A quick course on personal long term planning.

A plan, a map, a course

Happy New Year!

It’s an excellent time to sit, relax and ponder the future. What do you want to be, where do you want to go, and what is critical? As a coach, I am often asked for some quick tips or an immediate plan to help people gather all their ideas and put a little structure around their goal setting.

With that in mind, I have put together a mini-course for you on personal long term planning. I think the investment of less than an hour is well worthwhile.

 

You might already be familiar with parts of it, but I think that it creates a nice overall background. Let me know what you think.

 

I’m going to borrow from Stephen Covey because much of what he did is so fundamental to personal success.

 

First, watch this classic video about Big Rocks. The image quality is poor, but stick with it:

 

 

Then this short one from Idris Elba

 

 

Some more Covey:

 

(Read through all 7)

 

Then, I think this is the best article to read:

 

 

Next step –

Start! See where it takes you!I hope you have an excellent 2017!

Why I Love Founder Institute (And You Should, Too!)

hands-people-woman-meeting

And, just like that, I’ve graduated from Founder Institute.

In the middle of September this year I, along with 24 hopeful entrepreneurs, attended orientation for the Melbourne 2016 Founder Institute course. Founder Institute “is the world’s premier startup launch program for talented entrepreneurs”.

Essentially it’s a 3-month course taking people who want to be entrepreneurs through all the steps they may fudge around in over a period of three years. Instead of directionless faffing about, attendees undertake a directed program through stages such as “vision and ideas” and “product development” through to “bootstrapping and fundraising.

The goal of the program is to take the Silicon Valley philosophy and networks and distribute them around the world.

Entrepreneurs need to work hard

There is a lot of work each week, and it’s supposed to be a hard slog. When a course is promising to launch success-ready startups, the participants can’t be of the misguided belief that entrepreneurialism is easy.

Doing coursework 50 to 60 hours a week while holding down a regular gig, as well as attempting to allocate sufficient energy to family, friends and health dispelled any thoughts that starting something significant from scratch is for everyone.

Of the 25 who started, there were nine left at the end. Better odds than most Alien movies, but an illustration that, despite the best-laid plans, things can still go wrong. Founder Institute offers participants who drop out the opportunity to come back at a later semester, so dropping out is better referred to as “deferment”.

It’s all about the team

A highlight of the course was the other participants. We were allocated workgroups at the beginning, and our workgroup (TeamBlack) quickly bonded and became a huge source of support, encouragement and ideas. The benefits to having people who were going through exactly what I was going through were immeasurable and I came to look forward to the twice-weekly Skype chats.

It was while working with my workgroup that I learned a valuable startup lesson – People Like To Help.

You need to understand that I have just spent 20 years in the freight industry. Unfortunately, at least in Australia, the industry is not the model of trust, honesty and collaboration. I believe this is due to the red ocean philosophy predominant in logistics that the only source of new business is to take it from competitors.

Startups, on the other hand, are swimming in the blue ocean. There are unlimited opportunities to expand and develop new projects. In fact, competitors are beneficial as they validate a business model or industry segment.

Another benefit of Founder Institute was the access to a whole network of mentors and advisors.

Entrepreneurs like to help people

There is a strong Australian network of entrepreneurs, startup advisors and people with enormous experience in, and understanding of, the difference between starting a small business and launching a startup. Amazingly, they make themselves available to guys like me – just a middle-aged man with an idea.

For the price of coffee, it is possible to get thousands of dollars of advice. No strings attached. However, if (when?) people ask my advice, I will be ready and willing to give freely of my own time.

And now it begins

The next step is all up to me. Founder Institute, or any launch program, can only take one so far. The real work starts now. My startup, Passel, has received some seed investment, and I’ve got a couple of months to go and find some customers and suppliers, integrate a little tech and start delivering on my promise!

If you want to follow the journey, I do have a mailing list you can subscribe to here.

If you’ve been thinking about making the jump from worker to entrepreneur, you can learn more about the Founder Institute here.

