Friday, 28 January 2011

Managing Your Personal Bandwidth: Admitting You Can’t Do *Everything*

“How do you have time to write a book?” my friend asked the other day.

I told her, I had to make sacrifices. Mainly leisure time.

Ever since I started researching my second book ‘Juggle!’ I’ve advised and talked to many people who lead - or aspire to lead - multi-dimensional work lives. The biggest challenge? TIME: how to use it.

Whatever you do, whatever the demands on you, there’s something we’ve all got in common. We all have 24 hours a day. In which to do stuff, make a living, have fun, get inspired, kiss our kids goodnight. So you have to make choices. If you want to launch that hobby business or master that new skill, you might have to ditch TV.

Between now and the beginning of April, the pressure is on as I juggle writing a new book alongside a  full portfolio of projects. Some things have to give. That TV series, that evening relaxing, reading that novel. So there are tough choices to be made. To spend Sunday with the family or working on the book. And I’ve just made another one.

In March I was due to be participating in a panel at SXSW Interactive, this would have been my third trip to the festival, being part of the line-up in ‘Ditch The Rule Book: How To Run A Business Your Way’ along with Espree Devora, Lewis Howes, Shane Mac and Giang Biscan.

SXSW has always given me enormous value but it takes a big investment in time (and let’s not forget the cost of getting there). Being away in Texas at a critical point in my book writing with all those wonderful distractions was just going to create too much pressure and stress. So I’ve had to stand down.  I’ll miss my annual dose of inspiration, both for my business and for my soul.

But, it’s a reminder that you can’t do everything at the same time. So don’t try, manage that personal bandwidth carefully.

Monday, 24 January 2011

What do you do in a nutshell? Getting famous for ONE thing.

In a cluttered and noisy marketplace, it can be tough to get heard. We know that distinctive and single-focused brands tend to stand out from the crowd. But for companies and people who provide more than one talent or product, it can be difficult providing that focus.

My advice to those jugglers – whether businesses or individuals – is that they need to identify a common thread that unites their plurality: an attitude, an industry specialism, a philosophy, a unique approach, whatever. Make that thread the single minded proposition to shout about. When clients and prospects get to know you they can learn about the rest of your talents; but first you need to get famous for one thing.

I help my clients distil everything down to that focused, simple and get-able proposition. As I juggle a multi-dimensional work life, it’s something I struggle with myself. How to communicate that breadth – from marketing expertise to book writing – simply? My answer is that I am all about ideas (I'm the 'Ideas Guy'), and I produced this little video below that – hopefully – communicates this clearly. It’s not always an easy one to pull off, let me know what you think. Leave a comment or get me on Twitter @iansanders.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

"Am I crazy?"

"Why would you do that for free?" the radio presenter asked Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, with incredulity. "Why on earth would people work on something without getting paid for it?" she persisted, failing to grasp the raison d'etre of Wikipedia as a community-owned and ran initiative.
But of course many of us do things we don't get paid for.

As we redefine what ‘work life’ looks like in 2011, the lines between ‘work’ and ‘not work’ are more blurred than ever. As people choose work/ life intergration over work/ life balance, many choose to mix up elements of their life in a continuous stream. One economic defintion of what constitues ‘work’ might be things we get paid for, but there are increasingly a bunch of things many of us do, without being monetised for each and every one of them.

In my own portfolio there are elements that are about revenues and elements that don't have a financial return. Together, they define me, stuff I feel passionate about and make happen irrespective of the financial model.

Last year there was a bunch of stuff I did that I didn't get paid for:

- wrote an e-book
- conducted video interviews with people like Dave Stewart
- went to SXSW Interactive in Texas (a big investment in time and money)
- wroteguest columns for Moo, Smarta, Business Matters, Management Today
- met a whole bunch of interesting folk
- mentored students about enterprise
- advised readers on taking the Leap
- blogged and tweeted

Sure, put all that together and it builds Ian Sanders' brand equity, makes me more sticky to clients, got me a publishing dea,l blah blah. But there was no hard measurable 'ROI'. Instead it was about carving out a worklife that sustains me mentally, emotionally and financially. Let's be clear: my motivation was passion not cash.

And some may still ask "Why on earth would you do all that if you don't get paid for it?" Okay so I might sound crazy to them, but to me this is just a reflection of who I am.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

How To Co-Write A Business Book Part 2: Uncharted Territory

Writing has become a big part of my life. Sure, lots of us write reports, strategies and proposals in our roles and work lives; we're used to writing emails and tweets throughout the day. Everyone has to be a writer. 

But it doesn't stop there. I also write books, blog posts, guest columns and ‘white papers’; and in my ideas business I write copy for clients to position businesses and sell products. I love the challenge and opportunity of a blank sheet of paper or a blinking cursor on a blank screen.


So I'm used to writing for myself and writing for clients. But writing *with* someone else? That's been unchartered territory – up until now. With my third book a collaboration with David Sloly, I'm learning a lot about the need to lose control, to open your mind to new ways of looking at things and new ways of articulating ideas. I'm excited about the potential of that collaboration; of how the results can be more powerful than if I wrote a book solo. I've read some great co-written books in the last twelve months: 'Trust Agents' by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith and 'Rework' by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson stand out for me, and I'm confident ours will too, when it's out later in the year.

As for our approach to the project, last month we went on an inspiration trip to Paris to live and breathe the ideas, creating the chapters and themes. We found that experience really effective, discovering new ways of generating and capturing ideas: involving red wine, coffee and even a 'floor chart' of ideas on the floor of our apartment (see picture above). Now we’re in a new phase – we’re actually writing it. Here’s a little video on how this phase is going:

Friday, 7 January 2011

If you’re looking for a lesson in business visit a market stall

Nothing represents the essence of enterprise better to me than the (not so) humble market stall. At London’s Spitalfields Market a trader can rent a stall for just £10 a day (weekday rate). Here he or she can sell their products, whether home-made bags or second hand records. At the end of the day, they have a simple cash return for their efforts. Think about it: just ten quid, some homemade ‘stuff’ and you can try your hand at business!

Let’s not forget: ‘Business’ is not a complicated science – it’s just about taking an idea, and turning it into a reality.

Recently I have been acting as a mentor for a bunch of sixth form students at The English Martyrs School in Hartlepool. This is all part of Global Entrepreneurship Week’s Education Challenge where school students develop business ideas of their own. I was pleased to hear my students’ idea was all about selling Christmas kits on a local market stall. I’ve really enjoyed the process: the students’ questions about their business idea are refreshingly straight forward, simple yet also important. You can check out some videos where I captured answers to their questions here.

So if you’re looking to explore the basics of business, forget The City, Wall Street, business plans, board rooms, and big corporations – just check out the goings on at your local market.