Optimising Work Environment

Working Environment

Some Planning In My Workspace

A quick post today, and I’ve taken a picture to illustrate my point. What you see in the picture is 3 things.

1) A Whiteboard with the current things I want my mind to ponder on. Usually a concept will remain up there for a week or more.
2) 3 months with X on dates.
3) A MindMap I want to think more about.

1) This is a fairly standard thing. Usually when I have something complex that I want my brain to ponder on, I put it somewhere I’ll see it often for a while. Once I’ve solved the problem/worked it out, I’ll change what’s there. A Whiteboard works great, the setup here cost me $40 with the markers, eraser, wall mounting e.t.c.

2) 3 Months with X on dates. This is something I recently picked up that I’m trialling right now. Basically, you get a calendar template like I have and print it out and put it somewhere prominent. At the end of each day, you put a X if you’ve successfully completed your goals set for the day. You don’t put anything if you’ve missed your goals or just had an unproductive day. On rest days, if I rest, I put an X of course.

The purpose is that the momentum of X’s won’t want you to break it. So if you’ve got 5-6 X in a row, you don’t want to miss a day and have a gap (like I have on the 25th of March, which was just a crappy day). Try it if you have issues with keeping momentum.

3) A Mindmap or anything here is useful to pondering on the points. Often I will change this section often, depending on the needs right now.

What you put in your working environment tends to make a big difference to how effective you are. Try it out for yourself!

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Full Throttle!

It’s amazing what a short break can do for the mind. After a few days away from the computer at Easter, work is flowing much better.

The biggest thing I’ve been thinking about over Easter is the business as a system. By thinking about how to optimise the system, the mind very much thinks about how to work on the business.

Of course, having the mind clear and free to roam for a few days has allowed it to innovate and be more focused on the system right now.

Full throttle ahead! =)

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Why Inbox Zero Is Such A Great Habit

For the past 5 years I’ve been practicing Inbox Zero. Unless I’m on holidays, I make sure that my inbox is at zero by the end of the day. This has saved me immense time and resulted in productivity gains, not getting lost in email and staying organised.

Inbox Zero is the concept of making sure there are no emails in your inbox at the end of the day. It also states that you should only check email a few times a day, and make a decision on email right away.

Most people don’t get started because the 1000s of emails sitting in their inbox that might become important one day. I don’t delete, I just Archive, so to get started several years ago, I just archived anything that I received more than 5 days ago and made a decision on the rest.

Gmail has a great feature called “Send & Archive” that automatically clears an email out of your inbox after you’ve replied to it.

The original presentation from Merlin Mann is below, I hope you enjoy it and it compels you to also move to Inbox Zero.

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Momentum

“Protect your downside. The upside will take care of itself. Cut your losses short – and let your profits
run. This takes tremendous discipline.”
– Kekichs Credo #13

Read that quote above a couple of times. It always stands out to me because it’s quite true. It’s not just discipline, but much needed momentum that is needed to get serious traction in anything.

When I apply this quote to personal momentum, I see the downside as time I am not being effective, and the upside of when I am being very effective.

I’ve found that interrupting any downside and just resetting things helps keep the upside established. Furthermore, doing things like visually marking off momentum on a calendar makes maintaining the upside much easier.

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Restart

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the past there were times when the days blended together. Once I read the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, I realised that I needed a specific ritual to end every day, and then to start a new one.

Specifically, by restarting each day, I’m able to ensure that I don’t carry a negative momentum into another day, and risk cascading it.

To end a day, it’s good to spend a couple of minutes reflecting on what has gone well in the day, what didn’t, and then write anything down in your mind.

Try it,you might be surprised with the results.

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Online Tracking

Recently I installed Chrome and a bunch of plugins including ad-blocking, denying trackers, and other protections. I wanted to road test them to see how it felt seeing the web without ads and much customisation.

As an online marketing consultant, some of the most effective strategies for advertising online include re-marketing (showing you ads after you’ve been to a specific website), and the recommendation of changes to website owners based on customer behaviour on a website to make the website more conversion friendly.

Without tracking data it’s more difficult to provide a customised experience, and the web becomes a big billboard with lots of irrelevant ads (aka noise). Ok, perhaps that example is a little extreme, but I don’t believe that denying customisation is a good thing. The way I see it, the “Do Not Track” movement is positioned in such a way that “Evil corporations are using all this data they have to make more money”. It’s an us vs them mentality, and doesn’t educate consumers enough on the benefits that the tracking allows. With several browsers now looking at making Non Tracking options as default, things may just be getting more difficult for marketers to provide personalised experiences.

