Thursday, 30 April 2009

What Turns You On?

What’s your currency of stimulation? What gets you going?

For maximising your juggling abilities; inspiring a solution to your latest challenge or getting that required motivation – know what drives you.

Is it an early morning swim? A run? The view from your window? An alfreso lunch with a glass of wine? You need to know what it takes to get the most out of work and life.

If walking to the top of a mountain drives your productivity and happiness, act on it. Go and find a mountain!

If you’re best at 06:00 or best at 22:00, act on it – start early or work late.

Be self-aware of your stimuli and wherever possible, build them into your working practices, into your lifestyle. And RE-DESIGN YOUR WORKLIFE accordingly. If you’re crap before 10:00 have a policy of not doing breakfast meetings. If you’re best after a gym session or a cycle, do it. Ditto your daily espresso, tulips on your desk, the Foo Fighters on your ipod, your lunch break in the park, whatever IT is that turns you on.

For Kevin Roberts his stimuli are different homes with different vibes; also his 12,000 tracks on the iPod, his 4 books he reads at any one time. For me it’s the change of perspective and focus of a journey somewhere; for my editor Sarah it’s fresh flowers, a clean and clear environment.

If you don’t feel in the right zone, try and break it. Switch projects. Go for a run, for a coffee, put the kettle on. Walk away from your desk. Go and read a book for half an hour.

Pause. And then wait for the results. And watch that inspiration flow; your energy levels lift or the eureka moment realised.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

How To Juggle Not Struggle When You Have A Demanding Workload

  1. Doing business and performing our job roles is getting harder. Our employers and clients are placing bigger demands on our time and our to-do lists are filling up fast. With more and more ‘stuff’ to do how do we ensure we juggle rather than struggle? Here are a few tips:

    1) Chunk it down! Sometimes everything can seem daunting, when we have a growing workload and looming deadlines. So try breaking big challenges down into tangible – practical - tasks and actions. It will make the impossible possible.

    2) Don’t try to do it all at once. Whilst the temptation might be to answer all those emails, update the spreadsheet and write the document at the same time, don’t! Do one at a time. Segment the working day into separate disciplines, start the day with dealing with emails, sit down with a coffee to brainstorm the more difficult tasks.

    3) Cancel the crap/ lose the non essential. Got a meeting in the schedule that is not critical to happen this week when you’re so manic? Cancel it and free up some time.

    4) Focus on getting stuff done. Rather than drifting from one task to another, focus on ticking things off the to-do list and achieving results. If you find you’re drifting and haven’t achieved anything all morning, try going through your actions, one by one.

    5) The worst thing you can do when you’re mega busy is to over-work yourself. Whilst success is likely to be about getting up earlier and working longer, remember it’s counter productive to keep on working when you’re stressed or tired. So, know when to raise the drawbridge and to quit for the day.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Remember To Come Up For Air...

*This is another excerpt from my new book 'Juggle!'

You're busy. Leaping from one meeting to another, juggling different agendas. Then you have a call to make; you switch off Tweetdeck while you write that report your boss is waiting for. The day is destined to be back-to-back priorities with no time for anything else.

4 words of advice:
Come up for air.

Remember to resurface to:
- Take a breath and glance at your to-do list.
- Suddenly remember, ‘oops I said I'd call the client back by 4’ or perhaps, ‘oops, I forgot the card for our wedding anniversary tomorrow’.
- Have a breath of fresh air (literally).
- Grab a coffee.
- Take time out for that ‘eureka’ idea.

The trouble is that so many of us get embedded in our working lives, we throw ourselves headlong into our jobs, giving that inevitable 110%. And the better we do, the more stuff we get thrown at us. New responsibilities, new projects, new divisions to run, new people to manage. Which means we become very adept at running stuff, but not so good at thinking about stuff.

And in order to be get more out of life, you need to be good at the ideas bit. Coming up for air will free yourself from clutter and will give you the clarity to be open to new opportunities that if you had your head down in a panic, you may have missed.

Remember, you’re not going to have those ‘eureka’ moments at your desk.. Go for a coffee, go for a walk, go on an Inspiration Jaunt, do anything and everything other than sitting at your desk.

