Work Like a Lion

The modern work day wasn't built for knowledge work.

Knowledge work means different things to different people.

I think about it as problem-solving: identifying problems, coming up with a solution, and implementing that solution.

It’s the work I like doing most.

Unfortunately, the modern work day doesn’t fit well with this kind of work. 

The best problem-solving starts with a period of exploration.

You stumble upon something interesting, and it triggers a moment of realization. 

You find the source of the problem you’re trying to identify, or you come up with a great idea for a solution.

That discovery triggers a burst of motivation, a rush of excitement to get started solving the problem and testing your solution. 

In an ideal world, you put your solution in place, and then document it to revisit later.

The reality is not so nice.

Most of the time, there’s a period of intense planning to begin a quarter. 

You build a week-by-week plan with aggressive deadlines. 

You’re also trying to finish the work of the previous quarter, so the exploration phase is cut short. Regular meetings cut into the periods of concentration you’d need for it anyway.

By the time the next quarter rolls around, you have to start working the plan. There isn’t time to reassess or verify the data. 

We’re bad at estimation and so deadlines slip. Documentation gets cut because it’s not considered essential. 

And by the time the end of the quarter is nearing, the planning starts all over again.

There’s little room in this cycle for alternation between exploration and bursts of execution.

There’s a better way.

Shaan Puri calls it “working like a lion”: extended periods of rest, thinking, and exploration, followed by a burst of energy to execute on a project.

The problem is, it requires acknowledging that we don’t know what we should work on. 

It requires acknowledging that our motivation levels vary. 

And it requires avoiding a fixed plan.

None of these are possible in the modern workplace.

But they are how I prefer to work.