Enjoy 2017,

Marshall

Passel helps retailers gain more sales by providing cheap, convenient and friendly same-day home deliveries for online orders.

Using a flexible crowd-sourcing platform, Passel manages local deliveries by people living and working in the local community.

Passel – same day online deliveries.

For more information, please visit www.passeldelivery.com or call Marshall Hughes on +61419134461.

My running story – how to get moving

running
Can I tell you a quick story?

I used to run a lot. Then I stopped. After awhile I decided to start running again.

I’d put all my running gear out the night before and go to bed with the alarms (545am, 547am, 550am) on my watch set and all excited about running 10km!

I can run 10km, I’ve run a marathon!

Then I would wake up in the morning and think:

  • I don’t feel 100%.
  • I don’t think I can run 10km.
  • I don’t want to run 10km.
  • It’s too cold, and it might rain.
  • I had too much creme caramel last night.

I’d kill the alarms and stay in bed for another hour.

This wasn’t an ideal thought process.

So I changed the plan. I decided that I would run 5km. I can run 5km quite quickly, even as unfit as I am.

I started getting up, and I ran a few 5kms. The running habit began to kick in. Running became part of my routine.

I structured my run, so there is a turning point. If I turned left, I would complete a 5km circuit. However, if I turned right, that opened up an 8km course or even 10km.

Some mornings I felt great and, even though I had set out only to run 5km, I’d turn right and run 8km. Sometimes (okay, rarely) 10km.

No matter what, my goal each morning was to get up and run 5km.

I was running again and that was the key.

Cool story, but how is it relevant to you?

Is there something you should do, but don’t? A task or project so big, it seems insurmountable? Or maybe you do need to exercise?

Maybe tomorrow, you could set aside 25 minutes doing something. Just start with 25 minutes.

You can find 25 minutes, right? And, surely, nothing is so distasteful that you can’t do it for 25 minutes.

So on your marks, get set, set a timer for 25 minutes, and go!

When the timer goes off, your worst case scenario is that you have accomplished 25 minutes of something. Even if you don’t do any more of that thing today, you’ve still got 25 minutes under your belt.

Then, tomorrow set yourself another 25 minutes of that task or project. C’mon. It’s only 25 minutes!

The next step is up to you. You can turn left or right, but at least you’re already running.

Quick help to get back on the productivity waggon

the productivity wagon
Sometimes, the coach needs coaching.

I had an unproductive day yesterday. I decided to work from home instead of going into my co-working space. A client call was cancelled, so I had an extra hour.

Instead of using it, I ended up watching John Butler play Ocean. More than once.

Hey, so maybe 3 or 4 different versions. It’s a beautiful piece of music. Then my morning drifted. I did finish my pitch deck, but that was probably 2 hours or real work that took 4 hours.

What I should have done was rebooted, reset, and re-energised. But I didn’t. I simply continued idling along. We all have these days. At work, we might find ourselves reading emails or checking job ads on LinkedIn. At home, we might spend a whole morning fussing over the best font for a blog post.

We all have these days. At work, we might find ourselves reading emails or checking job ads on LinkedIn. At home, we might spend a whole morning fussing over the best font for a blog post.

I asked my clients to share with me their tactics for when they realise they’ve fallen off the productivity waggon? What do they do when you need to get back to work?

I go for the low-hanging fruit. Work that doesn’t take a lot of commitment or brainpower, to build the momentum back up. Maybe it’s a quick email, or a project that I know will take less than 30 minutes. Better yet if that task is plucked from my backlog. The gratification of completing a low-stakes task shifts my mindset back to work. – Jason

I call an Ace. An ace for me is someone I know gives me business. Even though I know I got the biz, I pretend it’s a cold call even if we talked yesterday. Boom. Connection. I’m back. – Rob

2 things that work for me – one is to go for a walk or do some exercise. The other is if I’m stuck on something I’ll mindmap my thoughts – that often unblocks me really quickly. – Tim