Coming-up-for air is really valuable on days when you are manic, because it's the last thing you think you have time for as you are so pushed for time. But if you didn't surface for air and stand back for a minute there'll be stacks of stuff you'll overlook or just plain forget.

So, whether it's for that 'oops' moment, to get a fresh perspective or to take 5 minutes out, get some air.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

7 Tips To Sharpen Your Job Hunting Skills

In the last couple of weeks I have mentored and advised a handful of people seeking advice in the job market. A woman in her 20s seeking a career change, a senior guy just made redundant, a cousin looking to rediscover a role he feels passionate about. Sure, the job market in 2009 is tough (but when was it ever easy?) but here are some tips to sharpen your job hunting skills:

1) When you’re selling yourself to a prospective employer, it’s all about telling your story so make sure you can knit your career history (however random and disparate) into a narrative. 2) Don’t try and be something you’re not - aim for a role/ company culture that is consistent with your own personality.
3) Make sure you do a good ‘sell’ both in interview and how you communicate your personal brand. Use a blog and tools like Linked In as your shop-window.
4) Don’t just look in the obvious places for jobs; make tailored speculative approaches to companies and brands you are passionate about. Use the internet to research, research, research your targets. You might get lucky.
5) Make the most of your personal contacts, friends & family, because – of course – who you know counts.
6) Be super pro-active and rapid in going for opportunities, in following-up enquiries/ interviews because success might be about who’s quickest and keenest.
7) Try and identify how you are better than the next candidate, what makes you distinctive, what insight or skills make you more valuable?

There’s more job-hunting advice from me in this feature ‘More Skill Than Luck’ in The Guardian from earlier in the year.

The merits of giving stuff out for free

Chris Anderson, the author of The Long Tail, has written a new book ‘Free: The Future of a Radical Price: The Economics of Abundance and Why Zero Pricing Is Changing the Face of Business’. The notion of freeconomics is where businesses and brands give away some of their products for free. Examples like Google where the cost of manufacture/distribution per user is so low that digital services can be offered free. This generated some heated discussion at his SXSW keynote with Guy Kawasaki with polarised views on whether digital content should be offered free or paid. These are questions I consider as an author – how much of my content (books/ videos/ PDFs) do I offer free online?

Whatever the merits of ‘Free’. we all like getting something for nothing. Whether it’s blagging a flight upgrade or getting a free sample chocolate bar on the street, it gives a good feeling. And especially in a recession with much doom and gloom about. So I was interested to experience an innovative marketing initiative from Absolut Vodka in London yesterday (most brand managers and agencies would claim their marketing initiatives ‘innovative’ but I really thought this one was).

I walked into a coffee shop I often go to Spitalfields, ordered my espresso and when I reached into my pocket the proprietor said ‘coffee is free today’ and handed me a ‘Give Kindness – Not Cash’ card. Absolut Vodka’s ‘Absolut Kindness’ initiative is running in London this week with free coffee, travelcards being given out, free snacks at cinemas. All that is asked of the consumer is that they show an act of kindness (a smile will do) that is rewarded with something free:

"For one week, kind gestures such as giving smiles, high fives and simply saying good morning are going to become currency and earn their givers coffees, drinks and cinema snacks, as we bring to life our vision of An ABSOLUT World where currency is replaced by kindness".

It created a great atmosphere in the coffee shop I was in, got everyone talking and everyone smiling. And an espresso may only be £1.70 but it’s the gesture of having it for free that gave a great start to the day. A good initiative for Absolut and for spreading random acts of kindness, but I didn’t see any free vodka being handed out…

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The Importance Of 660 Seconds When You Are Busy Juggling

This is an edited extract from 'Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life'

When you’re working flat out, give yourself a treat, however small in time or value.

I am working at home today writing this book and dealing with some projects. It’s early evening and I fancied a beer so I went down to the kitchen to get one. My two year old son intercepted me and wanted me to play football with him in the garden before bed-time. I obliged. We had great fun, kicking the ball around in the late sun. Now I’m back at my desk in work mode and diving into some emails. i-Tunes is still playing on shuffle and tells me 11 minutes has elapsed since I was last at my desk.

