Sunday, 30 August 2009

Life In Perpetual Beta

Life in Perpetual Beta is a documentary film from Melissa Pierce about the ways in which technology has/is/will change the ways in which we thinking about ourselves as individuals and a society. It is exploring the cultural shift that technology creates as it enables people to live less planned and more passionate lives.

In December I met up in London with a San Francisco-based camerawoman Adrienne Brawley who filmed an interview that I did by video Skype with Melissa Pierce in Chicago (in fact Melissa was somewhere else, at her parents-in-law’s place if I recall). She was in her pyjamas early morning somewhere in the US and I was supping a pint of Guinness somewhere in deepest west London. The plan was to shoot the video in Borough Market in an empty bar, but the plan kind of changed. It was one of those days. There was no plan. And that’s what ‘Life In Perpetual Beta’ is all about.

You can check out my interview below (or click here) and see all the other interviews on the Life In Perpetual Beta website. Other interviewees include Dan Pink, Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Hsieh, Seth Godin and loads of other really cool people.

You can follow Melissa on Twitter here.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Playing Where You Play Best: Part 2

I did a blog post last week about the importance of being ruthless in how you manage your time - focusing on what you enjoy & are good at in your job. I got some good comments back on Twitter and a question from @Leggetter, 'how do you persuade people to let you do that?'

He’s right. Focusing on ‘playing where you play best’ might be easy for jugglers like Gary Vaynerchuk and Kevin Roberts who are at the peak of success. But what if you'd love to apply this mantra to your own working life, but don't know where to start? Here are a couple of tips that I've learnt through my own career.

First, it's about communicating your talents to your boss, co-workers or clients. In my 20’s I joined a company at a junior level with aspirations to rise to the management team (a goal I realised a few years later). But I had to be proactive to get noticed. I displayed my appetite for management wherever I could, producing a monthly report, coming up with ideas, being visible and vocal in team meetings. Of course, alongside that I had to deal with all the stuff I didn’t enjoy so much, but it gave me a new focus. Suddenly people realised I had bigger potential and the organisation started to take me more seriously. I was able to get promoted to take on new responsibilities and focus on what I was good at (and what I enjoyed). Then - and only then - I could start to leave some of those other tasks behind. Success didn't happen over night, but by showing what I could achieve I'd got the opportunity top focus on my passions.

Second, it's about knowing what you're not so good at and communicating that too. It's about being honest and saying 'that's not for me, it's not my strength'. That can be tough in a competitive environment where everyone is looking to prove themselves, but success is not about blindly taking on every task, project and responsibility that gets thrown at you. It's about sticking to your strengths and also knowing your limitations. That honesty shows vision – your boss would rather give a task to someone who was passionate about it than someone who was indifferent. And I do the same in my business - you have to know when to delegate or outsource tasks to suppliers or other team members who can do the job better, or when to turn opportunities or clients down because you know you won’t enjoy them that much.

So start by proving your talents, then be honest about what's not your strength, and then you can focus on playing where you play best.

Friday, 21 August 2009

‘Why I Don’t Do The Garden’ & The Importance Of Time

I’m often asked what is the secret of juggling a portfolio of multiple interests and projects? Well, there's no big secret, it's all about recognising the importance of time. It’s about being ruthless in what you choose to do, and what you choose not too.

I was reminded of this recently as I sat reading the paper in our summerhouse at the weekend; the garden outside was demanding someone to weed it, tend to the vegetables and empty the slug traps. But I didn’t stress.

Because I don’t ‘do’ the garden: sure, it would be nice to get involved, but I'd made the decision not to. I realise I can’t do everything and also my wife is more passionate about it (and does a better job too). If I added gardening to my weekend t0-do list, I wouldn’t have time to write my books, read the paper or just play with my kids.

So sure, be confident about taking on a broad workload, but recognise you don’t want (or have time) to do everything. Whether in domestic or professional life, try and divide tasks with others, delegate or outsource stuff that you can afford to. Being an effective Juggler is about focusing on your passions and strengths.

