I'm speaking to Rick Pastoor who, having mastered his own time management, wrote an internal guide for employees at his start-up, Blendle, on how to be more efficient with their own. After making it public, GRIP became an overnight best-seller in the Netherlands, which saw it go on to be published internationally. Rick admits that his principles are nothing new, but the way in which he presents the ideas in GRIP has meant they have landed with people in a way that has completely transformed their lives – personally and professionally.
[Ann 00:00:00] Welcome to this week's episode of the Bet on Yourself podcast, where we speak to some of the world's most inspirational people who have all, at some point in their careers, taken a huge bet on themselves, transforming them personally and professionally. Today, I'm joined by Rick Pastoor, the author of Grip. It's a flexible collection of tools and insights that was born during his time at Blendle. The New York Times backed journalism startup to help his team be as effective and efficient as possible. Self-publishing Dutch in 2019, Grip became an overnight bestseller in the Netherlands. Rick's mission today is the same to help people make smarter decisions about their time. Now he divides his own time between his young family and Amsterdam, giving talks on Grip. His weekly newsletter titled Work in Progress and a new startup where he's building a next generation calendar called Rise. I can't wait to share Rick's story with you all today. And if you love this episode as much as I think you will, then please do let me know in all the usual places.
[Ann 00:00:58] Rick Pastoor, thank you so much for joining us on the Bet on Yourself podcast today.
[Rick 00:01:03] Thanks again for having me.
[Ann 00:01:04] I am very much looking forward to this conversation. For many reasons. One, I think you represent such an interesting path in entrepreneurism. One that really resonates with me given my background in Silicon Valley. And we're also going to dove into the topics of your book, which are top of mind for me, for reasons I'll get into later. But I wonder before we dive into all those nice details, I like to start at the very beginning on this podcast and ask you what did you want to be when you were a little kid? What did young Rick think he was going to be when he grew up? How so?
[Rick 00:01:40] I think one of the earliest memories that I have on homework is that I wanted to, of course, the obvious ones like like a fireman and like that. And I had a phase where I wanted to be pilots, where I actually applied for the usual like how you fly, you'll become a pilot in a sense. But I quickly found out that that actually I was I was very much drawn to programming and computers. And at a very young age, my my dad put me behind the first computer that we had in our house. And one of the things that he did then was he basically told me, okay, you can you can type numbers. So this was before the normal user interface, right? So not any dragging and not that of another the mouse and stuff like that. So just a typing and he basically said, okay, you can you can type stuff here. So I was wondering how far then that the numeric system would go. So I would type like one, two or three and, and so, so on. And when I was and he would say when I, when I, when I got to bat, he would say like, Hey, Rick, I can I can help you along a little bit. So I will I will spend my evening typing and then in the morning you will be you know, you can you can see the screen and see how far I got there and you can pick it up from there. And so in the morning, I would I would look at the screen and then it would be a like a huge number like in the hundreds of thousands or something like that. And and of course, I was I was very impressed by by his progress of him typing all night. But of course, later on, a couple of years later, he would explain to me that he would actually use kind of macro and a function to to do that. And so the first bars where I was when I was really young and and seeing the power of such a device where you can basically make something show up on your screen without do it like you don't have to, you have to only have to imagine what what can be done and that can be on the screen. And then later on finding out that's using macros or using some kind of functions, you can do these kind of things in a split second. Both were, I think, instrumental. Like sometimes complained later, later on when I was, I think 12 or 14 that he put me behind a screen and got me hooked a little bit too soon because of course, later on I had to do some schoolwork and stuff like that. But that was the first, my first steps into discovering what I wanted to be. And then I've been hooked ever since to this device and the ability that it gives you.
[Ann 00:04:20] I love that. That really reminds me of my entry into tech because I started in 2002, so a lot of us were kind of I'm not a coder myself, but so many of my colleagues came into it that way of just kind of coding, watching the results, learning from that, like not any kind of formal university like master's in computer science from Stanford. That was not the original like colleagues that I had. It was very much kind of figuring things out as as you go. Oh yeah. So I really, really resonate with those kind of early years of coding and kind of hacking your way into it. But before we get into your formal career, I actually heard a really fun story about you that your entrepreneurial journey started much earlier than your formal startup years. Can you tell me the story about this comic book production you had when you were in primary school?
[Rick 00:05:16] Yeah, so I think that was that was my first experience of wanting to create something physical, right? So the screen is nice. And I was actually building my first couple of websites then in primary school at the final years of it. But there was something happening with some kind of figure that you got with with a piece of candy in the Netherlands. And as a group there was this guy that that's I'm still friends with and he's he's really good and he can he can draw really good. He can you can I can really make some make something up from from scratch. I'm not a really good I draw artist myself but we took that and we started to create some stories around this. And then basically I said, okay, let's, let's create a comic out of this, a monthly thing that we get printed and then distribute among our friends. And of course, that costs a bit of money to create. So I started charging actually for it. And we, I think we got around 20 or 30 official subscribers and and I found out that I get out of fun, out of thinking about what, what, what such a product can be, but also the fact you have to arrange it like something like that does not just fall out of thin air. Every month we would have to think about it. Okay. What will the layout of the thing will be and how many pages of X and Y and Z? And I would I would call up those guys. I really need it now. This was in grade seven, so it's actually a bit weird. But but on the other hand, one of the teachers already showed me like, hey, one, you cannot do everything yourself. So if you are with a team, you have to divide and you also have to let go of some of the parts where, well, that you maybe don't like because there's not enough time to to get it all done. So that was actually my first experience of doing something with a team that's you deliver to some other people. They exchange it for a little bit of money and they will have an opinion about it. Sometimes good. Sometimes they have something to complain about, which is a strong driver of of reinventing actually as a, as a company. And of course, it was only child's play, but it was a really nice first first venture actually.