11 minutes.
Just 660 seconds.
Not long.

Enough time to go to your workspace kitchen and get a coffee, or if you’re a smoker to go down to the lobby and huddle on the pavement with a cigarette. Or enough time to get lost in a random website. But 11 minutes with my boy was – literally – the highlight of my day. No debate.

Never-underestimate the power of small nuggets of reward when you are juggling. They are so very important. You need a pay-off if the stuff you’re doing today/ next week is tough or dull (or both).

So give yourself a reward; something you want to do, or that will give you a feel good factor. Stuff like:

- A lunch out, not at your desk.
- The gym or a run.
- Write a blog post.
- A bar of chocolate this afternoon when your energy levels are flagging.
- Look forward to that first beer of the day when you finish work.
- Treat yourself to a take-away dinner tonight.
- A quick game of football with your son.

It may sound silly, but that goal of a reward can really motivate you when your energy levels or morale is flagging. It will inspire great results.

Create a 660 Second break in your day.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Yep, It's 'Customer Service' Again

I read in yesterday’s Observer that the US electronic retailer Best Buy is coming to the UK. Bob Willett, Chief Executive was quoted as saying ‘John Lewis aside, no one provides customer service. We think we will grow the market’.

Okay, an over-simplification but he’s right. Customer service makes all the difference but so many people still get it so wrong.

I went to an independent shoe store the other day. Tried on a pair of shoes that were on display, tried to get eye contact with the two sales assistants with no success even though I was the only customer in the store. I put the shoe back and throughout the whole experience, they failed to connect with me, not even a smile or a ‘hi’. If they’d come over or communicated with me, no question – they would have got a sale. But they didn’t. So I walked out.

The same day I went to a branch of Carphone Warehouse to get an iPhone and switch my mobile network provider. The guy that served me was first class, great service, took all the headaches away including copying my contacts from my old ‘phone to the new one.

And that was a pleasant surprise. Sometimes we think small independent retailers are going to be better at customer service than the big multiple retailers, it’s often easier for them to offer an intimate experience but here was proof it can be the other way round. One example of how to build brand loyalty; another how to lose a customer.

Rethinking Your Career

The 'Weekend FT' had a piece on how redundancy has prompted many executives to retrain and follow their dreams ‘Jobless Bankers Carve Out Careers From City’ (FT April 18/19 2009).

Of course redundancy can be frightening stuff. With mortgages and bills to pay, mouths to feed, the thought of losing your job is not likely to fill you with optimism. But, if you are fortunate enough to have some savings to fall back on or a redundancy package that gives you space and time to ‘breathe’, it can be a catalyst for some great changes in your life.

So many of us fall into a rut with our career; I know people who have stayed in the same job or organisation for years and years, but never really meant to. Redundancy can give people the opportunity to do something completely different, to follow their dream. To retrain, do quit an office job for something totally different, or to take the leap to work for themseves. The FT article quotes Kate Blake, director of Dartmoor Outdoor Company, which retrains people who want to work as mountain guides has had more enquiries due to redundancies:

‘They are thinking, this is the kind of kick in the pants I need to [make me] look at my life and do something I enjoy’.

So, if you are unfortunate enough to be made redundant, try and turn it into an opportunity to change your working life and consider what you really want to do.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Global Juggle Village

Whether you are a cynic about the concept of ‘The Global Village’ one thing you can’t deny is that the web and tools like Twitter and blogs have made the world a smaller place. Recently I have connected with a whole load of ‘virtual’ friends in the U.S. and with my trip to Austin last month for SXSW, the States is very much becoming part of my 'Juggle!' story. This afternoon (London time) I have just guested on Ray Seggern’s Sunday morning Chillville radio show on Austin’s KROX FM. Ray plays some great music, today's playlist included Elbow, Radiohead, Lily Allen, Beth Orton.

