By the end of 2022 I was feeling exhausted. I desperately needed a break.
I'm uncertain if I really got a considerable break over Christmas — we hosted Christmas at our house for the first time, I cooked for eight people, and we headed up to Scotland for New Year celebrations.
It was fun, but it wasn’t entirely relaxing.
It was different, though — different to the usual schedule of work, the usual stress and the usual ups and downs of a working week.
Critically, I managed to reflect on 2022, and I spent some time thinking about 2023.
I’ve started January of this year with a few intentions:
Don’t eat meat (at least for January)
Get to bed by 10pm
Wake up before 7am
We’ll have to check in on these as February rolls around, let alone January 2024. But I have intentions and I am feeling positive about all of them so far.
Upon further reflection though, I know I am guilty of a cycle — every January, I feel re-energised, I start afresh, I have great intentions, and I carry them out. I’ve even written on this blog about them (often I write when my energy is highest, too):
I have never thought of myself as much of a royalist...
But when the news broke that the Queen had passed away on Thursday 8th September 2022, it hit me harder than I expected.
I know people have many thoughts and feelings about the royal family, but regardless of what they might be, the week following her passing was remarkable for so many reasons.
I hope, regardless of your views, these notes might give a little glimpse into London for those who weren’t there.
The announcement came like a full-stop in the middle of a sentence you were enjoying reading. The national anthem interupted whatever was on TV.
Over the week, I felt a sense of emptiness, one that perhaps is shared by many. The nation has lost a key ingredient that we can never replace.
From singing along to a Queen medley in Covent Garden to witnessing the impeccable processions from the military, here are a few of my highlights.
A higher order
We live in a world where corporations are often considered the new religions. To some, queuing for trainers or a new phone may be the equivalent of visiting church on a Sunday.
I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that, but the last week was the antithesis of capitalism as religion.
The normal experience of daily city life — the bombardment of advertising, hunger for the latest tech gadget, and the desire to stand out and grab attention faded for a brief moment.
It was a week for people to come together, not purely to mourn, but to celebrate a life. It was a week where total strangers from all over the world shared in a piece of history.
It was as heartwarming as it was historical.
The centre of the world
On the Friday evening after the news broke I wandered around London to soak up the atmosphere.
I strolled down the Mall to see members of the public laying flowers, quietly staring up at the gates of Buckingham Palace. Many thinking "we'll never see the Queen stand on that balcony again."
It was only when I reached the palace that I realised how significant this news was to the world, not just the UK.
I was taken aback to find the world's media hunched up in countless marquees surrounding the palace, each with lights on and cameras out, late into the evening, communicating back to newsrooms throughout around the planet about what was happening.
It felt like I was at the centre of the world.
Singing along to Queen in Covent Garden
I wandered into Covent Garden on that Friday evening.
Street performers are here every day — some juggle swords, some walk on tightropes, some eat fire. Some do all of those at once.
As someone who’s lived in or near London all my life I tend to breeze through — I've been there and seen that many times!
But something was different on that Friday evening. Initially I thought it
We also took the opportunity to reflect on some of the lessons we've learnt along the way. 16 lessons to be precise. Maybe you've come across many of these before, but it never hurts to reflect...
1. Build something people want. 2. Share early, share often. 3. Constraints breed creativity — embrace them. 4. The details are not the details, they make the product. 5. Use your own product. Be your own customer. 6. Charge the trust battery. 7. Your customers are smart — treat them accordingly. 8. Treat each customer as unique, but scale your process. 9. Never underestimate what a small group of focused, aligned, motivated people can do. 10. Celebrate the small wins. Have fun along the way. 11. Most meetings don’t need to happen. 12. Knowing yourself is a superpower. 13. Simplicity is a war. 14. If you think you’re repeating yourself too much, repeat some more. 15. Focus is impossibly hard, but without it you’re doomed. 16. Just do it.
In my first episode of Lost and Founder of 2022, I talk about how I’m getting through the darkest month of the year, and why January can actually be a great time reflect, reset, and build a stronger you for the year ahead.
I always find January a tough month — all the fun and excitement of Christmas and new years is over, the weather is awful, it’s dark outside, and to top it all off we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic.
But fear not, there’s a world of opportunity out there! I’m spending some time at the start of January to reflect on 2021. I’m not setting myself huge audacious goals because I don’t know what the future holds, and I know the chances of success are low unless I use my previous experience to inform my future actions.
