Spend Time On What Matters with Will Larson CTO @ Calm #30


Will Larson CTO @ Calm shares with us how to focus your time on what actually matters. You’ll hear about many of the common traps engineering leaders fall into and his frameworks to help you better target your time to focus on long-term, high-impact work.

"A lot of times they'll be like, 'Oh no one's working on this... I can make a huge improvement here!' But then they'll get signals from leadership that 'Actually this isn't valued...' And so I think it's really important to understand what SHOULD be valuable, and then understand what IS actually valued, and then make your own decisions based on that in terms of where you want to put your time."



Will previously working at places like Stripe, Uber, and Digg. He's been writing on his blog, Irrational Exuberance, since 2007 with 600+ different posts covering tons of topics on engineering leadership, management and career.

He is also the author of “An Elegant Puzzle” and his *NEW* book “Staff Engineer: Leadership Beyond the Management Track” Follow Will on Twitter @Lethain

Here is the interview Will referenced with Aaron Suggs (engineering sponsorship & being a ‘frequent first follower’)



  • When Will confronted the existential question “Am I actually working on what matters?” (3:56)
  • Where most people go wrong when evaluating how they spend their time (8:52)
  • How to focus on long-term impact and avoid short-term “snacks” & “preening” (10:12)
  • How to navigate a company that recognizes high visibility work over high-impact work (13:12)
  • How to mitigate & reduce status-chasing in your teams (16:09)
  • What high-visibility, low impact work looks like with engineering leaders (18:20)
  • “Chasing Ghosts” and the trap of projecting familiarity onto problems (20:59)
  • How to catch yourself “chasing ghosts” (27:31)
  • Focus on what really matters by seeking the “existential issues” & where there’s “Room AND Attention” (32:10)
  • How to identify and anticipate future existential issues with the “Iterative Elimination Tournament” (35:28)
  • Creating “Room and Attention” & identifying your unique capabilities as an eng leader (38:20)
  • Get projects unstuck and prioritized fast by “Lending Privilege” (42:11)
  • Why Will wrote his new book - “Staff Engineering: Leadership Beyond the Management Track” (45:42)
  • Takeaways (48:40)



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