[Ann 00:07:39] Yeah. I love that because I never I didn't self-identify as an entrepreneur until much later in my life than you did. But looking back, just hearing your story of this comic book production and getting kind of a co-founder and getting an adviser in your teacher, I just it's obviously the template for a for a formal like startups. And thinking back as just as you were sharing that, I was remembering when my sisters and I and the oldest of seven kids, I have four sisters and two brothers. It's crazy. I love it. Yeah, it's very fun. But I, we used to put on productions, my sisters and I, and we had neighbor girls who lived across the street from us, a girl my age and then twins who were the same age as my sister, just younger than me. And we would put on productions of musicals and do the whole thing. The playbook, sell tickets, do advertising, and going around the neighborhood, getting people to come to our production. Literally in my parents garage, I had never yet literally, ever until this moment realized like that was my first startup, this production company.
[Rick 00:08:42] Exactly. And that's it. That's really cool. And I think, one, there's there's multiple parts to this, but one is that I was very lucky to have parents that actually encouraged me like they would they would not say like, okay, play outside or I will they would also say that. But also they would allow me and also like my dad took all of that that the comic stuff to his work to make copies. (Oh, I love it.) Illegal. Illegal copies of the work, the workplacecopy machine. Bring it back home. And then my mom would help me stencil this stuff together. And I believe I'm a father now, and I believe these kind of things are quite instrumental. And if you feel as a kid to have the space and the opportunity to just try out this stuff and also do silly things, but this like charging money, this is stuff that I came up with myself and then my parents would say something like, Hey, you have some this dismay. What's, what's the goal of getting this money? And then we as a group decided that half of the money would give away to a charity just because my parents would ask like, Hey, okay, now you have this money, what you have this for? And I think so one part is that I was incredibly and still am incredibly lucky by having such like living in a in a time where I could just spend my, my hours doing that. But also they enabled it a lot as well. So it's not just my my instinct or my talent, it's also my parents just being it being like being there and saying, hey, go ahead and try this stuff. Sure, I will help.
[Ann 00:10:25] Absolutely. I think one of the greatest privileges of my life as well is to be in a home environment where it was safe to experiment and learn things and be supported. In fact, thinking about it, I think it was my dad that suggested premium tickets to our theater productions where you could also have some good. You can also have snacks exactly as he was. Yeah. Just them asking those questions, getting you thinking about the possibilities and different ways you can approach is a great privilege. I know that not all kids have home environments where their parents can be involved in that way. But exactly. I am very grateful that I too had those nice early memories and experiences so formally. So this is your early start into entrepreneurism, but you actually started your first official venture when you were just 19. Can you tell us about that first company? You were there for six years before your exit. What was that first journey like for you as an entrepreneur? Did you study? I guess. I suppose. Did you study formally programming in school before you started this company? Okay. Tell us about that education and then how that led into starting your venture.
[Rick 00:11:24] Yeah. So I very early on when I was in high school, decided that I wanted to study like start a computer science and there was a like there was no brain. I never even thought I was like, this was the one thing that I visited. I had like my eyes were set were set on that. And then as soon as I did that, I, I, at some point I got a question from,from a guy from the Internet that I met. He was like, Hey, can you build my can build this website for me. This was in the time where we all were going into the website building stuff and and I was like, okay, sure. I don't know exactly how to do this, but I can, I can I think I can do that for I don't know what it was, €600 or something like that. So that just fall in mind for me back then was a whole lot of money. So I did that in the evenings and then at some point I started working together with, with a guy in my class who ultimately I find this company with as a co-founder. And then we got questions from the people that hired us and they said, like, you need to get your tech stuff arranged because we can no longer hire you guys without having that sorted. So that was actually the reason we got incorporated and then we did all of that like we were. We would go to the to the campus to go to the, to the, to the classes. And then as soon as the class was done, we would sit somewhere at the table and then work on the assignments that we could actually paid for. So we did that at school. And then so that was staff, the founding of the company. And then three years later, we were both we both had our at our degree and then we thought like, hey, what are we going to do? Are we going to pursue this or are we going to stop doing this and get a real job? (Right?) And then we thought like, this is actually why we had a couple of years where we were still living at home. And so we got all our expenses paid for. It's a really nice and really safe way to start a company, right, if your expenses are really low. So we thought this was them. This must be the easiest ever way to get into doing something for ourselves. And let's see what happens if we do this for a couple of years full time. So we did that for three years and after so three years, within the three years after about six years in total. ANS And we had, we had a lot of fun, but also we learned so much because and what my biggest lesson is that of course you don't get paid if, if the stuff is not done and if it's not done well. And that that might seen as a very obvious thing for people that are entrepreneurs. But I see this going wrong with a lot of young people that have their first job in a startup where there is no limitations on this. There's also it's also hard to to see the real like sometimes hard to see the impact of your work. But also there is no there is no one saying, okay, well, this is this is okay, but I won't pay you because it's not good enough, right? Because in the startup you just get paid. You get paid every month. There's a lot of money. And I think for me that experience really shaped me in terms of like I had to make sure that the stuff was right done on time. According to his schedule, I could not just make any like appointment with a client and then not like, not get back to it. What do you do if you get delayed? What do you do after requirements change? What do you do if circumstances change? If you get sick or whatever like you get across all of this stuff, you need to deal with that. And I quickly find out that the more proactive you are, the easier it is all gets right. So there was a big a big learning experience for me and also a lot of fun. Ultimately, I also found that I wanted to do way more of my own because as a as a as an agency, you're just building what other clients are requesting. And I found that a lot of times we would say my girlfriend or me would say to each other like, hey, okay, this is never going to work, right? So we are going to spend the next six months building this product that we already know is not going to work right this to not going to take off. We get paid nicely and well we can live. But are we really want to like do we really want to spend our our most valuable asset, our time on something that's not going to fly? Well, ultimately, I decided that that I didn't want to do that. So that's when I switched to and ultimately joined Blender as a started.