A walk with my dogs is always great for clearing my head and I always feel refreshed and blessed afterwards.  – Dan
My mental state after blowing a few hours when I know I should have been doing something is that the whole day is a wash. My best hit rate with breaking that loop is to go running. Run, take a shower, feel good, go back to work. The whole process to reboot takes 1-2 hours in of itself, which is annoying, but I haven’t found anything else that works consistently. – Jon

 

I force myself to start with something small; like a quick email reply. A small victory that will generate traction to keep working. After this, you beat that initial inertia it gets easier to increase your output for the day.  – Phil

 

My prescription for retrieving productivity is a change of scene. If I can get as far as a cafe and just be around people, that usually re-focuses my attention. – Claudia

All good tips. I think the things that will best suit me are to pack up my gear and walk to my co-working space. That’s why I signed up to The Frankston Foundry in the first place?

What about you? Any tips or tricks to help get back on the Productivity Waggon?

 

 

 

When people ask what’s next after Myfreight

My Productivity Coach - Identify Simplify Amplify

Since announcing I am leaving Myfreight on June 30, I have been asked numerous times about my plans for the future.

Truth is, I don’t really have a concrete plan at the moment.

Most likely I’ll be doing a mix of the following:

 

1) emailhandyman – corporate email coaching. Some companies are burning thousands of hours a year with staff wasting time managing email. We aim to fix that through a simple system of triage, habits and folders.

 

2) My Productivity Coach – in person, online via coach.me, personal and business coaching. I’ve been doing this in my spare time for about 18 months and I’m interested in seeing where this goes.
Would you believe myproductivitycoach.com was available?

 

3) Consulting back to Myfreight from time to time.

 

4) Logistics/freight and IT consulting – as long as it doesn’t contravene the Myfreight non-compete agreement. There are no grey areas here!

 

5) Restaurant pockets – a solution to the lack of space on cafe tables and the overwhelming incidence of people not connecting with one another in cafes.

 

6) Beachies – kids onesies for the beach.

 

7) I’ve applied to Founder’s Institute for their August intake. I have about 50 ideas for tech startups. i enjoyed playing in this space with the development of Myfreight. I think I can repeat that success in new areas.

 

8) Drinking lots of coffee. I may switch to half decaf.

 

9) Other things I am unaware of.
Ideally, I’ll do 20-30 hours a week consulting and coaching while everything else ramps up over the next 6 months. I plan on being busy!

3 quick questions to help decide daily priorities

idea

“But how do I decide what to do right now?”

In my role as a Productivity coach at coach.me , I work with energised, high achieving individuals and the organisations they run. The biggest problem most of my clients face is maintaining focus and deciding which task is the most important out of the thousands of things that must be done immediately.

These unstoppable people don’t have reverse. They are full steam ahead on whatever task is in front of them. They’ll go without food and sleep to beat a deadline, launch a project or secure a deal.

But, what do they choose? How do they decide what to work on, right now?

I have been trying to simplify a system of prioritising, either for daily tasks or individual projects. The question is – can we distill all the productivity information flying around into something basic, fast and effective?

My clients don’t have time to spend an hour a day prioritising and sifting through the work in front of them. Shifting goalposts in their market and new developments mean they have to be agile and they need to be able to get to work on their most important tasks as soon as possible.

As a coach, being able to help these people achieve their goals is hugely satisfying. So I need a solution for them that at least starts to address the question:

“When I have 20 things I have to do right now, which one do I start with?”
 
I’m not sure I have the answer yet, but I think the following shows promise.
 

There are three key cornerstone concepts to Productivity:

 

1) This quote:
“Besides the noble art of getting things done,
there is the noble art of leaving things undone.
The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
Lin Yutang, 1895 – 1976

 

Essentially, most of your output is the result of a small amount of input. Most people spend too much time on things that don’t matter.

 

3) Batching.
Quite simply, doing similar things sequentially. For example, if you have 5 phone calls to make, then make them one after the other. Check email twice a day instead of every hour.

 

Don’t confuse batching with multi-tasking. Attempting to multi-task ensures work takes longer and is of a potentially sub-optimal standard.  Science proves this.

