Work Fast | Think Slow

There is a growing trend in businesses to work fast.

To work in short sprints. To get tasks over the line and stop them from lingering. The prevalent software development working-practices of ‘sprints’, ‘scrums’ and all things ‘agile’ are starting to spread across other industries. This is good.

I think that there is a lot that other fields of business could benefit and learn from agile working practices.

However, the same principle does not apply to ‘thinking’ about a problem or task and how to solve it.

Work fast – Yes. Think fast – No.

Thinking and doing are two very different animals. Doing can be done fast only if we have invested the time upfront to think it through and plan it.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes solving it.”

– Albert Einstein

And so this is where the danger lies. Diving into tasks with little forethought. Eager to get the task done. Things can then rapidly start to go awry or even break-down completely. We need to take the time out to think slowly first. To adequately prepare for the task at hand. To have conversations. Determine expectations of all stakeholders. Learn from previous similar tasks. Set deadlines, responsibilities and outputs.

Think slow and then work fast should be the order of the day.

There’s Nothing Like a Deadline to Get the Job Done!

The run up to Christmas always demonstrates how much we can get done when we have a deadline. It’s a bit like when we’re about to head off on holiday and we’re amazed about the amount of work that we can get done when we put our heads down and get to work.

There’s nothing like a deadline to get the job done!

So this makes you think about how important setting a deadline is in the first place. If we did this more often with tasks, then we could get more done in a shorter amount of time, leaving us with more free time to do the things that we want to do.

Work will always fill up our time if left to its own devices.

Parkinson’s Law states that a task will fill the amount of time that you allocate for it. We’ve all experienced this phenomena, right? Where we set to work on a task to complete and it takes a full day (and we just about squeeze it in) then later on that week, we have a bigger task and less time (say a morning) yet we still get this task done. How did that happen…?

Errr, it’s in the deadline.

Whatever time you allocate (assuming that you allocate any time at all…?) then the task will invariably fill it. On the flip side, if you had set up say a couple of hours to get a task done, you would more than likely get it done entirely or at least get the majority of it done within that two hour time frame – as opposed to perhaps a full day or even longer if you let it have an open end.

Maybe that should be our New Year’s resolution –  to set deadlines (hard meaningful deadlines) for every task and to get it scheduled in our calendar with a set amount of time to complete it. We can then have more time to enjoy the finer things in life (but just don’t set a time-limit on those things ;)).

You Just Need To Crunch The Numbers

Sometimes you have a hunch that business isn’t going right. The cash in the bank is not building as it should. Customer numbers seem down. Yet you seem to be adding more staff.

Something just doesn’t feel right….but your intuition usually is right….

At times like this, you just need to sit down and crunch the numbers. 

It doesn’t matter whether you have some fancy software or a pen and paper. All work as well as each other, as long as you set the time aside to work through the figures. To find trends or blockages. Or costs that have got out of kilter. Percentages such as gross profit and net profit allow you to get a handle on how the business is performing. Mapping forward likely revenue (income) and costs helps you see where you might end up…

None of this is rocket-science in running a business but it’s easy to overlook – as you get caught up in the day-to-day running of it.

Tomorrow is a Friday. Take out a pencil and paper and start to jot down your revenue to date and costs to work out your profit (or loss) for your financial year so far. Then take it from there.

Poke. Prod. Challenge yourself and your business to do better over the next 12 months.

Is the “How To” Content Marketing Strategy Dead (I think so)?

Neil Patel, the uber online SEO marketing genius, has started to talk about the death of the traditional content marketing strategy.  That it is the end of writing long and in depth “how to” blog posts to get inbound leads.

Why does he think this? Because there is now a surplus (more than ever) of these sorts of posts. It has reached a tipping point so, we have to face facts that, you’ll likely never get picked up by Google by blogging with How To style content.

So what’s the solution?

Getting personal. Yes, adding your own unique “take” on an issue or adding your personal “insights” seems to be the way to go moving forward. This approach is, by its very nature, unique – as there’s only ever ONE you.

Gary Vaynerchuk has been talking about “documenting rather than creating” content for a while.

You can see this in the success of Insta-stories. People are more interested in “getting to know” the people they follow. You just don’t get the same connection through a wall of “how to” text. So it’s becoming a turn off. And Google probably knows that…

So maybe I should eat my own dog-food and start putting more of the real me out there. You too? Now that’s the scary bit!

