The Journal

Ideas: where do they come from, how do you know when you’ve caught a good one, and what happens if you can’t think of any at all?

Ideas come to people in all manner of guises, whether as a eureka moment in the bath, as an apple falling onto your head, or when you the realise the principles in saw mill cyclone extraction can be applied to vacuum cleaners (5 points if you got all of the references there!).

Ideas come from simply anywhere so it’s very hard to manufacture an environment that consistently produces good ideas. What you can do though is to be there with a net to catch them when they do appear so they don’t flutter out of site and mind.

The best way to keep track of all ideas, good and bad, and to give them a chance to pupate and become something wonderful is to write them down.

My personal preference for keeping track of ideas is to always have a small notebook to hand in which I jot ideas down or describe everyday frustrations that could be addressed with a new idea. You don’t have to do anything with them right away but at least you won’t forget them and thus be short of ideas when you’re looking for the next big project.

So go on, buy a small notebook and get started, they only cost a fiver!

It’s time for some time off – 3 reasons taking time out is the best way to get more done.

Sometimes people work so hard they don’t have time to take time off. I’ve been one of those people a few times before and it’s not fun!

But here’s one thing I’ve realised (albeit a little too slowly for my liking)… forcing yourself to take time out every day can make you orders of magnitude more productive in the long run. How? In 3 different ways:

1. Time out gives you perspective

This is important as it allows you to see what work actually needs to be done now and what can wait.

For example: got a product launch in 4 months? Then why start on the website that far in advance if it’s only going to take a week to build/ change? If you allow 4 months it’ll take 4 months mixed in with everything else and thus you’ll be working more hours on it ultimately spend more hours on your business that were otherwise avoidable.

In the past I have spent weeks working a disproportionate amount of time on tasks that actually didn’t require as much work as I thought, or worse, weren’t even that important!

2. Time out makes you more efficient

The dreaded burnout. Everyone has one from time to time. When you work yourself to the bone on a project until your brain turns to mush and you can’t seem to bring yourself to work properly for a week or two after.

Overworking in my opinion can be a bit of a false economy. Let’s do the maths:

Say you work 60 hour weeks instead of 40 hour. Thus gaining 20 hours of “productivity” each week. How many of these hours are you working at 100% efficiency and not losing focus or getting distracted due to lack of sleep? If you’re currently working 60 hours a week at 60% efficiency – caused by tiredness, distractions etc. – then you’d be better off working 40 hours at 90% and getting the same amount of work done. And you’d then have 20 hours extra a week to spend doing something else!

60 hours per week at 60% productivity = 60/100 x 60 = 36 productive hours per week

40 hours per week at 90% productivity = 40/100 x 90 = 36 productive hours per week

Additionally when the inevitable burnout comes after working long hours for weeks on-end you’re going to lose a huge chunk of those hours of extra work you accrued anyway, so ultimately what’s the point of overworking yourself?

3. Time out is good for you

Time out is great as it allows you to keep on top of the other things in life… it’s not all meant to be work after all!

Whether you use this time to exercise and stay healthy, learn new skills or simply spend more time with friends and family, keeping on top of your life outside of work gives you more energy and motivation to apply to your work and helps you see clearly what you’re working for.

The Solution

This is all well and good but if you’ve been in the habit of working uber long hours day-in, day-out for months on end how on earth do you break this cycle for some much needed r&r?

Simple… treat your time off every day with the same discipline as your office work or meetings. Set a time at which you’ll drop everything each day and take a few hours off to do something else. Mark it in your calendar if you have to! Start small, say stopping half an hour early each day, and build up to something more significant slowly. This way you won’t feel the sudden shock of a drop in working hours which can sometimes make you feel like you’re “cheating” or “being lazy” if you’re used to overworking.

This is a routine I’ve been sticking to for a few months now and although it can be difficult at times it has done wonders for my productivity. I also have more time to exercise, cook (one of my favourite past times) and hang out with friend and family and I no longer feel overworked! Now when I’m setting meetings and telephone calls I ensure they fall within my new working day and not my old one.

So go on, give yourself some time out and let me know how you get on!

Be a “slacker”

Sometimes it can feel like every day is a manic race to the bottom of your to-do list.

But what if, to put it bluntly, your to-do list is full of rubbish?

  • That item you added 6 weeks ago… does it really still need doing?
  • Is the task at pride of place at the top of your agenda really that important?
  • Will these so called “critical” tasks truly further your business or could you avoid doing them altogether and not even notice the difference?

Sometimes it’s worth zooming out and viewing your business from 30,000 feet. That way you can see where you want to head and determine if what you’re working on is really helping you make steps in the right direction. Getting a clear picture like this is something that’s often only possible when viewing your business from the outside.

So go-on, give yourself a day off the to-do list and be a slacker. Have a think about your business as a whole and what your priorities really are. You might be surprised what a little time out can do.

After-all clearing your to-do list by erasing tasks that don’t need doing is much quicker than doing everything and is much more effective too!

How really needing to “go” can be great for business

Here’s something that I’ve discovered recently. Really needing to “go” can help you focus on the task at hand BIG TIME.

So what do I mean by this? Well imagine you’ve had a few too many cups of water/ tea/ coffee one morning and now nature is calling. Normally you just drop what you’re doing and go right? But what if you made yourself finish the task at hand before you went? That task would get done much quicker wouldn’t it?

This may sound ridiculous but it works, and why? Well you can think of this exercise like setting a self-imposed deadline on a task but one were your body is constantly making you aware that time is running out. This is one deadline you just can’t overrun after all! And, as we all know, without strict deadline things can take forever to finish. Just take a look at Parkinson’s Law –

“Work expands as to fill the time available for its completion”

To put it another way, if you allow yourself an hour to do a set task it will take an hour. If you allow yourself a day it will take a day. And if you allow yourself a week – you guessed it – it’ll take a week!

So next time you’re in the office and think you might need to “pop-out” challenge yourself to finish the task at hand first. You might just be surprised at how effective you become at getting it done.

P.S. – Obviously this tip only works for short-ish tasks. So if you’ve got a mammoth project that’ll take days to complete no matter what you do don’t, for the love of god, stay anchored to your desk chair for that long!

Yes, Yes, Yes!

I have a mantra of, when at all possible, saying yes to business opportunities that present themselves to me:

Example 1

Conference Organiser – Do I want to exhibit at an enterprise conference in 2 weeks?

Me – Yes!

Someone I met at the conference – Do you want to speak at an event in London in a few month’s time?

Me – Yes!

And these two events led to me doing one of my first professional presentation and making a heap of great contacts for my business!


Real-life example 2

Do I want to follow this business on Twitter?

Me – Yes!

Business I Followed – Do you want to be on a Q&A panel at an event we’re hosting soon?

Me – Yes!

Contact I made through the event – I have a contact at The Economist who might be interested in interviewing you. Should I put you in touch?

Me – Yes!

Contact I made through the event – I’m organising a meeting at Number 10 Downing Street soon. Would you like to be a part of it?

Me – Yes!

This series of events led to my business featuring in The Economist and being lucky enough to visit Number 10 Downing Street and see it from the inside!

You truly never know where opportunities might lead, so why say no out of habit or fear? Say yes and see what happens, I dare you.