Productivity

A 9-post collection

Sticking to a routine

Since the start of the year, I’ve been sticking to a simple routine every day.

I've written about my morning routine before – and it's evolved (and become simpler) since then.

Each morning, I have a checklist of a handful of items I try to complete before the rest of my day starts.

They are:

  1. Drink a glass of water
  2. Have a shower
  3. Do 20 press-ups
  4. Write up what happened the day before

Each item is intended to be inexcusably simple to complete.

After three months, it’s becoming a habit.

I’ve found this to be incredibly helpful for starting my day well, and giving me structure at a time where most of normality has evaporated.

I have particularly enjoyed writing daily – to myself. My only wish is I had started this earlier.

I long for the future where I can read my diary entries from this time and be grateful it’s over.

Remote possibility

I'm not sure what the future holds, and I very much hope we can get through the Coronavirus pandemic as quickly as possible. I long for the world to return to normal soon.

As with many companies, we are transitioning to remote working at GoSquared from this week onwards.

When we first started working on GoSquared, we were all at school. We used to design and code away from our homes, communicating primarily through Google Chat.

We used to catch up at school, but while building interfaces, writing code, and inventing copy, we'd each be at home, focused obsessively on building something great.

It was only when we started to "grow up" that we moved to London and got together in an office. It felt like the proper thing to do – what big company doesn't have a head office? We were excited.

And things stayed that way – we've been based in London with one central location for almost a decade.

We've hired remote team members, and built experience of working with people all over the world.

But now, it's all changing – we're all going remote.

It's going to be different. It's going to be new. Some things are going to break. But I am excited for what will be better.

I’m intrigued about a few areas where my life will be different – one area in particular that excites me is getting two hours of my day back.

My commute

My normal commute is approximately an hour door-to-door.

What can I do with an extra two hours in my day? I can use this for work, for pleasure, for fitness, or for something totally new.

A few ways I'm contemplating making use of my extra two hours a day:

  • Running – will a run to start my day transform my energy levels? Will a run at the end of the day be a perfect way to separate my working day from my evening?
  • Sleeping – will an extra 30-60 minutes in bed change my focus and energy throughout the day?
  • Eating properly – more time to cook, to use fresh ingredients, to plan my meals.
  • Writing – distraction free time to focus on writing.
  • Drawing – time to draw and sketch at the end of the day.
  • Reading – an opportunity to read an extra chapter, or consume another blog post at the start of my day.

The next few weeks and months are going to be challenging for everyone – but I hope there are many positives we can take from the ordeal we face.

Create better. Consume better.

Last year, my goal was to create more, and consume less.

Every year, the pressure to outline dramatic resolutions mounts as January looms.

But every year I grow older, and hopefully a little wiser, and this time I’m not throwing out my previous resolutions, I’m just evolving them.

Consume better

I feel extremely fortunate to be in a position where I can choose what to buy and where I buy it from.

In the last few years I’ve grown increasingly aware that I can vote with my wallet and choose to actively seek out the shops I want to support, the products I want to buy, and to actively choose to avoid the businesses I don’t agree with.

This year, I intend to focus on this further – rather than just consuming less – less meat, less alcohol, less plastic, less electricity – I also want to ensure the meat, alcohol, products, and energy I consume are better.

Better for me, better for the environment, better for everyone involved.

Create better

Last year I tried creating more.

Creating more certainly helps you build habits, and it helps you maintain your craft.

But I couldn’t bring myself to meet the schedule I set to myself – I found myself creating just to hit a self-prescribed goal. Perhaps I aimed to aggressively – trying to write something new on a daily basis for a few weeks.

I’m done with creating in quantity for now. I want to focus more on quality – on deeper thought, on more unique writing, art, and design.

This year I want to create more, but not too much more. What I really want to do is create better.

Strengths and weaknesses

Do you know what your strengths are?

Do you know what you're weak at?

If you can be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, then you can start to act on them.

You don't necessarily need to improve where you're weak – just admitting that you're weak in a specific area can help you to decide if you should get better there, or find another solution.