What do you think?

Sunday Thoughts: What Tasks Could You Take Away This Week?

As I sit here and plan my week ahead, the list of tasks that I need to complete seems to get longer and longer. Week on week.

We all seem to have ever-expanding “to-do lists”!

So at times like these I think to myself: maybe I need to ask myself a better question… And I came up with this question:

What tasks could I take away this week?

Hmmmm, thinking about what I do in a typical week, I need to consider what tasks I could either: eliminate, automate or outsource/delegate?

Writing down a list of repeated tasks on a piece of paper, I add these three columns with these three titles. And start to allocate tasks between the columns where possible. Already I can see possibilities to free up time.

I recommend you try this for the week ahead. See what tasks you might be able to stop doing altogether or automate (using apps like Zapier and IFTTT) or outsource/delegate.

We can’t keep adding more. We need to explore ways to take tasks away.

Unexpected Benefit of using Steempress with WordPress for Blogging

I’ve been using Steempress for a few months now as I like the fact that I can continue to add content to this blog at BusinessN2K, whilst continuing to get credit on Steemit.

An unexpected added benefit happened a couple of weeks ago when my self-hosted website went down. I haven’t sussed out exactly what went wrong (I ain’t no techie) but – long story, short – I lost all my blog posts over the past few months on my WordPress blog…

But all was not lost – the good ole Steem blockchain continues to host them!

Never envisaged that as a reason to use both but it’s good to have a backup and even better to have it on the blockchain – the future is here!

Surprises can be a surprise…

So it’s my wife’s birthday and, sure I could step out on a limb and go buy her something – a surprise something – that I think she might love, but then again, she might not.

Meanwhile there’s a whole bunch of stuff that she’s dropped some (not so subtle hints!) that she would like.

So I either go for the surprise option or I get her what I know she would like.

When I put it like that, it’s obvious which option I should go for. But why do we feel compelled to go for the ‘surprise option’?

I suspect (or fear) that it’s actually our own ego that we’re stroking when we choose to go for the surprise option. We want to knock it out of the park and delight the recipient and give ourselves a warm glow… like we knew more about what they wanted more than them. 

Or am I missing something?

P.S. Which option do you think I went for: surprise or not so subtle hint(s)?

They Don’t Build Them Like That Anymore

We wandered around the streets of Florence, in Italy earlier this year, mouths agape, gazing up a spectacular buildings, awe-inspiring marble statutes and ornate piazzas.

gift from 100’s and even 1,000’s of years of human imagination, (lost) skills and hard graft. To carve and sculpt the stone before carting and building up those proud monuments – all without the labour-saving machinery that we enjoy today? Built on blood, sweat and tears.

As I admired this skill and beauty, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of guilt. Guilt about our generation, and what we’re leaving behind as our legacy to the world. Our gift for future generations to enjoy.

What are we leaving (or failing to leave) for future generations to admire…? Picture our descendants wandering around our streets (that we built) with ice-creams melting in hand, unable to tear they’re eyes away from the beauty and magistery of…….erm…..streets of identical looking bungalows, 1960s high-rise flats, state-of-the-art (read: cheap) venues like cinemas and concert halls….

Where has the artistry gone? Human ingenuity. Our most beautiful relics are seemingly solely from many generations ago. And not being replaced.

Are we no longer building things to last?

Rules to Live By #001

Two things you must never delegate or hand over control in your business:

  1. Managing your bank payments to suppliers etc
  2. Sales and marketing activities

The rest is all fair game to be delegated, outsourced or whatever you care to call it…

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

“The Quality of Your Life is Determined by the Quality of the Questions that You Ask Yourself”

If this quote is true, it begs the question whether we have been digging deep and asking ourselves those powerful questions that might help shape our lives…?

Here are a few to get you thinking:

  1. “Who” not “How”? (don’t try to do it all – find those that already have the skills and hire them)
  2. Do you want to work for your business or do you want your business to work for you?
  3. What are your unique skills? What could you do all day and feel in the flow?
  4. If money was no object, what would you be doing right now?
  5. What is stopping you doing that thing that you answered for Q.4. (hint: it’s probably not solely down to ‘money’)

What are the most powerful questions that you have heard or live by…?