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.
I co-founded GoSquared all the way back in 2006(!) with two of my best friends from school – Geoff and JT, and have been building, learning, failing, and winning in the world of software ever since.
Monday of this week was a rubbish day for me. I woke up frustrated, anxious, feeling deflated and not sure what to do. I almost felt like calling in sick. But instead I put my running kit on and got out for a run in the rain.
When I came back, I said "screw it" and hit record on my Mac, and spoke about what was on my mind.
Later in the evening, through the wonders of SaaS – tools like Transistor, Descript, and Epidemic Sound enabled me to take my ramblings and make them into a podcast in a few hours.
I didn't overthink this, and I know I can do better, but I started, and I hope I can continue.
NetNewsWire focuses on the content, it puts you in control, and it’s refreshingly simple and honest.
As noted by the maker himself, Brent Simmons– NetNewsWire is a Mac-assed Mac app, the same applies to the iOS and iPad apps too. They’re the definition of well crafted native software for Apple’s platforms.
Until now, though, while I’ve had NetNewsWire installed on all my devices, I’ve only ever really used it on my iPhone. That’s because I didn’t have any of the third party services set up to sync my feeds and read-status across my iPhone, iPad and Mac.
NetNewsWire 6 introduces my most wanted feature: syncing with iCloud.
Now all my feeds are on each of my devices. When I read an article on my iPhone it’s marked as read on my iPad and my Mac. Everything’s in sync, everything’s up to date, and it all just works.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with news – especially if you’re feeling bombarded by stories and ads and articles for things you don’t care for or want to know about – NetNewsWire is the app you’ve been looking for.
Not only is it great, it’s also free. What’s not to like?!
Through the pandemic and working from home, Apple Fitness+ became a helpful motivator for getting me to try new workouts and experiment with yoga, meditation, heck even dance – all without leaving the house.
I don't feel overweight – I feel "just about right" – but as I shift into a new decade of my life, I'm increasingly concious of the fact that I won't be able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, forever.
So I recently started using a great app, LoseIt! to help track the other half of my fitness – what I consume. While Apple Watch tracks my ability to lose calories and keep fit, LoseIt! tracks what I put in – helping me to balance that all important equation: "calories IN minus calories OUT = a negative number" if I want to lose weight.
I'm new to this calorie counting game – I never thought I'd be "one of those people" who asks how many calories are in a meal or in a cereal bar. I never thought I'd be someone who said no to a sweet treat. But increasingly – I am thinking twice about every snack I eat, and every portion of food I see on a plate.
Along with tracking the calories I'm consuming, I'm also trying to keep track of WHEN I eat food. I've been trying to obey a stricter schedule for when I wake, when I eat each meal, and when I get to sleep. According to some, WHEN you eat is just as important, if not more so than WHAT you eat.
I'm concious that when I eat, I am usually with people – friends, family, my partner, colleagues. I don't want to be sitting with a plate of delicious food poking at an app trying to add things to a calorie tracking app. Instead, I have found the least distracting, most effective solution is to simply snap a quick photo as subtley as I can of the meal I'm eating.
By snapping a photo I can grab an instant snapshot of the meal I had, along with the size, and the time I was about to eat it – which I can add to LoseIt! at a later date when I have more time to note down and clarify the details.
There are a few rumours circling that Apple may be bringing some form of food tracking functionality to iOS 15. This is something I am rather excited about – and if it's true, I can't wait to see how this works, and how accurate it will be. I'm sure Apple can find an innovative way to solve some of these complex problems.
I'm also excited to see what a company with the resources of Apple can do in a problem space that is
Clubhouse has been all the rage for months, but is it already starting to fade into irrelevance?
At GoSquared, we have been looking at how we can speak with our audience directly – we want to share more of what we’ve learnt with others out there, particularly with other people starting and growing SaaS businesses.
We have run a podcast in the past, and we’ve put together video content, and we’ve done a fair bit of blogging over the years, but live audio is something we’ve never experimented with at all.
So we wanted to give live audio a shot. But what is the best tool for the job?
Clubhouse is now a household name and synonymous for live audio streaming – it pretty much created the category. But Twitter has just released Spaces to more users – a product with extremely similar functionality to Clubhouse, but integrated into the main Twitter app.