Giving consumers a choice to be tracked or not is a good thing. However, both sides should be presented with facts. Marketers aim to make offers more personalised and hence it is in the consumers best interest to be presented with ads and offers that are more likely to be in their interest than the default.

Naturally, there is already a huge amount of information floating around online that companies can harvest to get a major advantage. Critics of tracking often argue that this information is dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. This is true, although I feel that personal recommendations for products and services are more important to make the internet more relevant and create less noise.

What do you think?

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The Small Things

Sometimes I like to keep myself busy with small things. This false sense of effectiveness can be dangerous.

Check the task lists, check the bank balance, look ahead 2 weeks, organize notes, check calendar, reply to Facebook messages from weeks ago, browse the news.

In some of these situations, main tasks have been done. But the silent tasks. You know those things you’ve thought about, and know you should be doing, but maybe they’re not written down:

– Researching leads
– Making business calls
– Perhaps working on the company blog or website

It’s these things that you don’t have to do immediately, no one will follow you up. However slowly it builds up and then cascades later. When I catch myself doing small tasks, I know I’m probably delaying the inevitable and ask myself:


“What should I be doing?”

Ask yourself the same question =)

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Defer

It’s easy to just defer some things. Decide to do them later while you enjoy life now.

A PDF of life principles I make a habit to read everyday has this quote in it: “Think carefully before making any offers, commitments or promises, no matter how seemingly trivial. These are all contracts and must be honored. These also include self-resolutions.”

The problem that I’ve struggled with (and still do when I don’t keep it in check) is to defer important things now to a later time. I’ll tell myself: “My mindset isn’t good, I don’t feel motivated, I’m not quite in the mood.”

Excuses.

You might not create an immediate problem by deferring something today. But then the latency builds up, and then you’re falling behind. You get stressed out, you’re sinking into the quick sand, you’re in a far less optimal mindset to get anything done.

It’s best to keep things in check and keep yourself disciplined. Be aware of what you’re deferring, and if it’s important, just do it.

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Track Your Procrastination With Rescuetime!

A quick tip today, but something that helps me immensely.
Rescuetime is a free app that tracks what you do on your computer and sends you a weekly report, messages and so forth.
It allows you to categorize different activities that are productive or not productive, and keeps you informed if you’re straying to more unproductive activities.

Rescuetime sends you a weekly email that tells you how much time you spend last week and your productivity.

Rescuetime

Rescuetime Weekly Summary

I’d highly recommend it if you want to have a better idea of what you spend your time on, it has helped me!

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The Problem With Noise

As a marketer, I’m aware of many of the personal targeting methods of online advertising. Marketers have available to them re-targeting and a range of personal marketing options. In simplistic terms, this means that they can serve you ads for websites that you’ve visited, and the website can serve you ads to entice you to come back. Now re-marketing is becoming more powerful and targeted, I’m beginning to see ads all over the internet for web pages I have visited, products I may have checked out for a few minutes. I’m seeing these ads on normal websites, Facebook, and many other places.

I don’t have privacy issues, so this post is not about how to clean it up or prevent it. You can search for that quite easily.

This post is about the noise that all this marketing creates, and the distraction it creates. I see promotions for something that I don’t care about right now, as noise and distracting. If I want something, I tend to do a research phase and then make a decision. I don’t tend to spend extra days researching something once I’ve bought it. The problem is, if I decide to purchase one product or service, all the competitors and sites I checked out are likely to have re-marketing cookies on my computer, unaware that I’ve already made my decision. Statistically, re marketing has a great ROI (a few 100% depending on the study you cite), so it’s not going to be switched off any time soon. It creates unwanted noise though and since many of the pricing models are CPM (pay per 1000 impressions) rather than PPC (pay per click), there are still many wasted impressions because the potential customer has made a purchase decision elsewhere, and the advertiser has no way of knowing that. A more intelligent model would be interesting.

On a related note, I spent some time unsubscribing to over 15 email newsletters yesterdays. It’s a good practice to do sometimes, as your inbox ends up with less noise and you can find what you are looking for better.

If you have any questions about re-marketing, get in touch via the Contact Page!

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