[Ann 00:16:00] I see now I understand having read the sneak peak of your book, I can see the foundation of everything that you're now sharing with broader audience. We're going to come back to that. But the little light bulbs are going off for me of these nuggets of wisdom that you learned in that first venture of being proactive, of thinking about passion, alignment in the work you're doing, what is your mark? Realizing that your time is your most valuable assets are focusing on efficiency without burning yourself out a lot to unpack there, which we will. But tell me about Blender. So Blender must have been a crazy adventure. It was incredibly successful. Let's see. It was backed by The New York Times and Axel Springer fame. Right. And it was lauded internationally for coming up with new business models for journalism, which I just found I find fascinating because this is such a hot topic right now of the importance of journalism in modern democracy. So tell us about that. How did you decide to leave your company, join, Blendle? And then what was your pathway in your growth path like there at Blendle.
[Rick 00:17:03] Yeah, so so how I got there so, so interesting because I was going to have friends introduce me to the guys at Blendle and he was saying, Rick, I think you should really talk to these guys. They're building something around and around the newspaper business. And I was like newspaper and never read a newspaper. No. Why should I be interested in a newspaper business? I just read my news online or I'm not really interested in news. Like I read something about games or whatever. So I was like, okay, but he's the garbage. You should you should talk to them because I'm they're really passionate. But also the technology is really interesting because while that's the the back end side of things for such a company is that you have a ton of content coming their way that has to be processed and then formatted in the right way. And you anyone want to output that in a way that's really nice for the for the reader, for that, for the viewer. So I said, okay, sure, I will. I will talk to them. And then I met a couple of really passionate founders, but the guy that introduced me was one of the friends that I met at at my studies at the school that that I previously described. And he was super connected already, like when, when I first met him and we said we stayed in touch. And that really taught me also and and still we chats quite often. And he really showed me the value of investing and in, in these kind of relationships And he really showed me the value of investing and in, in these kind of relationships because you will never know where there's next, like, like the next big step will come from. (So true.) The best referrals for, for, for new jobs and new opportunities come from you're from that circle, but there's no way that circle is going to invent itself. Right. So you have to think about that and invest in that. So that's one of the one of my insights back then with this guy.
[Ann 00:19:01] I think that's so important for our listeners to take note of, especially those who are in the earlier stages of their careers. Sometimes people hear like networking, like all the opportunities or who you know, and they think that looks like some formal event where everyone's standing around awkwardly with a drink trying to, like, talk to people they don't know. That's never been where my big breaks have come from. It's always about that reputation that precedes you, where an opportunity comes up, where someone's doing something interesting related to an expertize or reputation that you have, and then people think of you and proactively come to you with those opportunities. That is what networking actually looks like. Same for me. I haven't interviewed for a job since 2002 because it just naturally, you know, people think of you and the right moment for different projects and ditto I try and pay that forward to other people. So I think that is a universal truth. Overall, think about your long term reputation and really investing in those relationships, especially in the early and middle part of your career.
[Rick 00:19:57] Yeah, I 100% agree. But but it's also hard to like especially young people. Okay, what does invest in relationship? (Good point.) Like it's much, it's much. (I like it.) It's vague. It's a big message and vague. It's also one of the parts that I described later on in the book. It's about how do you how do you have meaningful conversations with people that you don't really know? And for me, this always starts with just being genuinely interested in what someone else is doing, asking questions. And that's what I find. That's especially young people that start off. They find it scary because it shows that you're not knowing that that you don't know everything. And but that's that says that's a super nice signal for someone else to to see if someone is truly interested and and genuinely wants to know why you're doing something, doing something that's laying the foundation of getting to know each other and signaling that you're serious. So if if you would say, okay, start building relationships, I would say start asking more questions because that's a simple thing. I would say start asking more questions because that's a simple thing. That's that's something that you can explain to a two year old or a three year old in my case. Well, it's hard to explain. So these you're like, I could I could try with her, but but that's something that's that's I find that resonates with young people as well. Like, oh, I can just I could just ask questions and then oh, okay. Just that doesn't mean that I'm stupid. No, of course not. That's tactic that put you in that in the in in the, in the perfect position to learn new stuff but also work on your relationship.
