Ending the vicious cycle of busywork

Tim is very mad at Elon Musk.

His rage started 10 days ago when Musk called Dogecoin “a hustle” on Saturday Night Live. That sent the cryptocurrency tumbling.

Then last week – adding insult to injury – Musk lambasted Bitcoin’s carbon footprint. Bitcoin plummeted by nearly 50%.

Crouched over the bright light of Tim’s Coinbase account, all he sees is a sea of red negative signs. Musk’s nonsensical tweets have lost him a lot of money.

But Tim’s got a bigger problem.

It’s 2:30 AM on Tuesday morning.

He was just up for his regular bathroom break. But now he’s tossing and turning, with his iPhone glued to his palm.


Tina opens her eyes as she hears the robins chirping outside her window.

She scans her Apple Watch and – like clockwork – it’s 5:48 AM. It’s been two years since Tina used an alarm. Her body naturally wakes up 8 hours after she goes to bed.

(Just in case though, she has a back up alarm set for 6:30 AM.)

Since she got “the jab” exactly a month ago, her favorite Bikram Yoga Studio finally re-opened. Her clothes, yoga mat and a full water bottle are perfectly laid out in front of her door (Atomic Habits-style!) and she walks over just in time for the 6 AM class.

She goes through the 26 poses in the 105 degree heat. It’s pretty intense, but Tina’s got her eye on the prize. The days that start with Bikram are always the most productive and serene.

A surefire way to win the day.


Tim (who we’ll now refer to as $10 Dollar Tim) stumbles downstairs after hitting snooze 3 times. His Oura ring gives him a sleep score of 62 (out of 100). Between his daily drinking, doom-scrolling and newfound crypto obsession, he’s failed to crack 70 since the early days of the pandemic. And as a 41 year old with teetering on the brink of high blood pressure, his physician would be pretty disappointed with his sleeping habits.

Furthermore, the crypto thing makes no sense. Tim’s got a great job as a Manager at Deloitte and manages a team of 7 analysts. Sure, he deals with the nagging “what am I doing with my life” question, but the compensation is solid and he’s good at his job.

(Well, the crypto thing actually does make sense. Two months ago, one of $10 Dollar Tim’s fraternity brothers rode Dogecoin and cashed out at the top. This guy was such a dope in college, and now he bought a house, a boat and never needs to work again. Tim’s FOMO is on overdrive.)

Tina (aka $10k Tina) runs sales at small design agency. She’s been there for the past 9 years, but is also getting an itch about what’s next.

(And ironically, she’s been buying $100/month of Bitcoin since 2010. At this point it’s probably worth a lot, but she doesn’t really get it. It’s all funny money to her and she never pays attention to her balances.)

$10 Tim’s seven year old daughter Ellie is thrilled to see her daddy at the breakfast table. She’s eating pancakes while lip-synching Bieber’s new song, Hold On. He gives her a soulless pat on the head en route to gigantic mug of coffee. Kathy gives him an icy “Hey,” which reminds him how frigid their relationship has gotten since the pandemic began.

“Daddy, will you help me color in this rainbow?” asks the excitable Ellie.

“Sweetheart, you know daddy has to run to work,” he says – stealing a glance at the latest Bitcoin price.

“Please. Puh-lease. Pretty please with a cherry on top? It will only take 3 minutes? I know you have 3 minutes!” Ellie argues.

“Sorry sweetheart, tonight – I promise.”

“OK,” she answers dejectedly. “But I bet this will end up on the Broken Promise List.


Though she’s drenched in sweat, $10K Tina prances through the door as if she’s dancing on two pillowy clouds.

“MAMAAAAA!” her two sons exclaim ecstatically. She gives them each 3 kisses and a hug (her signature greeting) and long embrace to her husband Jack. She runs up to shower, when she feels her watch buzzing on her wrist.

“Strange,” she says to herself.

Tina doesn’t have email or Slack on her phone, but her team of 5 has an explicit communications protocol. Tina’s protocol reads, “If you need to reach me during non-work hours, text me first. If I don’t respond, then call my cell.”

Something must be up.

“Project Neptune wants to change the commission from 10% to 9%. WDYT” asks her colleague.

“That’s fine,” she dictates back and then jumps the shower.


When it comes to work, both $10 Tim and $10K Tina are at a juncture. Tim’s been asked to come back into the office and is now staring down the barrel a 40 minute commute.

(Adding insult to injury, none of his khakis fit him anymore thanks to his newly acquired pandemic pounds. So much for that Peloton.)

Since Tina works at a smaller firm, they decided to fully embrace remote – and she’s thrilled to never have to step foot in an office again.

Tim heads to his garage and as he walks by fridge he sees:

“I can do better,” he says to himself.

