quitting date, and started counting days. This isn’t necessarily a retirement date, although I’ll have enough saved to be comfortable doing work that I want to do, rather than work that I have to.

There were two drivers for deciding to count days: one, preventing myself from getting into a rut. Two, appreciating what I have.

What terrifies me most in life is the older guys I see on the subway each morning. Overweight, balding, sweating in their suits at 7:30 in the morning every day. I don’t want to judge these guys, but I do. If they had different priorities, they wouldn’t have to do something so miserable. They’re not poor, but prisoners of their own lack of imagination.

And yet – I can see myself becoming one of these guys. Afraid of jumping and embarking on something new, I would continue doing the same work. Nose to the grindstone, letting years slip by. Maybe I’d get some promotion, enough to feel as though I had accomplished something. But finally, I’d wake up, blinking, with the most vital years of my life behind me.

So, I set a quitting date. April 1, 2015. Three years, give or take, and then I start anew. Maybe not retirement, but a new job, a change, a graduation from this phase of my life.

The other motivation for ‘counting the days’ is so I can take advantage of what I have.

I live in New York City! Most people get to experience that over a few miserable days, going to Times Square or the Statue of Liberty. And yet, the real charm of the city is the tiny restaurants and grottoes, underground theaters, hidden parks, ethnic communities. That’s what gets featured in movies, and you have to explore it slowly, methodically, over weeks and months and seasons.

To be completely honest, I’ve seen the same amount of stuff in four years as an industrious person could in two weeks.

Mostly, I sleep on weekends, or procrastinate, or waste time online.

But now I know I have about 150 weekends, roughly, until I do something else. I might not be living in the city in 3 years. 150 is a large number, but also frighteningly low. I want to extract as much meaning aspossible, so that when I do move somewhere else, I don’t regret living in a place for 7 or 8 years and never knowing it.

Since I started counting down days, I’ve been much more active. I’m sure the warm sunny late-spring days have something to do with it as well, but I’ve seen more of the city over the past month or two than over the previous year.

So, I think counting the days is a good thing. 1045 days until I quit my job.

Acceptance

I haven’t been posting as much as I used to. Partly it’s because I’m busy, but I’ve also begun to accept.

The past month or so has been excellent at work. I’ve begun to knit together a group of people who I respect, and who value me. I feel like I’m productive, making a good impression on people whose opinions I respect. I’m working on projects which interest me, and my hours aren’t quite as long as they were in January.

My life, now, is not a life where I have a lot of free time. It’s not a life where I have a lot of leftover energy. I will be working, for a few years at least, so I might as well enjoy where I’m at. Or, barring that, I might as well accept it.

Partly, I’ve let my discipline unspool, like a fisherman playing the fish on the end of his line. Not that I was ever particularly disciplined about spending, but I used to feel such guilt over spending $2 more per day on food. Does it really matter if I spend $2 more per day on food, if it makes me happy? Does spending $20 or $30 more on quality clothing that will make me look more professional mean so much? I think I’m a happier person when I do so. Those $2 per day mean I can eat better food, or don’t have to worry about cooking it. Or it could even mean I can attempt a new recipe and not worry if it doesn’t turn out great.

I live my life according to a handful of maxims. Sure, I can guarantee that I don’t obey them faithfully. They’ve served me faithfully, though. The first is “Know Thyself”. The second is “Everything in Moderation”. Alert classicists might recognize these as inscriptions from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

I spent a bit over a year pushing my boundaries, in terms of frugality. Then, beginning last November and December, I started to feel like I was seeing diminishing returns. So, following the maxim, I’ve moderated this tendency, and like clockwork, the strategy has paid dividends.

As for “know thyself,” part of accepting where I’m at, is accepting that how I’ve spent the past few years, and how I will spend the next few years, has a place in the story of my life. As it says in Ecclesiastes: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” There is a time in my life when I will journey, adventure in the wilds of Nepal, drink a beer in Bruges, sail across Polynesia, tango in Buenos Aires. So too there is a time in my life for solving difficult problems and exulting in hard work. If, when that time passes, the number in my bank account will finance the next phase, that’s wonderful. If it doesn’t, so be it. I’ll simply have to work again.