It’s back to that mantra of ‘knowing where you play best and playing there all the time’. That should inform all your juggling. So yes, think broad, think plural. But know where to draw the line.

My panel ideas for SXSW 2010

This year was my first trip to SXSW in Texas; documentary film-maker Melissa Pierce invited me to co-host a session with her. I loved the SXSW experience and am returning next year, hopefully to present another session.

I have two sessions up for consideration on the SXSW Interactive Panel Picker, where you can check out more information and give it a ‘thumbs up’ vote:

#1 How To Get Your Clients To Stick

A new dial has appeared on the business dashboard. It’s the ‘Happy Customer’ dial and to ensure you continue getting work from that customer you need to keep the needle in the green. So how the heck do you make sure your agency, start-up or corporation keeps your clients happy?

#2 How To Unplan Your Business Idea

The notion that every business needs a detailed plan is broken. If you’re launching a business it’s more important to put your ideas into action and not over-strategise. Online tools mean you can launch a business faster than you can build a theoretical model. So unplan and just do it.

My collaborator and fellow-speaker on these ideas is David Sloly. David is Creative Director of Mason Zimbler, a disruptive digital integrated marketing agency.

Thanks for checking them out

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

'Juggle!' on SmallBizPod

SmallBizPod is a great audio podcast for entrepreneurs hosted by Alex Bellinger. In episode #86 Alex interviews great ‘thinker’ and creativity specialist Edward De Bono. There’s also a very well presented review of my book ‘Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life’ recorded by a listener. You can listen to the episode here or download via iTunes. If you’re interested in the book review, scroll forward to 34 minutes in.

Monday, 17 August 2009

BBC Essex interview

I went on a nostalgia trip this morning; I was in the studios of BBC Essex in Chelmsford to appear on the Dave Monk programme talking about ‘Juggle!’ 24 years ago, I started my broadcasting career at BBC Essex, starting out as a helper on the Saturday evening ‘youth’ show and then graduating through doing the gig guide to co-presenting that show, ‘driving the desk’ for other programmes, operating the radio car and returning during my university holidays. Having done radio interviews on the ‘phone with stations in the U.S. and Ireland, it was great to visit one closer to home.

1986-7 was when I started juggling. I was working part-time at BBC Essex during the week, helping out on the mid-morning show; then I would go and work for a local record distribution company later in the day, and I was also studying Photography at the local college. That plurality whetted my appetite for a lifetime of juggling.

Dave Monk was there all those years ago, presenting a show on a Saturday morning alongside lecturing in law, Dj’ing at weekends and running his own law practice (he was an early juggler). In the interview I talk about how you can reframe your work life to become a juggler. You can hear it via the BBC i-player here

The interview starts at 02:06:38 and lasts around 10 minutes.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Introducing The 'Sex & Cash' Theory

I just read Hugh MacLeod’s book ‘Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys To Creativity’. I saw Hugh at Pam Slim's session at SXSW earlier this year but didn’t pay that much attention to the bloke in the cowboy hat who went by the name of Gapingvoid. When I was back home I wondered what all the fuss was about. Who was this guy who draws ‘cartoons on the back of business cards’? Once I checked out his site I ‘got it’.

And his book is great; it’s my kind of book. It’s a quick read, it’s eminently dippable with short punchy chapters and the advice might not be rocket science but it really resonates, and its message is powerful (hopefully, a bit like my own books then).

Here’s one takeaway I want to leave you with, it’s Hugh’s ‘Sex & Cash Theory’:

“The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: one is the sexy creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task at hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will also play center stage. It will never be transcended.”

I talk about this theme in my own book ‘Juggle!’ – stuff we do for love and stuff we do for money, but Hugh has another point here and it’s all in his last line above. It’s that whatever your success in life, whether you are a struggling waiter or a movie star, you won’t be immune from this duality.