I asked my audience (on Twitter, ironically) and the votes flooded in with a clear winner: Twitter Spaces is where to start a live audio stream.
Should I use this simple, mildly biased (users on Twitter will surely prefer audio on Twitter?!) poll, as gospel? I suspect not, but for the next week I will be trying Twitter Spaces out and seeing what happens.
Can I build an audience of engaged listeners on Twitter Spaces? Is my voice ready for the airwaves? Do people even want to hear what I have to say? All will be revealed once I try this out…
This weekend I visited Crystal Palace Park – it’s very near to where I live and I used the day to go walking there and “get my steps in”.
The park and area is named Crystal Palace because of the huge glass exhibition building that once stood there. I had been interested in the story of the building for a while but never knew too much about it.
It turns out there are many stories and a fascinating past to the park and the building. I am no expert, but after just a day of visiting, and a few hours of reading around, I felt compelled to distill some of what I found into a short post – because what I learnt inspired me and I hope may inspire other readers too.
For what was arguably the most ambitious building to ever exist at the time, this thing came together fast. Really fast!
As I understand it, Britain was to host “the great exhibition” of everything that was great both in Britain, and across the world – particularly in the British Empire at the time. It was decided that a building was needed to house all of the exhibits and it was to be in Hyde Park, central London, for 6 months from 1st May 1851.
Many architects and elite engineers of the time proposed solutions, but all were too expensive, and would take too long to build. No one could hit the extreme constraints of the project. With less than a year until the doors needed to open – doors that still needed to be created – a chap called Joseph Paxton drew an idea on a scribble of paper. Paxton knew a ton about designing gardens and also about grand conservatories and greenhouses.
After minimal debate, and the realisation that Paxton’s design would cost a fraction of other proposals (as little as 28% of the cost of another option), Paxton was given the go-ahead to turn his sketch into drawings and plans that could be used to start construction. He and his team turned the sketch into a full set of calculations, budgets, and building plans in two weeks. This makes me question my work ethic.
Paxton had 8 months to turn his plans into a finished building ready for the greatest show the world had ever seen. Not just any building – the largest exhibition space in the world at the time, made almost entirely of glass. No pressure.
Public toilets? You have the Crystal Palace to thank
Among many firsts, the Great Exhibition saw the first major installation of public toilets. Hard to believe that at some point public toilets just weren’t a thing. The phrase “spending a penny” was also thought to have originated here – as it cost a penny to use the toilets on site.
HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant, and smart home control all for just $99. We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care.
I honestly couldn’t believe it – many have criticised the HomePod for its high price point, and for Siri’s unpredictable nature, but I absolutely love my HomePod, and everyone I know that owns one seems to have a similar affection for theirs.
Apple rarely discontinues a product – it’s especially rare for them to announce that they’re discontinuing a product. I can only think of AirPower in recent memory as being a product discontinuation Apple has announced – and that was a product they never actually shipped in the first place!
I’m keen to break this event into two questions: why would Apple discontinue the original HomePod? And why would Apple announce the discontinuation of HomePod?
Why announce the discontinuation?
If Apple were looking to replace the original HomePod with a newer model – for example a slightly smaller iteration on the original, an updated A-series chip, the addition of a U1 chip, more colour options, etc. then they could simply run supplies down over time and introduce the new model to much fanfare.
There would be no need to announce a discontinuation – just as they don’t announce the discontinuation of every Apple Watch or iPhone model when they introduce new versions.
The reason seems clear: the future of the HomePod “line” is the HomePod mini as far anyone can see today. Apple’s statement emphasises that their future efforts will focus on HomePod mini and nothing else.
Apple never talks about future products, but if they had exciting plans for the future of home audio, their statement doesn’t seem to tee anything up. It’s like Apple is dousing the flames of any hope that there’s a vibrant future to Apple’s home audio.
Praise for HomePod
I have thoroughly enjoyed owning a HomePod since shortly after it was announced. I have one HomePod in our kitchen – I have never tried the stereo pairing but people seem to rave about how great it sounds.