Attitude is entirely mental. My mentality was “Look at all this work I’m doing! Doesn’t it suck!” That accomplishes nothing except make me feel self-pity. A curiously addictive emotion, and pernicious. It’s better to lean back, take a deep breath, and accept for a moment where you’re at.

Sisyphus had a boulder placed in front of him. He had to push it to the top of the mountain. It had to roll back down. I think Sisyphus could accept this, take pleasure in the light ease of walking back down the mountain, take pleasure in squaring his shoulder against the stone, take pleasure in getting stronger each trip, and take pleasure in overcoming fear of the boulder. I can imagine Sisyphus happy.

Careerism

The past few weeks I haven’t written as many updates as I’d hoped. Several factors have conspired to keep me from writing, chief among them a strong feeling of careerism, which I’d like to explore.

When someone is described as a “careerist,” it is uniformly an indictment. This is because people who are conscious enough to employ the term use it as a derogatory one, the unspoken assumption: “I’m wise enough to call someone ‘careerist,’ because I’m not a sucker.” For instance, there’s the famous RibbonFarm post on The Gervais Principle.

I think this oversimplifies. Yes, sacrificing everything for your career (including your family), and worshiping the company you work for are bad things. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with deciding to focus on your career if you understand the alternative and are doing so for a well-defined reason, and you have explored your relationship with your employer.

When I say, “understand the alternative,” I mean understanding that nothing compels you to focus on a promotion. You could become more frugal and focus on family. By “well-defined reason,” I mean that you don’t just want to make more money because then you can get a BMW that will make your buddy jealous. Finally, by saying, “you’ve explored your relationship with your employer,” I mean that if you work for a large company, you understand that your career focus is not something the company will necessarily compensate you for. Your company owes you a biweekly paycheck, and you owe it your best effort. Maybe you have some responsibility towards certain co-workers. But you have no justification to be bitter if you are laid off after going ‘above and beyond.’ If your employer is a friend, or you work for a very small company, your relationship will be understandably different.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to earn a lot of money, assuming you aren’t causing people or the environment harm in the process. But there are also other reasons to work.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I enjoy the puzzles where I work. This is entertainment and brain exercise. I don’t enjoy the stress of working, per se, but I do know that I’m walking a fine line of stress that is causing me to grow as a person without breaking down. As I approach retirement I can pull the trigger if the stress ever gets to be too much.

So, as long as I feel that I’m growing as a person, learning, and doing something exciting, and as long as I haven’t started a family, careerism is ok for me.

And I’m definitely growing. I was stuck in the doldrums for a while. In late 2010, I started to explore increased responsibilities. I became more outspoken. I was working on fun projects. Then through the middle and second half of 2011, I was depressed. Projects were less exciting, I felt constrained and at a dead end, and I was under a lot of personal stress. Now starting a few weeks ago I’ve begun to be even more blunt and outspoken, I’m working on really cool things, and I feel that I’ve begun to really be heard as more than a pure coder. I’m also under more professional stress than ever, and although there are bad days I’m still comfortable seeing how I handle it.

So yes, I am a careerist — at the moment. I am focusing on career and personal advancement. And this is necessarily at the expense of some external interests and hobbies. But that’s a trade I’m comfortable with.

Puzzles

It might be difficult to believe, but sometimes I love my job. I enjoy puzzles, and I enjoy the procedure of rationally exploring alternatives and reaching a conclusion. My job is a series of puzzles, no matter how closely you look, which form a great spiralling sprawling fractal.

First there is the micro-puzzle, which is: the solving of very specific concrete problems. For instance, two variables from two different data sources are changing, you don’t know which is changing first, and you need to handle each case in an elegant, efficient, coordinated manner. Or: this system breaks in this specific way, so examine the forensics and run experiments and find out why.

Then there is the design micro-puzzle, which is: the organization of each micro-puzzle solution. In fact all coding involves organizing logic, in such a way that it can be re-used flexibly, without being too complicated to understand. Bad coders do not re-use logic, making it difficult to maintain and conceptualize code. Or they endlessly shuffle things around and build frameworks for problems they don’t understand, and accomplish nothing concrete.

After the design micro-puzzle is the strategic puzzle, which is: We have these different components or systems interacting currently, and we want to add this functionality. For example: we have 4 systems doing something quite similar, in a way that they compete with one another when they should work together. By merging all four, and splitting that into two well-defined systems, we can end up with a more understandable system that reduces inefficiencies.