There’s a whole bunch of people over there who have really helped me over here with Juggle, in terms of ‘bigging it up’ and spreading the word. They are all jugglers in their own right, talented people who juggle more than one role in their lives, people who keep it real, who mix up passions in their working life. People like:

My SXSW ‘Core Conversation’ co-presenter, the Chicago-based documentary maker Melissa Pierce whose suggestion it was that I should join her in Texas. She was my catalyst!

To all the cool people I met out at SXSW like Kelly Livesay, David Wiggs, Jeff Slobotski and Thom Singer.

To SXSW organiser Hugh Forrest for his support and getting me on the Barnes & Noble book-signing schedule.

To all the cool people I met online at SXSW (but still have yet to meet proper). People like Espree Devora who has really embraced the Juggle spirit.

To really talented bloggers and writers like Pam Slim, Todd Sattersten, Roxanne Darling.

To Cathy Mosca at

To Lyn Graft at Club E

You are my Juggle Ambassadors – thank you (there’s loads more people to thank, these are just some of the key ones in the U.S.).

And with the official U.S. release date for 'Juggle!' tomorrow April 20th I’m really grateful for all their kind words, for taking the time to read the book and for embracing its spirit.

* photograph taken by Ian Sanders at Museum Of Modern Art, New York

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Celebrate Your Multi Dimensional Talents

Here's the latest in the series of ad hoc excerpts from my book, 'Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life'

Many executives have managed to create their own portfolios by mixing skills, roles or even jobs. Others have hobby interests or business interests on the side.

I know Jugglers who mix stuff up. A business consultant who chose to work three days a week when she returned to work after having kids. A woman who works two shifts a week producing radio shows; the rest of the time she produces her kids’ lives. An HR Manager three days a week who makes jewellery and organises arts events when she is not sorting out employment contracts. A head-hunter who has a side-job playing in a band that he hires out to his day-job clients. Mixing up his passions. By day the BlackBerry, by night a very different kind of keyboard.

The reality is that most of us have a plurality of talents to match our plurality of tastes. Look at anyone's iPod track listing – we do listen to hip hop and classical music; we do watch The Simpsons and period dramas; we like Atonement and the Sex And The City movie. It's a not a case of either/or. We are multi-faceted. That is part of our personality and our richness informs our professional tastes, portfolios and abilities.

In a post on his website Gary Vaynerchuk observed how he was getting lots of comments from people surprised that he was knowledgeable about technology as well as wine:

‘…And I gave that a lot of thought. How people are branded and pigeon holed into being able to do one thing. I don’t think people realise - we are multi-dimensional people.
I know about the Jets, I know about wine, I know about cheese and tea and other things. And yes I know about business and philosophy. Yes I have built a lot of businesses’.

That plurality is not just driven by our tastes and passions. There are also good economic reasons to have broad talents. A business with multiple products generating multiple revenue streams, or an executive with strengths in more than one area have the potential to be more recession proof.

If tough market conditions threaten the viability of one activity or skill, you can migrate to another. Because if they are getting rid of Operations people but you also ‘do’ R&D, then that can help you survive. You are less disposable. A friend of mine qualified as an accountant but rather than just stay in finance, he migrated to become a general manager, commercial director, and then a CEO. His financial skills are very much part of his DNA but he’s a broader animal. And compare that with his peers from accounting class who have stuck to finance.

It’s like when I was MD of a division of a group. I ran other (unrelated) projects for the group at the same time because I could - and more importantly - because I wanted to. My predecessor just filled the MD post and stopped at that. But why stop there when you have no boundaries? Consider how much more value this offers the employer, they get two jobs doing for the price of one.

So it’s a matter of Narrow Focus Vs Breadth.

I know who I’d rather have in my team.

Keeping It Real Whilst Knowing Your Audience

When it comes to your business style, whether you work for yourself or for a big organisation, I’m a real fan of keeping it real, of being your true self in business relationships. Doing it any other way is just not effective, what’s the point of not being yourself?

But you must remember who your audience is. I’ve had days when I’ve been at The House Of Lords meeting a 'Lord' in the morning and with a nightclub brand in Hoxton in the afternoon. Such is the glorious eclecticism of my client base. But that creates some considerations in how you approach relationships. Your offering and your brand personality may stay the same, but you might have to tailor your language. Not literally, but in how you manage the relationship. You’ll bespoke your message and translate your approach to work in their world. Because what might be everyday language for you might be jargon for them.