[Ann 00:21:27] I am so glad that you unpacked that. I think that's such good advice. I have seen that one of the questions I get asked all the time is what are the common denominators among these highly effective CEOs that I've worked for in early tech, a Google at Amazon, etc.? And one of the top qualities I see is insatiable curiosity. I've seen them model that behavior where they are often the smartest person in the room and they know to go to the junior most person in the room because they've got a unique perspective. And so I've seen that model to the other way as well. And watching my CEO bosses do that gave me permission to also ask questions. And you're right, it can feel very vulnerable in the beginning because it can highlight something you don't understand. But that is where, listen, people love talking about themselves and showing off their expertize. It's never backfired on me to switch the conversation on to being genuinely, authentically interested in learning something from another person whose expertize are different than mine. So I think that's really important advice.
[Rick 00:22:27] There's always more to learn from the other party than than what you already know, right? (Yes!) And that's what makes these these conversations for me also always a little bit awkward, because I'm not really like I can I can talk, but I'm actually way more interested in the other perspective. That's not why I'm here. So I won't do that. But but but I think that's the key. That's a key thing. One thing that I wanted to add is like on I think I'm one of the founders of Blendle are both actually were journalists they now moved on to other stuff but it's where journalists and I think as CEOs also being journalists so they are like used to not like not stop after the first question, which is the second layer of this. Like, if I'm interested, I can ask, Hey, so how did you do X, Y and Z? And then you give me an answer that's first answer won't be the answer. That's the real answer, right? That's the that that's the answer you give to to feel like, is this person really interested or do they really have the time or not? Like it is a superficial question, but if you there's always a follow up question you can ask. And if you do that, that's when you really tap into into that to the real wisdom, the real like the emotions behind it, the stuff that's really drove and the decision. So so that's one part. The other part that I wanted to add is I think it's really hard for young people now that have to do their studies at home so much that I'm not in a physical physically same location. If you start out like I think that's a real that's a real problem that we're facing that if you are joining a workforce now, it's a lot harder to build these relationships because when I was when I was just at this this school and and find finding my my my my co-founder and also building these friends. These were not our teams. I was the one guy that was actually like walking around all the time and then disturbing other people and basically trying to a wedge myself into this this team that I found very, very strong. But I cannot do that if I'm at home and I'm connected via Zoom. So I'm I don't have a solution for this because it's this is just really sad. This is just really like something something that's I think that that that a lot of young people miss out on. And I hope in the next year, most of this stuff will go away again. Yes. But meet in person and then show up and make use of that time outside of class to be visible and ask questions and be involved and then stuff like like that. If you're actually not the young part of the audience and this is not for you, but this is the stuff that really helped me at that at that point.
[Ann 00:25:11] Me too. I think that's so important whether you are like my youngest sister is in a master's program right now in a master's degree. Graduate school is all about learning to ask the right questions. And so I do. It is such a shame. Hopefully the second half of her master's will be much more of this interaction. But yeah, if you're in the early stages of your first job, or even if you're trying to reinvent yourself, perhaps you've done a career pivot now is a great opportunity. Be asking questions, and that's how you build up natural mentorships and sponsors and get people who can open doors for you that you can apply. Open yourself is when they get to know you and the meaning behind some of the efforts you're trying to. We are naturally segueing into where I was hoping to go, which is a blend of this formal experience you've had and the theoretical of how you've broken down some of the best practices that made you really effective in this ambiguous, you know, challenging entrepreneurial environment. And that has come out through your book Grip, which I think is incredible. I'm not quite finished with it yet, but nearly there. And I can see immediately why it became a Dutch bestseller. I mean, you almost immediately sold 35,000 copies of thisand now you're launching your book internationally. Please tell me you first people ask me this about my book all the time, which is hard to distill, but why did you write it and what was the audience for that you had in mind originally? And I'm curious how that might be pivoting now as you're thinking about a broader international audience, like who is this book for you?