For example, if you're running a business and you're weak on financial knowledge – you can choose to improve there, or you can choose to give that role to someone else. The only option you can't pick is to continue to be weak in that role and hope something changes by luck or magic.

The only caveat to improving all your weaknesses is you end up in the age-old situation of being a jack of all trades and a master of none. In the early days of any business, this is not necessarily a problem. But as soon as you have a team – of even, say, five people – it's time to start thinking about what you want to be a master of.

Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are? If not, don't be afraid to ask those around you. People are often very nice, so it's likely they won't be forthcoming with your weaknesses. So make it easier for them – if there's an area you feel isn't your strength, simple ask those around you "Others have told me I could improve in X area – would you agree?"

Once you're clear on your own strengths and weaknesses, and you know where you want to improve, then it becomes a lot easier to worry less about your weaknesses and shortcomings.

Time boxing

Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying hard to box out my time each day of the week.

One of the challenges I struggle with, and from speaking to many other people – both founders and anyone working in a small team – is it’s hard to switch between the hundred different tasks you have each day.

It’s widely understood that constant task switching destroys your productivity, but it’s so hard to escape when there’s a constant torrent of new tasks to be accomplished and decisions to be made.

But escaping the torrent and becoming productive requires you to be in charge. You need to take control of your time.

Control your time

If you can control how you spend your time you can do so much more.

I was always sceptical of this, but since putting a concerted effort into boxing out my time during the week, I’ve become dramatically more productive, less stressed, and I’m able to spend my energy on the most important work – not just the most urgent.

How can you start to take more control of your time?

One simple change I’ve made is to book in my calendar the time I would normally leave as empty with an event – perhaps it’s titled “Map out our plan for Q4” or “Deep creative work”.

It doesn’t matter too much what tasks you put in – what matters is you treat your “free” time in the work week as protected time.

If a meeting deserves to get a fixture in your calendar, why the hell doesn’t the most important work you do get to feature there too?

A chance to reflect

As a bonus – it’s one thing to map out your week ahead of time, but it’s another to reflect on where your time went.

During the week, stuff comes up. Priorities change. "Urgent" tasks – even when we try our hardest to avoid them – tend to take priority.

I’ve been trying to keep track of my time throughout the day retrospectively by adjusting my calendar events based on what actually happened.

None of this is highly scientific. None of this is necessarily “industry standard”. And none of this requires any fancy tools or software. It just requires a calendar and a mindset change.

Do you feel in control of your schedule? If you do, I’d love to hear about what you’ve done to accomplish such an achievement.

What is your top priority?

It’s important to know what you’re going to do today. It's important to know what you’re going to do next.

It’s also important to know what you’re not going to do today, this week, this month, or ever.

But establishing your set of your priorities doesn’t happen by chance or by accident. If it does, then they’re not priorities, it's just a list of things to do.

To be clear on your priorities you also need to think about what’s most important in your business, in your social life, in your family, in your relationship, and to you personally.

Is figuring out your priorities a priority right now? Maybe it’s time to make it one.

For the record

Meetings changed recently at GoSquared.

They got quicker.

They got clearer.

They started more promptly.

The need to be in every meeting reduced.

And the amount of “he said she said” reduced to zero.

What happened?


We started recording meetings.

At first, it was an alarming change – it felt weird.

Was it a step towards overbearing surveillance? Could this be used against me in the future? We all had concerns when starting out.

But a few months in, and the results have been undeniable.

The inspiration came from learning of Ray Dalio’s approach to running Bridgewater Associates. At Bridgewater every meeting is recorded, and direct, clear, honest feedback is strongly encouraged.

As with Bridgewater, recording meetings is part of a wider understanding across the team that we want to grow as individuals and as a team, and if we don’t hold each other to a high standard then we’re letting everyone down.

Now every individual in a meeting is aware that anyone else in the business has the opportunity to listen at a later date. It encourages everyone to bring their best to every meeting.

Why do we do it?

