Improving Time Management
Ryan Floyd moved to San Francisco three years ago. He manages an investment fund and invests in publicly listed stock in countries like like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Rwanda. About a year and a half after he started his fund, he decided to take on new investors, but didn't want to spend too much time on marketing. So, he broke his work time down in different intervals and started tracking. In this talk, Ryan talks about what he's learned from tracking his time for work.
So my name’s Ryan Floyd, I moved to San Francisco three years ago and I’d like to chat about keeping track of my time.
So I manage an investment fund and I invest in publicly listed stock in countries like Bangladesh, Shi Lanka, Vietnam, Rwanda, all over the place. I don’t have a boss it’s a very small boutique kind of thing.
I started maybe five years ago and maybe two years into it I kind of realised without a boss who knows what can happen, willy-nilly, fade off to the pasture, I work from home, I just eat fudge all day, it can end up ugly.
What ended up happening is that I decided after about a year and a half that I would start taking new investors after the first time when I started the fund. And so I didn’t want to be like other funds and you guys probably heard that everyone just wants to gather assets in the market all the time. So I actually wanted to have very high returns to do the very best that I could. And I thought in the process it would be really helpful to make sure that I wasn’t spending too much time on marketing. So then I put together this nifty spreadsheet right here and basically started breaking down my time in different intervals.
So I realize this is in kind of code, but you basically have on the left hand side what I call creative time, and this is something like and we’ll talk about in a second but reading books kind of related to investing. Things you would say that are not really real kind of working time, but I kind of consider that Google’s creative 15 minute creative time and 3M does the same thing. I call it like creative cap-ex. If I’m going to keep on learning I can’t just read annual reports all the time. I have to be kind of planning for the future. It’s like compound it acknowledges compound interest, if you can change it from 2% a year instead of 7% a year that can be quite dramatic.
And then we have the analysis part which is the good part. So this is making models, filling in quarterly, numbers from our company, doing calls with the company. this is just a day, maybe a week ago. So you could say 28,000 columns – it’s quite a big spreadsheet. Then over here we have bad time. So food, I like to work when I’m eating so it doesn’t count. So 12 minutes of food, and administrative time which is a pesky 49 minutes on average. It is really hard to get that thing below and hour. Friends and personal time, which used to be really high and then I started slamming that, Ma stop calling me, I have a family. I love you very much. We start talking at 5:35 and now it’s 12:35.
HR, I spend five minutes. I try not to have any HR. I don’t have a team working near me. I have two guys who work for me in Pakistan. This is trying to be the leanest, meanest investment fund, just trying to do the very best I can.
And then over here we have marketing. So I write an investment letter, which can take quite a lot of time. I write it quarterly, and it’s about 16 minutes on average, so it’s not too bad. And then talking to investors and doing various marketing activities, of which this is not one, it’s 24 minutes a day, which is pretty good, but that’s still a lot of time.
Right, if you are investing in a fund you would rather this be zero. You would want the guy to be doing his very best at the highest returns. I know this sounds funny, what can we learn from a guy who invests in Nigeria and this is like nothing like I do. But the basic point I think is that any of us in our days, we really waste a ton of time already.
I work alone, so I have to chain myself to the desk. But we all do this, and it’s not just inefficient, but I think probably we want to be kind of and this is for me, kind of the best versions of our self and it’s helpful to think of the big picture, what do I actually want to be spending my time on. And if I want to be planning for the future, what is the highest yield use of time.
So you can see in this graph, I tried to follow for you who don’t know, Edward Tufty; I try to follow his patterns. So this is my graph, and you can see in the beginning actually the amount of time at the desk didn’t really change. It was about 10 hours a day, all the time. Every time I kind of logged. But this was made up by playing squash, during lunch with my buddies, going out to lunch with friends, my parents call and say how have you been, and taking the call and this kind of thing.
I don’t have a Facebook account, sorry but I think this is probably Facebook for a lot of people and then Gmail. So around here I just said, no more emails during the day. Okay, I’m going to cut it out, my friends can yell at me, but I’m not doing personal emails. So if I had to do regular email then I’ll do it at the end of the day. So I just had to batch it and put it all together and then I did it at the end of the day.
Then what happened is that around here, I started mistrusting myself, so I signed up for Rescue Time, which is like a double backbone or super support. So for those of you who don’t know, Rescue Time is this program that you can download that tells you what you’re doing. What kind of psycho does that, who is already keeping a spreadsheet with 28,000 columns?
But what I ended up finding is that I was basically lying to myself off about how much time I spent on email, work email not Gmail. So this admin stuff started creeping up, because it is so hard during the day, even for someone who just wants to read annual reports, and read IMF reports about Nigeria, do not email for an hour a day.
Now, I was telling my body who works in LA this is the case and said, geez, all I do is email all day. He said I’m very sorry that stinks for you. But I really think that email in a lot of ways, is the killer. I am the one jerk when I get an email, I sensed something and then they write to you back to say thanks and I write back to say, don’t send me an email saying thanks; just accept it.
So down here we have stocks, and this is pretty important because it’s very difficult for this to get above four hours. I read something saying that it’s very challenging to be super focused for more than six hours a day, and this tends to be what I have found. I found that it’s very very challenging for me to be immersed into a spreadsheet, really focusing hard on detail, not totally different from the discussion about sleep. It’s very very difficult in order to stay focused. You get kind of fatigued in some way.
So, this is where I compensated with this creative time, so you can see that this is like learning about Monte Carlo simulation, and the field and decision analysis is really fascinating, and all kinds of other goodies. So it basically supplemented that playing squash time with other times I think is equally as interesting and fascinating, and kind of helped me build and become a better person at what I’m doing.
So you can read it, these are the goodies that I learned, but I think the one thing that is the overarching thing, people think this is again kind of crazy, but at least you guys understand. It’s crazy to keep track of this stuff, and it must be such a distraction that you are kind of stuck on your desk all the time, but it really does help keep me present because it keeps me focused. This is what I’m doing right now, and I’m not bouncing back and forth and then work ends, right. And I go home and I can chat with my wife and my friends and chat about what is going on, but generally speaking work ends and it doesn’t bleed on and I’m not doing blackberry stuff all day long.
Anyway, this would be my two cents and in terms of keeping track of time and it’s really good in this day, when it’s basically impossible to be present, and it sort of helps.