Don’t get caught up in all the “new year, new you” nonsense — be careful what you read on social media! Instead, look at yourself, spend time reflecting on your own successes and where things could have gone better, and use that to channel your next steps as you enter the new year.
Actions / take aways
Go easy on yourself — the last two years have been hard on all of us.
It’s never too late to reflect — if you haven’t already, you still have time to reflect on 2021.
You don’t have to make new years resolutions — instead get clearer on your values.
If you are clear on your values, channel your thinking around small habits you can adopt day by day rather than setting huge unwieldy goals.
Give yourself something to look forward to at the end of January — like a trip to somewhere you like, a gift to yourself, or some other treat.
I woke up this morning to see the news that Richard Rogers had passed away aged 88. Richard Rogers has been one of the most influential architects of the last 100 years, and while I’ve always been aware of his work I didn’t realise quite how many of my favourite buildings were created by his practice.
Among others, Rogers is responsible for the Lloyds Building in London, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Millennium Dome, Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, and The Leadenhall Building (aka “the Cheesegrater”).
Rogers’ work has influenced my fascination with modern architecture since I was in my earliest years. I still have the fondest memories of visiting the Millennium Dome as a boy in 2000 and being awed by the scale of the place. I still recall having the sense that “this is a significant moment in the world, and I’m living through it”, and the architecture I associate with that moment is almost entirely the work of Richard Rogers.
The Rogers-designed spaces I’ve been fortunate enough to visit have me feel inspired, motivated, and ambitious, but also have made me feel closer, more connected to the people around me.
His legacy will live on for many generations to come, and I hope will continue to inspire many more.
Thank you for architecting some of my favourite landmarks of London.
On December 3rd, 2007, Diageo announced the sale of the billionth bottle of Baileys since it was first introduced in 1973. [...]
The initial thought behind Baileys Irish Cream took about 30 seconds. In another 45 minutes the idea was formed. Baileys was like that for me. A decade of experience kicked in and delivered a great idea. It wasn’t as instant as it seemed. This is the story of its creation.
I love so much about this story — two guys in Soho, London in the 1970s tasked with a vague brief. The doubts, skepticism, and challenges of putting something new into the world.
This is a story of the ultimate success of a huge product and brand, told by the humble people who invented it, without reaping the significant financial rewards you might expect.
When I inevitably raise a glass of this after dinner at Christmas, I'll have this story in the back of my mind and remember: everything around us is here because someone, somewhere, at some time had to deliver on a vague brief to put it there.
It's been a fair few weeks since the last episode of Lost and Founder, but I'm pleased to return with a topic I've been doing a lot of thinking on lately: the Great Resignation.
I hope you find this episode helpful, and as always, if you want to talk about anything in the show, please reach out.
After a year and a half, it seems that more people than ever are looking for a change in their lives.
In what some have dubbed "The Great Resignation", in this episode I look at how to handle team changes in the wider context of managing a team through a period of significant change.
This year, the term "the Great Resignation" has been increasingly used to describe the explosion in people wanting to change their careers.
As a planet, we're in unprecedented times – and it's no wonder that many teams are going through a tumultuous time with changes never seen before.
If you're anything like me, handling team changes is one of the most challenging aspects of being a manager and leader. I find it hard to even know where to begin on this topic, but I thought I'd share my latest thinking in this episode with the hope it will be valuable to others out there going through similar challenges.
Actions / take aways
Every change is an opportunity to look at the business – what is going well, what isn't?
Understand people’s goals and desires and ensure they’re on the right path.
When someone leaves there can be tremendous opportunity for others on the team to grow into new roles.
Be clear with yourself on the goals and needs of the company.
Remember: everyone is on their own journey. You can’t control that! Focus on what you can control – organisation design, encouraging the culture and performance you want to see, leading by example, and making people the hero on their own journey.
You’re not alone. This stuff is hard. Talk to others and you’ll realise that many others are in the same boat and going through similar challenges.
Anyone who knows me knows I have been a fan of the fruit company from California for a long time. In this episode, I share how I became a fan of Apple early in my life – from hanging out in the design agency my mum worked at, to being fortunate enough to get an unwanted Mac from my dad's office.
Steve Jobs influenced me in many ways – through his keynotes, his showmanship, his stories, and through the many products his company brought into the world.