The key reasons we started to record meetings:

  • If someone can’t be present and wants extra detail on why a decision was made or how an idea came to be, there’s a place to understand that.
  • So anyone in the meeting can reflect on their own performance – just as a sports team reviews their performance after a game, it gives us a chance to review our own performance.

How do we record meetings?

There’s nothing complex:

  1. Start the meeting.
  2. Remind everyone the meeting is about to be recorded. If someone isn’t OK with it they can veto the recording any time. Consent is required.
  3. Open the Voice Memos app on your phone.
  4. Hit Record.
  5. Remember to hit Stop at the end of the meeting.

To be clear, we don’t record absolutely every internal meeting – private one-to-one catchup conversations with the team and similar situations where discretion is critical are not recorded.

Customer conversations are a different ballgame entirely. There's a huge benefit to recording conversations with customers and potential customers. The emphasis on consent is even greater here, and is a topic for another day.

It’s worth noting that we’ve evolved how meetings are run at GoSquared a heck of a lot over the years. Those learnings are also for another post – stay tuned.

I hope this is helpful, and reach out to me on Twitter if you have questions about our approach.

Create more. Consume less.

The start of the new year always provides time to think deeply about what you’ve achieved (or failed to achieve) in the last year, and where you can do better.

Life can be short – when a new year comes along it reminds me of everything I still want to achieve.

For me, at this point, it comes down to two areas: create more, and consume less.

Create more:

  • Art. Draw more.
  • Writing.
  • Photography.
  • Time for exercise.
  • Good habits for money management.
  • Happy memories.


Consume less:

  • Social media.
  • News.
  • TV.
  • Plastic.
  • Poorly made, short-life products.
  • Meat.

Best of luck with your own goals for 2019.

My morning routine

I would not describe myself as “a morning person”.

I love a lie in. At the weekends I’ve always enjoyed lying in bed – perhaps with a cup of tea – and making the most of relaxing.

But during the week it’s hard to justify spending your morning under the covers – there’s a job to do, a business to build.

Needless to say, there are articles galore out there about building a good morning routine, to the point where the mere mention of the topic induces an audible sigh from those in the same room.

Despite the extreme cliché of the subject, I’ve been trying to figure out the right routine for me, and I thought it might be worthwhile sharing my learnings so far.

What I have learnt so far seems to suggest that waking up earlier – and happier, with more energy – requires more than just a loud alarm.

Goals for the morning

I have a few goals for my mornings:

  • Wake up early (to give me time before any scheduled events in my calendar).
  • Get myself showered, and feeling fresh.
  • Wake up with energy to start making decisions and acting on things.
  • To arrive at the office with a clear plan for my day.
  • To arrive at the office in a good mood, ready to crack on with the day.
  • To ensure I have enough energy to keep on form for the entire day – especially after lunch.

With all these desires for my mornings, I realised I clearly need to avoid any situations where I wake up late, rush to the office, and feel like I’m playing catch-up from the moment I’m in. I also need to avoid situations where I'm in a total grump and a pain for the team to work with.

My current routine

My routine so far goes something like this:

  • Set my alarm for 6am.
  • Actually wake up and get out of bed at 6am.
  • Get the kettle on.
  • Jump straight in the shower – no questions asked.
  • Leave the shower, shave, dry hair, get dressed.
  • Make tea (kettle now boiled!), eat a bowl of cereal.
  • Catch up on more casual / personal tasks like reading the news and messaging any friends who are waiting on me to get back to them.
  • Run through my tasks, emails, and other items and get them prioritised. I've started using Superhuman to manage my email workflow which has been a massive help here.
  • Leave the house for a leisurely stroll into the office, mulling over my first tasks for when I get in.

The morning routine starts the night before

Getting up at 6am has been painful for a long time. I'm only just getting used to it, and I still have my days of failure.

Even before I started reading "Why we sleep", I was vaguely aware of the importance of a healthy night of sleep. But waking at 6am simply can't happen (for me at least) if I'm getting to bed at