[Rick 00:26:40] As a good question. And the short answer is, I wrote it as an internal guide initially for Blendle because we had, as I, as I mentioned, young people like they enter the workforce, they are very excited, they are super skilled, they have a lot of knowledge, but also they don't they have a lot of things that they don't know. And I had tried getting things done in the venture before that I read The Seven Habits when it was part of their curriculum at school, and and I was generally like, that was my first experience with these through the self-help genre. And I was I was immediately pulled, pulled towards it because I thought, like, this is amazing. Like you have a ton of learnings from someone really applicable in, in a complex form that I can, can consume. But I also immediately noticed that a lot of people are not really attracted to it and they feel I pushed into a corner or they have to adopt a certain way of working, or they have to read to like hundreds of pages of personal stories of how successful the author was with this, and then stuff like that, which is which is great and can be a motivating for some people. But for a lot of people it was not. And when I was at Blendle, people would ask me like, Hey, Ricky, you don't seem very stressed, but I think you have a lot on your on your plate. How do you do this? And I would say, oh, well, okay, I have this stack of books start here. I have this list of podcasts. You should listen to them all. Maybe a training. Oh, maybe you also like, maybe also like go to through some some video online video stuff and they would say, I'm going to stop you here because I'm already up until here in the. Work (and you're giving me homework.) You give me a homework, so please give me three bullets of things that I can do today that helped me out of this mess, because the advice that people get a lot is like, Yeah, but you said you should think about your long term perspective. How are you going to do this if you are stressed out? If you are maybe feeling like you're running towards a burnout, if you have a family to manage, if you have bills that you're worrying like there is no way you can get to that. So that's when I thought, okay, let me just write a really quick summary of the best items that I've learned and experimented with, and then I will pass that on. So I did that and I also started writing more on my newsletter, started sharing this stuff online, and that's when I found that, especially the time management stuff really resonated, and especially the part about how I would apply my calendar. There's nothing really new. There is. There's nothing really like that, you see, and think, okay, this is no one on planet earth has ever thought about this now, but it's like brought together in a form that's is just giving you something that you can apply from page one starting today. And I think that was what I personally saw that was lacking that I found really useful to pass on in my team. And then someone said like, Hey, you should self-publish this. And then as you are not just an author, but you like to do this kind of stuff all yourself. You're, you're like to micromanage this kind of thing. So as of the goodness that's sounds like me. So I did that. And then from one thing came something else. And then the book ultimately launched and it's basically since then I initially thought it's only for young people, but I also have people that email me that are on my mailing list. So again, I'm, I'm 76, but I still need some of these principles. I have such a busy life, like I don't have work, but there's so many people that want stuff from me. How do I get to my own priorities while I use the tools? I'm like, I'm 76. I'm like, okay, apparently that's still work. So I get feedback from from people from all over different sectors, different kind of jobs. We all have to manage our time. We all have to do that. We all have stuff that's coming our way and we all have our own priorities. And the question is, how do you how do you manage that? And I think the guide is one of the ways to do that. That's that people apparently love. So that's what happens.
[Ann 00:30:57] I can see that very clearly why this would resonate, because it's so true. There's so many books, so many podcasts, all the lessons to learn and having something that's distilled it down just to the heart of it, where to get started, what to try and see what works for you. I love the subtitle of your book. This immediately got me to flip to the first page. So it's grip, but it's called The Art of Working Smart and Getting What You Want. I love that's very, very motivating. And in the introduction you have a really fun quote, which I highlighted immediately where you said, I'm not going to tell you to do less. I'll leave that to your friends and family. But I will tell you to do and challenge you to make smarter choices, to rethink how you go about your work, to take things up a notch at strategic moments, and to choose what not to do, to set your own course. Because if you don't take the lead, someone else will choose for you. I love this example. The 76 year old who is learning new best practices. I wonder, are there some stories from either readers of your newsletter or early readers of in the first launch that really stand out to you as somebody that's encapsulated all of this wisdom that you're imparting? Because I just find those case studies so motivating.
[Rick 00:32:06] Yeah, so, so. Okay, well, we don't have all day, so I can't I can pull up some, some, some, some good stories. One that really touched me was someone that is helping young people that have some kind of an autism or some kind of an issue with that in that area. So with various degrees and she was describing to me that they use the parts of the method because they they are stacked. They're so structured that there's no room for a negotiation. Right. And that's what gives those kids a lot of perspective and the feeling of being in control. And when I read that from her, I was like, we all need that. Right? And I think we we assume and we think that we thrive when we have a lot of options. While that's actually strep, like, sometimes you want to explore all the options. But actually I'm arguing that most of the week you should not renegotiate every single decision all of the time. And that's what we are doing.
[Ann 00:33:19] Decision fatigue is real. Yes.
[Rick 00:33:22] So you're done with with tasks, a task A and then you're like, should I really do task B? Is there really something that I want to do? I feel right about that I don't like. I don't have the energy right now. I will I will push for it. And I'm actually one of the things that I describe in the first chapter on on the calendar is like this calendar brings together to really like the oil we get. Of course, we will dove in maybe in a bit, a bit deeper.
[Ann 00:33:47] I love this part of the book. I highlighted a lot in the calendar section. Yeah.
[Rick 00:33:52] Yeah nice and I think it's still like I live I live by this because it brings together two components that are crucial. One is what you want to do, and two is when you're going to do it like this is a commitment, a time commitment,and this is lacking in so many tools. So you have an endless to do list, which is which is never anything. And while no decision on when you're going to do it. Right. So I'm pulling this back to the quotes from that from from the woman who was working with this with these kids. I still feel that we are all like in, in really in need of a structure that has less room for our little to room for negotiation all of the time because that's so tiring.
[Ann 00:34:37] I couldn't agree more. And one of the things that I highlighted is the other side of that coin in a section about calendar. See, you're talking about stop the decision fatigue, kind of make the decision once and then continue your plan. Trust yourself that when you put together that plan, that was the right prioritization. And I think that's so important when to avoid this decision fatigue. The other thing I highlighted in the calendar section was what I wrote in the margin. Protip was when you said, if possible, leave about 20% of your working hours open. I say this to my consulting clients and tell them blue in the face and they kind of freak out when they do it because as you said, the to do list is endless. And then once they finally get brave and leave that space, suddenly those light bulb moments happen. They have that moment of inspiration, of connection, or as you were describing in earlier in our conversation, how innovation happens between the verticals. When you get up and have a conversation with someone on a different team or you're just having this watercooler moments that we're all missing right now, you have to leave time for serendipity for inspiration, and for innovation. And so I was so glad to see that in your incredible practical tips of how to get a lot done, you're like, I'm not talking about packing every single hour of every moment of every day with this. That's actually really inefficient. Will burn you out if possible. Leave 20% of your working hours open. Yeah.