“As soon as you accept this. I mean really accept this, for some reason your career starts moving ahead faster…. It’s the people who refuse to cleave their lives this way… well they never make it”.

So maybe ignore everybody, but it’s still worth listening to Hugh MacLeod.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Be Good At Coming Up With Ideas

I was talking to a client today about how ideas are at the heart of his business and advising him what he needs to do to ensure he continues generating good ideas. And it reminded of what I said in this video (one from the archives!). It says it all, click and play:

Get Unplugged!

(this is an edited extract from my book 'Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life')

Because most of us can – and do – work anywhere, the challenge is in switching off totally. It’s absolutely crucial to be able to do that, to unplug your connections once in a while.

The trouble with our BlackBerries and iPhones is that they connect us with the lives we lead; these tools integrate both the business and personal sides of our lives. If you carry your iPhone around at the weekend, it’s difficult ‘not’ to check emails. Sure, I sometimes check emails and Twitter on weekends and holiday, but it’s when I choose to, I don’t want it in my face 24/7.

So you have to find time and space to dial it down. To switch off, shut down and get real.

When speaker and columnist Mike Southon travels overseas he tries to take his family with him; it gives him the opportunity to switch off after a speaking engagement and it’s also a good excuse to disappear upstairs to his room:

‘For me, family time is switch off time. All theatrical people know this – you’re on stage/ you’re off stage and you have different modes. You learn how to control it. If you’re ‘on stage’ all the time you end up with a heart attack. You switch in/ you switch off.’

But it’s not just creating time for thinking or for the family; it’s also the importance of creating ME time.

When you’re flat out juggling, sometimes you need that quiet moment to give you sanity. A lie-in, a soak in the bath, a pint of Guinness by yourself, a seafront cycle, reading that novel for ten minutes.

Beach Walks TV host Roxanne Darling finds it difficult to turn off her business brain. Even on vacation she still wants to read her feeds and spots business opportunities frequently. Same with me. When Mike Southon goes on holiday he finds he can relax straight away without thinking of work, ‘because nothing is that vital’; but he still checks mails to filter them before his return.

When the schedule has been really manic, Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi just unplugs for a few days and retreats to one of his homes. He doesn’t take long holidays; preferring to take snatches of time here and there to switch off.

For Roxanne and her partner, it has been their company goal to be much more conscious of when they are ‘on the client clock’ compared to when they are off-duty. Their white board system helps, as once the assigned tasks are done for the day, they feel better quitting:

‘We are building the muscle to discern what is truly urgent and what can actually be added to the list. I also really let how hard we work weigh in and matter in our lives. One of the big plusses is being able to just stop and go to a movie in the afternoon if the day is crap and we are feeling burned out. It's easy enough to point to the hours we've undoubtedly put in, so the muscle is learning to take a break and realize if a client calls and we are unavailable for two hours, it is not the end of the world’.

So, make sure you get unplugged once in a while.
Right, I’m off for a walk, and I’m leaving the iPhone behind....

Monday, 10 August 2009

How To Live The Juggle Life

Last Friday I was interviewed by a local website . is a great website run by James Harrod serving the local community with stories, videos and features. He's great at covering local events, offering live coverage by uploading pictures to Flickr, videos to YouTube and updates to Twitter. You can follow James on Twitter @longpier

Here's the interview that was filmed in the gardens of Leigh-on-Sea Library.

Play Where You Play Best

I got asked a good question in an interview last week about whether ‘juggling’ was for everyone; wasn’t it important that some people remained specialists in one field rather than be good at more than one thing?

Absolutely. I don’t think everyone can become a juggler. Instead it’s about being authentic: about your work life reflecting your multi-dimensional talents. So if your talents are brilliant but singular, don’t fake it and try to become a juggler. Stick to what you are good at, and passionate about. The world needs specialists, whether engineers, scientists, footballers or designers. But don’t be limited by your specialism, look beyond what you currently do to consider what else you are good at. Don’t limit your potential.