Then there is the social engineering puzzle, which is: how do I convince these people to help solve the strategic puzzle, or the design micro-puzzle? How can I bypass the clueless people over there, and include the smart people over here? I am not so good at solving this puzzle, but I am learning.

And finally there is the where-do-I-fit-in puzzle, which is: I do certain things on a minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour basis. How do I frame these things in a way that gains me social capital? Or: I am currently working on these exciting puzzles, but there are even more exciting puzzles over there. How can I position myself to solve those puzzles? And although those puzzles are exciting, how can I maneuver to explore puzzles that are both exciting and important? This is the puzzle I am worst at. But when people see you enjoy, and are good at solving puzzles, then you reach the exciting, important puzzles eventually.

Each of these puzzles I can explore on my own, or I can solicit the opinions of smart people and see how they would find a solution. So yes, there are times when I love my job.

The Effect of Hours Worked on Quality of Life

I’ve noticed over the past two years that there are times when I just absolutely hate my life – I want to just get out, quit my job, and start camping in the woods and growing a beard. There are other times when I’m content with work, and sometimes I’ll even feel happy and satisfied (shocking!), proud of the systems I’ve built.

These mood swings were quite violent and one week I’d think “Fuck this Earth;” the next I’d tell myself “I’m such a badass”.

I typically work about 52 hours/week. To many people, that’s a lot. Other people are used to spending 80 hours/week in the office and I’m sure they’re laughing as they read this. To me, more than 50 hours feels like a lot, and it’s one of the reasons I want to retire within a few years, and maybe take on a part-time job, or become self-employed.

Now, I’m not happy to work 50+ hours every week. But I’ve gotten used to it. On a normal day, I will work from 8:30 until 6:30 or 7:00. Then I will go home and eat, watch some TV and do some studying/practice and then go to sleep.

It took me a long time to really figure out why my emotions were on such a rollercoaster. At first I thought it might be related to diet or sleep deprivation. While I’m sure those are factors, as I started to pay more attention to my moods, I realized that there were two primary drivers (A) stress and (B) hours worked.

Of course these go hand-in-hand, because when I’m under stress I’m more likely to work long hours.

What’s amazing to me is how just a few hours can cause such a reaction. If I cut out ‘early’ and leave work at 6 pm, I’ll be working just 47.5 hours/week. I’ll see daylight after work (well, not in the winter), and I feel like I’m playing hooky or getting away with something. On Fridays I’ll sometimes even leave at 5:30 pm and thrill at the thought of sticking one to the man! That extra hour allows me to do some things on my own time once I get home, and to recover from work.

Meanwhile, if I’m in ‘crunch mode’ and have to work until 7:30 or 8, that adds up to 55-57.5 hours/week. At that point I begin to feel stretched for time; it impacts my sleep and my ability to do what I want on my own time. Couple that with the fact that each of those hours is more stressful than normal – and you can see why I want to quit.

So stay vigilant. Something simple like leaving work at a reasonable hour could make you a lot happier about where you are. Be analytical and conscious of your emotions, and see if you can figure out what drives your emotions.

The Ethics of Hard Work

I’d like to explore a simple question: Is hard work ethical by nature?

To clarify, I’m assuming this is hard work on a typical job. We’re obviously not talking about hard-working Nazis or Khmer Rouge. We’re also not talking about hard-working volunteers. Rather – is hard work in a standard corporate environment worthy of our respect?

The default assumption is that, yes, it is. An unqualified “Yes!” for American readers. “Hard work” is the greatest virtue to most Americans – and also in many other places in the world (Japan comes to mind).

But first, what is hard work? I think there are two components: the first is the total dedication and expenditure of energy on the task at hand. No holding back. And the second is spending more time than is required in order to do this work. When we celebrate hard work, it isn’t a single virtue, but rather a multiplicity loosely disguised. Among them:

  1. Sacrifice of the self
  2. The endurance to exert oneself for long periods of time
  3. The independence associated with professional life
  4. A sort of conscious asceticism

There’s certainly a power to hard work. We want to believe in the Horatio Alger story: work hard, and you will achieve your dreams. There’s a dignity, as well. After all, you’re sacrificing on behalf of something outside yourself. In some cases you simply lose free time; in other cases it is your comfort or even your health. Finally, there’s a satisfaction in a job well done, in supporting your teammates. When we see someone idling on the job, it’s difficult to respect them.