[Rick 00:36:01] So my question would be, I'm always interested in what kind of tips you give, because I'm sure those clients will say, okay, well, how do I how do I do this? 20%. That's a lot. It is a lot. (It is a lot.) What do you suggest?
[Ann 00:36:17] So I actually really believe in 20%. As a rule, I steal that from my 12 years at Google because it's literally it's now a famous practice that engineers at Google receive what they it's literally called 20% time. So that means engineers at Google can spend 20% of their time working on anything they want, not requiring manager approval and using company resources. You can use the servers, laptops, equipment, anything at your disposal to work on cool stuff. So many of the Google products that are heavily used in part of our daily habits today came out of these 20% projects. So I've seen the wisdom in creating space where you can just make cool stuff, you don't have to defend it, you can just fiddle with it. And I've actually seen a lot of wisdom in the way that different engineers used their 20% time. Some of them would save a couple of hours a day to work on their passion projects, and some would be like, Fridays is my 20% day. That's one day a week, which can feel luxurious. That's not the word I'm looking for. It it can feel indulgent, is the word I'm looking for to protect an hour of your day. So I know Fridays are my inspiration day. I will go out, I will go on a hike or I'll go to a gallery or I'll go somewhere new that just has no immediate return on investment. It's just about opening my mind to new stimulus and new things. So when I finally talk my clients into trying this out, every single one of them, once they do the hard work of clearing the space and prioritization and delegating stuff off to create space, the day they finally do it, they call me in a complete panic.
[Rick 00:37:48] Well, that sounds like a like a really solid process. And I think especially if you think about the outcome of having 20% for yourself, for it to do anything that's that's huge. I get that's that's a nice carrot to to work towards. Absolutely. But I also seen is that if you want to have 20% like this, 20% for yourself, you also have to have a plan for the other 80%. Yes. And I think that's where that see the flip side, right. So people will say, okay, I want I want some time for myself to do I like to do certain things also also in a team. And I think that's why I organize the book around individuals and not teams, because I feel that the tools for individuals like like an individual contributor, individual work. Are you as an employee, you really need the tools to help you fill up this 80% in such a way that you could actually have these 20%, right? So this and then a while, I really like the process of going through your values and mission and stuff. First, I also know that a lot of people find that I actually at what I what I said just a moment ago if you are up until here like but to the neck in the work that's really hard to do. So then I would I would actually say to people like, okay, put everything that you feel responsible for in your calendar. And then they would come screaming back to me, it. (Doesn't fit.) And doesn't fit. So Rick, do you have a tip for me to make it all fit? And I would say, no, this is exactly what you why you are doing this exercise, because now you know that you're overbooked, you have way too much on your plate. So figure out a way to make it fit without making the individual blocks shorter. While there's only one way to do that, you have to you have to make some decisions. And they would say, okay, that's tough. But I will go to my manager, Abby, and see, yeah, I can. I'll make it. Or they would go to the manager and show what they have on their plate and then have them say, do want me to work three nights and a weekend to get it all done? Or should we start making some decision? And any responsible manager would say, okay, yes, sure, we can scrap like this can this can be done next week. This can be done next week. This can be done next week. And now it fits. And that's the starting point of having actually a place to start thinking about having these 20%. But first, you need to have youry our week in order and reclaim your evenings and weekends for yourself to decompress. And that's so that's where I often starts. And that's also the feedback that I got a lot like, okay, this desk will never, ever fit and then at all the times it does, because if you start making list and if you start thinking on like, okay, what am I three bullets prioritization like it's just three bullets. What do I really want to or need to get done this week? It will always like there's always a way to get started or make progress on these. Everything else can go. And as long as you communicate proactively about it, this is what I what I learned is when I running the agency, most people will be fine. But no manager no manager is going to ask can we like here is is extra assignments? Can you get this done next Thursday? No, of course they will not. They will leave out the date parts. They will just say, can you get this done? We assume that they mean right now, today this week, very often that's not the case. But we don't ask. Right. So we just assume we try to fit it in. We work an extra evening, an extra weekends. What for? Right. If we only ask you. Okay. For when? Well, next week is fine. There's no pressure, no stress. But that needs what we need to have this. There's check and check and balances of how we how we decide on these, how we spend our time.
[Ann 00:41:39] So there's so much to unpack in here. In fact, I was on a webinar just last night where they asked if you could go back and tell 18-year-old Ann one piece of advice. What would you tell her? Basically, this is it. I didn't learn until now, 15, 17 years into my career that I could do that conversation you just described. So I, I also have translated my to do list into time blocks on my calendar. I started doing that a long time ago, saved my sanity. Like just today I got interrupted by something unexpected. Today I was supposed to do invoicing for the first quarter of the year. Okay. I had to move that block on my calendar. Yes. Oh, it's never the first thing on my favorite project list, but I have moved it. But otherwise it would just be like, oh no, you know, six months have gone by and haven't sent those invoices. So when you have it as a block and something interrupts that you really have to move it. And then I finally said back when I was still at Google and I was working for Eric Schmidt, his chief of staff, and things, you know, the Internet never sleeps. And there are these fires, there are war rooms that things that we prioritize your to do list. It finally occurred to me in the last couple of years I work for him when those moments happen to just highlight for him how I was reprioritizing my head. Okay, I hear that that's really urgent and important. So that means I'm shifting X, Y and Z to tomorrow and I'm delegating this to her and this to him and just saying that out loud saved my sanity so many times. I wish I had done that earlier in my career, especially when you're younger because you're not sure if you are prioritizing. You think, yes, I do have to stay up until 3 a.m. and do this when really, if you'd taken that 15 seconds to say, here's what I'm hearing, is that correct? They would have been told you that like, no, no, no, that can wait for next Monday or something.