Of course this is not news for anyone who does business with people in different territories. In Monday’s FT Zhang Qing offered advice on how westerners should set up business meetings in China. He observed that Chinese businesspeople have a much lower lead-time in planning meetings and schedules; if you were to attempt to schedule an appointment a month or so in advance, it might be suggested that you fix a time once you arrive. Such has been their pace of economic change that one month could be regarded as a long time in the future, so they are much more impromptu.

So whether you are juggling different client sectors, different cultures or just need to respect different client personalities, remember that ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

If You're Seeking Good Ideas, Get Outside!

In this month’s British Airways ‘Business Life’ magazine, Chris Barez-Brown from the ?What If! The Innovation Company talked about where he gets his best ideas.

To deal with the challenges of his juggling of work, family, new ventures and admin he seeks ‘the refuge of a flight to get some thinking space, some quiet, some me time’. Chris had the idea for a book whilst walking in Switzerland. He says, ‘what would usually have taken months of hard work became clear in a few hours because the expansive landscape and energetic movement of the trip resulted in expansive and energetic thinking. The same happens to me and many others on a long journey. The varied stimulus and space to ponder is the perfect antidote to today’s business demands’.

This is a theme I have talked about in both of my own books; indeed ‘Leap’ was inspired by trips to California and Spain; ‘Juggle’ was written in Amsterdam and Nice. Flights and train journeys have always – consistently – fuelled my own creativity, whether it is pondering a business challenge over that G&T on take-off or scribbling ideas in my Moleskine. It’s as Kevin Roberts Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi said to me when I interviewed him in Paris, ‘inspiration out is a result of inspiration in’, so if you want to come up with inspiring ideas, get inspired yourself!

And if you don’t have a business trip or a journey on the horizon, try creating a mini inspiration jaunt. Whether a day out or just a trip to a different neighbourhood coffee shop in the morning, that change in environment has the potential to make a big difference to your productivity. And for those of us who spend lots of time working from home, it’s even more critical. Which is why the best way to start your working day is to go outside first, whether to walk the dog or for a first espresso of the day. You might find, like me, that first hour or even half an hour away will really fuel your day with stimulus and creativity.

So if you’re getting stale, go outside, go someplace new. After all, you are never going to have that eureka moment sitting at your desk or in your office.

The Most Effective Solutions Are Often The Simplest

Scott Belsky’s session at SXSW didn’t just get me fired up about how to ‘make great ideas happen’ he also got me thinking about how I manage projects and how I use to-do lists.

For any Juggler, lists are a must. I have a series of to-do lists - authored in old and new media - that I use to manage my business. I have played around with different systems and ideas for capturing that project overview of all my different project to-do’s. I love having a one pager that does that for me.

And then a slide in Scott’s presentation caught my eye. He was talking about the importance of tracking progress and actions on projects in a workspace where co-workers could get an idea of what was going on, and what the priorities were.

And then I realised what my overview needed to be. No amazing project management software, no iPhone app, no complex spreadsheet. Just a corkboard, a jotter pad, and a marker pen. A column for each client/ project with key actions/tasks. Now, when I’m back at base I have that overview of what needs doing across all my projects.

A reminder that – of course – the most effective solutions are often the simplest.
* image has been blurred to protect client confidentiality

Monday, 13 April 2009

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Spreading Your Company Culture

I’m a firm believer in the importance of brand personality being a key ingredient in any business or individual’s success. By ‘brand personality’, I mean the bit in your offering or your values that marks you out from the crowd. As many have commented before, we live in an abundant marketplace with so many companies offering similar products and services. That’s true for most of my clients so the challenge is identifying, communicating and living that point of difference. For many, the company culture is what sets organisations apart; the spirit that unites its people, where the brand equity is not just in a mission statement, but it runs through all the staff as part of their DNA.