Hard work is a democratic virtue. We may not be born beautiful, or born geniuses, or born athletic or wealthy. However, we can make a conscious decision to work hard. That choice is our own.

But ultimately, kneeling before the god of hard work is honoring a false idol. Stop and think: when you sacrifice yourself for hard work, you’re sacrificing yourself on behalf of a corporation. Is there anything more repugnant? A corporation, after all, is an organization designed around the abdication of all human responsibility in pursuit of profit.

By indulging in hard work and long hours, you make a decision. I believe it is a cowardly decision. Your decide to sacrifice your time to the corporation – rather than become a better individual, or help your community, or spend time with your family, or volunteer to help those in need.

Many of my co-workers are extremely hardworking individuals. They arrive in the office before 8am, and leave it at 8pm. They are busy every hour on the job, eat at their desk, and they log in to work computers from home or check their blackberries in the middle of the night. They don’t need to do this in order to survive: it’s a choice they made.

These same individuals have a spouse and kids. Many of them commute hours to and from work every day, so their kids can go to the best schools. Both parents work so they can afford child-care. This makes me so sad. I want to shake my co-workers and shout: “Your kids are growing up without their parents!” I think these parents love the organization they work for as much as they love their own children. They would dispute this vigorously, if I asked them. But their actions speak louder than any words. They spend more waking hours working than the company needs of them. Meanwhile, children need parents. Spouses need each other.

I would go further. Even if you’re single, without kids, is sacrificing your own health and happiness for the good of your employer ever admirable at all? I don’t think so. There are things more worthy of your attention than your job. If you’re happy you’ll be a better friend and a more conscientious member of your local community, than if you’re harried and stressed. If you’re healthy, you won’t suffer from lifestyle diseases and overload the healthcare system. You won’t increase the insurance premiums of your neighbors. You’ll be more able to care for your elderly parents in person, rather than shuffling them off to languish in anonymity in a nursing home.

So please, don’t jump to conclusions about someone based on hours worked. It’s so difficult to overcome these cultural biases that hard work is Virtue Number One. But being a hard worker isn’t always a good thing. It simply means your first priority is the company you work for. Once you understand that, you understand that means that the worker values himself less than the company, his family less than the company, and the community less than the company.

Under Pressure

Inevitably we have stressful days at work. I don’t care what your job is, sometimes you deal with a frustrating client/customer, or have something you built go awry, or just start the day in a bad mood and have it get worse.

The worst part is that in a lot of cases, this stress is caused by nothing in particular – no major problem – just a series of small setbacks that accumulate with no intervening relief to ease the tension.

Of course it’s days like this that have you anticipating retirement. But for most of us, retirement right now isn’t an option because we have that gap.

There are a variety of techniques for managing the gap, but what about managing stress at work, and immediately afterwards?

What works most for me is actually thinking about the meaning of life. Or perhaps a meaning of life – there might not be just one.

When I’m really stressed out, but have at least a few minutes to think – I’m under mental pressure but not in an emergency situation – I repeat the following mantra:

Humans are on earth to be put under stress, and the purpose of their life is to handle that stress with as much dignity as possible.

Grandiose, right? But it works as a mantra. After all, if the purpose of life is to handle yourself with dignity, you don’t want to get upset by little setbacks.

Under pressure, I want to lash out at the people nearby if they offend me in the slightest. I believe this is a natural tendency: you hear about the businessman coming home and kicking the dog. I feel terrible about it just a few minutes later, of course, and this reaction to stress is actually what I like least about my job – I’ve noticed it subtly altering my personality.

However, repeating my mantra, I think “I am under stress. And I’m not handling myself with dignity. If I was judged by an objective observer, they’d think I was an asshole. So take a deep breath and calm down.”

I think this exercise can turn distress – stress that breaks you down – into a form of eustress – stress that motivates you and forces you to grow.

It works, if you’re diligent about taking a step back. In this way, work becomes an opportunity to explore your own relationship with pressure, and prove you can deal with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly thankful for this pressure – I’d rather I didn’t have to deal with it – but at the same time, it becomes more purposeful. Just another education that work can provide.

