Business strategy

VC investor Phil Morle on 7 ways to find time for thinking

- March 2, 2023 2 MIN READ
The Thinker, Rodin
The Thinker in The Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin. Photo: Musée Rodin
The natural flow of time in venture is towards the ‘transactional’. Without a deliberate other process, days become 30-minute zoom window slices.

These become a terrible blow to big thinking because they gobble up the available time but also because:

  • The default is ‘out’ rather than ‘in’.
  • ‘No’ is easier than ‘yes’.
  • Assessing/judging someone else is easier than imagining what is possible.
  • A clear outcome is needed in a short time, meaning it is probably shallow in impact.

Sometimes this is OK as a means to share information or quickly qualify a next step, but my brain shrivels when the whole day looks like this.

Seven ideas to shake it up

Here are some approaches I am trying:

  1. I schedule time for me. This is important time and it is all too easy to sacrifice it. I ensure there are at least a few hours each week to work on a bigger project or idea.
  2. I walk between meetings. I need time for my brain to let ideas in. A 30-minute walk instead of a rushed 10-minute Uber does the trick. Carry a notebook or some way to capture what your brain does by magic.
  3. I question every standing meeting. It is easy for a week to fill up with them. They are called ‘Check ins’ or ‘WIPs’ and they can quickly become a time suck. They also delay forward motion until that meeting happens once per week. If they are e becoming ‘How’s it going?’ meetings, replace them with one of the ideas below or eliminate them altogether. What can be moved to asynchronous communication?
  4. I schedule long 1:1s with no agenda: I am scheduling more time for face-to-face 1:1s with people to go deep into things. This is hard to do… rejecting 2 or 3 smaller meetings for a deep dive into one. But I have found the outcomes to be transformative.
  5. I am trying ‘maker sessions’: We’re trying some sessions as 60-minute creative sprints where we express our ideas by making things. It is opening our minds to new possibilities.
  6. We have unpacked ‘All-ins’ to squads: We found that we were naturally trending towards everyone being in every meeting.  We have just attacked this and now have small ‘squads’ who spend quality time on domain-specific issues (some are investment theme centric, and some are firm operations) – these conversations go deep and then reflect lessons learned and outcomes back to the larger group as needed.
  7. I write more: I reserve time to write. It forces me to reflect on something, consider what matters, and think about a specific response. Sharing ideas publicly, forces accountability. We now have 6 people in our firm who ‘Build out Loud’ through their writing.