Nice to meet you, and hey to Eduardo! 🙂
First I’ll answer generally, and then specifically (i.e. how I do it with my specific things).
Generally speaking, you have to prioritize what’s most important to you, let go of the small stuff, learn to say no, and stop working on side projects or ask for help to keep them going.
In my case, I ask for help. And it works.
So. I’m a full-time dad and a full-time (and busy!) Automattician, and those are my full-time, day-in, day-out focuses. The rest is possible by having great teams, trusting them to do what they do, and checking in with them as frequently as need be.
For An Event Apart, there’s a lot of editorial work to be done choosing the best speakers, helping them hone in on the most relevant topics, and arranging those topics editorially in each AEA conference. I can’t hand that work off. It needs me. I email and meet weekly with staffer/producer/editorial consultant Toby Malina and partner/co-founder Eric Meyer, and reach out to speakers via email and calls as needed. The billions of hours of additional work needed to mount a successful conference are handled entirely by the brilliant Marci Eversole. I trust her with my life.
The conference enhances the knowledge I’m able to bring to my work at Automattic, since I’m constantly interacting with and learning from some of the very best designers, developers and strategists in our industry. Automattic is an open source company dedicated to democratizing publishing and sharing knowledge. An Event Apart is about sharing knowledge about the open web. The values are in sync, and the time I put into An Event Apart, although it’s done outside of Automattic business hours, is in some ways, conceptually, also work I do for Automattic.
A List Apart functions because of the brilliance and hard work of our crew, including Aaron Gustafson, Michelle Kondou, Brandon Gregory, Mica McPheeters, Dougal Macpherson, Tatiana Mac, Adrian Roselli, Rachel Andrew, Dezzie Garcia, Sara Wegman, and many other extraordinarily gifted people (all listed on that Masthead), who review submissions, work with authors to fine-tune them, and manage the many other tasks that go into creating a low-volume, high-quality web publication. All I need to do is read the article drafts and weigh in on the discussions as to their merits. That’s something I’d do for pleasure anyway. It takes less time than I spend watching TV or going to the gym—because the team is that good, and their collective intelligence is that powerful.
Since moving from our old platform to WordPress (with the incredibly able assistance of Tiffany Bridge and the Automattic Special Projects team, which is how I fell in love with that team, and which led indirectly to my taking a job there), we’ve also been able to bring our Italian publication edited by creative director Valeria Brigatti in-house, instead of treating it as an external publication. Again, all I had to do was say, “Yes, please.”
A Book Apart is, I think, an important addition to the canon of great books for people who design, write, and code. I co-founded it with Jason Santa Maria, and in the beginning, we were very busy setting it up, but today, and for several years, CEO Katel LeDu has done EVERYTHING. Jason and I weigh in a book proposals and give Katel our thumbs-up when she proposes big changes to how the company works, but it’s really all Katel and her staff and consultants at this point.
I could not run the three Aparts myself. I could not even run one of them myself. Finding good partners. People worthy of trust. People with talent and work ethics you can depend on. That’s the secret.