Ever since the pandemic, I’ve been “always on.” I can take calls, video conferences, texts at all times. People are available, without many constraints on time. Remote work detractors think that people will watch Netflix all day. But we should really be worried about people working too much, not too little.
I’ve instituted No Call Wednesday so that I can actually get things done. Some of the Magma team has started do it too. It’s been a long battle of experiments, dating back to 2017. No Call Wednesday, and its more powerful cousin Airplane Mode Wednesday, have been life changing.
The Path to No Call Wednesday
In 2017, I was the only full time Magma Partners team member and things started to get away from me. I had too many things on my plate, but we didn’t have the budget to hire anyone new until we did the first close on our fund, in January 2018.
I found myself taking walks to my favorite cafes in Bogota, Medellin, Mexico City, Guadalajara or Santiago every Saturday morning and spending 4-6 hours catching up on writing, emails and the big projects that I never had the brainspace to do during the week. These 4-6 hours were my most productive of the week.
By January of 2019, our team was 8 full-time people. We got more done, but more of my time was dedicated to meetings, calls, and managing the team and portfolio companies. My Saturday 4-6 hours sometimes turned into 8-10 hours, and other times an extra 4-6 on Sunday. Some weekends, in need of rest and sleep, I would zone out with a series or a movie and not leave my apartment.
One day it hit me. Why were Saturday and Sunday my most productive days? What was special about them?
I didn’t have calls or meetings to break my flow. The constant ding of Whatsapp was turned down. I didn’t have incoming email.
Why am I wasting my weekends on deep work? If Saturday and Sunday in my favorite cafes were my most important, productive times, why couldn’t I do that on Wednesday or Friday?
Friday Morning Cafe to No Call Wednesday
I started blocking the first half of every Friday to walk to a favorite cafe and pretend it was a Saturday. I’d turn off my Whatsapp, put my phone in Airplane mode, sometimes even turn off the internet. Before I knew it, it was lunchtime and most of my to-do list was done. And then I’d start my “normal” day.
I’d been doing no-meeting Friday mornings as much as possible when the pandemic hit. Physically isolated from my routine and the world, I fell into the easy trap of filling my time with calls. By April, I was doing ~20 calls per week, 35+ on a busy one. It wasn’t sustainable.
In May, I got frustrated and blocked off a Wednesday. I woke up, left my phone on Airplane mode and started the day. Without the background ding of Whatsapp, the flow of email turned off, and no meetings to break concentration, I got more done Wednesday morning than I’d gotten done in the previous two days. I ended the day with a long walk and slept better than I had in weeks. I was back on offense, not defense.
The next day, I blocked my entire Wednesday from 9am-7pm. I set it to recur weekly. And it’s been great. Our investment team was facing similar problems and we’ve tested out everyone having no call Wednesdays, and while early, it seems to be working.
Why Wednesday? It splits the week in two. It gives me a break to catch up on the calls I did on Monday and Tuesday and prepare for what needs to get done on Thursday and Friday. I’m rarely working weekends and leave my phone in airplane mode more often. I’ve read more books in the past 5 months than in the past two years combined.
I’m still testing this strategy, and have tried to extend it to Friday too. Friday mornings are for recording podcasts, or left open. I try to block off the afternoon to close off any open projects that will bother me on the weekend. But it doesn’t always work. I still slip up and schedule some calls from time to time on Wednesday, and schedule calls on Friday afternoon from time to time. But it’s getting better.
There’s nothing magic about Wednesday. Use whatever day works for you. The magic is having spaces of 2-8 hours with no Whatsapp, no inbound email, no calls, no meetings, to just get things done. Try blocking off an entire day or at least half a day, and I bet you’ll like it.
What would the world look like if we all agreed to No Call Wednesday?