 

To summarise:

Focus on the important/discard the non-important, apply Pareto’s rule and batch work.

 

Which brings us to three quick questions when deciding what gets done:

 
1) What can I leave undone?
 
2) What one thing will have the biggest impact?

3) When is the best time to do that?

 

As I said, it’s a start.

 

Feedback, questions, comments and criticism are all welcome.

Wasting time contravenes the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights

wasting time

 

Time, all the time

If you read productivity books or speak to any professional about effectiveness and efficiency, you’ll hear mention of time more frequently than is possible to count. It’s everywhere and time management is the flavour of the month. I Googled “time management blogs” and returned 2,900,000 results.

We’re spending a lot of time talking about time.

Further investigation reveals that there are a few mainstream beliefs about time management that seem to attract few arguments:

1) Planning is probably good, but not too much planning and not rigid planning;

2) You should plan to do important things first, but not always, and there is flexibility in the definition of important; and

3) Time is finite. A non-renewable resource. It is the most precious commodity.

I’m going to focus on time as a finite resource. More precisely I am going to focus on how, by wasting the time of others, you are not only committing the biggest productivity sin of all, you are also violating their fundamental human rights as outlined in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But first, this

This post is 1362 words long. At an average reading speed of 200 words per minute, you are about to invest 7 minutes in reading it. I think it’s worth the investment, but is right now the best time to read? Are you supposed to be doing something else? Is there an important phone call you need to make, a report to write or a boat to build?

If so, then please, stop reading and go and put your mind and body to that other task. Reading articles (no matter how well written) should not be at the top of your priority list.

It’s okay; these words will still be here when you return.

Finite and non-renewable

Without delving into science I don’t understand, I think we can agree that time is most likely a finite resource. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. There is no undo or redo button.

Of course, Seneca said it better – “Counting even yesterday, all past time is lost time”.

It was true 2000 years ago, it’s true now, and, even if I understood the movie “Interstellar” correctly, it might be true in the future.

That second that just passed is gone. No value can be placed on an item that cannot be repackaged, rebundled, reused and resold. We can’t barter on getting that second back or change what it was used to accomplish.

Time is finite, non-renewable, and therefore infinitely valuable.

We cannot afford to waste a second

I’m with Ray Kurzweil, and others, in wanting and believing that living forever is possible. Even with that in mind, time is still too valuable to be wasted. Never, ever, should we look back at a moment, a day or a year and say “well, that was a waste of time”.

Even though I plan on living forever, I may not. Hell, I may not even survive this sentence. My heart might give up; I might choke on my espresso or a truck may drive through the front window of this café.

Every minute we survive needs to mean something. There needs to be a constant sense of the value of the activity, the choices we make and how we choose to spend the enormous wealth constantly surrounding us.

Doing nothing may not equal wasting time

I’m not proposing going hard at life 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I don’t believe we should spend every second of the day hunched over a keyboard, an engine or a patient. Time and work are not the same things. Productivity and output are totally different concepts.

There are times when sitting on the sofa for 2 hours reading a magazine is the best thing you can do. Whether it’s washing your car, or standing in line waiting for the best barista to craft you a flat white, or sitting on the beach with your toes in the warm sand, all these things are fine.

If.

If.

If you shouldn’t be doing something else. This is the key. Downtime is crucial to sustained success. Burning out isn’t a sign of Productivity, it’s a sign of a lack of foresight and prioritising. Crashing your car because you are too tired because you stayed up all night finalising a report is not the optimum outcome and does not illustrate good decision making.

So do those things that relax and recharge you. Invest time in yourself. You are worth it!

Everyone’s time has equal value

Not only can we not afford to waste our own time, but how can we be so egotistical and sociologically insane as to think it is acceptable to waste someone else’s time? What is wrong with people who believe this to be a fair exchange? My priorities over someone else’s, or my search for meaning in place of your struggle?