[Rick 00:43:21] Exactly. That's cool. No, no, 100%. But I think I do think the calendar is crucial because if you don't have that, if you're not putting the work in because that's the that's the advice from the first chapter, I'd use your calendar for everything, not just meetings, but also preparation time, processing time, travel time and also for work. So what do you do? What your biggest priorities are should be on the calendar.
[Ann 00:43:43] You call it your rock. Right?
[Rick 00:43:46] Yes, it's a rock. It's a it's like it's it's my it's my it's my sanctuary place. I won't touch it. Like, if it's there, I will do it. Like, there is no like there's no negotiation. Of course these happen. But this is a starting point. But this gives you a a like an upfront view of how things are going. And most of most of the people that I meet have only have a, like a after, after the crime. The crime has happened. They will look back and see, okay, this was a train wreck. While I can predict on Monday, okay, this will be a tough week and now I can start making some proactive changes like I can make sure, okay, maybe I should clear out one evening to work, which is fine as long as everyone is in the loop. I know that my wife is at home and we get stuff arranged, whatever, like. And then it feels not stressed, but it feels managed. And of course we cannot manage every single thing in our life and on the on our lives and on this on this planet. Luckily we don't. But these kind of things we can do. But then it gives you this overview that you can take to your manager. And that's the the essential part that I find was often lacking when I was a manager. And I'm a manager again, but like when I was at Blendle and people would come to me and say, Rick, I'm way too busy. I would say, with what? What are you doing? And not in this aggressive tone, but I would say, okay, show me, what are you doing? They would show me a list and I would say, based on this list, I cannot really like I cannot make an estimation if that's actually full or not. So show me your calendar. And they would say, Yeah, there's three meetings. Okay, but how you're like, is this one? This is task one day, one and a half to two days, and then this is basic stuff for us. But like for young people, this would this would really force them to put it in their calendars and think, okay, I need a full day for this. If I need a full day, I can only do one extra task and I have three on my plate. So now what? Now what do I do? Well, you don't have to manage it yourself. That's the question you can take to your manager. But now you have a view. You have an overview and estimation stuff you can can discuss, which I find super nice and so freeing.
[Ann 00:45:54] You're so right that it's just a very different energy exchange because then you feel in control. You feel like you're in the driver's seat. A lot of times, especially early in your career, it feels like, Well, I don't have any choice. My manager said so or this has to get done. Or even now, you know, as an entrepreneur, it just feels like a lot of things are outside of our control right now in this very quickly evolving space of pandemic. Hopefully soon to be post-pandemic. This is how you get that sense of control back and and really reprioritizing, in fact, one of the things I another thing that resonated for me in your book was when you were talking about motivators, I think it can be so helpful in looking at your task list and knowing what's motivating me in in when you're doing these hard moments of prioritization, you offer seven in the book, but one really jumped off the page to me, maybe because I'm where I'm at right now as an entrepreneur, this is the one I needed personally. This is self-therapy. But you called it perfecting your craft. And this is when you bring up the Japanese concept of Kaizen, which means change for the better or improvement. And you wrote, In our busy goal oriented lives, we tend to value results above everything else. This is me. Oh my gosh. I am very results oriented. I've been trained in that. Yeah, like I say. But your quote continues Kaizen is the opposite of that is centers on the journey. It is about a deep appreciation for the active work itself and continually perfecting it. This idea can be a powerful motivator to keep pushing ahead, and I'd like to add to keep pushing back, right. To push back on these other things that can suck that joy out of it. And remember, you offer a lot of other motivators that resonate with me, the pot of gold, the catalyst, you know about. But I think that is an important concept, especially when the world is heavy right now. But I think that is an important concept, especially when the world is heavy right now. There are so many things personally, globally, politically, etc., that feel and I think we need to give ourselves permission to insert some joy and meaning and recenter back in where our passions lie in our work. So I really appreciate you're calling out that much.