In this episode I summarise three key areas where Steve Jobs had an impact on me: his showmanship, his obsession with simplicity, and his views on life.
This week I share why it's so important to take a break, to rest, and recharge your batteries.
I’ve spoken a lot about habits and healthy routines on the podcast in previous episodes, but this week I wanted to change the focus to what happens when you fall out of touch with those routines and start to feel overwhelmed.
It's so important to give yourself time to rest and recharge — it's only by pausing you can truly reset and move forward stronger.
As the renowned street artist Banksy once said: "Learn to rest, not to quit."
Actions / take aways
Find ways to check in with yourself to understand how you're feeling.
If you feel you're overwhelmed or struggling, don't be afraid to pause and rest.
Every so often a reset is what you need — take the time you need to get back on track.
You might not need a holiday — sometimes just a day to yourself can help.
If you've been stuck in the same surroundings, try getting into a different environment — a coffee shop works for me.
When launching a product or a feature, or even launching a whole new business, it’s often difficult to know when to do it. You’re pretty much always going to launch too early or too late — from my experience, it’s almost impossible to launch “perfectly on time”.
If you’re getting ready to launch something, I hope this episode is helpful for you.
Actions / take aways
I’ve outlined some key actions and take-aways for those too busy to listen to the full thing:
Set a deadline for your launch — every time you do this you learn how to get better at setting deadlines.
Assign an owner if you're in a team — if more than one person “owns” a project, then no one actually owns it.
Be clear on your priorities — ensure everyone is aware of what is most important to the launch and the company.
If in doubt, optimise for speed — moving faster tends to solve more problems than it creates. Speed means you learn faster.
I get a small dopamine hit whenever I check an item off my list. I have built into my muscle memory the keyboard shortcuts to record anything anyone mentions to me that I’ll need to action in the future.
But every day I still finish with items unchecked. It gets me down and it stresses me out.
Earlier this week, several people sent me this post on how a CEO manages their time and it made me question my obsessive todo list usage. Is it really helping me? Is it contributing to me feeling down? Is it actually holding me back from focusing my time on what I need to do?
For the last few days I experimented with deliberately blocking my time on my calendar for the important work I needed to focus on. I have dabbled with this approach in the past but kept one foot in the “todo list” camp and it didn’t stick.
What I found from a few days last week was eye-opening:
I was more conscious of the tasks I put into my calendar (everyone on the team can see my calendar if they want to view it)
I blocked time to focus – and this time was protected from meetings. People couldn’t book / invite me to anything that clashed.
It drove my awareness of how much time I need to spend on certain important projects – time I wasn’t dedicating before.
It made me realise I go into every day, and every week, with an overly optimistic assessment of what I can achieve, that ultimately leaves me feeling like I haven’t achieved enough by the end.
I intend to keep this approach up. I am not ready to drop my usage of Things yet – especially not for my personal life todos.
I’m interested to find out after another few weeks of using my calendar more deliberately if I can learn about the following:
How much important work can I do? Not just the urgent work.
Can I get better at communicating with others around me what I can / cannot achieve by certain dates?
Can I feel better at the end of each day knowing I've focused my time in the right places, and achieved more with my time?
The clearer I can be with myself, the clearer I can be with everyone around me, and the more I can help people achieve their own tasks and projects.
Let’s find out!
Update: in episode 10 of Lost and Founder I share what I've learnt from using my calendar instead of a todo list over the 3-4 weeks since writing this post. TL;DR: it's helping.
I don't have time to play a masterpiece on the piano.
I don’t have time to start a business.
I don’t have time to cook.
We all have the time. We’re all given the same 24 hours in every day, and 7 days in every week.
It’s not the time that’s the issue.
Our circumstances, attitudes, environments, goals, and clarity – those are the things that vary.
If your goals are clear, if your environment encourages you to achieve those goals, if your circumstances can be adjusted to allow you time and space to work on your goals – then time… time is made.
You make time for writing a blog post – one sentence a day.
You make time for drawing – with an open sketchbook, and a pencil at the ready, one 5 minute drawing at a time.
You make time for that masterpiece by time-boxing 10 minutes at the piano each morning.
You make time to start that business by sharing the idea with one person tomorrow and getting their feedback.
You make time to cook by drawing up a meal plan tonight.
Next time you hear yourself saying “I wish I had time to do that” ask yourself how much you wish you had the time. If you want the time enough then it’s really the motivation, clarity, focus, environment, and other factors you’re lacking – the time will be made.