The person you drag into the 3-hour meeting, the co-worker you email at 10 pm because you’re stressed about the final proposal or the supplier you make wait in reception for 15 minutes so you can power frame them in an amateur display at negotiation. These are people whose time you have wasted.

Their time means something. It means the same to them as your time means to you. By definition, a commodity with an infinite value is of equal value to them as it is to you.

In fact, the sin of wasting someone else’s time might just be the worst of all. How do we, as a society grasp the concept of “acceptable” waiting and delays? Is it okay to be 5 minutes late? Maybe. What about 15 minutes? What about 30 minutes?

How do we account for stealing 15 minutes of someone’s time? Can we apply a discount or a surcharge to the next invoice, can we give them some of our time or do we just smile and make an excuse?

There is no excuse

No. There is no excuse and there is no possibility of adequate compensation. We have stolen from them something much more valuable than all the money in their pockets, their intellectual property, or their car and home. We have robbed them of the freedom to choose how to spend their time.

It’s done; it’s gone. Whatever opportunities that time held have now passed. Was there a phone call they could have made or a quick IM they may have sent? All the things that could have been accomplished. In fact, we’ll never know because we don’t get to find out.

We stole their time and we need to promise humanity we will never do that again.

Take the pledge

Commit, from this second, to never waste anyone’s time.

Please don’t ask to waste another’s time, because most often they will say yes. Most people will gladly offer you time, especially if they don’t see the true value it has. In fact, even if they are fully cognizant of the value of their time, many people will say yes so that they don’t feel terrible for rejecting your request.

It’s your responsibility to be conscious of the price others pay when you ask them for a minute, or to attend a meeting, or to read a document. Is the matter so significant that they should sacrifice a small amount of their precious time to you? Is it vital that they should place your needs, wants and desires above their own?

Let’s start a campaign to right these wrongs.

Join me, fellow anti-time wasting crusader, and take the pledge:

“I, <insert name>, armed with the knowledge that time is finite and infinitely valuable, promise never to waste anyone’s time.”

Once you’ve taken the pledge, live the promise. Be the one who cares about everyone’s time and is thoughtful, kind and generous when spending the finite resources of others. Be the change you want to see in the world!

But what about violating our fundamental human rights?

I didn’t forget. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights “sets out…fundamental human rights to be universally protected.”

I contend that wasting the time of others is a violation of Articles 1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 17, 18, 20 and 23.

Feel free to leave a comment below. I will respond to all comments when I have time.

My task management system

 task management
I try and keep it as simple as possible.
I’m somewhat dependent on Evernote. It’s on all my devices. I grab links, take photos and jot down notes. In fact, I’m so dependent on Evernote that I subscribe to Premium, even though I don’t know what extra benefits I receive.

I have a note called “Someday Maybe”, and another called “Projects to do”.

Both lists have headings:

Managerpedia (my personal blog)
My Productivity Coach (my new business)
Coach.me (the habit tracking/training coaching platform)
Home and Family

 

On a periodic basis (sometimes weekly and sometimes more frequently) I take items from Someday Maybe note and move them to Projects to Do.

 

Every morning, I look at my diary and check to see what meetings and other commitments I have and figure out how much time I have left over. I’m always conservative with my time because invariably there will be surprises.

 

Then, I grab the tasks from Projects to Do that are either most urgent, more important, or a mix of both and note them down on a “half index card”. On a weekday, I have one side for Myfreight and the other half for a bit of everything else. I call the other side “Me”. On the weekends, there’s just one side – “Me”.

I work on the items on the index card. I don’t number them. I tend to grab the ones I feel like doing. For example, today’s list for “Me” was:

Write a letter to get out of speeding fines. (Home and Family)
Publish blog post for managerpedia. 
Load a week of content into buffer.
Write a blog post about My Task Management System
Coaching
Order more Trubrain. (“biohack” might still work as a 25% discount coupon)
Buy new running shoes. (Pearl Izumi Road N2)

 

Apparently, I’m writing the blog post now. After that, it’s just coaching, and I’m done.