I have always been blown away by the sound quality of our HomePod in the kitchen. It’s always a talking point with guests when tunes are playing – the sound is phenomenal.
The simplicity of the device sets it apart from other speakers for me – there are no extra plugs or ports, no ugly buttons, no
The angles and tight spaces that a drone can manoeuvre through just seem impossible. I’ve watched this a handful of times now and I can’t stop ducking when the drone flies through the tiny gaps under the ball returning machines.
For the last year, very few of us have had the chance to have anyone over to our homes, but I was recently casting my mind back to those happier times, and I made a connection in my mind.
I am not sure about you, but in our house, whenever we invite someone over, it’s always a deadline – a fixed point in time to get our house presentable.
I am not saying my house is a mess, but when people come over I want to present the best version of myself and my house to my guests. And when we don’t have guests, sometimes those standards can slip a little. The handful of cups on the kitchen counter. The stack of 5 letters on the kitchen table. The extra pair of shoes left out in the hall.
Having people over pushes me to tidy all these little things up – to wash the cups, to sort the letters, to hide the shoes.
In my mind, that’s exactly what launching / shipping does: you may not be ready, but you have to get your product or feature presentable – ready for others to experience it. It focuses you.
Who care where the shoes go, or whether the cups are in the dishwasher or hidden in the sink. What matters is the place looks good and feels warm and welcoming.
When shipping – who cares if the extra settings option can’t make the cut, or the secondary heading on that alert modal isn’t precisely following the style guide. What matters more than anything is you hit the launch date and ship.
Having a deadline (like knowing a friend is coming to visit) forces you to tidy, focuses you, and restricts you from tackling anything too ambitious. External judgement and validation can be a powerful motivator to prioritise.
When a huge megacorp such as Amazon blatantly rips off your work, you can respond by complaining, by writing angry tweets, by reducing your prices, by panicking, or... by putting together a hugely entertaining ad.
Always a good reminder that every day we get a chance to influence the world around us: vote with your wallet.
I saw this tweet and it made me want to smash the “reply” button and disagree. But then I resisted – it needed more words, more thought.
As with most topics, and controversial points: it's nuanced and it depends.
Businesses grow up to inherit traits from their leaders – good and bad
From everything I can see, startups (and all companies) naturally adopt the culture and behaviours of the people running them.
Whether it’s the aggressive, winner-takes-all approach of Uber (and Travis Kalanick), the hungry, fast moving, detail obsessed approach of Stripe (and the Collison brothers), or the decisive, crazy, design-obsessive approach of Apple (and Steve) – I struggle to think of a company that isn’t an extension of the identity of the people in charge of it.
That’s not to say that the company can’t adapt or adjust to address the shortcomings of the founders. In fact, it has to to succeed. We all have flaws – and the bigger the business, the more publicly known those founder flaws are.
I find this all the time at GoSquared – as I’ve grown up, I’ve tried to increasingly make myself aware of my strengths and my weaknesses. I try to ensure we hire for people that fill the vast gaps in my own skill set, and I try to ensure I keep my mouth shut on topics where I really don’t consider myself an expert.
Your identity doesn't need to map 1:1 with your business
The reason I struggle with this tweet, is that it’s a two-way statement – it’s stating your startup = your identity. I find it much easier to agree that one’s startup is heavily influenced by the founder’s identity. I find it much harder to agree that a startup defines the founder’s identity.
GoSquared defining my own identity has honestly been its own small challenge for most of my adult life.
It's been a challenge in small ways and large – for example, my first Twitter account was not "@jamesjgill" it was "@GoSquared" – the very personification of GoSquared and myself on social media back in the day were the same thing. It was this decision to not start a personal Twitter account earlier that almost certainly caused me to miss the opportunity of being "@jamesgill" on Twitter, damnit!
It’s always hard for me to have a conversation with a friend before the question of “how’s GoSquared going?” cropping up within the first 5 minutes. Work is always a logical topic to talk about when catching up with a friend, but I find that answering this question, as a founder who has only ever worked in one place for my entire career, is a deeper question.
It’s a question of “how are you finding work?”, sure, but also “how has this career path you’ve chosen worked out so far?”, and “how is the