A general rule of meetings I’ve found to hold true through the years: however long your proposed meeting is, you need to prepare for at least twice that amount of time in order for the meeting to run optimally.
That may sound like overkill, but I hope you can hear me out...
As with any rule, there are always exceptions. I have always found if I prepare for twice the duration time of the meeting then the outcome of the meeting itself is dramatically better. For example, if I have a 30 minute meeting to discuss a topic with three other team members, with the goal of getting to an outcome, I know that I should ideally prepare for at least an hour for it.
The seemingly excessive time I spend is recouped by saving even more from the attendees of the meeting.
This likely doesn’t need to apply for every one-on-one or regular meetings you’ve really got into a groove with, but for new meetings, and especially for meetings with 5+ people, the time one person spends preparing is often recouped several times over by being more efficient with the time of the attendees.
A while ago I wrote about how we do silent meetings – these are a great example of how the preparation beforehand is so critical, and can lead to a far better outcome for a meeting.
The expense and value of meetings
Meetings are expensive – the more people and the more time given, the more expensive they become. But they're also valuable moments where team members get to collaborate, bond, and integrate with each other.
Through lockdown and working remotely, I sense that many people enjoy a meeting to get together with their colleagues. It’s not surprising we all crave social contact and want to hear how each other is doing.
Trying to find the balance between social and “work” focus in a meeting will vary by team and culture, but it’s possible to find a sweet spot, and preparation before a meeting will help get clearer on what is needed from a meeting, and help you ascertain just how much time to spend on catching up on your weekend plans at the start of a Zoom call!
Try this out and let me know how it goes
For the next meeting you’re in charge of, book out twice the time of the meeting beforehand to prepare for it. And then assess:
Did the meeting run better?
Did you get better or clearer outcomes?
Did the attendees feel more energised at the end of the meeting?
Was the meeting shorter thanks to the preparation?
Did the meeting even need to happen once you did the prep?
Another week, another episode of Lost and Founder. Really trying to keep this habit up!
Speaking of habits...
In episode six, I share my distaste for planning and how I have been reframing planning in my head to encourage me to do more of it. Setting a deadline, and making myself accountable for what I am planning has been useful for showing an outcome to my thinking and planning in the last week.
I've also been reading a helpful and practical book called Atomic Habits, by James Clear. It's all about improving your life by adopting positive, healthy habits, and trying to eliminate your bad habits.
I'm still reading it, but a rule I've already been finding helpful is the two minute rule – try adopting a new habit by breaking it down into the smallest possible task, something that can be done in just two minutes. If you can master that then you're laying the ground work for bigger things. We'll check in next week to see how we're doing – if you try it out, be sure to let me know!
Actions and take aways
Set a deadline, a format, and find someone to hold you accountable to your planning.
Try the 2 minute rule with habits – let me know what you can achieve and I’ll give a shout out next week to anyone who successfully starts adopting a new habit.
I was a little forgetful in posting about each of these episodes, so here's a batch update of my Lost and Founder podcast and a little update.
Episode 3: Anxiety vs Exercise, Bad Decisions vs No Decisions, and Goals
In episode three I talk (very) openly about how I'm working through some business challenges, discuss the value of transparency, the importance of goals, and why I benefit so much from a healthy routine.
Episode 4: Vision vs Profit, Realism vs Optimism, and How to be More Helpful
A few things on my mind in this episode: is it OK to be unclear on the vision of your business? Why are startups so hard?(!) How do you balance realism vs optimism? And how can you be more helpful with your team?
Episode 5: Working On vs In the Business
In the week before recording this episode I spent too much time "in" the business – actioning urgent tasks, contributing on design, writing, and making small, quick decisions.
Instead, I should have been spending it "on" the business. So what am I doing about it? Listen in to find out!
I hope you're enjoying the show!
Thanks to everyone who's subscribed, downloaded, listened, and given me feedback on Lost and Founder so far. I'm so thrilled to hear from listeners who are finding these stories helpful.
A key reason for starting the podcast was to help myself – to voice what was on my mind, with the hope that it would be useful to others. Having heard stories and feedback from so many people, I'm so glad I started.
Remember: no matter where you are on your journey, you are not alone!
If you haven't already, please subscribe, and tell me what you think of the show – if you have feedback, or suggestions for future topics, I want to hear from you.