The day begins

$10 Tina heads upstairs to kick-off her day. It’s 9 am and she opens Slack and her email for the first time. She reschedules a meeting, approves a proposal, forwards some revisions to her lawyer and makes a note that one of her direct reports seems stuck. She closes both Slack and Gmail and pulls open her task manager (ToDoist) to review the week’s game plan:

She tries to structure her days as consistently as her schedule permits.

  • Mornings for her highest leverage ($10K and $1,000 work) activities
  • Early afternoons for meetings and calls
  • Late afternoons for emails and other $10 work

$10K Tina works in pomodoro cycles, doing 25 minutes of Deep Work, then checking her email. She then jumps back into her next 25 minute cycle.

After a grueling 40 minute commute, $10 Tim finally gets to his desk. He’s been playing email Whack-a-mole the entire car ride (even though he’s been pulled over in the past for texting while driving.)

As he sits down at his desk, masked up and armed with coffee #3, he fires open his email. Tim’s always had a soft spot for Inbox Zero. He’s got filters, rules, and shortcuts that facilitate this (meaningless) goal.

Last year, Tim considered abandoning the practice. He had read in one of Cal Newport’s books that regularly checking your email decreased your heart-rate-variability (i.e. that’s bad, especially given his high-blood pressure). He had also once read a paper from a consulting firm titled Multi-tasking is like working drunk.

Regardless, he can’t resist the dopamine hits of watching the messages disappear. As he starts swatting the emails away, he hones in on one email.

It’s from the guy. The dope-turned-multi-millionaire. He’s baiting Tim with the argument that Musk was indeed right – Bitcoin is really bad for the environment.

“Don’t do it, Tim. Don’t take the bait,” he says to himself. “You’ve got the big client review in two days.”

But it’s too late. He goes on to write a 200 word missive about Musk’s idiocy and how he should just keep his mouth shut.

His new analyst Lindsey peeks her head over his cubicle – sees the coffee, the bleary eyes and the frenetic typing and whispers to herself, “I guess we’re having another fire drill tomorrow.”

The afternoon

$10K Tina is on fire today. The yoga. Her team signed a new client. The team’s have really cracked the code on remote work. She’s got three touchbases this afternoon – so she opens up a Notion Dashboard for each direct report that clearly identifies open tasks, long-term projects and a communications log.

Tina’s fully engaged and present during each touch base. She consoles a colleague who just ended a 7 year relationship. Another is exploring Design School.

Gosh, she loves her team.

Meanwhile, come 1 PM $10 Tim is finally ready to dig into his big client review. But he screwed up. He tried to reboot his day with an In-and-Out burger. Big mistake. As he sweats out the grease, he shoots Lindsey an email. “Got time to talk about Thursday’s presentation?”

She pops over immediately. Thankfully for Tim, she’s on top of her game. She’s got the updated slides, financial model, and the talking points. Yet as he scans the materials, he’s distracted. He feels his phone buzzing in his pocket, probably an alert from Coinbase telling him he’s lost more money. He catches a glimpse of his email and the dope is still egging him on about Elon.

Lindsey can tell he’s just going through the motions. (In fact, Tim lost an analyst during COVID. The departing analyst delivered a sick burn during their exit interview: “Nice guy – manages like a toddler.”)

Tim’s way too distracted. And exhausted. He asks Lindsey if they can reconvene tomorrow morning.

Unsurprised, she goes back to her cubicle. “At least this gives me more time to prep for my interview next week.”

The evening wind-down

$10K Tina’s day “ends” at 3:45 today. Ever since her company went full-remote, they abandoned the concept of a true “workday.” Plus she’s supposed to take Kendall (her 8 year old) to his Little League game at 4pm. Feeling a bit frisky, she grabs her Yeti Rambler (a travel mug of sorts, for booze) and fills it with a heavy pour of RosΓ©.

“I deserve this,” she tells herself. Indeed, she does.

Tonight they’ll keep it simple and order pizzas. She grabs Kendall and his baseball equipment and they stroll over to the baseball field.

It’s the golden hour right before sunset.

They’re holding hands. And both of their hearts are filled with love.

$10 Tim gets home late because of an accident on the freeway. The re-opening of his office has significantly reduced the time he gets to spend with Ellie. He walks through the doors at 7:30 and his house is a ghost town. There’s a plate of Lasagna covered in aluminum foil, but the burger from lunch is sitting in his stomach like an anvil. He hears Kathy upstairs laughing to what sounds like Ted Lasso.

He sits down, takes a bite of cold lasagna and pulls open his Coinbase account. And right next to the plate he sees it.

The fairy from Ellie’s coloring book.

But now it’s fully colored.


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