[Rick 00:47:55] That's good at that. That's good. And I think and still, I think to make it to pull it back to the more practical stuff on how do you do work. I found I find that a lot of peoplethat's too let's say to do some running outside of work, some some light sports. They also know more about their performance in their hobby sports than they know about their professional performance at work, what they do 40 plus hours a week. And to me, that's really strange, right? It's a it's something that we spend so much time on and we need to be aware that this is a profession. And it's not just people pushing emails back and forth. Now we're doing something that we think is meaningful and we need to also be careful and thinking about how we do it and treat that as as as a partly as a game, but also as something that we can get better at. Like the, like the process is something that's I also link to Kaizen like and joy the process of doing the work well and crafting a really like a good response on an email, spending a little bit of time on that, thinking about what the other person is thinking and just enjoying the process of being and communicating like this can, can sound a little bit wavy, but like being, being aware that you're, that, that you're able to send a message across the world in just a matter of seconds and then enjoying that part of the process as well gives me a really good feeling about what what we are doing. But also and again, we need to be aware that we can grow in this. That's a lot of people just assume that's their speed of work, their quality of work. How they feel at work is a set like it's set in stone, but it can all evolve and it can all like you can all grow and you can grow in it and you can experiment with it. And I think that's the key thing. And, and in every single chapter of the book, whether it's about task management or email or about goal setting or about doing weekly reviews or Friday recaps or whatever. And I challenge I don't really challenge people to buy this book per se, but I challenge people to find an area in work where you can launch an experiment next week to do something radically different, because if it doesn't work, you can always return to the way you're working right now because that's what you have. So just experiment and try something new, try something radical, work from home ish or work at an office or do something else crazy in your office. Do something with or without email for a week, maybe skip meetings, maybe do all your calls without video, whatever. But pick something, try something out and then and then see if it if it moves you for it.
[Ann 00:50:54] That is the perfect summary challenge for our conversation and perfect for the bet on yourself listeners. That's what we're all about here, and you're absolutely right. What's the worst that happens? You go back to what you're doing right now. You learn something, and you you might find something that really inserts some new joy challenges, learning opportunities. I could talk to you literally all day, Rick. There's so much to unpack from your experiences, from your community that you've built from this incredibly powerful book. I want to end with just two questions, and the first is, I'm curious of your outlook on the future. The future of work is pivoting pretty quickly. There's parts of that we've talked about some of the challenges. Is there any part of it that maybe particularly intrigues you or you see as bringing unique opportunities for the future?
[Rick 00:51:39] So I think I think it's really important that as an individual, we start also bringing the way of working to the area that's in our drivers, in our driver's seat region, because everything is changing so fast and the chances are that your pulls you pulled with the direction of the team, right? So you're in a company or in a team, they might be thinking, okay, we should go hybrid or we should, I don't know, go wherever direction and people share their experience about that with me. And then I often say, okay, like do you have some kind of a documents for yourself, some kind of a some somewhere written down, some thoughts on how you I prefer to work like given all of the transitions stuff that's going on and almost no one has that. So that would be my first, my, my, my first suggestion to write that down for yourself, given the fact that these changes are like evolving, but the general direction we, we understand, right? So it's not being full time in an office anymore for most of the job. So now how do you see that for yourself? What would you prefer? So that's one and and to that. So that's that that's on an individual level on a team level, I see that's communication. Like it will explode and it will like finding a time with a team, finding a time with people outside of your team will be more complicated than ever because you will never know who is at the office, who is where, who is in which time zone, who is like, what kind of meeting preferences do we all have? So I, I think we will see a lot of progression in that area. As, as an aside, I also have a personal investment in that area because I'm building a calendar that actually helps you internal scheduling stuff very cool around this. So I have a personal investment in this a little bit, but I will we will see more, more in that area. I guess. And the other part is that I think we will start to see we start to see more and more movements on on asynchronous work and asynchronous more. I'm not sure if you if you I spoke about this before on your podcast, but the meaning of that is that we do I believe we do our best work when we're not connected as much to the rest of the team all the time. Right. And we're most people that I know jump from notification to notification, a meeting to meeting while we do our best work. If we have a morning, a week where we can just focus on deep work and really creative work for it. And I think there is only one way to do it now and that's block off time and do it. And I hope we will see some like shifts towards like more and more work turning into mostly asynchronous discussion and thinking and that's still really vague. So, so that's, that's, that's the vague part of the other podcast I guess. But like this is where I see also a lot of potential because it also levels the playing fields, because what you see in, especially in a male dominated and also extrovert dominated meeting culture is that there's always the same people that voice their opinions first and then you take the back seat. Right. And I think changing the culture to to be more of like, hey, we can write some stuff first and then discuss it, level the playing field. And that's, that's what that's what I really love about, about the process as well.
[Ann 00:55:24] I could not agree more. We could talk for at least an hour just on that. I find this very exciting and you're absolutely right. It brings different voices to the forefront in a way that elevates the entire group. It's so important. Last question. Just an interest of time, because we're already 2 minutes over. Where can our listeners connect with you? You've mentioned your newsletter, the book Social. What's the best way to connect with you for those who want these protests more in their life?
[Rick 00:55:51] Yeah, so the book is at gripbook.com. You'll also find a link to the newsletter there which is called Work in Progress. So I'm writing some some notes every week on some sort, something practical that you can apply. And I'm most active on Twitter. @RickPastoor, so you can find me there. And that's, that's where I'm most active.
[Ann 00:56:10] That's amazing. Rick, thank you so much for this conversation and all of your tips and sharing your wisdom. I very much look forward to staying connected with you. Thanks again.
[Rick 00:56:19] Pleasure. And thank you so much for having me.
About my guest

Rick Pastoor

Rick Pastoor has always liked experimenting at work. He’ll try things out, then keep what works, ditch what doesn’t. Try. Rinse. Repeat. Rick was struck by how many people came to him for advice and practical tips on his impeccable time management. He realized they were looking for a guide on how to work. And while there’s a lot of productivity fare out there, those books didn’t really do the trick. So he decided to put together his own.