So juggling is not about stretching your talents in ways they don’t stretch; it’s about knowing all the stuff you’re good at and focusing on that. Stuff you’re not so good at? Delegate or outsource that.

It’s like Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide Of Saatchi & Saatchi said in my book, 'Juggle!':

‘It all starts with knowing when you are at your best and playing there all the time. I focus on those things I'm good at and try to get world class at them. The stuff I can't do I ask others to handle and choose people who are brilliant at it, significantly better than me at least. None of us is as good as all of us and I make sure that I have a bunch of inspired people around me who are all experts in their fields’. *

Last Friday I was working on the copy for my new website. I was on the 4th draft and was struggling. I knew I needed a fresh pair of eyes to polish and improve it. Sure, I could have spent hours persevering but I knew my limits; I recognised it was time to call in an expert. I ‘phoned my copywriting friend Rich and asked him to get involved.

And that’s what being an effective juggler is about; sure, stretch yourself in loads of directions that reflect your desires and talents. Play where you play best; and bring in experts for those areas where you don’t.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Well Targeted Marketing?

I got this marketing email from Amazon this morning, wondering whether I might be interested in buying..... my own book.

(As it happens I've already got a few copies)

Friday, 7 August 2009

Start Wandering Around

Tom Peters has always advocated ‘Management By Wandering Around’ as one of the most effective management styles. I never had a name for it – it’s what I did in some of my own management roles. But it was something I learnt. When I started doing a management job and got busy, I spent more and more time sitting at my desk dealing with budgets, proposals, staff appraisal forms, board minutes, meeting agendas, forecasts. But I soon realised this wasn’t spending enough time walking around my team or the operation I managed. So I started wandering around, walking the floors, seeing what was going on. Of course, this got me closer to the business, to the staff and to the customers. It meant I did my job better.

I think more people in management need to get up from their desks and start wandering around. This point was brought home in a documentary I heard on Radio 4’s ‘In Business’ programme about the UK’s Timpsons shoe repair firm. John Timpson manages his 550-shop business by dropping in on them all the time to find out what's going on, day by day. He calls it 'upside-down management'. He and his son James spend 3 or 4 days each week on the road visiting their shops, talking to employees and even serving customers because in James’s words:

‘The business isn’t about what happens at head office, business is about what happens where the money’s taken, and that’s where we need to be’

Don't say 'it's not my job'

Seth Godin had a great blog post the other day entitled ‘All I Do Is Work Here’ about how some people don’t take collective responsibility at organisations – they say, ‘oh no, that’s nothing to do with me, all I do is work here’.

It reminds me of a company that I worked with. They had this really great culture where everyone from the CEO down took full and collective responsibility for what happened at the company. Everyone answered the ‘phones; when a courier turned up anyone who happened to be around would sign for a package; people in finance and admin roles stayed close to the core of the business and ‘got’ what the business did, they knew who the customers were, so they could engage with them too. This created a really strong culture that came to be at the heart of the organisation. But as the company grew, it was decided that there needed to be more organisational structure so workers could be more focused on their respective roles. A mantra of ‘that’s not my job’ was encouraged to focus on individual responsibility.

I don’t like the idea of ‘it’s not my job’. Whatever the size of an organisation, if every part of it can be encouraged to live and breathe what it does; rather than be head-down and siloed in their own role or department, that kind of culture will shine through and can really contribute to a company’s success both internally but also externally.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Ditch the rules and do it your way

In life and business we’re thrown loads of rules about how to do stuff. Policies, guidelines, standard operating procedures.

But often in order to succeed you just gotta chuck away the rules and say proudly ‘I'm going to do it my way’.

Do it.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Bits of advice...

I was interviewed for an online article recently, 'Are you putting your job before you?' which is live on the Nicole Williams website here.

I was also interviewed a while back for the News Of The World 'Fabulous' magazine about time management and how to maximise your time, that piece is here (or click on the images above).