It’s not a perfect system, but I find it simple to maintain and resilient to random events. Some days I don’t get everything done, but I rarely miss anything genuinely important.

 

On the many days when I finish everything I enjoy the sense of satisfaction as I rip up the card, sit down and read, or talk to some folks.

 

What about you? Can you suggest improvements or do you have alternatives I should consider?

Let me know in the comments.

Do not check work email outside of business hours

email after hours

Do not check work email outside of business hours

If you work in a job where you have to be contactable outside of business hours because if something happens you can actually do something to make it better then stop reading now.

Otherwise, for the other 99% of us, let me relate a personal story.

A couple of weeks ago, I accidentally checked my email after work hours. I don’t know why I did it. It was a relapse.

There was only one email there and it was a customer with something that could be interpreted as “bad news”. My heart rate went up and I felt really worried about the bad news. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything, except forward the email to a colleague. The work required to identify whether the email was “bad news” couldn’t be done until I was in the office the next morning.

Went to bed late, woke up at 2. Didn’t get back to sleep until 6. 

The next morning my colleague and I decided it wasn’t bad news. We worked for a couple of hours and established the bad news was not bad news. Everything was ok. But now I was just tired…

Fast forward to that night. Because I am a slow learner I checked my email again. And guess what? “Bad news” from a supplier about the same customer as the night before. Email colleague, stress, go to bed, wake up in the middle of the night, get two hours sleep. 

Next morning – it’s ok. The “bad news” was just my misinterpretation of the data. 

I’m still trying to catch up on the 8 hours sleep I missed.

Do not, ever, check your email outside of business hours.

If you cannot do anything about the content of an email then don’t read it.

When you check work email outside of business hours you risk causing yourself stress at a time when you can not doing anything to alleviate it.

Let’s work through the typical excuses for checking email outside of business hours:

It might be important. Yes, it might be. But if you can’t do anything about it until business hours you’re just increasing your stress levels.

I am important. The more important you are, the more important it is that you are performing at your optimum level at work. Reading business emails, when there’s nothing you can do until business hours, has the potential to cause stress and anxiety. Use your time away from work to relax, recharge and get ready to face the working day.

It might be urgent. Email is not for urgent situations. If you have a mobile phone, make it known you will answer it. In an urgent situation, take the call and deal with the situation.

Checking work email after hours is often something people do in their idle moments whilst itching their phones. My ongoing temptation to check work email is one reason why I no longer access email on my phone. There is a feeling that simply by reading email we are somehow working. By reading an email we are doing something.

For most of us, this isn’t true. We are reading email and by doing so have completed the task of reading email.

In my day job, business is pretty much contained in 9-5. Mostly. I check email at 12 and at 4 daily and an email autoresponder lets people know this and advises they call me when urgent. I ripped this idea from the four-hour workweek and more information can be found here.

I’ve found that this removes the expectation from co-workers, suppliers and customers that I will be checking my email outside of business hours.

After deleting my mail from my phone, setting my iPad to “fetch” instead of “push” I have found that it actually requires me to consciously and deliberately check my email. This creates a big enough psychological gap for me to be able to stop and think “no!”.

My evenings and weekends are a little bit more relaxed. I am mentally and physically present with my friends and family, and my work hasn’t suffered.

If you’re keen to try it, let me know how it goes.

Get coached on Coach.me

Email is in your inbox – FAD it

My "work" inbox, Friday just after lunch
My “work” inbox, Friday just after lunch

FAD

File, Act or Defer.

Take no prisoners, get that email moving now.

File – Move it to Archive (Read, Done, a shoebox)
Act – (this is good only if it is 1-2 minutes of work required) – then move it to Archive.
Defer – either flag it for follow up at a specific day and time, create a task, or set a calendar reminder – then move it to Archive.
Do not, ever, leave mail in your inbox!
For more inbox tips, I offer coaching on coach.me. Use code MARSHALLWEEK to get a free week.

Get coached on Coach.me

Agree, disagree? Comments are welcome.