This is a post about one of favourite role models, Day. Day was a legendary Starcraft: Broodwar player and built an amazing video series about Starcraft known as the Day Daily. Growing up playing Starcraft II at a Grandmaster level, I learned a lot from Day and about his philosophy towards life and gaming.
Below is a short summary on the main takeaways from Day's Advice and Musings Youtube series.
How To Give and Receive Good Feedback
The worst feedback you can give is prescriptive feedback. Never give out directives. Imagine a situation where you failed to meet a deadline on a big project and your manager said, "You should have planned the rollout of this feature better." This does nothing except state the obvious. It’s useless.
Instead, what you want to get out of feedback is the description and the core cause of the problem. What if your manager had said, "After this feature was rolled out, I noticed a considerable decline in our team's productivity." This is good feedback because it puts the onus on you to figure out what went wrong and how you could have done better.
The common mistake people make when giving feedback is not understanding the distinction between asking for feedback and asking for advice.
When you ask for advice, you want explicit directives for how to achieve something you don't already have. A prime example is asking for advice on how to land a job at FAANG or how to build a large Twitter following.
When you ask for feedback, you want to improve something you already have. This can be a book you're writing, a project you’re undertaking, a skill you are trying to master. Behind this, you have a clear set of goals and direction for what you are trying to achieve.
Hence, receiving advice when you are asking for feedback is detrimental because you are putting yourself at the mercy of other people's goals. Even worse, is when you are given two contradictory pieces of advice. It’s difficult to choose one over the other. More often than not, you should just ignore their advice. But if you do choose to consider a part of their advice, remember to understand the context it is given in. In a game like Starcraft, you wouldn’t take advice from somebody in the Bronze league.
Getting Shit Done
The key to getting shit done according to Day is to output consistently. Don’t worry about how much you are outputting. Much of what you produce will be hot garbage anyways. You should think more in terms of accomplishment of the schedule than of accomplishment of the output.
Day believes everybody has a certain number of willpower units in a single day. Given a hypothetical scenario where you only have 12 willpower units. Let us imagine a situation where writing a blog takes 3 willpower units, going to the gym takes another 3, and going to work takes 5. At the end of the day, you’re going to feel exhausted because you only have 1 willpower unit left.
However, if you keep writing and going to the gym on a consistent basis, the number of willpower units you need to accomplish those tasks will go down. The surplus units can be reallocated to other tasks that are important to you.
Once you’ve created a habit of consistent output, you can start thinking about the quantity of your output. It's common to have accomplished very little even though you set a block of time for yourself. This is because there are too many distractions in your environment. If you know your room is where you are most distracted, try working in the basement or at your local coffee shop. By moving to a different environment, you are signalling to your brain: this is where I’m going to work on this task and nothing else.
Once you’ve produced enough work, you’ll get a feel for what’s good and what’s bad. You can pick up the good parts of your work, refine them, and throw the rest away.
How to Stay Motivated
Being able to output consistently is great. But it’s easier said than done. How do you stay motivated?
Start by waking up insanely early. The benefit of waking up early is being beholden only to yourself. Nobody is able to distract you because everybody else is asleep. This makes it prime time to focus on the work that is most meaningful to you.
Mornings are also the time where you have the most energy. This goes back to the point about willpower units. You want to optimize your willpower units at the start of the day. Think about all the random events that popup in the middle of the day. Some of these events can be draining and demotivate you to the point where you don’t want to do anything after work hours.
What do you do when you are feeling demotivated? Do you instinctively open up your favourite video game? This is what Day calls bullshit time fillers. But in his view, time fillers are not necessarily bad, but you shouldn't be defaulting to time fillers.
If you want to understand why you are feeling demotivated, you should also think about, what are one’s needs as a person? Day puts this into four categories.
- Maintenance Activities
- Energizing Activities
- Resultful Activities
- Time Fillers
Maintenance activities are activities that keep you healthy. This involves having a nutritious diet, going to the gym, sleeping well, etc...
Energizing activities are activities that put you in a flow state. These activities are different for every person. For Day, this is studying a skill, watching educational pieces of content, and working on projects.
Restful activities are activities that keep you relaxed. For introverted people, this can be just taking some time to be alone. Find activities where you can appreciate what life has to offer.
Time Fillers are what they are. Surfing reddit. Mindlessly scrolling on Twitter.
The next time you are feeling demotivated, try and allocate time for one of these activities, aside from the time fillers. See how your energy changes over the next couple of days. The goal here is to have a choice in what you do. If you’re scrolling on Twitter, it is because you want to go on Twitter. It is not because you want something to fill the void because you don’t feel like doing anything.