Ruthlessly decline meetings.
Be too busy to ‘do coffee,’ while keeping an uncluttered calendar
Naval: We squander our time with the death of a 1,000 cuts. Another tweet was: “You should be too busy to ‘do coffee,’ while still keeping an uncluttered calendar.”
People who know me know I’m famous for simultaneously doing two things.
I keep a very clean calendar. I have almost no meetings on it. When some people see my calendar, they almost weep.
At the same time, I’m busy all the time. I’m always doing something. It’s usually work-related. It’s whatever high-impact thing that needs to be done, that I’m most inspired to do.
The only way to do that is to constantly, and ruthlessly, decline meetings.
People want to “do coffee” and build relationships. That’s fine early in your career, when you’re still exploring. But later in your career—when you’re exploiting, and there are more things coming at you than you have time for—you have to ruthlessly cut meetings out of your life.
Ruthlessly cut meetings
If someone wants a meeting, see if they will do a call instead. If they want to call, see if they will email instead. If they want to email, see if they will text instead. And you probably should ignore most text messages—unless they’re true emergencies.
You has to be utterly ruthless about dodging meetings. When you do meetings, make them walking meetings. Do standing meetings. Keep them short, actionable and small. Nothing is getting done in a meeting with eight people around a conference table. You are literally dying one hour at a time.
Nivi: “Doing coffee” reminds me of an old quote, I think from Steve Jobs, when someone asked him why Apple didn’t come to a convention. His response was something like, “Because we wouldn’t be here working.”
Naval: I used to have a tough time turning people down for meetings. Now I just tell them outright, “I don’t do non-transactional meetings. I don’t do meetings without a strict agenda. I don’t do meetings unless we absolutely have to.”
Nivi used to do this. When people asked us for get-to-know-you meetings, he would say, “We don’t do meetings unless it’s life-and-death urgent.” The person has to respond, “Yeah, it’s life-and-death urgent” or there’s no meeting.
People will meet with you when you have proof of work
Busy people will take your meeting when you have something important or valuable. But you have to come with a proper calling card. It should be: “Here’s what I’ve done. Here’s what I can show you. Let’s meet if this is useful to you, and I’ll be respectful of your time.”
You have to build up credibility. For example, when a tech investor looks at a startup, the first thing they want to see is evidence of product progress. They don’t just want to see a slide deck. Product progress is the entrepreneur’s resume. It’s an unfake-able resume.
You have to do the work. To use a crypto analogy, you have to have proof of work. If you have that and you truly have something interesting, then you shouldn’t hesitate to put it together in an email and send it. Even then, when asking for a meeting, you want to be actionable.
Free your time and mind
If you think you’re going to “make it” by networking and attending a bunch of meetings, you’re probably wrong. Networking can be important early in your career. And you can get serendipitous with meetings. But the odds are pretty low.
When you meet people hoping for that lucky break, you’re relying on Type One luck, which is blind luck, and Type Two luck, which is hustle luck.
But you’re not getting Type Three or Type Four luck, which are the better kinds. This is where you spend time developing a reputation and working on something. You develop a unique point of view and are able to spot opportunities that others can’t.
A busy calendar and a busy mind will destroy your ability to do great things in this world. If you want to do great things—whether you’re a musician or entrepreneur or investor—you need free time and a free mind.
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