So I was interested to read about a ‘life swap’ concept in the FT where the ad agency Iris was encouraging executives to swap not just roles but also apartments and cities between London and New York. I’ve always been a fan of role swaps because it helps people understand each other’s roles, it aids communication and makes the organisational culture stronger. But this swap goes one stage further; its reason is about spreading culture from one office to another:

Ian Millner, chief executive of Iris, says there are a number of reasons the agency likes to “life-swap” rather than merely job-swap its employees. “Most ad agencies are pretty similar – the only real difference is culture,” he says. “It’s our competitive advantage and it’s very important. So initiatives like the life swap are very powerful tools in making our culture consistent around the world.” [Financial Times, April 6, 2009]

What a great way for spreading and instilling company culture…

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

When It Comes to Customer Service, Try Thinking Like A Coffee Shop

In Edinburgh at the weekend I soon sussed out the neighbourhood’s coffee shops and I came across Coffee Angel. Friendly, serving good coffee with a nice vibe and a mixed clientele; from people having a meeting, parents and babies in buggies to workers with their laptops. It had all the necessary ingredients to become my coffee shop base for the 4 days I was in the city. In that short experience, customer service was spot-on, and I had a good chat with the proprietor who juggles the shop with a business advising clients on food safety. He joked that I was such a regular; it would have merited me having one of their loyalty cards for my short stay.

After having enjoyed their espressos and free wifi. I checked out their website. It’s always good to experience a product or brand first; and compare against their website or brand promise second. So much of the time we experience brand promises that are never delivered. Other times we may spot things in a brand's positioning or mission statement that we didn't experience or notice. Coffee Angel delivered. Their philosophy is ‘that it is always about the customer. So we’ll make your drink, your way; we’ll listen. We’ll chat’. They also source their products locally and pride themselves on their independence. They've not yet been open 12 months but deserve to be a great success. Here's proof too that you can juggle more than one role or business interest withour diluting individual success.

That customer focus is – of course – so essential whether you are a huge brand or a single neighbourhood shop. And I got more of a quality experience in my four days of visits than I have with other neighbourhood coffee shops that I have visited forty times.

So whether you are a one-person business or a big business, learn a few lessons from Coffee Angel.

Roxanne Darling On Juggling

Roxanne Darling has been creating sometimes daily video blogs at BeachWalks.TV for a couple of years. She juggles that with her business running Barefeet Studios. Recently Roxanne got busy and slowed down the frequency of her Beach Walks videos as she needed to focus on other priorities. Now she’s back with a post about juggling and about ‘Juggle’.

You can watch the video below, on the Beach Walks website or via iTunes here.

I love Roxanne’s work – her unscripted pieces to camera always inspire or get you thinking, and the Hawaii beach is an inspiring backdrop. Great to see my book making its debut on the beach there…

Hong Kong, Chicago, London

Thanks to my travelling friends Mike Southon
and Cheryl Goldenberg for snapping my books at London City Airport, Chicago and Hong Kong.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Make Sure Your Attitude Is Recession-Friendly

I have always kept an optimistic outlook on the current economic climate; that despite the recession good ideas will prevail and there are still opportunities for start-ups and entrepreneurs especially businesses with products or services that are recession-friendly, offering value for money at lower prices. But I won't deny it's tough out there.
In my own business clients are understandably nervous about the future and not making long-term commitments. For the majority of friends and contacts, each are being hit in different ways. A friend who has been made redundant from a senior commercial role finds himself working on commssion-only in a tough sales role. Another friend's revenues are down and they are having to make staff and overhead cuts; another contact has just been made redundant. So it's tough.

For those at the grass roots of business, they are having to shift their attitude to how they run their businesses. Sole traders and tradespeople are less able to call the shots on whether they take work on or not. They can much less pick and choose what work they take on.

The landscape has changed at all levels. Of course, business will survive and we'll see stronger people, products and attitudes emerge the other side. But in the meantime – and more than ever - we need tenacity, optimism and lots of 'hard graft'. No moaning about working long hours, weekends or on days off. He or she who turns down a project may well be replaced by a competitor at the front of a long queue of someone else willing to do the work. These are challenging times and we are all going to have to be really smart to reinvent ourselves and change our attitudes to stay ahead of the game.