Work as an Education

What do you get out of work? Money, right? Yes, of course you get money, but you can do better than that. If you dig deep enough, you can extract everything of value from work. You can mine an education.

Let’s take the most mundane of jobs – operating a cash register. What could that possibly teach you? Button-pushing is not difficult, and it’s certainly not applicable anywhere else in your life. But there’s more to the job than just pushing buttons.

Operating that cash register can teach you to talk to a variety of people – and being able to talk to people is hugely important to your overall quality of life. So, operating the cash register is a chance to hone your small talk. In every single interaction, you have the opportunity to make 1-2 throw-away comments and see what sort of reaction they elicit. So, working the register can become a sort of social laboratory. Besides, maybe during some slow hour’s you’ll be able to engage with someone interesting.

I’ve heard of elderly people taking jobs at McDonald’s because it offers them an opportunity to socialize.

There’s more to the job than that. Although you might not want to spend your career serving fast food, you are presented with a constant stream of decisions. If you’re very diligent, and make smart choices, you might end up managing a shift, which opens up even more opportunities: dealing with difficult people, delegating, keeping morale steady, etc.

Of course, most people don’t want to work at McDonald’s. But that’s beside the point. Even though it’s a miserable job, you can still learn something – at the very least, about coping with boredom.


Now, if you have an office job, or really anything where there’s opportunity for advancement (ie, something referred to as a career rather than just a job), there are infinitely more possibilities.

Let’s use computer programming as an example career. There’s the first-order education, which is gleaning actual programming experience. Maybe this is useful to you in the long term, if you enjoy the work, or if you want to program on your own.

The second-order education is learning how to think logically and systematically. According to scientists (and Malcolm Gladwell, for what it’s worth) it takes about 3000 hours to master something, and 10000 hours of practice to achieve expert status. If you work an 8-hour day, spend an hour a day in meetings and another hour eating lunch, that means you’re getting paid to think logically for 6 hours a day. In two years, if you apply yourself, you’ll have put in the hours to be an expert. And that’s a skill that is applicable everywhere.

Now, maybe you aren’t a programmer. But odds are there’s some direct overarching skill that you’re exercising through your work. If you’re a mechanic, it’s analyzing what’s wrong with a car. If you’re a personal trainer, it’s being able to motivate people.

The third-order education is things that affect your productivity but aren’t related to your primary function. Are you great at planning time? At identifying opportunities those higher up in your company might not recognize? At managing projects? All of these are useful when retired. Planning time is useful when you want to be productive. Being able to identifying opportunities could let you be entrepreneurial. If you can manage projects you’d be a useful volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.

Finally there’s a whole universe of different social interactions that are important inside and outside work, but which are difficult to quantify. Are you able to engage people in water-cooler talk, instead of just discussing the weather? What about talking to new people in the awkward 3-4 minutes before a meeting begins? Are you able to pitch your product to new clients? Are you good at managing how other people perceive you? Are you good at standing up to pressure from superiors?

That’s a lot of questions! As you explore each one, a universe unfolds. Being able to manage projects, even small ones, means you need to be able to delegate, to liaise with different teams, to prioritize and communicate with clients, to estimate schedules and plan logistics and so many other things. Each of those skills warrants a book – but you’ll learn more on the job.

In fact, it’s patently obvious that most learning is “on the job.” Where I work, they say that 10% of learning comes from books, 20% in the classroom, and 70% on the job.

It’s easy to zone out, in which case you earn nothing but a paycheck. Most jobs don’t require 100% of your attention, 100% of the time. But every day I guarantee you’re presented with opportunities to learn. You just need to recognize them. Then you have a sandbox for developing your skills.

After work I sometimes go to a bar with colleagues. When I talk to those who want to ‘play the game,’ I come away feeling invigorated. It’s not that I have great career aspirations. Truth be told, focusing solely on career is horrendous to me. But these discussions usually reveal a host of skills I’ve neglected or never knew existed.

Having worked at my current job for a bit over 3 years, after these discussions I still feel like I’m on the first or second rung of a huge ladder, or at the beginning of an RPG game, when you start to fill in the skill tree. Except, instead of learning how to cast a magical spell, I’m learning how to plan my day so I can get the most done, or write an important email, or explain something to the uninitiated.