This is just a quick post updating on how I’ve recently been justifying why it’s perfectly acceptable taking two hours over lunch, with a bit of insight into the Kenyan culture of “doing business with who you know”.

Introduction

As context, now that I’ve begun working on projects with a roster of clients I’ve become acutely sensitive to how I spend my time.

Looking back on my time in formal employment I’ve noticed that there were two things:

  1. There’s always stuff to do
  2. (More or less) you’ll still get paid at the end of the month

In this new lifestyle of having a much more direct link between what you do and earning money, it really sharpens in on what makes things important.

So… what’s important

With this greater degree of flexibility, there are then many more choices that you can make about how to spend your waking hours.

I’ve found myself evaluating each action and, in a terribly unscientific manner, sought out articles that justified not spending 12 hours a day with the foot on the pedal. Of the ones I’ve read, the award for the best clickbait title goes to: Darwin was a slacker, and you should be too. It’s a good read.

Anyway, from the way that I’ve been spending my days, on top of the things I do where I get directly paid, there have been a couple of activities that have risen to the top.

Thinking

Or more specifically, setting aside time to research and reflect.

It’s been a disconcerting notion to finish up for the morning and then spend several hours (on a weekday!!!) flicking going over notes that I’d made and processing some of the thoughts I’d had tucked away.

Having meetings

The work I’m doing on the ground requires having meetings and building relationships with companies in Nairobi.

In the UK it seems that success might count as managing to condense all of the necessary information into a 20 minute Skype call so that we could then got on with the rest of our day.

In Kenyan though, it’s been different.

The typical arrangement when I meet someone for lunch/ coffee is to kick back and not really worry about what’s happening after. Sometimes it’ll be 2 hours before the bill comes and we decide to head off.

“Building relationships” is the excuse I tell myself for taking time on face-to-face

Numerous people have commented how (in a relatively lower trust environment) getting to know someone is a pre-requisite for entering a business arrangement, and so I’m happy to believe that.

How should you spend your time?

The types of material that I find myself reading is biased towards looking at things objectively, being mindful of what you do, and generally focusing on only what’s important.*

What’s interesting is that almost all of these have a “meetings are toxic” philosophy: time should be spent doing “deep work” and not cut up by intermittent blocks of time sitting in a room nodding your head.

I know it’s slightly different, but still I’m feeling a pang of dissonance each time I agree to open-ended invitation for lunch.

What I’m attempting to reconcile is whether the “old school” business principle of spending time meeting people is here to stay, or whether the wave of being productive and saying “no” to meeting people (unless there’s a specific agenda) is something which will take over.

For now though, I’m happy to leave that to one side, enjoy getting to know people in Kenya and still calling it “work”.

 

*Note: if you’re looking for a weekly digest of interesting material, then I can highly recommend the Sunday afternoon email sent by Mish & Rob, and (a bit heavier) the Farnam Street blog, whose tagline is: Thinking about thinking.